A New ‘Too Big to Fail’ Bank for the 1 Percent

The Huffington Post
by Preeti Vissa

Remember back in 2008, when collapsing banks nearly tanked our whole economy and people had the quaint notion that maybe we shouldn’t let banks become “too big to fail”? Would you be shocked to learn that regulators may well approve creation of a new “too big to fail” bank from the ashes of one of the very institutions that crashed our economy?

Meet OneWest Bank, which is seeking to merge with CIT Group, a deal that would meet federal criteria for what’s politely termed a “systemically important financial institution” — one whose failure could imperil the financial system. OneWest is the successor to IndyMac Bank, one of the first and biggest to collapse as the financial crisis was hitting high gear in the summer of 2008.

IndyMac was a textbook case of reckless, exploitive lending often aimed at communities of color. A report from the Treasury Department’s inspector general found that IndyMac offered an “extensive array of risky option-adjustable-rate-mortgages (option ARMs), subprime loans, 80/20 loans, and other nontraditional products.”

IndyMac’s collapse cost the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation $10.7 billion. OneWest was born from the ruins when a group of wealthy investors bought the remnants of IndyMac from the FDIC.

Not only will the OneWest/CIT merger create another bank that’s worryingly large, that bank will be run by people who seem to have learned nothing from IndyMac’s collapse.

Advocates, including my colleagues on The Greenlining Institute’s Economic Equity team, have tried to open a dialogue with OneWest officials. We hoped that the new institution would chart a different course, working to benefit communities instead of ignoring or exploiting them. You’d think a bank growing from the ashes of one of the institutions that sparked the foreclosure crisis that ruined millions of families would make some effort to at least look like it’s moving in a new direction.


For example, we asked OneWest to make meaningful commitments under the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), which encourages banks to invest in underserved communities. The bank revealed a so-called CRA plan in September at a meeting in Los Angeles. The plan, concocted with no community input, commits the new bank to precisely zero additional lending. OneWest CEO Joseph Otting made clear that he has no intention of negotiating a better agreement with the advocates who were leading the effort to hold his bank accountable.

Otting also make clear that nonprofits opposing the merger could forget any chance of receiving philanthropic donations from OneWest. Subtle, huh?

OneWest’s marketing and products have been geared to the wealthiest customers in its market area (primarily southern California), with only 15 percent of its branches in low and moderate income communities and no plans to build new branches in low-income areas. In addition, OneWest Bank makes only three percent of its purchases from vendors and suppliers that are minority owned — despite being based in a southern California market with over 70 percent people of color. There’s no indication that this will change. Unless federal regulators call a halt, we are literally witnessing the creation new too-big-to-fail bank for the one percent.

The Federal Reserve should reject the CIT/OneWest merger application. At the very least, regulators should stop the clock, hold public hearings and get some real community input before allowing this dangerous deal to proceed.

A Quick Look at the Biden-Harris Clean Energy Plan, and its California Connections

By Melanie Curry
StreetsBlog Cal

The Biden-Harris Clean Energy Plan is a 400-plus-page project of “Clean Energy for Biden,” a group of clean economy leaders, advocates, policymakers, and former government officials that came together in April to help formulate a platform and help get a new president in the White House. The plan is really a series of policy papers on what is required to transition to 100 percent clean energy in the U.S. It covers workforce development, necessary investments and incentives, transportation issues, rural development, the encouragement of new technologies, and strengthening the energy grid itself.

The oil industry is creaking its way to obsolescence, in one breath claiming that a Biden win will cause a deep depression, the loss of millions of jobs, and six-dollar-a-gallon gasoline, and in the next that they’re not in the least worried about a Biden presidency because they’ll be able to “get his staff on board.”

The industry will do whatever it can, as New York Times reporter Hiroko Tabuchi reports. Her recent investigation found that the industry has invested in an increasingly sophisticated and underhanded game plan to influence policy, creating industry-backed organizations that pretend to be “grassroots,” fake Facebook profiles, misleading initiatives and campaigns, and “news sites” that promulgated pro-industry “news.”

Meanwhile, the Biden-Harris plan, Building Back Better: Policy Recommendations for an Equitable Clean Energy-Powered Recovery and Achieving a 100 Percent Carbon Neutral Economy by 2050 [PDF], is based on science resulting from years of work by numerous organizations.

Streetsblog USA already provided a general summary of the plan here. It includes discussion of ways to end reliance on fossil fuels and build a just transition to clean energy, which must be a core principle of fighting climate change if that fight is to succeed. The plan starts a national conversation that has already begun in California: how to stop investments in infrastructure projects that further reliance on fossil fuels.

California has no answer on that question yet.

One particular chapter in the Biden-Harris plan, “Strengthening Climate Justice and Expanding Equity,” contains insights from a number of California organizations working in this area. Among them are The Greenlining Institute, which has issued a Mobility Equity Framework to guide California agencies towards more equitable outcomes from their transportation, energy, and climate policies.

To start, this country must focus on investing in frontline communities – by recognizing and beginning to undo this nation’s history of ignoring and marginalizing low-income communities and communities of color. These communities are subject to some of the worst effects from climate change, air pollution, and COVID, a triple threat that is due to years of underinvestment.

Says the plan:

Black and Hispanic communities in the U.S. are exposed to far more air pollution than they produce even though they drive less, use less electricity and consume fewer goods and services. By contrast, white Americans experience better air quality than the national average, even though their activities are the source of most toxic air pollutants.

If the Biden-Harris promise to base policy on science is kept, these irrefutable facts should guide investments towards those people and communities who most need them.

The plan also addresses the connections between community health, COVID, and transportation. One chapter, “Improving Frontline and Vulnerable Community Health and COVID-19 Resistance Through Transportation,” incorporates recommendations from The Greenlining Institute’s Mobility Equity Framework, such as improving “cash for clunkers” and electric vehicle rebate programs so they are available to more people and provide incentives that work for people who don’t make a lot of money. The chapter recommends replicating California programs such as Clean Mobility Options, the Sustainable Transportation Equity Pilot, Clean Mobility in Schools, the state’s “one-stop-shop” platform bringing all clean energy incentive applications, including solar infrastructure, onto one site, and supporting carsharing and micromobility hubs at affordable housing developments.

The entire plan focuses on benefits each of these policy recommendations would have in terms of job creation, and climate and economic benefits. For example, says the plan,

Switching from gasoline to electricity saves consumers money. During 2018, rural drivers in the following states saved by switching: $763 in Arizona, $748 in Florida, $770 in Iowa, $673 in Michigan, $1,011 in Nevada, $684 in Ohio, $741 i n North Carolina, $674 in Texas, $668 in Virginia, $733 in Pennsylvania, $552 in Maine, and $ 635 in Wisconsin.

The plan includes specific discussions on reducing the energy burden for disadvantaged communities via affordable and accessible solar and energy efficiency, cost savings and  other benefits from clean energy in affordable housing, and making America’s schools healthy and resilient. May of these recommendations will seem familiar to those who have been following the conversations in California about specific cap-and-trade funded programs, or the Active Transportation Program, for example, which have been called to address racial equity and environmental justice in ways that other programs, like highway funding, have not.

That’s an important reminder: these are policy recommendations, and they are just the start of a conversation.  For example, the “Biden Plan to Secure Environmental Justice and Equitable Economic Opportunity” makes the recommendation to mandate pollution monitoring in frontline communities. But what data to collect, how to collect it, and how to use that data are open questions, left for later, that could be undermined and distracted from by players that don’t want attention on that information.

Because data is power, but it is only data. If the new Biden-Harris team lets itself get mired in the kind of pointless, distracting discussions that have taken place in California around A.B. 617, progress will be too slow.

A quick shift to electric vehicles could drive the Green New Deal forward

Fast Company
By Adele Peters

The transition could keep the U.S. competitive with countries like China but also radically improve the country’s own transportation sector—currently the most polluting of the economy—while creating jobs and improving equity.

There are now 486 electric vehicle startups in China, where electric car sales topped 1.1 million last year. That’s three times more than sales in the United States.

While American automakers slowly add new electric cars in the U.S. market, the Chinese market is a different story: GM, which has committed to an all-electric future, plans to introduce 20 “new energy” vehicle models there by 2023—including electric cars and plug-in hybrids—and 10 of those within the next year. In the U.S., the company only offers one electric car (the Chevy Bolt) and one plug-in hybrid. It’s planning to release electric SUVs and pickups but has not disclosed when those will come to market.

It’s an illustration of the difference that policy can make. China, through national policy, has aggressively supported a shift to what it calls “new energy” vehicles, at the same time the Trump administration works to roll back clean car standards. What’s happening in China helps make the case that the Green New Deal—which calls for a transition to zero-emissions vehicles amidst a full decarbonization of the economy—isn’t just about climate change but opportunities for businesses and jobs to grow. The shift is already underway but could happen more quickly with the right policy, says Hal Connolly, senior vice president of programs at the nonprofit Climate Reality Project. “I think the transition’s inevitable,” he says. “But in order to get it as fast as we want, we really are going to need to pull some policy levers. And it’s not just about addressing the climate crisis, which is, of course, paramount and critical, but it’s also about American competitiveness.”

That’s true not just for cars and passenger trucks but across the transportation sector, from the airline industry to public transportation to the millions of trucks that deliver goods. As companies work to reduce emissions—whether they’re building electric planes or electric scooters—they also have an opportunity to address inequality. The changes that the Green New Deal spell out would create a vast array of new and well-paying jobs that could help even out the economy. And rapidly scaling up clean transportation options can create better access for people currently underserved by transportation options. Under the Green New Deal, decarbonizing transportation could function as a lever to address so many other issues facing the U.S. today.


To tackle climate change and avoid its worst impacts, a UN report last year said that the world needs to radically transform to a zero-emissions economy by mid-century, meaning that every industry needs to begin to change now. By 2030, global emissions need to be 45% lower than 2010 levels (as of 2018, they were at an all-time high). This is the science that underpins the urgency of the Green New Deal and makes it clear that the time for incremental tweaks and changes is long past.

In the U.S., transportation is now the leading source of emissions. Within transportation, the vast majority of those emissions come from passenger cars and trucks, followed by larger trucks and semis and then airplanes. The Green New Deal doesn’t outline specific policies but sets out a general goal to “overhaul” transportation to eliminate emissions “as much as is technologically feasible.”

The largest part of the problem—cars and light trucks—could already feasibly change now. The shift is already beginning. “I think we are actually closer to the electrification of transportation than a lot of people think we are simply based on cost,” says Geoff Eisenberg, a partner at Ecosystem Integrity Fund, a venture capital fund that invests in companies working on environmental sustainability. Batteries, the most expensive part of an electric vehicle, have fallen in cost at least 85% since 2010. Deloitte predicts that the total cost of owning an electric car will be as cheap as a gas or diesel car by 2022 even without subsidies.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts that the sticker price of larger electric vehicles in Europe will be as cheap as other cars by the same year. Electric cars also have other advantages for drivers, including the fact that their fewer moving parts means less need for maintenance. If a network of EVs can double as storage by attaching their batteries to the electric grid when they’re not in use—something that’s needed as the grid shifts to renewable energy like solar that isn’t available all the time—it’s possible that car owners could eventually also get paid for that service by utilities. A shift to autonomous cars could also force a shift to electric cars, because all of the controls (from electric steering to brake by wire) can be controlled through a single source, making it most efficient for an autonomous “brain.” Autonomous cars could drive costs down so much that people choose to use electric robo-taxis instead of owning cars in a decade.


Automakers, too, believe that future vehicles will be electric. “General Motors believes in a world of zero emissions with a vision for an all-electric future, driven by battery electric and fuel cell electric technologies,” says Doug Parks, vice president of autonomous and electric vehicle programs at GM. Ford is spending $11 billion over the next few years to launch 40 new electric and hybrid models—though most of them will launch in China. The company also invested in Rivian, a startup making an electric pickup, and plans to make an electric version of the F-150 truck. Toyota plans to bring 10 new electric vehicles to market over six years. Volkswagen is planning 70 new electric models over the next decade. Referring to Volkswagen’s pledge, which will bring 22 million all-electric vehicles to the market, Green New Deal coauthor Senator Ed Markey says, “that wasn’t on the scorecard last year.” He adds that the framework, though not yet policy, is already spurring manufacturers to make changes.

Still, fully electric cars make up less than 0.05% of new car sales now, and in a recent survey, only 20% of Americans said that they’d be interested in buying an EV in the future—more than ever before but still a minority. By 2030, the International Energy Agency predicts that electric vehicles could account for more than 30% of sales in the U.S., but again, most cars would still run on fossil fuels. Stronger policy could speed up adoption by supporting a larger network of electric chargers or new incentives for manufacturers and buyers.

It could also help ensure that the transition happens equitably. “When we talk about electric vehicles, we’re always thinking about how can we leverage those as tools for social justice,” says Joel Espino, the environmental equity legal counsel at the nonprofit Greenlining Institute, noting that low-income communities suffer from the worst air pollution from cars and are also hardest hit by fuel costs. One program in California pays low-income drivers in the most polluted areas up to $9,500 to replace old cars with electric cars (a used Nissan Leaf can sell for $10,000); another is bringing shared electric cars to a redesigned housing project in the low-income neighborhood of Watts. Both are examples of the type of policy that could help speed EV adoption nationally and support equity for low-income communities of color—one of the principal aims of the Green New Deal.

For car companies, strong policy could help ensure that American jobs grow, another aim of the Green New Deal. If the transition is inevitable, the countries that move fastest can lead globally, and those that are slower risk losing jobs, from engineering and design to manufacturing, to other locations. Connolly points to what happened with the solar industry, where China made a concerted effort to dominate. “We have over 200,000 solar jobs now in the United States, and that’s incredible,” he says. “But China has 2.2 million solar jobs, and that’s an opportunity that we missed out on by not competing. My concern is that we could be facing the same sort of situation with vehicles.” In fact, he argues, the situation could be worse. “Unlike solar, where we were going from zero jobs to 200,000, we’re talking over seven million U.S. jobs that could be threatened if we don’t take the lead.”

Related companies, like battery manufacturers, could also create new jobs; if electric vehicles are sold in meaningful numbers, we’ll need far more factories making batteries. Right now, Tesla is the only company making batteries in the U.S. In 2018, the company reported that it had supported more than 50,000 jobs in California in the previous year and contributed more than $5 billion to the state’s economy.


The Green New Deal could also help grow businesses and jobs in parts of the transportation sector that are more difficult to transition to zero emissions, like air travel. “It gets harder the heavier the vehicle, just based on physics,” says Eisenberg. Large jets are especially challenging, but a handful of startups are already working on electric or hybrid-electric technology for small planes that could make regional flights. “I think that that’s something that could get a five-year head jump from something in the Green New Deal,” he adds, referring to government support or subsidies that might be included once the policy is more fleshed out. Something similar could happen for large trucks; electric semis are already poised to make shorter trips. Other startups are working on solutions for longer-distance travel, including systems that would let electric trucks swap batteries en route so they don’t have to stop to charge and new designs that use hydrogen fuel cells to avoid some of the challenges of battery electric trucks.

High-speed rail, which the Green New Deal mentions as an important part of the transition, could help address the problem of long-distance passenger trips as airplanes improve. Here, too, China has pushed faster: by the end of the year, it will have 20,000 miles of high-speed rail, two-thirds of the total that exists in the world. The U.S. has none, if high-speed rail is defined as trains that can travel faster than 155 miles per hour. (In the Northeast, the Acela train travels 150 miles per hour for a short distance.) A robust high-speed rail network would also impact businesses. “If you’re a business in Philadelphia and you had high-speed rail lines where people from Pittsburgh and Boston and D.C. could get to Philadelphia in 40 minutes by train, think of how much more talent you’d have access to,” says Connolly. “It really is a competitiveness issue, too.”

Within cities, the Green New Deal also calls for better public transportation as another key way to reduce pollution from cars by helping people drive less. That will involve massive investment—even in New York City, with arguably the best public transit in the country, the MTA needs to spend $60 billion to get to a state of good repair. Buses are already shifting to electric because the long-term cost of electric buses is cheaper; companies like New Flyer, founded in 1930, now believe that it’s possible all buses could be electric in a decade. Companies like California-based Proterra are quickly growing. But they could grow faster with more policy support. Connolly notes that Washington, D.C., has a single electric bus now; Shenzhen, China, has an entire fleet of 16,000.

Building better public transit infrastructure, from bike lanes to subways, can also create more jobs and transform neighborhoods. “It’s a huge spur for economic development in cities that do it right,” says Sonia Aggarwal, vice president of the nonprofit Energy Innovation. It also directly benefits companies like Lyft and Uber that are investing heavily in urban scooter and bike-share systems. Policy could help ensure that transportation improvements are prioritized in communities that currently lack access, or those in which people struggle most with the cost of commuting to work. Often, these are low-income communities of color, and ensuring they’re brought into the fold of benefits created by decarbonizing the economy is a core tenet of the Green New Deal.

For companies, she says, the changes that can come from the Green New Deal—or some variation on it—can offer meaningful benefits. “I think they should be thinking about it, preparing for it, and also looking for ways to take advantage of it,” she says. “It’s actually a huge opportunity to remake our entire transportation system from the ground up. That’s a huge business opportunity. If I were working at a car company or a public transit company right now, I’d be pretty excited about the opportunity that lies inside this.”

A Second Large Coalition Calls On White House & FCC To Not Screw Up Net Neutrality

by Chris Morran

The day after around 150 Internet and tech companies asked FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to remove discriminatory loopholes from his net neutrality proposal, another large coalition — comprised of everything from consumer advocates to educators to Reddit to… the Harry Potter Alliance — has written to both Wheeler and President Obama, calling for the FCC to drop the controversial plan to allow Internet “fast lanes.”

Once again, the fast lane idea would allow Internet service providers to charge a premium to content companies for better and faster delivery of their data. This sort of prioritizing of content was prohibited under the neutrality guidelines that a federal appeals court gutted earlier this year.

“We strongly urge the Federal Communications Commission to reconsider and abandon efforts to adopt rules that would harm — rather than preserve — Net Neutrality,” reads the letter, signed by groups including Free Press, ACLU, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and our colleagues at Consumers Union. “The open Internet is a forum for free speech, innovation, civic engagement and the exercise of our basic rights. The Internet achieved this status because it was created on a platform governed by the principle of nondiscrimination.”

At the core of a neutral Internet is the idea that all data is treated equally regardless of who is transmitting it. Wheeler (a former front man for both the cable and telecom industries) contends that his proposal keeps neutrality intact by prohibiting ISPs from blocking or slowing down data, but in our view, and those who signed this latest letter, that only deals with half the problem.

“[I]nstead of restoring this important principle of nondiscrimination, the Commission’s proposal would make things even worse,” continues the letter. “It would reportedly propose rules that would enable phone and cable Internet service providers (ISPs) to discriminate both technically and financially against fledgling online companies, independent media outlets, nonprofit organizations and anyone else with a website.”

As we’ve argued numerous times in recent weeks, the letter states that the existence of fast lanes would incentivize ISPs to “create ‘artificial scarcity’ to extract new sources of revenue,” resulting in a “two-tiered Internet: a fast lane for those willing or able to pay for it, and a dirt road for the rest of us.”

Rather than establishing net neutrality, the groups state that this “is the opposite of a free and open Internet.”

“Internet service providers should not be in the business of picking winners and losers online,” concludes the letter. “But the proposal the FCC is currently considering gives ISPs the power to do exactly that, which is why it must be abandoned. Instead, the Commission must propose and adopt legally sound rules that keep the Internet an open and nondiscriminatory platform for speech and innovation.”

Here is the full text of the letter and the full list of those groups who signed:

Dear President Obama and Chairman Wheeler:

We are writing to express our support for a truly free and open Internet. We strongly urge the Federal Communications Commission to reconsider and abandon efforts to adopt rules that would harm — rather than preserve — Net Neutrality.

The open Internet is a forum for free speech, innovation, civic engagement and the exercise of our basic rights. The Internet achieved this status because it was created on a platform governed by the principle of nondiscrimination.

In 2010, the FCC attempted to incorporate this principle into its open Internet rules. Those rules were thrown out earlier this year, leaving Internet users in limbo while the FCC decided its next move.

Now, instead of restoring this important principle of nondiscrimination, the Commission’s proposal would make things even worse. It would reportedly propose rules that would enable phone and cable Internet service providers (ISPs) to discriminate both technically and financially against fledgling online companies, independent media outlets, nonprofit organizations and anyone else with a website. These policies would create troubling incentives for ISPs to create “artificial scarcity” to extract new sources of revenue. The result will be a two-tiered Internet: a fast lane for those willing or able to pay for it, and a dirt road for the rest of us.

This is discrimination pure and simple. It is the opposite of a free and open Internet.
President Obama, in 2007 you told the world, “I am a strong supporter of Net Neutrality,” rightfully asserting “that one of the best things about the Internet … is that there is this incredible equality there.”

And Chairman Wheeler, last fall you wrote that “[o]ne of the signal achievements of this latest great information revolution — our network revolution — is how the results of its diffused control and increased autonomy produce ‘innovation without permission.’”

We wholeheartedly agree with both statements. Internet service providers should not be in the business of picking winners and losers online. But the proposal the FCC is currently considering gives ISPs the power to do exactly that, which is why it must be abandoned. Instead, the Commission must propose and adopt legally sound rules that keep the Internet an open and nondiscriminatory platform for speech and innovation.

American Civil Liberties Union
Appalshop, Inc.
Beyond Sight
Center for Environmental Health
Center for Media Justice
Centre College
Citizens for Sanity
Common Cause
Consumers Union
Council on American-Islamic Relations
CR Consulting
CREDO Mobile
Daily Kos
Defending Dissent Foundation
Demand Progress
Democracy for America
Diversified Media Enterprises
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Engine Advocacy
Entertainment Consumers Association
Evanston Community Television
Fight for the Future
Free Press
Free Software Foundation
Future of Music Coalition
Greenlining Institute
Greenpeace USA
Hackers & Founders
Harry Potter Alliance
Institute for Local Self-Reliance
Just Foreign Policy
LAMP (Learning About Multimedia Project)
Latino Print Network
Louder Media Alliance
The Media Consortium
Media Equity Collaborative
Media Literacy Project
Media Matters for America
Media Mobilizing Project
MoveOn.org Political Action
Museums and the Web
The Nation
National Alliance for Media Arts + Culture
National Association of Black Journalists
National Association of Hispanic Journalists
National Association of Latino Independent Producers
National Hispanic Media Coalition
Netroots Foundation
New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute
New Moon Girls
Occupy Network
Pacific University
Park Center for Independent Media, Ithaca College
Participatory Politics Foundation
PEN American Center
The People’s Press Project
Personal Democracy Media
Progressive Change Campaign Committee
Prometheus Radio Project
Reel Grrls
Savvy System Designs, Inc.
SOA Watch San Francisco
St. Paul Neighborhood Network
The Stonewall Chorale Student Net Alliance
Tarakali Education
Tin House
Tully Center for Free Speech at Syracuse University
United Church of Christ Office of Communication, Inc.
Upwell Women In Media & News
Women’s Institute for Freedom of the Press
Women’s Media Center
Writers Guild of America East

A Welcome Focus on Racial Justice

Lancaster Online
By Orson Aguilar

The 2016 presidential campaign is proving historic in many ways both good and bad. Among the good: the amount of attention being paid to the issue of racial justice.

This didn’t occur spontaneously, of course. Constant pressure from Black Lives Matter, immigration activists and others played a big role. But the degree to which some top candidates have paid attention to racial justice and adopted platforms related to the issue exceeds anything in recent memory.

On the Democratic side, both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have extensive sections on their campaign websites dedicated to racial justice. Both include detailed proposals and state explicitly what many minorities know to be true: that the American playing field is not level and works to the disadvantage of communities of color.

Clinton, for example, pledges to “end the school-to-prison pipeline” by providing funds to help school districts move away from punitive policies like suspensions, expulsions and on-campus police presences that disproportionately hurt students of color. She also takes note of pollution-related asthma rates, lead exposure and other environmental issues that disproportionately harm communities of color.

Sanders, on his website, focuses on “the five central types of violence waged against black, brown and indigenous Americans: physical, political, legal, economic and environmental.” His platform goes in-depth on improving relations between police and communities of color, promoting greater diversity, training and civilian oversight in cases of misconduct. Like Clinton, he condemns racially disproportionate rates of school suspensions and expulsions and speaks out against environmental racism.

But all that just scratches the surface. Both Democrats delve into racial injustices with far more detail than any presidential candidate I can remember, including Barack Obama in 2008. While candidates have always taken positions on issues that have racial implications, like immigration, what we’re seeing this year is unique and encouraging.

A search of presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump’s website turns up nothing regarding racial justice. The closest he gets is his get-tough stands on illegal immigration, including a border wall and ending birthright citizenship for children born in the U.S. The story is much the same for the last two GOP alternatives to drop out of the race, Ted Cruz and John Kasich.

That’s sad.

The Republican Party, after all, played a crucial role in ending slavery and putting civil rights protections into the Constitution. A century later, Republicans provided the votes needed to pass the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act. The party has a long and honorable history it should not abandon. There is no reason Democrats should own the racial justice agenda.

Still, racial justice has entered the presidential campaign in a far more detailed and nuanced way than we’ve ever seen, even during the civil rights battles of the 1960s. That’s progress, and it should be just the start.

A Year After San Bruno Blast, Are We Safer?

Mercury News
By Steve Johnson and Paul Rogers

Nearly one year after a PG&E pipeline exploded in San Bruno, killing eight people and shattering a neighborhood, are we any safer?

Thanks to the increased scrutiny of PG&E by state regulators and changes the company has made, the answer would seem to be yes, at least marginally. But thousands of pages of internal documents PG&E has turned over to the California Public Utilities Commission and federal investigators since the accident suggest that many threats remain. Describing such things as decades of substandard welds and PG&E’s admission that it can’t find its own pipeline paperwork, the records reveal a company in seeming disarray.

Continue reading “A Year After San Bruno Blast, Are We Safer?”

A Young Man in Oakland has Captured the Wisdom of his Elders on a Blog and in a Book

LA Times

By Robin Abcarian

I am not sure how I first learned about Pendarvis Harshaw, but I was taken by the idea that this young man from Oakland had spent years asking older black men — many of them strangers he encountered as he biked — whether they had any wisdom to impart to kids like him.

Their answers, and photographs, appear on Harshaw’s blog, OG Told Me. “OG” is a term of respect that has transcended its literal meaning, “original gangster.” Nowadays, as one of Harshaw’s interview subjects points out, it really just means “old guard.”

Harshaw’s OGs are mostly regular guys. Some are athletes, street preachers or former Black Panthers. Others are educators, activists or drunks. Some give only a first name, others only a last. Some give pseudonyms.

Harshaw, a product of UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism by way of Howard University, chats them up about their lives, and his last question never varies: “Given your life experience, if you had a chance to talk to young people, what advice would you give them?”

Some of the men seem surprised, others like they’ve been waiting forever to be asked. Their responses are sometimes trite, occasionally impenetrable or vulgar, and often profound.

“Follow your heart. Stay close to your mother,” said a man who called himself “David Ruffin,” because he looks like the Temptations’ late lead singer.

“You can’t help those who don’t help themselves,” said one identified only as Mr. Phifer.

“If I kill another black man, I commit suicide, not homicide. We are one,” said retired San Francisco State psychology professor Wade Nobles.

“How does the chick get out of the egg?” asked Arnold Perkins, former director of the Alameda County Health Department. “Persistent pecking.”

“The greatest lesson you can ever learn, is how much you don’t know,” said Achebe Hoskins, an executive with Oakland’s Youth Mentoring Center.

“Elders don’t understand young people because they are fearful of them, and young people don’t value their elders, so they don’t appreciate them,” Harshaw, 29, told me. “I’ve tried to be a bridge.”

Harshaw, who grew up without a father, has been doing this work since high school.

“It was my life. I would walk down the street and some older guy — a drunk or a street preacher — would say some tidbit of wisdom that I would incorporate into my raps and poetry. Since I was a photojournalist, I decided to put it into that form.”

Recently, he self-published a book named after his blog. “It’s my coming-of-age story,” Harshaw said. “Essays about me growing up in Oakland, going out with good friends, doing something dumb, then some older man, be it a bus driver or a security guard, giving us some wisdom.”

Where can I get a copy, I asked.

“It’s only available out of my backpack so far,” he said with a laugh. He’s sold or given away 400 copies.

Harshaw works on strategic communications for PolicyLink, an Oakland research and advocacy company where he focuses on California policy issues involving boys of color.

Last week, he was in Sacramento in connection with a bill before the Legislature that would allow victims of violence to benefit from the state’s victim compensation fund even if their names appear in a gang database. He is also working on an effort to extend a ban on suspending California schoolchildren for “willful defiance,” which has had a disproportionate effect on African American children.

His life is very much in sync with his work, a quality I admire. He told me he belongs to a network called Brotherhood of Elders, a multigenerational support group for black men.

“We meet the first Saturday of every month and discuss a little of everything: love and relationships, the housing situation in Oakland. Healthy eating is a big one.”

At Brotherhood of Elders, he met a young civil rights attorney, Chris Bridges, who has developed a new social media platform called It Takes a Village Nation. The website is designed as a resource for people of color and organizations and businesses that serve them. “We’re trying to re-instill that adage that it takes a village to raise a kid, support each other and build businesses,” Bridges said.

On Thursday, Harshaw invited me to the platform’s launch party at Oakland’s Greenlining Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to racial and economic justice. As a crowd of social activists and entrepreneurs sipped drinks and learned how to use the website, Harshaw sat behind a long table selling books, holding his 6-month-old daughter, Zuri, on his lap.

Bridges, 32, told me he finds Harshaw’s work inspiring.

“What’s missing between generations is the ability to connect the dots,” he said. “This country was founded on the idea of keeping African Americans out of power, keeping them as property and making sure they didn’t have guns or any formal protection to survive a very racist and oppressive system. It’s imperative to keep having these conversations.”

Harshaw introduced me to Greg Hodge, 57, a former Oakland Unified School District board member who described himself as “a youth development activist, minister, drummer and dad.” He has also been featured on the OG Told Me blog.

“Pendarvis is a storyteller,” Hodge said. “His interest in telling the untold story is important, particularly for African American men, because the narrative that’s often told about us is one of criminality, of being deadbeat dads, of being misogynists. He breaks that mold.”

Harshaw’s work, Hodge said, reminds him of the traveling poets, singers and storytellers of West African known as griots, who keep history alive and circulate news. “I honor Pen as a young griot who makes sure that people keep memories alive for future generations.”

AABE Summit Puts Focus on Increasing Minority Participation in Energy Industry

Politics 365
by: Tiffany K. Bain

Gathering ideas to increase minority – particularly African American – participation in all aspects of the energy and environmental sectors was discussed at the American Association of Blacks in Energy’s (AABE) recent Energy Policy Summit. Continue reading “AABE Summit Puts Focus on Increasing Minority Participation in Energy Industry”

AARP Reaches Out to Fil-Ams on Healthcare Reform

Inquirer Global Nation
by: Esther Misa Chavez

SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO—With the Affordable Healthcare Act, or Obamacare, about to go into effect, the Philippine American Press Club’s quarterly Kapihan collaborated with AARP to brief the Fil-Am media on the law’s intricacies.

On hand to discuss the merits of the healthcare plan was Ahnileen Martinez, associate state director, AARP California State Office. Carla Saporta, health policy director of Greenlining Institute was resource person in clarifying issues related to the plan.

According to Martinez, the key points to remember about Obamacare are that it increases consumer protection, makes it easier to find health insurance and improves Medicare-covered benefits  (www.healthlawanswers.org). Martinez is a Filipino-American whose mother was a nurse when she immigrated to the US.

Carla Saporta clarified employee/employer responsibilities on individual and family health coverage, and the difference between companies with more than 50 employees and small companies with less than 50. On this aspect, the health coverage becomes a bit more complicated, but nothing that can’t be clarified through more information and education in the coming months and days.

Open enrollment starts Oct. 1, 2013, till March 31, 2014. Uninsured individuals, families or those who buy their own health insurance (not through an employer) must apply for Obamacare coverage. Those who fail to apply will be fined through the Internal Revenue Service. Coverage will start Jan. 1, 2014. http://www.healthlawanswers.org/

First and foremost, Obamacare will affect people with healthcare insurance, those who are uninsured or buy their own coverage, and people with Medicare.

For those insured now: Insurance companies can’t drop coverage if you get sick. Insurance companies must justify increases to premiums and spend more on health care over administrative costs. No one can be denied coverage for a pre‐existing condition (2014). There will be no lifetime and annual coverage limits, and insurance companies can’t place annual limits to your coverage. It requires coverage for more preventive services like mammograms, immunizations, and screening for cancer or diabetes.

People who are uninsured or buy their own coverage: Applicants can choose their health policy through the Health Insurance Marketplace or Exchanges, which can be found online. The Marketplace or Exchange is supposed to make it easier to buy health Insurance/plans by 2014. One can compare rates and coverage for different levels from different agencies. There are several levels of coverage from 60-40 (Bronze) to 90-10 (Platinum) co-pays (in addition to monthly premium.)

Core set of benefits are: doctor visits, emergency services, hospital care, maternity and newborn care, mental health and substance use disorder services including behavioral health treatment, prescription drugs, rehabilitative services and devices, laboratory services, preventive and wellness services, chronic disease management and pediatric services, including oral and vision care.

Coverage extended to young adults and parents: Adult children can stay on family policy until age 26 even if they are no longer living with parents, are married and/or are no longer in school. On the other hand, children can claim their parents under their health plan regardless of whether they live together or not as long as the parents are also claimed in their child’s income tax return.

Options for states to expand Medicaid: Each state has the option to expand coverage to more people. The Affordable Healthcare will provide help paying for insurance starting 2014 for health insurance purchased through the marketplace, but applicants must meet income limits to be eligible.

People with Medicare: Obamacare protects guaranteed Medicare benefits and improves those benefits. It lowers out of pocket costs for prescription drugs and expands coverage for preventive care. No copayments for deductibles for Medicare-approved preventive care.

Lowered drug costs: 2013 – 52.5 percent discount on branded drugs and 21 percent discount on generics. By 2020 coverage gap will disappear, although Part D cost sharing will remain.

Initial benefit: Deductible and 25 percent of drug costs; catastrophic benefit – you pay 5 percent drug costs (www.aarp.org/doughnuthole has doughnut hole calculator). Call Medicare at 1-800 633 4227. Log on to www.medicare.gov.