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Well, this sucks. (climate change, debt growth, school shootings, and more) August 7, 2018

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“This two-part article is based on 18 months of reporting and well over a hundred interviews. It tracks the efforts of a small group of American scientists, activists and politicians to raise the alarm and stave off catastrophe. It will come as a revelation to many readers — an agonizing revelation — to understand how thoroughly they grasped the problem and how close they came to solving it.” They’re…not kidding. It’s heartbreaking.

“By almost every measure, the U.S. economy is booming. But a look behind the headlines of roaring job growth and consumer spending reveals how the boom continues in large part by the poorer half of Americans fleecing their savings and piling up debt.

Twice as many students have been killed in school shootings [in 2018] as have members of the military who were on deployment.”

“Terrorist attacks committed by Muslim extremists receive 357% more US press coverage than those committed by non-Muslims, according to new research from the University of Alabama. […] The disparity in media coverage is particularly out of sync with the reality given that white and rightwing terrorists carried out nearly twice as many terrorist attacks as Muslim extremists between 2008 and 2016.

“Some of the jurors who imposed the death penalty on Charles Rhines, who was convicted of murder, have said they thought the alternative — a life sentence served in a men’s prison — was something he would enjoy as a gay man.” This one has turned up some awful comments about “well, he deserved the death penalty, regardless of how he got it.” No. Stop. You really think this problem will only affect “the bad ones” and leave “the good ones” alone? Because that’s Not How It Works. See previous link. Or, alternately, all of history.

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Mueller’s investigation has obtained 5 guilty pleas and 17 criminal indictments. So far. June 7, 2018

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“A majority of Americans — 59 percent — say in a new survey that Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia and the 2016 campaign has not yet uncovered evidence of any crimes, even though in reality, Mueller has already obtained five guilty pleas and 17 criminal indictments.

“Benjamin Franklin wrote that ‘perhaps I am partial to the complexion of my country, for such kind of partiality is natural to mankind.’ He favored ‘the English’ and ‘white people,’ and did not want Pennsylvania to become a ‘colony of aliens,’ who ‘will never adopt our language or customs, any more than they can acquire our complexion.’ He was speaking of the Germans.”

“Their study finds a correlation between white American’s intolerance, and support for authoritarian rule. In other words, when intolerant white people fear democracy may benefit marginalized people, they abandon their commitment to democracy.

“During the first nine days after Harvey, FEMA provided 5.1 million meals, 4.5 million liters of water and over 20,000 tarps to Houston; but in the same period, it delivered just 1.6 million meals, 2.8 million liters of water and roughly 5,000 tarps to Puerto Rico.

I get a letter from the state saying I’m a witness against Lula Smart—for what? All I know is it’s a lie. Bottom line. She’s never brought me anything about voting. I’ve only seen that girl twice in the past five years. Racism’s all it is.”

Count up your assets, subtract your debt, get some data: “The [Boston] household median net worth was $247,500 for whites; $8 for US blacks (the lowest of all five cities); $12,000 for Caribbean blacks; $3,020 for Puerto Ricans; and $0 for Dominicans (that’s not a typo either.) ”

“When Kevin Smith was jailed on a drug charge in New Orleans in 2010, Blockbuster was still renting DVDs and President Barack Obama was still trying to pass his signature health care bill. Smith’s case never went to a jury.” They finally dismissed the charges, after nearly 8 years of holding this poor guy without a trial.

Black men who commit the same crimes as white men receive federal prison sentences that are, on average, nearly 20 percent longer, according to a new report on sentencing disparities from the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC).”

We need to stop treating the NFL like anything other than what it is: a for-profit association of billionaires (the average franchise value is $2.5 billion) that produces a product that hundreds of millions of Americans pay for.”

Trashing our oceans, killing our power grids, burning down our buildings, and more May 22, 2018

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“In the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii, hundreds of miles from any major city, plastic bottles, children’s toys, broken electronics, abandoned fishing nets and millions more fragments of debris are floating in the water — at least 87,000 tons’ worth, researchers said Thursday.

“The river is fed by 51 tributaries, some of them overflowing with plastic waste from squatter settlements that cantilever precariously over creek banks. A tributary near Chinatown, where rickety shanties are wedged between modern buildings, is so choked with plastic debris you can walk across it, forgoing the footbridge.

“A new report from the Rhodium Group on Puerto Rico’s ongoing blackout has found that Hurricane Maria has spawned the second-largest power outage in the world on record.

Fundraising for a Dallas LGBT community center that was intentionally set on fire last year. They’ve gotten enough to do a lot of rebuilding, but they can always use more.

In 2012 a call center in India was busted for making 8 million calls in eight months to collect made-up bills. The Federal Trade Commission has since broken up at least 13 similar scams. In most cases, regulators weren’t able to identify the original perpetrators because the data files had been sold and repackaged so many times. Victims have essentially no recourse to do anything but take the abuse.”

“For those of you who work in social media, I need to share the story of my friend who died, and I didn’t know because algorithms.

“The impersonator trolls seethed. Some tried changing their user names to evade the bot (it didn’t work). Others simply reverted to their openly neo-Nazi personas. A few even tried to impersonate the bot, which was vastly preferable from our perspective and rather amusing. [..] The Nazis realized they couldn’t beat the bot, so they started mass-reporting it to Twitter for “harassment.”

And to end this post on a not-totally-disheartening note…”In short, in fighting neo-Nazis/alt-right/white-male discontent / We are the Globo-Corpo-Homo-Judeo establishment

It’s the [Democrats being better for the] economy, stupid May 7, 2018

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Sometimes, though, one party really is doing a better job than the other. To refuse to admit it is to miss the story.” The Democrats are the party of fiscal responsibility. Full stop.

The results of [raising taxes in Minnesota] continue to surprise and delight: unemployment is down to 3.7%, private sector earnings are up 1.5% to $891/week, 47,000 new jobs were added to the economy in the past year, and the state just declared a $1.8B budget surplus, even as Forbes ranked it 9th in its table of best states for business. But this is all the more remarkable when compared the fate of the Republican-run, austerity-fuelled neighboring states […] They are running deficits, the people there are earning less than their Minnesotan cousins, they’re adding fewer (and worse) jobs, and posting less growth.”

If you’re a part-time employee at Walmart, and all of a sudden you can get $15 an hour, work full time, and earn full benefits by working for the federal government — wouldn’t you? And, knowing that, wouldn’t Walmart try to increase wages to keep you?”

Study Confirms What Your Grandmother Already Taught You: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. “Want a healthier population? Spend less on health care and more on social services.”

Canceling all the government-owned student debt would be good for the economy. I’ve said it before, but this time I’m saying it with all my own debt paid off.

Periodic reminder that SNAP is one of the most effective economic stimuli we have, where every dollar spent gets back $1.79.

“I talked with the federal authorities two weeks ago, asking for additional federal assistance, I was told point-blank ‘no’.” September 26, 2017

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Paul Ryan’s tax postcard, explained: “The form’s simplicity makes its priorities clear: No matter what rates are applied or which deductions or credits are allowed, a worker would end up paying twice as much in taxes as an investor with the same income.

GOP sheriffs reportedly under pressure from Trump to break the law. Good on them for standing their ground. (Are Democratic sheriffs not getting credit for resisting, or simply not being asked?)

Oregon governor asked the Trump adminstratiion for wildfire support: “I talked with the federal authorities two weeks ago, asking for additional federal assistance, I was told point-blank ‘no’.”

“In the 35 years between their jobs as janitors, corporations across America have flocked to a new management theory: Focus on core competence and outsource the rest. The approach has made companies more nimble and more productive, and delivered huge profits for shareholders. It has also fueled inequality and helps explain why many working-class Americans are struggling even in an ostensibly healthy economy.

“My supervisor, for example, runs a large department. He was just promoted to a new, even more demanding position, but his position running the department will not be filled. He will now be doing what is a 60-to-70-hour job ‘on the side.’

“Virtually all the top political jobs below Carson remained vacant. Carson himself was barely to be seen — he never made the walk-through of the building customary of past new secretaries. ‘It was just nothing,’ said one career employee. ‘I’ve never been so bored in my life. No agenda, nothing to move forward or push back against. Just nothing.’

“We find that white Trump supporters randomly exposed to a black (versus a white) man in the context of soliciting their support for a housing-assistance policy were more opposed to the policy, angrier about the policy, and more likely to blame beneficiaries for their situation.

“But it’s the degree to which the alt-righters differed from the comparison sample that’s most striking — especially when it came to measures of dehumanization, support for collective white action, and admitting to harassing others online..”

“Mr. Hermansson, who was sent undercover by the British anti-racist watchdog group Hope Not Hate, spent months insinuating himself into the alt-right, using his Swedish nationality (many neo-Nazis are obsessed with Sweden because of its “Nordic” heritage) as a way in. It wasn’t always easy. ‘You want to punch them in the face,’ he told me of the people he met undercover.

How to stop overworking prisoners, underpaying workers, and under-insuring everyone August 3, 2017

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“Over the years, prisoners have packaged coffee for Starbucks Corp. and wrapped software for Microsoft Corp. They manufacture furniture, schools supplies and food products. They make dental products, train animals, work in call centers and even pick cotton. All of these activities put prisoners in direct competition with blue-collar American workers; the latter has essentially no chance.

“…in the substantial majority of instances (68 percent) overall employment increased after a federal minimum-wage increase. In the most substantially affected industries, the rates were even higher: in the leisure and hospitality sector employment rose 82 percent of the time following a federal wage increase, and in the retail sector it was 73 percent of the time.”

“…it seems safe to conclude that Seattle has tolerated its minimum wage increase well and that, by extension, other strong economies could do so. It also suggests that a key to successful large increases is a gradual phase-in that gives businesses time to adjust and experts time to study the impacts as they unfold.”

“If [McCain, recently diagnosed with brain cancer] and his fellow Republicans in Congress have their way, health insurers could soon be allowed to deny me coverage — or to double or triple the cost of my insurance — due to the fact that I lost two close blood relatives to the same disease.

“Republicans are now pushing up against a growing consensus that the government should guarantee health insurance. A Pew survey in January found that 60 percent of Americans believe the federal government should be responsible for ensuring that all Americans have health coverage. That was up from 51 percent last year, and the highest in nearly a decade.”

A ray of hope amidst the leopards June 21, 2017

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The bad:

Roundup of incidents of Trump supporters being proudly violent, sometimes to the point of murder, in his name. Features racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, the whole hatred spectrum.

Trump wants to start charging stores to accept food stamps, because apparently Republicans want to help small businesses by driving away their customers.

The Leopards Eating Faces Party constituents:

“‘I really haven’t seen him doing anything’ on jobs, Olsen said. ‘The longer they stall around and dance around and whatever, the more people are gonna get hurt.’” GEE, YA THINK.

“Mike Catanzaro, a solar panel installer with a high school diploma, likes to work with his hands under the clear Carolina sky. That’s why he supported President Trump, a defender of blue-collar workers. But the 25-year-old sees Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement as a threat to his job.

“Trump supporters in Texas are coming to the realization that their vote for the president may force some of them out of their homes for less than they are worth, with others finding out that — if they stay — they’ll be living in Mexico if his wall is built.”

One coping mechanism: “I didn’t want to be depressed. I don’t want to feel that he’s not doing what he said, so I just choose to not listen.

The good:

“My neighbor and I drove home in silence. I wondered if his being amongst Middle Easterners who wore hijab and spoke in their native tongue reaffirmed his anti-immigration stance. As we were parting, he said, ‘Let me know if you need help with more deliveries. I’m happy to help anytime.’ He had tears in his eyes.

Not everyone in this mindset is stuck there forever. Some people can learn, and grow, and change.

Rethinking immigration, tanks, refugees, Africa, and more June 5, 2017

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The inclusion of survivors’ information, she says, is a violation of federal law protecting the information of people applying for special visas or other protections for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or human trafficking.” An Orwellian ICE database by people who want to whip up fury at criminals, without actually protecting their victims.

White Terrorists Killed More Americans This Week Than Refugees Have in 40 Years.” That’s true a lot of weeks.

“The tank debate between the Army and Congress goes back to 2012 when Odierno testified that the Army doesn’t need more tanks. Odierno lost then too. Congress voted for another $183 million for tanks.” But tell me again how the GOP believes in fiscal conservatism.

I could give him a 30-minute lunch detention […] But do you really think that’s going to remedy what his issues are? … He walked miles to get here. Why?” Schools in New Orleans trying to practice trauma-informed discipline.

“Sources suggest that authorities were informed of the danger posed by Abedi on at least five separate occasions in the five years prior to the attack on Monday night.” His friends, his family, and his local mosque all tried to warn the police, but nothing was done. Keep that in mind next time you hear someone asking why the Muslim community isn’t doing its part.

“Sure, there’s money going in: around $161bn a year in the form of loans, remittances (those working outside Africa and sending money back home), and aid. But there’s also $203bn leaving the continent. Some of this is direct, such as $68bn in mainly dodged taxes. […] Then there’s the $30bn that these corporations “repatriate” – profits they make in Africa but send back to their home country, or elsewhere, to enjoy their wealth. […] Today’s report estimates that $29bn a year is being stolen from Africa in illegal logging, fishing and trade in wildlife…”

60 percent of those who benefit from the home-mortgage interest deduction didn’t think they had ever used a government social program. Fifty-three percent of those with student loans didn’t think they had used one. Among Social Security beneficiaries, 44 percent thought themselves unsullied by the touch of government, and among Medicare beneficiaries, 39 percent said the same. Twenty-seven percent of those in public housing answered in the negative, as did 25 percent of those on food stamps.”

Friday night bright spots May 12, 2017

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Ordinary Canadians had essentially adopted thousands of Syrian families, donating a year of their time and money to guide them into new lives just as many other countries shunned them. Some citizens already considered the project a humanitarian triumph; others believed the Syrians would end up isolated and adrift, stuck on welfare or worse. As 2016 turned to 2017 and the yearlong commitments began to expire, the question of how the newcomers would fare acquired a national nickname: Month 13, when the Syrians would try to stand on their own.” I wish I had the money to do this. It’s so heartwarming, and sounds so fulfilling.

A showcase of Muslims who risked their lives to help Jewish people escape the Holocaust. This is what heroism looks like.

“The same exact pattern happened in 2016, Phelps said: A wage increase by the state [of California] led to a bump in business. Now Phelps is convinced that minimum wage increases aren’t bad for the fast food business. They’re great.

Employment at Arizona restaurants, bars surges after minimum-wage increase. There’s also been a bump in the rest of the leisure and hospitality sector. (Manufacturing is still going down. Retail too, thanks to online shopping.)

A recycling initiative for hotel toiletries: “Last year Clean the World sent out 400,000 hygiene kits and made more than 7 million bars of soap, including half a million bars for Haiti and the Bahamas after Hurricane Matthew.”

“Based on an advanced copy of America’s budget for the 2017 financial year, it looks like there has been an actual increase in science funding across the board, and rather wonderfully, Trump’s requests to have it cut have been comprehensively ignored.” (Now it just has to pass.)

TIL that there exists a thing called “welfare avoidance grants.” March 30, 2017

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You see, if the government gives you cash assistance and calls it welfare, that’s a Bad Thing. But if the government gives you cash assistance and calls it welfare *avoidance*, suddenly it becomes a Good Thing.

No, seriously. Here’s a page on them in MD.

Can we do this for every social program? Build a place where down-on-their-luck people can live, and call it Homeless Shelter Avoidance Housing. Let us all sign up for Medicare Avoidance Insurance. Make the pro-lifers happy by making abortion illegal — but everyone gets access to Abortion Avoidance Procedures.