“Grandpa just grew up when that was the way people thought,” you can imagine a young man saying. It’s an easy way to write off perspectives that don’t align with today’s social norms. In some ways it’s true: issues do come and go with generations. But the recent events in Charlottesville and across the nation are proof that racism in the U.S. is not just a generational issue.

The fact is, photographs and video from the August protests in the Virginia college town don’t portray today’s white nationalists as a bunch of old men. On the contrary, most of the faces are young. How is it that after coming so far in the fight for civil rights, American youth are still drawn to, and compelled by, these tasteless racist ideas?


The white nationalist groups present in the Charlottesville protests didn’t necessarily identify with the KKK. They went by names most Americans have probably never heard before – or, like the alt-Right, not until recently. Among those represented were the Traditional Workers Party and a group called Anti-Communist Action.

None of those names carry overtly racial overtones. That is why, for many who follow these groups, the ambiguous racial and political stances that they take – until one examines their deeper motives – can make it easy to live with the inhumane values they support.


As Buzzfeed’s Joseph Burnstein reports in an investigative piece about the new white nationalism front, “becoming a member of a private mobile group chat for white supremacist teenagers was surprisingly easy.”

The common concern among those who are misled by these groups is that the cultural influence of white, western Europeans is eroding. The internet is a perfect tool to fan the flames of these fabricated conflicts. With no checks in place to confirm factual versus misleading information in these forums, gullible youth who want to identify with a cause are easily taken in with false information that further spurs their involvement in the white nationalist community.

After all, just because information is false doesn’t mean it is poorly packaged. Leaders in the white nationalist community have learned how to effectively create and distribute their hateful propaganda in ways that resonate with young people. Their progress is undeniable. When young people go looking for acceptance, they want to believe what their new friends tell them. And the evolution of today’s racism has given these young adults comfort in believing that they are victims of a nonexistent crime.


A recent NPR interviewee, Christian Picciolini, is a great example of the even bigger issue behind why young people gravitate toward these groups. Picciolini was once a part of a faction like this. Feeling cast out from society, he fell in with a group of Chicago-area skinheads until he realized that the path he had chosen was a wrong one. At 22 years old, he decided to leave the group and work towards educating others who might be attracted to the lifestyle.

The former white supremacist believes that many young people subscribe to these groups for the same reasons he did. With nowhere else to go, they find comfort in the black-and-white world view these groups promote. The group supports a simple set of ideas that, due to their skin color, they can almost never defy.

Statistics show that today’s youth are more depressed and anxiety-ridden than ever before. Proposed reasoning for this varies, from suggestions that social media has caused us to become more isolated, to the argument that our access to mental health care and education is poor.

However, one thing remains clear over time: young people find their purpose primarily through relationships. The young are vulnerable because they demand acceptance. They desire to feel heard, understood and valued.

Picciolini’s belief is that young people gravitate toward hate groups not because of the ideologies, but because of the human needs that these groups can satisfy. Extremist groups, he says, offer members an “identity, community and a sense of purpose. Underneath that fundamental search is something that’s broken — is there abuse or trauma or mental illness or addiction?”

Picciolini also suggests that the Internet age has created a prime opportunity for these groups to reach disenchanted youths. Young people spend so much of their time online, especially if they don’t have friends or communities to interact with in person, which creates a perfect storm of opportunity for hate groups to exploit.


Picciolini also says the fight against racism is tougher than ever because the battle lines have become blurred. White supremacists are no longer easily identified by swastikas and shaved heads. They have learned to blend into their surroundings, gathering strength as an underground movement, and it’s only during events like Charlottesville that people realize how prominent they have become.

It could be argued that the fight for our nation’s moral compass has evolved, eerily, in much the same way as the world’s geopolitical conflicts: where it was once easy to know who the bad guys were, today the enemy hides in plain sight. The only time we feel their presence is during acts of terror when they emerge to intimidate the rest of society.


A spokesman for the fascist group Vanguard America proclaimed, “Every rally we’re going to be more organized, we’re going to have more people, and it’s going to be harder and harder for them to shut us down.” Photographic and video evidencefrom Charlottesville laid plain for the nation what the ranks of these organizations already look like. They emerged from the crowds well organized, and unlike some of the groups they seek to hold down, many members of white nationalist groups are affluent. A sheltered existence makes it easy to adopt extremist views, and by recruiting estranged white males with access to money, hate organizations have created a makeshift PAC for their social campaign.

Donald Trump has been heavily criticized for inviting numerous people viewed as overtly racist – Jeff Sessions, Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka, to name a few – into his cabinet. AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka went on record to describe the current White House as home to two factions, one of which he called flat-out racist.

Trump’s failure to condemn the actions of white supremacists, in Charlottesville and elsewhere, is precisely what these hate groups expect – and it’s what spurs them to grow further. Among other things, the president is supposed to be a role model. If the most powerful man in the country can’t set an example for American youth, what should we expect of them? The array of young faces at hate-fueled spectacles like Charlottesville is disquieting, though it’s becoming less and less surprising.

A lot of people still assume white supremacist groups are primarily made up of older folks, and that these ideas will eventually die out with the older generation. But if anything, Charlottesville was a wakeup call, as more Americans reached the unsettling realization that this just isn’t true. Racism and intolerance is being seeded in our youth all over the country. Whether by geography, in the online realm, or through other channels, young people present a unique opportunity for extremist groups to reach them. The question Americans everywhere must now ask is: how are we going to respond?

white supremacists, white nationalists, hate groups, Charlottesville violence, neo-Nazis, disaffected youth, rising fascism, Donald Trump



As Bernie Sanders worked to finalize his Medicare-for-All Act of 2017, corporate lobbyists representing the traditional opponents of single-payer health care – including the nation’s major private insurers and drug companies – poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into Senate Democrats’ fundraising accounts. Now, many of those lawmakers have refused to sign on to the Medicare bill.

Sanders has faced questions about whether or not the bill would garner solid support among Senate Democrats. So far, 16 Senate Democrats have said they will sponsor the legislation – which the insurance industry slammed after he announced it. A new study from campaign finance watchdog group MapLight found that since 2010, Democratic senators who have refused to sponsor the bill have, during their careers, raised twice as much insurance industry cash as those who support the legislation.

As Republicans took over the White House earlier this year, significant campaign funding for Democratic senators has continued to come from lobbyists. According to federal campaign finance records reviewed by International Business Times, lobbyists, lobbying firms and one other corporate political action committee collectively delivered nearly $2 million in bundled campaign contributions to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee during the first half of 2017. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, the DSCC’s chairman, was a proponent of the law that requires lobbyists to disclose the contributions they bundle together from donors.

With Sanders and a majority of House Democrats supporting single-payer – and with polls showing rising support for a Medicare-for-all system – lobbyists for major health care industry clients were among the biggest donors to Democrats in the Senate, as they have been in years past. Among those who delivered the most cash to the DSCC in the first half of 2017 were:

• Steve Elmendorf, the former top aide to then-House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt. He delivered $130,400 to the DSCC while representing insurance giant UnitedHealth Group Inc. and dialysis conglomerate DaVita Inc.

• Jonathon Jones, the former chief of staff for Sen. Tom Carper, a Finance Committee member has not signed onto the single-payer initiative. He delivered $97,000 to the DSCC while representing insurers Anthem Inc. and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, as well as the trade group Pharmaceutical Research Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and drugmakers Amgen Inc., Astellas Pharma Inc., AstraZeneca, Merck & Co. Inc., Novartis, Genentech Inc. and Vertex Pharmaceuticals.

• Lisa Kontoupes, a former aide to President Bill Clinton and staffer for Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. She delivered $77,500 to the DSCC while representing drugmakers Glenmark Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Teva Pharmaceuticals Inc..

• David Castagnetti, the former top aide to Montana Sen. Max Baucus, who was accused of blocking a debate over single-payer during the Affordable Care Act deliberations. Castagnetti delivered $64,000 to the DSCC while representing insurers Humana Inc., Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona and the parent company of Oscar Health Insurance.

• Jeff Forbes, the former staff director for Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees the nation’s healthcare system. He delivered $20,000 to the DSCC while representing the drug industry’s trade association, PhRMA, as well as individual drug companies Abbott Laboratories, Amgen and Genentech.

The principals of major lobbying firms also gave big to Senate Democrats. Tony Podesta, the namesake of the Podesta Group and a top Hillary Clinton bundler, gave $202,476 to the DSCC while representing the American Healthcare Association and Mylan — the controversial maker of the Epipen. Heather Podesta of Podesta + Partners delivered $226,400 to the DSCC while representing Baxter Healthcare and insurer Cigna.

Meanwhile, two lobbying firms’ corporate political action committees gave directly to the DSCC. Brownstein Hyatt Farber’s PAC, for instance, bundled $307,000 for the DSCC while the firm represents Anthem, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association and drugmaker Abbvie. Holland & Knight’s Committee For Effective Government bundled $104,650 for the DSCC while representing BlueCross Blue Shield of Minnesota.

Originally published by International Business Times

corporate insurance lobbyists, pharmaceutical industry, healthcare lobbyists, money in politics, Maplight, universal healthcare, single-payer, Medicare for all, Democratic lobbyists, Affordable Care Act

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders at CCSF Diego Rivera Theater (video by Peter Menchini)

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders at CCSF Diego Rivera Theater. City College of San Francisco

Δημοσιεύτηκε από Peter Menchini στις Παρασκευή, 22 Σεπτεμβρίου 2017

Sen. Bernie Sanders rallies for Medicare-for-All, lauds McCain opposition to GOP health bill

Senator Bernie Sanders speaks at the annual convention of the California Nurses Association at Yerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco, Calif., on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017. Sanders, who introduced a single-payer health care legislation, is trying to bring more attention to and gather support for his bill. (Dan Honda/Bay Area News Group)
Senator Bernie Sanders speaks at the annual convention of the California Nurses Association at Yerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco, Calif., on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017. Sanders, who introduced a single-payer health care legislation, is trying to bring more attention to and gather support for his bill. (Dan Honda/Bay Area News Group)

“Bernie Sanders praises CCSF’s free tuition program amid ‘pivotal’ moment for country” by Laura Waxmann

Bernie speaking to overflow crowd at CCSF celebrating Free City! on September 22, 2017 (Photo by Mike Zonta)

September 22, 2017 (SFExaminer.com)

In sharing his vision of universal health care and free higher education for all Americans, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on Friday praised City College of San Francisco’s move to make tuition free for San Francisco residents as “a model for the United States of America.”

“Because [don’t] you think that young people and working class people all over this country are not asking their local leaders, ‘How come in San Francisco they are making college tuition free, why don’t you it in our community?’” said Sanders, addressing students, faculty and CCSF leaders who embarked on their first semester of tuition-free courses in August.

Enrollment at the community college has soared since the Free City College program rolled out in its pilot stage, attracting at least 6,450 new students this fall who have signed up for credit courses. The program is funded by a real-estate transfer tax passed last November — an effort led by San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim.

“CSSF has shown that when people get involved politically, it makes a difference,” said Sanders. “Our job is to put together an agenda that speaks to needs of working people [and] to elect officials that have the guts to fight and implement that agenda. You have increased participant enrollment for San Francisco residents by 51 percent.”

Students and teachers at CCSF say that they are already feeling that difference.

SEE RELATED: ‘Huge’ enrollment boost evident in first semester of free CCSF

“I’ve been here for two years and just the energy is different, in the classroom and behind the scenes,” said 30-year-old CCSF sophomore Lauren Haggins.

Following an accreditation crisis in 2012 that contributed to major cuts in classes and a plummet in enrollment, an English teacher who declined to give her name but stood in line to hear “the political legend” speak, said that teachers at the college feel that their “jobs make sense again.”

The Vermont senator and former presidential hopeful visited San Francisco on Friday to promote his recently introduced single-payer Medicare for all plan at a nurses’ rally at Yerba Buena Gardens.

Hours later, at CCSF’s Ocean Campus at 50 Phelan Ave., Sanders was met by an enthused crowd.

“I’m really excited to hear him speak on what CCSF is doing locally in response to what could be a nationwide effort — investing in education,” said 25-year-old CCSF freshman Shirley Acuna.

Some 1,500 initially signed up to hear Sanders speak, exceeding the college’s seating capacity. CCSF spokesperson Jeff Hamilton said that 750 people received tickets to the event and watched Sanders from within the Diego Rivera Theater, two overflow rooms and a courtyard where speakers had been set up.

Following speeches by CCSF, San Francisco and student leaders, Sanders addressed federal cuts by President Donald Trump in health care, education, environmental protections and legal protections afforded to undocumented immigrants under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

“We are in a very pivotal moment in American history,” Sanders said. “If there is anything positive we can say about Donald Trump — and there is not much — it is that he has made it very clear what the stakes are when we talk about the future of this country.”

Deeming it an “international embarrassment” that students “who want a higher education and are unable to get it” because “their family lacks the money,” Sanders praised CCSF. “Instead of denying people what they are entitled to, you are giving people exactly what they need,” he said.

GOP Leaders Confident They’ll Have Cruelty Necessary To Pass Healthcare Bill (theonion.com)

WASHINGTON—Increasingly optimistic that the callousness they required would be locked down by the September 30 deadline, GOP leaders were confident Wednesday that they will have the cruelty necessary to pass their new healthcare bill. “While we were nearly there on our previous attempts, with this go-around we’re all but certain we have the savagery we need for this measure to move forward,” said bill coauthor Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), adding that the utter contempt for the lives of middle class and poor Americans appeared to be “falling into place nicely.” “I’m not saying that lining up the wanton disregard for human suffering will be easy, but I’m more and more persuaded that it will be there when this bill ultimately comes to the floor.” At press time, Graham was meeting with several key undecideds, confident they just needed a bit more coaxing before fully pledging their inhumanity.

California high-speed rail: Everything you need to know (sf.curbed.com)

The $64 billion plan to bring 800 miles of track up and down the Golden State

Transbay Terminal in San Francisco.

 Photo by Patricia Chang

The proposed timeline on the later extensions of the project are foggier, but the state plans to add a 110-mile Sacramento extension, connecting to Modesto and Stockton on its way, and a 167-mile segment that snakes east from Los Angeles through the San Gabriel Valley to the Inland Empire, and eventually down south to San Diego.

Altogether, the train’s proponents envision the HSR as a much-needed boost to the state’s aging and overcapacity infrastructure. Though the state’s population continues to grow, our freeways and our airports cannot. And, aside from creating an alternative for long-distance travel, HSR will also provide funds for cities to better develop their own local transportation systems and integrate the HSR station into local transit networks.

 Union Station in Los Angeles.

Union Station in Los Angeles.

Photo by Benjamin Page | Curbed LA Flickr Pool

The train also figures into California’s aggressive goal to cut carbon emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, given the electric train is significantly less carbon-intensive than either driving or flying.

By 2040, the state estimates the HSR will eliminate up to 10 million miles of vehicle travel daily, as well as up to 180 short-haul flights.

Has construction already started?

Yes, it has. The High Speed Rail Authority officially broke ground on the project in Fresno back in early 2015. Since then, construction crews have have been working on a 119-mile segment of track in the Central Valley. For now, this means building out the track’s right of way and its necessary bridges, trenches, and undercrossings. The (sluggish) progress can be tracked online. But a drive along Highway 99, itself being realigned to accommodate the train, yields some encouraging views of the project’s future viaduct.

Individual cities across California have started preparing for HSR’s arrival. Notably, Fresno has rezoned the area around the city’s future station to accommodate buildings up to 15-stories tall, and has begun work on a pair of Bus Rapid Transit lines to connect the city’s northern and eastern flanks.

Los Angeles and Anaheim are moving forward upgrades to their one-day high-speed rail stations, and Caltrans is close to releasing its assessment of how to best integrate the HSR into the state’s transportation grid.

Closer to home, Caltrain’s electrification upgrade is being built with the expectation that the corridor will one day serve the HSR. And the Transbay Terminal is being built with the expectation (err, legal mandate) that the bullet train will one day arrive, though exactly how and when is one of the bullet train’s (many) unresolved sticking points.

Conceptual renderings of the California High-Speed Rail in Burbank.

Rendering of the California High-Speed Rail in Burbank.

 Rendering via California High Speed Rail

Rendering of the California High-Speed Rail project in San Jose.

Rendering of the California High-Speed Rail project in San Jose.

 Rendering via California High Speed Rail

I’ve heard it’s not going well. Is that true?

Funny you should ask. The California High-Speed Rail project is arguably state’s most controversial big public-infrastructure project. The fact that the train’s projected cost has mushroomed from approximately $40 billion when voters first approved the project in 2008 to about $64 billion in 2016 means a lot of people feel ripped off.

Doubly so for the fact that construction seems to be progressing at a painstakingly slow rate. An unreleased Federal Rail Administration risk analysis from earlier this year said the project was running significantly over budget and behind schedule, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Thanks to the deadly combination of California’s strict environmental laws, under which any individual or organization may file a lawsuit saying a project is violating the California Environmental Quality Act, and lots of very ticked-off people, the bullet train has been a magnet for litigation.

California Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature on the track at the 2015 groundbreaking.

Photo via California High Speed Rail

About six suits have been filed relating to the Central Valley portion of the route, and it’s only natural to expect more will come as plans for exactly how the train will snake through the Bay Area and Southern California materialize over the next year or so. In July, the state Supreme Court affirmed that state environmental law definitely applies to the train, despite an argument made that more lax federal law should usurp state environmental regulation for state-owned projects.

Also, the train has fallen victim to abjectly political attacks. Earlier this year, a cabal of California Republicans lead by Bakersfield Congressman Kevin McCarthy penned a letter to Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, asking her to withhold roughly $650 million of federal grant money allocated for Caltrain’s electrification because of the corridor’s eventual intended use with the HSR.

In McCarthy’s words, “We think providing additional funding at this time to the [California High Speed Rail] Authority would be an irresponsible use of taxpayer dollars.”

Aside from that, the train is a frequent target for more sweeping legislative change on the state level. A statewide ballot proposition last November not-so-subtly targeted the train by proposing a constitutional amendment to require voter approval for “megaprojects” costing more than $2 billion. Another potential amendment on the ballot next June could derail the one of the train’s funding mechanisms.

Should we be hopeful?

If there’s one certain thing about the bullet train, it’s that its future has been clouded in uncertainty from almost the very beginning—at least judging by its treatment by the state’s press.

It’s important to remember, however, that voters approved the project by a comfortable 600,000-vote margin. And an opinion poll conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California in May of 2016 found that 63 percent of Californians still considered the bullet train “important” for the “future quality of life and economic vitality of California,” compared with just 35 percent who did not think it is important.

The biggest question for the train, however, is money. Litigation, aside from being costly in its own right, leads to construction cost increases from contract change orders and the prevailing cost increase of labor and materials. Add in the combination of lower-than-expected revenue from California’s cap-and-trade program and a presidential administration that, at times, seems hostile to California’s very existence, and things start looking grim for the bullet train.

The state ultimately hopes the high-speed rail project will generate enough revenue to cover operating costs once construction is complete. Once the plan moves closer to completion, they anticipate funds from private donors.

Let’s be optimistic.

Public Bank feasibility study money approved!


September 19, 2017

Berkeley Matches Oakland’s Request!

Tuesday September 12th, the Berkeley City Council voted by consent to provide the $25,000 that the City of Oakland requested to match their $75,000 toward funding a public bank feasibility study. The feasibility study is the first step toward establishing a public bank.

Tonight, September 19th, the Oakland City Council Meets. Fingers crossed that the Council will authorize the study.

There is more good news. The City of Richmond may later help fund this feasibility study, making this a three-city effort.


Public Bank feasibility study money approved

September 20, 2017

It only took about year after it was proposed for the City Council to
approve the money for a feasibility study, and they did it last night without debate and
unanimously. This after Berkeley coughed up $25K to fund a portion of the study (a bit more
than their per capita share would suggest, but close enough).

So hurray!

Now we will see what further roadblocks the City staff and City
Treasurer will throw in the way of actually signing the contract and getting the study underway…

–JP Massar