How America abandoned its “undeserving” poor

From Salon:

With poverty on the rise in the late 1970s, Reagan conservatives waged war on the needy — and won

Saturday, Dec 21, 2013

After the mid-1970s progress against poverty stalled. The 1973 oil crisis ushered in an era of growing inequality interrupted only briefly by the years of prosperity during the 1990s. Productivity increased, but, for the first time in American history, its gains were not shared by ordinary workers, whose real incomes declined even as the wealth of the rich soared. Poverty concentrated as never before in inner city districts scarred by chronic joblessness and racial segregation. America led western democracies in the proportion of its children living in poverty. It led the world in rates of incarceration. Trade union membership plummeted under an assault by big business abetted by the federal government. Policy responded by allowing the real value of the minimum wage, welfare benefits, and other social protections to erode. The dominant interpretation of America’s troubles blamed the War on Poverty and Great Society and constructed a rationale for responding to misery by retrenching on social spending. A bipartisan consensus emerged for solving the nation’s social and economic problems through a war on dependence, the devolution of authority, and the redesign of public policy along market models.

Urban Transformation

The years after the mid-1970s witnessed a confrontation between massive urban structural transformation and rightward moving social policy that registered in a reconfigured and intensified American poverty in the nation’s cities. It is no easy task to define an American city in the early twenty-first century. Fast-growing cities in the post-war Sun Belt differ dramatically from the old cities of the Northeast and Midwest as any drive through, for example, Los Angeles and Philadelphia makes clear. Nonetheless, all the nation’s central cities and their surrounding metropolitan areas experienced transformations of economy, demography, and space that resulted in urban forms without precedent in history. These transformations hold profound implications for poverty as both fact and idea, and they underscore the need to understand poverty as a problem of place as well as persons. A long tradition of social criticism—from nineteenth-century advocates of slum clearance through the “Chicago school” of the 1920s to the most cutting-edge urban theory of the twenty-first century—presents poverty as a problem of place. In one version, which has dominated discussions, conditions in places—most notably, substandard housing—produce, reinforce, or augment poverty. In an alternate version, poverty is a product of place itself, reproduced independent of the individuals who pass through it. Both versions help explain the link between poverty and the multisided transformation of metropolitan America.

The first transformation was economic: the death of the great industrial city that flourished from the late nineteenth century until the end of World War II. The decimation of manufacturing evident in Rust Belt cities resulted from both the growth of foreign industries, notably electronics and automobiles, and the corporate search for cheaper labor. Cities with economic sectors other than manufacturing (such as banking, commerce, medicine, government, and education) withstood deindustrialization most successfully. Those with no alternatives collapsed, while others struggled with mixed success. Some cities such as Las Vegas built economies on entertainment, hospitality, and retirement. With manufacturing withered, anchor institutions, “eds and meds,” increasingly sustained the economies of cities lucky enough to house them; they became, in fact, the principal employers. In the late twentieth century, in the nation’s twenty largest cities, “eds and meds” provided almost 35 percent of jobs. As services replaced manufacturing everywhere, office towers emerged as the late twentieth century’s urban factories. Services include a huge array of activities and jobs, from the production of financial services to restaurants, from high paid professional work to unskilled jobs delivering pizza or cleaning offices. Reflecting this division, economic inequality within cities increased, accentuating both wealth and poverty.

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Elizabeth Warren Comes Down Hard Against Keystone XL Pipeline While Hillary Clinton’s Allies Push It Ahead

From Alternet:

Warren stands up to a project that could enrich the Koch brothers by tens of billions.

By Eric Zuesse
December 21, 2013

On Friday, December 20, Democratic U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren finally separated herself clearly from former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, regarding the issue of climate change and global warming.

TransCanada Corporation wants to build the Keystone XL Pipeline to carry oil from Alberta Canada’s tar sands to two refineries owned by Koch Industries near the Texas Gulf Coast, for export to Europe. Hillary Clinton has helped to make that happen, while Elizabeth Warren has now taken the opposite side.

Secretary of State Clinton, whose friend and former staffer Paul Elliot is a lobbyist for TransCanada, had worked behind the scenes to ease the way for commercial exploitation of this, the world’s highest-carbon-emitting oil,  53% of which is owned by America’s Koch brothers. (Koch Industries owns 63% of the tar sands, and the Koch brothers own 86% of Koch Industries; Elaine Marshall, who is the widow of the son of the deceased Koch partner J. Howard Marshall, owns the remaining 14% of Koch Industries.)

David Goldwyn, who was former Secretary Clinton’s Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs, is yet another  lobbyist for TransCanada. So, TransCanada has two of Hillary Clinton’s friends working for it. Elliot and Goldwyn worked with Clinton’s people to guide them on selecting a petroleum industry contractor (not an environmental firm or governmental agency) to prepare the required environmental impact statement for the proposed pipeline.

Secretary Clinton’s State Department allowed the environmental impact statement on the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline to be performed by a petroleum industry contractor that was chosen by the company that was proposing to build and own the pipeline, TransCanada. That contractor had no climatologist, and the resulting report failed even at its basic job of estimating the number of degrees by which the Earth’s climate would be additionally heated if the pipeline is built and operated. Its report ignored that question and instead evaluated the impact that climate change would have on the pipeline, which was estimated to be none.

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iPads for Newborns? Marketing Tablets for Babies ‘Horrifies’ Parents, Experts

Apple is like a nasty cancer.  A blot upon humanity.

From Common Dreams:

It’s Christmas Eve in the Digital Age, but for those concerned about the growing amount of screen time that teenagers and young children—even infants—are now experiencing, the holiday gift-giving season may become an increasingly “horrifying” affair.


As the rise of technology dovetails with the multi-billion dollar toy and media industries, children are now growing up in a digital environment that may seem harmless to some but could be dramatically harming key components of their physical, mental and emotional growth at one of the most precious and fragile stages of human development.


The New York Times reports on Tuesday:


A recent survey of 1,000 parents with children between 2 and 10 found that more than half planned to buy a tech item for their children this holiday season. About two-thirds of those planned to give a tablet or smartphone, according to the survey, which was taken for PBS Kids, the brand of the public broadcasting network aimed at young children.

“Smarter Giving With Apps!” shouted the December cover of Manhattan Family, a monthly publication geared to families with young children. The article, written by a kindergarten teacher, noted that “traditional gifts, like clothes and toys” can be costly “and not always what children are wishing for.” Apps, on the other hand, she wrote, are cost-effective, educational and fun — the perfect gift.


But are they the perfect gift? Hardly, say experts.


In fact, child development researchers and doctors are increasingly alarmed by the growing amount of screen time that children—especially those under the age of two—are receiving or being allowed.


In October, as Common Dreams reported, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued an updated version of their media usage guidelines for young children and warned parents that adolescents should have no more than 1 to 2 hours of screen time per day and that children under the age of two should have none whatsoever.

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Unemployment Benefits Can Be ‘The Difference Between Making It And Not Making It’

From Huffington Post:


PHOENIXVILLE, Pa. — Charlie Walker was working from home one day last January when he got a call from his manager, who had already assembled several other senior employees in his office.

“I can’t remember exactly how he said it — change of business conditions or whatever else — long story short: you’re out of here,” Walker, 55, said in an interview. He’d worked for the business-to-business publisher for 11 years. “Everyone else was in the office because they were able to pull them in. I got laid off by phone.”

He didn’t know how to react. His 6-year-old daughter, Emmalee, had been playing with dolls on the floor of their two-story home in this Philadelphia suburb while her father got fired.

“I hang up the phone and I look at her and say — she doesn’t know these things — and I said, ‘I just lost my job,'” he said. He immediately wished he hadn’t burdened his daughter.

The next thing he did was call his wife, Andrea, so they could begin downscaling their lifestyle. No more restaurants, no new winter coat, no more zero balance on the credit cards. Since then, between her job with a local government agency that serves senior citizens and his roughly $300 per week in unemployment benefits, they’ve been able to juggle their expenses.

“The unemployment wasn’t that much, but it made the difference,” Andrea Walker said.

The benefits are at an end. Congress skipped town for the holidays without reauthorizing federal unemployment insurance, which is available to workers after they use up the usual six months of benefits provided by states — which Charlie Walker has done. Next Saturday, he will be among more than 1 million workers whose federal benefits prematurely expire.

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5 Ways the Christian Right Perverts Religion to Push Inhumane, Unfettered Capitalism

From Alternet:

The Christian right works hard to craft theological arguments to support corporate policies.

By Amanda Marcotte
December 18, 2013

The classic understanding of the relationship between social and economic conservatives is simple: Social conservatives are often understood as dupes who let their obsession with controlling other people’s sex lives convince them to vote Republican, often against their own economic interest. This was what President Obama was getting at when he said that working-class whites who vote Republican “cling to guns or religion.”

There’s some truth to that, but if you start to dig a little deeper, it turns out that the Christian right doesn’t just bait believers into voting against their economic interests. On the contrary, the Christian right works fairly hard at trying to create theological arguments to support economic policies Republicans champion, such as slashing the social safety net or allowing unfettered capitalism to rapidly expand income inequality and environmental damage.

Here are the various ways Christian right leaders glaze over the Jesus of the Bible and push their followers to worship one who looks a little more like a Nazarene Ayn Rand.

1) Arguing that Jesus was a capitalist. By and large, the “loaves and fishes” man portrayed in the New Testament can in no honest way be reconciled with the aggressively capitalist attitude of modern Republicans, which holds that profit should never be constrained by concerns such as human rights and basic dignity for all. So conservatives are usually just elusive on the subject. However , Pope Francis’s recent comments regarding the excesses of capitalism have created some pushback on the right.

The favorite argument is that the Pope just doesn’t understand Christianity, which is totally pro-capitalist, no matter how excessive it gets. Ramesh Ponnuru blithely suggested that the Pope’s remarks show that the Pope just doesn’t understand “markets could instead enable a creative form of community” and that more “evangelizing still needs to be done” to convince the Pope that real Christians should embrace capitalism. Never mind that Pope Francis is from Argentina, where the “creative form of community” brought on by an eagerly capitalist, anti-socialist government was expressed through the creative disappearance of people whose left-wing politics were a threat to the capitalist community.

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Former BP geologist: peak oil is here and it will ‘break economies’

From The Guardian UK:

Industry expert warns of grim future of ‘recession’ driven ‘resource wars’ at University College London lecture

Posted by
Monday 23 December

A former British Petroleum (BP) geologist has warned that the age of cheap oil is long gone, bringing with it the danger of “continuous recession” and increased risk of conflict and hunger.

At a lecture on ‘Geohazards’ earlier this month as part of the postgraduate Natural Hazards for Insurers course at University College London (UCL), Dr. Richard G. Miller, who worked for BP from 1985 before retiring in 2008, said that official data from the International Energy Agency (IEA), US Energy Information Administration (EIA), International Monetary Fund (IMF), among other sources, showed that conventional oil had most likely peaked around 2008.

Dr. Miller critiqued the official industry line that global reserves will last 53 years at current rates of consumption, pointing out that “peaking is the result of declining production rates, not declining reserves.” Despite new discoveries and increasing reliance on unconventional oil and gas, 37 countries are already post-peak, and global oil production is declining at about 4.1% per year, or 3.5 million barrels a day (b/d) per year:

“We need new production equal to a new Saudi Arabia every 3 to 4 years to maintain and grow supply… New discoveries have not matched consumption since 1986. We are drawing down on our reserves, even though reserves are apparently climbing every year. Reserves are growing due to better technology in old fields, raising the amount we can recover – but production is still falling at 4.1% p.a. [per annum].”

Dr. Miller, who prepared annual in-house projections of future oil supply for BP from 2000 to 2007, refers to this as the “ATM problem” – “more money, but still limited daily withdrawals.” As a consequence: “Production of conventional liquid oil has been flat since 2008. Growth in liquid supply since then has been largely of natural gas liquids [NGL]- ethane, propane, butane, pentane – and oil-sand bitumen.”

Dr. Miller is co-editor of a special edition of the prestigious journal, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, published this month on the future of oil supply. In an introductory paper co-authored with Dr. Steve R. Sorrel, co-director of the Sussex Energy Group at the University of Sussex in Brighton, they argue that among oil industry experts “there is a growing consensus that the era of cheap oil has passed and that we are entering a new and very different phase.” They endorse the conservative conclusions of an extensive earlier study by the government-funded UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC):

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The Meaning of a Decent Society

From Robert Reich:

By Robert Reich
Thursday, December 19, 2013

It’s the season to show concern for the less fortunate among us. We should also be concerned about the widening gap between the most fortunate and everyone else.

Although it’s still possible to win the lottery (your chance of winning $648 million in the recent Mega Millions sweepstakes was one in 259 million), the biggest lottery of all is what family we’re born into. Our life chances are now determined to an unprecedented degree by the wealth of our parents.

That’s not always been the case. The faith that anyone could move from rags to riches – with enough guts and gumption, hard work and nose to the grindstone – was once at the core of the American Dream.

And equal opportunity was the heart of the American creed. Although imperfectly achieved, that ideal eventually propelled us to overcome legalized segregation by race, and to guarantee civil rights. It fueled efforts to improve all our schools and widen access to higher education. It pushed the nation to help the unemployed, raise the minimum wage, and provide pathways to good jobs. Much of this was financed by taxes on the most fortunate.

But for more than three decades we’ve been going backwards. It’s far more difficult today for a child from a poor family to become a middle-class or wealthy adult. Or even for a middle-class child to become wealthy.

The major reason is widening inequality. The longer the ladder, the harder the climb. America is now more unequal that it’s been for eighty or more years, with the most unequal distribution of income and wealth of all developed nations. Equal opportunity has become a pipe dream.

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The Mask You Live In – Trailer

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Protesters smash Google bus window amid more eviction protests

From Raw Story:

By Pando Daily
Friday, December 20, 2013

On December 20, 2013

Tensions between Bay Area activists and tech institutions ratcheted up this morning when protestors attacked a Google bus in West Oakland, smashing the bus’s rear window while Google employees were inside. Local news organization KQED reports that Google has confirmed the attack.

One Google employee took to Twitter to post evidence of the encounter. A picture shows protestors standing in front of the bus holding a sign that says, “Fuck Off Google.”

Protestors published a colorful account of the incident on local forum “[A] person appeared from behind the bus and quickly smashed the whole of the rear window, making glass rain down on the street. Cold air blew inside the bus and the blockaders with their banners departed. The kind young man left the bus and outside someone threw fliers with a smiley face logo and the message ‘disrupt google’ into the air.”

Two blockades of tech company buses were planned this morning, one in San Francisco and the other in West Oakland. The San Francisco group was organized by a loose coalition of housing activists, including representatives from Eviction Free SF, Our Mission No Eviction, and Just Cause. For the SF protest, roughly 100 people showed up and blocked an Apple bus for 30 minutes.

The spokesperson for the San Francisco group, Fred Sherburn-Zimmer, claims the two protests were not connected. “I have no idea who is organizing the West Oakland protest,” she says. “We just heard a rumor it was happening a few days ago and thought it was perfect timing since the same pressures are happening on both sides of the bay.”

Based on the activists’ account themselves, it appears the rowdier West Oakland protest was a smaller group. The account said:

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Just Another Front Yard Garden Fighting City Hall

From Common Dreams:

Florida couple told to uproot her vegetables, but now she’s fighting back

Jon Queally

It happened in Quebec, we watched it play out in Orlando, and now in the town of Miami Shores, Florida a retired architect named Hermine Ricketts and her husband Tom are fighting city officials who said they couldn’t grow vegetables in their own front yard.

  As she explained to NPR in a radio segment that aired Monday, Ricketts planted her vegetables in the front yard because it faces south—”that’s where the sun is.” But now, even though she gardens “for the food and for the peace it brings her,” city officials told her she had to uproot the veggies and remove the garden.

As Greg Allen reported for All Things Considered:

There are lots of things planted in Ricketts’ front yard: a pomegranate tree, a blueberry bush, papaya, strawberries, pineapples, flowers and green plants.

But noticeably absent is anything considered by Miami Shores to be a vegetable. That’s because earlier this year, after tending her garden for 17 years with nothing from the neighbors but compliments, Ricketts was ordered to dig up her veggies.

She says she was surprised several months ago when a zoning inspector stopped by.

“He told me I was not allowed to have vegetables in the front yard,” she says.

Though Hermine and Tom fought the order all the way to the town’s zoning board, the board chairman refused the appeal and Ricketts ultimately complied by removing the offending plants in her front yard.

The battle, however, was not over as the couple tapped the national advocacy group Institute for Justice who agreed to take on the case.

And Ari Bargill, a lawyer now representing Ricketts as she contests the city rules, told NPR that the ban against front yard vegetable gardening is an affront to other guaranteed property rights.

As he explained to NPR, Miami Shores must have a very good reason to restrict what individuals can do in their own yard, “and that is not the case with a ban on vegetables.”

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