As Medicare Turns 50, It’s Time to Grow the Program

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It’s As American As Apple Pie

By Doug Porter

On July 30, 1965 President Lyndon Johnson signed legislation creating the Medicare program. After more than five decades of failed attempts dating back to President Theodore Roosevelt, at least some Americans were eligible for coverage under a federal health insurance program.

Today more than 54 million people are covered by Medicare. It’s far from perfect, but it’s a damn sight better than the alternatives being proposed by the GOP. In fact, many of the problems facing medicare can be addressed by e x p a n d i n g the program, an idea gaining currency nationally.

Registered nurses are leading the way, with actions in over 25 U.S. cities July 30th to honor Medicare and Medicaid’s 50th anniversary with a National Day of Action celebrating the theme, “Medicare is as American as Apple Pie.” (The nearest local action is in LA)  They’re calling on policy makers to protect, improve, and expand Medicare to cover all Americans with a single standard of quality care not based on ability to pay.   [Read more…]

A New Wrinkle on the Chargers Stadium Story: Summer Olympics in LA?

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By Doug Porter

The city of Boston, Massachusetts bailed on its grand plans for hosting the 2024 Olympics yesterday and Los Angeles immediately became the next contender.

This development could be a game changer when it comes to the NFL’s thought processes on the future of the San Diego Chargers franchise.  An Olympic bid would provide additional impetus towards getting another venue built in LA.

The United State Olympic Committee has until September to figure out an alternative location. The chatter in the press is that the best option remaining is Los Angeles, host to the 1932 and 1984 games. LA’s proposed a bid centered on several clusters of venues including Exposition Park, Downtown, one along the LA River, the Westside, Long Beach, and –ta! da! –Carson.   [Read more…]

Lies & More Lies: Planned Parenthood as the New ACORN

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By Doug Porter

The Republicans appear to have settled on their wedge issue for 2016. You know, the thing that drives fear and/or disgust in a certain class of voters so they’ll ignore all those pesky economic policies they’re likely to get screwed by.

In 2008 a loosely organized entity named ACORN fit the bill. Manufactured imagery of  brown people doing something wrong was perfect for an election where the leading candidate was a person of color. Most people still don’t realize the charges brought against the community organizing group turned out to have been false.

The Donald has been busy co-opting the GOP’s immigration issues and Gays have kicking ass in the courts (both legal and popular opinion). Black people have been fighting back lately and there just aren’t enough Muslims to go around. And besides, the lone wolf mostly male libertarians constituting the party’s future are scared to death of female empowerment.   [Read more…]

Average Motorist’s Annual Cost for San Diego’s Crappy Roads: $843

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By Doug Porter

I can just hear the boosterism now: “We’re better than San Jose, Ole!”

Fifty one per cent of San Diego’s roads are considered to be in poor condition, according to a study released by TRIP, a national transportation research group.  The region has the eighth-highest rate of lousy roads nationally among large urban areas with more than a half million residents.

California cities dominated the study, taking 5 of the bottom 10 rankings. Coming in at number 5 was San Jose, with Concord, Los Angeles and San Francisco/Oakland topping the list.   [Read more…]

ALEC Gets a Raucous Reception in San Diego

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This is California. We fight for workers’ rights. We fight for affordable healthcare”  
-Labor Leader Mickey Kasparian

By Doug Porter

The American Legislative Exchange Council’s 2015 annual meeting in San Diego drew more protesters than it did delegates. And (for few moments, anyway) the issue of what ALEC actually does to took precedence over the appearances of GOP aspirants to the presidency.

A united front of labor and activist organizations staged a rally in the Embarcadero Park North, located behind the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel, where legislators and lobbyists were gathered.

Buses came from Los Angeles. Things were well organized. There was plenty of food and water to be had. There was also plenty of intense sunshine, symbolizing in a way, the purpose of the protest: to make the public aware that ALEC is not the virtuous organization it claims to be.

Today we’ll take a look around at some coverage of the protest. And there are plenty of pictures….   [Read more…]

Confronting ALEC’s ‘Everybody Does It’ Defense

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By Doug Porter

Mike Huckabee, Scott Walker, Ted Cruz. How can you lose?

If the spinmeisters at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) hoped media coverage would focus on the three GOP presidential candidates genuflecting before their annual gathering of corporate lobbyists and state legislators this week in San Diego, they may be proved wrong.

A barrage of press releases and public statements from a wide spectrum of public interest organizations combined with the growing certainty that San Diegans would actually show up in large numbers to protest the closed-door right wing strategy meeting has begun to shift coverage away from the celebrity angle to questions about just what might be going on inside the Manchester Grand Hyatt hotel.

Although there will always be plenty of stenographers willing to be dazzled by celebrity, a slow but steady drumbeat of dissent aimed at ALEC’s real agenda has forced that group’s defenders to go to Plan B, also known as ‘everybody does it’.   [Read more…]

A Who’s Who of ALEC’s Corporate Overlords Meeting in San Diego

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By Doug Porter

Day One of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s 2015 Annual Meeting actually started Tuesday morning (July 21), the day before most delegates were slated to arrive. The joint ALEC Board of Directors and ‘Private Enterprise Advisory Council’ Meeting will last throughout the day. It is this meeting that will set the agenda for the coming year.

Today we’ll look at the membership of the ‘Advisory Council’ in order to gain insight into the policies and priorities of ALEC in the coming year. Tomorrow, the Center for Media and Democracy’s Brendan Fischer and Mary Bottari will fill-in the blanks with a post entitled Hot Topics at ALEC’s 2015 Meeting in San Diego.

On Wednesday (July 22) the working groups and subcommittees will meet. Larger task forces will gather on Thursday and Friday following policy workshops led by an assortment of right wing policy advocates. There will be no deviation from this agenda; the only questions to be answered are how and when the fill-in-the-blank measures created will be presented to state legislatures.

(The San Diego Free Press has published on-going coverage about ALEC and the plans for a local activist response to their 2015 annual meeting.)   [Read more…]

San Diego Activists Go All In for Anti-Alec Protests

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Labor, Environmental and Community Groups Plan Multiple Actions

By Doug Porter

A wide range of organizations, some of whom rarely get involved in non-electoral politics, are calling upon San Diegans to put on their protesting shoes during the upcoming annual meeting of the American Legislative Council (ALEC).

Protests, press conferences, teach-ins, rallies and guerrilla theater will be happening throughout the coming week commencing on Tuesday, July 21st as ALEC delegates are checking in. Buses will coming in from the Los Angeles/Long Beach areas on Wednesday for what organizers expect will be the largest events of the week.

Today’s column will focus on the already-announced activities (there are more coming, I’m told).   [Read more…]

The ALEC Annual Meeting in San Diego: Who’s Coming and Why?

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By Doug Porter

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is holding its 2015 annual meeting July 22-24 at San Diego’s Manchester Grand Hyatt hotel. This is a big deal, and over the next three columns I’ll try to explain why.

Today we’ll take a look at the featured speakers at this event. Both local and national activist groups have organized events in response to this year’s gathering. I’ll report on those plans on Monday. On Tuesday, we’ll examine the inner workings of the ALEC meeting.

ALEC and its affiliates exist to bring together corporate lobbyists, conservative policy advocates and more than two thousand state legislators. Behind closed doors they’ll generate measures designed to tilt the political and economic landscape to favor the wealthy, usually at the expense of the rest of us. Then they turn around and pitch these “ideas” as something for the public good.   [Read more…]

Anti-LGBT Strategies a Big Part of Skyline Church’s ‘Future Conference’

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By Doug Porter

Media Matters for America has posted an insiders account of presentations by the country’s most prominent anti-LGBT activists during a recent conference at San Diego’s Skyline Church.

Organized by Skyline Pastor Jim Garlow, the 2015 Future Conference was called in response to “the thorniest and most challenging issues in the current cultural landscape.”

While the four day gathering featured presentations covering a range of issues, the alleged rise of Christian persecution stemming from the growing acceptance of LGBT people was the unifying theme.   [Read more…]

Tin Foil Hats Disappear from Amazon.com as Jade Helm Exercise Begins

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By Doug Porter

Desperate citizens in Texas, Utah and California are taking to social media this morning to alert their fellow patriots about a shocking lack of Tin Foil headgear…

Welcome to July 15th, the day when right wing conspiracy theorists have been predicting  a military take-over cleverly disguised as the Jade Helm 15 training exercise.

Given that the conspiracy theorists will no doubt claim their warnings have averted Armageddon when things don’t happen, let’s take a quick look at what we’ve been saved from.   [Read more…]

Chargers Stadium Financing Plan: Sell City Owned Unicorns and Fairy Dust

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By Doug Porter

This whole deal with using public money to build a stadium for a privately owned football team just keeps getting stranger.

Yesterday we learned the idea of using funds from developments adjacent to the Mission Valley site to fund the project was off the table. Ancillary development has been part of every stadium plan proposed over the past 15 years. That’s $225 million just vanishing. Gone. Poof!

Then where’s the stadium construction funding coming from? Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s spokesman, Craig Gustafson, emailed Scott Lewis at Voice of San Diego: “The plan the City/County team is developing is based on negotiations and discussions with the Chargers and the NFL.”   [Read more…]

Frack Yeah! Checking Out the New Union-Tribune

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By Doug Porter

Six weeks ago the publisher of the Los Angeles Times closed the deal on buying U-T San Diego for $85 million. It’s time for a quick progress report on the state of San Diego’s daily newspaper.

Now it’s been re-christened as the Union-Tribune, the printing was outsourced and about a third of the staff is gone. The paper’s web site has been spiffed up and actual reporting not influenced by the owner’s agenda appears to be taking place.

Most of all, what I perceived as the aura of shame is gone. Outbursts of pride in the product have been observed recently. For better or worse, they’re being the best newspaper they know how. Those who thought the newspaper would somehow be transformed into either Daily Worker or Breitbart News Network will continue to be disappointed. This is still San Diego and the sale of one media outlet will not change the political and economic realities of this city.   [Read more…]

Confederate Battle Flag Down, Donald Trump Up. Racism Continues

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By Doug Porter

The TV networks and printed media are all making a big deal as I write this morning about a battle flag of the Confederacy being removed from the grounds of the South Carolina statehouse.

I’m glad the stars and bars is coming down. It was first raised at that location back in 1961 as a symbolic reaction to efforts at desegregation. Now its removal is a symbolic reaction to racism run amok in a Charleston church.

It would be really nice if we could get beyond the symbolism in South Carolina and get to the heart of the matter. Even as Gov. Nikki Haley was preparing to sign the resolution bringing the flag down, what Salon.com described as a racism tantrum was going on at her Facebook page.

Now if removing the pervasive pollution of racism in the US were so easy….   [Read more…]

After Comic-Con: The Evil Empire’s Minions (ALEC) Come to Town

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By Doug Porter

Not long after the superheroes of Comic-con make their exit, the evil empire’s minions will be staging their own gathering at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in downtown San Diego.

The right-wing bill mill known as the American Legislative Council will be bringing together (July 22-24) corporate lobbyists and state legislators from around the country to plan for the coming year.

Despite having high hopes for advancing their agenda following gerrymandered GOP gains in recent elections, ALEC has run into some serious problems lately. In fact, the only entity losing support faster than Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Rush Limbaugh radio advertisers would be ALEC.   [Read more…]

Chinese Stock Market Crash Could Impact California Real Estate

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By Doug Porter

It seems like we’re rushing from one crisis to the next these days on the world’s economic stage. Puerto Rico is flailing, Greece is on the brink and now the Chinese stock market is tanking. The first two are relatively minor in terms of their actual economic impact worldwide, the situation in Asia poses a threat to real estate markets, especially in California.

In just over three weeks Chinese investors have seen $3 trillion (that’s with a “T”) in equity vanish, despite increasingly desperate measures by the government.  That is six times Greece’s entire foreign debt, or 11 years of Greece’s economic output, according to the New York Times.

Hundreds of companies have halted trading, more credit has been made available and the state pension fund’s assets are being tapped, all to no avail. Much of the Chinese market boom has been fueled by stock purchases made on credit. Now that those stocks are worth less than what was paid for them, it’s reasonable to assume investors will be forced to sell off real estate assets to pay off the loans. And they’ve been buying in California in a big way.   [Read more…]

A Sneak Peek at the GOP’s Sweet Sixteen Candidates for President in 2016

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By Doug Porter

It takes a big wad of cash to be considered a serious contender for President these days. The costs of campaigning by all candidates for the top job in 2016 race is expected to top $5 billion, nearly double the amount of the 2012 election.

Despite the high price tag, the Republican party will soon have no fewer than 16 ‘serious’ candidates running for President, a phenomenon made possible by seemingly unlimited donations from people and corporations with more cash than common sense.

Today we’ll take an early look at the field, ranked by composite survey results via Huffpost Pollster. These will change as new polling is released–I’m using what’s there at 7am, July 7th.   [Read more…]

Facing Dire Threats, Greek Voters Reject Austerity

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“And I shall wear the creditors’ loathing with pride.”–Minister of Finance Yanis Varoufakis

By Doug Porter

US newspapers today are telling readers about a “shocking rebuff” or a “stunning rejection” by Greek voters of a deal offered by international lenders to refinance that country’s debt.

The overwhelming “No” vote may be stunning for bankers and neo-liberal economists as it flies on the face of the presumption holding there was only one way out of the current crisis. The Greek people saw their vote as rejection of blackmail; they’ve had enough austerity, thank you.

Today, I’ll offer readers some viewpoints not commonly seen in coverage of the Greek financial crisis. The No vote is not the end of the world. Much of what we’ve been told/sold paints an incomplete picture. And anybody (Carl DeMaio, for instance) who’d like you to believe that Greek pensioners are at the root of the problem is selling snake oil–they are a symptom, not a cause.   [Read more…]

Fun, Fear and Fireworks on the Fourth of July

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By Doug Porter

America’s most patriotic holiday is a complicated event. What was once a day set aside for pontificating, picnics and patriotism is too often filled with fear, loathing and enough fireworks to scare the cilia off paramecium six states away.

By ignoring the merchants of faux patriotism–an admirable, if difficult goal–many Americans do manage to make the day special. So let’s take a look around at what is and is not happening on the Fourth of July, 2015.

In San Diego County there are (at least) seventeen fireworks shows, eight parades, eight concerts, one flotilla and assorted performances. And that’s not counting the ad hoc displays of patriotic bang-bangs and boom-booms. Listings for events can be found at KPBS, the Times of San Diego, and the Union-Tribune.   [Read more…]

Hugs Offered to Hating Hecklers at Murrieta Immigration Rally

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The 75 or so people who came to Murrieta, California on July 1st to commemorate resistance to last year’s bus blockade gathered around a stage in the Town Square park under the watchful eyes of a dozen or so police officers. Situated just few yards away behind yellow caution tape, anti-immigration types screamed obscenities and racist insults through multiple bullhorns.

As protest rallies go, there really wasn’t much to see on stage. Banners waved, speakers spoke, people applauded.

Hecklers stole the show, but not in a way they could have ever imagined. What was amazing was watching people who’ve been victimized and traumatized by racism turn the other cheek as a handful of haters did their best to try to provoke violence.   [Read more…]

Anti-Vaxxers’ Tactics Fail to Sway Legislature

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By Doug Porter

Gov. Jerry Brown signed off yesterday on legislation giving California one of the most far-reaching vaccination laws in the nation. Religious and personal-belief exemptions for schoolchildren will be phased out, starting next year.

Getting this bill passed turned out to be a major political battle. The combination of paranoia about government (on the right) and corporate greed (on the left) mixed with a solid dash of unfounded health concerns ended up being a recipe for political passion rarely seen on the legislative floor.

The anti-vaxxers, as they are popularly called, viewed this legislation as a battle for the lives of their children and the liberties of the nation. They’ve indicated that litigation will be their next step.   [Read more…]

Report: Border Patrol Union Officials Working with Hate Groups

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By Doug Porter

A newly released report from the Center for a New Community (CNC) says there is a systemic pattern of behind-the-scenes collusion between officials of unions associated with the Border Patrol and prominent anti-immigrant hate groups.

Last year’s protests in Murrieta, California are cited in “Blurring Borders: Collusion between Anti-Immigrant Groups and Immigration Enforcement Agents” as an example of Border Patrol agents coordinating with anti-immigrant forces. On July 1st, 2014, anti-immigrant activists used civil disobedience to block federal buses carrying refugee women and children to a Border Patrol processing center.   [Read more…]

Murrieta, the Town Without Pity, Remembered One Year Later

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By Doug Porter

Latino and Human Rights activists are returning to Murrieta, California on July 1st to commemorate the anniversary of a historic confrontation that laid bare the racism in Southern California for the world to see.

It was one year ago self-styled patriots, acting on rumors and innuendo, blockaded busloads of refugee women and children from Central America on their way to a Border Patrol processing center. The angry anti-immigrant protesters, seen on TV news across the country chanting of “Go home!’ and “We don’t want you!,” were tacitly encouraged by local authorities. (It was the local police who actually stopped the buses)   [Read more…]

A More Perfect Union: Let’s Just Call it “Marriage” Now

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“They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

The Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling Friday morning was a historic victory for gay rights. The majority said the Constitution requires that same-sex couples be allowed to marry no matter where they live.

This decision is the culmination of two decades of Supreme Court litigation over marriage, and gay rights generally, with Justice Anthony Kennedy writing the majority opinion, just as he did in three other major gay rights cases dating back to 1996.

As is true with any major shift in the political and social landscape, there are winners and losers. Today we’ll look at some of those reactions…
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Obamacare Lives!

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By Doug Porter

There may be more symbolic votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act in the House of Representatives, but the days of broad challenges to the Obama administration’s signature health insurance reform legislation are over.

The Supreme Court today rejected a challenge (6-3, King v Burwell) constructed by conservative groups to eliminate the mechanism for insurance subsidies in states opting out of setting up their own exchanges.  The stated aim of this litigation was to “to drive a stake through [the ACA’s] heart.”

Chief Justice Roberts was joined by the court’s liberal justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, as well as Anthony Kennedy in defending the intent of the law.   [Read more…]