Category: Progressive

Expand social security – remove the senators who oppose it!

expand social security
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Thank you to the 42 US Senators who voted in support of U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren’s amendment increasing Social Security benefits!

The vast majority of Americans are overwhelmingly united in support of expanding our Social Security system. It’s great to see so many politicians finally catching on…

Weed seeds publicly shared at Washington DC celebration


Potential family gardeners lined up for seedsDC Cannabis Campaign

Residents of Washington D.C. lined up for free cannabis seeds Saturday in a giveaway resulting from last year’s successful ballot initiative to legalize marijuana in the District of Columbia.

The event, sponsored by the D.C. Cannabis Campaign, was held Thursday and Saturday and saw hundreds of 18-and-up D.C. residents line up to receive and trade free seeds…

More than 3,500 people signed up for the giveaway, which saw distribution at Libertine bar and restaurant on Thursday and at D.C. Cannabis Campaign Headquarters on Saturday.

Legalization of marijuana for consumption and growth, known as Initiative 71, was passed 7 to 3 last November by D.C. voters who now join Colorado and Washington state in allowing use of the drug for recreational purposes.

The initiative, which went into effect in late February, allows D.C. residents to use the drug out of view and cultivate six seedlings and up to three mature plants, with a limit of 12 plants per household.

DC coppers were present. No one was bothered. Sharing or swapping seeds isn’t against the law, now.

I wonder if any of the coppers took any of the seeds? It is legal, after all. I wonder if any members of Congress had someone on their staff who is a DC resident pick up a few for the boss?

American Presbyterians vote to recognize same-sex marriage

The largest presbyterian group in the US has voted to recognize same-sex marriage, the latest sweeping move by the church to acknowledge it as Christian.

Presbyterian Church USA voted on Tuesday to amend its constitution to extend marriage rights from “a man and a woman” to “two people, traditionally a man and a woman”.

A majority of the church’s 171 governing bodies ruled in favor of the change, which will affect the church’s more than 1.7 million members, including those strongly opposed to marriage equality.

Individual pastors who oppose same-sex marriages can still opt out of performing same-sex marriage ceremonies or allowing them to be held in their church.

The group’s general assembly approved the constitutional amendment in 2014, but the “two people” measure needed to be ratified before the constitution could officially be changed. On Tuesday night, 87 had voted in favor, and 41 had voted against…

In recent years, the church has adopted more inclusive policies: in 2011, it undid an anti-same-sex marriage amendment by allowing LGBT pastors in the church, and last year ministers began performing same-sex marriages in states where it is legal…

Paul Detterman, national director of the Fellowship Community, a conservative group that opposes the decision, told the New York Times he expects the decision to drive practitioners out of the church. He said, however, that the vote might also compel people to stay in order to defend their stance…

The Covenant Network of Presbyterians, which pushes for LGBT inclusion in the church, praised the amendment. “We rejoice that all couples can now see those relationships solemnized before God and the Christian community in marriage, at the discretion of ministers and sessions,” the group said in a statement.

I like the libertarian sense of the amendment. It allows those church members whose brain and heart are trapped in the Dark Ages to remain there. Of their own free will.

The American middle class richest in the world? — not anymore, man!


Just one of life’s fragile qualities

The American middle class, long the most affluent in the world, has lost that distinction.

While the wealthiest Americans are outpacing many of their global peers, a New York Times analysis shows that across the lower- and middle-income tiers, citizens of other advanced countries have received considerably larger raises over the last three decades.

After-tax middle-class incomes in Canada — substantially behind in 2000 — now appear to be higher than in the United States. The poor in much of Europe earn more than poor Americans.

The numbers, based on surveys conducted over the past 35 years, offer some of the most detailed publicly available comparisons for different income groups in different countries over time. They suggest that most American families are paying a steep price for high and rising income inequality.

Although economic growth in the United States continues to be as strong as in many other countries, or stronger, a small percentage of American households is fully benefiting from it. Median income in Canada pulled into a tie with median United States income in 2010 and has most likely surpassed it since then. Median incomes in Western European countries still trail those in the United States, but the gap in several — including Britain, the Netherlands and Sweden — is much smaller than it was a decade ago…

The struggles of the poor in the United States are even starker than those of the middle class. A family at the 20th percentile of the income distribution in this country makes significantly less money than a similar family in Canada, Sweden, Norway, Finland or the Netherlands. Thirty-five years ago, the reverse was true.

…The most commonly cited economic statistics — such as per capita gross domestic product — continue to show that the United States has maintained its lead as the world’s richest large country. But those numbers are averages, which do not capture the distribution of income. With a big share of recent income gains in this country flowing to a relatively small slice of high-earning households, most Americans are not keeping pace with their counterparts around the world.

RTFA for up-close-and-personal examples of family life ranging from Sweden to Canada. Consider the reality of family income coupled with social benefits provided by tax dollars — instead of the world’s biggest standing army and military bases distributed around the world to protect corporate wealth.

Pic of the Weekend

APTOPIX Selma 50th
Click to enlargeAP Photo/Butch Dill

In this aerial view, crowds of people move in a symbolic walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, Sunday, March 8, 2015, in Selma, Ala. This weekend marks the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,’ a civil rights march in which protestors were beaten, trampled and tear-gassed by police at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, in Selma.

All power to the people!

Celebrate International Women’s Day

On Sunday 8 March, it’s International Women’s Day. To celebrate, Helen Lewis pays tribute to 10 inspirational feminists


Aphra Behn

A playwright, translator and spy, Behn (also known as Astrea) has a good claim to being the first Englishwoman to make a living out of her writing. In the centuries after her death in 1689, her plays were dismissed as indecent because of their focus on female sexuality (“The stage how loosely does Astrea tread/ Who fairly puts all characters to bed!” wrote Alexander Pope in 1737). Recent feminist scholars have rediscovered her writing, and have made the case that the publication of her prose fiction Oroonoko, the story of a slave, was a key moment in the development of the English novel.


Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

“Feminist: a person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.” In the most high-profile pop-feminist moment of 2013, Beyoncé included these words – taken from a TED talk given by Adichie – on her single Flawless. In the talk, which has since been published as a book called We Should All Be Feminists, the Nigerian-born author asks: why are girls taught to shrink themselves, to compete for men, to limit their ambitions? She urges her audience to reclaim the word “feminist” and to say: “Yes, there’s a problem with gender as it is today, and we must fix it.”


Nellie Bly

“No one but a man can do this,” Nellie Bly’s editor told her in 1886 when she suggested travelling round the world in less than 80 days. She would need a protector, he said – and how would she ever carry all the luggage a lady would need on such a trip? Bly didn’t worry too much about the first quibble, and travelled light, crushing all her belongings into a single handbag. She made it home in 72 days. That wasn’t the first time the pioneering American journalist had attracted attention through her work – a year earlier, in 1887, she faked madness to go undercover in an asylum, exposing its poor conditions and abusive staff.

The list goes on from there. RTFA to learn about a few folks you may not know. And should.

Angela and Gurley Flynn

Who would I add to the list? Angela Davis – who probably needs no introduction to folks under the age of 80. Occasionally, on her visits to the Northeast, I was one of her bodyguards.

Most especially, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. I met the Rebel Girl in 1963, a year before she died. She was an inspiration to working women and men for decades. She paid for it with time in prison, hatred from fascists, proto-fascists, every flavor of apologist for the religion of corporate hierarchies owning and running our lives.

Medicare drug costs continue to shrink under ObamaCare

ObamaCare has led to substantial savings in prescription drug costs and a strong increase in the use of preventive services…

“Our parents and grandparents on Medicare saved more than $15 billion on prescription drugs since President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act in 2010,” Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said.

Those savings amount to nearly $1,600 per person enrolled in Medicare — an increase from about $1,400 in average savings last year…

Under ObamaCare, recipients in the “doughnut hole” receive a rebate or discount from the government to help them save on prescription drug costs until the gap can ultimately be closed.

Burwell also highlighted the growing use of preventive healthcare coverage under ObamaCare — another top issue for the administration. Many provider groups only signed onto healthcare reform with the promise that preventive care would be a central tenet.

Nearly 40 million people have used at least one of Medicare’s free preventive services in the last year alone, the secretary said. Nearly 5 million enrollees received the annual wellness exam…

Doctors groups, such as the American Medical Association, have been key administration partners in the implementation of ObamaCare. But the two sides have not entirely agreed on the creation and rollout of ObamaCare, Burwell acknowledged Tuesday.

She specifically pointed to the unpopular rules on electronic health records, which doctors have lamented as costly and bureaucratic. She also pointed to the president’s support of for a permanent Sustainable Growth Rate formula, which decides the reimbursement rate for Medicare doctors.

As a geek and a fiscal conservative, I’m happy to see the electronic health records have proved to be a boon in catching fraud. Individual doctors, group practices, hospitals and clinics are beginning to learn that appropriate data mining brings sleazy practices to light easier than anything before Obamacare.

There’s more to criticize and more to come. I’d still like to have a classic single payer mode and access to national-negotiated prices for meds – just like that provided for our military. At the passage of the ACA, there were enough Republican conservatives and Blue Dog Democrats around to block that savings. Big Pharma got their money’s worth out of Congress that time.

Pot/DC: Conservatives hate democracy like they hate change – UPDATED

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Marijuana advocates’ hopes that the U.S. capital would easily follow in the footsteps of Denver or Seattle in clearing the way for lawful pot use are set to go up in smoke this week.

Voters in the District of Columbia last year passed a measure clearing the way for pot possession, but members of Congress have used their power over the city to prevent local officials from coming up with any plan to let the drug be sold legally for recreational purposes.

With the congressional review period for the new measure set to expire on Wednesday, District of Columbia pot users will be left in a murkier position than those in Colorado and Washington state, which fully legalized marijuana last year…

The uncertainty stems from Initiative 71, a referendum approved by 65 percent of District voters in November. A key argument by supporters was that marijuana laws unfairly victimized black people in Washington, who represent about half the city’s population…

Initiative 71 ran into opposition in Congress, which has oversight over the heavily Democratic District of Columbia. Republicans inserted a provision in a spending bill in December that barred the District from using any funds to legalize pot.

Representative Jason Chaffetz, the chairman of the House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has vowed to block legalization

OK, maybe Congressional Republicans, Blue Dog Democrats, don’t hate change, progress, democracy, Black folks and women as much as the bigots in the Tea Party caucus. The end result is the same when questions come down to civil rights, to an individual’s right to make a choice from a range of options outside the 19th Century.

Want to decide if you will have an abortion, use birth control, get married to someone unapproved, smoke a little weed instead of chugging a 12-pack of lite beer, spend your vacation in Cuba? Not if the clown show masquerading as conservatism gets its fear-ridden way. Nothing new about cowardice and ignorance pretending to have an ideology. It still stinks on ice when ordinary citizens have no alternative except to go even further backwards.

UPDATE: Made it past Congressional curmudgeons!

Lowest-wage Aetna employees minimum wage now $16/hour + increased benefits

Bertolini, Keene, minimum wage

One CEO has taken a step that could help fend off Thomas Piketty’s nightmare vision of rising wealth inequality: He’s giving thousands of his workers a raise.

Aetna Chairman and CEO Mark Bertolini announced…that the health-insurance company will be raising wages for its lowest-paid employees. Starting in April, the minimum hourly base pay for Aetna’s American workers will be $16 an hour, according to a company press release.

The 5,700 workers affected by the change will see an average pay raise of about 11 percent. The lowest-paid workers, who currently make $12 an hour, will get a 33-percent raise.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Bertolini recently requested that Aetna executives read Capital In The Twenty-First Century, by the French economist Piketty. The book, which has been hailed as the “most important book of the twenty-first century,” warns that the gap between the haves and the have-nots is heading toward Gilded Age levels of inequality and calls on the world’s largest economies to fix the problem.

The U.S. government, which last raised the federal minimum wage to $7.25 an hour in 2009, has not exactly scrambled to respond. Aetna’s move is one way companies could help close the gap

Other factors may have influenced Aetna’s decision to boost pay. The Affordable Care Act is helping millions of Americans get insured, which means insurance companies have to beef up their consumer services to stay competitive.

“Health care decisions are increasingly consumer driven,” Bertolini said in a statement emailed to The Huffington Post. “We are making an investment in the future of health-care service.”

The job market is healing, as well, which should eventually push wages higher. Last month capped the best year for hiring since 1999, as the unemployment rate fell to 5.6 percent. That said, even though the job market has improved, wages have been slow to grow.

Still, some large employers, including Aetna, Starbucks and the Gap, have raised wages in the past year.

In the interview, Tom Keene makes the point that wages have been stagnant for years. Bertolini describes the segment that most influenced his decision were single moms who needed food stamps to get by in Connecticut’s capitol. Their kids often were on Medicaid because they couldn’t even afford the company’s healthcare plan.

60% of the increase dedicated to benefits. 40% of the budget increase went to the wages – raised to $16/hour minimum. Doing it this way produced the best possible increase in personal disposable income. Not that any of this means crap to Republicans and other tightwads pretending to be conservatives.

Bertolini’s cogent point is that healthcare is a growing segment in our service economy. Workers who are well-paid always perform better than folks treated like serfs. As much as today’s conservatives prefer the latter. Something not noted in this article are the changes in workplace life, as well. More advanced sectors in the American economy – like the tech sector – long ago proved that a small portion of time away from necessary work reduces tedium, makes for increased acuity in all tasks. That should include physical changes, exercise – as well a bit of time to rest your brain.

Aetna now brings in a bit of yoga, a little meditation time to their workplace. Something else, fundamentalist curmudgeons will also hate.