by Frank Thomas
I'm rather cynical when it comes to assessing the functionality of the Democratic Party and Republican Party. Our two-party system is politically, morally, broken and ideologically terminally fractured ... basically due to the corrupt marriage of MONEY and POWER. I realized this long ago when I started listening to Rush Limbaugh's hateful, divisive ultra-right, fear-mongering gibberish in the 80s.
For some time since, collective feelings of anger, confusion, reactivity, powerlessness, exploitation have been building up on both sides of the American political spectrum. It’s about angry people … that establishment elites have had a blind eye to. When a system is seen as so broken and not listening to people’s needs, people then feel they have little to lose, and then turn on each other. Both Sanders’ and Trump’s peoples are revolting against the corrupt political establishments of their parties for somewhat different, but not entirely different reasons.
As many feel, both Trump and Clinton are potential presidential disasters either unqualified or incapable of living up to the fundamental critical changes needed for our deeply troubled country. To a more or equal or less extent, the Republican and Democratic establishments have been horrifically deaf, dumb, and blind on recognizing: pure capitalism and elitist ‘money talks’ politics as tools for managing economic and social progress and continuity are inherently unsustainable and destructive if the benefits and losses are not democratically consented to by all segments of society; the massively proven scientific reality of climate change (one threat alone that Trump’s flat denial of makes him eminently dangerous and unqualified to be president); the obscene gap in income/wealth inequality that's cascading the working class into a race to the bottom; the under-investment in infrastructure, quality pre-college technical/vocational training; the unaffordability of public university education; the non-transparent trade deals whose provisions are largely controlled by special interests and corporations to serve their own interests; the need for a low cost, quality single-payer health care system for all, incorporating ObamaCare; the soaring drug costs; and tragically deepening poverty level, etc.
Elites of both parties have been deplorable in investigating and supporting investments in projects contributing to basic well-being standards that matter to everyday people ... i.e., redirecting resources towards what really matters to the common folk and away from the perpetual, humanly brutal, costly regime-change wars. There's a HUGE disconnect between political elites and the concerns of average Americans - even more so than in UK where the people have answered with Brexit. There's a ZERO interest in constructive compromise and cooperation for the collective common good. Our democracy has descended into a plutocratic, polarized "winner-takes-all” social-economic paradigm where MONEY is POWER.
Tragically, the more class-divided our society becomes in income and wealth, the more reluctant wealthy and special interests become to spend money on common needs. The top 1% favor and profit from a government too gridlocked to re-distribute wealth, too divided to do anything for the common good - except lower taxes, reduce or privatize social services. Welcome to destructive capitalism.
In this dangerous process of social disintegration and middle class marginalization, more and more people do see the extent to which they are being alienated, used, and betrayed as their income and small equity diminish in value, their wages stagnate, their job opportunities and security become increasingly uncertain, their health care is compromised, and their overall living standard is steadily flushed down the toilet.
In these times, the main unresolved questions facing all Americans are perhaps less about political ideologies than about life's values versus financial values, about the concentration of economic power in mega global corporations that are now society's most powerful 'citizens' – exasperated by the Citizens United decision, a possible overruling of which will take some time - whose sole mission is maximizing shareholder wealth too often at the expense of the environment, the communities in which they operate, human rights, or the dignity of their employees. (See Angus King: Capitalism and Its Discontents -The Case for Rules, March 24, 2011).
Bernie has done a magnificent job in alerting people to the social, political, economic malaise and absolute powerlessness they are trapped in ... where the entrenched corruption of MONEY in one way or another is a way of life ... where people's social trust is evaporating as well trust in their own institutions ... where power has transitioned to special interests working both inside and outside the party system … where globalization is eroding the power of workers to resist, because if they do, capital and jobs can easily go elsewhere… all at a time when catastrophic climate change is at the door of our planet. Little wonder people are expressing their utter contempt for a system that’s failing their families.
Time and again Bernie has said that the movement he's brought alive – especially in the age group 45-18 - is not about him, not about a single candidate or election year. Bernie is giving voice to the interests, concerns, problems that Americans of all classes and ethnic backgrounds share. It's about a political revolution he and others will continue working on within the party.
As USA Today reports, Sanders plans to launch educational and political organizations to keep his progressive movement alive. In his words, “The goal is to do what I think the Democratic establishment has not been very effective in doing. And that is at the grassroots level, encourage people to get involved, give them the tools they need to win, help them financially. The Sanders Institute will focus on elevating issues and ideas – through documentaries and media – the ‘corporate media’ fails to focus on.”
Hopefully, the key concessions Sanders movement has achieved in the platform negotiations with the DNC will be implemented by the next president. But, I'm not too optimistic. The corrupt DNC has long held corporate clients above the interests of the public. I’m at odds with Hillary’s integrity. She's in the pockets of Wall Street, thus compromised in making real changes to severely systemic, out-of-balalnce societal problems. A Republican Congress will join or force her in a minimal effort, unless Sanders’ movement helps Democratic candidates win enough seats to regain control of the Senate. Lastly, Hillary is an intemperate war hawk and war monger, who’s on board with the neo-con perpetual wars agenda.
So, between Hillary and Trump, it's a choice of whom you think is most qualified ... and that's certainly not Trump. Next to Bernie, I believe the best choice for president would have been Dr. Jill Stein. I hope she is placed on the ballots in many states and eventually has the courage to start a third party.
Bernie and Jill Stein recognize, as does the very impressive, new conservative UK Premier, Theresa May, that capitalism and democracy are in crisis. They recognize the difference between the inherent values of a pure capitalistic society where the defining purpose is making money and treating people as expendable commodities vs. the more humanistic civil society where a level playing field, equal opportunity, shared sacrifice and shared gain are the dominate cultural values. That was the American Dream in the 50s, 60s, and 70s that has now become a middle/lower class American Nightmare.
Social-economic stability in the new world of globalization requires a sound balance in market generated wealth and in re-distribution of wealth by progressive taxation, social capital investments, and social support systems at local COMMUNITY levels. It's all about effective focus on the well-being of the COLLECTIVE, as do countries like Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Ireland, UK ... whose social-conservative, ideologically balanced coalition governments are center to slightly right of center in political orientation.
In the words of Noble Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz,
"Alex de Torqueville said that the pragmatic genius of American society was its understanding that 'self-interest properly understood' meant appreciating that paying attention to everyone's else's self-interest - in other words the common welfare - is in fact a precondition for one's own ultimate well-being.
Today, we are a nation of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%. The top 1% take in 25% of the nation's income and over 40% of its wealth. The top 1% have the best houses, the best educations, the best doctors, and the best lifestyles. But there is one thing that money doesn't seem to have bought: an understanding that their fate is bound up with how the other 99% live. Throughout history, this is something that the top 1% eventually do learn. Too late."
by John Lawrence
We Don't Need Another Gadget
What the world needs now is love... so wrote Hal David in 1965 with music by Burt Bacharach. It was true then and even truer now. We don't need another gadget, we don't need another smartphone, we don't need another IPO which only increases the economic divide between the 1% and the 99%. Economic progress has utterly failed us. It won't prevent the world going up in flames and/or being flooded out due to global warming. It hasn't prevented war and violence crowding out every other story on the evening news and getting worse by the day.
Economic progress fueled by an educational system that promotes Meritocracy has not produced the results by which men and women can live harmoniously with nature, nor the consequence that the material goods that sustain life are widely distributed. We commodify what we think of as intelligence. We grade people from pre-school to graduate school based on their IQ while ignoring their capacity for selfless love, agape, brotherly love, which is the form of love we are talking about here, as opposed to erotic love. We ignore the caregivers, the nurses, the teachers, those who have chosen to join the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps instead of the military whom we celebrate. There are no parades or medals of honor for the Peace Corps. There are no 'thank yous for your service'.
Thomas Frank writes in Listen Liberal, "Meritocracy ... is the conviction that the successful deserve their rewards, that the people on top are there because they are the best. This is the First Commandment of the professional-managerial class.
These days Meritocracy has come to seem so reasonable that many of us take it for granted as the true and correct measure of human value. Do well in school, and you will earn your credential. Earn your credential, and you are admitted into the ranks of the professions. Become a professional, and you receive the respect of the public plus the nice house in the suburbs and the fancy car and all the rest. Meritocracy makes so much sense to us that barely anyone thinks of challenging it..."
The Downside of Meritocracy
The downside of Meritocracy is that it contributes to the economic divide. Technology has produced scads of billionaires whose products mesmerize us without contributing one iota to making the world a better, safer or more life sustaining place or distributing prosperity more widely. Since the tech revolution of the 2000s, middle class wages have floundered, not increased, while incomes and wealth for the upper few percent have soared. Today the twenty richest individuals control more wealth than the bottom half of the population. That’s 152 million people living in 57 million households. The Walton family of Walmart owns more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of the American people. Many American billionaires are a tribute to the Meritocracy having got there by their own merits and not inherited wealth. They form a plutocracy, and their offspring will be the recipients of inherited wealth just as the aristocracy of the ancien regime was formed and perpetuated.
Tech start-ups get millions of dollars when they "go public." Wealth is concentrated among fewer and fewer people, but they're all celebrated because they are so smart. Many of these so-called entrepreneurs went to the best colleges and universities. However, some of them like Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Steve Jobs and Jack Dorsey (inventor of Twitter and the Square) are actually college drop-outs. They are given credit for growing GDP when all they've done is to increase the economic divide, and their products have not been of the life sustaining variety. If someone creates a company and they do a billion dollars worth of business, this grows the economy or GDP by a billion dollars even though most of that money goes to just a few people. The economy grows and so does the economic divide.
As E. F. Schumacher says in Small is Beautiful, subtitled "Economics as if People Mattered," in order for economic progress to be wide spread what is needed, especially in the under developed parts of the world, is intermediate technology, technology which helps small farmers and entrepreneurs improve their businesses - not high tech. Progress, in Western terms, only "demoralizes the many and makes them the helpless dependents of the rich and expert few." High tech agriculture depopulates the countryside, crowds the cities and turns self sustaining farmers into dependents on the cash economy. NAFTA and globalization has ruined Mexican small farmers as American agricultural products priced them out of the markets.
Intermediate technology, such as simple smokeless stoves and simple solar panels, sufficient to keep one light burning, improves the lot of smallholders while keeping them on the land, but it is not seen as representing progress like GPS operated, automated tractors and GMO seeds which reduce the need for human labor while maximizing yields. Automated trucks being developed by Tesla and others will obviate the need for one of the largest occupational categories - truck drivers.
Meritocracy Commodifies Human Worth
Meritocracy commodifies human intelligence and therefore human worth. The educational system does not promote people with big hearts; it promotes people with big brains. The economic system does the same. Every facet of human endeavor that has economic significance is commodified. However, the capacity to love and care for others is not. It is not thought worth commodifying or rated. It is not considered "talent." If it had economic significance, it would be commodified. Imagine if a college entrant had to provide their SAT score and a rating on a scale from 1 to 100 of their capacity to love or care for other human beings and the earth in general. It seems ludicrous to commodify love; yet people that have a capacity to love are needed now more than ever if the earth and its inhabitants are to survive. The Meritocracy's downside is that it does not value love, only "intelligence" or "talent."
But rather than commodify love, more importantly, we need to decommodify intelligence. The grading system should be done away with. It has a fascistic basis, the commodifyng of people into alphas, betas and gammas such as George Orwell predicted in his novel, Brave New World. True education would be learning that took place without students having to be ranked by grades. Where I went to school on scholarship, Phillips Academy Andover, they ranked everyone in the class from first to last. Besides that they had two honor rolls, first and second, and they did this ranking every quarter. When students have to compete for their rank, true education can not take place, but a lot of anxiety and depression can. Some of the titans of high tech have ignored the whole system, dropped out of college and still became billionaires as mentioned previously. Even though they have proved that grading students is inconsequential to high achievement, they still have contributed to the economic divide with their billion dollar IPOs. We should stop celebrating contributors to the economic divide.
Finland Decommodifies Education
Consider Finland's educational system. It's the total opposite of America's. Instead of control, competition, stress, standardized testing, there is warmth, collaboration and teacher-led encouragement and supportiveness. See How Finland broke every rule — and created a top school system. Yet in an apparent contradiction, Finland's students consistently do better than American students on standardized testing.
We have to revise our notion of progress. The twentieth century saw much "progress" including diesel engines which replaced steam engines on the railroad thereby reducing the number of necessary water stops and station agents. The automobile, the movies, the telephone, the airplane, labor saving appliances, the computer, the internet have all contributed to "progress" because they have created commodities which can be sold and/or billed to individual customers or corporations. Inventions which can't be commodified and sold do not grow the economy. The American economy is based on 70% consumer purchases so the emphasis is on the invention of things which can be commodified and sold rather on things which can help people be self sufficient outside the cash economy or things which can help people and the environment which cannot be bought or sold.
We left the "horse and buggy days" behind. But horses and buggies did not pollute, they did not exacerbate global warming. Diesel engines, automobiles and jet engines spewed greenhouse gasses until the earth started warming perceptibly. Renewable energy inventions have the promise of reducing greenhouse gasses and saving Mother Earth, but they need to be implemented on a larger scale than that of individual sales, and large scale government programs for this or any other form of infrastructure are not even being considered by Congress.
Progress didn't turn out to be progress after all if externalities and the sustainability of the earth are taken into account. High tech reduced the need for human labor, eliminating jobs and widely distributed financial gains. Progress took away the dignity gained from having a necessary and productive job and being able to make a living therefrom. Soon robots will eliminate the need for human labor altogether except that labor involved in service jobs. The Amish and the Mennonites, ridiculed for staying in the "horse and buggy" stage of development, have not contributed to global warming the way adopters of the latest technology have. Did they know something we don't know, were they prescient or did they just do the right thing for the wrong reasons?
by John Lawrence from the San Diego Free Press
by John Lawrence from the San Diego Free Press
I previously reported on the 110 Pages of Gobbledygook that represents the Chargers' proposal to build a combination football stadium and convention center expansion in downtown. It looks like its not going to happen because Mayor Kevin Faulconer and a lot of other conservative businessmen are against it. The Chargers probably assumed that Faulconer would immediately climb on the bandwagon and start cheering for the so-called convadium. Faulconer, however, to his credit has been cautious, questioning the $1.15 billion in new debt the City would have to take on as its part in this endeavor. The Chargers casually gloss over this in their gobbledygook proposal. And they say nothing about the $50 million still owed on Qualcomm Stadium as if that's not even something worth mentioning.
As if this wasn't bad enough, recent state Supreme Court rulings mean that the Chargers will probably have to have a two thirds approval from the voters in November instead of a simple majority. This makes their uphill climb that much steeper especially since it has finally dawned on the American public that tax giveaways to billionaire owners of professional football teams are not a good idea.
Local Politicians Don't Want Convadium
I have now read or scanned the 110 pages, and I have a few (quite a few) reservations about the proposal, but they pale in comparison to the developments involving prominent politicians and businessmen who are against it. Joe Terzi, the head of the Tourism Authority, said the Chargers’ plan is just not something industry leaders wanted. Terzi continued:
by John Lawrence from the San Diego Free Press
GDP does not measure the well being of human beings. War, natural disasters, incarcerations all add to positive GDP growth. Profits from casinos, drug sales, cigarette sales, junk food all add to economic growth. Stock buybacks contribute to GDP. GDP is based on distorted values. If I pay down my debt, that does not add to GDP. If I borrow more money and go into debt and go out and buy stuff, that increases GDP. Wall Street insistence on short term profits as opposed to long term growth does add to GDP. GDP is f'd up, man, yet for every politician and government functionary it's the sine qua non of economic indicators. Every swindler that parts someone with a buck contributes to GDP growth. Every saver that saves a buck contributes to lowered GDP and perhaps a recession. 70% of GDP is consumer purchases. Lowered consumption means lowered strain on the environment, but also lowered GDP.
The more the fossil fuel industry fracks and extracts and sells gas to gas guzzling cars, the more GDP goes up and the more the destruction of the planet is hastened from global warming. Converting to renewables won't contribute to GDP after initial costs are paid because the sun's energy is essentially free. At that point the Koch brothers will be out of business as will Exxon Mobil and all the rest of the associated industries. But the conversion is absolutely necessary and essential if planet Earth is to remain inhabitable by humans. The insects will always hang on even after the last human exits the planet so that's something. Lowering the contribution to GDP from the fossil fuel industry will of necessity change the economic system.
If I grow my own vegetables, fix my own car and live frugally, this does not add to GDP. George W Bush told us after 9/11 to go out and shop. This was his prescription for fixing the economy. Just go out and buy, buy, buy. Buy a whole lot of junk you don't need. Then rent a storage locker to store the stuff that's overflowing your garage. That adds to GDP. All this worthless garbage that "grows the economy" could be better done without. The money saved would be better spent helping the most impoverished in the US and around the world, helping the climate change refugees in Bangladesh and Indonesia, helping the people suffering from natural disasters in West Virginia and the Philippines.
Riane Eisler says GDP does not measure human well being, does not measure environmental sustainability, does not measure even long term economic success.
A hedge fund that destroys a company's union adds to GDP because profits go up, but that's not long term economic success especially for the workers involved. The US with its vaunted GDP has the highest infant mortality rates, the highest maternal mortality rates and the highest child poverty rates in the developed world. Our economic values, the economic values of capitalism are completely distorted. We need a measure not of economic growth, but of economic well being. That would comprise the values of a society in which no one lived below the poverty line and which economic inequality was reduced. How many billions does a billionaire really need in order to have every luxury known to the human race? But they don't stop there. They use their excess to control the political system guaranteeing thet their class will prevail ad infinitum.
Do we want to have a society comprised of an elite class of super wealthy combined with a class of minimum wage working peasants? What ever happened to the promised utopia where robots would do all the work and the humans would have a life of leisure combined with ample material goods. Instead we have a dystopia where wealthy elites own all the robots and the rest of us, the 99%, make minimum wage as retail workers, teachers, baristas and uber drivers. It's precisely a dystopia because wealth isn't widely shared. If it were, all people would have to work perhaps a 15 hour work week doing the work robots can't do while our ownership of widely dispersed wealth would guarantee us an income sufficient to buy whatever it is we can buy now working a 60 hour week or requiring two or three incomes to purchase a home and a car. Imagine everyone being wealthy enough to receive a monthly dividend check for $5000. for doing nothing like the wealthy elite does. Except their monthly dividend check is more like $1 million.
I'm tired of hearing politicians like Bernie Sanders, whom I dearly love, say things like, "In the wealthiest country in the world, why are children going hungry?" FYI, Bernie, we do not live in the wealthiest country in the world. There are some private individuals and families that are extremely wealthy; that does not a wealthy country make. In fact the US government (meaning we the taxpayers) is extremely impoverished. We borrow billions of dollars each month, month after month, just to pay for our war machine.
We have trillions of dollars in needed infrastructure repairs. Roads and bridges are crumbling. It's a scenario that fits right in with disaster capitalism that will play out after the next big disaster brought about by a bridge collapse. Republican politicians will say that government is incompetent because it can't do the needed repairs and the roads and bridges should be privatized so private corporations which are much more efficient can do them. Then they erect toll booths and extract rent. Formerly free services now become profit centers for some, income drains for others. We can't even provide safe drinking water for our citizens. We are not a wealthy country. We have a wealthy elite and that wealthy elite are not even really citizens of the US as they take their financial dealings offshore to tax free jurisdictions. Actually there are more Chinese billionaires than US billionaires so, Bernie, please don't keep saying that we are a wealthy country.
Einstein said, "You cannot solve problems with the same thinking that created them." We need to think outside the box. Noam Chomsky said that the political movement that Bernie Sanders has created needs to continue regardless of the election cycle. It should be seen as something that will not go away as soon as the election is over. Bernie's campaign in my opinion is not important in the sense of whether or not he will win or lose, but because of the fact that he is getting revolutionary and much needed ideas and possibilities out there and into the minds and consciousnesses of the American people. And he's dealing with tangible items that affect the middle class and the young like student loan debt.
Riane says that we need an economic system that gives real value to caring for people and caring for our Mother Earth. That's what will create real wealth. Right now financial legerdemain, trompe l'oeil, adds to GDP. All sorts of hedge fund activity like buying companies, loading them up with debt and then paying the principals handsomely, the kind of thing Mitt Romney did with Bain Capital, adds to GDP. Building a company from the ground up with the goal of long term financial and economic soundness doesn't. Wall Street demands short term profits not long term growth.
Worker owned enterprises spread the financial rewards more widely while working for the man in minimum wage jobs just contributes to the menialization of American workers. Self employment and co-operatives hold the promise of long term wealth accumulation while student loan debt holds out the promise of nothing more than lifelong penury and indebtedness. Americans are delusional if they think that a BS degree and $50,000. worth of debt is going to enable them a to have a better life than would a free apprenticeship in some practical skill which has a market demand in the local economy and no debt.
Gross National Happiness is a much richer objective than GDP or economic growth. In GNH, material well-being is important but it is also important to enjoy sufficient well-being in things like community, culture, governance, knowledge and wisdom, health, spirituality and psychological welfare, a balanced use of time and harmony with the environment.
GDP does not value the caring economy: the mothers' work in the household economy, the pre-school teachers who love and nurture the children in their care, the work of volunteers who drive seniors to do their grocery shopping and provide companionship, the nurses and CNAs who care for patients while making a pittance in salary. At the same time GDP overvalues those who sit in corporate boardrooms, the cronies who give the CEO stock grants and options and then vote to buy back stock so the CEO and other executives as well has hedge fund activists can make a killing, the "angel" investors who give millions to questionable start-ups, the IPOs that create instant billionaires thus driving the economic divide. Meanwhile, those with 401ks are being led to slaughter like lambs and will be the primary sufferers in the next financial meltdown. Seniors will be hung out to dry if Republicans like Paul Ryan get their way and convert social security to vouchers. They will wind up with a Wall Street controlled social security program similar to a 401k and subject to the vagaries of the market.
In a caring society the status of women will be more an indicator of general quality of life and long term economic success than GDP. So why don't politicians and other economists take these indicators into account. They don't really care about the values pertinent to women and children. They devalue their interests in favor of short term profits of corporations. Care giving values are associated with women who have been historically disenfranchised in favor of masculine values, the values of money making.
Caring for Mother Earth, caring for children and caring for those who are vulnerable and helpless, caring for the homeless have no economic value in terms of the masculine values of capitalist economic systems. And I say capitalist systems in the plural because so-called communist systems like China have in fact capitalist economic systems. A Chinese insurance corporation just recently bought the historic Hotel del Coronado in San Diego. They also own the Waldorf Astoria in New York as well as many other luxury properties in the US.
GDP doesn't matter. Lowered GDP doesn't matter. What matters is not goods produced in China and elsewhere overseas and then shipped to the US in big containers ships. These represent outsourced American jobs. What matters is developing the local economy in terms of co-operative enterprises comprising worker owners. This distributes wealth and makes us less dependent on huge international corporations. If a recession follows, so be it. GDP is mainly an indicator of the health of large financialized corporations. What is needed is the health of the local economy, the wealth of the caring economy, the economic indicators which value lifting mothers and children out of poverty, the economy that puts a floor under the income level of individuals and families. If this shoots GDP all to hell, so be it. We don't need Wall Street banks to run the economy. Local bartering systems can substitute for monetary exchange needs until a public banking system is developed. Perhaps even Bitcoin can bypass the US dollar as the measure of all things. Supporting the local, caring economy the economy that insists that everyone is well housed, well fed and well educated and has their basic needs met in terms of health care is more important than GDP growth.
by John Lawrence
In light of the fact that Omar Mateen, the shooter at the gay nightclub in Orlando, had been under investigation by the FBI and was on the no-fly list, it is unconscionable that the FBI gave him what amounted to a clean bill of health and said in effect, "Your Second Amendment Rights are fully restored Sir. You can go out and buy all the guns you want." And then James Comey, FBI Director, has the unmitigated gall to say "We were searching for a needle in a haystack." It's a pretty small haystack if you already had this guy under surveillance ... twice!
Other apologists for the FBI have said things like "You never know when one of these lone wolves is going to attack." But a gun store owner reported Mateen to the FBI right before the attack:
When denied the purchase of body armor, “Lone Wolf” Omar Mateen got on the phone, had a conversation in a foreign language and then started asking about purchasing large quantities of ammunition. Abell [the gun store owner] then contacted the FBI, reported everything that had occurred in his store and that was the last thing he heard until Sunday morning when he saw Mateen’s face plastered across his television.
Mateen Was No "Needle in a Haystack"
For one thing this was no search for a needle in a haystack. They had Mateen in their sights for sure. He had been under investigation. When he was under investigation, he could not buy guns without it being reported to the FBI. The FBI's excuse was that once they closed his case, he was free to buy guns and ammunition. But even then a gun store owner reported him to the FBI after refusing to sell him large quantities of ammunition just before the attack. Mateen was no needle in a haystack.
So where is the criticism of the fact that the FBI let this one "slip through its fingers"? Instead Obama and Democratic lawmakers said the equivalent of "Heckuva job, Comey" by omission. They don't want to criticize their own appointees for doing a lousy job of protecting us. When these sorts of things happen, heads should role in the bureaucracy instead of a national outpouring of grief led by the Commiserator-in-Chief. Enough of candlelight vigils, balloons, crosses and flowers. I want action: action in the streets, legal action, action to take down the NRA and rid Congress of its accomplices.
Mateen and others like him should remain under investigation if that's what it takes to keep tabs on these people. Their bureaucratic screw-ups and legalese defenses of arcane laws is just what gives people like Donald Trump their edge. Comey has said he doesn't want to interfere with ongoing "adjudication." What? Taking away a potential terrorist's guns could interfere with adjudication? Adjudication for what? This is what gives Trump his appeal. The simplicity of his statement that nobody who has the slightest inclination towards being a terrorist should have a gun has the hallmark of common sense and infuriates the gun industry as well. Comey's insistence that the finer points of the law are preventing him from acting until and unless all the t's are crossed and the i's are dotted is bullshit and defies common sense.
We Spend Billions on Intelligence for Meager Results
It was the same thing with the Tsarnaev brothers - the Boston Marathon bombers. They had been under investigation too. The FBI is just not doing its job well. And what about all the other intelligence agencies we taxpayers are spending billions of dollars to support? Homeland Security, the NSA, the CIA? The US intelligence capabilities based on the amount of money spent on them should have prevented these attacks. And yet they come in for no criticism.
Besides that the firm that hired Mateen as a security guard and gave him a gun never submitted him to a psychological evaluation as required by law:
The global security firm that employed Orlando shooter Omar Mateen is facing additional scrutiny over whether it adequately screened his fitness to be a gun-carrying licensed security guard, this time from a psychologist who says she never administered a key mental health evaluation of him when he was hired in 2007.
Dr. Carol Nudelman said in a statement to NBC News that she had nothing to do with the psychological evaluation of Mateen that the security firm submitted to the state of Florida on Sept. 6, 2007. The firm stated in its submission that Nudelman had conducted the test.
The form, which certifies that "the employee is mentally and emotionally stable" is required under state law, and cleared the way for Mateen to obtain a Class G permit and carry a firearm as part of his duties as a private security guard.
They, G4S, should be sued.
Don't Waste Time Trying to Figure Out Mateen's Motivation
And then there were the two 9/11 hijackers based in San Diego that had been under surveillance by the CIA which forgot to tell the FBI about them. These guys in the intelligence-industrial complex are making tons of money, and they can't even take some kind of preventive action against the guys who they have or have had under surveillance? First of all it's a total disgrace that someone on the no-fly list is not on the no-buy-gun list. Even Donald Trump, to the chagrin of Republican lawmakers, recognizes this bit of common sense and is just stating the obvious. Hillary and Bernie should take a stronger stand. They shouldn't cede this issue to Trump. They are too concerned about parsing their words; Trump isn't. The forces such as the NRA that are paying Congressmen and women to vote against any gun control laws need to be counteracted. Republicans who oppose gun control should be voted out of office.
The wife of Mateen needs to be prosecuted to the hilt. She knew what was going on and didn't report it. She accompanied him to the Pulse club; she was with him when he bought ammunition. That is against the law. Instead they will probably pussyfoot around with her on the grounds that "she might have important information." They have enough information as it is. They have no lack of information. What they need is the balls to go after these people and their accomplices. But they tread lightly because they don't want to offend the Muslim community. They want to figure out Mateen's "motivation." Really? I think most third graders know Mateen's motivation. And are we to believe that figuring out Mateen's motivation is going to prevent the next attack?
It's obvious that Mateen was protecting his family in the actions he took beforehand even as he was planning to murder innocent people. He ran up his credit card, signed his house over to a sibling for $10, bought stuff for his wife in the last days, evidently making sure she would be provided for. Going after his wife would send a message to the terrorist community that the accomplices of those who perform these murderous acts will pay.
Democrats, unfortunately, are getting the reputation for pussyfooting with terrorists. That gives Trump his main issue in the election. He wants Obama to say the words "radical Islamic terrorists." Well then, he should say the words "radical Christian terrorists" for those mass murders where that term applies. But rather than argue over verbiage, the Muslim community, the LBGTQ community and the black community should all be out there in the streets demanding gun control and taking up figurative arms against the NRA. Instead they mainly try to gain sympathy for their own communities when a tragedy like this happens.
Why are they showing Mateen's picture on TV? Not a bad looking guy, he doesn't deserve the fame he's getting. They keep talking about it being the largest mass murder in history like it's some kind of record. The next guy is thinking 'how do I beat Mateen's record?'
The Proverbial Moment of Silence
The moment of silence was rejected by Congressman Jim Himes (D-Conn.) who said he won’t be attending any more moments of silence on the House floor after mass shootings, arguing that they have become an excuse for Congress not to take any real action to address gun violence. He's totally right about that. All these outpourings of concern take the place of outpourings of demands that assault rifles be taken off the market, that laws be changed to deny easy access to guns especially for potential terrorists and that covers plenty of people. The FBI is simply not doing a good enough job. Comey has plenty of excuses like his "needle in a haystack" excuse, but the fact is that any one who has been under investigation for terrorism should stay under investigation for terrorism and be monitored. There were all kinds of clues in Mateen's case. And their excuse was "his case was closed"? Keep the goddam cases open, fahcrissake!
Displays of sympathy and sorrow should be replaced by calls to action. Instead we get massive displays of flowers and people displaying grief. This seems to be the mainstream media's response to mass murder especially. No one is calling out the despicable gun control laws and demanding action except a few like Jim Himes. There needs to be a pitched battle over gun control not a massive display of sympathy for the victims. Some families of victims are fighting. Why is this not being covered by the media? Instead we get this huge ritual of flowers and candles and people crying and this has become almost an ingrained and traditional response every time something like this happens. It shows we Americans are really good people and we care. If we care so much, why are we not getting rid of guns like every other civilized freakin country? Why aren't all these good and loving people demanding action? Why aren't they marching in the streets and demonstrating against the NRA?
The LBGTQ Community Should Train Its Guns on the NRA
Why wasn't the LGBTQ community out there demanding an end to assault rifles? It seems they were only interested in treating this as an LGBT (whoops, I almost forgot the Q) issue instead of a human issue, an American issue, a gun issue. It seems like they were only interested in drawing attention to LBGTQ issues instead of issues of violence and mass murder in general. Mass murder is a human issue, an American issue. The LBGT community should be joining hands with all the other gun victims and gun control advocates and calling out the Republican Congressmen who refuse to budge because their hands are in the pockets of the NRA. Instead we spend much time and energy debating bathroom issues.
The Washington Post has called on the gay community to take on the NRA: "But this time, things might be different. Not because of the record number of people killed in Orlando or because this heinous act was a terrorist attack, a hate crime and a mass shooting. It’s because the victims were part of a social movement with infrastructure and political know-how largely unmatched within the gun-control movement. It’s because the attack targeted gays — and their community is organized." Other organized communities like Black Lives Matter should also join forces and take on the NRA. Take 'em down! It's the major fault line in this country.
The FBI should be profiling anyone who purchases an assault rifle, cartridges and large quantities of ammunition. The gun shop should have to report such purchases to the FBI as one gun shop owner did in Mateen's case. The FBI ignored him.
Here are some of the things to check off on the profile. Is he Muslim? Check. Has he ever been under investigation? Check. Has he ever exhibited any signs of mental illness or emotional instability? Check. Is he or does he have a history of unstable family situations? Check. Travel to a Muslim country? Check. Trouble in school? Check. Trouble with employment? Check. Marital problems? Check. I'm sure the FBI could come up with many more. I'm not saying that guys who shoot and kill people are all Muslims. Some of them are lone wolf misfits and haters of other stripes, some of them are Christian terrorists, some of them are atheist terrorists. It doesn't matter; this check list should cover them too. There have been clues like this in almost all of the mass murders. The FBI needs to keep close tabs on gun store sales. Any loopholes need to be closed. Better yet comprehensive gun control legislation would stop the USA from being the gun murder capital of the world.
Other hints of a disturbed mind continued to emerge. In 2013, G4S removed Mr. Mateen from his security post at the St. Lucie County Courthouse after he had made “inflammatory comments” about being involved somehow in terrorism. Though far-fetched and even contradictory — he claimed connections to Al Qaeda, the Sunni extremist group, and ties to its near opposite, the Shiite Hezbollah — his comments were troubling enough for the county sheriff’s office to notify the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Will extensive gun control make it impossible for these types of crimes to be committed? Heck no, but it will be at least something, a step in the right direction, a baby step at least. It will give pause to the mass murdering community. It will make it less likely for them to be successful. It will deter some. It will reduce the carnage that huge gun clips and semi-automatic rifles are capable of. It will reduce some murderers to knives instead of guns. Then maybe America will be able to join the rest of the civilized world instead of descending into the quagmire of guns and violence for all. If this continues to be the case the Pledge's last words should be restated "with guns and violence for all."
Finally John Lewis Leads a Sit-In on the Floor of the House
Democrats under the leadership of Civil Rights icon John Lewis staged a sit-in last Wednesday demanding a vote on gun control. This is exactly what is needed - our Congressional leaders demanding some sanity on this issue. If it takes taking over the House and violating House rules, so be it. Republicans turned off the C-Span cameras but Democrats kept the video feed going on social media. Civil disobedience is exactly what I'm calling for on this issue. The Senate also did something similar. More power to John Lewis, Elizabeth Warren and the House and Senate Democrats who haven't totally bowed down to the Republicans, rules or no rules.
Lewis said: "Sometimes you have to do something out of the ordinary. Sometimes you have to make a way out of no way. We have been too quiet for too long. There comes a time when you have to say something, when you have to make a little noise, when you have to move your feet. This is the time. Now is the time to get in the way. The time to act is now. We will be silent no more."
by John Lawrence from the San Diego Free Press
There's nothing inherently wrong with the idea of working a job here and a job there according to the worker's convenience and other activities. The problem is that the profits go to some centralized corporation rather than being spread out among all the giggers in proportion to their participation in the system. If Uber or Lyft were a co-op, the profits would go to all the worker/owners instead of a handful of investors. Then the gig economy would offer not only a technique for working at one's convenience and fitting into one's schedule whether that schedule might be educational or child care or surfing or whatever. In other words making up one's own work schedule so it fits into your life is not a bad thing as long as the enterprise is co-operatively owned and provides not only convenience but worker protections.
It used to be only musicians comprised the "gig" economy. But there have always been self-employed people that worked gig to gig. Self-employed are the only really free people in the sense that they don't have to take orders from any boss, from any employer. If they want to take time off, the only person they need to consult is themselves. Especially if they have a large customer base, no single person or entity controls them. If they don't like a particular customer they can tell them to take a hike and vice versa. The power in the economy is equally distributed. This is the only really free market as far as workers are concerned. You don't have to kiss the boss's ass. And you can retire or not retire when you want to rather than when your boss tells you to. Did I mention that you can't be laid off, let go, downsized or outsourced?
Computer Technology Takes Self-Employment to the Next Level
Today computer technology takes self-employment to the next level, but it does not necessarily empower the worker in the gig economy. Uber has opened one door, but there are many other doors to be opened. Shift scheduling software for nurses has been in use for a few years. This technology can not only track each participant's schedule, but integrate those schedules so that necessary work is covered and everyone gets a fair shake. That means that no one is always scheduled for the night shift. Scheduling software then takes on a primary role in covering worker participation in such a way as the job or jobs get done. With Uber and Lyft there is no scheduling software per se. Everyone just works whenever they want so that at times there may be an oversupply of available drivers, and at other times there may be none available. Their software just tracks who has worked where and at what times as well as how many fares they've driven and for what amounts. They also set the price depending on demand, so-called dynamic pricing.
It's OK to price gouge the customer if demand is high, and multiple drivers are incentivized to drop what they're doing and pick up some fares. Similarly, when demand is low, the price comes down and customers are incentivized to hire an Uber even though there may be none available because drivers are disincentivized. Adjusting consumer and driver demand is a problem that supposedly Uber is in the process of solving. Supply and demand maladjustments are part and parcel of capitalism. They're a problem that capitalists seek to profit from rather than solve.
In The ‘gig economy’ is coming. What will it mean for work? author Arun Sundararajan writes:
... providers don’t have to commit to full days of work. You can pick up your kids from school (and then switch to being an Uber driver). In the gig economy, the lines between personal and professional become increasingly blurred.
There’s certainly something empowering about being your own boss. With the right mindset, you can achieve a better work-life balance. But there’s also something empowering about a steady pay cheque, fixed work hours and company-provided benefits. It’s harder to plan your life longer term when you don’t know how much money you’re going to be making next year.
On the other hand, starting a new business has generally been an all-or-nothing proposition, requiring a significant appetite for risk. There are benefits to dipping your toes into the entrepreneurial waters by experimenting with a few gigs on the side. Perhaps this lowering of barriers to entrepreneurship will spur innovation across the economy.
Economist Thomas Piketty tells us that the main driver of sustained economic inequality over the past two centuries has been the concentration of wealth-producing “capital” in the hands of a few. This seems less likely if the economy is powered by millions of micro-entrepreneurs who own their businesses, rather than a small number of giant corporations.
But the latest generation of specialised labour platforms also raises the spectre of greater social inequality. We’ve now got apps through which providers will park your car (Luxe), buy and deliver your groceries (Instacart), and get you your drinks (Drizly). There’s a risk we might devolve into a society in which the on-demand many end up serving the privileged few.
In many countries, key slices of the social safety net are tied to full-time employment with a company or the government. Although the broader socioeconomic effects of the gig economy are as yet unclear, it is clear we must rethink the provision of our safety net, decoupling it from salaried jobs and making it more readily available to independent workers.
Shift Selection Software Allows Employees to Set Their Own Schedules
But there is another way of looking at the situation if Uber or something like Uber were to be a co-op instead of a corporation whose main concern was profits. What if prices for the consumer were held constant and drivers were incentivized to meet demand whatever that demand might be? With a co-op undesirable shifts might command a higher hourly paycheck and popular shifts might be paid at a lower hourly rate, but all would share in the profits commensurate with their total hours of work or participation. Software is smart enough to figure all this out. We don't have to hold on to the model of the 40 hour workweek for a corporate employer.
Worker protections ideally would be offered not by individual employers, but by society at large meaning the government. Universal health care would preempt workers' compensation insurance which would be moot. Family leave and vacations and whatever else is thought to be fair and desirable would presumably be offered in a co-op since it wouldn't be at odds with company profits which after all would be distributed among the workers according to some formula, but could be doubly guaranteed by society-at-large as well. There would be no conflict between workers and owners because the workers would be the owners so unions would be unnecessary. Call me a dreamer.
Politonomics is a methodology for deciding how to distribute work and compensation for work in such a way that maximizes worker satisfaction. The idea is not to maximize profits for shareholders or corporate CEOs and other executives, but how to maximize worker satisfaction which includes compensation for hours worked, worker protections and a share of the profits. The worker/owners would have democratic participation in decision making such as workers in German corporations have.
There is a clear legal basis in Germany for the workplace representation of employees in all but the very smallest companies. Under the Works Constitution Act, first passed in 1952 and subsequently amended, most recently in 2001, a works council can be set up in all private sector workplaces with at least five employees. (There is a system of staff councils in the public sector which have a broadly similar structure.)
Simply put, a cooperative is a special form of business owned and managed by the people who provide and/or use the goods and services that the business provides. They pool resources to satisfy a common need and provide these goods and services as economically and efficiently as possible. A co-op is owned by the people who use it.
As locally owned businesses, co-ops are committed to the people they serve and the communities they live in. Owners can have a voice in what is available for purchase, as well as in the overall organization of their particular co-op. Owners get the most buying power for their money, and the money stays in the community, contributing to its economic strength.
Like other cooperatives, Ocean Beach People's Organic Food Co-op operates according to the seven Cooperative Business Principles.
A champion of co-ops Gar Alperovitz said:
My interest began back in 1977, when a big steel company, Youngstown Sheet and Tube, went out of business. Five thousand people in Youngstown, Ohio, lost their jobs in one day, which was disastrous. Layoffs of that size are common today—especially when multinational corporations shift capital around—but in 1977 that was front-page, national news. It was a big, big deal.
But the community leaders and steel workers in Youngstown decided that they didn’t have to go down without a fight. They got together and built a coalition to buy the steel mill back and run it themselves, under worker-community ownership. They began organizing locally and statewide, and soon the Carter administration agreed to provide funds to hire experts who could help them with the mill’s technical designs.
New Models for Ownership and Employment
We have to think in terms of new models for ownership and for employment. Increasing economic inequality demands a solution. Co-ops are that solution. The old model of workers in competition with owners which gave rise to the union movement is or should be passe, and in its place should be a model in which workers are owners, unions are unnecessary and worker protections are guaranteed by the co-op itself and by society in general. The gig economy could be a good thing in terms of work schedule convenience and integration of work with other life enhancing and/or demanding activities.
Child care and elder care can be integrated into one's work schedule and time off is at the worker's scheduling disposal instead of being mandated as holidays or weekends or vacation by the corporate owners. Many workers would choose to take vacations when roads are less crowded than they are on mandated holidays. Today there is nothing sacrosanct about not working on Sunday or holidays as there used to be. The 40 hour work week should be a thing of the past with workers working as many hours as they choose on whatever days they choose without being exploited. Workers can set their own schedules and decide when their vacations should be instead of having to ask the permission of their bosses. And they wouldn't have to worry about their jobs being shipped to China.
by John Lawrence
On Wednesday, June 15, 2016, there was a well attended meeting of the Rules Committee of the San Diego City Council. Many diverse topics were covered, some at exhaustive lengths. The meeting lasted over three hours with a dozen or more speakers pleading their causes. Most were asking the Rules Committee to take their issues to the full City Council and have them vote to put them on the November ballot.
There was a discussion of the nature of the voting system. The way it is right now someone running for office who gets 50% of the vote plus one in the June primary is considered elected. Any less than that and there is a run-off on the November ballot between the top two vote getters. Jeff Marston of the Independent Voter Project maintained that, since more voters vote in the November election than in the primary, all final votes should be in that election in which more voters would have a say. A new voter Marissa Gomez, 19, favored that approach.
Will San Diego Adopt Instant Run-off Voting?
Councilman Kersey said that this would only lengthen the voting process and make the November ballot that much more unfathomable with options and propositions so numerous as to boggle the average voter's mind. Better to get some things out of the way on the June ballot. He suggested that perhaps Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) was a better way to go. IRV is an electoral system whereby voters rank candidates in order of preference. In the event that one candidate fails to achieve a sufficient majority, the candidate with the fewest number of first-preference rankings is eliminated and these votes redistributed, the process being repeated until one candidate achieves the required majority. Talk about getting down to the nuts and bolts of voting! A motion was made and carried 3 to 2 to bring the proposal, that the 50% + 1 rule be eliminated, to the full City Council and have them vote on it.
Next came the Public Health and Social Welfare Ballot Proposal. Stephanie Johnson made a slide presentation about the many homeless people she had met and what their problems were. Those problems included Tammy's which was that she couldn't afford lodging despite getting around $1000. in Social Security each month. With the average rent for a studio apartment more than $1000., Social Security would have to pay about twice that before a person could afford a roof over their head and food too.
Stuck in a System With No Exit
Melissa and Jason had their children taken away from them, and were "stuck in a system and cannot get out". Minor fines added up, jobs were not forthcoming because of outstanding fines and prior criminal records. Homeless people are fined for sitting. That comes under the heading of loitering, and so homelessness becomes criminalized. The Colonel had his social security check withheld because he can't pay his fines for being homeless.
Ms Johnson talked about how some of the homeless she encountered were "incredibly high" off of Spice which is sold legally in Hillcrest. Another homeless woman had been raped since childhood and was presently pregnant with twins. It was a veritable litany of hard luck stories that she pleaded with the City to do something about.
John Stump added, "We're measured on how we treat the least of these, and we're not doing enough." He noted that we had an Arts and Culture Commission that made sure arts and culture prospered in the City but there was no Human Services Commission that would provide oversight and look out for the interests of the less fortunate. The City was hoarding money, as Katheryn Rhodes has also repeatedly pointed out, in the LMIHAF fund and other places, and a City Commission could possibly force this money out the door and point it in the right direction - to help those who needed help.
Rodney Hodges, a homeless man, spoke very eloquently about his situation and about the one civic virtue we lack - compassion, caring for someone other than ourselves. He said the City has vacant facilities all over town, and the point that the City has money that it is hoarding has been made repeatedly with no counter-arguments from any of the members of the Rules Committee.
I think a lot of the detail that Katheryn Rhodes has dug up is really too deep for most of them. I think they are incapable of comprehending it, but maybe upon repeated exposure some of it will sink in. Her presentation today included the fact that online hoteliers such as Expedia and Trivago pay no TOT taxes which represents money the City could use if it wanted to solve the homelessness problem which evidently it does not. It just wants to tinker around the edges to show that it is doing something while not doing very much.
A spokeswoman for the Democratic Women's Club (DWC) wants the City to reinstate charter sections 60 and 61. Section 60 had to do with the establishment of a Public Health Commission and a Director of Public Health. This section of the City Charter was repealed in 1963. Section 61 had to do with the establishment of a Department of Social Welfare and a Director of Social Welfare. This section was also repealed in 1963.
Do the Poor People of San Diego Need a New Football Stadium?
The lady from the DWC said that poor people have needs that aren't being served by building a new stadium. While there's always money available for rich people's needs, poor people are left in the unenviable position of sucking hind teat (my words, not hers). The City cannot make the excuse that the County will deal with the homeless situation and the needs of poor people because the County gets its funds from HUD, and those funds do not serve the needs of homeless women and children. Jeeni Criscenzo has made the point many times that homeless women and children numbering some 22,000 (which can be ascertained from official school records) are routinely left out of the Point In Time count.
Councilwoman Marti Emerald said that she's engaged in this issue and that the City was spending millions of dollars to help the homeless. I guess that's not enough since the homeless population gets larger every day. She mentioned the Continuum of Care meetings. The Regional Continuum of Care Council (RCCC) is a community-based association focused on ending homelessness in San Diego and charged with overseeing millions of dollars in federal funding under the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Continuum of Care (CoC) program. I guess this HUD funding is what the Democratic Women's Club spokeswoman referred to as being unavailable for women and children.
Ms Emerald mentioned Girls Think Tank which is doing admirable work with the homeless. Girls Think Tank is now called Think Dignity so I guess the well-intentioned Ms Emerald is a little bit behind the times. She said, "I believe that together we can find new solutions." She said that they are pushing the County to "do better." She wants to establish more senior centers.
Councilman Chris Cate chimed in that he and other City Council persons were volunteering their time working with non-profits. Well that is not exactly what San Diego citizens were asking them to do. Whether or not they are personally involved in activities outside the purview of the City Council is not the issue. The issue is, in their role as City Council persons, how can they best contribute to getting the job done? Their position does give them considerable leverage. Councilman Cate mentioned "how do we get the most bang for our buck" Simple: release the hoarded money and earmark it for affordable housing! He said, "we're working hard to do more with the dollars we do have." I don't think so. They always plead poverty when it comes to helping the impoverished. But they don't have a problem with slinging around billions of dollars for a new convadium, for instance. They don't bat an eyelash over borrowing $1.15 billion for that. Poverty indeed!!
Let the People Pay for Trash!
The League of Women Voters (LWV) wants the City to get rid of the Peoples' Ordinance which lets single family homeowners in the City get free trash disposal. Those that don't live in single family homes, which is the majority of City residents, don't get it. The LWV wants this ordinance recalled. It should be. It would add another $47 million to the General Fund. The City wouldn't have to borrow as much for the new Convadium or it could almost pay off the $60 million on Qualcomm Stadium that it still owes. Still the City does nothing. They don't want to piss off a lot of their constituents who are attached to their freebies. There was no second to Marti Emerald's motion to bring this proposal to the full City Council for a vote to place it on the November ballot.
Next it was Women Occupy San Diego's (WOSD) turn to take the floor. Notice a trend here? Most if not all of these groups are women. I guess men are out pursuing their corporate greedy jobs.The WOSD want a reform of the Citizen's Review Board to include a review of all police shootings and in custody deaths. They want police accountability. Right now the police review themselves. I wonder what could go wrong there? They want 3 things: independent investigators, independent legal council and subpoena power. She said, "The police shouldn't be in charge of investigating their own misconduct."
What struck me is that there are people of all ranks and abilities involved in civil discourse from the WOSD attorney who spoke to those demonstrating in the streets. The level of civic involvement in particular for social justice issues is impressive. Of course the rich corporate lobbyists do their work behind the scenes. The Chamber of Commerce types weren't present at the Rules Committee meeting.
A Smorgasbord of Issues Boggles the Mind
The ever present citizen advocate, John Stump, brought up a smorgasbord of other issues from the subsidy the City gives to the zoo that it doesn't need (it is very profitable, thank you) to the fact that the "Council has the authority to own and operate a public utility" whether this be the internet, energy or something else. They said we need "community choice aggregation" in order to get to the City's "Climate Action Plan" goal. Oh, and he mentioned that the school board should be enlarged to better serve the citizens since the population has grown considerably while at the same time no new seats have been made available on the school board. There is currently no high school in City Heights which has a tenth of the City's total population.
Finally Katheryn Rhodes spoke about the need to redefine what a hotel operator was in order to tax online hotel operators. Since the number one complaint of tourists is the downtown homeless population (it sort of takes the fun out of visiting San Diego when you have to step over turds in the street), it makes sense to have part of the TOT tax go to clean up the streets by housing the homeless.
As Katheryn has pointed out repeatedly, there is money available if only the City would stop hoarding it. We need more CAFRs (Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports). I don't think the acronym challenged City Council can get their heads around Katheryn's work. She also advocated for Tiny Homes for the homeless and pointed out the mismatch between City Ordinances and State Laws. What needs to take place is a lawsuit ala Cory Briggs against the City to spring loose those hoarded funds in the LMIHAF and other equally abstruse funds and get the ball rolling. San Diego residents want it. Tourists want it. The Chamber of Commerce wants it. The only people who don't want it are the compassionless which was pointed out earlier, those people who think every resident should pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, even those entrapped in a cycle of poverty.
A Heartening Example of Civic Democracy. Let's Hope It Does Some Good
Today was a heartening exercise in civic democracy. Let's hope it is to some avail. The Democratic Women's Club, the League of Women Voters, Women Occupy San Diego, Stephanie Johnson, Katheryn Rhodes and many other women - all were there. Where were the men's groups or the LGBTQ groups for that matter? It's clear that women are among the most compassionate members of society. The only men there were John Stump, Rodney Hodges and a few others. Men are clearly not as advanced in the compassion index as are women.
by John Lawrence from the San Diego Free Press
I have been writing about my friend Dr Luis Garcia for almost 10 years. That's how long he has been doing my dental work in Tijuana at the Baja Oral Center. Over the course of those years Dr Garcia has become much more than my dentist; he has become my friend. Way back in 2007 I had broken my front tooth off by biting into an English muffin that was hard as a rock.
I wrote then on Will Blog For Food:
The dentist I was going to in San Diego suggested a bridge cap as a more reasonable alternative to an implant. (Actually, I had gone to two dentists before that including the one who gave me the flipper and neither of them had proposed a reasonable solution.) What they would do for the bridge cap is grind down the two adjacent teeth, cap them and then those caps would support a third cap over my missing tooth. First they would extract what remained of my missing tooth below the gum line. This solution would cost $995. per cap or $2985. plus the extraction. I forget how much that was. And this was with my Secure Horizon high option dental insurance! So two front teeth would be destroyed, and one wouldn't be rooted in anything. And the dentist said she didn't know how long it would last
So I decided to seek out a dentist in Tijuana and get an implant instead. I had heard they cost a third of the price they would cost in San Diego. I had been thinking about this for some time as a more economically feasible alternative to US dentistry which had been costing me more and more as time went on, and I was getting less and less satisfied with the quality and the way they treated patients as well as all the subterfuges surrounding how they dealt with insurance. Dental insurance was pretty much of a joke anyway as the dentists always seemed to find a way around it either by shorting the service or charging you for additional items the insurance didn't pay for.
After much googling I decided to go with Baja Oral Center and Dr Garcia. To say the least I was very impressed and have had a lot of dental work done there in the last 10 years. Friends and family have been to see Dr Garcia and his associates and they have all come away smiling. One of those associates, Dr Martinez, did an excellent job on my implant. Over the years I have written more articles about my Tijuana dentist such as one written in 2012 - Save Big Money: Get Your Dental Work Done in Tijuana.
I wrote an article - Judy Finally Goes To the Dentist In Tijuana in 2014 about how, after much trepidation, I was finally able to convince my wife, Judy, to go see Dr Garcia about getting a denture. She was so pleased with the results that she was looking forward to going back and spending some time in Tijuana. But the happy times were not to be.
In recent months, however, going to Tijuana to the dentist has become about more than saving money. It has become about friendship as well. Last year, as some of you may know, I lost my wife, Judy Oliveira. She had had a series of mini stokes and then some major ones that left her virtually helpless and not able to care for herself. Her good friend, Karen, who had gotten herself certified as a care provider, and myself gave Judy 24/7 round the clock care. She was never left alone. One of our problems was how to brush her teeth. She had been to see Dr Garcia in better times for that denture.
I called him and he said to bring her in, and he would see what he could do. It was a major feat just getting her in the dental chair. Dr Garcia was so patient with her and so gentle, and he was able to brush her teeth with a regular toothbrush something neither Karen nor I could do.
After that he said to bring her in once a month and he wouldn't even charge me. I couldn't believe it. As it turns out, my articles had brought him much business and he wanted to reciprocate. The only problem was that going back across the border there was an hour and a half wait. Poor Judy could not sit up in her seat that long. But we made it the first time anyway. One of my regrets is that we never got a SENTRI pass which would have expedited the border crossing tremendously, but more about that later. We never made it back to Dr Garcia's office because Judy passed away shortly thereafter. A few months later I got a call from Dr Garcia wondering why I hadn't brought Judy back in to get her teeth cleaned. I broke the news, and after we hung up, I wondered how many dentists in the states would go to the lengths of calling a patient concerned about their well being regardless of the fact that they weren't even charging for their service.
Fast forward to a week ago - I set up appointments with Dr Garcia for myself and my friend Olof who had been to see Dr Garcia many times in the past. By this time I had obtained a SENTRI pass which promised to expedite the border crossing. This would be the first time I would be attempting to use it, and I was eager to try it out. Every person in the car needs to have one in order to use the special SENTRI lanes, but Olof didn't have one. The plan was that I would drop him off at the border, he would walk across, and I would pick him up on the other side. As it turned out, Olof had a medical emergency that day and couldn't make it. So I went by myself.
Dr Garcia was in his usual jovial good spirits. He filled a couple of cavities for me, and afterwards we got into a discussion about many things, about life in fact. It turns out that our lives coincide in many respects. His wife has some serious medical problems which require her to be in the hospital quite a bit as was the case with Judy. When she's in the hospital, he has to be the caregiver for his 3 year old daughter. I told him that I raised my daughter from the age of 3 as a single parent. We both had to juggle business and caregiving, and we both had to take care of a wife with medical problems that required numerous hospitalizations.
Dr Garcia continued the conversation by mentioning that he was also a writer. On the side he wrote screenplays, and he told me about one he was working on involving an American expat living in Ensenada. I got the feeling that this was a true story. This man also had a wife with serious problems. She had Alzheimer's. He had made the decision to keep her at home and be her caregiver, as had I in Judy's case, when they wanted to put her in a nursing home after her last hospitalization. The story and our lives revolved around the importance of decision making and how once the decision is made, we have to live with the consequences.
In the case of the American expat, the consequences were not good. In an unattended moment, his wife had walked out of the house, onto the beach and into the ocean never to be seen again. The man suffered a lot because of his decision not to put her in a nursing home including recriminations from family members. In my case I felt it was the right decision to bring Judy home, and it worked out in the sense that Judy's final days were spent in her own home with her cat, Tessa, and 24/7 love from me and Karen. She also got to watch her favorite shows on TV, something she wouldn't be able to do on the nursing home "basic channels."
I decided to put off my cleaning by Dr Lupita which had been scheduled for that day so that I could bring Olof down the following week. We made the necessary arrangements, and I left the office heading for the border. I checked out the place I could drop Olof off, got in the SENTRI lane and was over the border in 5 minutes. What a relief! If only Judy and I could have gotten a SENTRI pass a year ago, it would have saved her unnecessary suffering as she struggled to sit up during the long wait.
It takes time to get the pass, but you can start the process online. Then you have to wait for them to call you to come in for an appointment at the office. You go east on I-905, and it's right at the border. They finger print you and take your picture. It costs about $95. They don't inspect your car any more. Then it takes a few weeks before they send you the pass, but it's well worth the effort. You definitely need a passport to go to Tijuana, but the SENTRI pass will save you so much time coming back.
Dr Garcia's and my life have gone in parallel arcs. Life experiences have followed similar courses. Articles have been written. Dentistry has been performed. Cross border friendships have developed. All of these things were completely unpredictable a few years ago. The SENTRI pass makes going to Tijuana as simple and easy as going to Normal Heights. It's right next door now. Despite Donald Trump's highly offensive call for building a wall, walls between people from different cultures have evaporated. Barriers have vaporized. Let's hope that the border, la frontera, evaporates as well. As my Dad used to say, "One hand washes the other."
by Frank Thomas
I've always thought it would be nearly impossible for Bernie to ultimately win over the establishment status-quo Democratic forces so typically fearful of genuine progressive change ... so caught up in an incremental rearguard progress and presidential nomination campaign that is manipulatively, simplistically characterized as one of 'idealism' versus 'realism.' So, the message in short seems to be, vote for the candidate of "lowered expectations."
Rule by American Dynasty appears to be sinking deeper into our oligarchical democracy led by the anointed-to-be queen, Hillary ... empowered by a pervasive political network built up during Bill's presidency and her time as a NY senator and Secretary of State; helped by the corruption of 'Big Money,' a plutocratic biased media, the premature, nefarious endorsements of 500 super delegates BEFORE the nomination campaign began.
The NY closed primary and voter purge pushed aside a TIDE of independents - 125,000 in Brooklyn alone-- one of NYC's 5 burroughs-- were taken off the rolls. Those, no doubt, would have voted for Bernie in high percentages. Nearly all upstate NY went to Bernie. Hillary won Wall Street and the greater metropolitan area where the rich, bankers, traders and top 5% live. Inequality becomes acute when the rules and opportunities apply differently to different people. When the system is gamed and manipulated by the few for their own advantage, social commonality is destroyed. Result? A society perilously divided and not at peace with itself.
Bernie's honesty and originality on policies needed to regain our democracy, to redress working class inequality and to insure working class progress have changed the public debate. His popularity has soared. And he has set a new political tone supported by millions. Policy-wise, that seems to have brought Hillary away from her ignominious, enriching right of center special-interest loyalties to a foot left of center. She's coming around to Bernie's version of almost everything. Whether she sticks to that path without timidly compromising is another question. I like how Bernie comes up with things that never were or are difficult, and asks, why not? Hillary looks at things and says, why?
Recently, she came closer to embracing Bernie's $15/hour minimum wage, though as usual with caveats. Unfortunately, she wants to set limits on fracking (e.g., methane release and chemical pollution of water). She has been working to export fracking technology. Bernie wants no fracking at all. Could it be those high-priced speeches to the oil and other industries (e.g., pharmaceutical) are affecting her judgment? Hillary continues to hold our health care system as captive of the super-pricey private insurance and pharmaceutical companies.
Hillary will defeat Donald handily – as would Bernie if nominated – especially when Bernie's supporters get behind her. Trump's resurgent supporters are similarly fed up with our nation's corrupt, polarized, do-nothing-constructive on what the-people-want politics. The political establishment on both ideological sides has been 'burned'' by angry voters empowered by Sanders and Trump. This is a whole new political world that requires new approaches on serious problems.
Hopefully, folks on both sides of the political establishment who have either ignored or orchestrated and directed the impoverishment of the middle/poorer classes will feel compelled to work together for the common good for a change.
Paul Krugman and Tom Hayden are among the late-in-the-game 'enlightened' ones belittling Sanders for his supposedly 'unrealistic' programs and ‘lack of specifics’ how to achieve them. For them, moderate repair to systemically broken parts of our political-economic systems seems safer. That’s simply not true.
Between 1991-2013, GDP increased significantly. But real U.S. incomes across the educational range stagnated. So where did the money go? The money went to CEOs and the top 5%. As someone noted, “we now live in a world of elite winners and vast numbers of precariously employed workers.”
Contrary to what Krugman and Hayden are saying, Bernie is a man of details as well as vision. He has a deep grasp of the issues and a 40 year legislative legacy as the "Amendment King," always standing up for the working class and poor. He’s a quintessential example of the golden precept that public servants serve the public. Among their duties is to protect ‘the people’ from private forces that seek profit or advantage by exploitation of people and the commons we all rely on.
Similar bashing of Bernie comes from the right wing surrogates of Hillary who chastise Bernie as a man promising the moon without specifying how to get there. These superfluous ad hominem attacks don't come close to the scale of vile critique of Hillary's personal and professional flaws – e.g., her inveterate trait of playing with the truth, of cleverly twisting things with words for opportunistic expediency.
People think Bernie is the better candidate for following reasons that establishment Democrats, media and pundits are labeling as fantasies, idealistic, messianic, impracticable, naive, immature, impressionable, mindless:
highly consistent and dependable 40-year political track record as a legislator, demonstrating impeccable honesty and transparency
better judgment and greater electability against people like Trump or Cruz
raising minimum wage to $15/hour (vs. Hillary's $12/hour), offering free public college/university tuition and sharply cutting student loan interest rate
incorporating Obamacare step-by-step into Medicare for all
spending a trillion dollars on infrastructure and pre-college education
ending subsidies to fossil fuel industry
reforming trade agreements and reversing the Citizen's United decision
reviving manufacturing and supporting unions
setting higher taxes on the wealthy estates, imposing a tax of a fraction of a percent on financial speculation.
using above progressive ideas to shift the structure of the economy back to regenerating the disappearing middle class and toward reducing the expanding poor class. Working class Americans have seen their standard of living decimated by 30 years of supply side economics, job killing free trade pacts, exodus of manufacturing, outsourcing of jobs, tax cuts for the rich, tax avoidance paradises for corporations, threats to Social Security and health care, deregulation of finance.
Most of what is said about Bernie's vagueness or capability to implement his policies is a combination of subjective, biased generalizations and some obvious tall tales ... which, when repeated enough, typically become gospel in American politics. Very few of Bernie's supporters, including Bernie himself, see him as the political "messiah." From the start, Bernie has consistently been saying he needs the public involvement and massive turnout to apply political pressure to legislation, as does Hillary. Democratic control of Congress, or at least the Senate is essential for both Bernie and Hillary.
Bernie is inspiring the public conversation and movement while Hillary is controlling the delegates. The grassroots working class movement fermented by Bernie is his unique initiative, not Hillary’s. This is the "political revolution" Bernie has so passionately forged, attracting huge numbers of enthusiastic voters in age groups below 30 and 30-45. He knows full well it's a marathon uphill battle against the political establishment’s business-as-usual paradigm that has been step-by-step undermining the security and social-economic quality of life for working people for decades. Win or lose, I don't think Bernie’s progressive movement will die out as some cynically say.
As is the culture of American politics, nonsense and lies become acceptable when repeated enough especially by people of exceptional minds like Paul Krugman. Bernie is quite aware that institutional interventions in the market - such as bluntly addressing income inequality and equal opportunity - come at a cost. But government interventions and incentives will also come at a net gain long term. They will raise money by inspiring more people to work harder, by creating more and fairer opportunities, and by spurring direct societal investment.
Whatever happens, Bernie has forced the economic profession and everybody else to take the systemic breakdowns seriously. The system is corrupt to the core, and Hillary, unlike Bernie, is part and parcel of the anti-democracy Big Money poisoned politics. Hillary is now getting on a "Bernie-lite" policy bandwagon. Her challenge is to break a plethora of historical evidence of allying with and voting for corporate and special interests on fundamental issues.
Bernie's revival of democratic socialism runs deeply through the fabric of American life and government ... in the tradition of Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, Henry Wallace, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, LBJ, JFK and, yes, Jimmy Carter. For Bernie supporters, his policy program is the much needed "Real New Deal" for our broken nation. It’s a grassroots movement that has potential over the long term to vitally transforming severe imbalances in our social-economic system.
I hope Democratic Californians will drive this message home to the likely ultimate winner, Hillary, by strongly supporting Bernie’s nomination. As noted, Bernie is controlling the public conversation while Hillary is controlling the delegates. He may not be nominated, but many of his ideas supported by almost 50% of the Democrat-Independent voting public should be acted upon by Hillary or she will certainly be a one term president.
Hillary is compromised by her long-time patronizing addiction to rich money interests. Between 2013-2015, Hillary made 12 speeches to Wall Street bankers, private equity firms and other financial corporations. She recently received $675,000 for three speeches to Goldman Sachs and subsequently refused to release the transcripts. During her Secretary of State term, Bill made $17 million with speeches to similar business groups. Since 2008, both have made ±$139 million in speeches largely to Wall Street interests, e.g., banks, insurance companies, hedge funds, real estate firms, companies and other financial groups. Bernie is not compromised by special interests and their lobbyists. His integrity has always been unassailable.
One HUGE concern is Hillary’s War Goddess temperament. She has never seen a war, regime change intervention, or weapons systems she couldn't justify. Her imperial world view and bloodthirsty proclivity are well documented in Diana Johnstone's book, Queen of Chaos, The Misadventures of Hillary Clinton. She documents in detail how Hillary has carefully groomed herself for the role of woman 'war' president.
From Asia to Latin America, her record as the ultimate foreign policy neocon "has been scrutinized to oblivion," namely, for her support of the contras in Nicaraqua; support of NATO's bombing of the former Yugoslavia; support for 2003 'Shock and Awe' invasion of Iraq (which Bernie was against); support for Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan; then, as Secretary of State, support of war turning Libya into a military hell; support of 2009 coup in Honduras; support for regime change in Syria via Salifi Jihadis.
Hillary may be "packaged" as a progressive but she's the ultimate neocon - a foreign policy HAWK with an affinity for military adventures and regime change. As President, she will have the power to plunge us into a nuclear Armageddon. Her historical hawkishness comes at a time when America's epoch of global dominance is nearing an end. She had better adapt more peacefully to the new world situation ... meaning a strong military defense but avoidance of foreign military engagements or provocation, unless absolutely essential.
Diana Johnstone warns that a repeat of Hillary’s Iraq and Libya war blindness and willingness could result in the worst human disaster ever experienced. Bernie has indicated he will bring less thoughts of war and regime change. He will streamline the Military Industrial Complex for far better cost control and focus. Our long war mongering culture now costs over $750 billion annually, or half of all discretionary spending and half what the rest of the world spends on defense. This continues to accelerate our national debt while bleeding our Federal Treasury of funds critically needed to repair our nation's obsolete infrastructure and educational systems.
In sum, I close with some wise words from Diana Johnstone in her book, "Queen of Chaos, The Misadventures of Hillary Clinton":
"Let us hope that the first woman president will be distinguished by a profound understanding of the world and genuine compassion, rather than relentless ambition."
April 18, 2016
by John Lawrence from the San Diego Free Press
Trump's Win Could Be an Artifact of the Voting System
Not many people give much thought to the dynamics of the voting system. We just accept that you vote for one guy or the other and everybody gets one vote and the person who gets the most votes winds. This system called plurality voting or first-past-the-post seems obvious, but there are a myriad of other kinds of voting systems. For instance, each voter could rank order all the candidates with the lowest candidate getting zero points and the next candidate above them in the rank order getting one point, the one above them getting two points etc. Then the one with the most points wins. This system was first proposed by the French philosopher Jean-Charles de Borda in 1770. As the result of more information per voter being collected by the voting system, a different, and presumably more accurate, outcome could occur.
In the case of the Republican primary the single vote per voter with so many candidates almost guaranteed some sort of anomaly. A total of 17 candidates started off in the primary on March 23, 2015. As each state was ticked off, Trump garnered most of the votes; however, a majority of the voters voted for one of the other candidates. The result was that Trump was reported as having "won" the state, especially if it was a winner-take-all state. As Trump won, his momentum built up and before too long, his winning the primary seemed inevitable. Even after all but Cruz and Kasich had dropped out, Cruz and Kasich were splitting the anti-Trump vote.
In After Trump, the GOP May Need a Better Voting System, Kathleen Parker writes:
... the better candidates didn’t win because, obviously, so many of [the candidates] siphoned votes from stronger ones, giving Trump the lead and all-important momentum. Thus, the constant refrain from Trump supporters that the “establishment” is ignoring the “will of the people” is true only to a point. Trump is the choice of a plurality of the GOP but not of the majority — a distinction with a crucial difference.
What If There Had Been Two Candidates - Trump and anti-Trump?
If the primary field had coalesced around one or two anti-Trump candidates and Trump earlier in the game, the outcome might have been completely different. Suppose each voter in the Republican primary had not only given his first choice candidate a vote, but had also given his second choice a vote as well. It might have been discovered that there was a solid candidate other than Trump who had a vast majority of second choice votes as well as a goodly number of first choice votes. Adding together first and second choice votes might have selected someone other than Trump as the winner of the election.
If there are more than two candidates running for election in the American way of voting, often times the third candidate acts as a spoiler splitting the vote for one of the two most popular candidates with the result that the least popular ends up the winner. Ross Perot was a third party candidate in 1992 and 1996. History seems to show that he did not siphon off enough votes from Republicans to give Bill Clinton the election. Clinton would have won anyway, Perot or no Perot. However, in the 2000 election Ralph Nader running as a third party candidate did siphon off enough votes from Democrats to give George W Bush the election. If all votes had actually been counted Gore would have won anyway, but if Nader had not been in the race, Gore would have won handily.
French Enlightenment Philosopher Condorcet, Voting Theorist
The Marquis de Condorcet was an Enlightenment philosopher who was way ahead of his time. I visited him in the Pantheon in Paris because he's one of my heroes.
Eric Maskin and Amartya Sen write in the New York Times:
The Marquis de Condorcet, the great 18th-century political theorist and mathematician, proposed a system for electing candidates who truly command majority support. In this system, a voter has the opportunity to rank candidates. For example, her ballot might rank John Kasich, Ted Cruz and Mr. Trump in that order, meaning that she likes Mr. Kasich best, but if he doesn’t win, she would go for Mr. Cruz. She could, alternatively, choose to vote just for Mr. Kasich, which would amount to ranking Mr. Trump and Mr. Cruz in a tie for second. The winner would then be the candidate who, according to the rankings, would defeat each opponent individually in a head-to-head matchup — a real majority winner.
Approval Voting and Politonomics
In 1977, New York University politics professor Steven J. Brams and decision theorist Peter C. Fishburn devised approval voting, by which, according to their method, voters cast a vote for each candidate of whom they approve, in no particular order. The candidate with the most votes would win. Approval voting has been shown to be superior to the American method of first-past-the-post, but the problem is where do you draw the line between those candidates you approve and those you disapprove? I devised a method for doing exactly that. I call my method politonomics because it has applications to both politics and economics, in particular to Economic Democracy, and it is capable of producing multiple outcomes instead of just "the winner of the election." Multiple outcomes could be advantageous, for instance, in electing a city council without resorting to winner-take-all districts or a districtless Congress.
Using another voting system in which voters rank the candidates (A is preferred to B is preferred to C) or rate the candidates (on a scale from minus one to plus one, for example) provides the system with much more information than just casting a vote for the most preferred candidate. Outcomes can then be determined in which the overall satisfaction of the electorate is more likely to be achieved. Minorities will be better represented than they will be with majority rule. None of the voting systems proposed so far is perfect. There can be anomalous outcomes produced by all of them (except perhaps politonomics). However, the antiquarian nature of the American voting system whether in Congressional or Presidential elections and especially in gerrymandered districts could very well indeed lead us down the road to the first Fascist President.
By John Lawrence from the San Diego Free Press
Too Hot to Go Outside
A city in western India set an all time heat record of 123.8 degrees F in May. Authorities issued a severe heat wave alert which means that people can expect temperatures of 117 degrees F or more. In addition drought is affecting much of the country. The heat will probably not let up until the monsoon rains come some time in June. The prolonged heat wave has already killed hundreds and destroyed crops in more than 13 states. Hundreds of small farmers have reportedly killed themselves, and tens of thousands have been forced to abandon their lands and live in squalor in urban slums in order to eke out a living.
Rivers, lakes and dams have dried up in many parts of the western states of Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Gujarat, and groundwater supplies are severely depleted. The government has sent in water by train for emergency relief. Dr. Bhani Ram Paliwal, the principal medical officer at a government hospital in Phalodi, could not remember days like this in 15 years of working there. Roughly 500 patients, almost double the average number, visited his outpatient department, many complaining of diarrhea and fever. “It was like heat waves were coming out of a clay oven,” he said. Scientists say that if greenhouse gas emissions continue at a high pace, average global temperatures could rise by more than six degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century.
Last year more than 2,400 people died from heat-related illness in India, according to India’s National Disaster Management Authority. Many of those who died were laborers and farmhands who work outside, even in peak temperatures. The heat makes going outside virtually unthinkable, and staying indoors is a critical safety measure. “If you go outside you can’t survive in this heat wave,” Dr. Paliwal said.
Canada Burns Up
This gigantic fire in Canada's Alberta province started out at Fort McMurray on May 1. It is still burning and stretches 370 miles long. 88,000 people have been evacuated from Fort McMurray. It has consumed more than 544,000 acres. So far 2400 homes and buildings have burned.
Fuelled by tinder and helped along by unseasonably warm weather and low humidity, the fire released massive amounts of energy as it moved, creating its own weather, including lightning which produced new fire starts. High winds make these kinds of fires uncontrollable. Shorter winters produced by global warming contribute to the drying out of burnable vegetation. More than 500 firefighters continue to fight the blaze. In Alberta 15 wildfires are still burning.
The fires are occurring in the heart of Canada's oil fields and oil producers are warning of production shortfalls. So far the tar sands themselves have not caught fire, but, if they did, Canada would have an even huger problem on its hands. The problem is that winds have become more ferocious all over the world due to global warming. This has produced more monstrous wildfires as well as more monstrous tornadoes.
Tornadoes tore through the nation's midsection from Texas to Indiana flattening homes, uprooting trees, snarling traffic both on the ground and in the air. Softball sized hail was unleashed denting thousands of cars. One of the most damaging tornadoes touched down in Grayson County in north Texas. The storm shredded roofs, flipped over semi-trucks and sent at least five people to the hospital. A woman was killed when a tree landed on her mobile home. There have been 468 tornadoes reported in the United States in 2016.
A significant tornado outbreak occurred across an area extending from Colorado to Kentucky beginning with a large multiple-vortex EF2 tornado that tossed several RVs and injured two people near Wiggins, Colorado on May 7. A high-end EF2 tornado also caused considerable damage near Wray Colorado as well. Tornado activity was less intense on May 8, though a significant tornado event caused major damage across parts of Oklahoma on May 9. This included multiple EF3 tornadoes and the first EF4 of the year, a large stovepipe tornado that caused severe damage and one death near Katie, Oklahoma. Significant tornado activity continued on May 10, including an EF3 that struck the town of Mayfield, Kentucky. Overall, this outbreak killed two people and produced 43 tornadoes.
Torrential rains in France and Germany produced massive flooding with the Louvre Museum in Paris shut down to prevent damage to the paintings.
Global warming is making hot days hotter, rainfall and flooding heavier, hurricanes stronger and droughts more severe. This intensification of weather and climate extremes will be the most visible impact of global warming in our everyday lives. It is also causing dangerous changes to the landscape of our world, adding stress to wildlife species and their habitat. It is causing more power outages, more hail produced damage to cars and structures, crop damage and outright loss, more human migration into already overburdened urban areas and more political unrest.
Sea level rises are threatening high price real estate in coastal areas prompting the building of expensive sea walls which will only hold back the tides temporarily. More allergies and viruses such as the Zika virus will affect larger and larger areas as disease carrying mosquitoes migrate northwards. The first decade of this century (2001–2010) was the hottest decade recorded since reliable records began in the late 1800s. The first antibiotic resistant bacteria has been unleashed on the world.
Flooding is becoming more common as clouds release torrential rains due to more moisture being trapped in the atmosphere. A pattern of intense rain and snow storms and periods of drought is becoming the new normal in our everyday weather as levels of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere continue to rise.
Turn Down the Heat: Confronting the New Climate Normal analyzes the impact of warming of 2 to 4 degrees Celsius (3.6 and 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels on crops and coastlines.
“Today’s report confirms what scientists have been saying – past emissions have set an unavoidable course to warming over the next two decades, which will affect the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people the most,” said Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group. “We’re already seeing record-breaking temperatures occurring more frequently, rainfall increasing in intensity in some places, and drought-prone regions like the Mediterranean becoming drier."
Extreme heat is the biggest problem, the report found, because it can reduce crop yields, negatively impacting food security and future economic growth as well as economic development, social stability and well-being.
“These changes make it more difficult to reduce poverty and put in jeopardy the livelihoods of millions of people,” Kim said. “They also have serious consequences for development budgets, and for institutions like the World Bank Group, where our investments, support and advice must now also build resilience and help affected populations adapt.”
by John Lawrence
Friday, May 27, Lori Bell had one of her long standing gigs at the La Jolla Community Center with Mike Garson, piano, and Ron Satterfield, guitar and vocals. Amiable and buoyant, Lorie established good rapport with the packed audience. She's the kind of person you wish you had for a classmate when you were going to school. The music was excellent with stellar performances from Ron Satterfield, a major talent, and Mike Garson, former pianist with David Bowie. That being said this review will be packed with anecdotes like the time Lorie gave piano lessons to my granddaughter, Monique. She was so good with her and a wonderful teacher.
Lorie has a new CD out, Brooklyn Dreaming, which has gotten rave reviews. Brian Zimmerman, writing in downbeat gave the album 4 stars and said this:
West Coast flutist Lori Bell has been quietly amassing acclaim as a composer and improviser for the past three decades. Daughter of a bandleader father and an accordion-playing mother, she grew up in a music-filled household in Brooklyn. As a youngster, she would take the train to Manhattan to hear jazz in the tiny clubs of Greenwich Village. On Brooklyn Dreaming, her ninth album, Bell returns to her Big Apple roots for a nine-track program featuring six bold originals and three New York-centric interpretations. Bell’s playing is lithe and energetic, her lines unspooling with ease.
It cannot be stated too strongly what a great pianist Tamir Hendelman is and how much he contributes to the album. He swings hard, more so than most contemporary jazz pianists these days, reminiscent of Oscar Peterson. The album creates a unified mood, a reflection of the locale Lori inhabited growing up. Lori's compositions evoke Brooklyn as she knew it long ago. The tributes on her website testify to the excellence of the album and Lori's playing and composing.
The pianist for Lori's gig at the La Jolla Community Center was Mike Garson who has a connection with Brooklyn as well having studied at Brooklyn College. He is best known for his association with the late David Bowie with whom he performed for 25 years and whose presence was felt and alluded to many times throughout the concert. He made his mark on numerous Bowie albums and has traveled thousands of miles on Bowie tours. As a pre-med student Mike was interested in the power of music to heal.
From his website:
Mike premiered his commissioned work, "Symphonic Healing Suite" on March 1, 2014 at the Segerstrom Hall in Costa Mesa, California. Written in collaboration with patients with various disorders and ailments, this work is a set of movements of original music compositions. The follow-up concert, Music Heals II, in conjunction with the Foundation for Neuroscience, Stroke and Recovery, took place on November 2, 2014.
Ron Satterfield has played with Lori for years. There's not too much biographical information about Ron online, but, suffice it to say, he played up a storm last Friday night especially on a tune Lori wrote for Mike, Avant Garson, on which the interplay between Garson and Satterfield was fantastic.
Lori's playing throughout the evening tied the whole group, which could have easily flown off in different directions, together. Her beautiful tone and fluid scalar lines and emphasis on melodicism makes her music especially accessible to audiences for whom hard core, Charley Parkerish bebop jazz is not a way of life. Her style is characterized by fluid runs and trills rather than arpeggiated chord changes. You can tell she has listened to flute master Hubert Laws.
They started off with a rubato introduction to Stella by Starlight before kicking into the groove. That was followed by Joe Henderson's Inner Urge. As one of the anecdotes I referred to earlier, I almost presented Joe at a concert for the San Diego Jazz Society. Our Board member, Ann Williams, who knew all the jazz greats, was supposed to contact him, and offer what our constrained budget was capable of. Instead she offered him $1500. more, figuring he was worth it, and putting the balance of the tab on her own credit card. Well, Ann was not a rich person and we felt she shouldn't have done that so I had to write Joe a letter canceling the whole event. Such are the experiences and lessons of life.
Joe's composition was followed by Ron singing a David Bowie tune, Wild is the Wind. "Love me, love me, say you do. Let me fly away with you." The emotional urgency and consummate musicianship Ron put out there the entire evening was overwhelming at times. The crowd ate it up.
Next came Freddie Hubbard's Up Jumped Spring. Freddie was, after Clifford Brown, my favorite trumpet player. He was a veritable gladiator of the trumpet; he was fearless. He tried for anything and everything like a high wire artist and usually made it. That made it even more of a heart break when I saw him at the now defunct club Anthology in Little Italy on his 70th birthday tour. Freddie could hardly play at all. In place of the power and elan there was only the inability to get the meagerest air flow through his horn. I thought to myself, "He must have had a stroke."
That made it a little frustrating when Lori engaged Mike, who had played with Freddie, in repartee which was inaudible. I wished Mike had been on mike, because I'm very curious about Freddie's life and what happened to him. Anecdotally again, Freddie stuck John Rubino, proprietor of the Bella Villa jazz club in Cardiff, many years ago with a $3000 bill for cocaine. Freddie himself said his later misfortunes were caused by "partying too much with the rock crowd". Freddie's son, Duane Frederick Hubbard is keeping Freddie's legacy alive on the website. I wish someone would write a biography though. He suffered a heart attack in late November 2008 in Sherman Oaks, California, and died a few weeks later, on December 29, at the age of 70.
From Lorie's website:
In December 2011 Lori received a Global Music Award, the Award of Excellence for her depth of playing, composing and arranging for the "Lori Bell" CD (Beezwax Records). In April 2014 Lori won a second Global Music Award, the Gold Medal Award for her composition "Une Chanson Pour Claude" on the CD "Night Soliloquy" (Azica Records). In March 2016 The GMA's honored a third award for Outstanding Achievement for her 9th studio CD "Brooklyn Dreaming" for album and composition.
They did Miles Davis' All Blues for an encore leaving the crowd wanting more. One more anecdote... Some years ago I presented Lori at the San Diego Library and in the advanced notices I made up a name for her group, - the "ergonomic gastronomers." Lorie didn't get offended and took it all in stride. Thank you Lori for bringing us great music and being your good-natured, happy-go-lucky self.
by John Lawrence from the San Diego Free Press
Did Saudi Arabia Aid the 9/11 Hijackers?
All indications are that our biggest buddy in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, was directly involved with the 9/11 hijackers, and what's more, exports its extreme form of Islam, Wahhabism, to al Qaeda, ISIS and other groups determined to wipe out the West and Western values. There are 28 pages of the 9/11 report that deal directly with the Saudi role that so far have not been released. They have been redacted because the US relationship with the Saudis would be in jeopardy if they were to be released.
Last week the US Senate passed a bill that would let families of US victims of 9/11 sue the Saudis if they were found to be responsible for 9/11. The Saudis have gone so far as to say that, if the bill became law, they would dump $750 billion worth of US Treasury bonds on the world market. That would blow up not only our relationship with the Saudis, but the world financial system which is predicated on the US dollar being the world's reserve currency and its being necessary for the purchase of oil. That's why other countries that buy oil on the world markets have to hold dollars.
We have been taught to love the Saudis and hate ISIS. Brutal beheadings are shown on the evening news carried out by ISIS. Yet we are never shown a beheading by the Saudis which happens all the time. They're just not videotaped, that's all. The Saudis operate under Sharia law just like ISIS does. A contractor told me recently of his time in Riyadh where the half time entertainment at soccer games was beheadings. Instead of a concert by Beyonce, they'd clear the soccer field, have a beheading or two, then bring back the players for the second half. That's their half time entertainment! Saudi Arabia carried out at least 157 executions in 2015. Yet none of our public officials mention this fact. Beheading is the form of execution in Saudi Arabia, and, according to my friend, it can be for as trivial a peccadillo as embarrassing someone's daughter! After the beheadings the Saudis put the headless bodies on display by hanging them around the city.
The government of Saudi Arabia beheaded forty-seven people on terror charges in a single day at the start of 2016, in the kingdom’s largest wave of executions in more than three decades. Saudi schoolchildren are taught that beheading Christians, Jews and Shiites is just fine and dandy. And these are our so-called "friends" in the middle east!
Every woman in America and the West should be outraged by how the Saudis treat women. They aren't allowed to drive for starters. A hidden camera videotaped a woman being shoved to the ground in a supermarket, her groceries scattered all over the floor, simply because she got in the way of a man. Saudi dissidents secretly videotaped the Saudi religious police - the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, whose job it is to patrol the shopping malls and streets looking for transgressions, accosting a woman for wearing make-up. If they show a few strands of hair which are not covered up by their hijabs and burkas, they could be whipped. Western women rejoice, your lot in life, although not perfect, is vastly superior to your counterparts in the middle east.
President Nixon Sealed the Deal With King Faisal
The deal "oil for dollars" was made by none other that the "deal with the devil" boy, Richard Nixon, himself. In 1973 then President Nixon asked King Faisal of Saudi Arabia to accept only US dollars as payment for oil and to invest any excess profits in US Treasury bonds, notes, and bills. In exchange, Nixon pledged to protect Saudi Arabian oil fields from the Soviet Union and other interested nations, such as Iran and Iraq. It was the start of the deal with the devil. Here is the short version of the sick system we now operate under:
The short version of the story is that a 1970s deal cemented the US dollar as the only currency to buy and sell crude oil, and from that monopoly on the all-important oil trade the US dollar slowly but surely became the reserve currency for global trades in most commodities and goods. Massive demand for US dollars ensued, pushing the dollar's value up, up, and away. In addition, countries stored their excess US dollar savings in US Treasuries, giving the US government a vast pool of credit from which to draw.
That explains why the US has been able to run humongous deficits year after year. Other countries that need dollars are more than happy to park their money in dollar denominated US Treasury bonds. If the Saudis decide they don't want to play this game any longer, dump their $750 billion of US Treasuries and start accepting other currencies as payment for oil, other countries will start dumping their US Treasury bonds. At that point there won't be much of a market for US bonds, and the US might have to stop running deficits and pay as it goes.
So what happens when major countries of the world decide they can obtain oil through various agreements that don't require the US dollar? All that borrowed money that the US has been using and running up sky high national debts and deficits with will represent the chickens coming home to roost. The US won't be able to sell any more Treasury bonds in order to continue running up deficits. The world's reserve currency, the dollar, will have to share the stage with other reserve currencies which are now building up.
The world financial system, which gave the US all kinds of advantages over other countries, will be in disarray. The value of the dollar will collapse. But not to worry. The Fed can just print more dollars to pay off our creditors. That will last for a while but not for long. Eventually, after a long, hard night, the US will have to get its act together and pay as it goes, not dependent on credit from petrodollars. US world hegemony will be kaput. This will inevitably happen anyway as the world transforms from a dependency on fossil fuels and transitions to renewable forms of energy. The byproduct will be that the dollar will no longer be the world's reserve currency and the US deal with the devil will be moot.
The San Diego Connection
OK, let's bring this back to the present day and the aforementioned 28 pages that have been redacted from the 9/11 report. The Saudis don't want them ever to see the light of day because the Saudis were complicit in the 9/11 bombings. 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis. Two Saudis that landed in San Diego before the bombings took place and later became hijackers were given financial support by high ranking members of the Saudi government.
Sources who have leaked some of the contents of the 9/11 report say that there is “incontrovertible evidence” gathered from both CIA and FBI case files of official Saudi assistance for at least two of the Saudi hijackers who settled in San Diego. There was a flurry of pre-9/11 phone calls between one of the hijackers’ Saudi handlers in San Diego and the Saudi Embassy, and the transfer of some $130,000 from then Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar’s family checking account to yet another of the hijackers’ Saudi handlers in San Diego.
The New York Post goes on:
Former FBI agent John Guandolo, who worked 9/11 and related al Qaeda cases out of the bureau’s Washington field office, says Bandar should have been a key suspect in the 9/11 probe.
“The Saudi ambassador funded two of the 9/11 hijackers through a third party,” Guandolo said. “He should be treated as a terrorist suspect, as should other members of the Saudi elite class who the US government knows are currently funding the global jihad.”
But Bandar held sway over the FBI.
After he met on Sept. 13, 2001, with President Bush in the White House, where the two old family friends shared cigars on the Truman Balcony, the FBI evacuated dozens of Saudi officials from multiple cities, including at least one Osama bin Laden family member on the terror watch list. Instead of interrogating the Saudis, FBI agents acted as security escorts for them, even though it was known at the time that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi citizens.
“The FBI was thwarted from interviewing the Saudis we wanted to interview by the White House,” said former FBI agent Mark Rossini, who was involved in the investigation of al Qaeda and the hijackers. The White House “let them off the hook.”
So it's good ole Bush who lied us into the war in Iraq who knew good and well who the culprits were in the 9/11 attack, yet acted as their protector. He even flew members of the bin Laden family out of the country before bin Laden was even a suspect. “Even though American airspace had been shut down,” Sky News reported, “the Bush administration allowed a jet to fly around the US picking up family members from 10 cities, including Los Angeles, Washington DC, Boston and Houston.” “Two dozen members of Osama bin Laden’s family were urgently evacuated from the United States in the first days following the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington,” CBS reported.
Is this all starting to make sense? Republican President Richard Nixon took us off the gold standard, then made a deal with the Saudis so that all transactions for oil would have to be paid in dollars, then he and subsequent US Presidents used the enormous resulting credit and appetite for Treasuries to run up the US national debt. This was followed by President George W Bush's complicity in the 9/11 attacks by protecting the Saudis and letting Saudi officials and the bin Laden family off the hook instead of investigating them. Then, knowing full well who was responsible for 9/11, Bush went to war with a nation that was totally innocent of 9/11 and killed its leader thus unleashing chaos in the middle east culminating in the European refugee crisis. Finally, the cover-up was complete when the 28 pages were redacted during the Bush administration. The release of this information would probably not only implicate the Saudis but their best buddy, George W Bush, as well.
Last Tuesday the US Senate passed a bill that would let US citizens who were victims of 9/11 sue Saudi Arabia. President Obama has said that, even if the bill should pass the House, he would veto it. Why? Because he doesn't want to upset the world's financial apple cart. He doesn't want the Saudis dumping $750 billion worth of US Treasuries on the world market. He doesn't want the Saudis accepting Japanese yen and European euros in exchange for oil. He doesn't want the BRICS countries New Development Bank becoming a rival to the IMF and World bank. He doesn't want the US to lose its hegemony over the world economy. Finally, he doesn't want the US to have to live within its own means and pay its own debts.
When the law was enacted, about 16 percent of Americans were uninsured. That has dropped to 10 percent. So instead of 50 million uninsured Americans, there are now about 30 million without insurance. That’s better, but hardly universal.
Health cost inflation slowed for a few years, probably because of the recession, but it’s now resuming its rapid growth. In total, the United States spent $8,400 per person on health care six years ago, or $2.6 trillion. Last year we spent $10,000, or $3.2 trillion.
Obamacare has no doubt provided health insurance to people who would otherwise have been without it, mainly through an extension of Medicaid in most states, and the creation of shopping exchanges to enable individuals to buy insurance, often with government subsidies. But insurance no longer means what it once did. Businesses are capping their contributions to employees’ health benefits, premiums are increasing, and deductibles and copayments are soaring. There are reports that people who have gained insurance can’t use it because of high out-of-pocket costs. Insurance is becoming hollowed out, and we are learning that health insurance is not the same as health care.
The reason Obamacare is unable to expand access and coverage while containing costs is that it made only marginal changes to the underlying factors that make the American health system the most expensive in the world. There are two: First is the spectacularly inefficient private insurance industry, which thrives by refusing coverage for expensive medical conditions and generally denying claims. These companies’ profits, marketing, and other overhead expenditures are so high that when Obamacare restricted them to 20 percent of premiums, it seemed draconian. Compare their costs to Medicare’s overhead of about 2 percent.
The second, and perhaps greater, underlying problem is the perverse incentives of providers to perform as many highly reimbursed tests and procedures as possible. These providers include hospitals, whether technically nonprofit or not, for-profit outpatient facilities, such as imaging and dialysis centers, and even specialists whose income is proportional to the high-tech procedures they perform. Other advanced countries spend on average less than half as much per capita on health care as we do, provide truly universal care, and get generally better results, because they have either a single-payer financing system or tightly regulated multiple payers, plus a largely nonprofit provider system.
When Bernie Sanders called for “Medicare for All” to replace Obamacare, he was met with objections that it would be too expensive. But that is because of a confusion between government expenditures for health care, and total expenditures, which include employer and individual out-of-pocket costs. Government officials and political candidates usually focus on government costs, particularly Medicare and Medicaid. It would be possible to increase government expenditures for health care, but offset that by eliminating premiums, reducing out-of-pocket costs, and freeing employers from the burden of providing health benefits.
The government now pays roughly 65 percent of health costs (including Medicare, Medicaid, government employees, and employer tax deductions). Medicare for All, according to an analysis just published in the American Journal of Public Health, would require that figure to rise to about 80 percent. But these costs would be almost totally repaid by the savings in premiums, deductibles, and other out-of-pocket costs. Moreover, with time, the greater efficiency of Medicare for All would slow health cost inflation. We could gradually adopt Medicare for All by lowering the qualifying age one decade at a time to reduce the disruption.
Hillary Clinton recently called for a public option in Obamacare (an idea scuttled in 2009) that would permit people in their 50s and early 60s to choose either Medicare or private insurance. The problem with that proposal is that private insurance companies would woo the healthiest people in that age group, and leave the sickest to Medicare. Medicare would then be subsidizing the for-profit insurance industry, and there would be little or no savings. It is much more efficient for everyone in an age group to be enrolled in Medicare, so there couldn’t be that kind of “cherry picking.”
But Medicare as it now stands is not perfect. Although it is a single-payer system within our larger market-based system, it uses the same profit-seeking providers, and its out-of-pocket costs are also growing. And it doesn’t cover everything – for example, long-term care. If the United States extended Medicare to the entire population, it would make sense also to convert to a largely nonprofit provider system. Reducing the perverse role of profit-seeking among providers, with the propensity to over-diagnosis and over-treatment, would yield much greater savings. We could then expand the Medicare benefit package and get rid of out-of-pocket costs altogether.
By eliminating the two drivers of health cost inflation in the United States – private insurers and a profit-oriented provider system – we would bring the United States into line with the rest of the advanced world. It will be argued that this idea is “politically unrealistic,” but that hardly justifies not even trying, or imagining that anything else will work. The first step is to tell it like it is.
© The Boston Globe
by John Lawrence
Donald Trump is finally reaching out to the readers of the San Diego Free Press in an attempt to cover all the bases and pick up Bernie Sanders voters. After all they agree on many issues including fair trade rather than free trade. They both want to bring those jobs home. Here is what he had to say:
Hi true Americans. It's the Donald here. I'm gonna make America great again. We're going to have the strongest military and NATO is going to pay for it. That's right. We've been giving them free protection for years so they can sit around in their bistros drinking lattes and eating gelato. They can whoop it up in their biergartens while we sit here paying a trillion dollars a year to protect them. From whom? From Russia? Give me a break.
Putin's not such a bad guy. He whipped them into shape in Syria in 6 months while ditherin' Obama was giving millions to anybody who labeled himself a "freedom fighter." What did they do? After they got the money, they put it in Panama and then became refugees. Putin's out to make Russia great again just like I'm gonna make America great again. You can't blame him for that.
I understand the President of Mexico objects to paying for the wall that I'm going to build down there. I'm going to build a wall so high that any Mexican who tries to climb over it is going to get a nose bleed. And don't think they're going to tunnel under it either. We're going to sink the foundation so low that El Chapo is going to have to get permission from China for his drug tunnels.
If the President of Mexico comes to one of my rallies and says, "I'm not paying for any friggin wall," you know what I'll say? Get him outta here. Get him outta here. And don't bang his ass on the door on the way out. Be kind and gentle. Don't hurt him.
I can be Presidential. You don't think I can be Presidential? How's this? Me and Ivanka went to see Hamilton last night. That's right, folks. Everybody should go see it. It's American history. When I'm President every American school kid will see Hamilton. It's the right thing to do. It's Presidential. And you think I don't like immigrants? Hamilton was an immigrant. So was Aaron Burr. And he was black too. I like the blacks. We were all immigrants once. But they just can't come here willy nilly. There's a process. They all have to go to Ellis Island first and get processed through like we did.
Ross Perot was right. The Clintons brought in NAFTA, CAFTA, LAFTA. Then there was a big sucking sound of all the jobs being blown overseas. They took all our good jobs. Bernie Sanders is right. We HAFTA get rid of NAFTA and bring all those good jobs home. Why should China and Vietnam make all the money exploiting their own workers? We can exploit them right here at home and make the money here. When I'm President, that's exactly what we'll do.
I know how to get things done, folks, and how to deal with people. I'm a very successful businessman. I'm a negotiator. How do you think I got rich? I know how to make a deal.
And as for Wall Street lovin' Hillary Clinton, we know what she told Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein. I've seen the transcripts of her speeches. She won't release them, but I've seen them. Jamie and Lloyd are friends of mine. Who do you think I talked to to get my construction loan for Trump Tower? I said, "Jamie what did Hillary tell you?" He said, "No big. Hillary's got our back. Fuhgeddaboutit." Those are New York values, folks. Fuhgeddaboutit! You know what she told them?
She said they were fine Americans. They were doing yeoman duty. She thanked them for their service. It's no mystery folks. Hillary loves Wall Street. She said that with just a few tweaks they could go on making all the money they wanted to. They were doing the world a Yuuuge favor, keeping the world's financial system going. She said she'd do nothing to jeopardize Wall Street profits. In fact she said that the business of America is Wall Street. They got a bad and unfair rap after the financial crisis, but she'd see to it that they'd never again be portrayed in such an unfavorable light.
And you think I don't like women? I love women. Have you seen my wife? She's a 10. I love beautiful women. All those young Miss Americas. I love them all. They're all beautiful. Even Megyn Kelly. She's not bad to look at, folks. I never said Megyn Kelly had blood coming out her hoohhah. I said her whatever. But, hey folks, she's right up there with the 8s and 9s. Not quite a 10, but not all women are. There's a few dogs and fat pigs out there, but I'm not naming names except for Rosie O'Donnell.
So folks you see I am very Presidential. I'm the epitome of Presidentialness. You can't get any more Presidential than me, folks. We're going to make America great again. We're going to make Japan and Europe pay for their own defense. No more free lunches for them when I'm President. And yes, we're going to build the wall. It'll put a million people back to work with good paying jobs just to do that. That's infrastructure, folks. Good paying jobs.
But as for the chairman of the RNC. Fuhgeddaboutit! The Republican establishment is rigged, folks. What kind of a name is Reince Priebus? I got news for you, Reinse - ya got schmutz on ya schmeckle ya schmuck. Ya need to do the Reinse cycle. Wash. Reince. Repeat. Wash. Reinse. Repeat.
And good riddance to Lyin Ted and the rest of those losers. You want New York values? I'll give you New York values. Fuhgeddaboutit. New York's a helluva town. The Bronx are up. The Battery's down. The people ride in a hole in the ground. New York, New York - a city so nice they had to name it twice. So if you insult New York, you're gonna hafta to deal with me. You wanna piece a me? You wanna piece a me? Fuhgeddaboutit!
In the general election I'm gonna pillory Hillary. Hillary Dillary Dock. I'm gonna clean your clock. A little rap music if you please. Those are New York values, Hillary. Deal with it. Fuhgeddaboutit!
Posted on May 14, 2016 by Ellen Brown
“Print the money” has been called crazy talk, but it may be the only sane solution to a $19 trillion federal debt that has doubled in the last 10 years. The solution of Abraham Lincoln and the American colonists can still work today.
“Reckless,” “alarming,” “disastrous,” “swashbuckling,” “playing with fire,” “crazy talk,” “lost in a forest of nonsense”: these are a few of the labels applied by media commentators to Donald Trump’s latest proposal for dealing with the federal debt. On Monday, May 9th, the presumptive Republican presidential candidate said on CNN, “You print the money.”
The remark was in response to a firestorm created the previous week, when Trump was asked if the US should pay its debt in full or possibly negotiate partial repayment. He replied, “I would borrow, knowing that if the economy crashed, you could make a deal.” Commentators took this to mean a default. On May 9, Trump countered that he was misquoted:
People said I want to go and buy debt and default on debt – these people are crazy. This is the United States government. First of all, you never have to default because you print the money, I hate to tell you, okay? So there’s never a default.
That remark wasn’t exactly crazy. It echoed one by former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, who said in 2011:
The United States can pay any debt it has because we can always print money to do that. So there is zero probability of default.
Paying the government’s debts by just issuing the money is as American as apple pie – if you go back far enough. Benjamin Franklin attributed the remarkable growth of the American colonies to this innovative funding solution. Abraham Lincoln revived the colonial system of government-issued money when he endorsed the printing of $450 million in US Notes or “greenbacks” during the Civil War. The greenbacks not only helped the Union win the war but triggered a period of robust national growth and saved the taxpayers about $14 billion in interest payments.
But back to Trump. He went on to explain:
I said if we can buy back government debt at a discount – in other words, if interest rates go up and we can buy bonds back at a discount – if we are liquid enough as a country we should do that.
Apparently he was referring to the fact that when interest rates go up, long-term bonds at the lower rate become available on the secondary market at a discount. Anyone who holds the bonds to maturity still gets full value, but many investors want to cash out early and are willing to take less. As explained on MorningStar.com:
If a bond with a 5% coupon and a ten-year maturity is sold on the secondary market today while newly issued ten-year bonds have a 6% coupon, then the 5% bond will sell for $92.56 (par value $100).
But critics still were not satisfied. In an article titled “Why Donald Trump’s Debt Proposal Is Reckless,” CNNMoney said:
[T]he federal government doesn’t have any money to buy debt back with. The U.S. already has $19 trillion in debt. Trump’s plan would require the U.S. Treasury to issue new debt to buy old debt.
Trump, however, was not talking about borrowing the money. He was talking about printing the money. CNNMoney’s response was:
That can cause inflation (or even hyperinflation), and send prices of everything from food to rent skyrocketing.
The Hyperinflation that Wasn’t
CNN was not alone in calling the notion of printing our way out of debt recklessly inflationary. But would it be? The Federal Reserve has already bought $4.5 trillion in assets, $2.7 trillion of which were federal securities, simply by “printing the money.”
When the Fed’s QE program was initiated, critics called it recklessly hyperinflationary. But it did not even create the modest 2% inflation the Fed was aiming for. QE was combined with ZIRP – zero interest rates for banks – encouraging borrowing for speculation, driving up the stock market and real estate. But the Consumer Price Index, productivity and jobs barely budged.
While the Fed has stopped its QE program for the time being, the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan have jumped in, buying back massive amounts of their own governments’ debts by simply issuing the money. There too, the inflation needle has barely budged. As noted on CNBC in February:
Central banks have been pumping money into the global economy without a whole lot to show for it other than sharply higher stock prices, and even that has been on the downturn for the past year.
Growth remains anemic, and worries are escalating that the U.S. and the rest of the world are on the brink of a recession, despite bargain-basement interest rates and trillions in liquidity.
Helicopter Money Goes Mainstream
European economists and central bankers are wringing their hands over what to do about a flagging economy despite radical austerity measures and increasingly unrepayable debt. One suggestion gaining traction is “helicopter money” – just issue money and drop it directly into the economy in some way. In QE as done today, the newly issued money makes it no further than the balance sheets of banks. It does not get into the producing economy or the pockets of consumers, where it would need to go in order to create the demand necessary to stimulate productivity. Helicopter money would create that demand. Proposed alternatives include a universal national dividend; zero or low interest loans to local governments; and “people’s QE” for infrastructure, job creation, student debt relief, etc.
Simply buying back federal securities with money issued by the central bank (or the U.S. Treasury) would also get money into the real economy, if Congress were allowed to increase its budget in tandem. As observed in The Economist on May 1, 2016:
Advocates of helicopter money do not really intend to throw money out of aircraft. Broadly speaking, they argue for fiscal stimulus—in the form of government spending, tax cuts or direct payments to citizens—financed with newly printed money rather than through borrowing or taxation. Quantitative easing (QE) qualifies, so long as the central bank buying the government bonds promises to hold them to maturity, with interest payments and principal remitted back to the government like most central-bank profits.
As Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, wrote in response to the debt ceiling crisis in November 2010:
There is no reason that the Fed can’t just buy this debt (as it is largely doing) and hold it indefinitely. If the Fed holds the debt, there is no interest burden for future taxpayers. The Fed refunds its interest earnings to the Treasury every year. Last year the Fed refunded almost $80 billion in interest to the Treasury, nearly 40 percent of the country’s net interest burden. And the Fed has other tools to ensure that the expansion of the monetary base required to purchase the debt does not lead to inflation.
An even cleaner solution would be to simply void out the debt held by the Fed. That was the 2011 proposal of then-presidential candidate Ron Paul for dealing with the debt ceiling crisis. As his proposal was explained in Time Magazine, today the Treasury pays interest on its securities to the Fed, which returns 90% of these payments to the Treasury. Despite this shell game of payments, the $1.7 trillion in US bonds owned by the Fed is still counted toward the debt ceiling. Paul’s plan:
Get the Fed and the Treasury to rip up that debt. It’s fake debt anyway. And the Fed is legally allowed to return the debt to the Treasury to be destroyed.
Congressman Alan Grayson, a Democrat, also endorsed this proposal.
Financial author Richard Duncan makes a strong case for going further than just monetizing existing debt. He argues that under current market conditions, the US could actually rebuild its collapsing infrastructure by just printing the money, without causing price inflation. Prices go up when demand (money) exceeds supply (goods and services); and with automation and the availability of cheap labor in vast global markets today, supply can keep up with demand for decades to come. Duncan observes:
The combination of fiat money and Globalization creates a unique moment in history where the governments of the developed economies can print money on an aggressive scale without causing inflation. They should take advantage of this once-in-history opportunity . . . .
Returning the Power to Create Money to the People
The right of government to issue its own money was one of the principles for which the American Revolution was fought. Americans are increasingly waking up to the fact that the vast majority of the money supply is no longer issued by the government but is created by private banks when they make loans; and that with that power goes enormous power over the economy itself.
The issue that should be debated is one that dominated political discussion in the 19th century but that few candidates are even aware of today: should creation and control of the money supply be public or private? Donald Trump’s willingness to transgress the conservative taboo against public money creation is a welcome step in opening that debate.
Ellen Brown is an attorney, Founder of the Public Banking Institute, and author of twelve books, including the best-selling Web of Debt. Her latest book, The Public Bank Solution, explores successful public banking models historically and globally. Her 300+ blog articles are at EllenBrown.com. She can be heard biweekly on “It’s Our Money with Ellen Brown” on PRN.FM.
by Katheryn Rhodes and John Lawrence from the San Diego Free Press
Section 8 Rental Assistance is a Cruel Joke
Approximately 46,000 households in San Diego are on a waiting list to obtain a federal Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8). The average wait time to obtain a housing voucher is 8 to 10 years. Nobody's housing needs remain constant over a period of time that long. Many people on the waiting list will have died before they are called for their Section 8 rental assistance voucher. Cruel irony. In theory, the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program will pay the balance of a rent payment that exceeds 30% of a renter's monthly income.
However, according to Affordable Housing Online, "In recent years, due to Federal budget controls, the Section 8 or Housing Choice Voucher Program as it's now officially called, has not seen funding increase to meet demand. For this reason, waiting lists for the assistance are long in most areas of the country with waiting lists taking several years to flush." The Federal Government not funding a program that actually helps poor people? What else is new? There's plenty of money though for Lockheed Martin, Northrup Grumman and Boeing. There's plenty of money to support 1000 military bases in practically every country in the world. And to give Exxon Mobil and GE a tax refund. And there's plenty of money to let rich people and corporations declare profits in tax free jurisdictions even though they're living and doing business in the good ole US.
Since the Federal government won't do it, the City and the State need to get into the business of housing vouchers. If the housing isn't available because apartment vacancy rates are at an all time low, they need to build the damn housing themselves. The San Diego Housing Commission owns over 2000 apartments located throughout the City. This is from their website:
The San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC) already owns more than 2,000 apartments throughout San Diego that are available at affordable rents to low-and moderate-income residents.
Qualifed families whose annual household earnings are no greater than 80 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) can rent a two- or three-bedroom apartment from us at below-market rates. For instance, a family of two with a household income no greater than $50,500 per year would qualify based on the 2014 AMI. The Area Median Income for San Diego County is determined annually by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Low-income seniors and disabled persons can rent a one-bedroom apartment if their income is no greater than 50 percent of the Area Median Income. According to KPBS, the Housing Authority (that's SDHC) renovated the San Diego Square senior housing high rise in downtown San Diego, a 2 year project recently completed. It was built in 1979 and hadn't been renovated since.
Actually, it wasn't the SDHC per se that bought and renovated San Diego Square; it was Housing Development Partners. Created in 1990, Housing Development Partners (HDP) is a nonprofit affiliate of the San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC). HDP develops and preserves affordable housing for low-income San Diegans through the rehabilitation of existing buildings and new construction. If you're confused as to why the SDHC needs an affiliate to develop and preserve affordable housing in San Diego, join the club. It's just another level of bureaucracy with more people on board collecting lucrative salaries even if it's a non-profit.
The San Diego Square website says "HDP acquired San Diego Square to preserve the 156-unit, downtown senior housing development as affordable housing for 55 years." Why 55 years? If the City owns it, why does it revert to market rates in 55 years. Hmmm. Too many fingers in the pie! And someone or ones are profiting or will profit by the reversion to market rate housing. Why are some units owned outright by SDHC and some are owned by a "non-profit affiliate" - HDP?
In any case this one project does not solve the problem. There's a 7 to 10 year wait list for subsidized housing in the city. 60,000 people are on that wait list. Roughly half are elderly or disabled. Good luck getting in. According to KPBS the SDHC said they'll need several projects like Square to solve the housing problem. Well, what are they waiting for? Let's get to it! Or is it more about the several layers of management, all of whom are being paid well so they're in no rush?
To be Fair the SDHC has Done Some Good Work
1) 14th & Imperial: The 14th & Imperial project is the first project funded as a part of HOUSING FIRST – SAN DIEGO, a three-year homelessness action plan to create permanent supportive housing with supportive services. This project will increase permanent supportive housing inventory in the Downtown area by creating 62 new studio units with services for the tenants. The development was successful in receiving an allocation of competitive 9 percent tax credits and will break ground in December. Construction completion is estimated for December 2016.
2) Atmosphere I: This project is part one of a two part project increasing affordable housing units in the Downtown area by a total of 202 units. The 100-unit Atmosphere I project will include 51 studio and one-bedroom units set aside for homeless individuals or individuals at risk of becoming homeless. The remaining studio, one-, two-, and three- bedroom units will be set aside for low-income individuals and families earning up to 60 percent of AMI. The combined projects are estimated to be completed in December 2016.
3) Hotel Churchill: The renovation of the Hotel Churchill to create 72 permanent supportive housing units for homeless San Diegans is one of the five key components of HOUSING FIRST – SAN DIEGO, the Housing Commission’s three year Homelessness Action Plan. When completed this project will set aside 56 units for homeless veterans, eight units for youth aging out of the foster care system, and eight units for adults exiting the corrections system who will also need supportive services. Construction completion is estimated for May 2016.
4) Mission Gorge Apartments: The Mission Gorge Apartments project is planned as an affordable housing complex for families in the Navajo community. Rents for nine units will be restricted at 50 percent AMI with the remaining 80 units at 60 percent AMI. This project will expand affordable housing opportunities north of Interstate 8, providing a mix of studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom, and three-bedroom units. Construction is estimated to start in March 2016.
5) Talmadge Gateway: Talmadge Gateway is the second project recommended for funding as a part of HOUSING FIRST – SAN DIEGO. This project applied for competitive 9 percent tax credits. If tax credits are awarded this September, this project will create 59 new permanent supportive housing units for homeless San Diegans restricted to individuals earning up to 50 percent of AMI.
6) Trolley Residential: The new Trolley Residential development is a transit-oriented development in the Encanto area that will increase affordable housing inventory for families with incomes between 30 – 60 percent of AMI. This development includes the construction of 51 new affordable one-, two-, and three- bedroom affordable apartment units. Construction completion is estimated for July 2016.
7) Paseo at COMM22 (2225 Commercial St): Construction completed at Paseo at COMM 22 on December 31, 2014. This new 130-unit family development in Logan Heights, increased affordable housing inventory with 13 housing units restricted to families earning up to 30 percent of AMI, 16 units restricted to families earning up to 40 percent of AMI, 71 units restricted to families earning up to 50 percent of AMI, and 28 units restricted to families earning up to 60 percent of AMI.
8) Victoria at COMM22: Construction completed at Victoria at COMM 22 on January 8,2015. This new 70-unit senior development increased affordable housing inventory for seniors earning 30 – 50 percent of AMI. These studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom apartments are a part of the transit-oriented master-planned community in Logan Heights.
9) Mesa Commons: Construction is complete at this new development in the College area, consisting of 77 affordable housing units. These one-, two-, and three-bedroom units are comprised of eight housing units restricted to families earning up to 30 percent of AMI, 16 units restricted to families earning up to 40 percent of AMI, 16 units restricted to families earning up to 50 percent of AMI, and 37 units restricted to families earning up to 60 percent of AMI.
10) Veterans Village Phase 5: The Veterans Village Campus will be complete when this final phase finishes construction. Phase 5 work is under way, with demolition of an existing building completed and construction of a two-story building with nine units (18 transitional housing beds) wrapping up. The second floor of this development is designed specifically to house female veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Construction was completed in August 2015.
11) Independence Pointe (formerly known as Willie James Jones Apartments): This development is the first of its kind in San Diego. Independence Point is a special needs affordable housing development, with 31 three- and four-bedroom units. Twenty-five of the units will be set aside for households that include a member who has a developmental disability. Rents for all units will be restricted between 30 – 60 percent
AMI. Construction is under way and estimated to be completed in October 2015.
Nothing in Imperial Beach though where there are a lot of homeless families as reported in Part 2 of this series. The SDHC's mandate calls for dispersing affordable housing all over the City. So far it's pretty concentrated in just a few areas.
So they need to own, buy or build a whole lot more. They have the money. It's there being hoarded in various accounts that Katheryn Rhodes has pointed out in this multi-part article. They need an organization similar to the CCDC, the Center City Development Commission, which was all about facilitating building high rise condos for rich people at market rates in downtown. A similar commission the SDBC, the San Diego Building Commission should be in the business of actually letting contracts to construction companies to build affordable housing, subsidized housing and Housing First housing for homeless. They needn't amalgamate parcels for developers like the CCDC did. They have parcels already or parcels can be acquired. It doesn't necessitate high rise construction. Follow the KISS principle: Keep, It Simple Stupid. Money + Land + Contractor = Housing.
The City Has Cash
The Successor Agency (SA) to the Center City Development Corporation (CCDC) is Civic San Diego. They are in the business of winding down the CCDC and as such they need to pay back the City money owed. That's what the ROPS-9 (Recognized Obligation Payment Schedule) is all about. Katheryn Rhodes says that Civic San Diego has documented and available $66,907,786 in unencumbered Bonds, and $21,727,112 in other Cash Reserve accounts for the upcoming end of ROPS-9 on June 30, 2016. The Successor Agency cash can be used for any Infrastructure or Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) including Affordable Housing with the approval of the City Council. OK, there's cash available. There's collateral that can be leveraged. But all the City of San Diego seems to care about is a freakin' new football stadium. Why don't you guys on various commissions and agencies get your heads screwed on right and your priorities adjusted? You want a world class city? Start by getting the homeless off the streets and into decent housing.
Cash Reserve Fund Balances as of June 30, 2015 according to the Combined Annual Financial Report (CAFR) are $1.78 BILLION. Some of these funds are restricted. The LMIHAF can only be used for Housing, the Underground Surcharge funds can only be used to underground power poles, etc.
In total the City has more than $700+ million Cash Reserve Fund Balances hoarded that can be used for CIP Infrastructure projects including Facilities Benefit Assessment - (FBA) $230,128,000, Development Impact Fees (DIF) - $95,865,000, Public Facilities Financing Authority (PFFA) Bond Proceeds - $170,448,000, Underground Surcharge - $86,979,000, Unassigned - $99,555,000, Maintenance Assessment Districts (MAD) - $20,946,000, etc.
Although the City is hoarding cash reserves which theoretically are immediately available for infrastructure projects, the City is still borrowing even more money, which does not make any sense. Oh, then they're paying interest on that ... to Wall Street, of course. Could it be that some city employees in positions of power have stock in Goldman Sachs? There is no documentation on how much the Negative Arbitrage costs are for the existing 51 SA Debts identified in ROPS-10 or the current interest rates.
Mayoral staff has an in house rule where Cash Reserve Fund Balances with Zero Employees are not part of the annual Budget or Budget Monitoring. Right now the City of San Diego picks and chooses which Cash Reserve Fund Balances are included in the annual Budget and Budget Monitoring process. The City needs to come clean and monitor all Fund Balances.
There is Money Available and There is Land Available
So why is the City not using these resources to build housing that people can afford when their own San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC) report paints a dire picture of how a family needs an income of $70,000 plus just to afford a two bedroom apartment? Are they waiting for a developer to volunteer? Developers are making more money building market rate houses and condos. Are they waiting for HUD to increase funding for Section 8 housing. It'll never happen as long as Republicans control Congress.
So the City needs to take the bull by the horns and build affordable housing directly serving the most vulnerable, the homeless, first, and it needs to be distributed equitably around the City, not just concentrated in a few areas. Instead of a San Diego Housing Commission, we need a San Diego Building Commission which lets the contracts out to contractors and construction companies to build on City owned land sans developer. The developer middle man can be cut out thus saving money. Just get the expertise on board. All they have to do is say to the contractor, "Here are the plans. Now go build it." There must be plans already available on the internet. No Huffman “6-Packs” please!
Here is notice of even more funds available that I received in an email from Barbara Zaragoza:
Notice of Funding Availability - HOME Investment Partnerships (HOME) Program and Project-Based Vouchers.
A Final Note
As a final note, I (John) was elected to the Centre City Advisory Committee (CCAC) circa 2003 from the Cortez Hill neighborhood. The purpose of the CCAC was to advise the CCDC. Yeah, fat chance of that, right? Our more likely mission was to ratify the CCDC. One thing that sticks out in my mind is that the CCDC gave a contract worth about $100,000. to someone to produce a 10 year plan to end homelessness in San Diego. What a boondoggle that turned out to be! They should have asked for their money back because it's been more than 10 years and there are more homeless than ever.
by John Lawrence
A packed house at the Mingei Museum in Balboa Park was treated to a flute duo billed as Flute Fusion featuring Holly Hofmann, inveterate jazz flautist and promoter, along with Beth Ross-Buckley, classical flautist and promoter. Both Holly and Beth have been long time music presenters in San Diego. Holly started at the Horton Grand and had a memorable gig for many years at the San Diego Museum of Art. Beth started a chamber music group called Camarada in 1994. This night they joined forces. They were backed by a jazz rhythm section composed of Holly's husband, Mike Wofford on piano, Gunnar Biggs, bass, Duncan Moore, drums and Jim Plank, who spanned both jazz and classical worlds, on vibes. My friends, Anna and Rich, accompanied me and were impressed by the quality of the musical offerings.
Holly has never played better, digging in with her trademarked ability to swing and her proficiency on both the standard C flute as well as her specialty, the alto flute, on which she recorded her latest standout CD, Low Life. On her foray into the jazz world classical flautist, Beth Ross Buckley, deserves much credit for her courageousness. She took an improvised solo on Thelma Blue, dedicated to her late mother, for the first time before a public audience and did just fine with a kind assist from Holly who adjusted her microphone so we all could hear. It isn't easy for a classically trained musician to start improvising. They can read anything you set in front of them, but improvising? That's a whole new world.
The tune selection was superb. They did Antonio Carlos Jobim's How Insensitive, a lilting Bossa Nova tune by the Brazilian composer. Mike Wofford either arranged or composed most of the tunes. Lee Morgan's Ceora, a beautifully poignant melody, evoked memories of the jazz great who died tragically at a young age when he was murdered on the bandstand by an ex lover. One of his tunes, The Sidewinder, written on a piece of toilet paper during a break in a recording session, became the second most listened to jazz standard of all time right behind Miles Davis' Kind of Blue. Unfortunately, Morgan was also a heroin addict and lost years of what could have been career building productivity to the habit.
Saturday night, in the culmination of the Jazz @the Jacobs series @ Symphony Hall, jazz vocalist Gregory Porter and his band were featured along with an opening set by curator and trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos. Gilbert was in fine embouchure as usual and he was backed up by the becoming legendary Marshall Hawkins on bass and pianist, local guy, Joshua White on piano. My initial reaction was "Where's the drummer?" Guess none was available for this particular occasion. After what seemed like an interminable 20 minute break, out came Gregory Porter, a former football player at San Diego State. Who says San Diego doesn't have jazz talent? Locals guys and gals know how to play, what to play, when to play, but as Hal Crook once said, it's a bitch figuring out where to play.
Porter won the 2014 Grammy for best jazz vocal album, Liquid Spirit. The New York Times described Porter as "a jazz singer of thrilling presence, a booming baritone with a gift for earthy refinement and soaring uplift" in its review of Liquid Spirit. His just released album Take Me To the Alley reflects his mother's avocation as an advocate for the homeless and the downtrodden as opposed to the Take Me to the Penthouse penchant of so many who ignore the plights of the less fortunate.
As a singer songwriter, Porter can write poetically. All the tunes performed except one were written by him which contributed to a sameness that could have been overcome by throwing in a few more compositions by others. Porter has a powerful, almost operatic voice and sings with a lot of soulfulness. The melodies he constructs, however, are not memorable or hummable; they all have a singsongy similarity which seems to be par for the course in popular music these days. Where are the Irving Berlins and Cole Porters for whom melody was the most important aspect of being a composer? And about that hat that he's never without: In a 2012 interview with Jazzweekley.com he explained why he started wearing it: "I’ve had some surgery on my skin, so this has been my look for a little while and will continue to be for awhile longer.
His backup band was excellent with tremendous sax and bass work. The concert, however, went on too long. The opening set, the 20 minute break and then Porter's portion took the evening's festivities, which started at 8 PM well past 10 o'clock. The cramped up seats at Symphony Hall, as bad as any airplane's, got to me after two hours, and finally I had to get up and leave before the concert was over.
It was announced to everyone's delight that the Jazz@the Jacobs program would continue in the fall starting with the Count Basie (tribute) Orchestra in a tribute to Frank Sinatra featuring Jane Monheit and Dave Damiani. Whew, that should be a knockout! That would be followed in 2017 by a salute to West Coast Jazz. The third in the series is dedicated to Women in Jazz featuring none other than flute virtuoso, Holly Hofmann herself, along with other well known jazz women.
Jazz at Symphony Hall is a good thing. Finally, the jazz world and the classical world are speaking to each other as last weekend's festivities demonstrate. As Duke Ellington said, "There are only two kinds of music—good music and bad music," regardless of how it's labeled. There is so much bad music out there that jazz and classical are finally teamed up together in providing music that is palatable to the audience that has even a modicum of taste and musical sophistication. It needs to be applauded, supported and preserved. Saturday evening's jazz and blues at Symphony Hall and Sunday's merging of jazz and classical at the Mingei Museum are a huge step in the right direction combining the best of both worlds. My friends, Anna and Rich, picked up a copy of Holly Hofmann's Low Life CD on the way out on my recommendation. I'm sure they enjoyed it after they got home.
by John Lawrence
This article was originally published in the 1969 print edition of the San Diego Free Press. It follows on to our 4 part series on affordable housing in San Diego. So what else is new? Nothing except the price of real estate.
The housing situation in San Diego, especially for people with low incomes, bears all the earmarks of a terminal illness. The condition is grave and seems destined to get worse. The City will tell you that 1968 was a year in which San Diego experienced a record boom in housing construction, but their figures are completely misleading. It is true that there were 12,525 units of housing begun in 1968, as compared with 6,100 units in 1967, and that while city building doubled, rural building was up 47% in 1968 over the previous year. Yet most of this activity was in the realm of plush apartments and condominiums which cater to middle and high income groups, thus leaving people with low incomes at the mercy of soaring prices and a vacancy rate for the entire city of less than one percent.
This critical situation in San Diego is by no means unusual nationally. 90% of the family residential units in the US cost the purchaser over $20,000. [As an aside, coastal real estate in San Diego County could be purchased for below $20,000 in 1969. Today it would be hard to find anything for less than $1,000,000.] Yet half the people earn less than $7,800 per year. To make the payments on a $20,000 home, a person must earn at least $9,000 per year. A little simple arithmetic shows that at least half the people in this country can afford only 10% of the housing now being constructed. When it comes to low cost housing today, the law of supply and demand seems to have gone awry.
What makes housing so expensive? The housing industry is one of the most inflated sectors of the US economy. The construction industry represents 10% of the GNP--80 billion dollars a year which is divided up among a lot of relatively small companies. There hasn't been the centralization that has taken place in the automobile industry, for example. Mass production of industrialized homes could cut costs considerably, but this does not occur mainly because the rate of profit in low cost housing does not compare with that in higher cost housing.
Construction costs have increased 85% since 1951. In the past year the cost of some materials, particularly lumber, has increased as much as 100%. But labor has been the chief reason why costs have increased so spectacularly. Many plumbers and carpenters now earn $20,000 per year, often for a 32 hour week. Craftsmen in general now earn at about twice the hourly rate of college graduates. Another reason for the high cost of housing is land. The cost of urban residential land across the nation has risen nearly 400% since 1934. Land costs are rising so high that it is fast becoming a reality that the land costs more than the structure built upon It. Since land is becoming so expensive, houses are being crowded closer and closer together and multi-family dwellings are becoming more common.
The attitude of the business community toward low coat housing is negative. The general trend is to replace dilapidated housing by high cost housing, thus upgrading the property values and leaving those who cannot afford it literally out on the street. Poorer people are eventually forced out of suburbs and into the already crowded city ghettos and barrios. This type of policy is being implemented here in Ocean Beach where business interests are trying to oust hippies and other low income people by raising rents and/or replacing low cost with high cost housing.
What is being done to correct this situation in San Diego? There is a group of businessmen called "San Diego Housing", a non-profit development corporation headed by Dan Grady, whose purpose is to give assistance and expertise to people who want to avail themselves of Federal housing programs. They have projects in Linda Vista and Southeast San Diego. Some of the Federal housing programs are the following: Model Cities, Leased Housing program, Rent Subsidy program, Community Housing Improvement and Revitalization program and Home Ownership Mortgage Insurance Assistance program. Many of these programs were put into effect by the 1965 Housing Act. The Model Cities program is an attempt to plan a 5 year action program to resolve problems in 10 different areas including housing, welfare, crime and transportation.
$268,000 has been allocated to San Diego for the first year. This money will go to analyze problems and come up with a plan. Additional money will he required to actually implement a program. The MC [Model Cities] project is concentrating on two areas of San Diego: Southeast and San Ysdro. This program is good in that it is intended to be a comprehensive approach, but it is doubtful whether the Federal funds needed will be forthcoming.
The Leased Housing program involves cities leasing housing units from private owners. The city then subleases these to needy people who pay rent amounting to 25% of their income.
The San Diego Housing Authority administers the program and federal subsidies finance it. This year San Diego had a quota of 1000 units. This program has been unsuccessfull because private owners are reluctant to lease their homes to needy people when they can rent them more profitably on the open market. The quota was never filled.
The Rent Subsidy program involves the subsidization of rent paid by poor people who qualify. Under the program people pay out only 25% of their income.
The purpose of the Community Housing, Improvement and Revitalization program is to conserve property values and improve the living environment. Under this program San Diego's current budget is 1.7 million dollars. The [purpose of the] Home Ownership Mortgage Insurance Assistance program is to reduce the interest on the home purchases mortgage rate to 1%. [This could be accomplished more efficiently with a public bank.] All of these programs are fragmented, piecemeal attempts to solve a problem which needs a massive unified, concerted approach. They are not adequate to the dimensions of the problem.
They all in effect subsidize the rich landlords, property owners, and capital investors by paying them inflated market rates for the use of their property and then letting the poorer people use it at prices they can afford. It seems everybody is happy, both rich and poor, but it means that the rich get richer and the poor stay where they are [thus driving income inequality]. If the goal of those programs is to solve the problems of inadequate and insufficient housing, they fail miserably. The difficulty is that the federal government makes inefficient use of the tax dollars at its disposal. Instead of using the money directly to provide low cost housing for those who need it, the government funnels the money to the wealthy property owners in return for the limited use of their land.
If the federal government's programs are not adequate to the need, can private industry fill the void in low cost housing? There are no handsome profits to be made in this field. Industry will only venture into it when subsidized by the federal government and then only as a measure of profiteering off government funds--again off our tax dollars.
A good example of this is the South Bay Terrace project owned by a Mr. Kahn. Subsidized by Federal funds, Kahn is building what many people regard as another ghetto--crowding as many units into one parcel of land as possible. Many urban experts think that for low cost housing to be effective, it must not he all concentrated in one location, but should be dispersed throughout the city. This leads to a more homogeneous distribution of income groups and a healthier social situation.
The reason that it is unprofitable to build low cost housing on the open market is that the cost of any housing is dominated by land, labor and profits. These are used to practically the same extent regardless of the "quality" of the structure being built. A very small fraction of the total cost goes into aspects that separate high quality housing from low quality housing. In other words it costs almost as much to build "low" cost housing as "high" cost housing, but "high" cost housing is more profitable.
Without even considering "communitizing" the land, many housing experts have concluded that the only solution to this problem is the introduction of the mass-produced prefabricated housing. This industry could he organized by the government as a non-profit enterprise. In one form this has happened with the mobile home business, and nearly one out of every four Californians live in a mobile home. But this industry in still run by profit making business men and it isn't that much cheaper. [Factory produced tiny homes could get the homeless off the streets at a minimal cost.]
As it stands now, the poor will remain dependent on a handout and remain in sub-human dwellings, while the tax payer gets pissed off at government waste. Too often the taxpayer will blame the poor for what is a government fuckup that aids the rich. Realistic low cost housing, which would curb inflation and save tax dollars, will remain a long way off unless the profit motive and the profit makers are expurgated from the solution.
by Katheryn Rhodes and John Lawrence from the San Diego Free Press
The City Needs to Build and Own More Affordable Units
According to a recent Zillow report: "Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, and San Diego are unaffordable for both renters and buyers. ... Looking forward, the picture doesn’t look bright for renters. Rents will likely keep rising at roughly their current pace for at least the next few years, which will lead to a continued affordability crunch unless wage growth significantly improves."
Enter the San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC) whose job is to redress the balance of unaffordable rents to make it possible for San Diego to be inhabited by other then rich folks.
The San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC)does a variety of projects to assist low and moderate income folks. From their website it would seem that they are doing a lot, but is it merely tokenism or are they using all available resources to build affordable housing as quickly as possible? After all, there is a declared emergency in terms of the increasing numbers of the homeless population that aren't being taken care of. In addition rents are skyrocketing to the point that teachers, police, firefighters and other government workers cannot afford to live in the City or County of San Diego. To the extent possible they, especially the police, are taking jobs elsewhere.
According to the SDHC Annual Report they have three major program areas:
1) Providing Rental Assistance to Low-Income Households – 15,455 housing vouchers for families, seniors and veterans
2) Addressing Homelessness – $55.8 million invested in programs
3) Creating and Preserving Affordable Housing – $675 million partnership developments
In this report Mayor Faulconer declares that "over the next three years the SDHC will award up to $30 million to create permanent supportive housing rental units for homeless individuals and families." This is all well and good except for the fact that $30 million doesn't go very far in building rental units, and "awarded" means that a big cut of this money will be taken by developers and various business interests instead of the SDHC building and owning the units themselves. There is much more than $30 million available for affordable housing as outlined in Part 1 of this series.
According to the San Diego Affordable Housing Fund Fiscal Year 2015 Annual Report, the SDHC has access to two funds - the Housing Trust Fund (HTF) and the Inclusionary Housing Fund (IHF). HTF revenues for FY15 totaled $2,623,540, and IHF revenues for FY 2015 totaled $16,354,345. It may seem like a lot of money, but it's a pittance compared to what's needed and the monies that are available and being hoarded by the City in various unaudited funds. And when the Mayor says "over the next three years" up to $30 million will be made available, that's 10 million a year, folks. Politicians are always uping the amounts and then spreading them over the next 3 to 10 to 30 years to make the amounts sound more impressive. Case in point - the minimum wage increase to $15 an hour is spread over 6 years!
According to City Council Policy 600-13 last amended 24 years ago, the former 20% Affordable Housing set-aside, now the Low Moderate Income Housing Asset Fund (LMIHAF), was to be put into the Housing Trust Fund (HTF) under the control of the SDHC. This happened for FY-1993 and FY-1995, then stopped, and the 20% set-aside was given to Centre City Development Commission (CCDC) instead. And what did the CCDC do with it? Build luxury high rise condos in downtown San Diego instead of affordable housing, tearing down Single Room Occupancy (SRO) units in the process and destroying the homes of many low income individuals who subsequently became homeless. This led to the accusations of corruption and the termination of the CCDC.
The Effective and Timely Use of Funds
The relevant City Council Policy is City Council Policy 600-13 Housing Trust Fund (HTF). Policy 7:
"It is further the intent of Council to provide for the contribution of the San Diego Redevelopment Agency housing set-aside funds in addressing the affordable housing issue in San Diego and to require the Redevelopment Agency to coordinate with the Housing Commission to ensure the effective and timely use of these funds."
The City of San Diego is violating their own Council Policy by letting Civic San Diego be in charge of the LMIHAF instead of the SDHC.
The County of San Diego's Mental Health Service Act (MHSA) program also states that the City will be using LMIHAF through the SDHC to house the Severaly Mentally Ill (SMI) Urban Homeless within city limits. However, nothing happens. The SDHC has stated they do not want to step on the toes of Civic San Diego.
Programs involving the County of San Diego are administered by the Board of Supervisors, an all Republican, all white, all San Diego State graduates group with a $5 billion budget. These guys and gals, all true Republicans, have shorted health and human services for years with only 7% of their discretionary budget going thereto. No wonder County administered programs like food stamps, Medi-Cal, In Home Supportive Services (IHSS), CalWORKS and other programs are understaffed and poorly managed with huge wait times for services.
I noticed a few things from the San Diego Affordable Housing Fund Fiscal Year 2015 Annual Report that lead me to believe that the SDHC could be doing much more than they are doing right now to build affordable housing. The Affordable Housing Fund (AHF) which comprises the HTF and the IHF has five goals:
1) Meet a portion of the need for housing that is affordable to households with very low to moderate incomes;
2) Leverage every $1 of City funds with $2 of non-City subsidy capital funds;
3) Support the Balanced Communities Policy by fostering a mix of household incomes in projects assisted by the AHF and dispersing affordable housing developments throughout the City;
4) Preserve and maintain renter and ownership affordable housing; and
5) Encourage private sector activities that advance these goals.
And then about the leveraging. Instead of non-City capital funds, why not go to the capital markets the way it is proposed for the new Convadium and leverage 5 to 1 instead of 2 to 1? If the City can borrow $1.15 billion which is proposed by the "People's Initiative" (in reality the Chargers' Initiative) to build a new stadium for the Chargers along with an extension to the convention center, why then the City can damn well get more mileage out of leveraging whatever money it can gets its hands on to build affordable housing and not just a paltry 2 to 1 ratio.
So what's the leverage on the proposed $1.15 billion for the convadium? They are going to leverage a few million in hotel taxes to get over a billion from Wall Street. That's some leverage, friends.
But then the establishment of a public bank would obviate the necessity of going to Wall Street at all, and the interest would accrue to the general fund saving the taxpayers money.
Low Income People Need Rent Assistance Not 30 Year Mortgages
Another thing - why is the SDHC involved in supporting home ownership for low income families? Low income families need affordable rents not home ownership. Money is squandered on purchasing single family houses when many more units of apartment style housing could be built for the same money. Low income families are precisely the ones who are likely to be foreclosed on as they were during the 2008 housing crisis. They don't need to be on the hook for 30 year mortgages. These houses would be obtained at market rates which are ridiculous for low income families in San Diego and represents a waste of money for the SDHC.
The SDHC needs to build and own apartment style affordable units for low income and homeless people, not developer built units that revert to market rates after so many years. That is a good investment for developers but not for the SDHC which will then have to build more housing to support the same number of subsidized units.
The SDHC doesn't need to worry about building market rate houses and apartments. Let the "free market" take care of that. However, it does need to step up to the plate and build apartments for low income and homeless people. That's the business it should be in, and it needs to cut out all the middle men, the developers, the underwriters and in particular the Wall Street financiers. How many cities have been snookered by Wall Street from Milan, Italy to Birmingham, AL? If the SDHC isn't up to the task, another City agency which is more hands on should take over - something like a San Diego Building Commission whose job would be to simply let contracts to build affordable housing. IMHO, they would just say to a contractor, "Here's the plans. Get to work." It's the KISS principal - Keep It Simple Stupid - and eliminate as much bureaucracy as possible in the process.
One of the solutions is for the San Diego Housing Commission to buy old run down motels and apartments and fix them up. Instead of new public/private construction where developers get rich, a more sustainable solution is to buy and rehabilitate. This is what they did at the Lighthouse at 3880 Rosecrans for homeless people who were getting out of jail. No Conditional User Permit (CUP) or public hearing was required because the Lighthouse is located in an area where Emergency Shelter and Transitional Housing is allowed Ministerially by Right on the same map that includes downtown. The Midway Pacific Highway Planning Board was upset with the change in use from Run Down Motel to Housing for Felons without recourse by the community through the CUP process. My advice to the community: suck it up. According to SB-2, Cedillo, a CUP is not required.
Affordable Housing is a Good Deal for Developers
Sorrento Tower at 2875 Cowley Way in the Clairemont area provides 197 low income housing units, and a contract was let in 2011 to rehabilitate the aging project. “Here at Sorrento Tower, what we’re doing is preserving senior housing for decades to come, while at the same time preserving its affordability as well,” San Diego Housing Commission President and CEO Richard C. Gentry said at a re-opening ceremony.
Rent protections in the original federally assisted Sorrento Tower mortgage were due to expire by 2016, allowing the property to convert to market-rate rental housing. The units had been restricted to people earning 50% of the Area Median Income (AMI) - $33,050 for a 2 person household.
Instead, the owners sold the building to a new development team under terms that maintained affordable housing and incurred another developer fee of over $2 million as well. At the time of the rehab, all units were renting for $335 a month. Developers for projects such as these receive substantial fees for their services in rehabing old projects. For this project their fees represented almost 12% of total costs. And then there's all the interest on the $13.6 million in bonds paid to Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street firms. In the end the developer also ends up owning the project and has the option of cashing out after the affordable time period expires. Not a good solution except for developers, Wall Street financiers, underwriters, lawyers and realtors. Is this is the best use of funds to provide permanent low income housing? I don't think so.
Sorrento Tower is now owned by Sorrento Tower Housing Partners, LP, a limited partnership, not the City of San Diego. What this means is that, after a certain time period (55 years in this case), the project will revert to market rate housing and the city will have to go through this merry-ro-round all over again. If the City owned it, that would not be the case.
There needs to be housing units built to replace all the old Single Room Occupancy (SRO) hotels that have been torn down. It doesn't need to be El Primo with a kitchen and bathroom in every unit. Communal kitchens and bathrooms like those found in most college dorms should be sufficient thus saving money. Hostels usually have just communal facilities.
The main thing is a lockable room or rooms with sufficient social services for people with handicaps, physical or mental, services for children, provisions for pets, communal laundry facilities and whatever it takes to get people off the streets and into affordable housing. Once this basic purpose has been accomplished, more extensive units can be added or market rate units with rental assistance can be built. This would be the best use of limited funds. Make sense? OK let's get to work.
The housing crisis for poor people is worse now after the financial crisis of 2008 than it was previously according to Jed Kolko, a senior fellow at the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at the University of California at Berkeley who said:
“U.S. housing markets are more unequal today than they were before the housing bubble. The spread in home values has gotten bigger. The spread in incomes has gotten bigger. America’s cities today are less like each other on these measures than they were before the bubble.”
by John Lawrence
It's the Same Old MO: Entice With Money, Then Foreclose
It's deja vu all over again as Yogi Berra would say. Another country that went down the road of debt accumulation just to pay for essential public services. Since Puerto Ricans are born American citizens, you'd think that Puerto Rico could just declare bankruptcy as Detroit, Birmingham and San Bernardino did. But no, US law forbids that. On May 2, a bond payment of $422 million was missed, and a $2 billion payment comes due in July. There's no way Puerto Rico can pay. Puerto Rico is begging Congress for debt relief. But no debt relief is in sight. Here are the facts: Puerto Rico is $70 billion in debt. 45% of the people live in poverty. The unemployment rate is over 12%.
Think Progress said:
Hedge Funds Helped Wreck Puerto Rico’s Economy, And The Poor Are Paying The Price
Angry graffiti scrawled across the brightly colored buildings of San Juan tells the creditors of the world exactly where they can stick their plan to extract roughly $73 billion in debt from the struggling U.S. territory. “Puerto Rico comes first. To hell with the debt,” reads one wall. “Don’t play around with my retirement,” says the side of a major freeway. Down by the University of Puerto Rico, the walls and sidewalk are filled with laments — “Look into my unemployed face” — and calls to action: “Study and fight!”
Depending who you ask in Puerto Rico, the debt crisis was caused by neo-colonial and imperialist policies from the U.S., the Puerto Rican government’s wasteful overspending and corruption, or the cadre of hedge funds that are currently profiting from the island’s woes. Add to that toxic mix a series of free-trade agreements that triggered mass outsourcing, and a population in rapid decline due to out-migration, and you arrive where we are today, with the government on the hook for tens of billions of dollars.
Unlike Greeks, Puerto Ricans have an out - simply pack up and leave for the United States. They're American citizens after all. And that's just what they're doing - in droves. Doctors are leaving at the rate of one per day. Meanwhile, vulture hedge funds are buying up Puerto Rican debt at fire sale prices. Like Paul Singer did in Argentina, they will then demand repayment at full face value.
Meanwhile, unemployment skyrockets and and almost half of the remaining islanders are living in poverty. How did it get this way? As usual the US Congress and tax policy are at fault. As a result of a 1976 tax reform, US pharmaceutical companies enjoyed a tax holiday on Puerto Rican corporate income and paid virtually no property taxes. Under this law, U.S. companies also received 100% exemption from municipal taxes in Puerto Rico, and pharmaceutical companies qualified for a special 5% payroll deduction. Corporations which located in Puerto Rico didn't have to pay taxes to repatriate their profits as they do when profits are made in other countries.
Congress Made Puerto Rico an Offer It Couldn't Refuse, Then Reneged
With the help of US tax incentives the pharmaceutical industry accounted for as much as a quarter of the island's gross domestic product with $36.5 billion in annual exports in 2007.
However, according to Bloomberg:
By the mid 1990s, critics led by Texas Representative Bill Archer, then the Republican chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, attacked the break as too expensive, costing the U.S. about $3 billion a year. In some industries, the tax subsidy was costing the U.S. as much as $72,000 per job, according to a study by the federal agency now called the Government Accountability Office. After a lobbying battle in 1996, the tax break was repealed, with a 10-year transition period for companies already benefiting from the credit.
After making tax policy such that many businesses, especially pharmaceutical firms were attracted to the island, tax policy was reversed and they all moved out. In 1996 a section of the US Internal Revenue Code (Section 936), that provided for profits to be repatriated to the US without paying federal taxes, was repealed. Thus the employment base had its legs cut out from under it. So to keep public services comparable to what they had become accustomed to, the government started to borrow money from Wall Street. Predatory loan sharks that they are, they started making loans to Puerto Rico that they knew they couldn't pay back just like they made mortgage loans prior to the US financial crisis of 2008 that they knew the mortgagees couldn't pay back - liar loans they were called because people taking them out didn't have to show any income. They could say their income was anything with absolutely no bank statements or other paperwork to back it up.
This whole scenario is known as debt deflation that we have written about before. No matter how much money is infused into Puerto Rico to enable it to meet payment deadlines on its bonds, there will never be enough money to pay back its loans because the money is just not there even to meet current expenses. They are insolvent. Throwing good money after bad turns borrowing more into a Ponzi scheme. The only ones who can possibly benefit from this are the hedge funds which will demand that government assets should be privatized and sold off to them in lieu of repayments on the bonds they hold. This is exactly what happened in Greece and Argentina and in Detroit for that matter. Hedge funds said that, if Greece could not repay them when the bonds became due, they would take Greek assets such as the Parthenon and Athens ports and whatever else was a moneymaker.
What happened in Detroit was Disaster Capitalism at its most exemplary. An Emergency Manager was appointed to run the government thus taking "democracy" out of the hands of elected representatives. The same thing will probably happen in Puerto Rico after it's declared insolvent by the bond markets which are all in a dither and all atwitter over Puerto Rico's impending bankruptcy. Oh I forgot, Puerto Rico is not allowed to go bankrupt; that makes the situation even worse. Valuable assets will then just be extracted as Puerto Ricans either exit the island or fall on their knees and beg the bond markets for mercy.
The hedge funds may have more success in this strategy of asset seizing in Puerto Rico than they had in Greece because Puerto Rico is at the mercy of US lawmakers. Greece was not. The US Congress can just turn over Puerto Rican assets to rich investors, and they will take the good parts while leaving the rest to rot including the people who will not have the capability of reaching the mainland - the 45% in poverty.
Bond Markets Structure Who Gets Paid First and Who Waits in Line
The bond markets are wising up though. The all important structuring of who gets paid first and who has to stand in line is being given more attention these days. Before the predatory loan making process proceeds, the recipient has to agree that bond holders will be paid back first even before essential services are provided. Puerto Rico is safe for now because the payments that are due immediately don't have this provision so the government of Puerto Rico can and has made the decision to use what meager funds are at its disposal to pay for essential services and tell the bond holders to take a hike. That will not always be the case especially for future non-heeders of this cautionary tale. In the future bonds are structured in such a way that they must be paid back even before essential public services such as drinking water and hospitals can be paid for. This is from the New York Times:
But the bigger issue may be that second, larger debt bill due in July, roughly $800 million of which is constitutionally guaranteed, giving the payment of it legal priority even over the funding of essential public services, such as police patrols, ambulances or drinking water. Investors who hold the guaranteed debt say they are prepared to fight to enforce their legal rights, no matter how much it may shock and anger the island’s residents.
The cycle leading to the private accumulation of wealth by billionaire hedge fund owners has now become a well worn path: predatory lending followed by insolvency of the debt, followed by the installation of a non-democratically elected Emergency Manager, followed by privatization of assets followed by the destruction of public services followed by the destruction of government itself, the proverbial drowning in the bathtub. Thus all Puerto Ricans will have to eventually pay private corporations for drinking water, electricity, hospitals, education, roads and various other services that are now primarily supplied as public rights throughout the world. And workers will be at the mercy of no-unions-allowed private employers.
There are several wrinkles to the Puerto Rico debacle that make its situation somewhat unique. Before bondholders and hedge funds got wise and demanded that they be repaid for their bonds even before essential services could be paid for (the structuring we mentioned earlier that sets up the order in which debts are to be repaid), hundreds of millions in bonds were bought from a Government Development Bank that resold them to Puerto Rican pension funds. So a default on those bonds would mean the bondholders would actually lose their money instead of being first in line to reclaim it.
Despite the power and importance of the Government Development Bank, its debts are not backed by any taxing power or constitutional guarantee. If it defaults on the looming $422 million payment, its creditors have little legal recourse. And much of the bank’s debt, in the form of municipal bonds, is held by more than 100 credit unions on the island — financial institutions that tend to serve mom-and-pop savers in Puerto Rico’s poor and remote communities.
“The island’s credit unions represent the nest egg of nearly 1,000,000 Puerto Rican families (one of every four Puerto Ricans) that trust their livelihood and savings in these financial institutions,” said the credit unions’ primary regulator in a statement released last year, when the sector held Government Development Bank debt with a face value of slightly more than $500 million, according to regulatory records. The regulator’s spokesman did not answer messages Thursday.
Historically, the credit unions were required to invest only in very safe assets. But in 2009 their regulators made an exception, allowing them to buy and hold riskier bonds, as long as the bonds were issued by some branch of the Puerto Rican government. The change gave the Government Development Bank a new way to raise money, by selling its bonds to the credit unions.
So what else is new? It always boils down to seizing the assets of a pension fund to pay current bills or to bolster hedge fund profits. Meanwhile average Puerto Ricans (if there are any left) suffer. Financial maneuvering and shenanigans abound, the result of which is always to make the rich richer and make beggars out of the poor. This is what the financialization of the economy has wrought. Puerto Rico has already removed assets from its workers’ compensation pool and public pension system to pay bills, taken cash from low-priority bonds to make payments due on high-priority bonds, and extended a highway privatization, giving up future toll revenue (as Chicago did) in exchange for upfront payments of $115 million. So Puerto Rico is well on its way to becoming a private corporate owned haven for rich capitalists, a wholly owned subsidiary of the rich, who will profit from the booming tourist industry by building huge developments - hotels, condos and casinos which cater to the leisure travel class and the uber wealthy in this island paradise (for the rich).
By Katheryn Rhodes and John Lawrence from the San Diego Free Press
San Diego One of Most Unaffordable Housing Markets in Nation
In the City of Palo Alto, if you make less than $250,000 a year, you're eligible for a housing subsidy. The city council has voted to study a housing proposal that would essentially subsidize new housing for what qualifies as middle-class nowadays, families making from $150,000 to $250,000 a year.
Here in San Diego the situation is not much better as teachers, police and government workers cannot afford to live in the city they work in. So if middle class, college educated professionals can't afford to live here, how can anyone else lower on the economic ladder afford to live here either? In particular those on the bottom most rung, the homeless, can't even afford a foot in the door.
According to the San Diego Housing Commission's report Addressing the Housing Affordability Crisis in San Diego (November 26, 2015):
This report finds that nearly 50% of San Diegans face housing affordability challenges in rentals and homeownership, and over 70% of San Diegans are priced out of the homeownership market....
The City of San Diego is one of the most unaffordable housing markets in the nation. Zillow recently surveyed nearly 300 cities and found San Diego to be one of the most unaffordable six markets in the United States. Both renting and owning in San Diego are increasingly out of reach for average families. The average home price in San Diego is $506,000 according to Zillow – affordable only with an income over $80,000 per year. The average two-bedroom rental in San Diego is $1820 per month, affordable only with an income of $72,800 per year. ...
San Diego’s median income is approximately $73,000 for the city, which is consistent with our estimate that about half of San Diegans are unable to afford a minimally sized unit. A minimal unit would be priced at approximately $400,000 based on current San Diego home prices.
Translating the affordability challenge into wages, the Low Income Housing Coalition estimates that nationally, in order to afford a modest, two-bedroom apartment in the U.S., renters need to earn a wage of $19.35 per hour.
Good luck with that as minimum wage workers will be making $15 an hour 6 years from now and still will not be able to afford a modest two bedroom apartment, that is if rental prices do not go up in the meantime! Fat chance of that. SANDAG estimates that, as the production of new housing falls behind, only 6% of the housing that is being constructed is for people with low incomes. Obviously, there's more money to be made by building housing for upper income people.
The report continues: "As of 2013 there were approximately 120,000 extremely low-income families and only 20,000 affordable units available for them in San Diego. The pace of new construction for very low income, low income and moderate-income units is lagging severely behind the estimated need in San Diego ..." To say the least!
It doesn't have to be this way. The City has squirreled away millions of dollars in off budget funds which could be used for affordable housing and housing for the homeless. Besides that the City of San Diego owns numerous parcels of land on which affordable housing including housing for the homeless could be built. Since they're not recognizing the emergency situation that lack of housing represents, they are actually in violation of a state mandate, Senate Bill 2 from 2007, authored by Senator Cedillo which stated the following:
This bill would add emergency shelters to these provisions, as specified, and would add provisions to the housing element that would require a local government to identify a zone or zones where emergency shelters are allowed as a permitted use without a conditional use or other discretionary permit. ... By increasing the duties of local public officials, the bill would create a state-mandated local program.
That was 9 years ago and the City of San Diego has done nothing about it. This bill "create[s] a state-mandated local program." Still the City insists that emergency housing like the Tiny Homes project requires a Conditional Use Permit (CUP). No it doesn't! The corner of 17th Street and Imperial Avenue is identified on a 2006 general plan map as one of many locations that the city has deemed suitable for emergency shelters. Yet Arian Collins, supervising public information officer for the City of San Diego, said a conditional use permit (CUP) would be needed to put shelters on any of the sites identified in the map. Has he read SB-2 Cedillo which says that, for zones where emergency shelters are allowed, there is no need for a CUP? Are these people dumb or ignorant or they just don't care?
San Diego Has the Money to Build Affordable Housing
Civil engineer Katheryn Rhodes has identified several funds where the City, the County, the San Diego Housing Commission and Civic San Diego are hoarding cash that could be used for emergency shelters and/or affordable housing or even pay for Emergency Shelter Tents and Tenant Based Rental Assistance (TBRA) Housing Vouchers. There's $28.7 million in the Low and Moderate Income Housing Asset Fund (LMIHAF). There's also $259 million in long term assets that can be leveraged by using it as collateral and issuing bonds for much more. So why is the City contemplating issuing over a billion dollars in bonds for a new "Convadium" which, by the way is an architectural monstrosity with a convention center in the basement of a football field, when it is not doing its duty as mandated by the state of California to build emergency shelters for the homeless and affordable housing?
The Successor Agency (SA) to the Center City Development Corporation (CCDC) which facilitated the building of high rise condos in downtown San Diego by private developers has a lot of money at its disposal that's not being used that could be used to build affordable housing. According to Katheryn, they have $66,907,786 in unencumbered bonds plus $3,369,053 in reserves and $21,727,112 in other fund accounts. The Successor Agency cash can be used for any Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) and infrastructure projects including Affordable Housing with the approval of the City Council. Why won't the City Council take action?
The SA evidently is continuing the massive corruption of the CCDC that resulted in using HUD funds for building luxury condos that should have been used for building low income and affordable housing. CCDC President Nancy Graham was taking money from developers who were building the luxury condos tearing down Single Room Occupancy (SRO) hotels that housed many who have become homeless in the process.
Rusty Bee saw a direct connection between the tearing down of inexpensive housing units downtown, the augmentation of the homeless population and the investment buying of luxury high rises that weren't even occupied:
Twenty years in now, hundreds of downtown hotels razed making more people homeless, thousands of apartments and condos still empty, and when and where do the voodoo economics stop? The joke is that San Diego now has a million downtown condos that nobody is stupid enough to buy.
CCDC corruption which involved using money to renovate "blighted" areas to build luxury high rises instead of building affordable housing resulted in the termination of CCDC and "redevelopment." That's why there's a "Successor Agency" which in reality folks is the City Council which has turned over the winding down of CCDC activities to Civic San Diego. Now Civic San Diego has the cash to build affordable housing so why isn't it doing it?
The Capital Outlay Fund has a Cash Reserve Fund Balance of $125,729,000 as of June 30, 2015. When properties are sold, normally any cash money from the sale goes into the Capital Outlay Fund. The Balance in FY-2014 was $40,878,000. The balance in FY-2013 was $35,775,000. So it's building up with no purpose in mind. Money is just being hoarded.
The FY-2015 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) shows a Public Facilities Financing Authority (PFFA) Cash Reserve Fund Balance of $170,448,000. In FY-2014 it was $90,397,000, and in FY-2013 it was $93,902,000 so it too is building up with no purpose in mind. This does not even take into account JPA bonds. So there is plenty of money that could be used for affordable housing and emergency housing for the homeless. If San Diego wanted to get them off the streets, they could take action to do so tomorrow.
The Mayor's Budget
In his new budget released the other day, Mayor Kevin Faulconer did not even mention affordable housing, and gave only lip service to homelessness. There is something in there about housing 1000 homeless veterans, but what about the tens of thousands of homeless mothers and children? There's something in there about providing 24/7 access to restrooms for the homeless and getting serial inebriates off the street, but these are drops in the bucket compared to what needs to be done. The proposed FY 2017 budget calls for no expenditures from the Capital Outlay Fund which could be used for affordable housing. There is likewise no expenditure called for from the PFFA Funds. However, the budget does call for spending over $17 million on golf courses.
The San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC) budget, which is separate from the City's budget, can be found here. From their website it sounds like the SDHC is doing a lot about affordable housing. The question is are they doing all they can and are they using all available resources to do it?
This is from Civic San Diego's website which is also separate from the City's budget:
"Since CCDC's (now CivicSD) inception in 1975, more than 3,500 affordable housing units have been created in downtown neighborhoods, using redevelopment funds, and more than 450 units are in the pipeline. To date, $130 million in downtown redevelopment funds have been invested to produce affordable housing downtown. An additional $38 million have [sic] been committed for projects currently in the pipeline."
This all looks good on paper, but then why are there still so many homeless and the numbers are only getting larger? The City Council promptly approved Mayor Faulconer's budget, and it will take effect July 1.
San Diego Has Land It Could Build Affordable Housing On
Not only is the money available, land is available as well. The City of San Diego owns several parcels of land on which affordable housing could be built. But instead of doing that, the City wants to sell the land and place the proceeds in the Capital Outlay Fund, another Fund where money is accumulating with no declared purpose in mind.
The City's Real Estate Asset Department (READ) is supposed to ask the public if there are potential uses for surplus property owned by the City, but so far it has failed to do so. At the Committee for Smart Growth and Land Use meeting on February 16, 2016, the items on the agenda were all about selling off surplus parcels, not asking the public if there were alternative uses for them like building affordable housing.
Regarding the State Government Code Article 8 on Surplus Land :
The Legislature reaffirms its declaration that housing is of vital statewide importance to the health, safety, and welfare of the residents of this state and that provision of a decent home and a suitable living environment for every Californian is a priority of the highest order. The Legislature further declares that there is a shortage of sites available for housing for persons and families of low and moderate income and that surplus government land, prior to disposition, should be made available for that purpose.
Did they? Hell, no. For example, the property at the SE corner of Jamacha and Cardiff has been cleared for sale in accordance with California Government Code Section 54220. City departments were also notified and given an opportunity to retain the property. No City department has any current or foreseeable use for the property and the property has been determined to be excess to the City’s needs. So why isn't the property being used to build affordable housing? And there are tons of other city owned properties that the City doesn't need that could be used for this purpose as well.
Want to know more? Contact Mary Carlson, Asset Manager of READ. I couldn't find any contact information for her. Maybe that's intentional. Their website isn't very informative either. Nothing about all these properties they're trying to sell off to investors at fire sale prices.
Jay Powell has gone into this issue more extensively.
There are currently 28 properties throughout the City up for sale. ...
READ is required by State Law to offer the property to internal and external agencies for a minimum 60 day period to see if they have interest in purchasing or leasing the property to provide low income housing, park and recreation or open space purposes, school facilities construction or use by a school district for open space purposes or for enterprise zone purposes if located in such a zone.
The READ files reviewed last December did not include a reply from the Parks and Open Space Department to the READ email sent July 16, 2013 initiating the for sale proposal. The noticing email basically said if we don’t hear from you in 60 days, we are proceeding with the sale.
It is getting pretty obvious that READ would rather offer the properties to rich investors and developers and pay realtor commissions than to have them developed for affordable housing or parks. By the way who picks the lucky realtors who have commissions falling into their laps like manna from heaven?
Murtaza Baxamusa, PhD, AICP, is the Director of Planning and Development for the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council Family Housing Corporation, said:
America’s Finest City has an ugly problem.
The homeless population in San Diego is among the four largest in the nation and getting worse, with over 8,700 people living without shelter. [Actually several times that amount; that's just the "official" count.] And while this kind of weather is rare in San Diego, it is not new, yet even after anticipating the storm for months and knowing the severity of our homelessness problem, there was marginal galvanization of resources by local government. Simultaneously, the city was able to commit hundreds of millions of dollars in public funds for supporting downtown development with an expanded convention center and a Chargers stadium that the NFL does not want, all of which will likely be built in the very neighborhood these people call home.
Next Time: Part 2 of 3: Homeless Population Undercounted
by Katheryn Rhodes and John Lawrence from the San Diego Free Press
Homeless Population Undercounted
The 8700 people identified by the Point-In-Time-Count are not anywhere close to the total number of homeless people in San Diego City and County. They didn't count all the people sleeping in their cars nor the many that are staying with friends or couch surfing. Nor did they count the many that sleep "off the beaten track" in the many hidden gullies and the river bed. Nor did it count all those who slept in places unlikely to be found by the volunteers who did the counting who after all could not be expected to expose themselves to dangerous situations and environments.
Jeeni Crescenzo has come up with a more accurate count by studying the data for homeless children that each school district is required to maintain by the McKinney-Vento Act. There are some 22,000 children by this count and each has at least one parent with them. That's at least 22,000 families and 44,000 people! The City and the County don't want to acknowledge these figures. Jeeni said, “They are not being counted because single mothers, who for a myriad of reasons become homeless, will wisely prioritize their personal safety and the safety of their children over anything else. So while their male counterparts will often sleep “rough” on the streets or in the canyons, or compete for the few emergency beds in City and County shelters, 80% of the kids reported as homeless by the schools are spending their nights doubling up with friends and relatives.”
In San Ysidro 29% of the school children are homeless. They are often living in motels and junkyards.
Barbara Zaragoza writes:
For the last nine years, Medina has been the homeless liaison for approximately 1,408 students, or 29% of the 4,832 total enrolled in the San Ysidro School District, the largest student homeless population percentage-wise in the entire county. Her title has changed over the years— she is now the Student & Family Services Manager—but her work has never changed.
“It’s always trying to get those resources for our children. Getting them enrolled in schools, especially when they don’t have receipts or any proof of residency. I go out and do the home visits so I can see where they actually live and sign the documents at the school sites.”
Medina says she personally reaches out to at least 1,000 homeless students every year. “It’s ironic that I have to do this for our students who sometimes get kicked out, especially if they are in a hotel or they’re couch surfing. I have to vouch for them. It’s so ironic how I am advocating for children who are just like me."
Thanks to the McKinney-Vento Law, the definition of a homeless student includes more than just kids sleeping on the streets. Medina explains that homeless students are those who have been abandoned by their parents and are staying with extended family members, children who live in motels or abandoned trailers, and children who live in ‘doubled up’ housing.
Medina takes me on a driving tour in her truck, showing me where her students live and the challenges they face: in particular, eviction. San Ysidro has a high number of motels, approximately fifteen, where many homeless families live. With the high cost of rents in the area—a one bedroom averages $1,100 per month—living in a motel for months or even years is often cheaper. Medina knows of twelve families staying permanently at one of the San Ysidro motels.
Families who live in the junkyards, however, aren’t eligible. Located on the Otay Mesa hill where a large number of auto salvage & storage lots contain run down trailers, a few homeless families have found a way to rent them. The roads are unpaved and the trailers often don’t have running water or electricity. Families might use the nearby trucker station to take showers.
David Flores of Casa Familiar explains, “Different motels around San Ysidro are really functioning like some of those last resort shelter places. Very low rents, but very low amenities. Some of them without kitchens. I’m not sure if we can try to figure out a solution by having those private commercial property owners process something so that they can transform their places and have them become official shelters.” ...
In 2012 Casa Familiar had a vision to create two affordable housing complexes: Los Abuelitos, a 23-unit building that would serve seniors who are primary caretakers for their grandchildren, and ‘Living Rooms at the Border,’ a 10-unit building with flexible sizes from studios to four bedrooms.
Casa Familiar secured a grant from a New York non-profit called Parc Foundation, which would match any money given by the city one-to-one. When Casa Familiar presented the $3 million project to the City of San Diego’s Housing Commission, they wouldn’t approve the $1.5 million funding necessary, saying it was too expensive.
If you would like to donate to the San Ysidro homeless, contact the San Ysidro School District and ask for Veronica Medina.
And yet as this series of articles has shown, $1.5 million is a paltry amount compared to the amount of funds that are hoarded in various City Funds that they don't want you to know about and which could be used for this and other projects.
The McKinney-Vento Law
The McKinney-Vento Education of Homeless Children and Youth Assistance Act is a federal law that ensures immediate enrollment and educational stability for homeless children and youth. McKinney-Vento provides federal funding to states for the purpose of supporting district programs that serve homeless students.
Defining Homeless Children
The McKinney-Vento Act defines homeless children as "individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence." The act provides examples of children who would fall under this definition:
Homeless with Severe Mental Illness
According to the 2015 Point-In-Time-Count, conducted by the Regional Task Force on the Homeless, more than 18 percent of the 8,500 homeless individuals living throughout San Diego County are estimated to be suffering from a Serious Mental Illness (SMI). At their January 26, 2016 meeting, the Board of Supervisors (BOS) unanimously approved a series of recommendations from our Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) to immediately expand an array of behavioral health contracts to serve a limited number of homeless individuals experiencing a SMI and other co-occurring conditions.
According to a February 2, 2016 report to the Board of Supervisors:
Homeless individuals with a severe mental illness are the least likely among us to be able to secure and maintain housing without intensive assistance. They are also the most expensive, inappropriate users of emergency medical and law enforcement resources as well as often causing the most distress for the community. To change those circumstances, it is imperative that the County offer intensive intervention and complete wraparound services to those homeless individuals with a severe mental illness for whom we can locate acceptable housing through the cooperation of our housing partners.
The County must actively engage and partner with cities, organizations and agencies working with the homeless, as well as with landlords and housing officials to identify housing for these seriously ill people living on the streets, who, with behavioral health services would be able to function with shelter and treatment.
So why isn't there any "partnering" going on. There is money that's available that's not being spent except in "unincorporated areas"! This so-called "Project One for All" is so far a Project One for Not Very Many. They are currently only allowing the $170 million in the Mental Health Service Act (MHSA) Reserve funding to be used to provide housing for homeless in the unincorporated areas, and that is a crime and a shame. It should be used to house ALL Severely Mentally Ill (SMI) homeless. If this is County BOS Policy, then the Policy is discriminatory against urban SMI homeless. Right now only 1,184 SMI are provided housing in the unincorporated areas using the MHSA funds. All other SMI are either living with their families, on their own, living in cars and vehicles or on the streets.
There is a lot of money available to help the homeless that the City of San Diego is hoarding because it hasn't the will to help the homeless except by token efforts. See Part 1 for details. Stay tuned for Part 3 next week.
Transcribed by John Lawrence
It was a beautiful day for the people's parade. The people's parade for People's Park.
As we arrive in Berkeley early Friday morning, people were already at work on the new People's Park Annex, dubbed Insurrection City, built on a vacant lot owned by the Bay Area Rapid Transit Authority. Children were already sifting sand, sliding on slides, and swinging on swing sets. The parade was to start here at Grant and Hearst and proceed to the original People's Park about a mile away.
More people started arriving. People sold the Berkeley Barb on every street corner. People of every political persuasion and organization from the Spartacists to the Christians were passing out literature. It was a welcome change from the usual Memorial Day parade where apolitical hawkers pass out trinkets, flags, hats, cotton candy and other consumer junk. The atmosphere was festive. People's Park Annex started to swell with 30,000 people.
As noon approached, people prepared to march. There was a hint of danger in the air. People prepared themselves accordingly. Some had moist rags in plastic bags. Others had gas masks on. No one seemed prepared to withstand the buckshot Madigan had promised.
Brothers and sisters were there from all over the U.S. and abroad. San Diego was well represented with people from San Diego State, Mesa College and UCSD. People gathered under placards representing the place they were from to show their solidarity with Berkeley: Stanford, all UC branches, American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO locals, university librarians. The San Francisco Mime Troupe Gorilla Band was there bedecked in leaves and branches. They executed some snappy maneuvers and featured a groovy drummer. Everyone carried signs demanding that People's Park be returned to the people.
People surged into the street and waited for the parade to get under way. Some speakers had been scheduled to rally the crowd, but the sound system was poor and most people couldn't hear them. They didn't need to anyway - the spirit was already there. The people didn't need any message from on high in order to get together and do what they had come to do. It was a long wait and people got impatient, but finally the parade started.
All kinds of people were there: students, workers, young, old, black, white and all shades in between. Infants in strollers, old gents with canes, people in wheelchairs and on crutches - all marched for People's Park.
All along the route people flashed 'V' signs from windows and cheered the marchers. Many provided water from garden hoses or from paper cups. Some old people had set up a stand and were dispensing Kool-Aid and punch. Parent groups set up little stands with signs like "Parents to Prevent Thirst." The community was with the marchers. The community was behind the marchers. The community was indistinguishable from the marchers.
There was a great feeling of solidarity. People were solidly people, transcending all barriers and demarcations like age, sex and occupation.
It was a strange parade in many ways. 30,000 strong. In bygone days, we were accustomed to seeing the people line the sidewalks while in the street various military units, officials, prancing ponies, perfectionist bands never missing a beat or losing a step, veterans with their bellies hanging out of World War II uniforms, did their thing. But the People's Parade for People's Park was a different kind of Memorial Day parade. The people were in the streets and the military lined the sidewalk. All along the parade route were police, Alameda sheriffs, and National Guardsmen seeming to find their jobs distasteful because they could not cheer the marchers and join in the spirit. Streets adjacent to the parade route were sealed off--some with barbed wire, all with sullen-faced troops. The people covered the barbed wire with flowers as they would cover the cyclone fence around the People's Park with flowers at the destination of the Parade.
Someone shouted, "Don't throw anything at the National Guard except kisses." That was the spirit that prevailed. The people did their thing seemingly oblivious to the military presence which surrounded them.
The march proceeded past a billboard with a big picture of one of the new picturesque Bank of America checks on. it. (See, even banks can be "with it".) Someone had filled in the blank spaces on the check: "Pay to the order of ... People's Park. Amount .... $1,000,000. (Signed)... Madigan."
There was a float which was the people' s approximation to a helicopter. A quick look at the sky verified that there were a number of real helicopters, no doubt armed with various blends of gasses, intent on observing the proceedings. Blue Meanies overlooked the marchers from strategic roof-top positions.
The parade continued. Some people rode on trucks. Most walked. It was a long march. It was crowded, and it was hot. But no one seemed to mind.
A friend said to me, "This is what the revolution is all about." And it was. And it is. Revolutionary spirit replaced empty slogans and obtuse rhetoric. It became obvious what people could do with themselves if they didn't have to work; it was obvious in a way that could never come out of a debate. People were doing it. People were enjoying themselves and each other, and there was no way the pigs could break that spirit. There was nothing the pigs could do except keep a watchful eye. The people went right on. Danced in the streets and made love. Saw old friends they hadn't seen in years. Boys took off their shirts; girls took off their bras. A few really liberated girls took off their shirts too. Sun on skin enjoyed irrespective of sex.
In the late afternoon people made their ways back to the People's Park Annex from which the parade had started. Children were again playing in the sand. Little unconcerned, bare-assed girls stooping over, filling their pails with sand and photographers snapping their pics. Two little girls swinging, one telling the other, "This is the people's park. It's for all the people. It's a people's park. It is. It is." Children knew what was happening, and wide-eyed babies took it all in.
People taking up collections for wine. A truck rolled in, and a band played: An amateurish rabble-rouser tried to do his thing between tunes: "Do you love me?" Crowd: "Yeah, we love you." "I love you too."
Spontaneously, people created their own band. It was a rhythmic tour de force. People beat on bottles, cans, drums, the metal ventilator grating on the sidewalk beneath which the BART technology had been installed. Metal on metal. Wood on wood. Skin on skin. People scraped with rakes, beat with shovels, stirred, mixed and dug, acting out the drama of work, of building their park, now in fun, in play, in rhythm. People tapped, beat, pounded. And the rhythm never stopped well into the night. Only the rhythm section changed to protect the weary. As soon as one person laid down his instrument, there was another to take it up.
It was a tribal, ritualistic, communal, even primitive atmosphere. Back to the roots. A celebration of life. People stomped., shouted, danced. A cloud of dust lifted and mixed with the smell of sweat. People passed around bread and carrots and more wine. One cat was embracing everyone in sight, telling them how much he loved them. "I love you. I love." He loved so much that he wasn't able to make it to the People's Pot and urinated right through the BART ventilator grating. But no one paid any special attention. It was a People's Park and, so long as you didn't do anything injurious to people, you could do your thing whatever it was.
Some cats took off all their clothes and danced in the nude. The rhythm was everywhere. The people moved rhythmically everywhere. The rhythm moved the people everywhere. Rhythm permeated the crowd.
It is a peculiarly American drama that is being acted out at People's Park. People worked together to settle this country. Now people are working together to humanize it. The sod brothers and sisters of Telegraph Avenue have their foes just as the sod busters of Oklahoma had theirs - the cattle punchers. We've all seen movies about the rivalry between the sod busters and the cow punchers. Now we're seeing the reality of the sod brothers versus the people punchers. Now we're seeing punchers - the pigs. It's back to the land for the sod brothers and sisters, and, as Malcolm X said, "Revolution is based on land."
Some people say the revolution will never work because it doesn't take into account human nature. But the Berkeley experience flies in the face of such assertions. 30,000 people were engaged in a common endeavor, and people worked and people had fun together. There was not one fight. Not one baby cried. And that is a good check on the vibrations: a look at the children' s faces. Human nature asserted itself in Berkeley despite all our parents taught us, despite all we learned in school, despite the competitive system we've been brought up in. Human nature went against the grain of society in order to rear its beautiful head. A friend said to me, "Wouldn't it be beautiful if the society was attuned and geared to the life people are living today, if it encouraged life instead of fighting against it?"
There is no time to lose. Let a thousand People's Parks blossom.
by John Lawrence
On Saturday, April 2, the Chargers published a whole section of the San Diego Union-Tribune devoted to their proposal to build a football stadium for the Chargers combined with a non-contiguous expansion of the Convention Center. The title of this section was "Notice of Intent to Circulate Petition." Right off the bat I found several things wrong with this proposal. But before I go into that I want to discuss the MAJOR thing wrong with this proposal.
You see the Chargers think combining a Convention Center Expansion with a new stadium will make it more palatable to San Diego voters especially if the tax that will be raised to pay for it will be a tax on visitors not on locals. This will make it possible to wring money out of hotel tax increases to pay for a third of their stadium. But not only that, the $1.15 billion in bonds that the City (actually a subsidiary of the City - a Stadium Authority) will issue will pay the entire cost of the convention center annex. I don't think a better combination of a football stadium with $600 million of affordable housing ever even crossed their minds.
With This Kind of Money You Could Build a Contiguous Convention Center Expansion
However, with this kind of money coming from increased indebtedness by the city, why not go ahead and just build the convention center addition where the Mayor and others want it built - right next to and contiguous to the present Convention Center. This makes a lot more sense than building an architectiral monstrosity of a stadium on top of or next to what amounts to a mini-convention center which is not integrated with the present convention center and has little relationship to a football stadium.
And the question must be asked if the City can borrow $1.15 billion dollars by raising the TOT taxes, why not use the money half for a convention center annex right next to the present facilities and half for infrastructure including affordable housing? The Chargers then can issue their own bonds of indebtedness for the remaining $350 million they're trying to get from the City really under false pretenses, the false pretenses being taxing visitors for something that will mostly be used by locals. This is tantamount to taxing one constituency for the benefit of another constituency. And when it comes right down to it, the City's General Fund will still be on the hook.
So now on with the "Notice of Intent ..." Right off the bat in Section 2 it states "The people of the City of San Diego Find and Declare the following:" This amounts to outright lying because the People of the City of San Diego had nothing whatsoever to do with this proposal. It was generated and perpetrated entirely by the Chargers organization. It goes on to say "The People of San Diego desire" this and "The people of San Diego" desire that. Nonsense. The proposal is disingenuous from the start. The proposal does not even mention the Chargers. Yet they are the sole initiators of it.
Under item #7 it says "In order for the ... Project to be undertaken in a financially sound manner, the Initiative increases the existing Transient Occupancy Tax [TOT], which is paid for by persons staying in hotels, motels and other lodging establishments in the City, and establishes a ... Fund to pay for the development and construction of the Convention Center Expansion and to pay certain incremental costs of the Stadium resulting from an integrated Convention Center Expansion and Stadium Project ...
Item #7 is a mouthful. Here's the first point: the TOT tax is not only to be paid by persons staying in the high end hotels but persons staying in motels many of which are fairly low end, (that is, that's where poor people stay). Not only that but the TOT tax will be paid by persons staying in "other lodging establishments in the City." Hmmm, wonder what those could be - AirBnB perhaps?
The Perfect Solution: Visitors Not Locals Will Pay for the Stadium
And what could those "certain incremental costs of the Stadium resulting from an integrated Convention Center Expansion and Stadium Project" be? Is this a way to fleece the public ostensibly because a football stadium is being commingled with a mishmash of a convention center? Basically the Chargers propose to create an architectural monstrosity, something which is neither fish nor fowl, and get the public to pay for it out of gratitude for the Chargers including a convention center addition in the mix. Oh, and they promise to stay here for 30 years. Riiiight.
The following item #8 is the clincher though, and I quote: "As provided in this Initiative, the Transient Occupancy Tax is increased by an additional six percent (6%) and the new revenues are dedicated to special trust funds, the Convention Center Expansion and Stadium Fund and the San Diego Tourism and Marketing Fund, as provided by this initiative."
Trying to slip in a fast one on us, are ya? All the publicity on this proposal and I mean all says that the TOT taxes are to be raised 4% not 6 %, from 12.5% to 16.5%. Was this just a typo? If so, a very significant one. My feeling is that there must be a lot more of these "typos" buried in this abstruse document. I'm still on the first page. Crafty lawyering, I presume.
The elephant in the room of this Chargers proposal is the $1.15 billion in bonds that the City is supposed to be on the hook for. Of course, the implication is that they will get the money from Wall Street which must be salivating at the thought because underwriting fees, legal fees and interest will certainly add another couple of billion to the indebtedness of the City of San Diego which will try to sidestep its indebtedness by creating a Fund which is supposedly distinct from the General Fund. Wall Street will get tremendous upfront fees, and this will drain the "collateral" represented by the TOT taxes. The taxpayers will still be holding the bag. Wait till the final legalese is written - especially with Wall Street - regarding the loan.
San Diego Taxpayers Will Still Be on the Hook
But when it comes right down to it, this will not be a non recourse loan. The taxpayers of the City of San Diego will be liable if everything does not go as planned. If there's a downturn in the economy, if the TOT taxes don't come in as planned because Comic-Con and other large conventions go elsewhere, if the managers of this Fund engage in interest rate swaps or other derivatives, the only beneficiary here would be Wall Street, and this looming debacle could make the pension fund shortfall seem like a child's game in comparison.
And the big conventions will go elsewhere where they'll get a better deal on TOT taxes. That leaves the hoteliers in the position of lowering their room rates in order to attract the high rollers. This will decrease their profits, and, I'm sure, this is not what they had in mind when first they considered a Convention Center Expansion.
Finally, it's a travesty that the City should take on over a billion dollars in bonded debt while the homeless are sleeping on the streets, in cars and couch surfing so that a few ultra rich people can have skyboxes in downtown San Diego. Why not use the money or money that's already in other City "Funds" to build affordable housing, repair and replace infrastructure, improve poor neighborhoods, repair potholes and increase teacher and police salaries instead of catering to a concussion producing football team. Let them use private money to build their own stadium for which they will have to pay the operating and maintenance costs, not the City. The City is still paying for Qualcomm stadium. In fact we the taxpayers of San Diego still owe $50 million on improvements to Qualcomm which the Chargers insisted they needed in order to stay competitive.
Affordable housing bonds can be issued as non-recourse loans because HUD will back them up. In addition to that why give Wall Street 2 or 3 billion dollars in interest on a 30 year loan when the City of San Diego could start a public bank as they have in the state of North Dakota and bring all that interest home to be used on other local projects like infrastructure and affordable housing. And buyer beware of those interest rate swaps Wall Street is sure to sell to whatever hapless bloke ends up managing this Stadium and Convention Expansion agency.
I'll have to get to the rest of this petition/proposal at a later date. But let's not rush to go into debt to build a deformed monstrosity of a convadium, one that would be an architectural blight on the City of San Diego. It would be better to build the Convention Center addition contiguously with the present Convention Center and finance it by creating a public bank rather than going further into debt to Wall Street. With a public bank like the state of North Dakota has, the interest would accrue back to the San Diego General Fund so that infrastructure could be rebuilt. With bonds issued by Wall Street it would be like throwing money out the hotel windows.
by John Lawrence
Joe Marillo passed away Saturday, March 26. Born in Niagara Falls, NY, 83 years ago, he moved to San Diego in 1974 from Las Vegas where he had played in show bands for 10 years. He started out playing saxophone in Atlantic City, NJ while swinging from a trapeze.
He was dedicated to bringing straight ahead, mainstream jazz to San Diego for almost 50 years both with his virtuoso playing and his skills as a presenter and impresario. He received the San Diego Music Awards Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003.
After moving here from Las Vegas, Joe immediately started playing and performing in San Diego clubs. I first saw and heard him at Chuck's Steak House in La Jolla where Joe lived "in the ghetto" for his entire life.
There were so many clubs that have gone in and out of business in the last 50 years, and Joe played in all of them. The Crossroads, Elario's, Our Place, Bella Via in Cardiff, Henry's in Oceanside, George's in Encinitas, the Jazz Mine, the Catamaran. The list goes on and on. The ephemeral nature of most jazz clubs is contrasted with the constancy of Joe's presence and dedication to jazz in San Diego over several decades.
Joe initiated a jazz policy at the Catamaran in the 70s that was very successful. He brought in all the greats from the Golden Age of Jazz, roughly 1945 to 1970. People like Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Stitt, Ahmad Jamal, Supersax, Bobby Hutcherson. I was in the audience for many of these gigs. I particularly remember when Bill Evans was there with Philly Joe Jones on drums. Bill's playing was wonderful that night, but Philly Joe sat patiently behind his drum kit in a supporting role not given many chances to solo. Finally, Joe said, "Let Philly Joe go!" Then on the last tune of the set Philly Joe got to play a long drum solo and everyone breathed a sigh of satisfaction. Joe Marillo sat in with all these greats and in the process became one himself.
Unfortunately, Joe's Society for the Preservation of Jazz was too successful at the Catamaran. Management got the idea that they could save money, get rid of Joe and still bring in all the big guys. Of course, it was the beginning of the end. The dolts who thought they could emulate a true and natural impressario like Joe just didn't understand the simpatico in the jazz world that was necessary to make a good thing happen, and the jazz program at the Catamaran was doomed. Joe was the Pied Piper. When the Catamaran got rid of the Pied Pied Piper, the musicians didn't come any more.
As my trumpet playing improved, I got up the nerve one night to ask Joe if I could sit in at his gig at a club in Encinitas. The club was in the corner of an L-shaped strip mall where, it seemed, a lot of jazz clubs were located. Joe let me sit in for one tune and then called something at a furious tempo. I had all I could do to keep up. Many years later I started the San Diego Jazz Society similar to Joe's Society for the Preservation of Jazz. There were a number of jazz societies in those days including the Society for Straight Ahead Jazz and the San Diego Jazz Festival. We presented Joe in numerous venues on many different occasions as well as many other artists. Joe was kind enough to let us use the silhouette of him from his "Lady Caroline" album on our brochure for the San Diego Jazz Society.
We did a series of gigs at the North Coast Repertory Theater. Like many venues there was no piano. This problem was solved by moving my piano from home, a 1908 Story and Clark upright, to the gig. I asked Joe if he would do one of the gigs with him and me as the front line. He graciously consented, and I practiced my head off to be worthy of being on the same stage with him. One of the tunes I called was Charlie Parker's Donna Lee. I cranked up the metronome at home because I wanted to be able to play the head at an ungodly tempo. I counted it off, and Joe, ever the consummate professional, pulled it off without breaking a sweat.
Like many of us Joe was inspired by Charlie Parker, "Bird", as he was known to his fans. I never got to see Bird in person as I was in eighth grade in 1955 when Bird died, but Joe bought him a drink once. Joe didn't get interested in music until he was 20. "That's when I heard my first Charlie Parker record," he said, "and immediately got turned on. It's a strange thing--who knows why we like certain types of music. All I know, to this day, is that something about Parker's sound, his ideas, his saxophone, really got to me, and before long I was buying every Parker record I could find."
Joe was lucky in that he got to do what he really loved in life, and, if he didn't make a great living, at least he survived. He said, "I'm a lot more concerned with realizing my dream of becoming a polished improviser, which is what be-bop is all about. And that's a continual learning process that will never end.
Joe was true to his calling till the very end. He was a teacher, an improvisor, a promoter. Be-bop, as Parker's music was called, was his inspiration. For the last almost 50 years, Joe Marillo has been Mr Jazz in San Diego. Clubs have come and gone; venues have come and gone. The one constant was Joe's prescence on the jazz scene having played and presented in all of them. Now he's graduated to playing celestial harmonies with Bird, Diz, Stan and all the rest from the Golden Age. We were fortunate to have shared the same window of time with them and San Diego was fortunate to have had Joe Marillo as our guiding light for the best in jazz for the last 50 years. Joe, we will miss you. RIP, my friend.
A Memorial concert honoring Joe is scheduled for May 24 at Dizzy's, 4275 Mission Bay Drive, San Diego, CA 92109.
by John Lawrence
Classical economics divided income into two types: earned and unearned. Earned income came from productive labor combined with capital investment. Unearned income was considered parasitical and consisted of rent, interest and dividends. It was not considered as adding to GDP but as subtracting from it. It was money made by manipulating money much as feudal landlords made their money in what has been called a rentier economy.
Today most of the money earned by the 1% which is driving the income inequality gap is made in the financialized, rentier economy but is now considered earned income. New methods have been devised to make money not by productive labor and investment but by manipulating financial instruments. One such manipulation consists of stock buybacks.
Why would a company buy back its own stock, stock that was issued in the first place supposedly to give the company money it needed for productive investment to produce goods and services. The answer is very simple. When a corporation buys its own stock (often with borrowed money), the stock usually goes up at least temporarily. That gives the executives of the company and activist hedge funds time to cash in their stock grants, options and garden variety stocks and make a killing. The boost in stock value also impresses Wall Street which cares solely about the short term financial indicators for a company and not at all about what the company did to achieve those indicators.
When a company uses its profits or even borrowed money to buy back its own stock, that's money that is not being used for research and development or to expand production or to make a better product. The money that the executives and hedge funds make is strictly because of financial manipulation, but in a financialized economy it's considered to be additive to GDP. The measurement of GDP is no longer linked wholly or even mainly to production, but now consists to a large extent of income that is made in the rentier economy.
Carl Icahn, a big investor in Apple, is always trying to get them to buy back their stock so he can cash in. The billionaire activist investor lobbied Apple to buy back billions worth of its shares to boost value to shareholders. In April 2014 Apple boosted its buyback plans by $30 billion and even split its stock for the first time in nine years. Satisfied? Never. Icahn's taking another swing at getting Apple to buy back even more stock, saying the shares could double to more than $200 apiece.
Another way the parasites make money which makes the GDP figures look good is to not pay taxes. The tax code has been completely captured by the large corporations and their lobbyists which has shifted the burden away from corporations and onto the average working person - the 99%. Both Democrats and Republicans are complicit in this arrangement, one example of which is the tax giveaway they are getting ready to implement.
William Greider in an article entitled Democrats and Republicans Are Quietly Planning a Corporate Giveaway—to the Tune of $400 Billion writes the following:
The bad news is that key leaders of the Democratic Party—including the president—are getting on board with Republicans, despite some talk about confronting income inequality. Influential Democrats intend to negotiate with Republican counterparts on the size and terms of post-facto tax “forgiveness” for America’s globalized companies. This is real money they’re talking about—a giveaway of hundreds of billions
Why haven’t voters heard about this from candidates? Because Republicans and Democrats both know it would make angry voters even angrier.
The major multinationals complain about a tax problem that most citizens would love to have for themselves: Thanks to a loophole in the tax code, the companies do not have to pay US taxes on profits they have earned in foreign countries until they bring the money home to American shores. Altogether, the globalized US companies have accumulated $2.1 trillion in untaxed profits, most of it parked in overseas tax havens.
The multinationals are waiting for Congress to forgive them their debts.
Oh, but forgive the debts of the little guy? Never!! While corporations expect to have their debts forgiven, there is no such help for for the average American or average debtor nation like Argentina or Greece. For the rest of us the commandment is "Thou shalt PAY UP." Wall Street has adamantly stuck to this first Principal of Finance which is sancrosanct, so sancrosanct in fact that bankruptcy rules for the average American are being tightened while at the same time they are being loosened for corporations. You think student loan debtors can go bankrupt? Guess again.
After all part of the vulture capitalist's playbook is to buy a company with borrowed money, load it down with debt, strip its assets, raid its pension fund, then take it into bankruptcy in order to destroy its union. Having accomplished all that and by the way added to GDP while so doing, the company can then be taken out of bankruptcy, taken private and then taken public again in order to get another infusion of cash from an Initial Public Offering (IPO) which is immediately gobbled up by the hedge fund (another name for vulture capitalist) itself. All of these shenanigans make money off of money, do nothing for productive investment but do add to GDP.
Congress let these corporations have a "tax holiday" in 2004 on the hope and promise that these corporations would spend their largesse doing research, investing in America and creating jobs. What happened? The 15 companies that benefited the most from a 2004 tax break for the return of their overseas profits cut more than 20,000 net jobs and decreased the pace of their research spending. One of the beneficiaries was Qualcomm, a major whiner for another tax holiday. On his way out the door Paul Jacobs exhorted his employees and shareholders to “Send your Congress people your opinion that you’d like American companies to be able to bring offshore money back to the United States to either reinvest or return to shareholders.” Qualcomm had $21.6 billion in overseas profits in 2014. And those poor shareholders - most of them in the 1% - are having to make do without their money. Oh, Boo Hoo.
As a result GDP is no longer a measure of the health of an economy. If a tornado wipes out a town, the money spent to rebuild that town adds to GDP, but does not constitute a contribution to the economy that adds anything except to restore what was already there. In the same way hedge funds add nothing productive to the American economy, but they do increase GDP. So GDP as a measure of anything productive is passe. It is merely a measure of the cash that changes hands regardless if it changed hands as a result of winning a bet in a casino or in the casino of Wall Street or it changed hands because someone bought something that was actually useful.
And don't forget the second Principle of Finance - "If Wall Street fucks up, thou shalt bail us out" in which case taxpayers will restore their financial rectitude and well-being like we did in 2008. Or maybe this time it will be a bail-in in which case citizens will make Wall St whole again with money from their savings accounts which by the way are the property of the banks. The bank has merely issued you what amounts to an IOU, and, what's more, you're treated to practically zero interest rates on your savings. How's that you thrifty senior savers?
If GDP doesn't measure the exchange of productive goods and services or productive investment, why does every politician and pundit insist on "growing the economy" meaning increasing GDP? We would be better off in some ways if GDP were diminished and the emphasis was on a sustainable economy, an economy which valued the health and welfare of the average person instead of the 1%. All the money that is made from the oil and gas industries needs to diminish if we are to make any progress with global warming. All the money made by Wall Street on fees, interest and derivatives needs to diminish if the economy is to be placed on a more solid financial footing.
Consumers contribute 70% of GDP. If we start growing our own food and fixing our own cars and buying less junk, this will diminish GDP, but the average American will be better off. They would have less debt. If we stop going into debt, GDP would go down. But so would the inequality gap as corporations earned less profit and Americans took on less debt. How to make America great again? Pay down your debt, do more for yourself instead of buying goods and services in the cash economy, buy and work local and stop patronizing large corporations and Wall Street banks.
The only way that the central bank of the US, the Fed, knows to grow the economy is to lower interest rates and force more debt on American citizens. This is what monetary policy amounts to. Fiscal policy, in which the government would create jobs directly by providing money for infrastructure revitalization, is non-existant thanks to Republicans who won't approve expenditures by government that would actually create jobs and the military-industrial complex which gobbles up every available dollar.
If American citizens don't take on more debt, the economy goes to hell in a handbag. The only way around this is to start a public bank. Then the local economy can be served directly including creation of good jobs without reliance on Wall Street. By the way sports fans, the plan for the new San Diego "Convadium" would involve the City of San Diego issuing a billion dollars in bonds, a plan they are touting as requiring no taxpayer funding, but which will involve huge payments to Wall Street for fees and interest. These bonds will be backed by nothing except hotel taxes. Who's liable here if the plan goes south?
Michael Hudson writes in his book, Killing the Host - How Financial Parasites and Debt Destroy the Global Economy:
"Trying to rise into the middle class these days is a road to debt peonage. It involves taking on mortgage debt to buy a home of one's own, student loans to get the education needed to get a good job, an automobile loan to drive to work, and credit card debt just to maintain one's living standards as the debtor falls deeper and deeper into the hole. Many recent graduates find that they have to pay so much on their student loans that they must live at home with their parents and cannot afford to get married and start a family, much less qualify for a mortgage. That is why consumer spending has not risen since 2008. Even when income rises, many families find their paychecks eaten up by debt service."
Bernie Sanders is addressing the problem of debt peonage, which is gradually enslaving the American middle class, directly by calling for free public education and Medicare For All. He is also addressing the US tax code which has been rigged in favor of the wealthy and the corporations starting with Ronald Reagan's and Alan Greenspan's meddling. Republican Presidential candidates would only hasten the descent of the American middle class into debt peonage by giving further tax breaks to the rich while transferring even more of the tax burden onto the middle class and the poor.
The American dystopia that is becoming more likely is one in which a small percentage owns the means of production and rent producing assets while the vast majority eke out a living doing menial labor that can't be done by robots and automatons. Andrew F. Puzder, CEO of the parent company of Carl’s Jr., has announced he’s investing in machines because he doesn't want to pay employees $15 an hour or to pay for their health care. Puzder makes more in one day ($17,192) than one of his minimum-wage employees working full time makes in a year ($15,080), The Nation reported last year.
Work for nothing or be replaced by a robot - that's the choice for the 99%. But robots are taking middle class jobs now and will take more in the future, minimum wage or no minimum wage. So what's the solution? Start your own business, become self-employed, stay away from student loan debt or start or become a member of a cooperative enterprise. You have no future as a minimum wage employee regardless of the minimum wage. Take the bull by the horns instead of trying to convince the cow not to shit on you.
The American dystopian vision of the future is even more appalling than the feudal era in which human labor was actually needed to make the economy work. Sure the 1% controlled the wealth; it was a rentier economy but human labor was necessary. Now humans as well as their labor are expendable. The future could hold a life of abundance and leisure for everyone but that is not likely unless wealth is more evenly distributed. It won't be more evenly distributed unless consumers stop consuming, take matters into their own hands and start producing for themselves. The sad truth is you can make more money as a self-employed laborer than you can working a 40 hour week for MacDonald's even if you just do a couple of jobs per week! Why work for $10. an hour for someone else when you can make five times that much as a self-employed doing exactly the same work?
by John Lawrence from the San Diego Free Press
Many people cannot understand why radical Islamists are killing innocent people as happened in Brussels recently. What did these people ever do to them to justify their being ruthlessly terminated as they were just going about their everyday lives in a peaceful manner?
It's not as though many innocent civilians in the Middle East have not had their lives terminated as they were simply going about their business. As many as 12 civilians were killed in December 2013 in Yemen when a US drone targeted vehicles that were part of a wedding procession going toward the groom’s village. Since 2002, drones piloted by the US Central Intelligence Agency and the Pentagon have killed hundreds of people in the country, mostly members of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, but also dozens of civilians, including children. The deadliest attack killed more than 40 people - including 22 children and 12 women - when a Tomahawk cruise missile fired from a naval vessel hit the village of al-Majala on December 17, 2009.
What could be more innocent than a wedding party? What I wonder is - were the victims of these and other attacks that killed innocent women and children ever compensated for their losses? I think the answer is no. US attacks in the Middle East that have destroyed real estate and many peoples' lives go uncompensated by US authorities. Not only do they not apologize, they don't compensate financially the people involved for their losses. Compensation for the grandchildren that the bride and groom will never have? Hardly.
Hulk Hogan won a $115 million settlement because someone publicized a sex tape he had made. Erin Andrews was awarded $55 million for a lawsuit over a nude video. But victims of US violence in the Middle East. Nada. They get nothing but smoldering resentment for the loss of their loved ones. Why are they resentful and whom is the resentment directed at? Guess.
"Between a Drone and Al-Qaeda" - a report published in October 2013 by Human Rights Watch - found the US has carried out 80 targeted operations in Yemen since 2009, including strikes from drones, warplanes and naval vessels stationed in the Gulf of Aden, killing at least 473 people.
Observers say attacks such as these are helping push Yemenis into the arms of al-Qaeda.
"It is far from the only instance of the US indirectly assisting al-Qaeda's PR machine - and even its human resources department," wrote Yemeni activist Farea al-Muslimi recently about the Radaa strike.
The West including the US and Europe has to come to the realization that they are responsible for the radicalization of people who have been victimized by their policy which has resulted in innocent civilians being killed throughout the world. In the minds of radicalized Islamists who commit atrocious acts and take the lives of innocent civilians in the west, these acts are balanced by the Western nations, mainly the US, which have taken innocent lives in the Middle East. It is tit for tat with not much tit comparatively doled out for a whole lot of tat. There is no comparison when you measure the number of innocent lives lost on both sides.
Republican Presidential candidate John Kasich has said:
"We must also redouble our efforts with our allies to identify, root out and destroy the perpetrators of such acts of evil. We must strengthen our alliances as our way of life and the international system that has been built on our common values since the end of the Second World War comes under challenge from these and other actors of evil."
Tell me, Mr Kasich, how this is an Act of Evil, but the destroying of innocent lives in the Middle East is not an Act of Evil? Tell me how the hundreds of thousands if not millions of lives destroyed in the Middle East is not an Act of Evil perpetrated by George W Bush who lied the American people into a war in Iraq. Tell me how this is not the result of that war that led directly to the rise of ISIS or ISIL or whatever you want to call it. Real estate destroyed with no compensation. Lives and families destroyed without even an apology. The wonder is why there are not even more terrorists than there are. They must figure two can play that game: the game of destruction of innocents with no remorse that is.
The strike on a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, which killed 32 people, including three children, was an accident. Did the US compensate Doctors without Borders including paying money to the families of the victims? I don't think so. Did the US military rebuild the hospital? That's not what the US military does. It destroys with no apologies. It does not rebuild. The US has a history of aerial military mistakes not only in Afghanistan, but in other countries including Libya and Syria. These countries have become wastelands which have undergone the most thorough destruction which has precipitated the overwhelming European refugee crisis. Is the US offering compensation to the refugees? I don't think so. There is no compensation in war.
In 1991, during the Gulf War, the US bombed a complex in the Amiriyah neighborhood of Baghdad. The bombs, which were laser precision-guided, hit the complex and killed 408 civilians. At the time of the bombing, US officials said they hit the complex because they thought it was being used as a command center and accused Saddam Hussein of using civilians as human shields. Has the US rebuilt the neighborhood or offered financial compensation to the victims? No, let's blame Saddam who lost his life and his country because of US lies. Saddam had kept a lid on the seething ethnic tensions and was no threat to the US.
A Defense Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity said, "Under a well-established principle of international law, nations are not liable to provide compensation for injuries or damage occurring during combat operations." Thank you for that clarification.
"In any conflict there are unintended casualties. But we are working to make all of Iraq a better place to live." Really. Really? Is Iraq a better place to live now than it was before the US invasion led by George W Bush who said that his father had not gone far enough in his invasion? Who said that if he got a chance to invade, he'd go all the way to Baghdad and surround himself with glory as a wartime President and get all his agenda passed? “If I have a chance to invade…if I had that much capital, I’m not going to waste it. I’m going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I’m going to have a successful presidency.”
The Guardian reported:
The drones came for Ayman Zawahiri on 13 January 2006, hovering over a village in Pakistan called Damadola. Ten months later, they came again for the man who would become al-Qaida’s leader, this time in Bajaur.
Eight years later, Zawahiri is still alive. Seventy-six children and 29 adults, according to reports after the two strikes, are not.
However many Americans know who Zawahiri is, far fewer are familiar with Qari Hussain. Hussain was a deputy commander of the Pakistani Taliban, a militant group aligned with al-Qaida that trained the would-be Times Square bomber, Faisal Shahzad, before his unsuccessful 2010 attack. The drones first came for Hussain years before, on 29 January 2008. Then they came on 23 June 2009, 15 January 2010, 2 October 2010 and 7 October 2010.
Finally, on 15 October 2010, Hellfire missiles fired from a Predator or Reaper drone killed Hussain, the Pakistani Taliban later confirmed. For the death of a man whom practically no American can name, the US killed 128 people, 13 of them children, none of whom it meant to harm. ...
Some 24 men specifically targeted in Pakistan resulted in the death of 874 people. All were reported in the press as “killed” on multiple occasions, meaning that numerous strikes were aimed at each of them. The vast majority of those strikes were unsuccessful. An estimated 142 children were killed in the course of pursuing those 24 men, only six of whom died in the course of drone strikes that killed their intended targets.
In Yemen, 17 named men were targeted multiple times. Strikes on them killed 273 people, at least seven of them children. At least four of the targets are still alive.
The U.S. government has implemented targeted killings since the Sept. 11 attacks as a counter terrorism measure and as retribution against al Qaeda and the Taliban. Under the Obama administration, many of these targeted killings have been carried out using unmanned drones. Despite the high number of civilian casualties, President Barack Obama has repeatedly defended the strikes. To paraphrase, the only way, it seems, to get a bad guy with a gun is to take out a whole bunch of good guys without guns.
Targeted killings? That's exactly what the attacks in Brussels, Paris, Turkey and elsewhere were. Targeted killings exactly as were those killings that targeted relatives of those radical Islamists. The resentment engendered by the targeted killings of civilians in the Middle East has come home to haunt those of us living in the West. It's tit for targeted killing tat, and killing civilians is what it's about on both sides. The chickens always do come home to roost.
Hulk Hogan and Erin Andrews can get millions for an illegally made or publicized sex tape. Victims of US and western violence don't get as much as an "I'm sorry for your loss."
by John Lawrence
The San Diego Jazz Society Presented Joe Wilder and Marshall Royal
Joe Wilder was not only a magnificent trumpet player but a gentleman according to all who knew him. I had the privilege of presenting him and saxophonist Marshal Royal along with a local rhythm section composed of Mike Wofford, Bob Magnusson and Roy McCurdy at the Lyceum Theatre in 1990 under the auspices of the San Diego Jazz Society. A CD was made of the performance which, unfortunately, is out of print. Joe helped to break down racial barriers on Broadway, radio, television and in classical music.
Wilder’s sense of propriety was legendary. When Wilder was in Lionel Hampton’s orchestra in the early 1940s, fellow band members used to offer him a $10 bill if he would simply utter one four-letter word. Wilder never collected! A soft-spoken and stately man, he never appeared in public without a tie. He was a non-smoker and non-drinker. He was as impeccable in his playing as he was in his personal life. Classically trained, he had to face the reality that no African-Americans were being hired for symphony jobs in the 1930s and 40s. After auditions for symphony jobs, they were told, "Don't call us; we'll call you."
So he branched out into big bands. He played with the bands of Les Hite, Lionel Hampton, Jimmie Lunceford, Herbie Fields, Sam Donahue, Lucky Millinder, Dizzy Gillespie, Noble Sissle and Count Basie among others! On the road with the Hampton band in Iowa in 1946, Wilder and a fellow trumpeter were refused service at a Chinese restaurant in Des Moines. They stayed for hours and the following day did the same, manifesting passive resistance years before the sit-ins in the South.
He experienced many other outrageous displays of racism as did all other African-Americans during that period. Jim Crow was the prevailing attitude. Blacks had no rights to stay at public hotels or eat in public restaurants. According to Joe's biography, "Softly, With Feeling" by Edward Berger, when Joe was working with Jimmy Gorham's band:
Gorham's band played an engagement at the all-white Warwick Hotel in Philadelphia for a lady who was throwing a party. "This was only the second time that a black band played in the hotel - my father happened to be in the band that first played there years earlier," Wilder said. "And after that engagement, the white union local told the hotel that if they hired any more black bands, they would bar any white bands from playing in there." But the hostess specifically requested Gorham's band, which was a big hit with her guests. "During the intermission," Wilder recalled, "she came over to compliment Jimmy and said with a deep Southern accent, 'Mr. Gorham, I just wanted to tell you that my guests all enjoyed y'all's music. Most of them have never heard a hot nigger band before!' There was a silence in that band room, and then the guys started asking each other, 'Did she say what I think I just heard?' They lit into that woman to the point that some of us actually felt sorry for her because she didn't actually mean to offend us.
Born in Philadelphia in 1922 into a musical family, he grew up in an integrated neighborhood and had both white and black friends. As a child he was featured on a weekly children’s radio program in Philadelphia: Parisian Tailors’ Colored Kiddies of the Air. He attended the Mastbaum School of Music which also produced other notable jazz musicians such as Lee Morgan, Buddy DeFranco, Red Rodney, Bill Barron and Ted Curson. Wilder interrupted his musical career when World War II came around. He was one of the first black marines.
Black Musicians Had to Deal With Racism Especially in the South
In his biography Wilder recounted a serious incident involving Illinois Jacquet when they were traveling in the South with Lionel Hampton's band:
We were in Alabama, and Illinois was late getting to the station, and the train was getting ready to pull out. Illinois didn't have time to run down and get his luggage and stuff into the black coach. So he just got on the first step that was open. He started walking through the white cars, and this conductor, who looked like the Kentucky colonel, hit him and said, "Boy, what do you think you're doing back here?" Illinois said to him, "Who you calling 'boy'?" and kept walking. The guy pulled out a pistol and followed him into the black coach. Illinois was talking back to him, and several of our guys who carried pistols stood up. Our road manager, who was a very nice red-haired Texan named Mack O'Connell, came into the coach just as this guy was threatening to blow Illinois' head off. Mack shouted, "What's going on here?" The conductor said, "Cap'n, is them your niggers?" And Mack said, "Yeah, why?" Well, you better teach 'em how to behave down here!" the conductor replied. Meanwhile, Red Farrington, the band boy, was standing right behind the conductor with a switchblade. Mack O'Connell quieted the whole thing down. He was a nice guy. A lot of guys didn't like him because he had a southern drawl. A lot of us were turned off by the accents, but a lot of these guys were the nicest people you could run into.
It's easy to see how quickly incidents like these involving a black man and a white authority figure like the police can get out of hand like is still happening today.
After his stint with the big bands, Wilder broke the color line by dint of his excellent musicianship started getting gigs for Broadway shows in the 1950s. Ed Berger wrote:
Wilder went on to play in such hit productions as Guys and Dolls and Cole Porter’s Silk Stockings, joining the touring company of the latter in 1953. “They went first to Mr. Porter and asked if he had any objection to a black musician playing first trumpet,” Wilder recalls. “All he asked was, ‘Can he play my music?’ When they told him I could, he answered, ‘Well, that’s all that matters.’ I never got an opportunity to tell him how much I appreciated it.” As a Broadway regular, he was in the pit orchestra of the musical "42nd Street" for more than eight years.
In the mid-50s Wilder joined the elite group of first-call musicians in the New York City studio scene. Again he had to overcome racial barriers. He overcame prejudice and stereotypes with sheer talent and consummate professionalism. “We’re all going to encounter bigotry and racism in some form or other but you can’t let yourself get mired down in those problems,” he says. “When you run into that kind of a situation you stop and you think about the guys that you’ve known, the friends you’ve had, the people who were absolutely in no way like that. And those are the people that you relate to.”
He was on staff at ABC from 1957 to 1974. He was heard on “The Voice of Firestone,” “The Dick Cavett Show” and other programs that used live music. As a non-traveling musician, he was able to stay at home with his family unlike most jazz musicians of that day. Wilder was adaptable enough that he could play any kind of music. He also cut some jazz albums under his own name as well as many albums as a sideman for other jazz musicians and vocalists.
Wilder Never Gave Up His Dream
Still Wilder never gave up his dream of becoming a classical musician. He went back to school at Manhattan School of Music and did several gigs with the New York Philharmonic. In 1968 he became principal trumpet for the Symphony of the New World, which he cited as “the first fully integrated symphony orchestra in the United States.” He also recorded his own album of classical trumpet pieces thus predating by 15 years and paving the way for Wynton Marsalis' dual role in jazz and classical music.
Ed Berger wrote:
Joe Wilder’s trumpet sound remains one of the glories of American music. His elegant solo style is instantly identifiable, drawing from the swing and bebop eras he straddled, as well as reflecting his classical experience. As Whitney Balliett wrote in a 1986 New Yorker profile of Wilder, “His solos are immaculately designed.… He makes the song gleam.” Whether skillfully manipulating his mutes and plunger, or displaying his ravishing tone on open horn, Wilder’s solos tell a story with poise, wit, swing and feeling. He is also one of those rare musicians who can captivate an audience by simply playing a melody.
In Joe's biography Wynton Marsalis wrote in the foreword: "Beyond the excellence of his playing, as a man he has such dignity and feeling and is so engaged and intelligent. He brings a warmth to every situation. He loved my kids who were very young at the time, and was constantly looking out for them. He would tell me, 'You've got to be attentive to your kids.' He's always talking about family and the importance of savoring moments together."
In 2008 Mr. Wilder was named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts, the nation’s highest honor for a jazz musician.
Joe Wilder died at the age of 92 in 2014 in New York City. Wilder's survivors include Solveig, his Swedish born wife of 56 years; daughters Elin Wilder-Melcher, Solveig Wilder and Inga-Kerstin Wilder; son Joseph Wilder Jr.; and six grandchildren.
by John Lawrence
Argentina is the latest country to suffer at the hands of US vultures. Paul Singer of the Elliott Management hedge fund will reap a huge sum based on his purchase of Argentinian bonds in 2001. His firm has about 300 employees, yet it has managed to force Argentina, a nation of 41 million people, to its knees. Hedge funds like Singer's play a big part in the financialization of the global economy, making money off of money with no productive labor involved. They are making the inequality gap between the wealthy, the 1%, and the rest of us, the 99%, even bigger. Singer's money will be deposited into the account of one of his subsidiaries in the Cayman Islands, a tax free jurisdiction, which means he will pay no US taxes on his windfall.
During the Argentine Great Depression from 1998 to 2002, Argentina took on a lot of debt from US bondholders. The economy shrank by 28 percent from 1998 to 2002. After Argentina defaulted on its bonds, Singer and others snatched them up for pennies on the dollar. Singer will get back $2.28 billion, equal to about 369% of the face value $617 million in principal, under the terms of a settlement announced February 29, 2016. However, Singer bought the bonds for pennies on the dollar and then insisted in being paid back full face value in US Courts which agreed with him. So his return on investment is more likely around 2000%.
Argentina tried to restructure or write down its debt in 2005. While most investors agreed to receive less than full face value, Singer was a holdout demanding he be paid 100 cents on the dollar for full face value for bonds he had purchased for pennies on the dollar. Most of the speculators who had purchased these bonds agreed to a 76% payout, but not Singer. He saw a chance to make a killing. By 2013 his NML affiliate in the Cayman Islands (a no tax jurisdiction) had spent about $49 million for Argentinian bonds which had a face value of perhaps $250 million.
A second debt restructuring in 2010 brought the percentage of bonds out of default to 93%, but Singer was still a holdout. Bondholders, who participated in the restructuring, accepted repayments of around 30% of face value and deferred payment terms, and began to be paid punctually. On the other hand Singer sued in New York federal court to get full face value of the bonds he owned plus accrued interest and expenses amounting to $832 million. Because the bonds were denominated in dollars, as part of the restructuring process, Argentina had agreed that repayments would be handled through a New York corporation and governed by US law. So Argentina had to accept this federal court's jurisdiction whether it liked it or not.
Clever lawyering on the part of Singer and the other holdouts noticed that Argentina had omitted to provide for holdout situations and had instead deemed all bonds repayable on pari passu (equal) terms. This is fancy lawyer lingo that prevented preferential treatment among bondholders. The holdout bondholders therefore sought, and won, an injunction in 2012 that prohibited Argentina from repaying the 93% of bonds that had been renegotiated unless they simultaneously paid the 7% holdouts their full face value for the bonds they possessed as well.
According to Michael Hudson in his book Killing the Host - How Financial Parasites and Debt Destroy the Global Economy:
These funds are called "vultures" because they feed on "dead" bonds in default. Complaining that "these hedge finds who have bought the bonds at 20-30 cents to the dollar ... now want to be repaid in full citing contractual obligations," Argentine Minister of Economics Axel Kiciloff pointed out that the vulture funds had bought the bonds "with the sole purpose of obtaining a favorable judgment [from a US court in order] to make an exorbitant profit."
In addition to demanding 100% of the bonds' full face value, Singer asked for twelve years of accrued interest (compounded), punitive damages, and reimbursement for the legal expenses incurred in his approximately 900 attempts to embargo and seize Argentine assets in any countries that would recognize his claim.
Singer's ploy had worked before. In 2008 British Courts had awarded his fund full face value principle plus interest on Congo debt. Since that time Britain has passed laws protecting highly indebted countries from being attacked by Singer's modus operandi. The US, however, has no such protection.
After failing to seize Argentine assets, Singer's lawsuit came before Second Circuit Court Judge Thomas Griesa. It was his lucky day because Griesa agreed with him that he should be able to stop Argentina from settling with 92.4% of its bondholders until Singer was paid full face value for his bonds. In 2012 Griesa directed the Bank of New York Mellon to stop disbursing Argentina's payments to the vast majority of its bondholders which had agreed to accept lower than face value for the bonds they possessed.
Even though international law has outlawed the pari passu principle, Judge Griesa insisted on it thereby placing Argentina in what amounts to a position of debt servitude and forcing them to default on the bonds they had already renegotiated with the 93%. Financial Times columnist Martin Wolf called Griesa's ruling "extortion backed by the USA judiciary."
Even though Argentina appealed to the US Supreme Court, it was of no avail as the conservative majority led by Justice Scalia ruled in favor of subjugating a government power - Argentina - to Wall Street. Scalia insisted that Singer could go after Argentina's assets if it couldn't pay up treating it just like a debtor who couldn't pay his mortgage or credit card debt.
Furthermore, the Supreme Court ruled that Argentina had to provide Singer's hedge funds with a list of assets it possessed anywhere in the world so Singer could go after them and Argentina would be responsible for his legal bills in so doing. Even after Argentina deposited money in the Bank of New York Mellon to pay interest due on June 30, 2014, Judge Griesa directed the bank to return the money and ordered Argentina to send representatives to New York to negotiate with Singer.
In an article in the New York Times, Argentina Finds Relentless Foe in Paul Singer’s Hedge Fund, it was reported:
“We’ve had a lot of bombs being thrown around the world, and this is America throwing a bomb into the global economic system,” said Joseph E. Stiglitz, the economist and professor at Columbia University. “We don’t know how big the explosion will be — and it’s not just about Argentina.”
As a hedge fund, Elliott’s pursuit of Argentina is motivated by a desire to make money. Having bought its Argentine bonds for well below their original value, the firm stands to make a killing if Argentina pays the bonds in full. Legal filings indicate that the face value of its Argentine government bonds was around $170 million, but the firm most likely acquired many of them for much less than that. Elliott and other investors are now seeking more than $1.5 billion, which includes years of unpaid interest.
Michael Hudson commented:
As shaped by Judge Griesa, the Court of Appeals and the US Supreme Court, current US law forms a financial vise to prevent countries from escaping from debt deflation, rentier serfdom and seizure of their assets by creditors. Griesa's ruling threatens that without restructuring onerous foreign debts, entire economies will be driven into depression, unemployment and emigration of young labor, capped by pressures for insider privatization.
In the summer of 2014, over 400 banks, bond investors and debtor countries worked via the International Capital Market Association to limit the ability of vulture hedge funds to block settlement and compromises using the pari passu principle. Judge Griesa's ruling would be rendered obsolete and the pari passu would be defined to mean "equal treatment but not equal payouts for bondholders."
Judge Griesa's rulings had made it impossible for any debtor country to renegotiate its debts down to within its ability to pay. Any vulture fund could demand to be repaid full face value even if the majority of bondholders are willing to negotiate and receive less. Argentina's President Cristina de Kirchner called the holdouts "vultures" and "financial terrorists."
Is it any wonder then that the BRICS countries are forming their own fund from which countries could borrow in other than dollar denominated assets carrying with them the restriction that any negotiations would have to go through the US judicial system controlled by conservative judges and a conservative Supreme Court. Thankfully, Scalia is no longer there to squeeze every penny out of debtor countries for the benefit of Wall Street.
So why was Argentina able to settle now? It has not been able to borrow more money in the bond markets because of this long running situation and it is hurting. The new administration of President Mauricio Macri has taken a more conciliatory tone than did the Kirchners who called Singer a vulture and a financial terrorist. Macri decided that, rather than be forced out of the bond markets, he would rather borrow the money to pay off the vultures as long as they could then get back into the business of borrowing even more money to run the country. On Feb. 19, Judge Griesa dealt the holdouts a setback by agreeing to lift an injunction that had prevented Argentina from raising new money in bond markets or paying its creditors which led to the settlement with Singer and the other vultures. One caveat: Argentina's legislature still has to approve the deal.
However, by borrowing even more money to pay its debts, Argentina is being led down the road to insolvency and debt deflation. Borrowing money to pay off debts amounts to a huge Ponzi scheme which, when it eventually collapses, will allow the vultures to profit even more off of Argentina's carcass.
So what will Paul Singer do with his ill gotten gains which will force Argentina into debt servitude? Will he use the money for philanthropic purposes? Hardly. Currently, he's supporting Marco Rubio for President. Here's what Rubio wants to do:
1. Rubio wants to repeal Obama’s executive order to expand background checks and close gun sale loopholes.
2. When asked about closing down mosques, Rubio said he wants to shut down “any place radicals are inspired.”
3. He denies humans are responsible for climate change.
4. His tax plan gives the top 1 percent over $200,000 in tax cuts every year. That’s as bad as Donald Trump’s tax plan.
5. He wants to cut $4.3 trillion in spending, including funds from Medicare and other programs, essentially freeze federal spending at 2008 levels for everything except the Pentagon.
6. He wants a permanent U.S. presence in Iraq, and would end the nuclear deal with Iran, putting us on a path to war.
7. We have no way to know where he is on immigration because he’s flip-flopped — first working on legislation to regularize citizenship for undocumented immigrants, and now firmly anti-legalization.
8. He wants to repeal Obamacare.
9. He’s against a woman’s right to choose, even in cases of rape and incest.
An excerpt from Paul Singer's New Bible:
Commandment 1: Thou shalt PAY UP.
Commandment 2: (If you disobey Commandment 1,) Thou shalt relinquish thine property.
Commandment 3: Thou shalt have no mercy for debtors.
These are the precepts to live by that take precedence over every other consideration such as "Love your neighbor as yourself" and "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." These commandments apply both to individuals and nations. Bankruptcy is getting more difficult for both individual debtors and nations, easier for corporations. Case in point - next to impossible for student loan debtors. The goal is perpetual debt servitude presided over by a rent extracting parasite class - the 1%. In the vulture class's sights: Greece, Brazil, Spain, Italy and finally American college graduates.
The game plan is for the Fed and the European Central Bank to encourage more debt by going to negative interest rates. This is the only way they can think of to get consumers to borrow and spend more (and go into more debt) in order to keep GDP going up. US GDP consists of 70% consumer spending. Once the debtor is unable to pay, then seize or privatize (as the case may be) their assets, erect a toll booth and charge rent. This turns neighbors into beggars, provides austerity for all and allows private corporations to profit from providing essential services like water as is the case in Detroit.
by Frank Thomas
I prefer a presidential candidate of exemplary integrity, keen problem-solving skills, a dedication to improving the common man's welfare and equitable sharing in society's progress (or breakdowns) - as opposed to the systemic marginalization and impoverishment of Main Street taking place the last 35-40 years.
As we have moved further and further to the right in past years, we've moved further away from our founding values of fair play, justice, and a rising tide for all. Result? A democracy that has morphed into a plutocracy under the heavy-handed influence of special money interests - serving narrow, greedy pursuits and to hell with everybody else and the environment. We have been invaded by the Tea Party, far-right paradigm of anti-everything-government, pro-individual and privatization-of-everything-government and Trump’s blustery populism – exploiting and stirring the general public’s insecurity and anger.
American “exceptionalism” is not working socially. Our rates of poverty and homeless people are the highest in the western world. Bernie's mission is to correct the social injustices and middle-class-race-to-the-bottom we are trapped in. Trump will typically call Bernie's revolutionary change Socialism – when in fact it's a return to a more balanced, uncorrupted-by-MONEY governance that equitably advances the interests and well-being of ordinary Americans and communities.
In this effort, Hillary's credibility has been contaminated by her long-standing neo-liberal flirtation with Wall Street MONEY powers. Since 2008, she and Bill have earned a stupendous fee income in excess of $150 million for speeches to the corporate rich and powerful – many in secret, e.g., Goldman Sachs from whom Hillary pocketed $675,000 for three speeches. Now, she is suddenly projecting a concern for the common folk. As Bernie said, "You are finally discovering the right religion."
But Hillary's small-step incremental change approach will NOT rectify the profound structural flaws in our political-economic model. Bernie’s movement for daring systemic change for systemic problems is right on. Trump, a remarkably non-ideological candidate, is also advocating bold reforms to better the lot of the common people while also “Making America Great Again.” His angry, insurgent followers are seeking an authoritative leader who mirrors their fears, frustrations and feelings of being disenfranchised.
So far, Trump is succeeding in persuading his electorate that he has the “Can Do” answers to their insecurities and fears of the changing threatening world around them. BUT, his xenophobia, egocentric overbearing, ethnically insulting communicative manner is on the edge of angrily dividing Americans and bringing our political system into discredit.
Trump presents himself as the “Strict Father, Self-Deified Populist Savior;” Bernie presents himself as “We, the Worker Movement for Real Change”; while Hillary presents herself as the “Working the System, Establishment Pragmatist”.
One commentator said, “Trump vs. Clinton will appear to most Americans as a choice between something new and risky, and something old and corrupt.” In my view, a Trump vs. Sanders contest will appear to most Americans as a choice between something new and risky (e.g., involving a reckless xenophobic playing with millions of peoples’ lives) vs. something bold and realistic in answer to systemic societal problems, e.g., decay of infrastructure and educational systems; threat of disastrous climate change; huge income inequality; and the insecure, downgraded, low-wage job generation; climate-warming threat.
A large number of Independent supporters now behind Sanders will very likely never vote for Hillary ... some may even vote for Trump as their second choice. Many people are simply not particularly enthusiastic about Hillary's candidacy - given her perceived dishonesty, super-cozy Wall Street relations, her changing positions and copying of Bernie’s ideas based on opportune expediency. For example, very early on Sanders said the Trans Pacific Partnership should be trashed (as has Trump said recently). Hillary initially favored TPP as she did the Keystone Pipeline, but much later changed her mind when she finally saw the bottom-up forces against both initiatives.
I think Bernie stands a far better chance of defeating Trump than Hillary does. He's authentic. And his winning chances would be supremely reinforced should he have Elizabeth Warren as his Vice President.
Trump can have a field day with Hillary's considerable weaknesses compared to Bernie strengths. Hillary provides a lot of material for Trump to run on – most notably her long ongoing neo-liberal flirt with money powers who have made her and Bill multi-millionaires; and her character trait of playing with the truth. Her false statement in the Michigan debate about Bernie’s refusal to support funds to save the Michigan auto industry is typical of her verbal chicanery.
Bernie won't be easily demeaned by Trump. Bernie is the original one who’s all about saving/strengthening the disappearing middle class and basic social nets. He's much closer to Mainstream America's pain and knows what’s necessary to ameliorate and remove that pain. Trump will try to characterize Bernie with the standard ultra-conservative demagogic epithets: Bernie is the “cradle-to-grave SOCIALIST”, the Government-Do-&-Tax-Everything Freedom Heretic, the National Debt Multiplier, etc. … all the usual propagandistic Republican ‘BS’.
Bernie is a refreshingly honest, pragmatic politician who speaks Harry Truman straight talk from the heart to ALL Americans. He’s not about to bankrupt or socialize America with his reforms of a system that’s broken in so many unfair and corrupt ways. His program is about freeing America from the money controls of special interests, and the marginalization and income-impoverishment of the middle/lower classes. I trust Bernie and his inspiring, uplifting vision of how to repair and renew our nation's course as a country "of, by and for the people." Unlike Trump, he will be a unifier, not a divider.
If Bernie is elected President, will he have a more difficult time getting his program passed than Obama had or Trump (or Hillary) might? I think the answer to that is NO. Bernie’s immense support by the below 30 generation as well as the middle age and diverse gender/ethnic groups and independents is a “Movement” that will give him a unique moral leverage to greatly mitigate Republican obstruction. Also, over half of Bernie’s program corresponds to that of Trump’s. But I would prefer Bernie at the helm unifying our country’s renewal and as the controlling finger on military adventures and the nuclear button. Hillary has shown herself to be a consistent hawkish proponent of regime change interventions and Drone actions where more innocents have been killed than the enemy.
Lastly, it would be an ‘eye-opener’ to see what the cost-benefit picture is of Bernie’s program compared to Trump’s program. In the Netherlands, it is standard practice to have an independent detailed cost-benefit analysis of each party’s policy program … BEFORE any election or major budget decisions.
Of course, this is all academic if Democrats don't get the vote out which they historically have been so egregiously poor at (also in recent Michigan contest yesterday). It's all academic if Bernie wins the popular delegate vote while Hillary wins the nomination by amassing most of the 712 super delegates - a flagrantly undemocratic process equivalent to the exceptional money-powered influence of corporations and billionaires in our political system. Bernie is forced to start wooing super delegates to divert their unpledged votes to him as the race for pledged votes progresses in his favor .
The vast majority of unpledged super delegates unfairly support Hillary. To date, she has 1238 votes - including 500 super delegates, a number the media often fails to exclude or highlight - vs. Bernie's remarkable 572 votes. This undemocratic super delegate anachronism, aimed at insuring that "grassroots activists" like Bernie don't undermine the established political elites, gives the ugly impression that the Democratic Party’s nomination process is rigged ... for Hillary.
March 12, 2016
by John Lawrence
At least seven people died when more than 50 tornadoes swept across parts of the south and eastern United States in late February. The extreme weather destroyed hundreds of homes and forced the closure of schools and government offices. At least four people died in Virginia, including a two-year-old boy. One witness said that the destruction in the small town of Waverly was "completely devastating." Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency. Scientists have linked an increase in the intensity and deadliness of tornadoes to climate change.
Tornadoes also devastated parts of Mississippi, Lousiana, Alabama and Florida. Dozens were injured and severe damage was reported across the Deep South. Two of the dead were in an RV park in Convent, Louisiana. A tornado ripped through the park leaving 160 motor homes and trailers in a field of debris. "Cars were crumpled on the highway. It picked cars up and threw them in the ditch," Sharon Faison, a medical assistant who drove to the mobile home park where the three deaths occurred, told the station. "We just have to pray."
Storms demolished apartment buildings north of Pensacola. The path of the Pensacola tornado was roughly 7 miles long. It destroyed four buildings and damaged 24, with minor damage to 58. As many as 30 tornadoes were reported. Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties.
Some 209,000 customers were without power, officials with utility companies in several states and the District of Columbia said. There were 70 mph winds and flash flood warnings in several states with tens of millions of people in the danger zone. Tornadoes were embedded in thunder storms.
Five tornadoes touched down in North Carolina. A tornado also touched down in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Multiple buildings, homes and barns were taken down.
A rare February tornado watch was issued for parts of the Northeast. The watch area included the District of Columbia, Delaware, central and eastern Maryland, southern New Jersey, southeast Pennsylvania, and Northern Virginia.
These kinds of tornadoes are not normally seen until spring, but there is nothing normal about today's weather. The violent weather was blamed on El Nino which is driving a sub-tropical jet stream containing higher than normal moisture across the south.
Record Heat in the West
February 2016 was the hottest February in San Diego history with an average temperature of 64 degrees F surpassing the previous record set in 1980 by 4 degrees F. Daytime average temperatures averaged 74.5 degrees. San Diego set heat records for Feb 9 (83°), Feb 11 (84°) and Feb 16 (89°). A high pressure dome blocked storms from the region. Total rainfall was .05 inches.
Dozens of record highs were set across the Golden State, Desert Southwest and other parts of the West, as many locations had temperatures in the 80s and 90s. The heat was a staggering 15 to 25 degrees above average, even warmer than typical highs during the hottest months of the summer.
Phoenix recorded their earliest 90-degree day on record more than a full week ahead of the previous earliest occurrence according to the National Weather Service.
Downtown Los Angeles set a daily record high by reaching 90 degrees on Feb 16, just one day after setting a new record high for Feb. 15 of 89 degrees. These temperatures were considerably higher than the average high in the upper 60s. At an average high temperature of 77.5, this February sailed almost two degrees above the previous record set in 1954, according to the LA Times. February 29’s reported high of 74 capped a 10-day spell of temperatures in the 70s and 80s. Those mild but abnormally warm days combined with two record heat spells earlier in the month to lift February 2016 into the lead for hottest February ever according to a Times analysis of weather data going back to 1878.
Anaheim, California set a record for the warmest location in the US on February 16, according to the Weather Prediction Center, after temperatures soared to 97 degrees.
Death Valley, California, reached the 90-degree mark for the first time this year, topping a daily record, and missing the earliest such "first 90s" of the year by just six days (Feb. 10, 2006). Incidentally, America's hottest location had more days with highs in the 90s last year (193 days) than days of lower high temperatures.
Climate Change Responsible for Erratic Weather
In a new Ted talk, Al Gore runs down the dire facts that climate change is already bringing into existence. Droughts are forcing subsistence farmers off their lands throughout the world. Then they move to the cities where they become part of the urban poor living in slums. Miami, which is scheduled to be wiped out from sea level rises, already experiences flooding streets at high tide even when there is no rain. The water comes up from the storm drains.
First the bad news : "[T]he accumulated amount of man-made, global warming pollution that is up in the atmosphere now traps as much extra heat energy as would be released by 400,000 Hiroshima-class atomic bombs exploding every 24 hours, 365 days a year."
Al Gore continues:
So we're having record-breaking temperatures. Fourteen of the 15 of the hottest years ever measured with instruments have been in this young century. The hottest of all was last year. Last month was the 371st month in a row warmer than the 20th-century average. And for the first time, not only the warmest January, but for the first time, it was more than two degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the average. ...
These climate-related disasters also have geopolitical consequences and create instability. The climate-related historic drought that started in Syria in 2006 destroyed 60 percent of the farms in Syria, killed 80 percent of the livestock, and drove 1.5 million climate refugees into the cities of Syria, where they collided with another 1.5 million refugees from the Iraq War. ...
The 10 largest risk cities for sea-level rise by population are mostly in South and Southeast Asia. When you measure it by assets at risk, number one is Miami: three and a half trillion dollars at risk. Number three: New York and Newark. I was in Miami last fall during the supermoon, one of the highest high-tide days. And there were fish from the ocean swimming in some of the streets of Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale and Del Rey. And this happens regularly during the highest-tide tides now. Not with rain -- they call it "sunny-day flooding." It comes up through the storm sewers. And the Mayor of Miami speaks for many when he says it is long past time this can be viewed through a partisan lens. This is a crisis that's getting worse day by day. We have to move beyond partisanship.
Now the Good News:
And I think the answer is in three parts. First, the cost came down much faster than anybody expected, even as the quality went up. And low-income countries, places that did not have a landline grid -- they leap-frogged to the new technology. The big expansion has been in the developing counties. So what about the electricity grids in the developing world? Well, not so hot. And in many areas, they don't exist. There are more people without any electricity at all in India than the entire population of the United States of America. So now we're getting this: solar panels on grass huts and new business models that make it affordable. Muhammad Yunus financed this one in Bangladesh with micro-credit. This is a village market. Bangladesh is now the fastest-deploying country in the world: two systems per minute on average, night and day. And we have all we need: enough energy from the Sun comes to the Earth every hour to supply the full world's energy needs for an entire year. It's actually a little bit less than an hour. So the answer to the second question, "Can we change?" is clearly "Yes." And it's an ever-firmer "yes."
Last year -- if you look at all of the investment in new electricity generation in the United States, almost three-quarters was from renewable energy, mostly wind and solar.
Just like cell phones leapfrogged over landlines in many parts of the world where no phone service existed, renewable energy has been put in place where no previous electric grids existed. The cost of renewables is now below the cost of fossil fuels. That means that, from an investment standpoint, new energy installations are going to be renewables and not fossil fuels. The only question is can the planet get there fast enough.
from the New York Times
by Paul Krugman
MARCH 4, 2016
So Republicans are going to nominate a candidate who talks complete nonsense on domestic policy; who believes that foreign policy can be conducted via bullying and belligerence; who cynically exploits racial and ethnic hatred for political gain.
But that was always going to happen, however the primary season turned out. The only news is that the candidate in question is probably going to be Donald Trump. Establishment Republicans denounce Mr. Trump as a fraud, which he is. But is he more fraudulent than the establishment trying to stop him? Not really.
Actually, when you look at the people making those denunciations, you have to wonder: Can they really be that lacking in self-awareness?
Donald Trump is a “con artist,” says Marco Rubio — who has promised to enact giant tax cuts, undertake a huge military buildup and balance the budget without any cuts in benefits to Americans over 55.
“There can be no evasion and no games,” thunders Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House — whose much-hyped budgets are completely reliant on “mystery meat,” that is, it claims trillions of dollars in revenue can be collected by closing unspecified tax loopholes and trillions more saved through unspecified spending cuts.
Mr. Ryan also declares that the “party of Lincoln” must “reject any group or cause that is built on bigotry.” Has he ever heard of Nixon’s “Southern strategy”; of Ronald Reagan’s invocations of welfare queens and “strapping young bucks” using food stamps; of Willie Horton?
Put it this way: There’s a reason whites in the Deep South vote something like 90 percent Republican, and it’s not their philosophical attachment to libertarian principles.
Then there’s foreign policy, where Mr. Trump is, if anything, more reasonable — or more accurately, less unreasonable — than his rivals. He’s fine with torture, but who on that side of the aisle isn’t? He’s belligerent, but unlike Mr. Rubio, he isn’t the favorite of the neoconservatives, a.k.a. the people responsible for the Iraq debacle. He’s even said what everyone knows but nobody on the right is supposed to admit, that the Bush administration deliberately misled America into that disastrous war.
Oh, and it’s Ted Cruz, not Mr. Trump, who seems eager to “carpet bomb” people, without appearing to know what that means.
In fact, you have to wonder why, exactly, the Republican establishment is really so horrified by Mr. Trump. Yes, he’s a con man, but they all are. So why is this con job different from any other?
The answer, I’d suggest, is that the establishment’s problem with Mr. Trump isn’t the con he brings; it’s the cons he disrupts.
First, there’s the con Republicans usually manage to pull off in national elections — the one where they pose as a serious, grown-up party honestly trying to grapple with America’s problems. The truth is that that party died a long time ago, that these days it’s voodoo economics and neocon fantasies all the way down. But the establishment wants to preserve the facade, which will be hard if the nominee is someone who refuses to play his part.
By the way, I predict that even if Mr. Trump is the nominee, pundits and others who claim to be thoughtful conservatives will stroke their chins and declare, after a great show of careful deliberation, that he’s the better choice given Hillary’s character flaws, or something. And self-proclaimed centrists will still find a way to claim that the sides are equally bad. But both acts will look especially strained.
Equally important, the Trump phenomenon threatens the con the G.O.P. establishment has been playing on its own base. I’m talking about the bait and switch in which white voters are induced to hate big government by dog whistles about Those People, but actual policies are all about rewarding the donor class.
What Donald Trump has done is tell the base that it doesn’t have to accept the whole package. He promises to make America white again — surely everyone knows that’s the real slogan, right? — while simultaneously promising to protect Social Security and Medicare, and hinting at (though not actually proposing) higher taxes on the rich. Outraged establishment Republicans splutter that he’s not a real conservative, but neither, it turns out, are many of their own voters.
Just to be clear, I find the prospect of a Trump administration terrifying, and so should you. But you should also be terrified by the prospect of a President Rubio, sitting in the White House with his circle of warmongers, or a President Cruz, whom one suspects would love to bring back the Spanish Inquisition.
As I see it, then, we should actually welcome Mr. Trump’s ascent. Yes, he’s a con man, but he is also effectively acting as a whistle-blower on other people’s cons. That is, believe it or not, a step forward in these weird, troubled times.
by John Lawrence
It's Not the Fault of Obamacare
You can blame lobbyists from the health insurance and pharmaceutical industry in conjunction with Republican lawmakers who lobbied the Affordable Care Act to death making it in the long run unaffordable and probably untenable. Why? Because there are no cost containment features in the Act. None. Nada. Zippo.
What that means is that the drug companies can raise the prices of drugs 5000% like Martin Shkreli of Turing Pharmaceuticals did for Daraprim without breaking the law. Shkreli's arrogance, the latest example of which is calling the Congressmen who interrogated him "imbeciles", has gotten him into much trouble but not for raising the price of a life saving drug 5000%.
You see in America, my friends, screwing unfortunates with heart disease and cancer is not a crime but defrauding investors out of their money is. Your Republican controlled government is not looking out for the little guy. Lobbyists are running the lawmakers. Oh, you don't have a lobbyist working for you? Then you're shit out of luck. With the exception of a few good Democrats like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, your interests are not only being ignored. You're being considered as sheep to be led to slaughter.
Republican gerrymandering, voter suppression and the filibuster have guaranteed that only Republican laws will be put into effect, and that means that corporations have the right to screw you but the investor class will be protected. In fact after the 2008 Wall Street caused financial meltdown, investors were paid back 100 cents on the dollar (there were no haircuts), and the only rule applying to the little guy was that he had to pay his debts 100 cents on the dollar (there were no write downs for underwater mortgages).
But I digress. The company leading the pack in drug price increases is Canada-based Valeant, which lifted list prices by at least 20% some 122 times since the beginning of 2011. Isuprel and Nitropress, the heart drugs Valeant bought from another company, have been staples of medical care for decades. Doctors use Isuprel during procedures treating heart-rhythm problems, and give Nitropress to emergency patients whose blood pressure has risen to life-threatening levels. Doctors say there are few good alternatives.
Valeant Pharmaceuticals Pondered Carefully How Much It Could Charge for a Lifesaving Drug
Valeant Pharmaceuticals has also been in the business of making life-saving drugs for heart disease, AIDS and cancer unaffordable. Evidence has been brought to light that Valeant Pharmaceuticals carefully pondered how much it could raise the price of heart drugs Isuprel and Nitropress before buying them and then raised the prices overnight by 525% and 212% respectively.
Profit was the only consideration. Blame the lobbyists who cut cost containment out of Obamacare, not Obama. “Our duty is to our shareholders and to maximize the value” of the products that Valeant sells, said Laurie Little, a company spokeswoman.
Ascension health system, which operates 131 hospitals across the country, estimates the increases will triple its spending on the drugs this year to $8 million. Ever wonder why health care premiums are so high? Richard Fogel, a heart doctor at Ascension’s St. Vincent Heart Center in Indianapolis, said the lack of good alternatives in certain clinical situations leaves him little choice but to keep using the pair.
Cleveland Clinic says the price hikes for the two Valeant drugs is unexpectedly adding $8.6 million, or 7%, to this year’s budget of roughly $122 million for medicines administered at its hospitals. Like its peers, Cleveland Clinic generally pays for drugs it administers, then hopes the reimbursement it receives for patient care will cover the expense.
Companies are buying established drugs from other companies and then jacking up the prices. Early last year, Mallinckrodt PLC paid $1.4 billion for Cadence Pharmaceuticals, though the Ofirmev pain injections that were the crown jewel of the deal were projected to have just $110.5 million in revenue for 2013, according to a Mallinckrodt conference call with analysts discussing the deal. However, Mallinckrodt had a better idea with regard to pricing.
Three months later, the list price for a package of 24 Ofirmev vials jumped almost 2½ times to $1,019.52. “It seemed like highway robbery,” said Erin Fox, who directs the drug information service at University of Utah Health Care.
These price increases can be very lucrative; that, not patient care, is the whole idea. Horizon Pharma PLC upped the price of Vimovo pain tablets after buying the rights from AstraZeneca in late 2013. On Jan. 1, 2014, its first day selling Vimovo, Horizon raised the list price for 60 tablets to $959.04, a 597% increase. Horizon raised the price again on Jan. 1 this year to $1,678.32 for the tablets.
Prices were hiked dramatically on a drug used for "swimmer's ear" - Cortisporin-TC Otic Suspension. Cortisporin was originally developed by Glaxon Wellcome and approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1975. Glaxo sold the rights to the drug to Monarch Pharmaceuticals in 1997. Ten years later it was sold to JHP Pharmaceuticals which was acquired by Par Pharmaceuticals in 2014 which was acquired by Endo International for $8 billion.
A vial used to cost $6. A few years ago Cortosporin was selling for $10. Last year it went for $100. and now it's $200. This is a product that helps kids recover from ear infections. Heather Lubeski, Endo's senior director of corporate affairs, said the company is "committed to providing top quality products to patients to improve lives." She believes the product's pricing is "rational and appropriate."
After Price Gouging the Public, Drug Companies Move to Ireland to Avoid Paying US Taxes
Endo moved to Ireland to avoid paying millions of dollars in US business taxes. Endo’s moving to Ireland is part of one of the biggest trends in global mergers and acquisitions. It's called tax inversion. By moving their headquarters to another country, US companies are able to slash taxes.
Now Pfizer, maker of Viagra and Celebrex, wants to pull the same crap: first price gouge, then move to Ireland to avoid US taxes. Pfizer intends to save $35 billion in taxes by merging with Allergan. A group called Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF) is urging the US government to block the merger which would let Pfizer do a "tax inversion" but keep its offices in New York City where they are now. The group also accuses Pfizer of gouging Americans with frequent and excessive price hikes while benefiting from multiple loopholes and deductions which effectively reduce its global tax rate to 6.4%.
"This is theft, what Pfizer is doing," said Frank Clemente of ATF. "This is a company that is extremely profitable. It's ripping us off in two ways. It's dodging taxes and jacking up prices."
Pfizer has raised prices on multiple drugs including Viagra, Celebrex, Lyrica and Zyvox by over 39% from 2013 to 2015 - 23 times the rate of inflation! This year it's already raised prices on 60 drugs by more than 10%. Like Shkreli of Turing Pharmaceuticals, Pfizer is pleasing its Wall Street overlords and masters by squeezing as much profit as possible out of its products. That's their only consideration.
Shkreli gloated to investors about all the money he and they were going to make on Daraprim while any compassion for the unfortunate people, for whom Daraprim was a life-saving drug, went totally out the window. Here's what he told his investors: "So 5000 paying bottles at the new price is $375,000,000 - almost all of it is profit, and I think we will get three years of that or more. Should be a very handsome investment for all of us. Let's all cross our fingers that the estimates are accurate." The unmitigated greed is appalling. Some patients were left with co-pays of $16,000!
Credit Democrat Elijah Cummings for using his position as head of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to bring thousands of pages of documents to light that made it clear that Valeant's and Turing's only concerns were how much profit they could make by buying drugs and raising their prices exorbitantly.
Before buying Isuprel and Nitropress, Valeant hired a consultant to determine by how much the prices for the two drugs could be raised. It was determined that there was "ample room" to price gouge unfortunates because previous large increases had not "dampened use." Lambs being led to slaughter? You bet.
Imagine the Powerpoint presentation as the pricing consultant presented to Valeant executives the information that the goal for 2015 was for $279.3 million in revenue for Isuprel up from $54.5 million in 2014. Similarly, the goal for Nitropress was $245.5 million up from $98.7 million in 2014. The executives probably were immensely satisfied as they high fived each other over "aggressive pricing through consultant recommendation." That quote was actually taken from one of the documents that Cummings was able to obtain.
The Truth About the Drug Companies
Way back in 2004 Dr. Marcia Angell published a book, The Truth About the Drug Companies - How they Deceive Us and What to Do About It. During her two decades at The New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Marcia Angell had a front-row seat on the appalling spectacle of the pharmaceutical industry. She watched drug companies stray from their original mission of discovering and manufacturing useful drugs and instead become vast marketing machines with unprecedented control over their own fortunes.
Instead of doing research like they say they need their vast profits for, they lobby Congress, produce drugs of dubious value and pay their executives obscene sums. They use TV advertising to convince the American people they need their drugs - even those that will ultimately cause them harm. They pay competitors not to produce cheap generic drugs. They pay doctors to prescribe their drugs.
It's all about the free enterprise system, folks, conceived and dedicated to keeping Americans free to charge you outrageous prices especially if your life depends on their products. They have no mercy whatsoever or concern for their fellow human beings. It's all about making as much money as possible. As one of the 1% class said, "You only have to make a fortune once." Short term profits are what it's all about, folks.
This is from the New England Journal of Medicine:
By Angell's account, the current slide toward the commercialization and corruption of clinical research coincided with the election of President Ronald Reagan in 1980 and the passage of the Bayh–Dole Act, a new set of laws that permitted and encouraged universities and small businesses to patent discoveries from research sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Research paid for by the public to serve the public instantly became a private, and salable, good, one that is producing drug sales of more than $200 billion a year. ...
The same companies also spend heavily to lobby governments. According to Angell, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the pharmaceutical industry's U.S. trade association, has “the largest lobby in Washington,” which in 2002 employed 675 lobbyists (including 26 former members of Congress) at a cost of more than $91 million. [In 2014 the pharmaceutical industry spent $229 million lobbying.] The result has been above-average growth in corporate profits during both Republican and Democratic administrations.
The most recent and (at least to observers outside the United States) perplexing lobbying effort caused Congress explicitly to prohibit Medicare from using its huge purchasing power to get lower prices for drugs, thus opening up a dollar pipeline, in the form of higher drug prices, directly from taxpayers to corporate coffers. These changes, along with the cave-in by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1997 that permitted direct-to-consumer advertising to bypass mention in their ads of all but the most serious side effects, have further augmented profits. The overall effect has been a corruption not only of science but also of the dissemination of science.
That was in 2004. It's even worse today. The bottom line is that the American public is being screwed by Big Pharma in conjunction with Republican lawmakers. It's not Obama's fault. He did the best he could. Unfortunately, Obamacare is flawed not due to Obama but due to the fact that he had to make concessions to lobbyists for the pharmaceutical industry to get the ACA legislation passed at all. Bernie Sanders wants to take it to the next level - Medicare for all. Just the elimination of all the paperwork involved in today's medical industry will save billions of dollars as will the proscription of the legislative provisions which disallow Medicare from negotiating drug prices.
Big Pharma Raised Prices Again in January
Drugmakers didn’t let up on price increases with the start of the new year, demonstrating the industry’s pricing power in the face of mounting criticisms of prescription costs in the U.S. Pfizer, Amgen, Allergan, Horizon Pharma and others have raised U.S. prices for dozens of branded drugs as of January 2016, with many of the increases between 9% and 10%. Some of the increases add thousands of dollars to the cost of already expensive drugs, and come on top of repeated price hikes in recent years.
Vanda Pharmaceuticals on Jan 1 raised the price of its new drug Hetlioz, which treats a sleep disorder in blind people, by 10%, to $148,000 a year, a spokeswoman said. Piper Jaffray analysts say the price of the once-daily capsule is now 76% higher than when it was introduced in 2014.
Since New Year’s Day, Pfizer has raised list prices an average of 10.6% for more than 60 branded products with annual U.S. sales of at least $10 million, according to Deutsche Bank. Prices for eight of the products went up at least 20%.
Amgen raised the price of the anti-inflammatory drug Enbrel by 8% in late December following an 8% increase in September and a 10% increase last May. Enbrel costs about $704 a week for the typical dosing for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis or more than $36,600 a year.
Acorda Therapeutics raised the price of its drug Ampyra, which is used to help multiple-sclerosis patients improve walking, by 11% on Jan. 1, to an annual cost of more than $23,650 a patient. The company has raised the price several times since the drug was approved in 2010. The drug’s new cost is about four times its cost at launch in the 1990s, said Raymond James analyst Christopher Raymond. The price hikes for Enbrel and other drugs “seem to have increased in magnitude and frequency,” he said.
Imagine having an insurance card where you can walk into any doctor's office, show your card and never have to pay a bill. That's the way it is in Canada and most other advanced countries. The cost savings resulting from simplification of paperwork alone makes Medicare for All worthwhile. Bernie Sanders' message is very simple - Medicare for All will not only save money, it will provide superior health care for everybody the way it does in the rest of the world. But in America freedom implies that the owner of a life saving product can gouge its victims as much as possible in order to make profits for shareholders and investors. Wall Street frowns if the price gouging isn't to the max. To paraphrase Janis Joplin, "Freedom's just another word for the ability to price gouge."
When Elijah Cummings was grilling a smirking Shkreli in front of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Cummings said to him, "It's not funny Mr. Shkreli. People are dying." But all that Shkreli and the others are interested in is maximizing growth potential and creating value for shareholders. I guess they are the only ones who count in this world. Money talks and shit walks. Then Shkreli called the lawmakers "imbeciles" for not knowing that in a capitalist economy that's par for the course.
by John Lawrence
The man who gave us Citizens United and Bush vs Gore is gone from the face of the earth. I for one do not mourn his passing. His decisions have not only contributed to the destruction of the US, but major portions of the world as well, and he was set to destroy the world consensus on climate change which would have destroyed the entire planet.
It was Scalia who said that unlimited corporate campaign spending is something “we should celebrate rather than condemn,” (Citizens United), that vote-counting should be halted for causing “irreparable harm” to the candidate who might lose as a result (Bush v. Gore), that protecting the right to vote is an odious example of “racial entitlements” (comments related to Shelby County v. Holder), and that allowing local anti-discrimination laws to protect gays and lesbians amounts to “special treatment of homosexuals” (Romer v. Evans), the 5-4 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, which held for the first time that the Second Amendment protected an individual's right to bear arms just to name a few of the highlights of his ignominious career.
The Supreme Court was all set to doom President Obama's climate deal he made in Paris. That would have meant that the deal established in COP21 would have fallen apart in the rest of the world as well. If the biggest polluter (the US) couldn't uphold its end of the deal, why should any other country?
Scalia and the 4 Conservatives on the Court Decided a Presidential Election
They appointed George W Bush President. This was the most disastrous decision in US history both from the point of view of Bush's Iraq War which destroyed the lives and property of millions of men, women and children and the 2008 financial crisis which almost brought down the economy of the entire world.
In the 2000 Presidential election they chose Bush over Gore even though, if the election had been allowed to proceed, Gore would have won. Not one of the Court’s four moderates agreed with Scalia that the winner of the 2000 presidential election should effectively be chosen by the five most conservative members of the Supreme Court of the United States. If the election had been allowed to proceed, world history would have been radically changed for the better. And the world would be better off in its ability to fight climate change about which Gore was a proponent and an expert. Scalia and his fellow conservatives were all set to destroy Obama's initiative at COP21, the recent Paris summit.
Scalia's decision to railroad Bush into the Presidency was made according to him "for the good of the people." But was it? Look what we got. A President who ignored warnings of Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US in his presidential daily briefings followed shortly by 9/11. Then Bush lied the US into a war in Iraq presumably on the grounds of the existence of weapons of mass destruction that didn't actually exist. The deaths of hundreds of thousands of men, women and children including both Americans and Iraqis was the consequence of that.
The power vacuum created by the overthrow of Saddam in Iraq was filled by ISIS, the largest terrorist organization the world has ever known. Their attempts to take over real estate in Syria has directly resulted in the Syrian refugee crisis that has overwhelmed Europe as well as the destruction of countless lives and property in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.
The next horror that Bush presided over was the financial crisis of 2008 which almost inundated the entire world economy, resulted in driving a greater wedge between the 1% and the 99% and increased the inequality gap. The banks got bailed out, and the people got stuck with the bills both as taxpayers and mortgagees. Bush presided over not only the collapse and utter destruction of the middle east but also the collapse of the world economy and the 9/11 debacle.
Between the destruction of lives and real estate in the middle east, the destruction of the world economy and not keeping the US safe from the 9/11 attack (by the way Trump is right about that), Scalia's decision to install George W Bush in the American Presidency was one of the worst in American and world history.
Scalia's death has given the world a reprieve from his terrible decisions among the worst of which was the appointment and installation of George W Bush as President.
Scalia and Supreme Court Conservatives Were Set to Doom Obama's Climate Change Initiative
American leadership on the Paris COP21 deal was and still is paramount and vital. Without it the whole accord would have fallen like a house built on sand in an earthquake. President Obama planned to implement the American part of the deal through an executive order since the Republican Congress has been against everything he stands for from Day 1 and has done everything within its power to humiliate, emasculate, belittle and demean him and turn his Presidency into a complete and utter shambles. Through it all President Obama has acted like a complete and respectful gentleman despite the enormous pressure put upon him. Scalia and his conservatives on the totally politicized and ideologically based Supreme Court decided to put a halt to Obama's climate change plan until they took their good time in getting around to considering and probably defeating it.
Initially, Obama was optimistic about the results of COP21:
He said, "The Paris agreement establishes the enduring framework the world needs to solve the climate crisis. It creates the mechanism, the architecture, for us to continually tackle this problem in an effective way."
"I believe this moment can be a turning point for the world," Obama said, calling the agreement "the best chance we have to save the one planet that we've got."
The accord achieved one major goal. It limits average global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial temperatures and strives for a limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) if possible.
What Exactly Did Obama Commit the US to in COP21?
President Obama's Clean Power Plan, an Environmental Protection Agency rule designed to cut carbon emissions from power plants, is the centerpiece of Obama’s climate agenda and a major part of the US pledge to reduce emissions as part of the Paris deal.
Power plants will have to cut their carbon dioxide emissions by 32% compared to 2005 levels by 2030. He also committed the US to cutting its emissions from all sources of pollution, including cars and trucks by 26 to 28 percent by 2030, compared to 2005.
Then Republicans and a bunch of southern states set out to doom Obama's climate deal and with it the chances to curtail global warming for the rest of the world. From the New York Times:
Hours after President Obama pledged Tuesday in Paris that the United States would be in the vanguard of nations seeking a global response to climate change, Congress approved two measures aimed at undercutting him.
In a provocative message to more than 100 leaders that the American president does not have the full support of his government on climate policy, the House passed resolutions, already approved by the Senate, to scuttle Environmental Protection Agency rules that would significantly cut heat-trapping carbon emissions from existing and future coal-fired power plants.
The House votes — by 242 to 180 and 235 to 188, mostly along party lines — expanded to a global level the already profound gulf between Mr. Obama and the Republican-controlled Congress on domestic issues, demonstrating that the United States was hardly unified on the issue of climate change even as the president and other leaders sought to project solidarity.
When the EPA published the rule in October 2015, it was met with a wave of lawsuits from states, energy companies and interest groups looking to stop it. Judges declined to issue a temporary hold on the rule before the Paris conference, but if the courts stop it in 2016, Republicans say, that would be a sign to the rest of the world that the U.S. can’t meet its climate commitments.
On February 9, 2016, the Supreme Court stayed implementation of the Clean Power Plan pending judicial review. It was assumed that whenever the Supremes got around to reviewing it, it would be rejected by them because of the 5-4 Republican majority on the Court. Now because of Scalia's death, there is not a Republican majority on the Court - there is a 4-4 stand-off - and it is likely that Obama's Clean Power Act will prevail.
Scalia was an unvarnished, intemperate and intolerant ideologue. He was intent on undoing every vestige of progressive legislation the Court had approved from time immemorial. His henchmen were the Republican Senate. Together they did their best to thwart Obama at every turn and turn his Presidency into a mish mash of failures. They worked in conjunction with each other to disparage, denigrate and belittle the President. Their agendas were the same as the Koch brothers and other extreme right wingers.
Scalia used his position on the Supreme Court to attempt to destroy a Presidency and everything it stood for. All I can say is Sayonara Scalia, and maybe now some sanity can be restored to the Supreme Court whether by President Obama or the next Democratic President of the United States. It's worth a huge fight to get the right man or woman on this totally politicized Supreme Court. Let's face it; it's more a matter of their progressive or conservative credentials than it is of the brilliance of their legal intellect.
The Needed Fix For Our Broken Political-Economic System
by Frank Thomas
I admire Bernie’s outspoken, honest portrayal of the breakdown of our egalitarian democracy – “a government of, for and by the people” – by a corrupt, immoral plutocratic political-economic ESTABLISHMENT threatening the very existence of our democracy. I was appalled by David Brooks’ disingenuous critique of Bernie’s call for a ‘political revolution’- systemic reform for a systemically broken, money corrupted governance. Brooks beguilingly discredits Bernie’s bold ideas in the recent article, Livin' Bernie Sanders’s Danish Dream.
Brooks conservative polemic is the standard ‘Bernie is neither realistic nor pragmatic’ brainwashing line that Hillary, Republican presidential candidates, Tea Party people, and media are all chanting in a no-holds-barred attempt to degrade Bernie’s candidacy for the presidency. Brooks parrots the Washington Post’s editorial theme, Bernie Sanders’s Fiction-Filled Campaign.
Here’s Brooks’ debasement of Bernie’s bold agenda:
“Sanders's program would expand government power and influence in our lives. Sanders’s program would give the ‘establishment’ (i.e., government) greater resources to control American life.” This deceptive statement deflects attention away from the fact that it’s the corporate and billionaire ‘establishment’ that has acquired massively inordinate financial power and influence over our government (thanks to Citizens United). Bernie wants to restore fair democratic governance in the interests of all – one vote, one person.
“Sanders’s program would weaken the ability of the middle class to make choices about their own lives as his program will require a broad-base increase in taxation – thereby reducing middle class spending power and hence fewer resources to choose one’s own lifestyle.” This ignores the fact that 90% of American households have already seen their purchasing power stagnate at a wage growth of less than 1% (adjusted for inflation) over the 1970-2008 period and less than 4% since then. There are a lot of half-truths and falsehoods about the cost of Bernie’s tax plan. For example, Bernie’s universal single-payer health care plan would be paid with a 2.2% “income-based health care premium” from households.
Thus, marginal rates would go up, e.g., the 10% bottom rate to 12.2%, 15% to 17.2%, 25% to 27.2%, etc. It’s false to call this a ‘tax increase’ as it would save Americans thousands by not having to pay premiums, deductibles, and co-payments. A family household of four earning less than $28,000 (about 26% of households) would be exempt from the 2.2% tax. In addition, there would be a 6.2% “income-based health care premium” paid by employers. This tax would significantly lower costs for businesses compared to what they pay now to subsidize employee health insurance.
Sanders’s policy director, Warren Gunnels, told TIME that “the typical family of four making $50,000 a year would pay less than $46 a month under Bernie’s plan for three months of paid family and medical leave AND universal health care.” Contrary to what Brooks says, middle-class spending will be substantially increased under Bernie’s single-payer plan.
To bolster Social security funding, any income over $250,000 would also be subject to the 6.2% payroll tax which currently only applies to the first $118,500 in wages. Bernie’s plan would tax capital gains and dividends at same ordinary income tax rates (noted above) for anyone with taxable income above $250,000. I recall Warren Buffet’s statement that his ‘effective’ tax rate (as result of low capital gains taxes and other tax benefits) on personal income of millions in 2014 was less than his secretary’s tax rate.
A recent report by the Tax Foundation concludes that Bernie’s tax plan would significantly raise tax revenue by $13.6 trillion over next decade, dropping to $9.8 trillion including GDP effects. This is driven by broad-based taxes on investment income and payroll including high-income earners. After tax incomes of bottom 50% of taxpayers would drop by 4.9% and 8.6% for the top 50%( vs. 17.9% for top 1% of taxpayers). After tax income of all taxpayers would be 10.6% lower (or 12.8% lower including GDP effects) and 24.9% lower for the top 1%.
BUT, these figures exclude the substantially lower health care costs for households and businesses under a single-payer Medicare-for-All plan. They also exclude returns from job generating investments in infrastructure, education, renewable energy, etc. – also made possible with less debt growth from trillions of increased federal tax revenues. (see: Details and Analysis of Senator Bernie Sanders’s Tax Plan).
“Sanders’s program would change the incentive structure for the country’s most successful people by raising the top tax rate.” This is another of Brooks’ distortive remarks. It’s a variation of same old baloney argument if top CEOs aren’t paid 300 times the average worker’s wage (U.S. norm vs. 50 times in Europe), talent will flee the country.
Brooks artificially inflates the top class tax rate by quoting Jose Barro of the Times who comes to a 73% top tax rate by including state, local and other taxes that everyone pays. Bernie’s progressive federal tax rates begin at 39.2% on incomes above $250,000 (vs. $430,000 today) and gradually increase to 50.2% on individual ordinary income of $2 million to $10 million and to 54.2% on income over $10 million. That these changes, as Brooks claims, would discourage risk-taking by successful people and entrepreneurs is absolute nonsense. The Netherlands has a marginal tax rate of 52% on all income above $65,000 with no unusual disincentives whatsoever on dynamics or quality of executive management and entrepreneurial activity
Warren Buffet Found It Ridiculous
Warren Buffet found it ridiculous that his personal ‘effective’ income tax rate of 18% on millions of income was lower in 2014 than that of his secretary – thanks to his entitlement to low capital gains/dividends tax rates and other tax benefits on capital gains/dividend income that usually form a big part of top 1% class total income. Furthermore, U.S. startups and small firms have attractive tax incentives. Bernie is well aware how valuable small, innovative firms of less than 500 employees are to our economy; they generate 65% of U.S. jobs. The Big Lie is that Big companies - that pay low taxes and kill lots of small firms that pay reasonable taxes – create more jobs! No one understands this better than Bernie.
“Sanders’s program would Europeanize American public universities. It sounds great to make colleges free. In fact, it’s a hugely expensive program that would benefit the already affluent.” Bernie is advocating that public university tuition cost be publicly financed. The typical public U.S. university has a total average annual cost of around $19,000 for in-state fees (up to $33,000 for out-of-state fees). In-state tuition and other fees are about 50% of the total cost for a net student cost of ±$10,000. (This compares to total public university costs of $13,500 in UK and $12,600 in the Netherlands). Bernie’s plan will put student cost at U.S. public universities nearly on a par with EU universities. Of course, his tuition assistance program might incorporate a family income cap, so it will not be a boondoggle for wealthy families, as Brooks suggests. (see: How Much Does It Cost to Study in the U.S.?, Jan. 30, 2015)
“It would create, as in Germany, a legion of eternal students who have little incentive to leave school because the costs are so low. In America, it would threaten hundreds of private colleges, which could no longer compete against the ‘completely subsidized’ state system.” Brooks is loose with the truth here. German schools and colleges at all levels, including a highly successful trade school system, are very well managed. Germany has abandoned college tuition fees so public universities cost students out-of-pocket no more than $10,000 annually for room and board. German taxpayers subsidize the tuition cost averaging $14,600/year per student. “A college education in Germany is seen as an extension of high school where one expects it to be provided ” says Jeffrey Peck, Dean of the Weissman School of Arts & Sciences at Baruch College /Cuny. (see: How U.S. Students Get A University Degree For Free (Tuition) in Germany, by Franz Strasser, June 3, 2015 ; (see: How Much Does It Cost To Study in Europe?, Jan. 28, 2016)
Bernie’s tuition-assistance program for students attending public universities is not a ‘completely subsidized state.’ It covers tuition or about half the costs. Top elite private colleges have their own unique market niche and many, like my alma mater, Bowdoin College, offer only grants depending on need – no loans. The grants cover up to 40%, in some cases more, of total college costs of around $60,000 per year. U.S. private colleges cost on the average $46,500 per year or TWO times the average total cost of U.S. public universities, or over TWO times the cost of EU universities. Brooks says, “slowly, U.S. (public) universities would look more like their European counterparts.” What’s wrong with that? A little more competition may occur against U.S. private colleges from Bernie’s public-financed tuition for public universities, but nothing so apocalyptical that ‘hundreds of colleges’ can’t compete, as Brooks suggests.
“Sanders’s changes in the health care system would be along the same lines. Sanders would create a centralized and streamlined system.” The first sentence makes sense but leaves out the words, ‘that will be transparent and significantly cost effective.’ Brooks in following sentence reverts back to some more telling of tall stories.
“Bernie’s approach would also, as in Europe, reduce the rate of medical progress, increase the rationing of care, increase the wait time for patients, induce more doctors to retire, and centralize decision-making.” This statement is a cocktail of half-truths and falsehoods. First, Medicare is a very efficient, very low overhead cost, well-operated system. The Affordable Care Act has been a great step forward in providing health care coverage for all Americans regardless of prior medical history. However, ACA still does not cover 29 million people and has produced unaffordable health care insurance from high premiums and huge out-of-pocket costs (e.g., co-pays, deductibles etc.) and relatively poor coverage.
ACA has also not solved the problem of extremely high overhead and administrative costs of insurance companies and runaway pharmaceutical costs. Bernie’s federally administered universal single-payer (Medicare for ALL) plan does away with the private insurance industry – leading to overhead and administrative cost savings of at least $35 billion annually. Unlike ACA, single-payer also controls drug prices and ends for profit hospitals. It provides clear federal health care standards for universal coverage and treats health care as a human right – all directly opposite to what ACA’s tiered health care system does in which one gets what one pays for.
Brooks hasn’t the slightest idea what he’s talking about when comparing U.S. health care systems or quality of lifestyles with Europe. For three decades, our family has experienced the Netherlands’ universal basic health care system – a combination of market based insurance and government based oversight. I have never seen unacceptable practices that compromise quality care like rationing of care or long wait times or abnormal numbers of doctors leaving practice, as Brooks falsely suggests is the general European modus operandi.
These are same boring, phony cliché ridden critiques that are made about Canada’s single-payer health care system that is far less expensive than our almost ‘100%-for-insurance-firm-profit’ system. Intermountain Healthcare, one impressive non-profit health care system operating a quality and cost effective plan in Salt Lake City, says it will produce $5 billion in health care saving over the next five years; $500 million in savings are expected in 2016. The firm has decided to give this sum back to the community in lower premium rates.
Dutch basic health care for all has a standard family annual premium for two (plus children up to 18) of $2,900 (euro 2,640) based on a standard deductible of $415 (euro 375) per insured with a maximum deductible of $560 (euro 500) – and no co-pays or other charges. This premium is ONE-HALF the average U.S. family premium shown in TABLE 1. This covers excellent basic care needs with upgrades at reasonable premium increases. Market insurance premiums, health service quality, coverage, costs and standards for same are closely government controlled.
European health care systems are among the finest in the world just as the U.S. medical research and medical knowhow excels in the world. But the U.S. has the most expensive personal health care system in the western world. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation study shows how out-of-control U.S. average health insurance premiums for family coverage are – rising 61% in the last decade from $10,900 in 2005 to $17,550 in 2015. The 61% increase in premiums compares to a 20% increase in the overall inflation rate the last decade! Bear in mind also that annual family health insurance premiums (in the Netherlands and other EU countries) are 50% to 80% less than U.S. levels.
Following shows huge rise in U.S. average family health insurance premiums:
Bernie’s federally administered single payer program – combining Medicare, Medicaid, the Veterans Administration, ACA – would provide comprehensive benefits, save households and businesses money, allow free choice of doctors, hospitals and health care services. It would eventually bring total health care spending down from current very level high of ±17% of GDP to ±13% range, eventually generating annual savings of well over $250 billion.
David Brooks thinks everything is going fine in America. Token change is the only system that works in society as polarized and dysfunctional as ours has become. Sanders’s approach is that Real change will not come without BOLD change. Systemic corruption and malfunction require systemic reforms.
Brooks’ suggestions that the freedom, inventiveness, quality of lifestyle of Europeans with their high taxes is less than that of Americans are too preposterous for words. This mirage of America’s superiority or ‘exceptionalism’ also comes at a huge price of ‘exceptional’ income/wealth inequality, poverty and homelessness levels – far above those in Europe. That is not to say America should replicate the unique social-economic-political values built up in European countries over centuries, after horrendous continental wars. The one common value, moral principle binding Europeans is that “We are all in this life together,” with a certain degree of shared community that surmounts narrower self-interests, especially at critical times. America might do well to replicate Europe’s “we-ness.”
Our nation has gone fanatically way out-of-balance with an “anti-everything government and pro-everything market/individual far right culture.” But the Free Market ethic is a chimera. In fact the market has been rigged by the billionaire class which uses its money to effect political changes which favor itself. A political culture where money buys votes and legislative benefits while the lower/middle classes get poorer – a society split between exploiters and the exploited. No wonder our pro-rich, pro-corporate, pro-war paradigm is compelling more and more people, especially the younger generations, to stand up to the profound inequities and corruption of our founding values of fair play, an equitable playing field, and sharing in society’s progress.
Our nation has reached the point where people below 30 cannot get a decent job. Same applies for millions of workers who lost their jobs 2007-2012 and have been subsequently forced to accept downgraded positions or low paying, flexible, part-time work. This race-to-the-bottom has been taking place for 35 years. As Piketty’s study showed, 90% of the workforce or 137 million Americans had an average income (inflation adjusted) of $31,000 and a negative 1% growth in income 1970-2008 … a trend not changing much.
Bernie is correctly saying ‘enough is enough.’ And here is our nation “dreaming” it can afford being the world’s protector, policeman, regime changer, arms supplier at the gigantic cost of over $800 billion annually (50% of discretionary spending) at a time of desperately needed investments of hundreds of billions to vastly improve decayed infrastructure, educational systems and to implement an 80% green energy environment by 2050.
Tinkering with things deeply internally broken is regressive. A compromising approach to severe structural problems in a “winner-take-all” political system – plagued by divisive mean-spirited dialogue and disrespect, inane policy decisions (e.g., soaring health care costs, off-budget-wars mostly killing innocents) are bringing us nowhere. Unless REAL change happens, our economic and political systems will become ever more controlled and sucked dry by corporate and billionaire plundering. Economic inequality and exploitation of the bottom 99% will worsen, if that’s still possible.
The Hillarys, Brookes, Krugmans choice of evolutionary, incremental, tidbit change ultimately reinforces the rich ESTABLISHMENT’s insatiable greed and power thrust undermining our democracy. A passionately passionless status-quo plutocratic power base has already been born that’s vacuuming up at others expense all that remains of our nation’s wealth it can get its hands on.
This is what Bernie’s honest, refreshing message is all about. We deserve leaders who appeal to our saner, better instincts of balanced civil discourse, reasoned argumentation, governance not poisoned by purest self-interest ideology, not driven by the wealth and power accumulation of the few – but governance where people cohere around common purposes and the common good.
February 21, 2016
by John Lawrence
I met Suzie at Panera Bread in Liberty Station. She is homeless but not vehicle-less. She used to have a nice home in Point Loma, had lived in the Point Loma - Ocean Beach area for years. She has been homeless since last April when her boyfriend kicked her out of his apartment. When that happened, she got on Craigslist and bought an RV. There are many levels and degrees of homelessness, and Suzie is on one of the better off levels. Some homeless persons live on boats in the harbor. So for some, homelessness verges on an alternative lifestyle, the key being whether or not they are forced into the situation or whether their situation is freely chosen.
Suzie grew up in Tennessee in a fairly affluent home. Her father and mother were both college graduates - he an electrical engineer, she a nurse. Her grandmothers were both nurses. Suzie is the second oldest of 5 siblings; she's 59. She went to college in Dalton, Georgia and became a nurse graduating in 1984. Although she hasn't worked in 5 years due to health problems, she still considers herself a nurse, keeping her registration current, taking classes, reading articles and helping people when she can.
She was married briefly when she was 30. The marriage was annulled. She hasn't married since and has no children. She loves animals and has a small dog which keeps her company. Pets, however, can be a huge expense especially if they need veterinary care which at some point they all do. A few years ago before she became homeless, one of her dogs ran up a $5000. veterinarian bill and then died. Veterinarians have recently caught up with people doctors in the charging department, and pet care among other expenses has forced people to either give up the only source of affection in their lives or become homeless. Many homeless people have chosen their pets over being domiciled.
A Promising Start in San Diego: Job, Home, Boyfriend
Suzie came to San Diego with a boyfriend. They moved into a home in Eastlake. They were both working - she the 3-11 PM shift, he the day shift. The relationship broke up in 1993 when he took off with another woman and left her. He wanted to get married; she didn't. She was gun shy from her previous marriage although she really loved the guy. After the breakup her mental state deteriorated. She's never trusted another man.
After that the men she dated left a lot to be desired; she attracted a stalker, and wasn't able to find anyone to have a meaningful relationship with. She found solace with her animals living in an apartment in Santee with several dogs. In 1996 during a road trip, one of her dogs, who was taking a potty break along the freeway, somehow got away. After a desperate effort to try and find her, Suzie finally gave up. The emotional cost of losing this dog forced her to give up her job for awhile and go back to Tennessee for emotional support with her family. After 20 years she's still upset about losing her best friend on the side of the highway. After this loss, she wasn't able to work for several months.
Suzie met her last boyfriend in 2001 in Ocean Beach where she had moved. By then she had gotten her life back together and was working in the ER department at a hospital. She was employed there from 2000 to 2008. In 2008 she got sick and had to have surgery on her neck on two different occasions. While recovering from surgery at the hospital, she contracted viral meningitis, was very ill and remained hospitalized for some time.
Her health issues forced her to stop working. She had used up her sick leave. She was fortunate enough to be able to get on social security disability. On average SS disability pays around $1200. a month, not really enough to rent an apartment or even a room in a house and have much left over in San Diego. The lack of inexpensive SROs forces many into homelessness. City owned micro apartments as they have in Seattle might be a solution:
[A] development on 23rd Avenue East, opened in 2009 with 46 dormlike sleeping rooms with common kitchens.
It was the brainchild of the late Bellevue developer Jim Potter, who found a loophole in Seattle’s building regulations.
A micro-housing building spree ensued that gave Seattle more such units than any city in the country. At last count, 782 micro-housing units were cleared for occupancy in Seattle, with another 1,598 units in the pipeline. No other American city comes close.
San Diego needs to update its building codes to allow micro apartments and Tiny Homes on public or private land with common sanitation and cooking facilities. The Homeless to Housed movement is attempting to bring just such a project to fruition, but will the Mayor and/or the City Council sanction it and change the municipal code? That remains to be seen.
Suzie met her last boyfriend in 2003; they were together until last year but didn't live together at first. Until a few years ago she rented a beautiful house in OB. She had 3 dogs, a cat, 200 plants and a gorgeous yard. It was a "doll house." She was there 8 years and then the rent went up to $2200. forcing her to move to a smaller home in Point Loma. She put much of her furniture in storage where it still sits.
In 2009 she had a bad fall from a ladder, while working around her house, breaking her leg. It required surgery and she was in a wheelchair for 5 months. She was living off savings. Her boyfriend didn't want to take care of her. He said, "I didn't sign up for this." Even though she had to go to a nursing home for awhile, she stayed with the boyfriend.
Suzie hired a caregiver out of the parking lot at Home Depot. She had 3 dogs and a cat to take care of. Jose was a godsend. He came up from Rosarita Beach every day to help her. As her situation deteriorated, her main support system, her father died. She started having problems with her siblings over their inheritance. A whole series of problems ensued: sisters stopped talking to her, lost her house, lost her father, lost her job. Her dog died, and her long term boyfriend started getting abusive. Also she started having another serious health problem in her GI tract. Her health insurance, California's Low Income Health Program (LIHP), would not cover the surgery she needed and still needs for that.
From 2010 - 2013, she and her boyfriend had 4 surgeries each. She nursed him through each one including 3 heart surgeries. They were always ill or recovering. She moved in with her boyfriend in 2010 at which point she had nowhere else to go. Things got worse from there. Suzie finally found a GI doctor at UCSD who was willing to do the surgery she needed. But the boyfriend wouldn't let her do it because he was not willing to take care of her afterwards. They fought a lot.
He wanted out. She stayed so she could have a place for her animals. He said, "I can't wait for all your animals to die before you leave." Eventually her dogs and cat died. He retired in 2014 and that's when his ex came back into the picture. The boyfriend left and went back to his ex. Suzie moved to a hotel, got on Craigslist and bought an RV.
She can't afford an RV park so she parks on the street. The problem with parking on the street, in addition to the fact that the police can hassle you, is that the heat can be oppressive if you can't plug in and run the air conditioning. We talked about a group called Dreams for Change which has provided safe parking lots in San Diego, Chula Vista and Vista. The San Diego location is at 766 28th Street just across from the New Life Church and just off the Martin Luther King freeway. They ask that you call (619) 497-0236 before you come. This is an option that Suzie needs to check out.
She showers at the YMCA which charges her only $16 a month based on her low income. The neat part of the deal is that she can use any Y in the County.
"I wish I would have been stronger and made better decisions. It's just too many things kept happening to me and I got so overwhelmed. I never thought any of this would occur. I've worked since I was 14 at many jobs. It's just my mental reserves are just gone. Day to day is very much a struggle now. I persevere. I reached out to you."
I asked her, "Is there anything you'd like to accomplish with this article ?" She replied, "I guess just to educate the public that not everybody they see that is homeless is down and out and uneducated." The line between homelessness and an alternative lifestyle is pretty thin.
I asked her if she was still in touch with the abusive boyfriend. She said she saw him the other day for the first time in 6 months because he came fishing where she was camping illegally in OB. The visit was cut short when the Park and Rec guy told her "You're not supposed to be camping here. There are signs everywhere."
by John Lawrence
At Least For a Year
The Romans used to provide Bread and Circuses for their populace to keep them pacified. Nothing much has changed in 2000 years. The San Diego Chargers want taxpayers to spend $350 million to buy them a new Colosseum. And they're not really even the San Diego Chargers. They are the Dean Spanos Chargers. He owns them. The players should all be wearing "Dean Spanos Chargers" on their shirts. The Chargers merchandise should all bear his name. As we've seen recently, the Chargers would think nothing of "Bolt"ing to Los Angeles if the grass were greener there. But their quest for a shiny new stadium in another locale has been stymied at least temporarily.
The only team that can rightfully be called by a city's name is the Green Bay Packers. Although not exactly owned by the City of Green Bay, the Packers have been a publicly owned, non-profit corporation since August 18, 1923. Close enough. If the Mayor wants the Chargers to stay in San Diego (that's questionable after Spanos' quasi-betrayal), why doesn't he offer to have the city buy the team? Oops. That's not possible because NFL rules forbid it. They even made an exception for Green Bay.
But seriously, folks, wouldn't it warm the cockles of your collective hearts more if San Diego made the decision to forego professional, concussion inducing (look what happened to home town hero Junior Seau) NFL football whose goal is to pad the pockets of billionaires and instead spend that money solving the homeless problem and repairing infrastructure in order to indeed become a world class city? Or would it diminish your civic pride to not be able to tune into the "Dean Spanos Chargers" on TV and brag about what a great place San Diego is to live although you have to step over the homeless on your way to the game. Would you be crestfallen if you could not rent or own a skybox in a brand new multibillion dollar Colosseum?
Without Taxpayer Subsidies Professional Football Would Not Exist
NFL football has never been profitable except for the fact that they've gotten (up to now) taxpayers to pay for their stadiums. And like petulant children whose old bicycle is never good enough, they want a new one every few years. Wahhh! I want my new stadium and I want you all to pay for it. The Dean Spanos Chargers will be very angry if you, the taxpayers, don't grant them their entirely justifiable (in their eyes) wish. In fact they will take their marbles (or footballs, deflated or not) and move away. But where? They thought they had a new home, but their new home turned out to be a will 'o the wisp. It turns out that another billionaire got there first.
St. Louis, former home of the LA Rams, was snookered by them according to David Williams writing in the Tulsa World:
St. Louis and Missouri taxpayers paid the full $280 million cost of construction for the Edward Jones Dome in 1995. In an effort to keep the Rams in St. Louis, government officials tried to persuade the team to stay with the promise of $500 million for a new billion-dollar stadium.
Rams owner, and billionaire, Stan Kroenke decided to move despite the generous taxpayer gift. The problem is that Missouri taxpayers aren’t off the hook because they will be paying $12 million [a year] until 2022 on the Edward Jones Dome.
In addition, according to the Salt Lake Tribune, "An effort to persuade the owner of the St. Louis Rams to keep his team in Missouri by building a new riverfront football stadium not only failed, but also left the public on the hook for $16.2 million in expenses."
The article also noted that, "Architecture firm HOK made more than $10.5 million for its work on the stadium plan, while the Dome authority’s attorneys, Blitz, Bardgett & Deutsch, billed almost $900,000. Thompson Coburn bond and financing lawyers charged an additional $760,000."
Taxpayers have funded all but two of the NFL stadiums to the tune of $7 billion in subsidies. And people wonder why there is such an inequality gap between the 1% and the 99%. It's at least partly because the 99% have voted to give their money away to the 1%! Politicians claim that building new stadiums, er Colosseums, where present day gladiators do battle while sustaining concussions, creates jobs and helps the economy. Nothing could be further from the truth. The main result of taxpayer financed Colosseums is to line the pockets of billionaires who don't always use their money for philanthropic and charitable purposes:
A study released in September 2015 by the Taxpayers Protection Alliance measured poverty rates and median household income for the areas in which the stadiums were located. In 60 percent of the cases studied, poverty rates increased and median household incomes decreased. In only 20 percent of the case studies was there an improvement in poverty rates and median household income.
The most expensive stadium for taxpayers is Lucas Oil Stadium (home of the Indianapolis Colts) with an astounding $619 million in taxpayer funds used.
Taxpayers’ massive investment in building a stadium for Colts billionaire team owner Jim Irsay proved disastrous for the Indianapolis economy. Since the construction of the stadium, the poverty rate in Marion County, the county in which Indianapolis is located, skyrocketed from 12.7 percent to 21.3 percent and the median household income dropped more than $10,000, from $51,553 to $41,478.
Pushing off 86 percent of the cost of stadium construction on to the backs of taxpayers freed up plenty of spending money for the Colts. Some of that money was used to buy a condo for Kimberly Wundrum, Irsay’s mistress. Wundrum later died of an overdose in the Colts-owned home. Soon thereafter, Irsay was arrested for DUI and drug possession, was suspended six games by the NFL and attended rehab in several facilities around the country.
Dean Spanos and Chargers Face Greek Tragedy
Be that as it may, Chargers owner Dean Spanos is in a dilemma of mythic proportions, a veritable Greek tragedy. Taxpayers are hip to the fact that they've been bamboozled and hornswoggled by the non-profit NFL which is owned by 18 billionaires (non-profit?) and by the Big Daddy of the NFL universe, Commissioner Roger (front man) Goodell. Actually, the NFL gave up its tax exempt status in 2015 following public criticism. Commissioner Roger Goodell labeled it a "distraction". You think? Billionaires getting away with not paying taxes - what else is new?
But getting back to Spanos. He is left in the position of playing second fiddle to Kroenke if he moves to LA or staying in San Diego among the fans who have been betrayed by his shananigans and those of his henchman, Fabiani, whose arrogance is beyond the pale. “If it’s a plan that’s just thrown out there to provide political cover for elected officials so that people can say, ‘Hey, we tried’ then we probably wouldn’t wait around to watch the thing go down in defeat in 2016,” Fabiani said. Oh, but Roger Goodell and the NFL told him to do just that - wait around! And now that they are stuck in San Diego waiting around for another year, Fabiani and Spanos are singing a different tune. It looks like he may have to have his Chargers play in that icky piece of shit - Qualcomm Stadium - for another year at least. Now they want the fans back. Good luck with that.
Spanos: "My Focus is on San Diego"
“We have an option and an agreement with the Los Angeles Rams to go to Inglewood in the next year, but my focus is on San Diego,” Spanos wrote in a letter to Chargers fans. Spanos' "My focus is on San Diego" didn't add the words "for now" but that's what it amounts to. He didn't say "My commitment is to San Diego." Since he's building a headquarters and a training facility in Santa Ana, it definitely doesn't sound like he's committed to the Chargers staying in San Diego.
In a supposedly conciliatory letter to San Diego Chargers fans, Spanos talks about the "world class stadium experience San Diego fans deserve." What about the world class football experience San Diego fans deserve? Why don't you concentrate on that first? Spanos can't get two words out of his mouth without talking about a "new stadium" with the same exuberance and exultation that someone on the Price is Right makes over a "new car"! Maybe if Spanos provided Chargers' fans with a world class football team, they would build him a world class stadium.
Of course, if San Diego voters are foolish enough to build Spanos a world class stadium so that they get the "world class stadium experience they deserve", Spanos might reconsider moving. Spanos has hardcore Chargers' fans genuflecting and kissing his butt over the fact that the Chargers are staying probably just one more year. Note to Chargers fans: you're being played like a fiddle. Most of you won't be able to afford seats in the "world class stadium" so relax and watch the game on your 65 inch world class TV like you would do anyway wherever the Chargers play.
Spanos wants San Diegans to pony up hundreds of millions in tax money or else he's going to take his marbles or football, as the case may be, and go home except for the fact that he has no home and Kroenke is an abusive parent. Mayor Faulconer is a willing patsy because it's in his interest to keep an NFL team in San Diego in a brand new stadium that the majority of fans will never be able to afford to see the insides of. And as for Fabiani, Spanos' lawyer, he's already pissed off most of San Diego with his arrogant, self serving bullshit.
David Cay Johnston in his book Free Lunch nails the NFL con game:
The huge gifts of money that wealthy owners of sports teams wheedle out of taxpayers are a free lunch that someone must fund. Often that burden falls on poor children and the ambitious among the poor. Sports-team subsidies undermine a century of effort to build up the nation's intellectual capacity and, thus, its wealth. Andrew Carnegie poured money from his nineteenth-century steel fortune into local libraries across America because he was certain it would build a better and more prosperous nation which indeed it did. These libraries imposed costs on taxpayers, but they also returned benefits as the nation's store of knowledge grew. That is library spending is a prime example of a subsidy adding value.
Many people born into modest circumstances have risen to great heights because they could educate themselves for free, and stay out of trouble at the public library. ...
But today library hours, as well as budgets to buy books, have been slashed in Los Angeles, Detroit, Baltimore, and other cities, yet there is plenty of money to give away to sports-team owners.
Art Modell, who pitted Cleveland and Baltimore against each other in a bidding war for his football team, was asked in 1996 about tax money going into his pocket at a time when libraries were being closed. It was a well-framed question. His Baltimore Ravens is the only major sports team whose name is a literary allusion, to the haunting poem by Edgar Allen Poe for his lost love Lenore.
"The pride and the presence of a professional football team is far more important than 30 libraries," Modell said. He spoke without a hint of irony or any indication that he had ever upon a midnight dreary, pondered weak and weary the effect of his greed on the human condition. How many Baltimore children who might have become [successful] will instead end up on the other side of the law? That may not be measurable but that some will because of Modell's greed is as certain as the sun rising in the east. ...
We starve libraries—and parks, bridge safety, and schools—to enrich sports-team owners. ...
The value of the leagues' exemption from the laws of competition is illustrated by the odd fact that Los Angeles, the nation's second-largest city, has no football team. So long as that city remains teamless, the owners of football franchises use the threat of moving to the nation's second largest market to extract money through public financing of new stadiums, rent rebates, and other official favors. Surely this would seem incongruous to the settlers who called their community El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora de los Angeles de la Porciuncula, [in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi who was devoted to serving the poor].
Taxpayers Should Just Say No to Building Billionaires New Stadiums
We taxpayers can no longer afford to subsidize these 'welfare queen' billionaires who live off of government handouts. They need to learn to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps instead. That's the American way instead of sucking off the government teat. Furthermore, they ought to not be let off the hook by discharging their debts in bankruptcy court. Students can't get rid of their debts that way; neither should billionaires be able to. We need to keep government taxing and spending down, and that means no more subsidies for billionaires and their sports teams. At the same time we need to show compassion for the less fortunate as Jesus preached: "Insofar as you've helped the least of these, my brethren, it is as if you've done it unto me."
Will San Diego become a world class city by enacting its Climate Action Plan, repairing infrastructure, creating a world class transit system and housing the homeless or will it continue down the American Road of worshiping billionaire owners and millionaire players by giving them gargantuan stadiums at taxpayer expense? I, for one, would take more civic pride in the former accomplishment.
by Frank Thomas
I've watched Hillary closely over the years. She's a bright woman with a strident passion to achieve power and presence in the political arena. Her husband, Bill, has the same political power-thirst genes.
For some time, however, I've observed their decent into a greedy money-making machine duo. This has been amplified by their nurturing of close relationships with the rich and powerful during Bill's presidency and her position as senator of New York. Hillary, without the political acumen or charm of Bill, has come to reflect the endemic phony, money-driven politician culture we have had for so long. As one young college student remarked recently, "With Hillary,sometimes I get this feeling that all of her sentences are owned by someone." I get a similar impression that she's staged from beginning to end. Her pandering comes across as genuinely unconvincing but convincingly opportunistic.
It certainly appears that good old fashion GREED has invaded the soul of the Clintons - earning humongous speaking and consultant fees from big banks and other powerful sources amounting to $139 million (much of which from secret Wall Street speeches) between 2007 and 2014. This money accumulation obsession runs in the family. In 2014, at a relatively young age, Chelsea got an obscene NBC annual income of $600,000 for a rather simple job, probably thanks to her parents' status and media net-work relations. Hillary's accumulation of outrageous fees (for example, recent $675,00 from Goldman Sachs for three speeches) along with the outrageous Wall Street speech fees symbolize how compromised and corrupted her progressive judgement is.
It's often a farcical spectacle to watch and listen to her trying to appear REAL to the common folk. As one analyst stated, "Hillary has become just another ultra-rich liberal who pretends to be the champion of the little guy." Despite her recent 'revolutionary' pretensions of being a true progressive, for a long time she has been politically more right of center than center ... and tightly bound to money interests.
While she doesn't have her husband's charm and political acumen, she does beat his chicanery for playing with the truth or not giving a straight answer to a simple question. She recently criticized the use of offshore tax havens and promised to go after Cayman Island tax avoidance schemes. BUT, she and Bill have been paid billions of dollars for speech, consultant fees, and investment income from firms doing business in the Cayman Islands.
On December 29, 2015, the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT) came out with a list of ethics violators. Hillary was named the worst ethics violator of 2015. FACT has filed a complaint with the U.S. Office of Government Ethics regarding Hillary Clinton's State department favor for her HEDGE FUND son-in-law. FACT has also come up with a number of examples as evidence of how Hillary Clinton has abused her government position and violated ethics rules.
Bernie Sanders is a 'revolutionary' opposite politician - refreshingly sincere, honest, consistent, down-to-earth in stating what's dangerously structurally broken in our democracy and economic model. Of course, the conservative Republican right-wing establishment and the Democratic right-of-center establishment (and bought media) have been quite taken aback by Bernie popularity.
So Hillary and journalistic pundits (e.g., Washington Post's article, "Bernie Sanders Fiction-Filled Campaign") are now intensifying the attack on Bernie, e.g., that he is a wild money-spending Socialist, a man with an ambitious but 'impossible' fantasy agenda, a man too old and unproven to bring it off, a man who is not a pragmatist. In this regard, one commentator's remark was head on, "At the heart of current misconceptions beats a more dangerous Democratic myth ( promulgated by Hillary) that 'Revolutionary' change cannot be pragmatic and that Centrist ('Evolutionary') compromise is the only path to real progress."
Bernie is a Social Democrat in good health with a long legislative record that has given him the label of being the "amendment king" in correcting legislation not in the general public's interests. Should he select Elizabeth Warren as his Vice-Presidential colleague, there couldn't be a more magnificent, qualified combination to restore our broken democracy ... so torn apart by an extreme far right swing to pro-rich, pro-corporate, pro-war, 'Me First' policies.
Like Harry Truman, Bernie says things exactly the way they are - without pretense, a self-inflated ego, or any illusion of how difficult it will be to set genuine change in progress that serves ALL Americans. Only REAL structural step-by-step change will save our democracy. He's right on message which Hillary is now copying ... it's not about recovering our country's ** **supremacy or leadership in the world. It's about recovering our economically and morally bankrupt democracy that's not serving the common good - exemplified by a middle class economic race to the bottom in a 3rd world decayed infrastructure system, pre-college education and basic health care systems, and tragically high poverty and homelessness.
And this is happening while billions of dollars have been thrown away and thousands of innocents killed in an insane pursuit of interventionist regime change around the world over past decades. Bernie wants to change this costly failed interventionist policy. Hillary is more hawkish.
Bernie Sanders is really challenging Hillary big time with his theme of Real Change rooted in a "common purpose" for the "common good" ... a democracy 'of, by, and for the people' as opposed to the plutocracy, autocracy, 'corporatocracy' we now have. We have been immersed in the extinction of the fundamental cornerstones of our eqalitarian system of government, as envisioned by the Founding Fathers of our Constitution.
As cities search for solutions to homelessness, Portland’s Dignity Village offers 60 men and women community and safety.
Newcomers to this homeless refuge huddle in the warming station, a small portable with photos of smiling former residents and where they are required to stay during a 60-day probationary period.
They hope to graduate to a small makeshift home like Karen, a three-month resident whose boisterous laugh carries through the village.
Should it become a permanent home, they may find themselves in the position of Rick Proudfoot, a longtime resident who works in the site’s main office, keeping track of finances.
If they’re really lucky, they may end up like Lisa Larson, Dignity Village’s CEO.
A peppy forty-something, she’s lived at Dignity Village the last six years after falling into homelessness to escape an abusive husband. She initially thought she’d stay no more than a few months. Today, Larson, who has been in her position for a year, can’t imagine living anywhere else.
“There’s a real sense of pride here, a real sense of community that you don’t find elsewhere,” she says.
Called an “intentional community” by its members and a homeless encampment by outsiders, Dignity Village is a step toward curbing Portland’s skyrocketing homeless population.
Located in northeast Portland, Dignity Village is a self-governed gated community, which currently serves 60 people on any given night—the city limits the number—and provides shelter in the form of tiny houses built mainly from donated and recycled materials.
The village emerged in the winter of 2000 as a tent city called Camp Dignity. Stationed in downtown Portland, it served as an act of protest against Portland’s then-existing ban on homeless encampments.
But it moved. After more than a year of public controversy, the city sanctioned a permanent campsite on Sunderland Yard, city-owned land six miles west of the Portland International Airport.
The village has resided on this site since 2004, when advocates and officials reached a compromise on a location after contentious negotiations, but there are no more tents.
Now officially a nonprofit, Dignity Village is governed by a democratically elected council of nine residents, who are responsible for day-to-day decisions; all residents can vote on big decisions, like whether to remove a resident or enter into contracts with service providers, in town-hall-style meetings. On a typical night, it provides food, housing, bathrooms, and a mailing address for nearly 60 adults, who pay $35 a month in rent and would otherwise be taking their chances alone sleeping on park benches or city streets.
“It’s really what sets people apart from other homeless shelters and encampments, above all else,” says Katie Mays, who works as a social worker at Dignity Village three days a week.
The village’s five rules help cultivate that sense of community: no violence, no theft, no alcohol or drugs within a one-block radius, no constant disruptive behavior, and all residents must contribute at least 10 hours per week of work for village upkeep.
No children are allowed at the village because background checks are not a requirement to stay there. Larson says this allows the village to avoid any problems that could arise if any resident, also known as a “villager,” were a registered sex offender or had a violent criminal history.
Seattle, which in November declared a state of emergency to tackle its own homeless crisis, recently moved to expand micro-housing communities for the chronically homeless; The Seattle Times cited Dignity Village as a huge influence on the city’s decision.
The city has its own problems with pervasive homelessness. The issue prompted Mayor Ed Murray to deliver a rare televised address on Tuesday. Moments before he went on air, two people were killed and three others wounded in a shooting at a homeless encampment in the city’s Sodo district.
Murray recently met with Portland Mayor Charlie Hales to discuss how their cities are grappling with homelessness. On Tuesday, he called on the city council to provide an additional $49 million to increase services for Seattle’s roughly 3,000 homeless, which would include additional campsites. The city already spent $50 million on homelessness last year, the most in its history.
Elsewhere, cities are trying out the model of Dignity Village. In Eugene, Oregon, Opportunity Village has lifted the concept wholesale. Like Dignity Village, it is mostly self-governed, its residents are required to adhere to the same five rules, and tiny homes dot its landscape.
“We didn’t feel it was necessary to reinvent the wheel,” says Andrew Heben, project director for Square One Villages, which partially funds the Eugene development.
Heben, whose book Tent City Urbanism frequently cites Dignity Village as a model for sustainable housing for the homeless, says there are a few key differences between the two, pointing to one in particular: Dignity Village allows its residents to be members of their nonprofit entity, which can lead to logistical challenges.
In contrast, Opportunity Village is overseen by a separate board consisting of residents, clergy, and other community members.
Dignity Village’s influence also has spread to Nashville, where a micro-housing community called Sanctuary has cropped up. In a recent Al-Jazeera report, residents said Sanctuary provides them with “dignity, security, and a place to plot their futures.”
What the residents of these communities hold in common are the bonds forged from shared experience—of finally finding a welcome environment after being discarded and stigmatized by larger society.
From abusive home to nurturing community: Lisa Larson
Lisa Larson can easily recall the day she first became homeless. The event shares an anniversary with her decision to finally leave an abusive husband after years of emotional and physical turmoil.
Larson spent two years camping out on concrete sidewalks and inside abandoned buildings.
She and her current husband, Scott Larson, discovered Dignity Village while serving time in a Milwaukie, Oregon, jail for chronically violating the city’s ban against homeless camping.
Another homeless person there spoke about a place where people not only were treated with respect, but were instilled with a sense of pride and community. With curiosity sparked, Larson arrived at the village six years ago, thinking she’d stay no more than six months. Today, she is the village’s chief executive officer, functioning as its official spokesperson.
“When I first came here, I felt like a nobody. With my new husband and Dignity Village, I am somebody. I am a domestic violence survivor. Without this place, I don’t know where or what I’d be,” she says.
Now certain of both, Larson has found not just shelter but peace and purpose that until six years ago eluded her.
The homeless population in Portland has steadily increased since 2007 even while national rates have dropped by 11 percent during the same period. The Oregonian has characterized it as a problem “spinning out of control.”
The city estimates that 4,000 men, women, and children are without shelter most nights in Multnomah County. The image of people emerging from tents and napping on benches is often the first one to greet visitors outside the city’s train station.
Although city and county officials have recently pledged more than $30 million to combat homelessness, the situation persists.
“We’re victims of our own success,” says Josh Alpert, chief of staff to Hales.
Alpert says Portland’s problems stem from three major issues: housing demand that exceeds supply; rising rent prices in response to an influx of new residents; and a lack of financial resources to dedicate to the homeless population.
The city has at least 17 dedicated shelters for the homeless. One of its newest, the eight-story Bud Clark Commons, was built by the city in June 2011 and houses about 150 people. It cost taxpayers $47 million, a price tag that continues to anger some residents and business owners.
Portland’s city council recently approved $1 million for a new shelter.
The dilemma has forced city officials to consider new approaches and revisit old ones that have proved successful.
One has been its partnership with Dignity Village, which began three years after the village officially became a nonprofit in December 2001. Today the collaboration is all the more attractive to a cash-strapped city budget: The village’s annual operations amount to just $27,750.
Besides granting public land, the city provides funding for a dedicated social worker, Mays, to help members with job searches, resume writing, and transportation to medical and counseling appointments. Mays also functions as a liaison to the city.
Dealings between Dignity Village and the city haven’t always been smooth.
“We’ve been in a constant state of anxiety with the city,” says Proudfoot.
The city has imposed rules, such as the two-year limit on how long a resident can stay, for example. And, Proudfoot says, there’s always the possibility that the city could reclaim the village's land.
Many Dignity Village members would prefer no interaction with the city, Proudfoot says, because they find its system too bureaucratic and hard to navigate, which they blame for leaving many of them to sleep on the pavement prior to become villagers.
But they view the city’s involvement as necessary to reach their goal of owning land where members can build permanent settlements, not just tents and make-do tiny homes.
Officials, meanwhile, view the village as transitional housing, wanting people to stay there only as long as it takes them to find permanent residences. The city instituted its two-year maximum stay as part of the partnership (Larson estimates the average member’s stay is between 24 and 36 months), something the city has been unable to enforce.
“The problem is there’s no housing for people to go to, and the city doesn’t have another plan,” says Proudfoot.
Portland’s current affordable housing shortage is estimated at about 42,720 units. When subsidized units do become available, people most often are required to compete in a lottery for them. The shortage also extends to rental units, prices for which have risen at the sixth fastest rate in the nation. When rentals do come on the market, they’re often snatched up by the highest bidder, a predicament that has sent much of the city’s working poor scurrying for places to live.
Alpert says the city is attempting to try some innovative ideas, including replicating the village, because it is one of the best (and cheapest) bets to curb homelessness, at least for now.
“Dignity Village sits well with what the city is attempting to do. We’ve had 15 years to study it,” says Alpert.
As other cities look to Dignity Village, Alpert has some advice: Be mindful of location.
“A lot of infrastructure goes with being homeless,” he points out. He notes a problem with creating another Dignity Village is trying to find land close to social services and public transportation for its population.
From unemployment to CEO: Rick Proudfoot
Rick Proudfoot’s road to Dignity Village is a familiar one for many people who fell into homelessness during the nation’s 2008 financial crisis.
Proudfoot, an electrician, became a casualty of an economic collapse that saw millions lose homes, jobs, and accumulated wealth.
Unable to find work in the midst of it all, he fell into poverty after burning through his savings. He couldn’t afford the rent on his apartment across the Columbia River in Vancouver, Washington, so he took to sleeping in city parks, where getting caught meant a fine of $300 or a 30-day stint in jail.
Arriving in Dignity Village in 2008, he quickly established himself as a person who wouldn’t spare his fellow villagers his unfiltered opinion. But his personality was endearing enough that he served as Dignity Village’s CEO for two years and now works as an administrator keeping track of its finances.
While he has left and returned to the village several times, he will always feel an attachment to it, which is why he wants to be the architect of its future.
One day, he says, the village will be a truly intentional community: completely self-governed, self-managed, and self-funded by and for its residents.
Proudfoot, for one, hopes that in time the village will become known for more than just its tiny homes.
“We built [the tiny homes] in hopes of being able to put them on a flatbed one day and move them to land of our own,” he says.
Meanwhile, the village continues to save money—about $2,000 so far—to build larger and more permanent structures on a site not owned by the city. And members look forward to the day when a tour of Dignity Village will take place on land collectively owned by its residents. They’d have another word for it.
by John Lawrence
San Diego Has the Fourth Highest Number of Homeless in the US and That Doesn't Even Count Most Homeless Families
I met a homeless woman at a coffee shop in downtown San Diego. She had emailed me to correct a few points in a previous article I had written about the homeless. Her name is Jingles, not her real name, of course. That's the name she goes by downtown. She's tough, savvy, intelligent, resourceful, wise to the ways of the street. She is 55 years old with several health related problems and three small dogs. One of them is 20 years old and won't be with her much longer. The three dogs prevent her from being taken in by a shelter, but she won't give them up, and I don't blame her. They are the best friends she has.
Her cell phone is her lifeline to the outside world and is what lets her know what's going on out there. That's how she was able to read the San Diego Free Press and then email me. It's also a lifeline to 911 in case of a heart attack or other severe medical problems. Several of her cell phones have been stolen; then she has to start all over again spending money she doesn't have.
She suffers from a variety of ailments including fibromyalgia, arthritis, manic depression, COPD, anxiety disorders and PTSD from living on the streets. She had a heart attack three years ago. She gets General Relief (GR). She has three GR workers who deal with various aspects of her case.
In addition to her cart, she has a storage locker which she pays $113. a month for. After paying for her cell phone and storage locker each month, there's not much left. I told her about Think Dignity, a group that provides free lockers for the homeless. There are 304 lockers and 130 bins. Over 100 people have been able to gain employment/housing and move off the streets due to the service the Transitional Storage Center (TSC) provides.
TSC is located at 252 16th Street at a lot owned by the San Diego Housing Commission and graciously provided for TSC use. She was very knowledgeable about the available resources, but she hadn't heard of Think Dignity. I gave her the newspaper article about them.
She grew up in Springfield, Massachusetts and graduated from high school there. She was taken away from her abusive birth parents by the state and adopted by a military family when she was two. After graduating from high school, she lived in Vermont for awhile with a hippie commune, the Rainbow Family. The Rainbow Family is still around. They have national gatherings in national forests every year. As many as 25,000 can get together. She was a big follower of the Grateful Dead in her teen age years. She was a hippie then and she's still a hippie now.
Regional Rainbow Gatherings are held throughout the year in the United States, as are national and regional gatherings in dozens of other countries. These Gatherings are non-commercial, and all who wish to attend peacefully are welcome to participate. There are no leaders, and traditionally the Gatherings last for a week, with the primary focus being on gathering on public land on the Fourth of July in the U.S., when attendees pray, meditate, and/or observe silence in a group effort to focus on World Peace. Most gatherings elsewhere in the world last a month from new moon to new moon, with the full moon being the peak celebration. Rainbow Gatherings emphasize a spiritual focus towards peace, love, and unity.
Jingles was married twice. Her first husband died. Her second husband was abusive. She's been single for 20 years. She has no biological children, but raised several children of her two sister-in-laws. She's still in touch with them. There have been no significant male others in her life since her divorce, but she has a lot of male friends for protection. A woman needs that especially when sleeping at night on the streets.
She's traveled around - Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee. She's been in San Diego for about two years. She's been homeless since 2009 when she lost her job as a cook because "my health went in the toilet." She worked in many restaurants since she was 19 and was certified as a chef in Michigan. When she lost her last job, she bought an RV and took to the road.
She was living in Tennessee on Hippie Hill. The hippies there took in a lot of homeless people for periods of time. There's a tenuous link between hippieness and homelessness. Hippies are at odds with the present day competitive, acquisitive, materialistic, capitalistic society that values money above all else, the Wall Street values that separate the 1% from the 99%.
Jingles had to leave the commune due to a misunderstanding with a man who had first befriended her after her heart attack and then later accused her of stealing. She had to exit suddenly leaving behind several thousands of dollars in tattoo and jewelry making equipment and her RV. At this point she had no transportation or residence. She was on the road and homeless.
The Job hat Never Materialized
She teamed up with another woman and helped her drive to California where she had the promise of a job as a nanny. After she got here, the job never materialized. Her friend was at Vantage Pointe apartments in San Diego, but the daughter that needed nannying turned out not to be there. So she was on the street again.
She doesn't use drugs or alcohol. Some housing has opened up, but the rules are too restrictive. She says that Alpha Square has room inspections. "Why are you making grown adults go through room inspections, like you're in a reformatory or a prison system? It's not going to integrate people back into society," she said.
She can't use the library resources because she can't take her dogs in there except if she has someone to watch the dogs outside. Her credentials for the dogs saying they were service dogs got stolen. If she had those credentials, she would be able to go in a lot more places. The last dog she acquired, she rescued last summer. The dogs all get along pretty well. Has anyone ever considered pet sitting services for the homeless?
She can't work any more due to her health problems. Her purse with all her ID got stolen so she has to go about the process of reacquiring all her ID and important papers. She has tried to start a disability case several times, but she's not been able to get anywhere with it. Despite her health problems, the disability Board says she still has the capability to work. Her former attorney let her down. She needs a strong advocate to get her benefits. The fact that a person is homeless should qualify them for disability in and of itself. But she says, "The government doesn't look at it that way." Every homeless person needs an advocate basically, or they're up shit creek without a paddle. And there are too few of those - advocates that is.
Disability Benefits Down the Tube
I handed her a printout that lists all the things you need to even apply for disability. Name of current spouse and prior spouse, spouses' dates of birth and social security numbers, beginning and ending dates of marriages, place of marriages etc etc. What if you don't know all that stuff or have the relevant paperwork? It's a bureaucratic nightmare. Jingles doesn't remember when her first spouse was born, and he's dead. She needs a committed advocate to fight the system for her. Without that help from a lawyer or social worker, the task of climbing out of the deep hole she's in is too daunting. Too many people are dying on the streets for lack of paperwork.
I told her about the Tiny Homes project that is proceeding downtown. They are lockable and a safe place to sleep at night. One of her friends overslept recently and was woken up by police who made her throw out her tent because it supposedly was illegal to have a tent in downtown. Jingles makes it a point to get up early and go to bed late, and to make sure she's with friends she trusts to protect her at night.
Jeeni Criscenzo of Amikas: Housing for Homeless Women and Children and the San Diego Free Press estimates there are 20,000 homeless families in San Diego County. This can be computed from school records since schools are required to report the number of homeless children in their systems. This is far more actually homeless people than the official reports indicate.
WeALLCount is a group of 1700 volunteers who were up before dawn last Friday, January 29th, to count the homeless in San Diego. HUD money comes to the city based on this count. Problem is the count is flawed. Many homeless are hidden away, not sleeping on the streets where they can be identified. A true count would add Jeeni's figures of 20,000 additional families or at least 40,000 additional people.
Lisa Kogan had donated a tiny home to Michael Clark in San Diego only to have the police show up, arrest the man and haul the tiny home away. But she's not giving up. She and others along with Jeeni and Bryan Kim have teamed up to build more tiny homes on a vacant lot in downtown. This time they have the required permissions and permits to do it. The group is called Homeless to Housed.
Rob Greenfield is trying to raise $10,000 so 10 tiny shelters for our homeless brothers and sisters can be built. He is auctioning off his own Tiny House to make the money to build 10 more.
Think Dignity is taking on the project of portable showers and port-a-potties are in the works to be provided at the Homeless to Housed Tiny Homes site. Until Housing First can provide enough apartments for all the homeless, the Tiny Homes project is a best solution to provide temporary housing for the least amount of money.
The Tiny Homes movement is sweeping the country. See In a Tiny House Village, Portland's Homeless Find Dignity in Yes! magazine. As cities search for solutions to homelessness, Portland’s Dignity Village offers 60 men and women community and safety.
There was one last story before we said good-bye. Her friend, Mike, has a heart defibrilator. The device malfunctioned when they were sleeping underneath the B St bridge last February to stay out of the rain. She was on the phone with 911 turning her locator on and off. Because they were under a bridge, they couldn't find them. She went out to the edge of the bridge and the signal got out and they found them on 18th street according to the GPS. But there's no 18th street. The EMTs kept saying that address doesn't exist. "It's in the middle of the freeway." Jingles kept saying, "No, we're in the middle of the freeway, but under it." Somehow they got found and Mike got the medical attention he needed. If it hadn't have been for Jingles' cell phone, Mike wouldn't be here.
If you're a lawyer reading this and want to help Jingles navigate through the maze of applying for disability benefits, please send your contact information to me, firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will forward it on to her.
by John Lawrence from the San Diego Free Press
Oil is less than $30. a barrel. This is over three times less than what it costs just to buy the barrel itself! Iran has been accepted back into the world community and is revving up to sell its oil on the world market which will bring down the price of oil even more. Frackers and oil producers in the US have taken on a huge amount of debt under the assumption that it would pay off down the road. They hadn't counted on the price of oil plummeting. What will they do when we convert 100% to renewables?
The debt overhang in the US economy is, as The Donald would say, UUUUGE! All the Wall Street banks and hedge funds, which have bet on the US becoming oil independent and have bought derivatives up the ying yang, are on the losing end of their bets. This presages a crash similar to the mortgage based crash of 2008. Then the Big Banks will ask for another bailout. Or maybe they won't ask; they'll just tell us that we're bailing them out because, after all, they run the government.
Goldman Runs the Government While Committing Fraud
Goldman Sachs runs the government's finance department. Treasury Secretaries Robert Rubin (1995-99) and Hank Paulson (2006-2009) were at Goldman from 1966 to 1992 and 1974 to 2006 respectively. At Treasury, Paulson was aided by Chief of Staff Mark Patterson (Goldman lobbyist 2003-2008), Neel Kashkari (Goldman Vice President 2002-2006) , Under-Secretary Robert K Steel (Vice Chairman at Goldman, where he worked from 1976 to 2004), and advisors Kendrick Wilson (at Goldman from 1998 to 2008) and Edward C Forst (former Global Head of Goldman's Investment Management Division).
Paulson's successor, Timothy Geithner, a protege of Robert Rubin, was kept close to the Goldman fold with the usual tactic of paying him lucrative speaking fees, the same tactic they use to keep Hillary's ear. I could go on with Goldman's connections to the US government, but I don't want to bore you. For a fuller account I refer you to Michael Hudson's book, Killing the Host, How Financial Parasites and Debt Destroy the Global Economy.
This January 2016 Goldman admitted to committing massive fraud and was fined $5 billion. The Wall Street firm had agreed with federal prosecutors and regulators to resolve claims stemming from the marketing and selling of faulty mortgage securities to investors. These are the people who are running your democratic (ha, ha) government. While the 99% got screwed, Wall Street got bailed out because they ARE the government.
But not to worry. This looming market crash is a problem for the big guys, the billionaires, the investor class, not the 99%. The mortgage defaults of 2008, on the other hand, brought real pain to the middle class. While the banks got bailed out, the average middle class homeowner did not. HAMP, the Home Affordable Mortgage Program which was supposed to help homeowners stay in their homes with loan modifications, was a colossal failure.
The program gave permanent mortgage modifications to 1.3 million people, but 350,000 of them defaulted again on their mortgages and were evicted from their homes. Fewer than one million homeowners remain in the HAMP program – just a quarter of its target – and $28 billion of the funding remains unspent. The HAMP program, supposed to help homeowners save their houses, may have led them deeper into a bureaucratic swamp.
401ks - the Worst Idea Perpetrated on the American People
Now that that crisis has settled down, the main worry of the middle class is that, when the stock market tanks, so will their 401k. 401ks were one of the worst travesties visited on the average American worker. Folks lucky enough to have traditional pensions don't have to worry especially if it's a government pension. On the other hand those with traditional pensions from corporations have to worry about corporate raiders and hedge fund takeover artists raiding their pension funds. Those with 401ks are taking all the risk in their individual portfolios over which they have no control really. They are at the mercy of the market and Wall Street. God help them.
There is also widening inequality which means that American consumers have less money to spend to keep the economy going. US GDP depends on consumer purchases because they are 70% of the economy. If everyone goes to ground and starts growing their own vegetables and keeping their own chickens, all those nonpurchases at the supermarket will drive the economy down. 2015 was a big year for car sales; that means that 2016 will not be because consumers are carred up.
Robert Reich thinks the economy is on the edge of recession:
Consider: The median wage is 4 percent below what it was in 2000, adjusted for inflation. The median wage of young people, even those with college degrees, is also dropping, adjusted for inflation. That means a continued slowdown in the rate of family formation—more young people living at home and deferring marriage and children – and less demand for goods and services.
At the same time, the labor participation rate—the percentage of Americans of working age who have jobs—remains near a 40-year low.
The giant boomer generation won’t and can’t take up the slack. Boomers haven’t saved nearly enough for retirement, so they’re being forced to cut back expenditures.
Wall Street and hedge funds are running the economy. They are the central planners not the US government which is basically just a pawn in their hands. They borrow money from the Federal Reserve at extremely low rates and then buy Treasury bonds which amounts to making money off the spread or making money off their ability to finance the American government which boils down to us, the American taxpayers.
Fortunately, the US isn't dependent on Japanese or Chinese or Saudi Arabian investors to buy its bonds. Wall Street has taken over that role in a symbiotic Ponzi scheme which requires the Fed, Wall Street and the US Treasury to all play their parts. That means that now the Big Banks are really, really Too Big To Fail. They are an essential part of funding and running the US government!
Better to Put Your Money Under the Mattress
While Wall Street banks are too big to fail, the next banking crisis could trigger not a bail out but a bail in. According to Ellen Brown, the mechanics are already in place to loot depositors' bank accounts:
While the mainstream media focus on ISIS extremists, a threat that has gone virtually unreported is that your life savings could be wiped out in a massive derivatives collapse. Bank bail-ins have begun in Europe, and the infrastructure is in place in the US. Poverty also kills.
At the end of November, an Italian pensioner hanged himself after his entire €100,000 savings were confiscated in a bank “rescue” scheme. He left a suicide note blaming the bank, where he had been a customer for 50 years and had invested in bank-issued bonds. But he might better have blamed the EU and the G20’s Financial Stability Board, which have imposed an “Orderly Resolution” regime that keeps insolvent banks afloat by confiscating the savings of investors and depositors. Some 130,000 shareholders and junior bond holders suffered losses in the “rescue.”
Something to think about. Maybe hiding your money under the mattress is the best solution since it's not earning any interest in the bank anyway.
“The United States is more vulnerable today than ever before including during the Great Depression and the Civil War,” says Thom Hartmann, in “The Crash of 2016.” Why? “Because the pillars of democracy that once supported a booming middle class have been corrupted, and without them, America teeters on the verge of the next Great Crash.” Thanks to an obstructionist GOP, hell-bent on destroying Obama the past six years. [Thom's] indictment hits hard, but matching something you might hear from Rush Limbaugh on the Right.
“The United States is in the midst of an economic implosion that could make the Great Depression look like child’s play,” warns Hartmann. His analysis is brutal, sees that “the facade of our once-great United States will soon disintegrate to reveal the rotting core where corporate and billionaire power and greed have replaced democratic infrastructure and governance. Our once-enlightened political and economic systems have been manipulated to ensure the success of only a fraction of the population at the expense of the rest of us.” And he wrote that before Picketty’s “Capital in the 21st Century.”
The US has a boom bust economy. Unfortunately, the busts are becoming more frequent and the booms more superficial. People get all euphoric when the stock market goes up. As someone once said, it leads to "irrational exuberance." Then when it crashes, they sell leaving their 401ks and retirement incomes in shambles. That's what happens when investing is left in the hands of amateurs. The big guys, the hedge funds will make money either way - when the stock market goes up they go long; when it goes down they're short. They are high frequency traders and act on insider information. They commit fraud.
They have billions of dollars at their disposal from low interest loans from Wall Street. That's why they can buy entire corporations, break them up, lay off the employees, raid their pension funds and sell the remaining eviscerated hulk off to the unsuspecting and naive. The hedge (vulture) funds and Wall Street make out like bandits which is what they essentially are. The banks, whose function used to be capital formation to fund industry which created jobs, now functions as a conduit to hedge funds to wreak havoc with the American economy in pursuit of short term profits.
The world is polarized between the uber wealthy and the rest of us. Just 62 people own as much wealth as the 3.6 billion poorest. That's globalization for you. Nation states are no longer important or in control. The uber wealthy, the billionaires, who can buy and sell politicians and governments at their whim are the controllers. They - not the communists or socialists - are the central planners of the economy, and their plan for the economy is to benefit them and only them. The World Bank and the IMF are their henchmen.
The New Feudalism - Billionaires Replace the Nobility
This is from a recent report from Oxfam, AN ECONOMY FOR THE 1% How privilege and power in the economy drive extreme inequality and how this can be stopped:
The gap between rich and poor is reaching new extremes. The richest 1 percent have now accumulated more wealth than the rest of the world put together… Meanwhile, the wealth owned by the bottom half of humanity has fallen by a trillion dollars in the past five years.”
The wealth of the richest 62 people has risen by 44 percent in the five years since 2010—that’s an increase of more than half a trillion dollars ($542 billion), to $1.76 trillion,” Oxfam noted. “Meanwhile, the wealth of the bottom half fell by just over a trillion dollars in the same period—a drop of 41 percent. Since the turn of the century, the poorest half of the world’s population has received just 1 percent of the total increase in global wealth, while half of that increase has gone to the top 1 percent.
There is really only one candidate for President who is addressing these issues - Bernie Sanders. Republicans want us to take our eyes off the ball of growing inequality and impoverishment of the 99% while the billionaires take on the role of oligarchs. They want us to focus on international terrorism and the threat that that brings to our everyday lives.
While that is surely a threat, ISIS cannot do major damage to the US. A few people can be blown up here and there and that is a tragedy. It's just not as great a tragedy as the gun violence done by Americans to other Americans on a daily basis which is orders of magnitude bigger.
If the economy takes a tumble, Hillary Clinton's ties to Wall Street will take on an even more ominous cloud over her campaign while the fact that Bernie Sanders has raised millions in small donations without the help of Wall Street or Super PACs will cast him in an even more favorable light. That might be the deciding factor. The Republicans will surely be left behind if they place all their bets on getting the American people to vote for them out of fear of ISIS.
John Coltrane: One Down, One Up
Monk and Coltrane: Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall
Best album of 2005 (*****)
Doug Ramsey: Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond
This is a great book! Paul Desmond and Dave Brubeck formed the heart of one of the best all time jazz groups. Paul was the quintessential intellectual, white jazz musician. A talented writer, he never published anything. However author, Doug Ramsey has collected Paul's letters here. How ironic that now his writing in the form of letters to his father and ex-wife, among others, is finally published showing another window on the mind of this talented person. A sideman, for the most part, his entire life, the Dave Brubeck Quartet might never have happened at all due to the fact that Paul had managed to offend Dave to the point where he never wanted to see him again. It had to do with a gig that Paul actually was the leader of. Paul wanted to take the summer off to play another gig, and Dave wanted Paul to let him take over the gig at the Band Box in Palo Alto, CA. Paul wouldn't let him and Dave, married with two children, proceeded to starve. Due to an elaborate publicity campaign, when he realized the error of his ways, Paul managed to worm himself back into Dave's good graces. The rest is history. This book is remarkable for the insight it gives into a working jazz musician's mind, wonderful pictures and interviews with the significant figures in Paul's life. Author Ramsey, not a remarkable penman himself, has nevertheless done a magnificent job of assembling all these various materials. Unlike a lot of jazz authors, he doesn't overly idolize his subject with the result that you get the feeling that you have met a real person and not a idealized version. That's high praise indeed for any biographer. (*****)