Category: Progressive

Want to post a public rating for the cop you just faced? There’s an app for that.

Three teens in Georgia just made a mobile app they hope will help prevent the next police shooting of an unarmed young person…It’s called Five-O, after the slang term for police, and it’s the brainchild of siblings Ima, 16, Asha, 15, and Caleb Christian, 14, who live in a suburb of Atlanta.

Here’s how it works: After interacting with a cop, users open the app and fill out a Yelp-like form on which they can grade the officer’s courtesy from A to F, check a box if they were verbally or physically abused, and add details about the incident. They can view ratings on other cops and police departments across the country, participate in community forums, and check out a Q&A titled “Know Your Rights.”

Ima Christian says their parents encouraged them to think about how they could respond productively to incidents like Brown’s death. “One of the things they really stress is that we focus on finding solutions,” she told Mother Jones. “We really hope that Five-O will be able to give every citizen a voice when interacting with the police.”

But the Christians say Five-O isn’t just for outing bad cops; they hope it will help also highlight good policing. “We want people to be able to document if the police are very courteous or if they save your cat or something,” Ima says…

The siblings have been honing their coding skills since elementary school by participating in the MIT programs +K12, Scratch, and App Inventor, and they’ve also taken programming classes at Georgia Tech and Emory, all with encouragement from their parents. They’ve started their own app development company, Pine Tart, Inc., and they’re currently working on two other projects…

Solid. Filling a need with modern tech designed by the youngest among us in this online world. I love it.

I’ve been online since 1983, watching the changes, hoping for more real content like this. Yes, there’s lots of other niche products, some serious growing of whole world communications and knowledge out here. But, watching a couple of kid-coders knock out something like this app warms the cockles of this cranky old activist geek.

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He’s in the top 1% of the 1% — and he wants a $15 an hour minimum wage

nick-hanauer

The fundamental law of capitalism is that if workers have no money, businesses have no customers. That’s why the extreme, and widening, wealth gap in our economy presents not just a moral challenge, but an economic one, too. In a capitalist system, rising inequality creates a death spiral of falling demand that ultimately takes everyone down…

Policy makers debate incremental changes for arresting this vicious cycle. But perhaps the most powerful and elegant antidote is sitting right before us: a spike in the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

True, that sounds like a lot. When President Barack Obama called in February for an increase to $9 an hour from $7.25, he was accused of being a dangerous redistributionist. Yet consider this: If the minimum wage had simply tracked U.S. productivity gains since 1968, it would be $21.72 an hour — three times what it is now…

Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour would inject about $450 billion into the economy each year. That would give more purchasing power to millions of poor and lower-middle-class Americans, and would stimulate buying, production and hiring.

Studies by the Economic Policy Institute show that a $15 minimum wage would directly affect 51 million workers and indirectly benefit an additional 30 million. That’s 81 million people, or about 64 percent of the workforce, and their families who would be more able to buy cars, clothing and food from our nation’s businesses.

This virtuous cycle effect is described in the research of economists David Card and Alan Krueger (the current chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers) showing that, contrary to conventional economic orthodoxy, increases in the minimum wage increase employment. In 60 percent of the states that raised the minimum wage during periods of high unemployment, job growth was faster than the national average.

Some business people oppose an increase in the minimum wage as needless government interference in the workings of the market. In fact, a big increase would substantially reduce government intervention and dependency on public assistance programs.

An objection to a significant wage increase is that it would force employers to shed workers. Yet the evidence points the other way: Workers earn more and spend more, increasing demand and helping businesses grow.

Critics of raising the minimum wage also say it will lead to more outsourcing and job loss. Yet virtually all of these low-wage jobs are service jobs that can neither be outsourced nor automated.

Raising the earnings of all American workers would provide all businesses with more customers with more to spend. Seeing the economy as Henry Ford did would redirect our country toward a high-growth future that works for all.

Nick Hanauer really is in the top 1% of America’s 1%. One of the original investors in Amazon.com, he and his partners in Second Avenue Investors own their own bank. He sold his ad agency to Microsoft for $6.4 billion in 2007 – in cash. He is a self-described plutocrat.

He would like to prevent a revolution. Something on the order of French peasants and workers rolling out the guillotine in 1793. He believes economic justice will rescue our economy from the crapper it was dropped into by investment bankers in 2007 – and rebuild a prosperous nation with a healthy middle class.

Or you could pay attention to the scumbag side of class warfare in the Republican Party.

Japan, the world, remembers those who died in Hiroshima

Japan marked the 69th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima on Wednesday, with the city’s mayor inviting world leaders to see atomic bomb-scarred cities firsthand to be convinced that nuclear weapons should not exist.

Speaking before a crowd of survivors, their descendants and dignitaries including U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy, the mayor urged U.S. President Barack Obama and others to visit, referring to a proposal made at a ministerial meeting in April of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative in Hiroshima.

“President Obama and all leaders of nuclear-armed nations, please respond to that call by visiting the A-bombed cities as soon as possible to see what happened with your own eyes,” Mayor Kazumi Matsui said. “If you do, you will be convinced that nuclear weapons are an absolute evil that must no longer be allowed to exist.”

About 45,000 people stood for a minute of silence at the ceremony in Hiroshima’s peace park near the epicenter of the 1945 bombing that killed up to 140,000 people. The bombing of Nagasaki three days later killed another 70,000, prompting Japan’s surrender in World War II.

I’m enough of a cranky old geek to remember when the cabinet member in charge of killing people in other lands was called the Secretary of War. Was WW2 a war I could support? You betcha. Did we sometimes act like the vicious monsters on the “other side”? You betcha. As an American, therefore, I have a responsibility to fight to keep my nation on a righteous path – opposing the greed and deceit so often prompting war.

Yes, I stood in the street with my family and neighbors and cheered and cried with joy – August 6, 1945 – because the war was over. At that moment we didn’t consider the threat our government had unleashed upon the world.

As for the music up top – Pete Seeger was a freedom fighter for us all. He would never let us forget evils committed in our name. The music was written by James Waters. Pete’s performance.

The lyrics are a poem written by one of my favorites, Nazim Hikmet. Even in exile from his beloved Turkey he, too, was a freedom fighter.

Thanks, Mike – who found something completely different.

Colbert lampoons Steve Pearce – New Mexico’s primo Republican hypocrite

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Like any politician skewered by Colbert, Pearce has now passed beyond the deer-in-the-headlights stage and has his minions running hither and yon – trying to soften the effect of Colbert and his army of fans who laugh at what passes for a conservative in 21st Century America.

Thanks to Steve Terrell

New Obamacare customers are happy


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We’ve known for a few months now that lots of people signed up for health insurance this year in new marketplaces. A new survey shows that the people who did so are also pretty happy with their purchases.

The survey, from the Commonwealth Fund, a research group, came to similar conclusions as other surveys about the expansion of health insurance. It found that about 15 percent of adults younger than 65 now lack health insurance, down from 20 percent before the Affordable Care Act rolled out in January.

What was more surprising is that people who got the new coverage were generally happy with the product. Overall, 73 percent of people who bought health plans and 87 percent of those who signed up for Medicaid said they were somewhat or very satisfied with their new health insurance. Seventy-four percent of newly insured Republicans liked their plans. Even 77 percent of people who had insurance before — including members of the much-publicized group whose plans got canceled last year — were happy with their new coverage.

Larry Levitt, the senior vice president for special initiatives at the Kaiser Family Foundation, another research group that polls on the Affordable Care Act, said he wasn’t sure we’d see such high satisfaction so early

The Commonwealth poll appears to be the first national survey since the health-law passed to have gone beyond questions about insurance status and asked about satisfaction and usage.

Of course, since the article appears in the newest copout version of the NY TIMES, they meet the editorial requirement of stuffing the end of the article with beaucoup “what-ifs” just in case you might take a positive view – of a positive poll.

Perish the thought that changing times, a wee bit of change in politics as usual, might support even further movement in a population world-reknowned for ennui.

RTFA for more good news about legislation that benefits 99.9% of this nation.

Boy Scouts make statement by marching in gay pride parade


James Estrin/The New York Times

The color guard leading the annual Gay Pride March down Fifth Avenue in Manhattan on Sunday carried flags of sky blue, navy blue, red-white-and-blue and rainbow. But, for these marchers, the colors that mattered most were the ones they wore.

Khaki shirts, olive pants and rainbow neckerchiefs: the Boy Scout uniform, pride-style — a uniform that had never been seen on a group of marchers in New York City’s pride parade before.

They had come to mark progress — the Boy Scouts of America’s breakthrough vote last year to end a decades-old policy of prohibiting openly gay youths from being scouts — and to call for more. However, the organization, a touchstone of traditional America, still bars openly gay adults from participating as troop leaders or volunteers. Ending that ban has become a signature cause for the gay-rights movement…

The marchers’ uniforms were a provocative statement. Boy Scout officials have said that scouts are forbidden to wear their uniforms in events that support social or political positions, including gay pride events, and have disciplined scouts and scoutmasters in other states for doing so. But the New York area council has adopted a nondiscrimination policy that leaders of the parade group, called Scouts for Equality, said they believed would protect them.

A spokesman for the national organization declined to comment on the group of marchers, which included parents and straight supporters of the gay rights movement as well as gay and straight scouts and leaders…

The scouts did not take their “marching” lightly. No meandering on the asphalt for them, no dancing and high-fiving the spectators. As they stepped off to frenzied cheers from the crowd, lifting their flags, Peter Brownstein conducted their progress in low, determined tones, as if he were directing a military procession: “Left, right, left right left right.”

As the group passed the Stonewall Inn, the West Village bar known as the birthplace of the gay-rights movement, he and the other marchers paused and gave the Scout salute.

Mr. Brownstein, a Boy Scout leader from Utah, was forced to leave his troop after marching in the Salt Lake City pride event last year. That did not deter him in the least from coming to New York’s celebration.

We’re showing,” he told his fellow scouts, “that we belong.”

Power to the People still means all the people, folks. Cheers to the scouts who marched for progress.

Blimp flies over NSA data centre protesting our secret police

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Activists flew a blimp emblazoned with the words “Illegal Spying Below” over the National Security Agency’s data centre in Utah on Friday in protest against the US government’s mass surveillance programmes.

The one-hour flight was carried out by the environmental group Greenpeace, digital rights activists the Electronic Frontier Foundation and a conservative political organisation, the Tenth Amendment Centre.

The 41 metre blimp, owned by Greenpeace, was adorned with a sign that read “NSA Illegal Spying Below”.

In an email to Reuters the agency declined to comment. But a spokesman did note there was no restricted airspace over the data centre, housed on the grounds of the Utah National Guard’s Camp Williams in Bluffdale, 23 miles (37km) south of Salt Lake City.

The NSA says the facility provides the government with intelligence and warnings about cyber security threats. It is thought to be the agency’s largest data storage centre.

The blimp protest coincided with the launch of an online campaign that rates members of Congress on actions the activists say either further or stop data collection efforts by the NSA…

It’s right pleasing to an old activist like me to see an issue of human rights and privacy carry across ideological boundaries. The only one of the three groups that put this protest together that I’d ever find myself sharing a song together with – would be the EFF, the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The occasion is not one for differences but common ground. That being a government that has marched away from the heart of the constitution that is the foundation of this nation. Maybe they tip-toed because they didn’t want us to hear what they were doing. A whistleblower named Edward Snowden took care of that.

Here’s a link to the website they were advertising with their flight. I hope it moves the cause of privacy forward, aids in bringing back the intent of a democratic United States of America.

Displaced people numbers worldwide are the highest since World War 2

More than 50 million people were forcibly uprooted worldwide at the end of last year, the highest level since after World War Two, as people fled crises from Syria to South Sudan, the U.N. refugee agency said on Friday.

Half are children, many of them caught up in conflicts or persecution that world powers have been unable to prevent or end, UNHCR said in its annual Global Trends report…

The overall figure of 51.2 million displaced people soared by six million from a year earlier. They included 16.7 million refugees and 33.3 million displaced within their homelands, and 1.2 million asylum seekers whose applications were pending.

Syrians fleeing the escalating conflict accounted for most of the world’s 2.5 million new refugees last year, UNHCR said.

In all, nearly 3 million Syrians have crossed into neighbouring Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Jordan, while another 6.5 million remain displaced within Syria’s borders…

Afghan, Syrian and Somali nationals accounted for 53 percent of the 11.7 million refugees under UNHCR’s responsibility. Five million Palestinians are looked after by a sister agency UNRWA.

Most refugees have found shelter in developing countries, contrary to the myth fuelled by some populist politicians in the West that their states were being flooded, Antonio Guterres said.

“Usually in the debate in the developed world, there is this idea that refugees are all fleeing north and that the objective is not exactly to find protection but to find a better life.

“The truth is that 86 percent of the world’s refugees live in the developing world,” he said…

The EU bloc has harmonised its asylum system, but the 27 member states still differ in how they process refugees and in their approval rates for asylum applications, he said.

A record 25,300 unaccompanied children lodged asylum applications in 77 countries last year, according to UNHCR.

Republicans and other blivets in the United States characterize pretty much all refugees as someone coming to the United States to steal a job. I’m not clear on how they re-distort that lie to cover the children fleeing Central American gangs and economic disaster.

In truth, virtually all the child refugees streaming into the US from Central America aren’t even trying to sneak across the border. They present themselves directly to the Border Patrol at the Mexican border and ask for asylum. If they have relatives in the United States, they hope to reach out to them. Otherwise, they’re here to ask for aid and mercy – like any others displaced by violence.

Not that our media barons care to make that point.