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February

2017

Brown: Neighbors joining together to block Trump deportations | Chicago Sun-Times

In the 35th Ward on the city’s Northwest Side, Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa has started what he calls the Community Defense Committee.

In Rogers Park, home to an extremely diverse immigrant population, volunteer organizers have chosen to dub their effort Protect RP.

In Little Village, the Mexican capital of the Midwest, they have picked the name La Villita Se Defiende, which translates to Little Village Defends Itself.

As with the different names, each group seems to be charting its own tactical approach, but the overarching goal is the same: to protect undocumented immigrants by resisting efforts to deport them.

Resistance eventually could take the form of actually interfering with federal agents in the performance of their duties, something not to be taken lightly but a measure of what’s at stake.

I was among more than 400 people who attended a Protect RP organizational meeting Monday night, an extraordinary display of how hungry people are to Do Something.

The meeting was held at Living Water Community Church, where pastor Kristin Jackson said two-thirds of the congregants are immigrants, some of them undocumented.

But my impression is most participants that night were American citizens acting in support of their neighbors, not out of self-preservation. And they weren’t just the liberal fringe.

Trump won the election with his promise of mass deportations, but many still believe the better answer is to change the immigration laws to protect most of those who are living here and to map out a more coherent system going forward.

Call that a path to citizenship or call it amnesty, but that’s still the goal to me, even if we’re now playing defense instead of offense.

“People are very receptive and very eager to support this effort,” said Rosa, who is using techniques learned by immigrant groups in Arizona and Georgia in response to deportation raids conducted by the Obama administration.

Read more at the source: Brown: Neighbors joining together to block Trump deportations | Chicago Sun-Times

 

This is actually what America would look like without gerrymandering – The Washington Post

The GOP scored 33 more seats in the House this election even though Democrats earned a million more votes in House races. Professor Jeremy Mayer says gerrymandering distorts democracy. (The Fold/The Washington Post)

In his State of the Union speech, President Obama called on lawmakers and the public to take a number of steps “to change the system to reflect our better selves” for “a better politics.” The top item on that list was to end partisan gerrymandering: “we have to end the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters, and not the other way around,” Obama said.

In most states, state legislatures draw the district boundaries that determine how many delegates the state sends to the U.S. Congress, as well as the general partisan make-up of that delegation. State legislatures are partisan beasts, and if one party is in control of the process they can draw boundaries to give themselves a numeric advantage over their opponents in Congress. This process is called gerrymandering.

The process of re-drawing district lines to give an advantage to one party over another is called “gerrymandering”. Here’s how it works. (Daron Taylor/The Washington Post)

Some state legislatures are more brazen about the process than others. Maryland’s districts, drawn by Democrats, are one particularly egregious example. North Carolina’s, drawn by Republicans, are another. Advocates of reform have proposed various solutions to the problem over the years. In some states, redistricting is put in the hands of an independent commission. In others, lengthy court battles are playing out to draw the districts more fairly.

But a fundamental problem with district-drawing still remains: as long as humans are drawing the lines, there’s a danger of bias and self-interest to creep into the process. There is another way, however: we could simply let computers do the drawing for us.

From a technological standpoint it’s fairly straightforward — a software engineer in Massachusetts named Brian Olson wrote an algorithm to do it in his spare time. As I described it in 2014, Olson’s algorithm creates “optimally compact” equal-population congressional districts in each state, based on 2010 census data. It draws districts that respect the boundaries of census blocks, which are the smallest geographic units used by the Census Bureau. This ensures that the district boundaries reflect actual neighborhoods and don’t, say, cut an arbitrary line through somebody’s house.”

To see what this looks like in practice, compare this map of our current congressional districts (top) with one we stitched together from Olson’s output (bottom).

 

 

Big difference, isn’t it? You can check out a larger version of the compacted map here. Rather than a confusing snarl of interlocked districts, you have neat, trim boundaries that make intuitive sense. Here are some individual state comparisons I made back in 2014 that let you see some more of the detail:.

Read more at the source: This is actually what America would look like without gerrymandering – The Washington Post

Protest Erupts in Downtown L.A. Following Reports of Immigration Raids at Homes Across Southern California | KTLA

While immigration advocates say more than 100 people were detained Thursday as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials conducted home raids across three Southern California counties, the federal agency insists its operations were “routine” and not part of President Donald Trump’s unprecedented immigration crackdown.

Protestors against deportation and immigration raids close off a section of Aliso Street in downtown L.A. on Feb. 9, 2017. (Credit: Chris Gierowski / KTLA)
Protestors against deportation and immigration raids close off a section of Aliso Street in downtown L.A. on Feb. 9, 2017. (Credit: Chris Gierowski / KTLA)

ICE officials have yet to release detailed information on how many people the agency arrested Thursday and where they were taken into custody, only stating that the activities were “targeted and lead driven, prioritizing individuals who pose a risk to our communities,” according to ICE spokesperson Lori Haley.

“Examples would include known street gang members, child sex offenders, and deportable foreign nationals with significant drug trafficking convictions,” she said in an email. “To that end, ICE’s routine immigration enforcement actions are ongoing.”

However, according to Jorge-Mario Cabrera, communication director for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of L.A., those detained were either people with deportation orders but no criminal background or family members of those sought who were home during the raids and told officials they lacked documentation.

Read more at the source: Protest Erupts in Downtown L.A. Following Reports of Immigration Raids at Homes Across Southern California | KTLA

 

California and President Trump are going to war with each other – The Washington Post


Donald Trump speaks with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) after a rally in San Diego during the election campaign. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

President Trump had harsh words for one of his most fervent opponents during the pre-Super Bowl interview with Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly that aired Sunday. Not President Vladimir Putin, mind you, whose alleged unpleasant habit of murdering journalists met with a shrug from the president. No, Trump lashed out at the nation’s largest state, California.

“I just spent the week in California,” O’Reilly said. “As you know, they are now voting on whether they should become a sanctuary state. So California and the U.S.A. are on a collision course. How do you see it?”

“Well, I think it’s ridiculous,” Trump replied. “Sanctuary cities, as you know I’m very much opposed to sanctuary cities. They breed crime, there’s a lot of problems. We have to well defund, we give tremendous amounts of money to California. . . . California in many ways is out of control, as you know. Obviously the voters agree or otherwise they wouldn’t have voted for me.”

“So defunding is your weapon of choice?” O’Reilly asked.

“A weapon. I don’t want to defund the state,” Trump said. “I don’t want to defund anybody. I want to give them the money they need to properly operate as a city or a state. If they’re going to have sanctuary cities, we may have to do that. Certainly that would be a weapon.”

Sanctuary laws received national attention in July 2015 after an illegal immigrant with prior deportations and a criminal history pleaded not guilty to murdering a woman at a San Francisco pier. President-elect Donald Trump has pledged to cut federal funding to sanctuary cities. Here’s what they are. (Jayne W. Orenstein and Osman Malik/The Washington Post)

Source: California and President Trump are going to war with each other – The Washington Post

 

Divest Now! Why Seattle Took Back Its Money From Wells Fargo (And Your City Should As Well) – Medium

Today, the City of Seattle took an unprecedented stand against unethical banking practices by unanimously passing the Socially Responsible Banking Ordinance. It will require the city to divest from $3 billion in contracts with Wells Fargo Bank, one of the several banks with a large financial stake in the Dakota Access Pipeline. The move sends a clear and powerful message that the people of Seattle expect our money to reflect and uphold our values.

Divestment — Or, How to Take On the Banks

Fighting politically entrenched big money is always a hard, uphill battle. They can absorb some losses and afford lengthy court proceedings that those with little or no capital cannot. Their vast resources often allow them to simply bulldoze over the rights of others — even when they are dead wrong. Without access to the same level of funding, we must use many different strategies to even the playing field, like direct action and media pressure. But our most effective weapon against well-moneyed opposition is divestment.

Read more at the source: Divest Now! Why Seattle Took Back Its Money From Wells Fargo (And Your City Should As Well) – Medium.

Make Every State a Sanctuary State | Mises Wire

CBS reports that “California may prohibit local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration authorities, creating a border-to-border sanctuary in the nation’s largest state as legislative Democrats ramp up their efforts to battle President Donald Trump’s migration policies.”

In this context, of course, California — should the proposed legislation pass — would decline to participate in helping federal agents enforce federal immigration law.

In terms of American political and legal traditions, California is well within its rights, and by refusing to assist federal agents would simply be building on a past tradition in which state governments have refused to assist the federal government with a number of policies.

Read more at the source: Make Every State a Sanctuary State | Mises Wire.

Cryptocurrency Can Shift the Balance of Power Between Cities, States and Nations

One of the most powerful tools of a modern nation is its central bank’s ability to create money “out of thin air.” Nations can use this new money to purchase their own nation’s debt in the form of treasury bills, bonds and notes, allowing it to spend more than it earns in taxes and other income. If a nation prints too much money, however, it can create inflation, which reduces the value of their currency. In some instances, central banks can lose control of their currency’s inflation rate, destroying the value of the nation’s currency, collapsing its economy and leaving it at the mercy of predatory financial interests. Fear of inflation keeps nation’s from printing infinite amounts of money.

The US dollar is a bit different than other currencies because it isn’t simply the “reserve currency” for the United States, but also functions as the world’s reserve currency. Ever nation in the world uses US dollars because it is the easiest, and sometimes only, currency that can be used  to purchase large quantities of commodities in international markets. The most important of these commodities is oil. Some commentators call this monetary arrangement the “petrodollar system” and view it as the successor to the Brenton Woods system, which still relied on nations to maintain gold reserves. The Petrodollar system was established through a series of arrangements between the US and Saudi Arabia in the 1970s.

Since the 1970s, we’ve seen the development of other transnational monetary systems such as the Euro and the development of giant commercial “money center” banks, which have further consolidated the monopoly on monetary production in the hands of fewer and fewer institutions. If you asked an economist a decade ago about the future of global monetary production, they’d have predicted more consolidation. The Euro in Europe would be complemented by the Amero is North America, and slowly but surely, the world would integrate into a single market with a single currency.

The financial collapse of 2008 helped undermine the vision of a global currency, but it was the invention of Bitcoin and the blockchain technology behind it that has given people a viable alternative to global monetary consolidation. Blockchain is a new type of database that is extremely good at producing “digital cash” and executing financial transactions. It’s open source, so there are no limitations or restrictions on who and how this technology can be used. Currently, blockchains are making it possible for people to create secure, digital money systems for extremely low costs. It’s being used by big banks to speed up their SWIFT international fund transfer systems, it’s being used by countries to create new national digital currency systems, and it’s being used by entrepreneurs and online communities to create their own currency systems outside the purview of the nation-state. It’s only a matter of time, it seems, before sub-national governments and municipalities create their own currency systems and begin to challenge the nation-state’s monopoly on the production of money.

Under normal political conditions, the idea that cities and states would risk disrupting the current monetary order by creating their own currency systems would be outrageous. US city and state governments benefit greatly from the US government’s petrodollar system. Not only does the federal government give cities and states significant amounts of money in the form of grants, they also allow people to deduct income from municipal bonds from their federal taxes. The makes it possible for cities and states to access tremendous amounts of capital at a rate much cheaper than corporations or individuals. These municipal bonds are used to fund everything from a local government’s general operations to specific infrastructure projects. But with the Trump administration and sub-national governments around the US on a collision course over immigration and other policies, it’s possible that federal governments will start trying to squeeze the finances of “sanctuary” cities and states. In fact, Trump declared he’ll do precisely that by threatening to cut off federal funding to cities and states that don’t implement his widely unpopular immigration policies. Eliminating the federal tax deduction on municipal bonds would be an even more aggressive move that he could try to use to coerce cities and states to follow his policies.

In the past, the only institutions that cities and states could look to for financial assistance were the federal governments and large commercial banks. But that is changing. The blockchain makes it possible for sub-national governments to create their own financial systems and begin to insulate themselves from federal monetary policy and budgeting decisions. Cities and states could do many things with their own cryptocurrency networks. They could create cryptographically secured paper monies, credit and debit cards and online transaction systems that enable their residents to more easily engage in local commerce, create international remittance systems allowing residents to transmit money around the world, and create new types of financial contracts that aren’t mediated by the commercial banks or federal entities. These monetary systems could be “backed” by valuable assets owned by cities and states such as real estate, taxes and other revenue streams. The technology to implement these types of systems is new, but its developing rapidly. Financial institutions invested nearly $2 billion in blockchain-based technologies in 2016. And the commercial banks are investing billions of dollars a year to continue to improve these alternative systems.

By developing autonomous, networked, blockchain-based financial systems for themselves, cities and states can create deep and direct financial ties with each other and challenge the US government’s monopoly on the production of money. This challenge, if delivered in a credible way, could threaten the US government’s capacity to pay its debts and seriously impact the federal government’s financial health.

I want to be clear: I’m not advocating for a financial war between US cities and states, and the federal government. Rather, I’m recognizing that blockchain-based technologies could enable sub-national governments to build a new type of power that they currently don’t have: the ability to compete with the nation-state-based monetary systems. This threat could be an extremely powerful tool for cities and states when they negotiate with the Trump administration. If the federal government is going to threaten to undermine the financial health of cities and states, then cities and states should find ways to credibly threaten the federal government right back.

If you’d like to read more about how the blockchain technology fits into a broader history of DIY finance, check out my essay Finance without Force.

San Francisco sues Trump over sanctuary city order

 

The city of San Francisco filed a lawsuit Tuesday challenging President Trump’s executive order that directs the federal government to withhold money from so-called sanctuary cities that limit cooperation with federal immigration enforcement agents.

The lawsuit, filed by San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera in U.S. District Court in Northern California, marks the first court challenge over the sanctuary order filed by one of the targeted cities since Trump unveiled his order last week.

AFP AFP_KS068 A POL USA CA

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