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…]

Racial ‘Neighborhood Gap’ Fuels Social, Economic Inequality

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Stanford research found that ‘black and Hispanic families effectively need much higher incomes than white families to live in comparably affluent neighborhoods’

By Deidre Fulton / Common Dreams

Persistent and troubling patterns of racial segregation in U.S. communities are constraining upward mobility for black and Hispanic families, according to new research from the Stanford Graduate School of Education.

The study, published in the July issue of The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, found that “Black and Hispanic children and families are doubly disadvantaged—both economically and contextually—relative to white and Asian families,” due to residential segregation and the racial and socioeconomic disparities that come as a result.

According to a press release, the research found that “black and Hispanic families effectively need much higher incomes than white families to live in comparably affluent neighborhoods.”   [Read more…]

For Hundreds of Families, There’s No Place Like Home in San Diego

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By Jeeni Criscenzo del Rio

I had just returned from a 3-hour forum on options for housing homeless people. The Amikas phone was ringing and I rushed to answer it while flinging the handouts and brochures from the event onto my desk. The hopeful but timid voice on the other end of the call sounded all too familiar. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t make out her name, I already knew her story and why she was calling Amikas.

Although our agency closed the last of our residential programs last month, there are still listings for us throughout the county and I’m still getting calls like this one. This woman found our card tacked on the bulletin board at the LGBT Community Center and thought we would be the answer to her prayers. She is seven months pregnant and has two kids, 6 and 7 years old. She’s been homeless for six months.   [Read more…]

Student Loan Default a Growing Trend?

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By John Lawrence

With over a trillion dollars in outstanding student loans, young college graduates are being forced to take jobs they hate in order to pay them back. Their futures consist of debt peonage for as far as the eye can see. Some are opting out of a lifetime of death-in-debtorhood and choosing instead to start over living the life that they foresaw when they enrolled in college in the first place. Such a one is Lee Siegle whose June 6 opinion piece in the New York Times laid out his rational for defaulting on his student loan.

His decision was made based on choosing life over death …   [Read more…]

Nuclear Shutdown News – June 2015: Balloon Shuts Down Troubled Indian Point Plant

A Mylar balloon similar to this one led to a sequence of events that shut down the Indian Point nuke plant.

By Michael Steinberg / Black Rain Press

Nuclear Shutdown News chronicles the continuing decline of the US nuclear industry, and the efforts of those who are working to bring about a nuclear free future. As US nukes increasingly approach or surpass their 40 year lives, they are becoming more qnd more dangerous and outdated. They need to be shut down and replaced with renewable energy sources—now!

1. Balloon Shuts Down Indian Point Plant

On June 16 the New York state The Journal News reported, “a balloon tangled in electrical wires led to a sequence of events resulting in the shutdown of the Indian Point nuclear plant,” which is located 35 miles up the Hudson River from New York City.   [Read more…]

A Homeless Food Fight in San Diego

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By Jeeni Criscenzo del Rio

A recent post on the Facebook page for Homeless News San Diego showed a letter from the Rock Church regarding a change in policy for feeding homeless people. Part of one sentence was highlighted: refrain from feeding homeless people on the streets, as well as distributing items such as clothing and blankets. The post indicates there were 107 shares and 206 comments!

I can’t recall ever seeing an issue evoke such passionate responses from so many people with opposing, yet reasonable points of view. I read all of them, looking for something to convince me one way or the other, because this is something that has been troubling me since I attended at Downtown Fellowship of Churches and Ministries meeting about it two years ago. Not being a church-goer, I felt a little out of my element at the meeting, but I appreciated their plans for what would become Doing It Better Together  to coordinate services provided to homeless people on the streets.   [Read more…]

Where there’s Smoke, Is there a Fire Sale? How San Diego Sells Our Surplus Properties

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When citizen input is eliminated, are the “real” customers brokers and developers?

Best keep a look out the backdoor. The City is apparently in a mood to sell land. How much and to whom and when is not too clear, but they are already making lists and lining up brokers. A few citizens were on hand for a presentation to the June 10 meeting of the City Council Smart Growth and Land Use Committee on “Potential Sale of 14 Surplus Properties owned by the City of San Diego”.

The “For Information Only” power point was entitled “Excess Property Sales for Action Before City Council in 2015”. There were actually 16 on one list for “Excess Sales Using Brokers” and another 11 on a list titled “Exclusively Negotiated/Direct Sales”. And then there was another “Direct Sale” listed all by itself for the Villa Montezuma historical museum building. So maybe it was 28 excess properties. And every Council District has at least one listing on one or the other of the lists.
  [Read more…]

One in Every 122 Humans Forcibly Displaced by War and Persecution: UN

Refugees and migrants on a fishing boat pictured before making contact with the Italian navy.

New report exposes ‘unchecked slide into an era in which the scale of global forced displacement as well as the response required is now clearly dwarfing anything seen before.’

By Sarah Lazare / Common Dreams

As wars and persecution escalate worldwide, one out of every 122 people on the planet is a refugee, seeking asylum, or internally displaced, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported Thursday.

Taken together, this population of humans wrenched from their homes by violence would constitute the 24th largest country in the world.   [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…]

Why Don’t Corporations Contribute to Charity Instead of Hitting Up Their Customers?

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By John Lawrence

Do you find it annoying to be hit up for a donation every time you make a purchase? You’re out buying groceries or cat food or mouthwash and you get asked to make a donation to some charity. “Would you like to contribute a dollar to help homeless dogs?”, the check out person asks. I’ll tell you what. Why don’t you reduce my total by $1.00 and contribute that to charity? Do you think Walgreen’s or Petco could afford that? Give me a dollar off my freakin’ bill. I just scraped enough money together to make sure our cat is adequately fed and doesn’t go homeless.

I really think I am capable of making my own decisions about what charities I want to donate to. I don’t want to be prompted every time I buy something. And is Walgreen’s CEO who made over $13 million in 2013 contributing anything in this campaign? Heck no, and neither are the Board of Directors who make tons of money in stock grants for attending a few meetings per year.   [Read more…]

Congressman Scott Peters Defends His Yes Votes on Trade Promotion Authority (Fast Track)

Photo Credit: John Nicksic

By Martha Sullivan 

On Saturday, I stood with this sign outside the HQs of the San Diego County Democratic Party in a “Walk of Shame” for my Congressman, Scott Peters, as he arrived to address the monthly meeting of the Council of Clubs.  We were there after two years of lobbying this Congressman on the secret, corporate-negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and its companion Fast Track bill, who told us a year ago he would vote No, but who succumbed to the White House charm offensive and delusions of grandeur to vote Yes with a handful of other Democrats in our California Congressional Delegation.

After he walked our gauntlet, I followed him into the meeting, as a registered Democrat who has been very active in the San Diego County Democratic Party since 2004, including co-founding its vaunted Grassroots Organizing (GO) Team in 2005 and serving as Vice Chair for the North Area in 2009-11.  I am a member of two local Democratic Clubs, the Democratic Woman’s Club of San Diego County and the Clairemont Democratic Club.   [Read more…]

In-Home Care Recipients Cautiously Applaud New Budget

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By Steven Mikulan / Capital & Main

The 467,000 Californians who receive assistance from the state’s In-Home Supportive Services are breathing a little better, if not easier, now that a new budget has restored care cuts to the agency. The program typically assists elderly, blind and disabled people on low incomes with housework, meal preparation, personal hygiene and other services; by paying individuals through the state to perform these tasks, the care recipients are able to remain in their homes and avoid being institutionalized – which also saves taxpayers millions of dollars.   [Read more…]

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…]

Qualcomm Exec Gets Jail Time for Insider Trading

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By John Lawrence

Some guys just can’t resist the temptation to score an extra couple of hundred thousand bucks by using their position inside a company such as Qualcomm and the information they are privileged to know in order to buy and sell stock before the public has access to that information. Such a guy was Derek Montague Cohen, who knew about Qualcomm’s plans to buy Atheros Communications in 2011.

He knew that Atheros’ stock value would go up after it was publicly announced that Qualcomm would buy them. So he bought Atheros stock before it was announced publicly and before the stock price went up. After the announcement and the resultant surge in Atheros’ stock value, he sold the stock making a tidy $200,000 profit. But he was not the only one. Several other Qualcomm employees did the same thing.

Now Cohen faces jail time, something that rarely happens in white collar crimes.   [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…]

New Retirement Ballot Proposal: The Language of Cuts

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By Bill Raden / Capital & Main

The newest front in the battle over the retirement security of California’s public employees opened June 4 with the release of the language for a proposed ballot initiative that would rewrite the state’s constitution to virtually outlaw traditional defined-benefit pension plans for future state and municipal workers.

The measure, dubbed “The Voter Empowerment Act of 2016,” would effectively shift all new public employees from the various defined-benefit plans currently in place to 401(k) plans, beginning in 2019. It would then lock those plans in place by adding the burden of direct voter approval on government employers who want to continue offering traditional pensions after 2019.   [Read more…]

Dominican Republic to Be ‘Socially Cleaned’ On June 16th

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By gjohnsit / Daily Kos

On June 16th about a quarter of a million people will be made stateless. They will have no homes, no passports, and no civil rights. There are several reasons for this, but the primary reason is racism.

At issue is a ruling by the Constitutional Court in the Dominican Republic to strip away the citizenship of several generations of Dominicans.

According to the decision, Dominicans born after 1929 to parents who are not of Dominican ancestry are to have their citizenship revoked. The ruling affects an estimated 250,000 Dominican people of Haitian descent, including many who have had no personal connection with Haiti for several generations.

What we are witnessing is one of the largest humanitarian crisis in the western hemisphere, except this one is completely by choice.   [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…]

State Senate Passes Bill Banning New Offshore Drilling

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By Dan Bacher

In a victory for fishing groups, Indian Tribes and environmental organizations, SB 788, a bill to ban new offshore oil drilling in a nearby “marine protected area” in the Santa Barbara Channel known as Tranquillon Ridge, passed off the Senate floor.

The vote on the bill, jointly authored by Senator Mike McGuire (D- Healdsburg) and Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), was 21-13.

The vote took place two weeks after a ruptured pipeline, owned by Plains All-American Pipeline, led to a devastating oil spill along the Santa Barbara County coastline. The state and federal governments are currently cleaning up the spill – and the dead birds, mammals and fish killed by the spill.   [Read more…]

Will City of San Diego Make Dubious Move to Get Blanket CEQA Exemption for Mission Valley Stadium?

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Is the City of San Diego about to go for a blanket CEQA exemption for the Mission Valley stadium?

Dan McLellan thinks so. He used to sit on the San Diego Stadium Coalition, was its vice-president for awhile and is a longtime ardent Chargers fan. He departed the group so he could speak out more aggressively, he told us.

McLellan thinks that all evidence points to the city attempting – what he terms “the legally dubious move”- of getting a blanket CEQA exemption in order to advance any proposed stadium project to a December 15th vote – which has been proposed by Mayor Faulconer just recently.   [Read more…]

Nuclear Shutdown News – May 2015: Fire at Indian Point Plant in NY – and Is It ‘The End’ for Diablo Canyon?

Diablo Canyon Power Plant

By Michael Steinberg – Black Rain Press / OB Rag

Nuclear Shutdown News chronicles the continuing decline of the US nuclear industry. US nuke plants were designed to operate for 40 years … As many of them have approached or surpassed that mark, they have become increasingly unsafe and inefficient, threatening our health and safety. This report points out some of these problems and supports those working for a nuclear free future.

Here’s our May 2015 report:   [Read more…]

Bernie Sanders is a Democratic Socialist; What Does That Term Mean?

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By Stephen Wolf / Daily Kos

Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders running for president as a Democrat and self-styled democratic socialist provides the need for an explanation of what capitalism, socialism, and even communism actually are. The great myth of American civic education is that our economy is the most dynamic and successful because of the free market, which defines capitalism.

However, capitalism is not actually defined by the market, but rather the social relationship between capital and labor. You could ask the simple question of what type of economic system supposedly communist China uses or see that free markets have existed in pre-industrial societies to realize that capitalism has little to do with government involvement in the economy.   [Read more…]

From the TPP to the Death of Tenure: Neoliberalism Hurts Us All

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Depending on how things line up, this week may be when we learn whether or not the House of Representatives delivers Obama a win on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a bipartisan effort that will more thoroughly enshrine a neoliberal structure in U.S. law in the service of bolstering corporate control of our democracy.

Of course this only provides more depressing evidence in support of recent research on the state of American democracy by scholars James N. Druckman from Northwestern University and University of Minnesota’s Jacob R. Lawrence showing that “presidents from both Republican and Democratic parties mainly serve and are guided by the wishes of the wealthy and political elites and exploit public opinion in order to serve those ends.”   [Read more…]