You are browsing the archive for 2018 January 09.

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In America, Prisoners with Money Can Pay Their Way to a Nicer Stay

January 9, 2018 in Blogs

By Kali Holloway, AlterNet

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For $100 a night, wealthier prisoners can serve their sentence in relative comfort.

Justice in this country has always been for the privileged. The nation’s criminal courts are particularly punitive toward those who are too poor to afford bail, represented by overworked public defenders or simply not rich enough to mount an “affluenza” defense. From arrest to conviction, wealth and whiteness are precious assets for any defendant in a system that favors both. Numerous jurisdictions profit off fines and fees that nickel and dime the poor into debtors’ prisons. And then there are Southern California’s “pay-to-stay” jails, which offer more monied inmates nicer accommodations in exchange for cash.

The price to stay in one of these city jails can run the gamut from $25 a day in La Verne to just over $250 in Hermosa Beach. A collaborative investigation by the Los Angeles Times and the Marshall Project found that for $100 a night, inmates in Seal Beach’s pay-for-stay program had access to “amenities that included flat-screen TVs, a computer room and new beds.” The cost also affords inmates “semi-private rooms, single showers and the ability to… make phone calls whenever they want.” In addition to creature comforts, the program lets those with resources buy their way out of serving time in the Los Angeles and Orange County jails, where overcrowding, violence and inhumane conditions are often baked into every jail sentence.

“The benefits are that you are isolated and you don’t have to expose yourself to the traditional county system,” Christine Parker, of Correctional Systems Inc., which runs three pay-to-stay programs, told the New York Times. “You can avoid gang issues. You are restricted in terms of the number of people you are encountering and they are a similar …read more


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Trump’s Daily White House Schedule Will Confirm Your Worst Suspicions

January 9, 2018 in Blogs

By Liz Posner, AlterNet

Trump starts work much later than most Americans.

A new Axios report confirms something many of us suspected about Donald Trump’s White House: the president spends an inordinate number of work hours watching television and tweeting. In fact, the report implies that Trump spends a limited amount of time actually working, starting work later and holding fewer meetings than when he first took office.

Compared with his schedule last year, Trump spends fewer hours in meetings and more hours dedicated to a mysterious activity blocked off on his official schedule as “Executive Time”—which in reality, aides say, means “watching TV, making phone calls and tweeting.” The article continues: “Trump's days in the Oval Office are relatively short—from around 11am to 6pm, then he's back to the residence. During that time he usually has a meeting or two, but spends a good deal of time making phone calls and watching cable news in the dining room adjoining the Oval. Then he's back to the residence for more phone calls and more TV.”

Trump begins his workday three to four hours after most Americans do. He doesn’t take his first official meeting (his daily briefing by staff members) until 11am. It should alarm us all that Trump spends his early hours each day absorbing news from secondhand sources like Twitter and his beloved “Fox and Friends.”

The Axios report also confirms what the New York Times wrote about Trump’s morning routine:

“Around 5:30 each morning, President Trump wakes and tunes into the television in the White House’s master bedroom. He flips to CNN for news, moves to 'Fox & Friends' for comfort and messaging ideas, and sometimes watches MSNBC’s 'Morning Joe' because, friends suspect, it fires him up for the day.

“Energized, infuriated — often a gumbo of both — Mr. Trump grabs his iPhone. Sometimes he tweets while propped on his pillow, according to aides. Other times he tweets from the den next door, watching another television. Less frequently, he makes his way up the hall to the ornate Treaty Room, sometimes dressed for …read more


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Corporate Powers Are Stealing Online Identities, Posting Fake Comments to Push for Consumer Law Repeals

January 9, 2018 in Blogs

By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet

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At least five federal agencies targeted, from internet protections to predatory lending and investments.

Forget Russian fake news for a moment. Another extremely consequential privacy-breaching, identity-theft hack is undermining our democracy and almost certainly being perpetuated by corporate America.

A pattern of cyber deception is appearing across the federal government in the nooks and crannies of the process where White House directives or Congress’ laws are turned into the rules Americans must abide by—or in the Trump era, are repealed.

Hundreds of thousands of comments, purportedly made by Americans, have come in over the electronic transom to at least five different federal agencies calling for an end to Obama-era consumer protections and other regulations that impede profits, a series of investigative reports by the Wall Street Journal found. Except, the people who supposedly sent these comments never did.

The latest example concerns the so-called “Fiduciary Rule,” which originated in the Labor Department and was to talk effect in July 2019, to try to prevent conflicts of investment from investment advisers targeting retirees.

“Consider the experience of Robert Schubert, a Devon, Pa., salesperson,” the Journal’s report said. “A comment posted in his name on the Labor Department website opposed the rule, saying: ‘I do not need, do not want and object to any federal interference in my retirement planning.’ In an interview, Mr. Schubert said the comment was a fraud. He didn’t post it and doesn’t agree with it. ‘I am disgusted that people can post comments using my name,’ Mr. Schubert said.”

In this report, the Journal hired a polling firm that reached 50 people who allegedly commented and found that 40 percent said they didn’t post anything on the department’s website. A department spokesman told the Journal it removes fraudulent comments when notified and said posting them …read more


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Steve Bannon Has Resigned from Breitbart News

January 9, 2018 in Blogs

By Chris Sosa, AlterNet

The move punctuates a stunning fall for the former White House chief strategist.

Far-right news site Breitbart announced that Steve Bannon, its executive chairman, is stepping down.

Breitbart CEO Larry Solov wrote, “Steve is a valued part of our legacy, and we will always be grateful for his contributions, and what he has helped us to accomplish.”

Bannon's swift fall from grace in conservative circles comes after the publication of Michael Wolff's book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.

The book portrays Bannon as a manipulative extremist who loathed Trump's children and used President Trump as a vehicle to advance a radical political agenda while serving as White House chief strategist.

Bannon tried to contain the controversy by issuing a lengthy statement claiming he was misrepresented in the book.

Trump blasted Bannon after initial reports of the book's contents were published, calling him “Sloppy Steve” and claiming he had “lost his mind.”

Related Stories

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Starbucks' Dirty Secret

January 9, 2018 in Blogs

By Ross Hammond, AlterNet

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Four billion cups a year end up in landfills, despite the company's promise of a 100 percent recyclable cup.

It’s 7am. You drag yourself out of bed, pull on your work clothes, brush your teeth and hop on the bus. You get off at your stop, and head to the nearest Starbucks for a cup of coffee to wake up your foggy brain. You sip the delicious, caffeinated concoction on your walk to work, and the cup’s empty by the time you arrive. You look for a place to toss it—but wait, do you throw it away or put it in a recycling bin?

This is the story of the Starbucks cup.

Most people don’t know this, but Starbucks paper cups are not recyclable in most cities across the U.S. because the cups are lined with plastic. In today’s world, a paper cup is no longer just a paper cup. It’s plastic pollution.

These plastic-lined Starbucks cups are a huge problem for our waste and recycling streams. Although Starbucks cups are accepted for recycling in a few major cities in the U.S. (New York, Seattle, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.), the rest go into the trash, to the tune of more than 4 billion cups a year. That’s 8,000 Starbucks cups each minute that are harvested from fresh-cut trees, used once, and sent straight to the landfill.

Even in cities where Starbucks paper cups are accepted for recycling, it remains unknown how many cups actually make it all the way through the recycling process. The plastic lining is inefficient and difficult to recycle; it adheres to …read more


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Trump Is Wrong. Green-Card Immigrants Aren’t a Terrorist Threat

January 9, 2018 in Economics

By Alex Nowrasteh

Alex Nowrasteh

The Trump administration is launching a legal assault on two
categories of immigrants in the United States. On Monday, it
canceled a long standing program for Salvadorans, called Temporary
Protected Status (TPS), that will strip legal work status from
about 200,000 people in the next 18 months. But ongoing, and far
more dangerous, is the administration’s attempt to cut the number
of legal family-sponsored immigrants on green cards.

The Trump administration is arguing that two recent terrorist attacks in
New York City should prompt Congress to strip people of green
cards. The first attack on Halloween by Sayfullo Saipov, an
immigrant from Uzbekistan, killed eight people. The second was
Akayed Ullah from Bangladesh. He killed nobody
but did manage to mutilate himself. Both entered the U.S. on green
cards because they were related to American citizens or other legal
immigrants on green cards.

Yet family-sponsored immigrants are far from the threat the
Trump administration imagines they are, and cutting off this source
of immigration is a foolish way to respond to occasional terror

Attorney General Jeff Sessions argued that visas like Ullah’s
are responsible for the terror attack, “a result of
failed immigration policies.” But neither Sessions nor any other
member of the administration has told us how dangerous
family-sponsored immigrants actually are. White House spokesman
Hogan Gidley said, “We believe that data drives policy, and this
data will help drive votes” to cut family-sponsored green cards.
What do the data actually say?

From 1975 through 2017, 16 people have been murdered in attacks on U.S.
soil by terrorists who entered on a green card. My estimate is that
such terrorists, including those in the family-sponsored category
that this administration wants to cut, are responsible for 0.4
percent of all deaths in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil since

As tragic as recent
terror attacks have been, the danger posed by foreign-born
terrorists entering using green cards does not justify the pain and
anguish that will come from separating American citizens from
members of their family born overseas.

The odds of dying in a terrorist attack committed by an
immigrant who entered on a green card during that time are about
one in 723 million per year. This number even exaggerates the
danger to American citizens and legal immigrants. If you do not
include the deaths of the six out of eight people murdered by
Saipov on Halloween who were Argentinian tourists, the danger to
American citizens decreases even further, to about one in 1.2
billion a year.

That miniscule probability merits a comparison to far-more
routine dangers. About 800,000 people …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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State of the Nation: Progressives, Conservatives, and Trump

January 9, 2018 in Economics

By Richard M. Ebeling

Donald Trump

By: Richard M. Ebeling

Anyone reading the news and especially the political “liberal” and conservative commentaries might easily conclude that he is living in a world of two parallel political universes. It is as if modern American liberals and conservatives are, respectively, occupying alternative realities about how they look at the economy and culture of the country, and evaluate Donald Trump and his administration. The common element in both, however, is the existence of an intrusive and controlling government.

Read the “progressive” liberal press and you would easily presume that America is about to descend into a fascist dictatorship led by racist thugs determined to introduce twenty-first century eugenics that is supplemented with an open season on wanton police murdering of anyone who lacks blond hair and blue eyes. And all for the benefit for a financial “one percent” who share the same skin pigmentation.

At the spearhead of this new Nazi “Amerika” is Donald Trump. Illegitimate president, race-baiter-in-chief, and who is mentally unstable, while being a puppet or dupe of Vladimir Putin, who hopes to use Trump to restore Russia as the prime player on the global stage.

An Electoral Victory and Trump’s Mental State

The fact is, Trump won the presidential election by winning enough votes in the Electoral College, even though Hillary Clinton won around three million more of the popular votes than did Trump; that is, Trump won according to the electoral rules under the Constitution for him to occupy the White House. An unbiased observer might wonder if these same Progressives and Democratic Party pundits would be hanging their heads in shame and embarrassment if it had all been in reverse, with Hillary having won the Electoral vote but with Trump winning the popular vote majority. One doubts they would be suffering from guilt that Hillary was not “really” president because her election had not been through the “direct will” of the democratic majority.

It is a fairer question to ask whether or not Donald Trump is just dumb or a retard (with apologies for using such a “politically incorrect” term for mental handicaps). Anyone who reads the transcript of his New York Times interview on December 28, 2017 cannot be blamed for asking this. Regardless of the questions on a number of different subjects the Times reporter asked, over the half hour or so interview, Trump’s practically only answer, repeated over and over again …read more


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On-Duty Police Deaths Were Near a 50-Year Low in 2017

January 9, 2018 in Economics

By Ryan McMaken


By: Ryan McMaken

The number of police officers killed on duty dropped to near a 50-year low in 2017. As of December 28, 2017, 128 officers died in the line of duty. That's down 10% from 2016, when 143 officers died, according to new data from National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

The only other year with fewer deaths in the past five decades was 2013, when 116 officers were killed.

These deaths should not all be interpreted as the result of attacks from members of the public. Traffic accidents are the leading cause of police-officer deaths, although shootings play a significant role.

Although we continue to hear complaints about a “war on cops” from police labor unions, government institutions, and their allies, there is no evidence to support the claim.

As Tate Fegley noted in October, the most recent data continues a decades-long trend:

[T]here has been a downward trend in officer deaths over the last few decades. In 2016, the number of police officers killed by gunfire was less than half of what it was in the early seventies. Contrary to the narrative of there being a war on cops, rather than a series of isolated incidents of violence against police officers, the number of officers being killed is going down while the number of people employed as police officers goes up.

Since we are dealing with such small numbers, of course, it is impossible to claim that this year's drop to the second-lowest in 50 years represents any sort of new trend. It would only take an additional 10 shooting deaths to significantly change the trend.

Nevertheless policing overall is becoming statistically safer.

But to what should we attribute this trend?

According to USA Today, it is at least partly attributable to “officer safety”:

“In my 33 years doing this, I've never seen the amount of awareness given to officer safety and wellness,” [Craig Floyd, president and chief executive of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund] said. “That's definitely been paying off and will continue to help make law enforcement a significantly safer profession.”

Meanwhile, “The number of people killed by officers increased slightly from 963 in 2016 to 971 this year, according to data compiled by The Washington Post.” In other words, in recent years, more than seven times as many people are killed by police, than police die on duty from all causes, including accidents.

“Officer safety,” …read more


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The Constitution Does What it Was Written To Do — Expand Government Power

January 9, 2018 in Economics

By Eric Peters


By: Eric Peters

A great many people – especially conservatives – reverence the Constitution, consider that it has been abused and that if only the doctrines expressed within were revived and respected, all would be well with America again.

This, of course, is a kind of children’s bedtime story – and approximates reality to about the same degree as the story of the Three Little Pigs.

The Constitution was peddled and imposed on us by men like Alexander Hamilton, a grasper after power who very openly loathed the ideas expressed by men like Jefferson in his Declaration (and even more so in his Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions).

Hamilton and his faction – they were called Federalists, which meant then what it means today – intended to create a centralized government on the British model, but without a hereditary monarch. The Bill of Rights was just barely added, in order to sooth the (rightly, as it turned out ) suspicious, such as George Mason of Virginia.

Patrick Henry smelled a rat.

At any rate, the fact remains that the Constitution was written with great calculation by lawyers – who are trained in and well understand the meaning and potential use of words – in such as way as to assure the expansion of federal power via (among other things) the purposely open-ended Commerce Clause and deliberately nebulous phrases such as “general welfare” that can be – and have been – interpreted to mean . . . anything those who control the levers of the federal government wish it to mean.

Including – as actually happened during the Roosevelt Years – that a man farming on his own land whose produce never leaves his land let alone the state is nonetheless subject to federal regulation, because his actions “affect” Interstate Commerce.

In the same manner, Americans are forced to pay for other people’s retirement (and in their turn, forcing others to pay for theirs) and this is characterized as a “contribution.”

Regardless – the debate ought not to be over a piece of paper and what it does or does not legalize. A thing can be morally vile and entirely legal. The debate ought to be over the question of rights vs. conditional privileges. And whether the immoral can ever – rightfully – be lawful.

Does a man have an absolute right to be left in peace, so long as he himself is peaceful – or not? If not, then …read more


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Trump Has Whiffed on Trade So Far. Here's What He Needs to Do in 2018

January 9, 2018 in Economics

By Simon Lester

Simon Lester

2017 was a lost year for U.S. trade policy. We took several
steps backwards and none forward.

The losses started in January with the U.S. withdrawal from the Trans Pacific
Partnership, a trade agreement with 11 other nations that had been
negotiated by the Obama administration, but not yet signed into law
by Congress. Rather than suggest any improvements, the Trump
administration abandoned the agreement entirely.

A couple months later, trade policy deteriorated into bluster
over issues such as trade deficits and national security. No one could articulate a
good reason for concern, but nevertheless, executive branch reports
and investigations began.

Then in May, the Trump administration notified Congress of its intent to begin
renegotiating an existing trade agreement, the North American Free
Trade Agreement, with talks that started in August. As it turned out, the
administration’s objectives sometimes seemed more about closing
markets than opening new ones, with government procurement and
trade in automobiles as prime examples.

Instead of leading the
way on trade liberalization, U.S. interests are now being shoved
aside by others.

And at the World Trade Organization (WTO), the administration
has been blocking the appointment of new judges
for the appeals court.

In the midst of all this, the administration kept up the usual
stream of “trade remedies” cases (anti-dumping/countervailing
duties) to block imports, bragging about how many more actions it
has taken than previous administrations did.

There’s a common theme to all of this: 2017 brought no new trade
liberalization. Despite Trump’s promises of great new bilateral
trade agreements, no such negotiations were even initiated, much
less completed.

In contrast, major U.S. trading partners have been pushing ahead
with their own trade liberalization. The European Union and Japan
are getting close to a final trade deal. And the
remaining TPP countries are working to complete one without the United
States, having suspended some of the provisions that were in there
because of U.S. demands. Instead of leading the way on trade
liberalization, U.S. interests are now being shoved aside by

Trade politics is fraught with challenges these days, so taking
some time to get settled is understandable. But with a year of
experience under its belt, the Trump administration needs to make
2018 better than 2017 for trade policy.

Here’s what we need to see this year.

First of all, the Trump administration needs to wrap up the
NAFTA talks quickly. While Trump may have been politically
committed to re-opening NAFTA, the administration should not let
that commitment end with the economic disaster that would result
from U.S. withdrawal …read more

Source: OP-EDS