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Fri Apr 10, 2015 at 09:56 AM PDT

Totally despondent.

by daveinchi

The Time of the Presidential Racing has begun. For the next 18 months. Non-stop. All hours. All day. All night. About 37.5% of our American lives take place during "Presidential Season," which is now up and running in earnest, with candidates formally announcing. I just want to scream STOP to the rooftops and beg for reprieve. But I know there will be none. Here we go again, another dismally depressing eighteen months of generalized failure.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we subject ourselves to it?

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How depressing is our 18 month Presidential Season?

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Don't like who those pesky voters elected (or whatever)? It's a simple solution if you control all the levers of power . . .

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I'm one lucky teacher. I work in an excellent public school district, Merrillville Community School District, in Lake County, Indiana, located on the outskirts of the greater Chicagoland area.

That said, I also a Building Representative for my local Teachers' Union, though I am not acting in any official capacity, as such, with this post. Follow me below the fold to see what the front lines of the battle against charter-backing educational deformers looks like.

Go to the bottom for an opportunity for a little quick activism on behalf of a great public education.

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Recently, Uber, the pseudo-taxi ride-sharing service that allows any licensed driver to use their personal vehicle as a money-making pseudo-taxi, has been in the headlines a lot here in Chicago. It started in late 2012:


CHICAGO ACCUSES CAB DISPATCH COMPANY OF VIOLATING CITY ORDINANCES

Alleged infractions include adding mandatory 20% gratuity; citations accompany separate lawsuits from taxi companies, riders

An alderman on Thursday called out a new taxi dispatch company that allows people to hail cabs using their smartphones and has run into problems with city regulators.

The city cited Uber Technologies Inc. this month with a variety of ordinance violations, including allegedly charging riders a mandatory 20 percent gratuity. The citations came at the same time that Chicago-based taxi and livery companies and passengers filed separate lawsuits against the company, alleging that Uber violated multiple Chicago and Illinois laws and engaged in false price advertising, among other violations.

This is not the first time Uber has found itself in hot water. Traditional cabbie companies, who are subject to strict regulation in many locales, have cried foul. For the moment, Uber and its rival, Lyft, seem to have won the day, at least in Chicago, and Illinois more generally, as Governor Quinn recently vetoed a bill that would have regulated Uber like a taxi company.

While I almost never pay for taxis nor Uber, by extension, my lovely wife and I are intimately familiar with Uber's close cousin in what is now being called the "sharing economy," AirBnB.com. If you're unfamiliar, AirBnB is a space-sharing, pseudo-hotel service where average folks with spare rooms, spare couches, or an alternative place to stay, can post spaces in their homes for rent, to tourists passing through. You can think of these stays as "very short term sub-leases" or "very short-term roommates." Relatively cheaply, compared to hotels, travelers can get a comfortable room, bathroom, and often kitchen and living room amenities. Some AirBnB hosts - like us, on occasion - even rent out their entire apartments for certain lengths of time, when they're on vacation or otherwise elsewhere for awhile.

The Flower of my life and I have been doing AirBnB both as hosts, and as tourists, since around the December of 2012. I can honestly say that AirBnB has changed our lives. This is our story.

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Uber, AirBnB, and other "Sharing Economy" Ventures

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Ha ha, I feel like Anchower from The Onion. I'm all "Ola amigos. I know it's been a long time since I rapped at ya . . . "

Dani and I were lucky enough to be able to spend all of nine weeks in Brasil. Nine weeks!

We, a schoolteacher and an office admin/college student, are not necessarily Richie Rich world travelers. We don't believe in running up a lot of credit card debt either. So the sacrifices we made in putting together this grandiose moon-shot of a honeymoon, were considerable. It took 18 months of scrimping, planning, and large-scale lifestyle changes to make it happen. We faced at least one nightmare scenario, last spring, when we were quite certain the whole thing was cancelado. But that's a story for another time . . .

Today, let's focus on the fun stuff. So much fun stuff. My goodness, there was fun-stuff. (I've put together this handy-dandy Brazil versus US head-to-head guide here.) Feel free to peruse and enjoy.

I only touch on politics a few times here and there in this epically-long diary. If you're into travel, visiting Brazil, South America, etc., this diary is for you. If not? That's cool no worries - you may not get so much of a kick out of this one.

I had rotten luck trying to post the pictures, even the personal ones that belonged to me! If you want to see a version of this with the pictures included in the text, just go here. If you think you can help me get picutres embedded, I'm all ears!

More. . . . .

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Travel Blogging - Welcome at DKos?

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The American wrong wing has been screeching about so-called "political correctness" since that fateful day in the early 1990's, when, between tooth-spitting fists to the jaw, a gay man had the temerity to tell the skinheads who were beating him: "You know, I prefer not to be called a faggot." Ever since then, the long-running 'political correctness' cultural meme has infected our media, our college campuses, and certainly every neuron duet of a meeting of conservative "think tanks."

WARNING: Although this diary is anti-bigoted to the core, it DOES use some bigoted language to make its point, as well as quite a few F-bombs. It's just that kind of morning. More below the dancing eights.

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This important article from Les Leopold at Alternet really connects the dots.

HOW WALL STREET TURNED AMERICA INTO INCARCERATION NATION

Transforming poorer neighborhoods into desirable real estate for the new elites often requires getting rid of the poor: jail becomes the new home for many.

November 25, 2013 | The U.S. leads the world in prisoners with 2.27 million in jail and more than 4.8 million on parole. Minorities have been especially hard hit, forming 39.4% of the prison population, with one in three black men expected to serve time during their lifetimes. How is it that our land, supposedly the beacon of freedom and democracy for the rest of the world, puts so many of its own people into prison? . . .

'Unleashing' Wall Street destroys manufacturing, older urban areas and black America's upward mobility

By the end of the 1970s, our policy establishment embarked upon a new experiment to shock the nation out of stagflation (the crushing combination of high unemployment and high inflation). To do so, neo-liberal economists successfully argued that Wall Street should be deregulated and that taxes on the wealthy should be cut to spur new entrepreneurial activity that would enrich us all. Entrepreneurial activity certainly increased, and with a vengeance. Rather than create new jobs and industries that would promote shared prosperity, a new and invigorated Wall Street set about to devastate American manufacturing. Its goal was, and still is, to make money from money, not to make money by producing tangible goods and services. Wall Street's main product for America is debt. And its profits derive from loading up the country with it, and then collecting compound interest.

Wave after wave of financial corporate raiders (now politely called private equity firms) swooped in to suck the cash flow out of healthy manufacturing facilities. Wall Street, freed from its New Deal shackles, loaded companies up with debt, cut R&D, raided pension funds, slashed wages and benefits, and decimated well-paying jobs in the U.S. while shipping many abroad. The released cash flow was used to pay back the financiers, buy up stock to drive up its price, and pay out dividends. Nearly half the raided companies failed as America's heartland in a few short years turned into the Rust Belt.

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Why we can't have nice things. Reason #9,201,123

I've started to really enjoy the show Face Off, so I'll give Alabama Tea Party Republican Representative Martha Roby (R - Zombiefield Estates) this . . . at least she's got her vapid, creepy stare plastered perfectly to her skull.

But that's about all the credit I can give her, because beyond her amazingly winched and riveted death glare from Jack Nicholson as the Joker, she's definitely the Asshole of the Week, in a week that really was chock full of assholes. Well-played, Rep. Roby. You are truly a frightening, frightening person.

More below the dancing eights.

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How would you describe Rep. Roby's creepy stare?

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A very happy Labor Day to all.

This day is about recognizing the daily, unglamorous hard work and sacrifice made by millions of ordinary Americans, on behalf of each other, and posterity. We tend to take an eight-hour workday and the weekend for granted, but people literally DIED fighting for a decent wage, and a better quality of life for everyone.  If anyone has any doubts about the importance of the union movement, of workers having a say in the conditions and the wages that define their own livelihood, just take a quick look at this graph, and then read this article by the indispensable Laura Clawson.

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I'm re-posting this must-read article essentially for its must-be-readacy.  I imagine this issue or even this article may have been covered already, but this is my own take on it. If nothing else, read Tom Engelhardt today. More of my own thoughts are below the dancing eights.

THIS CIA OPERATIVE INDICTED FOR EXTRAORDINARY RENDITIONS VANISHED FROM THE MAP

After years in absentia, poof! Robert Seldon Lady, convicted of kidnapping by Italy, reappeared out of nowhere. Then he was gone again.

Recently, [retired CIA operative . . . and convicted kidnapper . . . Robert Seldon] Lady proved a one-day wonder. After years in absentia — poof! He reappeared out of nowhere on the border between Panama and Costa Rica, and made the news when Panamanian officials took him into custody on an Interpol warrant.  The CIA's station chief in Milan back in 2003, he had achieved brief notoriety for overseeing a la dolce vita version of extraordinary rendition as part of Washington’s Global War on Terror.  His colleagues kidnapped Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, a radical Muslim cleric and terror suspect, off the streets of Milan, and rendered him via U.S. airbases in Italy and Germany to the torture chambers of Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt. Lady evidently rode shotgun on that transfer. . .

. . . Last week, the Panamanians picked him up.  It was the real world equivalent of a magician’s trick.  He was nowhere, then suddenly in custody and in the news, and then — poof again! He wasn’t.  Just 24 hours after the retired CIA official found himself under lock and key, he was flown out of Panama, evidently under the protection of Washington, and in mid-air, heading back to the United States, vanished a second time. State Department spokesperson Marie Harf told reporters on July 19th, “It's my understanding that he is in fact either en route or back in the United States."  So there he was, possibly in mid-air heading for the homeland and, as far as we know, as far as reporting goes, nothing more.  Consider it the CIA version of a miracle.  Instead of landing, he just evaporated. And that was that. . .

. . . This version of how it all works is so much the norm in Washington that few there are likely to see any contradiction at all between the Obama administration’s approaches to Snowden and Lady, nor evidently does the Washington media.  Its particular blind spots, when it comes to Washington’s actions, remain striking — as when the U.S. effectively downed the Bolivian president and his plane.  Although it was an act of seemingly self-evident illegality, there was no serious reporting, no digging when it came to the behind-the-scenes acts of the U.S. government, which clearly pressured four or five European governments (one of which may have been Italy) to collude in the act.  Nor, weeks later, has there been any follow-up by the Washington media. In other words, an act unique in recent history, which left European powers disgruntled and left much of Latin America up in arms, has disappeared without explanation, analysis, punditry, or editorial comment here.  Undoubtedly, given the lack of substantial coverage, few Americans even know it happened . . . This, then, is our world: a single megapower has, since September 2001, been in a financing and construction frenzy to create the first global surveillance state; its torturers run free; its kidnappers serve time at liberty in this country and are rescued if they venture abroad; and its whistleblowers -- those who would let the rest of us know what “our” government is doing in our name — are pilloried.  And so it goes.

Again, I strongly suggest you read all of this important article, from the always-reliable Tom Engelhardt.
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Words fail.

ANTI-GAY ZEALOT GUILTY OF CHILD PORNOGRAPHY AFTER VIDEOTAPING 14-YEAR OLD DAUGHTER HAVING SEX

Lisa Biron faces 25 years in prison for filming her 14-year-old having sex with two men on multiple occasions.

January 12, 2013 Alternet.org

This article was originally published by The Southern Poverty Law Center.


A New Hampshire lawyer who works with a virulently anti-gay Christian-right organization has been found guilty of child pornography charges after videotaping her own daughter having sex with two men on multiple occasions.

Lisa Biron, 43, of Manchester faces a minimum sentence of 25 years in prison after a jury convicted her yesterday. The jury deliberated for less than an hour.

Biron, arrested by the FBI last November, was accused of eight felony counts involving the videotaping of men having sex with a 14-year-old girl who was identified by the Associated Press as her daughter. She also allegedly made a cellphone video of herself having sex with her daughter.

* bold mine

My own brief take is below the dancing eights.

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Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

This article from the always-indispensable ThinkProgress.org really got me thinking.

WHY AMERICANS ACTUALLY VOTED FOR A DEMOCRATIC HOUSE

By Ian Millhiser on Nov 7, 2012 at 4:21 pm

Although a small number of ballots remain to be counted, as of this writing, votes for a Democratic candidate for the House of Representatives outweigh votes for Republican candidates. Based on ThinkProgress’ review of all ballots counted so far, 53,952,240 votes were cast for a Democratic candidate for the House and only 53,402,643 were cast for a Republican — meaning that Democratic votes exceed Republican votes by more than half a million. . . . . [Read the full article for the full context here.]

The actual partisan breakdown of the 113th Congress will be very different, however. Currently, Republicans enjoy a 233-192 advantage over Democrats, with 10 seats remaining undecided . .  . There is a simple explanation for how this happened: Republicans won several key state legislatures and governors’ mansions in the election cycle before redistricting, and they gerrymandered those states within an inch of their lives. President Obama won Pennsylvania by more than 5 points, but Democrats carried only 5 of the state’s 18 congressional seats. . .

Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), however, cannot simply thank Republican state lawmakers for enabling him to keep his job. He can also thank the conservatives on the Supreme Court. Partisan gerrymandering exists for one purpose: to cut off the ability of people who disagree with a state’s ruling party to influence future elections. It is a a clear violation of the First Amendment, which absolutely prohibits viewpoint discrimination. Yet the Supreme Court abdicated its responsibility to end this discrimination in its 5-4 decision in Vieth v. Jubelirer, where the conservative justices tossed out a lawsuit alleging that Pennsylvania’s congressional districts were unconstitutionally drawn to maximize Republican representation in Congress.

UPDATE: A couple of comments regarding the validity of a "national House of Representatives electorate" and/or the very numbers posted by ThinkProgress are certainly salient. The House election, obviously, is not national. But this article was just a starting point for me, and the specific "national vote tally" isn't that important at the end of the day, in my opinion.

Naked power grabs are no good, regardless.

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