Fri, Jul

Would Someone Wake Loretta?

CONNECTING CALIFORNIA-Did someone cancel the U.S. Senate campaign without making an official announcement? It’s a fair question. The first race in 24 years for an open U.S. Senate seat from California was supposed to provide a rare moment of competition, entertainment and political engagement for the state. Instead, it’s barely being covered. 

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Hillary, a Word of Advice

GELFAND’S WORLD--Hillary and Bernie are sniping at each other seriously. Bernie's campaign is sending out emails quoting CNN, worrying that the Clinton campaign is out to discredit him. 

"The Clinton campaign has been watching these Wisconsin results come in, and the delegate race of course is tight there, but the reality is they're running out of patience. So they're going to begin deploying a new strategy, it’s going to be called disqualify him, defeat him and then they can unify the party later." 

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Here’s the Problem with the ‘Panama Papers’

THE WORLD’S WORST CRIMINALS--The worst criminals on earth are not the poor who sit behind bars in jails and prisons. The biggest thieves are found among the rich. The 1% can buy legislation, politicians and the media to carry out and hide their dirty work. If they can’t change the laws to benefit themselves in their homelands they simply send their money elsewhere through shell holding companies. This transfer of wealth, much of it diverted from what ought to be tax payments, is an open secret. Panama, the Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands, Luxembourg and Switzerland are known for securing the money and secrets of the rich and the well connected. 

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Beyond Panama: What the World Really Needs is the ‘Delaware Papers’

 HOME GROWN TAX HAVENS--Panama saw populist protests on Wednesday in response to Panama Papers revelations that the nation's lax tax laws are providing a haven for the world's wealthiest to stash their cash. But in the United States, where observers note that corporate greed is surely not lacking, the leak has yet to produce such a grassroots display of outrage. 

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All Health Care, Like All Politics, Is Local

HEALTH POLITICS--At first glance, America’s fragmented, private health care delivery system and Britain’s state-run National Health Service have little in common. But both nations’ contrasting approaches to caring for their populations originated in the immediate post-World War II years, thanks to a preoccupation with stabilizing societies that had been massively dislocated by wartime necessities.

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Welcome to America’s New ‘Gilded Age’: Where Lies, Misinformation and Devalued Dollars are the Norm

ECONOMIC GOBBLDY GOOK-File these under "for the greater good": worker rights, immigrant rights, and rights of "the little guy.” And then file these under "selfish, regressive, and mean": taxpayer rights, citizens’ rights, and homeowner rights. 

Because what's yours is really mine. And because what you thought you earned really isn’t. Because the Government really is on your side, right...particularly in "progressive states" like California? 

It's safe to say that just about everyone is working harder, and most everyone seems to be getting increasingly less for what is worked for...with the exception of a connected few. For those who still give a damn about that thing called "American History”, there was once an era between 1860-1890 called "The Gilded Age" where the labor force grew but income inequality exploded...and the common American's lot was miserable. 

We are now in a Second Gilded Age, but with a potential twist. Income inequality is again a huge problem, but while grassroots and governmental involvement is up (as it was during the First Gilded Age), it is almost impossible to know if those claiming to defend the average worker and American citizen is truly on the worker/citizen's side. 

1) It's no secret that the highest paid are rapidly outstripping the ability of the average worker to get ahead, too, but governmental interference to "help the little guy" may not help that "little guy" at all. 

It's safe to say that the average worker deserves a raise, but it's also safe to say that it’s uncertain to what extent the $15/hour figure will give some folks raises and other folks pink slips. Even left-leaning economists claim that such a dramatic leap upwards, as seen in California and New York, has significant uncertainty and risks associated with it. 

Do we have some horribly Scrooge-like-employers who need to cough up more for their employees? Certainly! But is it accurate to label all small businesses "Scrooge-like"?  And what about those workers who have worked harder than others already, and will watch these others get a raise without that extra effort? 

Furthermore, are the businesses that we rely on for our economic survival getting their own taxes and governmental fees reduced so that they afford these hikes without jacking up their retail costs...and inflation, to boot? 

And are both the businesses and workers in California and other major "progressive" states getting their utility and local/state taxes reduced (or at least stabilized) so that those getting a raise can keep and/or spend their increased wages on what they want? 

So increased wages are overdue...but a formula of tying employer/higher-income-earner wages to the wages of the lowest workers -- as "socialist" as that might sound...is just as overdue with respect to ensuring that a rising tide truly will lift all sails. 

2) The issues surrounding workers' rights might not be a problem if states like California and others actually enforced its immigration laws, thereby empowering workers' wage hikes through supply/demand ratios. 

You remember that whole "supply/demand" thing, right?  It's basic economics -- the smaller the supply, the greater the demand...and vice versa. 

So by rewarding the low-wage workers born here by keeping their numbers stable, employers seeking workers would be forced to pay their workers more. In contrast, by flooding the market with low-income labor from outside countries or regions, California and the federal government trashes and thrashes the average low-income worker's ability to get better pay (or even respect) from their employers -- particularly African-American and Latino workers, based on the relative statistics. 

Whether you call them "illegal immigrants", "undocumented immigrants", or even "folks who magically showed up here", the ability of any employer or lobby to flood the market with cheap labor -- even and especially with governmental oversight (or lack thereof) -- shreds the ability of the average worker (who, unlike their bosses, are trying to play by the rules) to keep up and get ahead. 

But that minimum wage hike erases the ability of employers to undermine the workers anymore, right? 

Wanna bet? 

Wanna bet that there won't be a new rush of "undocumented immigrants" paid under-the-table, or even a new rush of native-born workers paid under-the-table, in order to "help out the workers" or to "protect immigrants' dignity"? 

And whether it's Disney or Silicon Valley, wanna bet that reptilian and compassionless employers and governmental enablers won't find ways to flood the market with skilled workers from other nations and other regions to undermine those workers' salaries and benefits, as well? 

And wanna bet that -- somehow, some way -- all this will be sold as wonderful, kind methods of balancing our budgets while only two groups of people (the very wealthy and those with guaranteed government pensions) will have an ensured future? 

3) The proof is in the pudding: Do states like California protect their residents, or do they force the law-abiding and hard-working ones to just...leave? 

Immigration, even illegal immigration, in absorbable numbers was and is and will not ever be the problem. Ditto with workers' rights. What is the problem is the willingness (or lack thereof) of businesses and resident families to absorb the costs of new additions to our pool of residents. It's no secret that -- throughout the state -- large and powerful developers want you and me to pay for the economic and environmental burdens of their projects. 

Well, ditto for unscrupulous employers and for families who turn a deaf ear to their hard-working, exhausted, and tapped out neighbors. They also want you and me to pay for their businesses and families. Are these businesses and families sponsoring and paying for the employment, tax, health, education, and social services of their workers and "immigrant" friends and relatives, native-born or not, legal or not? Forget that! Let someone else pay for your imposed burden. That used to be the law...but no longer. 

And what happens when the state conveniently forgets that California taxpayers pay for, and expect their children to benefit from, the University of California and California State University systems? We get more out-of-state students, ignoring the screams of California families whose hard-working honors students can't get in. 

And when the nerds, the eggheads, the boring folks raise up that California "pension liability" thing that's now risen to $140 billion and counting, with retired state workers costing more than current state workers…then they are diminished, marginalized and otherwise demonized as anti-police, anti-teacher, anti-firefighter, and downright evil people! 

So what are Californians to do? Particularly those who (along with their parents) built the California infrastructure and educational system of the 1950's, 60’s and 70’s? Leave and go to states like Texas, to be more specific. 

So to summarize: Our cities, our counties, and our state really want to help the little guy, right? Maybe some of them do...but probably most of them don't. However, their lies and misinformation get the job done, right? 

So if the little guy is being helped so much...then why is he screaming so loudly in pain?


(Ken Alpern is a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at  [email protected]. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.


Exposed: U.S. Chamber of Commerce Ignoring Members, Creating Policy Behind Closed Doors

INSIDER REPORT-Did you know that a high percentage of powerful business executives represented by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or its more local affiliates actually support an increased minimum wage, paid sick days for employees, extended maternity and paternity leave, and other progressive policies that benefit workers and families?

If you didn't, there's a reason for that.

Newly leaked materials—including results from internal polling of members and a webinar explaining how the results should be spun publicly—reveal just how far the business lobby group goes in order to hide that fact that many of the people and businesses it claims to represent don't actually agree with the regressive policies the Chamber pushes on local, state, and national governments. 

"It think it is outrageous how the public and the press have been misled that businesses oppose these policies, by chamber lobbyists trotting out some business leader aligned with their anti-worker agenda even though most people—including most of their business members—support these policies, like increasing the minimum wage and paid sick leave." —Lisa Graves, Center for Media and DemocracyObtained by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) and released publicly on Monday, the results of the poll—conducted by LuntzGlobal, the prominent firm run by Republican pollster Frank Luntz—were accompanied by a revealing online presentation which explained to state Chamber of Commerce lobbyists how to "manipulate the public debate over those policies rather than implement the views of the business executives who were polled."

The poll, commissioned by Council of State Chambers (COSC), targeted 1,000 C-level executives (CEOs, CFOs, or COOs) who were members of their local chamber (46%), state chamber (28%), or the U.S. Chamber (16%).  According to the results, there was lop-sided support for various pro-worker positions. Of those asked, 80% supported raising the state minimum wage, compared to only 8% who didn't. Meanwhile, paid sick time was supported by a margin of 73% to 16%. And asked about "more time off to take care of sick children or relatives," the executives supported it 83% to 5%.

However, as CMD notes, there is no force in America in recent years that has "spent more time and effort to keep wages low than the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the state chambers that aggressively lobby against increasing the minimum wage."

During the webinar, Luntz himself explained to the participants the reasoning behind the results and how they could potentially be combated. "So what do these results all have in common?" he asks. "Well quite frankly they are all empathetic. If you ask about them in isolation, of course we want to give folks more benefits, or more leave, or more income..." But then, exposing the real purpose of the presentation, he adds, "So what we'll try and do is actually give you a few helpful hints on how to actually combat these in your states."

In other words, how to suppress the "empathy" of your members or distract them with other issues.

"With their internal polls showing that business owners and executives support raising the minimum wage by an overwhelming 80-to-8 percent, it's unconscionable that the U.S. Chamber and state chambers continue to fight the wage increases that America's workers and our economy need," said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project.

Here's a clip from the actual online presentation:

The Washington Post, which received an advanced look at the leaked documents, notes how the "materials shed light on how some business trade associations operate, and why they’ve continued to oppose minimum wage increases even as the rest of the public thaws towards them."

CMD executive director Lisa Graves says that this kind of behavior is exactly what people should expect from the Chamber of Commerce and its various affiliates. "They are pushing a national agenda that ignores the concerns of the overwhelming majority of Americans and of their own business members in the states," Graves told Common Dreams in an email. "The state business lobby has aggressively fought crucial workplace improvements that ordinary people and CEOs strongly support, and they are being taught by GOP pollsters how to spin words to try to overcome support for these popular policies."

"It think it is outrageous," she continued, "how the public and the press have been misled that businesses oppose these policies, by chamber lobbyists trotting out some business leader aligned with their anti-worker agenda even though most people—including most of their business members--support these policies, like increasing the minimum wage and paid sick leave."


(jon Queally writes for Common Dreams … where this Insider Report was first posted.)


New Veteran-led Campaign Challenges Islamophobia

EDITOR’S PICK--Violence against American Muslims is growing faster than at any time since 9/11, with assaults on Muslim individuals and their places of worship having tripled since the Paris and San Bernardino terror attacks. A NY Times article published last December cites several examples, which include shootings and vandalism. According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), last year set a record for the highest number of incidents targeting U.S. Mosques. As a result of this violence, Muslims across the country, including women and children, have conveyed to the public that they genuinely fear for their safety and security. 

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Los Angeles … Like Other Blue-Green Cities … Rethinking It’s Water Infrastructure

LA MATTERS--Water is our most precious resource — and, as the 2016 World Economic Forum Global Risks Report makes clear, water crises, failure of climate adaptation and loss of ecosystem services are major concerns to our global society. To take advantage of water’s benefits while minimizing its risks, city governments need to recreate a naturally-oriented water cycle while contributing to the amenity of the city by bringing water management and green infrastructure together – an idea known as Blue-Green Cities

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Admissionsgate: UC Audit Confirms CA Residents Getting Screwed by Their Own College Ed System

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW--2015 was the most brutal year ever for Californians hoping to score a spot in the Bruin Class of 2019. Of close to 58,000 who applied, only 9,351 gained admittance to UCLA, which works out to an admit rate of about 16 percent. At Berkeley, the acceptance rate hovered around 19 percent. To put things in perspective, UCLA rejected more applicants than Harvard, Princeton, and Yale combined. (To be fair, UCLA gets four to five times more applicants than the three Ivy’s.)

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It’s Not California’s Big Government, It’s Too Many Small and Stupid Governments

CONNECTING CALIFORNNIA-Wherever you live in California, your county probably doesn’t fit you. In mountainous and rural areas, your county may be too small to do the big things you need; 24 of the 58 California counties have populations under 140,000, the number of people who live in my hometown of Pasadena. Yet in inland exurbs, your county is so sprawling that it can take more than three hours to get to the county seat; San Bernardino County is twice as big as the state of Massachusetts.

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UC President Promises to Monitor Sexual Misconduct Cases

HERE’S WHAT I KNOW-On the heels of a rash of recent sexual conduct allegations at UC Berkeley, UC President Janet Napolitano has announced new steps to closely monitor the university’s response, following opposition from many in the UC Berkeley community who feel the administration has been light-handed in its sanctions against prominent faculty members accused of sexually harassing students and staff. 

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