LABOR ISSUES AND THE ECONOMY : UNITY IN NEW YORK

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^ center left pact ? unity in New York as Bill Clinton swears in mayor Bill deBlasio

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By asking Bill Clinton to swear him in as New York City’s new Mayor, Bill deBlasio has already made history. On this one move, deBlasio has assured that the Democratic Party will not split between wings “Labor’ and “Centrist.”

This is good news for all Americans who want to see economic progress come to their lives, not just the very favored top earners. Many Americans — myself included — are pushing legislation and referenda to relieve the huge rush of money to the top, money away from everybody else. These moves cannot take the field as an opposition movement within the only political party placed to bring them about. Bill deBlasio and Bill Clinton have signalled that they understand this and will move forward as Democrats together. The initiatives the two men agree on could not be more vital :

1.raise the Federal minimum wage to $ 10.10 n hour and index it to inflation.
2.protect unemployment benefits for long-term unemployed, many of whom have been without work so long that they already require job retraining in order to maintain skills currency
3.commit all the Federal spending needed to repair and improve America’s infrastructure
4.maintain the Federal food stamp program, do not cut funding for it

To which I could add the following :

1.fully staff the National labor relations baord (NLRB) to monitor and protect the organizing and bargaining rights of workers in organizable industries
2.make it an unfair labor practice to (a) reduce workers’ hours to part-time levels so as to avoid paying benefits or providing health insurance (b) make such workers “independent contractors” rather than W-2 employees
3.extend the “earned income” credit to incomes up to 150 % of Federally defined “poverty” level.
4.pass a comprehensive immigration bill that provides all undocumented immigrants other than those with a felony criminal record a pathway to citizenship, and immediately grant social security numbers, access to drivers’ licenses, and access to health care to all such immigrants.

The initiatives that deBlasio and Bill Clinton jointly advocate, and those that I have added to the list, purpose to do the right thing by many millions of our neighbors; they will grow the economy strongly. Did we need Jeb Bush –a Republican — to point out, as he did at last year’s CPAC Conference, that undocumented immigrants are a boon to the economy, in the work that they do and, yes, the taxes that they pay ? That by their young demographic, they help rescue the Social Security fund ? Jeb Bush said that. Why it needed saying, I’ll never understand. It’s common sense ! The economy is ALL of us. If millions cannot participate in it except at the margins, the economy suffers. Time and again I have editorialized that consumer spending = two thirds of our ENTIRE economy. You want jobs created ? Consumer spending creates them. businesses do not hire people because taxes drop. They hire people because demand increases for their products and services.

Why can’t the funders of today’s Republican party get this ? The businesses that have pushed most current Republicans to fight every move that puts more money into more people’s budgets are blind to their own interests. Any business exec with half a brain knows that his or her employees are the strongest asset, that employee turnover is a huge and largely unnecessary expense; that prosperous and loyal employees buy what they make or the services they provide; that they spread the company’s good reputation by word of mouth to everyone they talk to.

May I add, as I’ve said before, that if the Republican-funding business execs don’t like unions, don’t make your workers organize one in order to get paid what they deserve ? Otherwise, expect a union and all the hassle, drama, and — unhappily — oppression and even intimidation that comes with union organizing and job actions.

Granted that almost all of the new job descriptions being formed in the technology world are not union work. They’re as individualistic as innovation in the raw always is. New economy jobs also pay well. There’s no lack of venture funding for innovation work. I also note that many, maybe most, innovation venturists work with the Democratic party now. They’re not the breed of CEO that funds self-defeating money PACs.

In Boston, in our Mayor election, these innovation capitalists and the start-up world that they fund split with union and union-organizing interest groups about which man to support. Nor do we have available a Bill Clinton to swear in Marty Walsh and reunify our state’s Democratic party. But the issue that divided Boston’s Democrats in the mayoral election wasn’t part of the economic progress agenda that Bill Clinton and Mayor deBlasio have shaken hands on. Here the issue was the part that public worker unions should play in the City’s budget and what level of influence they should have on City policy governance. On the economic progress agenda, Walsh and John Connolly fully agreed.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

PS : many of the innovation venturists and execs who supported John Connolly were and are of a mind to support some Republican candidates, at least locally in Massachusetts; possibly even nationally. Why the current Republican consensus cannot connect to these innovation capitalists, I’ll never understand. It would help, of course, if the party could ditch the lifestyle bigotry and lose the opposition to women’s reproductive rights. Fortunately, those obstacles mine no ground in Massachusetts. Charlie Baker, if he hopes to be our Governor, is free to embrace innovation capitalism, discard Scrooge agendas, wave off the anti-immigrant talk, and embrace diversity, economic dispersion, and the future. He might just do that. His excellent plan to end homelessness in Massachusetts is a promising first step.

RETHINKING INCARCERATION : THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE ACTS

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The United States Attorney General, Eric Holder, announced this weekend that he is taking action to change the incarceration results of Federal prosecutions.

Specifically, he has memo’d all United Stated Attorneys to no longer specify the amount of drugs seized in criminal indictments, thereby avoiding mandatory sentencing laws that have led to a huge expansion, these past 30 years or so, in numbers of people incarcerated.

Holder’s action is a positive step indeed. Incarceration has for far too long ruled the justice system in our nation. As many have noted, America totals five percent of the world’s people but a full 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. This would be an intolerable condition, morally and otherwise, in any modern nation. How can it possibly be true of the country that we who live in it call “the land of the free” ?

Again, as many have noted, almost half of those incarcerated have committed non-violent, usually drug crimes. Others are elderly or have served the major portion of their sentences — terms handed to them by overly harsh, mandatory sentencing laws enacted thirty years ago and more. Trial judges used to have discretion in sentencing, as well they should, given that they see the entire trial process as it plays out before their eyes. Every case is different; discretion to the judge allowed him or her to include these differences into the record as it applied to sentencing. Mandatory sentence laws did both defendants and judges a great disservice, not to mention the harsh edge that it imposed on the entire system.

The 1980s were a time of obsession about crime brought about the advent, on the street, of “crack,” a smoked form of cocaine that drove its users to crazy acts. The same decade saw the rise of an hysteria that child-abuse was going on at day care centers. Many day care center people were prosecuted and hounded– lives ruined — as in the 1692 Salem witch trials (an d those of us who call Salem our native city know the horrors of that hysteria only too well.) As it turned out, every single one of these day care hysteria cases was overturned and the lives of those impacted restored to them as best could be. Incarcerations for non-violent offenses, however, have taken far longer to reform.

Holder supports his move by making it a cost issue. This is not mere eyewash. Incarceration costs states and the Federal government almost $ 100 billion a year. As almost two million of us are incarcerated, the dollar amount equals about $ 50,000 per prisoner — most of it being paid as wages to prison guards, wardens, medical people, and the maintenance of prison buildings and systems. Because there is huge money involved, the movement to reduce incarceration actually began, not with Holder’s recent move, but with conservative “red” states such as Texas. Obsessed by huge costs that must be paid for by taxes, these states have been first to remove non-violent offenders from the incarceration system wherever feasible. Little wonder, then, that the numbers of Americans incarcerated has fallen in each of the past three years — and the rate of decrease is accelerating.

Here and Sphere has no objection to using money issues as a reason to reduce incarceration. Nonetheless, we cannot avoid the moral and common sense concerns. In what way does incarceration of non-violent, mostly drug, offenders, supersede rehabilitation, community service, and detox centers ? Nor is it morally right that mandatory incarceration has fallen overwhelmingly on men of color. Almost one-third of all American men of color have been incarcerated at least once during their lives ! Indeed, more American men of color have experienced incarceration than were held in slavery at the timer of the Civil War. Men of color comprise five percent of the population but 40 percent of those in prison on death row.

Holder’s action will not alter the death row statistic; but his move will certainly and justifiably ease the disproportion that has put so many men of color on a path to long incarceration. For this, we applaud Holder’s action more loudly than because of its money saving.

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^ Judge Shira Schendlin of Federal Court for the New York District

Note : today, as we write this editorial, the news has come of a New York Federal Judge’s finding that New York City’s notorious “stop and frisk” police practice is unconstitutional. Specifically, District Judge Shira Scheindlin found that “stop and frisk” policy has profiled people of color, violating their civil rights protected by both the 4th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution. As Scheindlin said, “many police practices may be useful for fighting crime — preventive detention or coerced confessions, for example — but because they are unconstitutional, they cannot be used no matter how effective.”

One could add to the list of unconstitutional police practices the taser-ing of citizens, not to mention the shooting of unarmed suspects. Nonetheless, Scheindlin’s decision is most welcome and a timely companion to Attorney General Holder’s move. Perhaps the word ” justice ” will now begin to mean something just as well as something punitive.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

JIM FOURATT ON THE NEW YORK CITY MAYOR RACE

Here and Sphere has watched, from its onset, the loopy-palooza of a five-way Primary contest to determine who will likely succeed three-term Mike Bloomberg as New York City’s Mayor. It’s been a campaign just like the City it’s taking place in : big, loud, full of tricks and trick bags, shady-ness, a cheeky openly lesbian City Council President, a re-run candidate, new names, and — as we all know so well — the joys of sex-texting as presented by one “Carlos Danger,” who day-lights as candidate Anthony Weiner.

In addition Weiner, the Democratic Primary candidates are City Council President Christine Quinn, from Manhattan;  Bill DeBlasio, New York City Public Advocate (an elected position);  John Liu, City Comptroller (also an elected position);  and Bill Thompson, past Comptroller and candidate for mayor in 2009. (there is also a Republican Primary, in which former MTA chairman Joseph Lhota faces John Castimatidis, who owns the Red apple Group and also is CEO of the Gristede’s Supermarket chain.)

Who heads the list in polls changes from day to day, maybe from hour to hour, as this city of multi-millions living in every sort of different surrounding, on every sort of income level, by every manner of lifestyle, language — oddity, pushcart, sandwich board, rollerina, shell game, shopping binge, hard hat,  limo and taxi — moves through its demolition derby of a campaign toward choosing a next “how’m I doing” kind of Mayor.

One with power over a budget huger than that of almost every State and many nations, a budget encompassing hundreds of parks, schools and shelters, courts and police precincts, as well as hundreds of thousands of city employees, and tons of targets for the world’s terroristas.

What a job. And what a riot circus it all is.

NYC Mayor ... 5

^ The Big Five : Bill Thompson, Christine Quinn, Joseph Liu, Bill DeBlasio and in the center ring — Anthony Weiner

We are lucky to have an ongoing report by Jim Fouratt, progressive activist, articulate and earnestly opinionated, a New York City resident in the Big Apple’s grand tradition of citizen advocates. In fact we are reprinting his posted status reports from his Facebook page — as near to an on the street / intelligent view of the election as any we have read or expect to read.

August 6th : SHOULD CANDIDATE JOHN LIU GET MATCHING FUNDS ? YES

This morning I attended the hearing at the New York City Campaign Finance Board where they were to announce the granting of matching funds ($6 for every dollar under $175) for the Democratic Primary on Sept 10, Only John Liu, the City Controller and Mayoral was denied funds (over 3 million dollars) , The Board has 5 members, 2 appointed by Mayor Bloomberg (whose administration Liu exposed in a millions of dollars scam ) and two by the Speaker of the City Council Christine Quinn who also is running for Mayor and who will do anything to knock out her opposition for the nomination and the Mayor after consultation with the Speaker appoints the Chair. Liu’s lawyer argued for the granting of the matching funds They did mot. I thought each should have recused themselves . They did not. Listen to the Liu’s lawyer’s presentation…you will learn much more than from the mainstream media. Shocking.. or how Billionsberg and Boss Quinn get their revenge . Judge for your self :

August 2nd  AN INFORMED VOTE, NOT JUST AN EMOTIONAL VOTE : ANTHONY WEINER :

Maybe some NYers will get their noise out of his crotch and smell the fresh ideas Weiner is putting forward… i think the way he has handled the media drubbing is a good sign how he will handle actual matters that matter to most New Yorkers. Have you read his platform and his ideas? As to the people dredging up his positions from 25 years ago as the deBlasio folk seem stuck on ..how about finding out how he stands on rent regulation issues now? I did and found his answer for what happened in 1992 convincing Or the fact that he rides his bike to campaign stops should , one would think , answer were he is on bike lanes today. Remember we are electing a Mayor not a Pope… and yes i think he is wrong on the West Bank .. and will continue to challenge him on it … Please if you don’t want to support him for any reason .. than I suggest you stop targeting him and take on Quinn and her deceits and Thompson’s business and friendship alliances and look at Lui and how he stood up to the Mayor and had both the Times and the Post attacking him … just like Weiner. in the end what is important is an informed vote …not just an emotional vote … and yes i love you all.

Weiner defends his campaign here : 

July 29th : READ THE LETTER THAT  ANTHONY WEINER SENT TO VOTERS TODAY

I wonder how many of you so outraged about Wiener’s personal life would speak truthfully about your own sex life if a phalanx of cameras and mics were thrust in your face . Both your actual sex life and your fantasy sex life? Not that i personally care unless you are sleeping with me!

Anthony Wiener talks about a single payer for New York City, supports home rule (city) on rent regulation legislature and ride a bike to rallies… and that is just the beginning of why I think we should be talking politics and not tabloid gossip. He broke no law. All participants were consenting adults and how he and the woman he loves deals with it is their, NOT my, business,

here is what he sent to voters today”

“Dear Jim:

So here is what I learned this weekend – a lot of people who don’t have a vote, want to decide who our next Mayor will be.

TV pundits, newspaper publishers and, of course, my opponents – they’ve all made up their minds that they want to stop our campaign right now.

Well, at least they are consistent. These same folks have been howling about me running from the moment I first got in.

But this race isn’t about them. It’s about you. You should decide

I knew that revelations about my past private life might come back to embarrass me. I never hid from that possibility. But, I waged this campaign on a bet that the citizens of my city would be more interested in a vision for improving their lives rather than in old stories about mine.I am going to continue to lead the debate about ideas for the middle class and those struggling to make it. Soon, I will publish yet another book of ideas for New York. I will be giving more policy speeches and revamping our website to include even more ways that New Yorkers can become involved with our campaign. I’ll be showing up at community forums, televised debates, street fairs, worship services and just about everywhere that New Yorkers gather. In short, I’m going to keep doing what I’ve always done. I’m going to keep on fighting for my city. And then you get to decide who will be our next Mayor, not them.I hope to see you soon,Anthony”
JULY 23rd : RANT AGAINST COUNCIL PRESIDENT CHRISTINE QUINN
To all New York City voters and out-of staters who think it quite wonderful that the next Mayor of New York may be a woman and a lesbian. And i am talking to people like those in Emily’s list. Here is an entry into why most progressive people of ALL sexual orientations are united in their opposition to Speaker Quinn, Her old-time political machine tactics of control and punishment are seeded throughout this piece. I personally have seen her make members of the City Council cry when she whips them for not bending to her will. Get rid of her and her terrible political machine, A predator on the quality of life in this city.
July 10th : RANT ON THE CONTINUING FOCUS ON ANTHONY WEINER – ELIOT SPITZER SEX DOINGS
 am sick and tired of sleazy media jokes about sextexing .. (what is wrong with consenting adults doing it anyway … its safe sex and no one gets preggers) so please can we get back to what is important ? Or are we going to get stuck in ny post gossip inspired exchanged. What does the private, consensual sex activities of a politician have to do with how effective they can be as elected officials. Both Wiener and Spitzer stood up to wall street ..and they were right .. and they were brought down by wall street agents (see excellent documentary client 9 re spitzer) . So lets talk issues : Stringer vs Spitzer, Weiner vs Quinn or Liu …. and Weiner has put single payer health insurance for NYC on the table… and that is a huge reason to look at him…. and yes today he came out in favor of bike lanes .. and that flipped my helmet…. only Lui also remains in focus .. (uh as of today that is!)
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— Jim Fouratt on Facebook
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NOTE from Here and Sphere ; as long as Jim Fouratt permits us we will continue to post his reports on the New York City Mayor campaign. We also expect to supplement Jim’s observations with reports from our own newsies as the first voting day — the Primary — approaches — MF