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I haven't yet seen any diary on this incident. It's completely disgusting. Authorities are investigating.

UC Berkeley is my alma mater and I'm just sickened and angered over this display. (I'd like to write more now, but I'm currently recovering from surgery on my right hand.)

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A really good piece over at the New York Times compares the life of an average fast-food worker in the United States, with that of an average fast-food worker in Denmark.

As a shift manager at a Burger King near Tampa, Fla., Anthony Moore earns $9 an hour, typically working 35 hours a week and taking home around $300 weekly.

“It’s very inadequate,” said Mr. Moore, 26, who supervises 10 workers. His rent is $600 a month, and he often falls behind on his lighting and water bills. A single father, he receives $164 a month in food stamps for his daughters, 5 and 2.

Meanwhile, in Copenhagen:
On a recent afternoon, Hampus Elofsson ended his 40-hour workweek at a Burger King and prepared for a movie and beer with friends. He had paid his rent and all his bills, stashed away some savings, yet still had money for nights out.

That is because he earns the equivalent of $20 an hour — the base wage for fast-food workers throughout Denmark and two and a half times what many fast-food workers earn in the United States.

On top of that base pay of $20 an hour, fast-food workers in Denmark receive universal health care, 5 weeks paid vacation, maternity and paternity leave, and a pension plan. These types of benefits are fantasy for American workers. The article notes that the standard of living in Denmark is 30% higher than in the U.S., and that fast-food chains in the country are not as profitable. Denmark has no minimum wage law, and wages are negotiated between unions and employers.

What the article doesn't say is that trade unions in Europe are generally more powerful than those in the U.S. That's because they are typically backed by Socialist/Labor parties with more effective political representation in their respective governments. This kind of political power, coupled with more homogenous populations, enabled the kind of generous public welfare programs we see in Europe. The Democratic Party in the U.S. cannot always act as a true Labor Party because our "winner-take-all" political system compels the party to be a "big tent" and to rely on the same corporate donors as Republicans in order to be competitive. Because the American political system lacks proportional representation, true Socialist/Labor third parties cannot emerge with the power to push the Democratic Party, our politics and our society, further to the left. Until the U.S. removes the influence of money in our elections, and moves away from a "winner-take-all," dual-party, political regime, progressive change is going to continue to be an uphill climb.

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Much has been made about America's recent positive job growth and shrinking unemployment rate, all pointing to signs of a slow, but steady economic recovery. However, the so-called "recovery" continues to pass so many Americans by, including this gentleman from Rhode Island, Brian Perry, recently profiled in this Los Angeles Times article:

By his count, Perry has applied for more than 1,300 openings and has had some 30 interviews, the last one a good two years ago. With his savings running dry, this summer he put up for sale his one asset — a three-bedroom house his parents used to own in this suburb of Providence.

"I'm not looking for pity, just one last opportunity," said Perry, a boyish-looking man with bright blue eyes and a nasal New England brogue.

Mr. Perry is not just among the long-term unemployed, he's among the portion of the population called the "super long-term unemployed" - people who have been out of work for more than two years. The article states that Labor Department figures show about a third of the long-term unemployed have been in this situation that long, and a minority - 100,000 - have been out of work for five years or longer. This is disastrous, especially for a country that prides itself as "the land of opportunity" and upward mobility.

I can certainly relate to Mr. Perry's plight. Nearly 10 years ago, I left a job as a newspaper reporter in central California because of health and other reasons, and moved back home to Los Angeles. Since then, I've only worked part-time jobs or volunteered, until earlier this year, when I got my first full time job in nearly a decade. That was a job working on a political campaign, and unfortunately, it lasted only four months, because the candidate did not make the general election. So, I'm back sending out resumes. Despite three degrees, I've gotten mostly rejections or silence from potential employers, even for civil service jobs.

The fact is, the United States is not producing enough good-paying jobs with benefits for everyone who wants one. The unemployment rate where I live, Los Angeles County, is still a relatively high 8.1%. So, I've felt locked out of this economy for years. And it's very hard to get excited by "good numbers" jobs stories when you're on the outside looking in.

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Thu Sep 11, 2014 at 08:18 PM PDT

Constitutional Constipation

by mooremusings

So Senate Republicans today were able to kill an effort to amend the Constitution to overturn Citizens United. Never mind that the vote was 54-42. Because in America's oddball version of "democracy," the side with the fewest votes can still win.

I can't say I'm surprised by this. Even if by a miracle, the so-called "Udall amendment" got through the Senate without the undemocratic filibuster, it would still have to make it through the GOP-controlled House of Representatives. It's likely that wasn't going to happen either. And even if by some other miracle, it got through the House, the amendment would still have to be ratified by 3/4 of the States. That's roughly 38 state Legislatures. That's daunting, considering that more than half of all the states are currently controlled by the GOP.

Granted, there are many Republican voters who support overturning Citizens United, and at least one red state - Montana - is already in the pro-democracy column. And, given the existence of pro-corporate Democratic legislators, there's no guarantee the legislature in a blue state will have the votes to ratify the amendment.

The United States Constitution is the most difficult to amend in the world and the cumbersome Article V is the culprit. There are many people who believe that difficulty to be a virtue. I am certainly not one of them. The amendment process may have made sense when there were 13 states, but it's a nightmare with 50. The process is just one of the anachronisms inside the ossified relic that underlies the foundation of America. Who knows if the midterm elections are going to change the odds of successfully passing an amendment. Right now, I'm not optimistic. So perhaps the Senate Republicans were only hastening the inevitable.

Discuss

The lengths to which the Republican Party is trying to sabotage the Affordable Care Act is nothing short of bizarre. Some might say, evil. But this resistance to providing every American with affordable health care isn’t really about health care. It’s really a declaration of war over who deserves the benefits of being a citizen in a nation-state; who deserves the fruits of being an American.

If health reform is allowed to succeed, reactionary arguments against the government’s obligation to provide for the people’s welfare suddenly fall flat. Why - the public would then ask - is the government so awful if it is guaranteeing me the means to keep myself and my family healthy (and therefore, alive)? Hey, maybe the government isn’t so bad after all, and we should have more of it.

Meanwhile, as attacks on the ACA continue and mainstream news outlets act as if the law is headed for failure, the fearful cries against single payer grow ever more shrill in the conservative media. Anti-health reform zealots are the most frightened of a government expansion of Medicare to all Americans because they know the idea would be extremely popular and would help many Americans benefit economically. Calling the ACA - or Obamacare, as it’s come to be known - “socialist” or “Communist” is merely a distraction, when these zealots know full well that the ACA is based on the free-market theories of a conservative think tank. The distraction is meant to keep the public from even considering a better alternative to Obamacare.

But what is so insidious about attacks on efforts to get the United States toward universal health care is that the reactionaries seem to believe that some people aren’t deserving of health care at all. And so, neither are they deserving of a good education, a good job at a living wage, affordable housing, a decent pension in old age, or even food. This means there ought to be two societies in America: one for those who are entitled to all the resources and wealth in the country, and the other for those who can labor in it, but should expect little or nothing in return. In another age, the former class of people would have been called an aristocracy. If an aristocracy is what the reactionaries want for the United States, then they should just come out and say so.

Discuss

Despite all the protests and all the lobbying efforts by environmental groups against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, major polling organizations are showing "broad public support for the project." I was alarmed when I saw this morning the latest Pew Research poll finding that 66 percent of Americans support Keystone, including 54% of Democrats.

As the Obama administration approaches a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, a national survey finds broad public support for the project. Two-thirds of Americans (66%) favor building the pipeline, which would transport oil from Canada’s oil sands region through the Midwest to refineries in Texas. Just 23% oppose construction of the pipeline.

Support for the pipeline spans most demographic and partisan groups. Substantial majorities of Republicans (82%) and independents (70%) favor building the Keystone XL pipeline, as do 54% of Democrats. But there is a division among Democrats: 60% of the party’s conservatives and moderates support building the pipeline, compared with just 42% of liberal Democrats.

A Gallup poll, also conducted in March, showed 57 percent of Americans favor Keystone XL.
A solid majority of Americans think the U.S. government should approve of building the Keystone XL pipeline, while 29% think it should not. Republicans are almost twice as likely as Democrats to want the government to approve the oil pipeline. About half of independents also approve.
However, a Public Policy Polling survey commissioned by the Center for Biological Diversity, found the opposite: that a majority of Americans - 53 percent - oppose the pipeline.
Opposition was particularly strong among those who voted for President Barack Obama last year: 68 percent oppose building the pipeline, 76 percent are concerned about its contribution to climate change, and 57 percent believe approval would break the president's State of the Union vow to fight climate change.
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Antonin Scalia just keeps cementing his place in the Hall of Shame.

During Supreme Court arguments Tuesday on whether gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry, Justice Antonin Scalia wondered if having parents of the same sex may be “harmful” to children.

[snip]

“If you redefine marriage to include same-sex couples,” he said, “you must permit adoption by same-sex couples, and there’s considerable disagreement among sociologists as to what the consequences of raising a child in a single-sex family, whether that is harmful to the child or not. Some states do not permit adoption by same-sex couples for that reason.”

There are fewer things more repugnant in this world than someone with a lifetime job, who is unaccountable to anyone, holds the power of life and death over millions, is horribly unsympathetic to the less fortunate, and has the temerity to be quite arrogant about it. If there's one good reason for amending the Constitution and abolishing life tenure for Supreme Court justices, Il Scalia is it.
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Sen. Harry Reid is getting pilloried by liberals and gun safety advocates after dropping the proposed federal ban on assault weapons from a package of gun control legislation. It doesn't matter that the ban is supported by 57% of Americans. Reid insisted he didn't have the votes needed in the Senate to overcome a Republican filibuster, prompting the obvious response that this is exactly why he should have done more to reform filibuster rules in the first place. Meanwhile, my Senator, Dianne Feinstein of California, vows to keep up the fight, saying she will place the ban in an amendment to the legislation.

Everyone knew that the assault weapons ban was going to be an uphill struggle. But complaining about Harry Reid's timidity before the National Rifle Association or pining over the return of the talking filibuster doesn't really get to the root of America's problematic legislative battles. The fact is, Congress as an institution is structurally undemocratic and that's the fault of our deeply flawed and outdated Constitution.

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to protect my community from the likes of you.

The New York Times published a story reporting that a significant number of the guns recovered on the streets of Chicago came from outside the city, despite Chicago having some of strictest gun laws in the nation. I don't live in Chicago, but in California, which has the (proud, IMO) distinction of having the strictest gun laws of any state. Even so, most illegal guns are flooding into my state from neighboring Nevada and Arizona, places with lax gun laws. In the case of Chicago, the guns are mainly coming from rural areas in Illinois or from Indiana. In other words, the patchwork of laws across the country is creating problems for states and communities who want strong gun regulation. This is why America needs strong federal regulation.

But you gun nuts won't have that. You reserve the "right" to intimidate people you don't like express your so-called "Second Amendment freedoms" even if that means the rest of us have to learn to duck and cover everywhere we go. So your obsession with a dangerous "hobby" trumps my freedom to be able to conduct my life in public without feeling like I'm living in an armed camp. You believe your hobby is more important than my right not to have a stray bullet traveling from a mile away lodge itself in my body after some kook decided to use the sky as target practice. So if you insist on blocking meaningful reform, then I, as a non-gunowner, insist on surrounding my state of California with a border wall, complete with checkpoints and  armed (unfortunately necessary) guards that will check all incoming auto traffic at the state line and who will confiscate any firearms before allowing such traffic to enter. Hey, this is just going back to how things used to be anyway. Checking one's firearm at the town border was the law in the Wild West of the 1800s (imagine that, being safer in the Wild West!) How about we go even further? How about requiring that you present an "interstate" passport and visa that must be inspected and stamped before you are allowed to enter my state?

My reasoning in putting forth such ridiculous ideas is that the United States is becoming increasingly balkanized to the point where we are many "nations" entangled together and some of those "nations" (the neo-Confederate, anti-government, gun crazy ones) are trying to strangle the rest. If we can't have some unity when it comes to public safety, then why not just get it over with and break up into 50 countries already?    

Here in California, we've got our own loonies to deal with. We shouldn't have to suffer from the ones next door too.

Discuss

Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 07:55 AM PST

Gun culture and the rule of whim

by mooremusings

Nearly a week after the massacre in Newtown, CT, what I find shocking is the persistent arrogant attitude among the gun rights extremists and the right-wing lawmakers that cater to their wanna-be superhero fantasies. You'd think there would finally be some self-reflection since most of the victims were 6- and 7-year-old children, slaughtered like cattle. But you'd be wrong.

How did our culture devolve into such lunacy? Why do the gun nuts push for more and more weapons in more and more places? I think this craziness is a symptom of a larger problem of unaccountable conduct in American society. We may still have laws on the books, but I feel our society is suffering from lawlessness - starting with behavior from those at the top.

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As a progressive activist in Los Angeles, I always encounter other progressives who are frustrated by the glacial pace of change, but are unaware of how they can become influential above and beyond voting for or giving money to a particular candidate. Years ago, I was one of those people who knew nothing about the inner workings of the Democratic Party. Today, I am 2nd Vice President of the Culver City Democratic Club, a member of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party Central Committee, and a delegate to the Democratic State Central Committee (DSCC). My membership in these organizations allows me to vote on endorsements for Democratic candidates running in local and state elections - a powerful position to have, which I will explain below.

Poll

California State Democratic Convention

52%9 votes
5%1 votes
23%4 votes
11%2 votes
5%1 votes

| 17 votes | Vote | Results

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I want to thank every American who participated in this election, whether you voted for the very first time or waited in line for a very long time. By the way, we have to fix that.

President Barack Obama Victory Speech, Nov. 6, 2012

Read more: http://www.wptv.com/...

Now that the dust has settled and President Obama has been re-elected, America needs to make election reform and the universal expansion of voting rights a high priority.

We pride ourselves about living in "The World's Greatest Democracy," but America has yet to live up to the rhetoric. The GOP's use of voter intimidation and voter suppression tactics in Election 2012 was notable for its scale and its utter outlandishness. But American elections have always been marred by shenanigans because the U.S. has perhaps the most backward election system of all the advanced democracies. And it's an international embarrassment.

The idea that voting is a "privilege" - that some people are more deserving of political participation than others  - was built into the foundation of our country. Disenfranchisement and political inequality were written into the Constitution from the beginning. Even though political rights were expanded to more groups of people over the centuries, lawmakers never fixed major defects within the Constitution itself, nor did they undo outdated voting traditions that keep so many citizens away from the polls. Compared with other democracies, America is still operating its elections in the 19th century, rather than the 21st. We can't keep calling ourselves "The World's Greatest Democracy" if we can't get the basic mechanics of democracy right. Below are some reform ideas I've thought about or have come across. If you have any other ideas, please share in the comments.

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