Buying America: Shopping Can Be an Ethical Act

Shopping-antwerpenR_New

The Many Astounding Ways You Can Express Your Values with Your Pocket Book

By David Morris / Alternet

“Every person ought to have the awareness that purchasing is always a moral – and not simply an economic – act,” Pope Francis announced early this year. How can we spend our money as if our values matter?

In some sectors and for some values this is fairly easy. Food is an obvious example. Those who want to protect the environment and human and animal health will find abundant labels guiding them to the appropriate product: USDA Organic, free range, hormone free, grass fed. For those who want to strengthen community, shrink the distance between producer and consumer and support family farmers a growing number of grocery stores label locally grown or raised.   [Read more…]

Economic Growth Doesn’t Make a Wealthy Nation, Safety and Happiness Do

Still frame from Growth Is Not Enough

By Araz Hachadourian / Yes! Magazine

Worldwide economic wealth has quadrupled since 1970, and experts say it will continue to grow exponentially. But at the same time, poverty and economic inequality are on the rise.

Most countries use measures such as gross national product (GNP) and gross domestic product (GDP) to assess the health of their economies. But these only take into account economic activity and material wealth, leaving out factors like distribution of resources and quality of life.

In this video, Kate Raworth, economist and senior visiting research associate at Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute, explains how economies aimed only at growth are not enough.   [Read more…]

Whistleblower Exposes Torture and Child Abuse at For-Profit Prison

Karnes County Residential Center (via The Geo Group)

By Sarah Lazare / Common Dreams

A social worker formerly employed at a for-profit family immigrant detention center in Texas blew the whistle this week on the prison’s inhumane conditions—from solitary confinement to medical neglect—that she said amount to child abuse and torture.

The Karnes County Residential Center is operated by GEO Group—the second largest private prison company in the country that has faced numerous accusations of atrocities and civil rights violations. It is also the site of recent—and repeated—hunger strikes led by mothers incarcerated with their children, in protest of their conditions, detentions, and in many cases, their looming deportations.   [Read more…]

How America Is Failing Its Schools

think outside the box

America’s schools are not failing; America is failing its schools

By Salvatore Babones / Inequality.org

The 1983 blue-ribbon panel report A Nation At Risk exposed the dire state of America’s schools. The report was commissioned by Secretary of Education Terrel Bell to address “the widespread public perception that something is seriously remiss in our educational system.”

The commission included 12 administrators, 1 businessperson, 1 chemist, 1 physicist, 1 politician, 1 conservative activist, 1 teacher — and not a single expert on America’s educational system.

The report concluded that “declines in educational performance are in large part the result of disturbing inadequacies in the way the educational process itself is often conducted.” It advocated an expansion of standardized testing to ensure better performance.   [Read more…]

ALEC Confidential: Tales from Inside the San Diego Meeting

MONEYPOWERANDALEC

By Bill Raden / Capital & Main

“The biggest scam of the last 100 years is global warming!” thundered Stephen Moore to ALEC’s plenary breakfast club this morning. “It’s no surprise that when you give these professors $10 billion, they’re going to find a problem.”  Moore then singled out North Dakota for its regulatory-free attitudes toward the fracking industry: “I just have one message for you — drill, baby, drill!”

The annual meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council began wrapping up business in San Diego Friday on this defiant note from Moore, a former Wall Street Journal writer. This newly hired Heritage Foundation economist is an apostle of completely eliminating state income taxes  and has been in a running feud with liberal economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, over Moore’s casual regard for accurate reporting.   [Read more…]

The Calamity of the Disappearing School Libraries

Ryeish Green School Library

Debra Kachel / The Conversation

From coast to coast, elementary and high school libraries are being neglected, defunded, repurposed, abandoned and closed.

The kindest thing that can be said about this is that it’s curious; the more accurate explanation is that it’s just wrong and very foolish.

A 2011 survey conducted with my graduate students of 25 separate statewide studies shows that students who attend schools with libraries that are staffed by certified librarians score better on reading and writing tests than students in schools without library services. And it is lower-income students who benefit the most.   [Read more…]

How San Diego Is a Petri Dish for the ALEC Agenda

downtown2civicctr

By Brendan Fischer / Center for Media and Democracy

This week, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) descends on San Diego, California for its annual meeting of lobbyists and legislators.

In many ways, San Diego is an appropriate setting for ALEC’s conference. Beyond the walls of the Manchester Grand Hyatt, where ALEC members convene under heavy security and behind closed doors, the city known as “America’s Finest” has been a major battleground in the corporate-backed resistance to local control over paid sick days and the minimum wage.

It was at ACCE’s last meeting, held in Washington D.C. in December, where an ALEC task force director claimed that “the biggest threat comes from the local level” when it comes to grassroots efforts to raise the wage and enact paid sick days, and warned that “we are seeing a number of localities that have increased their minimum wage.”

San Diego is one of them.   [Read more…]

The Complicated World of Having Your Boss Decide What Kind of Birth Control You Can Use

how does where you work affect your contraceptive coverage inforgraphic

By Joan McCarter / Daily Kos

Too bad Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy decided to wait until this session to not be insane about Obamacare. Not only did their Hobby Lobby decision make it okay for bosses to deny their employees health insurance plans that cover birth control (because that has everything to do with your job), they opened up the floodgates for all sorts of “religious freedom” claims in which people declare they won’t do something that their job requires them to do and they think is icky because God. But back to the birth control part, the Kaiser Family Foundation has a helpful explainer of the newly complicated world of trying to plan your family with health insurance.   [Read more…]

Hot Topics at ALEC’s 2015 Meeting in San Diego

Flashing money

By Brendan Fischer / PR Watch

This week, the American Legislative Exchange Council, or “ALEC,” will bring together hundreds of corporate lobbyists with state and local politicians at a posh hotel in San Diego for the group’s annual meeting.

ALEC alum Scott Walker, who has signed over 20 ALEC bills into law, will address this month’s meeting, as well as Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz, who participated in ALEC meetings before he joined the U.S. Senate. Community groups are planning on bringing a little transparency to the proceedings, by welcoming the candidates and ALEC participants on July 22.   [Read more…]

JFK Pledged Cuban Isolation Would End with Soviet Threat

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By John Perr/ Daily Kos

After a half-century in mothballs, the Cuban embassy in Washington and the U.S. embassy in Havana reopened on Monday July 20.

But while the restoration of relations is popular with the American people, the usual suspects among the GOP White House hopefuls expressed outrage….

Unfortunately for all of the irredentists and revisionists of recent Cuban-American history, the man who began Washington’s diplomatic isolation and embargo of Havana made clear he would have ended both long ago.   [Read more…]

How I Learned That Unapologetic Black Anger Can Change the World for the Better

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White supremacy has forced black Americans to wear a mask that is used to hide the full range of our emotions.

By Chauncey DeVega / AlterNet

At the Socialism 2015 conference, Martinez Sutton, the brother of Rekia Boyd, a 22-year-old black woman killed by an off duty white Chicago cop who recklessly fired 5 shots into a crowd of people because he was supposedly upset that they were playing loud music, shared his story of anger and pain at a legal system that, as it usually does, twisted justice in order to protect one of its enforcers of death and destruction on the black and brown body, as well as the poor of all colors.

Mr. Sutton told the audience that he and his family will not forgive the cop who killed his sister. He called out how this expectation that black and brown folks should always forgive those who malign and hurt us is an absurdity. Some people on the panel and in the audience cried. Mr. Sutton’s hands shook, and the timbre of his voice changed, as he told us about his funny and smart, and so very much loved sister would not find justice from an illegitimate, and at times incompetent, court system that mistreats black people as a matter of policy.

Jeralynn Blueford, Bridzette Lane, and Dionee Smith-Downs and others also told the attendees their stories of sons and brothers killed by America’s police and legal system, as well as how the State conspired to rob the dead (and their surviving families) of their dignity and freedom.   [Read more…]

Measure of Deception: CA Initiative Would Gut Retirement Benefits for Millions

magic trick

By Bill Raden /Capital & Main

When Democratic former San Jose mayor Chuck Reed and Republican ex-San Diego councilmember Carl DeMaio finally unveiled the language for a promised attempt at getting a statewide public pension cutting measure to 2016 voters, the expectation was that Reed II would be a reined-in and more realistically-framed version of Reed I – last year’s failed attempt at undermining the public pension system.

That try for the 2014 ballot was aborted after Attorney General Kamala Harris slapped it with a candid, albeit politically untenable summary that frankly described the proposed constitutional amendment as targeting longstanding legal rights—rights that protect the pensions and retirement health care of the 1.64 million Californians enrolled in the state’s public pension systems.

But even veterans of the state’s public-sector retirement wars were unprepared for the sheer scale of what awaited them this time around. Amid the deceptively simple wording contained in the laudable-sounding “Voter Empowerment Act of 2016,” Reed-DeMaio concealed a hidden trigger that is now being recognized as a wholesale attempt to uproot 60 years of statutory law and a critical foundation of labor relations.    [Read more…]

After EPA Ignored Environmental Racism for Decades, Communities Fight Back

Clean air rally 2008

On behalf of communities across the United States, Earthjustice files suit for government violation of civil rights laws

By Sarah Lazare / Common Dreams

The Environmental Protection Agency has been ignoring complaints about environmental racism across the United States for up to 20 years, repeatedly failing to investigate evidence that incinerators, power plants, and hazardous waste dumps are disproportionally harming the health of low-income communities of color, a new lawsuit charges.

Filed Wednesday by environmental advocacy organization Earthjustice on behalf of communities across the country, the lawsuit argues that the EPA failed to take adequate action in response to complaints that states were violating civil rights laws by granting permits to hazardous polluters primarily in poor and working-class Black and Latino neighborhoods.   [Read more…]

ALEC Wants to Educate High Schoolers on Balanced Budgets and Austerity

alec cardboard sign

By Jonas Persson and and Mary Bottari / Center for Media and Democracy

The right-wing push to amend the U.S. Constitution by requiring a balanced federal budget is gaining momentum. In January, GOP Governor John Kasich of Ohio went on a six-state tour to rally support, and so far this year, New Jersey, Utah and North Dakota have passed resolutions calling for a Constitutional Convention to propose a balanced budget amendment. By some counts, 27 states have passed such resolutions; 34 are needed to trigger a convention.

Ronald Reagan called for a balanced budget amendment in the 1980s and Newt Gingrich included it in the 1994 Contract With America. A year later, ALEC joined the fray with a model resolution for states. Those who advocate for an amendment often cite “common sense” concerns about “fiscal responsibility.” But as history shows, the rhetoric often masks the outright hostility many proponents of the amendment have for key federal programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and for the regulatory infrastructure that protects consumers and the environment.   [Read more…]

So a Lobbyist and an ALEC Legislator Walk into a Bar…Caught on Tape by NBC

alec_lobbyist_pays_more_wxia

Reposted from PR Watch/ Center for Media and Democracy

A lobbyist and a legislator got caught on tape explaining how corporations subsidize lawmakers’ resort trips through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the controversial corporate bill mill.

In a new report aired on Atlanta’s NBC TV Channel WXIA 11, Georgia investigative reporter Brendan Keefe went behind the scenes at ALEC’s spring meeting in Savannah, Georgia, where he chatted with lobbyists and lawmakers–and was summarily ejected by uniformed off-duty deputies for trying to film public officials at the task force meetings where future state laws are written.   [Read more…]

Help Save Our Public Postal Service

Save POst Office

By Dave Johnson / Campaign for America’s Future

The Grand Alliance to Save Our Public Postal Service is calling for support of two House resolutions that urge restoration of overnight mail service standards and a continuation of six-day delivery.

The alliance consists of more than 70 national organizations. The coalition is asking people to contact members of Congress in support of House Resolutions 54 and 12. H. Res. 54, from Reps. David McKinley (R-W.Va) and Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), expresses the sense of the House of Representatives that the U.S. Postal Service “should take all appropriate measures to restore service standards in effect as of July 1, 2012.” H. Res. 12, from Reps. Sam Graves (R-MO) and Gerry Connolly (D-VA), says that the USPS “should take all appropriate measures to ensure the continuation of its six-day mail delivery service.”

These resolutions are in response to a new attempt to manufacture a crisis in postal delivery.   [Read more…]

Anti-Democracy Forces on Trial as Voting Rights Fight Heats Up

Scene from a rally in front of the Supreme Court where justices were hearing cases on the Voting Rights Act

‘This is our Selma,’ North Carolina NAACP leader declares as thousands prepare to rally outside courthouse

By Lauren McCauley / Common Dreams

In what has become ground zero in the national fight against voter suppression, thousands were expected to protest outside a federal courthouse in North Carolina on Monday marking the outset of a landmark trial which will determine if Republican-backed changes made to state voting laws discriminate against minority voters.

“This is our Selma,” proclaimed Dr. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP which, along with the Advancement Project and the U.S. Department of Justice, launched the suit against the state.   [Read more…]

How to Fix California’s Housing Affordability Crisis

housing-construction

By Murtaza H. Baxamusa, Ph.D., AICP / San Diego UrbDeZine

As the economy improves, California’s affordable housing crisis is worsening. The average rent in California ($1,240) is almost fifty percent higher than the national average. This is pricing out our state’s low-wage blue collar workers, who have flat incomes and rising commutes. It would take a service worker in San Jose 20 years to save up enough to buy a home.

Unfortunately, government programs that help developers build affordable housing have barely met a fraction of the need.   [Read more…]

Four Ways ALEC Tried to Ruin Your State This Year

ALEC banner

By Jessica Mason / Center for Democracy and Media

In a year with unprecedented rightwing dominance in state legislative chambers, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has continued to wreak havoc in states across the country–despite an ongoing exodus of high-profile corporate members, including BP, Google, and several high-tech firms.

ALEC’s legislative playbook for 2015 focused on blocking action on climate change, thwarting local democracy, attacking labor unions, and further privatizing public education in the U.S., as CMD reported last year in covering its legislative agenda for the year.   [Read more…]

Puerto Rico’s Dance With Debt

Street in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is mired in debt and facing default. And US colonialism is one of the main culprits.

By Ed Morales / Jacobin

Puerto Rico, a de facto colony of the US, is usually not in the news outside of the travel and style sections. But as it stumbles towards a September default deadline that threatens to shut down government operations, the island territory has been a fixture in the business press, with headlines like: “Puerto Rico Faces Tough Choices Ahead,” “Puerto Rico Power Authority Deadline Extended,” and “A Desperate Puerto Rico Raises $1.2 Billion in Short-term Financing.”

According to the neoliberal narrative, the rapidly intensifying economic crisis is an open and shut case: Puerto Rico, legally an unincorporated territory of the US, is caught in a debtor’s trap of borrowing to pay for essential operations. And now the bill is coming due. Bloomberg Business likens it to a “consumer using one credit card to pay off another.”

But the real story is more complicated, and more connected to Puerto Rico’s colonial relationship with the US.   [Read more…]

The Persuaders: California Restaurant Association

attribution: Goldenkb|Dreamstime.com

By Bobbi Murray / Capital & Main

“Something always seems to be starting in California,” Angelo Amador, an attorney and vice president for the National Restaurant Association, told Bloomberg News.

It was 2012 and his remark was prompted by a California state Supreme Court decision favoring an employee’s right to have defined meal-break times. The association—dubbed “the other NRA” for its lobbying muscle, with annual revenues of $71 million in 2013–had vigorously opposed policy that required employers to ensure that workers take rest and meal breaks rather than leaving it to the employees to push back against managers to enforce break provisions.

Amador’s NRA is perhaps the largest trade group that you have never heard of, and supports an “institute” run by a PR firm that churns out opinions and papers to shape policy debates.   [Read more…]

Koch-backed Group Calls for End of National Parks

Daily Kos EPIC Glacier National Park Red Bus tour, 2015.

By Joan McCarter / Daily Kos

The National Park system is broke, argues Reed Watson, the executive director at the Koch-backed Property and Environment Research Center (PERC) in an op-ed, so the only thing to do about it is stop creating national parks. Because, of course, actually funding them is out of the question.

“True conservation is taking care of the land and water you already have, not insatiably acquiring more and hoping it manages itself,” the op-ed reads. “Let’s maintain what we’ve already got, so we can protect it properly,” it concludes.

Of course “hoping it manages itself” was never the aim of Congress in creating national parks, which is why they also created the National Park Service to manage them.   [Read more…]

Film Review: ‘What Happened, Miss Simone?’

What Happened, Miss Simone? Nina Simone

By Alex Demyanenko / Capital & Main

The first shot of What Happened, Miss Simone? shows a crowd applauding the appearance of a singer. After years of a self-imposed hiatus, Nina Simone walks onstage, and with one hand on a piano, bows. For a full 10 seconds. She then looks up and out at the rapturous audience. But she is not smiling. Her stare is intense. Some will see fear in her eyes. Others will see indifference. Others might even see loathing. Or all of it.

Once Simone sits at the piano and the applause ends, she does nothing for half a minute. The uncomfortable silence is finally broken by her softy saying “Hello” into the mic, only to be greeted by a fan shouting, “Hi. We are ready!” But is Simone? After seeing Liz Garbus’ documentary, an even better question is, “Was she ever?”

Not everyone who is thrust into stardom is ready for it or even desirous of it. There is no doubt that part of Simone loved being famous, but the juxtaposed moods in this opening scene are palpable and unnerving for a reason. The moment is not only a metaphor for Simone’s fascinating journey as the most compelling and provocative diva of her time, but also a harbinger of what is to come for the next 100 minutes, a document of a life full of contradiction that poses almost as many questions as it answers.   [Read more…]

Damning New Analysis Reveals Deadly Lack of Police Training on Mental Illness

Mental health diversion

‘On average, police shot and killed someone who was in mental crisis every 36 hours in the first six months of this year,’ reveals Washington Post

By Deidre Fulton / Common Dreams

One quarter of the men and women shot and killed by police in the first six months of 2015 were “in the throes of mental or emotional crisis,” according to a new analysis published by the Washington Post on Tuesday, suggesting that law enforcement officers lack training on how to deal with the mentally ill.   [Read more…]