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…]

Taking Down the Confederate Flag Isn’t a Cure for Racism

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By Doug Porter

The not-the-flag of the Confederate States of America has become an issue, following the murders of nine people during Bible study at a historic black church in Charleston.

Americans, we’re told, are reassessing the modern-day value and meaning of Confederate symbols. Retailers are discontinuing the sale of items with the rebel flag and legislatures are debating its display. Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez is calling for San Diego Unified’s Robert E. Lee elementary school to be renamed.

Sadly, displaying (or not) this flag and/or the symbols of the Confederacy fails to address much larger problems, including issues related to the act of a terrorist motivated by white supremacist ideology. Today we’ll look around at coverage of this phenomenon.   [Read more…]

Trade Deal Passes Key Test in Senate as Thirteen Democrats Defect (UPDATED)

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By Doug Porter

On Tuesday morning the US Senate passed a procedural measure effectively granting Fast Track Authority for the executive branch on trade pacts. The vote was 60-37, exactly the number of yes votes needed to avoid a filibuster.

Proponents of the legislation say the trade pacts it will likely enable are needed for US companies to be competitive in the world marketplace. Opponents point to the reality that the only “winners” from past deals have been stockholders as hundreds of thousands of domestic jobs have simply vanished. The President promised to negotiate a better deal.

Republican leaders, according to the New York Times, found a parliamentary maneuver allowing them to separate a companion law defeated in the House of Representatives that threatened to block passage of the bill.   [Read more…]

All Aboard! Get Ready for the Great White Line Skyway

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By Doug Porter

On Friday we learned about a proposal moving forward to add a two-mile long aerial tram from Balboa Park to the Bay. County Supervisor Ron Roberts, apparently suffering from a legacy complex, found $75,000 in spare change under the seat cushions around his office to fund a “let’s do this!” study by consultants Parsons Brinckerhoff.

To nobody’s surprise, the San Diego Association of Governments’ transportation committee loved the idea, directing its staff to start the process of making the “Skyway” operational in five years or so.

Since San Diego’s light rail system has color coded routes, it only makes sense to stick with this scheme. So let’s call this newest leg the “White Line.” Because that’s who it will be serving: white people and assorted tourists looking for a cheap thrill.   [Read more…]

Mayor Looks to the NFL in Chargers Stadium Dilemma

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By Doug Porter

The chickens are coming home to roost for San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, whose PR-centric program aimed at resolving the local football team’s quest for a new facility has been called out by Chargers spokesman Mark Fabiani.

Calling the city’s latest plans “misguided” and “doomed,” Fabiani made the rounds of the local media yesterday, making it clear that there was nothing left to negotiate.

The mayor’s surrogates have also been active, assuring people that the city did have a viable course for getting to a new stadium and suggesting that Mr. Fabiani was the real problem.   [Read more…]

Charleston Church Murders: A Premeditated Act of Hate and Terror

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By Doug Porter

The Confederate flag atop the State Capital in Charleston, South Carolina is still flying today. And the pinheads at Fox news are trying to spin this story as an attack on religion. But anybody with a whit of common sense knows what happened in this city was an act motivated by racist hate.

Nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the oldest AME church in the South. were gunned down last night by 21 year old Dylann Storm Roof.

Acccording to a report in the Daily Beast:

“Sylvia Johnson—a cousin of church pastor Clementa Pinckney, who was killed in the attack—says a survivor told her the gunman reloaded five times. “He just said ‘I have to do it,’” Johnson reports the survivor saying. “‘You rape our women and you’re taking over the country. You have to go.’”

Earlier, a local NAACP official said the killer told one woman, who has not been identified, that she was allowed to live so that she can tell everyone else what happened. Police confirmed that at least three people survived the attack, and that the gunman sat with the prayer group for at least an hour before he began to shoot.”

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A Blow to the Contract Labor Economy: California Says Uber Drivers Are Employees

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By Doug Porter

A claim filed by a San Francisco woman against the ride-hailing service Uber has led to a determination by the California Labor Commission that drivers for the company are employees rather than independent contractors.

The decision could be a major blow to what economists are calling the “1099 economy,” a business model wherein companies rely on armies of low-cost independent contractors, setting the terms and conditions for employment without having to absorb costs like social security, health care and workman’s compensation.

The California Labor Commissioner said they’d determined Uber to be “involved in every aspect of the operation,” meaning that it’s more than just an app handling logistics. The driver who filed the complaint was awarded $4,000 in expenses.   [Read more…]

SDSU/CPI Study Finds Wage Theft, Labor Law Violations and Discrimination in Local Restaurants

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By Doug Porter

A study by San Diego State University Department of Sociology and the Center on Policy Initiatives found persuasive evidence of widespread wage theft, labor law violations and widespread discrimination in restaurants throughout San Diego.

If you went in to a grocery store and took something without paying, you’d face arrest. If you robbed a bank you’d be eligible for jail time. Both are thefts. Both are crimes.

But if you’re an employer in the restaurant industry and fail to pay an employee’s wages –also a crime–, chances are good to excellent that you’ll get way with it. So this morning we’re learning  there’s a crime wave going on in San Diego. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.   [Read more…]

Representatives Peters, Davis Disappoint on Trade Bill

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By Doug Porter

On Friday the House of Representatives used a legislative maneuver to block President Obama’s path to fast track legislation on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).

One good thing about Friday’s vote is that we now know where Representatives Susan Davis and Scott Peters stand on the issue. Both voted to advance the measure despite weeks of intensive citizen/grassroots/labor lobbying for a no vote. Both did so knowing they’d face the wrath of the coalition opposed to TPP in future elections.

For Davis, this may not mean much; for Peters, the consequences look to be serious–a labor-backed search committee is already looking at alternative candidates to run in the June 2016 primary. The word is that there’s a million dollar war chest to be spent defeating him.   [Read more…]

How California Drivers Get Screwed at the Pump

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By Doug Porter

Corporate greed on the part of fossil fuel companies in the era of trickle down apparently knows no bounds. If you live in California you’ve undoubtedly heard the stories about why we pay more for gasoline at the pump than elsewhere: our eco-conscious gas blend, higher taxes, yada, yada.

Research from Consumer Watchdog shows just how much these claims are exaggerated. Californians are paying more for gasoline because we’re being gouged, plain and simple.

The group points to abnormally large profits in the first quarter of 2015, with Valero, one of the state’s largest refiners, reporting $82 million in West Coast profits, compared to a $25 million per quarter average.   [Read more…]

Report: One in Four Jobs in San Diego at Risk with Trade Deal

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By Doug Porter

On the eve of what observers are calling a close vote in the House of Representatives over fast track legislation, the coalition of labor, faith and environmental groups released a shocking report on the potential impact of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) on service sector jobs in the metro San Diego area. One in four jobs in the region spanning over 150 occupations are being placed at risk.

San Diego has two of less than a dozen House democrats who remain undecided on this issue – Representative Scott Peters (CA-52) and Representative Susan Davis (CA-53).

Republican House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan is seeking to stifle opposition in his own party by promoting an amendment to a customs and trade law enforcement bill being considered alongside the fast-tracking legislation prohibit the U.S. Trade Representative from negotiating climate change elements as part of any trade dealing over the next six years.

As bad as that news is for the environment, the news for local employment is even worse.   [Read more…]

Showdown! Trans Pacific Partnership Fast Track Authority Vote Set for Friday

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Republican leaders in the House of Representatives have set a Friday deadline for a vote on a bill giving the President fast-track authority on commercial treaties currently being negotiated.

The legislation would allow the executive branch to submit trade agreements to Congress for an expedited, up-or-down vote without amendments was passed by the Senate last month. President Obama has said he wants to complete a 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership and send it for approval under that procedure.

House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have reportedly agreed to replace a plan, opposed by Democrats, that would have funded some trade programs with about $700 million in Medicare cuts.   [Read more…]

San Diego’s Sour Mash of Politics

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By Doug Porter

So much stupidity, so little time.  Here’s what’s clogged up my inbox while I was on vacation:

San Diego’s Board of Supervisors will consider regulating free speech, a third person has come forward to complain about Dave Roberts, and Escondido Mayor Sam Abed actually thinks he can run a campaign for the third district seat stressing integrity. (Cue audience laughter)

SeaWorld supporters have slithered into the red baiting realm, the Chargers continue to play the mayor like a finely tuned violin and a local non-profit news outfit is apparently flouting the same state law it has accused attorney Cory Briggs of violating.   [Read more…]

After Hours Demolition Angers LGBTQ and Preservation Activists

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Shortly after 5pm on Friday one of San Diego’s two remaining historic Saltbox houses was bulldozed by contractors working for developer HG Fenton. Adjoining properties were left untouched. And what some consider the birthplace of the local LGBTQ movement became a pile of rubble.

Local LGBTQ activists and the Save Our Heritage Organization (SOHO) had hoped to work out a deal to save the property, either by incorporating architectural details into the finished development or by moving the house to another location.  A Friday morning conversation between representatives of the Lambda archives and the developer made no mention of the building’s impending destruction.

Activists weren’t concerned about demolition because they had an email from City of San Diego Development Services specifically stating that if a demolition permit is applied for the subject property would be reviewed for historical determination as a 5 year period had passed since the original permitting.   [Read more…]

Making Mountains Out of Molehills at KPBS/inewsource

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I have yet to be convinced that San Diego’s hoteliers and their doppelgangers in the management of America’s Finest Tourism Plantation have the best interests of the citizenry at heart.

For just about a year or so, the non-profit inewsource has been investigating San Diego attorney Cory Briggs. This week their latest report claims the organizations serving as plaintiffs in the environmental lawyer’s many lawsuits “flout state, federal laws.”

These inewsource stories are given much play at KPBS and follow a now predictable format: seeming contradictions, omissions and/or errors found in documents associated with Briggs are presented to various persons with impressive sounding titles and deemed to be something just short, maybe, of something illegal.   [Read more…]

Bad Omens for Democrats Dave Roberts and Scott Peters

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Things are looking iffy for two of San Diego’s elected Democratic officials.

San Diego County Supervisor Dave Roberts has gone on the offensive, responding to allegations about inappropriate behavior and misuse of public resources made by former employees.

Congressman Scott Peters may well be about to incur the wrath of organizations that worked hard to elected him in a close contest last year. Although he says he remains undecided about his vote on an upcoming trade bill, there are serious concerns from environmental and labor groups.   [Read more…]

Small-s Socialist Bernie Sanders Runs for President

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Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders formally entered the 2016 presidential contest yesterday.

Sanders’ entry into the race changes the dynamic on the left side of the political aisle. Up until now, coverage of the Democratic prospects for 2016 has consisted of a tape loop of Republican scandal mongering.  On some levels you might consider him Democrats’ answer to Ron Paul: an outsider with an agenda feared by party insiders and a wave of social media support.

There are other candidates jumping into the fray soon, including Democrat Martin O’Malley (Maryland) and Republicans George Pataki (New York), Rick Santorum (Pennsylvania), Lindsey Graham (South Carolina), and Rick Perry (Texas). Today I’ll focus on coverage and analysis of Sanders.   [Read more…]

What’s Next for San Diego’s Union-Tribune?

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Today is the day when the reality of the Tribune Company’s acquisition of San Diego’s daily newspaper will become apparent for many who work there. The rest of us are going to have to wait for a while to see how things shake out.

According to Don Bauder at the Reader, people working in the printing and business divisions of the Union-Tribune will learn about the parent company’s plans for layoffs. Much of the work–including printing– currently performed at the company’s Mission Valley location will be folded into Los Angeles Times facilities.   [Read more…]

Activists Demand a Stand from Congressman Scott Peters as Trade Vote Nears

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The political struggle over allowing the president fast track authority in negotiating a Pacific Rim trade deal is coming to a head.

A coalition of labor, environment, faith and community groups converged on the offices of Congressman Scott Peters yesterday, vowing not to leave until he committed to a position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

The occupation/sit-in ended Thursday evening after the group received word via the labor council’s Richard Barrera that the Congressman had agreed to face-to-face meeting to further discuss his position on the issue. (Don’t hold your breath.)   [Read more…]