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Thumbnail image for Why We Need $50,000 Traffic Tickets

Why We Need $50,000 Traffic Tickets

by Source 04.24.2015 Courts, Justice

Let’s make sure our penalties amount to penalties for everyone

By Sam Pizzigati / OtherWords

All of us would like to live in a world where people always do the right thing — without anybody looking over their shoulder. But that world doesn’t exist and never will. So every society on our planet has penalties. You break the rules, you pay a price.

But penalties only work if the wrongdoer feels that price. A ridiculously tiny penalty amounts to no penalty at all.

Take traffic fines, for instance.

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Thumbnail image for How the New Flexible Economy is Making Workers’ Lives Hell

How the New Flexible Economy is Making Workers’ Lives Hell

by Source 04.22.2015 Business

By Robert Reich

These days it’s not unusual for someone on the way to work to receive a text message from her employer saying she’s not needed right then.

Although she’s already found someone to pick up her kid from school and arranged for childcare, the work is no longer available and she won’t be paid for it.

Just-in-time scheduling like this is the latest new thing, designed to make retail outlets, restaurants, hotels, and other customer-driven businesses more nimble and keep costs to a minimum.

Software can now predict up-to-the-minute staffing needs on the basis of information such as traffic patterns, weather, and sales merely hours or possibly minutes before.

This way, employers don’t need to pay anyone to be at work unless they’re really needed. Companies can avoid paying wages to workers who’d otherwise just sit around.

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Thumbnail image for Eduardo Galeano, Sacrilegious Women

Eduardo Galeano, Sacrilegious Women

by Source 04.15.2015 Books & Poetry

Eduardo Galeano / Tom Dispatch

Editor Note: Acclaimed author and champion of social justice Eduardo Galeano died on April 13, 2015.

His book Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent came out in 1971 and proved to be the first vampire thriller of our American imperial age. Its blood-sucker of a plot was too outrageous not to be mesmerizing: a country called the United States declares a “good neighbor” policy for those living in its hemisphere because they just look so tasty, and then proceeds to suck the economic blood out of country after country. Hollywood never topped it. “True Blood” and “The Vampire Diaries” couldn’t hold an incisor to it; Buffy was a punk by comparison.

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Thumbnail image for Fight215.org Coalition Launches to Amplify Opposition to the NSA’s Mass Surveillance

Fight215.org Coalition Launches to Amplify Opposition to the NSA’s Mass Surveillance

by Source 04.10.2015 Activism

By Nadia Kayyali / Deep Links Blog

A coalition of 34 organizations from across the political spectrum is launching Fight215.org today to help concerned individuals contact lawmakers and demand an end to NSA’s unconstitutional mass surveillance under the Patriot Act.

The launch coincides with the countdown to the expiration of Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which the NSA claims justifies bulk collection of the phone records of millions of innocent people.

The 34 groups and companies joining Fight215 (see a full list at the bottom of this post) have come together to send a clear message: the politics of fear doesn’t trump the Constitution. The unconstitutional bulk collection of phone records must end now.

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Thumbnail image for Police Body Cameras: The Lessons of Albuquerque

Police Body Cameras: The Lessons of Albuquerque

by Source 04.10.2015 Courts, Justice

By Jay Stanley / ACLU Blog of Rights

Police body-worn cameras are a subject about which many people have differing intuitions. Some activists tell us they worry we are mistaken in conditionally supporting the technology; that it will become a tool for increasingly police power, but not oversight. Others point to situations in which the cameras have been crucial in bringing justice—or at least in exposing injustice. In light of such debates, the troubled police department in Albuquerque provides an interesting case study.

The Albuquerque department has been the subject of a Justice Department investigation, which found in a damning report that “Albuquerque police officers often use deadly force in circumstances where there is no imminent threat of death or serious bodily harm to officers or others,” and often used unnecessary less-than-lethal force “without regard for the subject’s safety or the level of threat encountered.” At the same time, the Albuquerque police department actually uses body cameras, which were adopted in 2012 in the wake of controversy over police shootings, along with a requirement that officers use them to document civilian encounters.

However, the cameras have hardly proven to be a solution to the department’s problems.

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Thumbnail image for The White House’s New Executive Order On Cyber Crime is (Unfortunately) No Joke

The White House’s New Executive Order On Cyber Crime is (Unfortunately) No Joke

by Source 04.09.2015 Activism

By Nadia Kayyali and Kurt Opsahl / DeepLinks Blog

On the morning of April 1st, the White House issued a new executive order (EO) that asserts that malicious “cyber-enabled activities” are a national threat, declares a national emergency, and establishes sanctions and other consequences for individuals and entities.

While computer and information security is certainly very important, this EO could dangerously backfire, and chill the very security research that is necessary to protect people from malicious attacks.

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Thumbnail image for Imagine a Coalition Unifying Black Lives Matter, LGBT Equality, and the Fight for a Living Wage.

Imagine a Coalition Unifying Black Lives Matter, LGBT Equality, and the Fight for a Living Wage.

by Source 04.08.2015 Activism

By Ian Reifowitz / Daily Kos

Silos are dangerous. I’m not talking about the kind that house nuclear missiles, but rather the metaphorical kind, the kind that divide people who could and should be working together toward a shared goal. Too often, progressives have found themselves divided into these kinds of silos, for example, with women—themselves typically divided by race and ethnicity—fighting for gender equality, LGBT folks fighting for gay rights, unions and workers fighting for labor rights, and on and on.To some degree, these divisions are understandable. Part of the way a marginalized group empowers itself is by creating a movement in which its members play a predominant role.

At the end of the day, however, the goal of a political movement ought not to be solely or even primarily to help those who actively participate to feel empowered—as important as that is— but rather to achieve specific policy or other concrete aims that improve the lives of all those whom the movement represents. The movement must be a means to an end, not an end unto itself. Achieving those ends requires marshaling as much support as possible, and that means each group must break out of its silo and support one another’s causes.

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Thumbnail image for Can John Oliver Do for Mass Surveillance What He Did for Net Neutrality?

Can John Oliver Do for Mass Surveillance What He Did for Net Neutrality?

by Source 04.07.2015 Culture

By Joan McCarter/Daily Kos

On Sunday, John Oliver had what is easily the most educational and fun half hour of journalism on the surveillance state that you’re ever likely to see, including an interview with Edward Snowden.

What John Oliver did for net neutrality last summer, he’s doing now for an issue that’s pretty damned important, too. Namely, the government sucking up all your electronic communications in the name of national security.

As he points out in opening the segment, June 1 is a key date: that’s when Section 215 of the Patriot Act has to be renewed, tweaked, or ended.

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Thumbnail image for Can One Union Save the Post Office?

Can One Union Save the Post Office?

by Source 04.06.2015 Activism

By David Morris / Common Dreams

Let’s begin with the bad news. The U.S. Post Office, the oldest, most respected and ubiquitous of all public institutions is fast disappearing.

In recent years management has shuttered half the nation’s mail processing plants and put 10 percent of all local post offices up for sale.  A third of all post offices, most of them in rural areas, have had their hours slashed.

Hundreds of full time, highly experienced postmasters knowledgeable about the people and the communities they serve have been dumped unceremoniously, often replaced by part timers. Ever larger portions of traditional post office operations— trucking, mail processing and mail handling– have been privatized. Close to 200,000 middle class jobs have disappeared.

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Thumbnail image for ‘Not Nearly Enough': McDonald’s Wage Hike Lambasted as Publicity Stunt

‘Not Nearly Enough': McDonald’s Wage Hike Lambasted as Publicity Stunt

by Source 04.03.2015 Activism

‘The overwhelming majority of McDonald’s workers will still be paid wages so low that they can’t afford basics like rent and groceries,’ says labor leader.

By Deirdre Fulton / Common Dreams

One day after fast-food workers and their supporters called for a nationwide strike to demand higher wages and the right to form a union, McDonald’s announced Wednesday that it will raise pay for about 90,000 of its U.S. employees—only those who work at the 1,500 locations owned by the corporation—as of July 1, 2015.

To be sure, the decision is “fresh evidence of the rising wage pressure in the American labor market,” as the Wall Street Journal, which broke the news, put it.

But workers and labor activists say the move amounts to little more than a publicity stunt, noting that the vast majority of McDonald’s employees will not see any raise, but will continue to earn poverty wages.

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Thumbnail image for Sal is Short for Salvador

Sal is Short for Salvador

by Source 04.02.2015 Books & Poetry

By Adolfo Guzman-Lopez

Salvador Valtierra preaches on the corner of Fifth and Broadway
The bus depot and crossroad for pedestrian masses
This is the corner where the stock market crashed
Where Reaganomics and its cranes revived a financial district
Booming with peep-show parlors
Residence hotels and adult bookstores

Now it’s the corner of ninety nine cent stores
And ninety nine cent lives
Lives lived out with stubby fingers
Clorox cracked skin
And tennis elbow
From pushing vacuum cleaners

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Thumbnail image for This Land Is Our Land? Not If Republicans Have Their Way

This Land Is Our Land? Not If Republicans Have Their Way

by Source 04.01.2015 Environment

By Joan McCarter / Daily Kos

One of the 43 amendments passed by Senate Republicans in Thursday’s vote-a-rama was a sop to extremist state legislatures in the west who have been pushing states’ rights bills that would allow the states to sell off the federal public lands within their borders. That’s right, congressional Republicans—federal representatives—want to allow states to seize and sell off the nation’s heritage.

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski’s (R-AK) amendment, which passed by a vote of 51 to 49, is now part of the Senate’s nonbinding budget resolution. The proposal would support and fund state efforts—which many argue are unconstitutional—to seize and sell America’s public lands. These include all national forests, wildlife refuges, wilderness areas, historic sites, and national monuments.Murkowski’s amendment, which would need further legislation to become law, follows a similar proposal from House Natural Resources Committee Chair Rob Bishop (R-UT) to spend $50 million of taxpayer dollars to fund the sale or transfer of U.S. public lands to states.

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Thumbnail image for California’s Severe Voting Drought

California’s Severe Voting Drought

by Source 03.31.2015 Government

By Anthony York / Capital & Main

A record-low percentage of Californians bothered to cast ballots last November, and there is no shortage of explanations being offered. Everything from voter apathy to sophisticated micro-targeting by political campaigns has been cited as the reason for the abysmal 42 percent turnout among registered voters.

But a new analysis of voting statistics and economic data suggests that California’s surging poverty and inequality rates are also partially to blame for the poor turnout.

“As home prices soar throughout the state and the middle class shrinks, we are increasingly creating a democracy where a growing number of people on the lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder are not participating,” says Mike Madrid, president of GrassrootsLab and author of a forthcoming study on poverty and voter turnout. “The result is a political system that increasingly ignores the political needs of poor people.”

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Thumbnail image for Passionate Pleas for Safer San Diego Streets Fall on Deaf Ears at Uptown Planners Meeting

Passionate Pleas for Safer San Diego Streets Fall on Deaf Ears at Uptown Planners Meeting

by Source 03.26.2015 Activism

BikeSD / BikeSD Blog

On Tuesday March 24 between 200-250 people packed the St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral for a special Uptown Planners meeting. It’s quite possible that that was the most number of people that church has held in recent years.

While many of you and us were out last night testifying and desperately pleading for safer access through along University Avenue, to a board that ignored all public testimony for safer streets except for the comments on using public spaces for private vehicle storage – parking – a 74 year old woman crossing Camino Ruiz in a marked crosswalk suffered life threatening injuries after being hit by an SUV. No word yet on whether the driver has been charged.

Earlier this month, our endorsed candidates Michael Brennan and Kyle Heiskala were successfully elected to the Uptown Planners at the Community Planning Group election. But last night’s meeting was a special meeting and Brennan and Heiskala haven’t yet been seated – so they were unable to vote on the issue.

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Thumbnail image for How Privatization Degrades Our Daily Lives

How Privatization Degrades Our Daily Lives

by Source 03.25.2015 Business

By Paul Bucheit / Common Dreams

The Project on Government Oversight found that in 33 of 35 cases the federal government spent more on private contractors than on public employees for the same services. The authors of the report summarized, “Our findings were shocking.”

Yet our elected leaders persist in their belief that free-market capitalism works best. Here are a few fact-based examples that say otherwise.

Health Care: Markups of 100%….1,000%….100,000%

Broadcast Journalist Edward R. Murrow in 1955: Who owns the patent on this vaccine?
Polio Researcher Jonas Salk: Well, the people, I would say. There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?

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Thumbnail image for Inequality in California’s K-12 Schools

Inequality in California’s K-12 Schools

by Source 03.23.2015 Education

Thirty years of test scores have not measured a decline in public schools, but are rather a metric of the country’s child poverty and the broadening divide of income inequality.

By Bill Raden / Capital & Main

It’s been just over 30 years since war was declared on America’s public schools. The opening salvo came with 1983’s A Nation at Risk, the Reagan-era Department of Education report that alleged that lax schools and ineffective teachers constituted a dire threat to national security.

Yet three decades later, and in spite the opening of a second front comprised of school vouchers, a 2.57-million student charter school network and a classroom culture tied to test preparation, the nation’s education outcomes have barely budged, and rather than narrowing the education gap, the chasm between rich and poor appears only to be significantly widening.

But what if it turned out that education reform, with its teacher-blaming assumptions, got it all wrong in the first place? That’s the conclusion being drawn by a growing number of researchers who, armed with a mountain of fresh evidence, argue that 30 years of test scores have not measured a decline in America’s public schools, but are rather a metric of the country’s child poverty — the worst among developed nations — and the broadening divide of income inequality.

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Thumbnail image for California Drought Legislation Must Target Agribusiness and Big Oil

California Drought Legislation Must Target Agribusiness and Big Oil

by Source 03.23.2015 Business

By Dan Bacher

Governor Jerry Brown and lawmakers touted the introduction of drought legislation in the Legislature on March 19, while leaders of environmental and corporate watchdog groups urged Brown to put real limits on the “most egregious” water users – corporate agribusiness and big oil companies – to really address the drought.

Brown joined Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León, and Republican Leaders Senator Bob Huff and Assemblymember Kristin to unveil legislation that they claimed will “help local communities cope with the ongoing, devastating drought.”

A statement from the Governor’s Office said the package will expedite bond funding to “make the state more resilient to the disastrous effects of climate change and help ensure that all Californians have access to local water supplies.”

“This unprecedented drought continues with no signs yet of letting up,” said Governor Brown. “The programs funded by the actions announced today will provide direct relief to workers and communities most impacted by these historic dry conditions.”

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Thumbnail image for US Quietly Abandons Troop Reduction Plans in Afghanistan

US Quietly Abandons Troop Reduction Plans in Afghanistan

by Source 03.21.2015 Government

Administration could allow up to 9,800 troops to remain into next year’s ‘fighting season’

By Nadia Prupis / Common Dreams

The Obama administration is dropping its plans to reduce the amount of U.S. forces in Afghanistan to 5,500 by the end of the year, significantly altering the timeline which officials had said would see troops largely withdraw from the country by 2016, according to reports.

In fact, officials say, the administration could allow up to 9,800 American troops to remain in Afghanistan well into next year’s “fighting season.”

The announcement on Saturday came a few weeks after new Defense Secretary Ashton Carter indicated that the White House was “rethinking” its counter-terrorism mission in Afghanistan and would slow down its troop withdrawal from the country, despite long-held promises from Washington to remove the U.S. military presence there.

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Thumbnail image for The People’s Budget: Progressive Proposal Aims to Un-Rig Failed Economic System

The People’s Budget: Progressive Proposal Aims to Un-Rig Failed Economic System

by Source 03.20.2015 Economy

The budget plan ‘fixes an economy that, for too long, has failed to provide the opportunities American families need to get ahead,’ says Congressional Progressive Caucus
By Deirdre Fulton / Common Dreams

Offering a sustainable alternative to regressive federal budget proposals put forth this week by the Republican majorities on Capitol Hill, the Congressional Progressive Caucus on Wednesday released The People’s Budget: A Raise for America, which aims to “level the playing field” for low- and middle-income Americans.

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Thumbnail image for Fair Trade Is a Racial Justice Issue

Fair Trade Is a Racial Justice Issue

by Source 03.19.2015 Business

The struggle in towns like Ferguson to overcome racial and economic barriers is hard enough without another wrong-headed trade pact

By  / OtherWords

The work of repairing the racial fissures that broke wide open in Ferguson, Missouri last year goes beyond the shooting death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown.

It also goes beyond ending the practices highlighted in a Justice Department report that criticized Ferguson cops and courts for shaking down the city’s poor, black residents for revenue.

What else will it take? Good jobs.

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Thumbnail image for What It’s Like to Own and Run a Flourishing Marijuana Dispensary

What It’s Like to Own and Run a Flourishing Marijuana Dispensary

by Source 03.19.2015 Business

Northern California owner: It’s “quite different from the view from the outside looking in.”

By David McCullick / Alternet

The view I have from behind the counter of my Medical Marijuana (MMJ) dispensary—the Sonoma Patient Group in Santa Rosa, California–is quite different from the view from the outside looking in. Many law enforcement types, city and county elders, and much of the general public have a very pre-conceived notion of what it is we do, how we do it and who we do it for.

If you are not privy to what actually happens in a dispensary, you might be inclined to believe what you read and hear from those that do not visit them, use MMJ at all or have their own agenda (i.e., draconian drug laws and incarceration quotas). You may hear talk of how the MMJ laws are just a front so that people can smoke their weed, or that the movement is a distraction or just a way to full legalization of recreational marijuana. You might believe it when you are told that only young healthy people under 25 visit the dispensaries or that we are a danger to your kids.

The truth of the matter is that MMJ works for most people that try it on some level or another depending on what you use it for, how you use it and how often you use it, keeping in mind that we are all different. What works for you might be different than what works for me. Most people that use MMJ are legitimate patients who want the medical benefits.

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Thumbnail image for San Diego Sues Monsanto for Polluting Bay With Banned Carcinogenic Chemicals

San Diego Sues Monsanto for Polluting Bay With Banned Carcinogenic Chemicals

by Source 03.18.2015 Business

Lawsuit says toxins manufactured by agrochemical giant ‘have been found in Bay sediments and water and have been identified in tissues of fish, lobsters, and other marine life’

By Sarah Lazarre / Common Dreams

San Diego authorities filed a lawsuit on Monday (March 16) against the agrochemical giant Monsanto, accusing the corporation of polluting the city’s bay with carcinogenic chemicals that are so dangerous to human health they were banned in the U.S. more than 30 years ago.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court by City of San Diego and San Diego Unified Port District and focuses on Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs). “PCBs manufactured by Monsanto have been found in bay sediments and water and have been identified in tissues of fish, lobsters, and other marine life in the Bay,” the complaint reads.

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Thumbnail image for Group Seeks to Replace Jackson With a Woman on the $20 for 100th Birthday of the 19th Amendment

Group Seeks to Replace Jackson With a Woman on the $20 for 100th Birthday of the 19th Amendment

by Source 03.18.2015 Culture

By Meteor Blades / Daily Kos

Matt Iglesias at Vox first discussed what a good idea it would be to have a woman on the $20 bill last July. But it was a more recent Vox story by Libby Nelson that seems to have kicked off a surge in media attention given to the idea that is being promoted by the organization Women on 20s. The group is asking people to vote their choices from a roster of 15 women.

The list—already winnowed from 30 to 15—will be further culled through three rounds of voting. The group hopes to get 100,000 votes because that’s how many names it takes at the White House petition site to get an official response. The candidates: Alice Paul, Clara Barton, Frances Perkins, Susan B. Anthony, Rachel Carson, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Betty Friedan, Shirley Chisholm, Sojourner Truth, Rosa Parks, Barbara Jordan, Margaret Sanger, Patsy Mink, Harriet Tubman and Eleanor Roosevelt.

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Thumbnail image for A Housing Market Divided

A Housing Market Divided

by Source 03.18.2015 Business

Deregulation won’t solve California’s seemingly intractable affordable housing crisis on its own.

By David Dayen / Capital & Main

Housing markets get discussed in the media mostly through the channel of prices. Rising prices are considered good for the economy. They can connote increased sales, which would lead to more construction and real estate-related jobs. They also give homeowners more equity in their homes, and the consequent “wealth effect” – studies show personal spending jumps when people perceive an increase in their wealth – can benefit the economy.

But there’s a darker side to rising home prices. They harm affordability, particularly for first-time homebuyers. Since the collapse of the housing bubble, this group of potential purchasers has not returned to the market at the historical level of 2006. Because first-time homebuyers allow sellers to purchase bigger homes, their absence has blunted the impact of rising prices; the Bureau of Economic Analysis reports that residential housing investment remains lower than the depths of any housing crash over the past 40 years.

Housing affordability is a major problem in the Golden State. The California Association of Retailers’ most recent Housing Affordability Index (HAI) shows that only 30 percent of the state’s households can afford to purchase an average-priced home in their area.

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Thumbnail image for The Conundrum of Corporation and Nation

The Conundrum of Corporation and Nation

by Source 03.16.2015 Business

By Robert Reich / RobertReich.Org

The U.S. economy is picking up steam but most Americans aren’t feeling it. By contrast, most European economies are still in bad shape, but most Europeans are doing relatively well.

What’s behind this? Two big facts.

First, American corporations exert far more political influence in the United States than their counterparts exert in their own countries.

In fact, most Americans have no influence at all. That’s the conclusion of Professors Martin Gilens of Princeton and Benjamin Page of Northwestern University, who analyzed 1,799 policy issues and found that “the preferences of the average American appear to have only a miniscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”

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