Category Archives: Community

Map of the day: Bay Area housing bubble bulges


From the Washington Post, where interactive maps allow you to search by city or Zip code to find out how much home prices have soared or plunged between 2004 and 2015.

The Zip code circled in black is the location of Casa esnl, in the heart of bubble land. Alas, esnl isn’t a homeowner, and its only our rent that’s nearly doubled in that same time frame:

BLOG Berkeley

Children drive neighborhood income segregation


Gentrification, it’s called, and the driving factor seems to be whether or not families have children.

The presence of school age children makes school selection a decisive factor in housing choices, according to new research reported by the American Sociological Association:

Neighborhoods are becoming less diverse and more segregated by income — but only among families with children, a new study has found.

Study author Ann Owens, an assistant professor of sociology at USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, examined census data from 100 major U.S. metropolitan areas, from Los Angeles to Boston. She found that, among families with children, neighborhood income segregation is driven by increased income inequality in combination with a previously overlooked factor: school district options.

For families with high income, school districts are a top consideration when deciding where they will live, Owens said. And for those in large cities, they have multiple school districts where they could choose to buy homes.

Income segregation between neighborhoods rose 20 percent from 1990 to 2010, and income segregation between neighborhoods was nearly twice as high among households that have children compared to those without.

For childless families, schools are not a priority for selecting a home, which, Owens said, likely explains the reason that they did not see a rise in the income gap or in neighborhood segregation.

“Income inequality has an effect only half as large among childless folks,” said Owens, whose study will be published online on April 27 and in the June print edition of the American Sociological Review [$36 to read the article — esnl]. “This implies that parents who have children see extra money as a chance to buy a home in a good neighborhood so that their kids may attend a good school.”

She said the increased neighborhood income segregation that her study uncovered is a troubling sign for low-income families. Studies have shown that integrated learning environments are beneficial for children of disadvantaged households, and do no harm to children whose families have higher incomes.

There’s more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

Drones, deaths, and the toxic legacy of Vietnam


The Vietnam war was America’s first and last experiment in allowing journalists unrestricted access to one of this country’s imperial wars.

Because journalists were able to hitch rides on helicopters and air transport planes, they saw death in the raw, and the images and stories they produced led directly to a militant antiwar movement and massive demonstrations, often violently repressed.

Journalists in subsequent wars to consolidate the global reach of the United States were tightly controlled, leading to the concept of embedding, where journalists were assigned to particular units and obligated to remain with them for the duration — the noxious notion of “embedding.”

Why noxious? Because living constantly with the same group for an extended period leads to identification with the group. Rather than cultivating the detachment so prized by journalists during the Vietnam War, reporters in America’s Iraqi invasions ate, drank, slept, partied with and depended on the same small group, invariably leading to an experience of war as us against them.

Couple with the ongoing downsizing of the increasingly consolidated mainstream media, journalism became less about questioning and much more about cheerleading.

Meanwhile, war itself was undergoing a transformation, epitomized in that radical new weapon of American war-making, the pilotless drone, operated from afar with joysticks by technosavvy geeks who grew up on videogames.

But that brave, new warfare exacted a price on both sides of the video screen, and digital warfare became a force for mobilizing its victims, a lesson the military failed to learn from World War II, where mass bombings of German cities failed to destroy civilian morale and even helped in prolonging German resistance.

In this, the latest edition of RT’s Going Underground, host Afshin Rattansi interviews Cian Westmoreland, an Air Force veteran who built the communications infrastructure of the drone program.

What he experienced there led him to become an antiwar activist and a leading opponent of drone warfare:

‘It Feels Like Murder’ – Obama Drone Program Whistleblower

Program notes:

Afshin Rattansi goes underground on drones. Cian Westmoreland, whistleblower and former drone technician for Obama’s top secret drone program talks about the indiscriminate targeting that means that civilians are dying when they are searching for terrorists. Plus how responsible are drones in the radicalisation of civilians?

Quote of the day: Gentrification in the East Bay


The eastern shoreline of San Francisco Bay, including esnl’s Berkeley and Oakland, just four blocks away, has become untenable for growing numbers of people, including many of the people of color who used to live in our own neighborhood.

Our own rent was just jacked up by more than half, and we know many others in the same fix.

And so we turn with interest to our QOTD, written by April M. Short for AlterNet, who was driven from Oakland by the same forces that are driving us out as well.

The true culprit behind displacement and gentrification is a complex ricochet effect that arguably began with the tech boom, as large Silicon Valley companies like Google, Facebook and Apple were drawn to this desirable and nearby area. As their money has flooded the city, landlords and business owners have hiked up prices and ultimately life in San Francisco has become too expensive for many artists, laborers and others who don’t receive salaries comparable to those of tech workers. Many of those San Franciscans have moved to Oakland, which remains less expensive (if only slightly). That migration includes many tech startup workers who can’t afford to buy or rent in San Francisco and have heard Oakland is more affordable. As Oakland has been inundated with this mass influx of people from across the bay, landlords and businesses over here have in turn hiked up their prices, forcing longtime locals further into the outskirts.

Another important piece of the problem are the unethical practices of these tech giants. The most obvious example is the tech companies’ corporate shuttles that allow non-locals to be driven into the city from Silicon Valley aboard luxury buses, which have earned the nickname Google buses. Mass protests have gathered to stop the buses, and in response, the city of San Francisco recently forbade those private buses from using public bus stops. But the mass displacement of San Francisco’s people and the white-washing gentrification of its streets have not reversed (Truthout has an in-depth snapshot of the situation).

Another thing to note is the greed of some landlords. As rents have skyrocketed in the last three to five years, mortgages have remained relatively stable, and some landlords have been charging more just because they can. Because of this trend, and similar situations in New York, Los Angeles and many other metropolitan areas, it is officially the worst time in American history to be a renter. A report by the online real estate website Zillow showed in August how rents have never taken up this much of the American paycheck.

Puerto Rico, red meat to predatory banksters


The power of predators to draft American financial laws should be apparent to anyone by now, but it’s still shocking to see how viciously those laws impact the lives of men, women, and children who are both citizens and colonial subjects.

Puerto Rico is the classic example, a territory whose natives are by birthright U.S. citizens, yet are simultaneously exempt from laws created to protect citizens who happen to be born in states rather than territories.

Leave it to John Oliver and his gifted staff of researchers to get to bottom of things, with a little musical help from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the hottest ticket on Broadway.

From Last Week Tonight with John Oliver:

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Puerto Rico

Program notes:

Puerto Rico is suffering a massive debt crisis. Lin-Manuel Miranda joins John Oliver to call for relief.

More California newspapers up for grabs


One of the nation’s most voracious media giants has made a bid for the company that owns the Los Angeles Times and the San Diego Union Tribune, and if the deal is done, California’s newspaper economy would be almost entirely in the hands of two corporations known for ruthless labor relations and replacing local content with stories derived from others newspapers in their respective chains.

From Reuters:

Gannett Co Inc, publisher of USA Today, said it offered to buy Tribune Publishing Co in a deal valued at about $815 million, including debt, but the owner of the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune refused to begin “constructive” talks.

“We therefore are prepared to consider all alternatives to complete this transaction,” Gannett Chief Executive Robert Dickey said in a letter to Tribune Publishing’s board on Monday.

Tribune Publishing, however, said in a statement that it had told Gannett it would engage financial and legal advisers to review the proposal and its “numerous contingencies.”

Chicago-based Tribune Publishing has been shaking up its top management, replacing its chief executive in February and said a month later that it would replace its chief financial officer.

Gannett, the publisher of USA Today, controls more of the country’s newspaper circulation than any other publisher, and if the company wins control of Tribune publishing, the merger would give them control of more than 17 percent of the nation’s total newspaper circulation.

From the Wall Street Journal:

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Digital First, the number two company on the list, controls the largest share of newspaper circulation in California, and owns both the Los Angeles News Group and the Bay Area News Group.

The merger would leave the vast majority of California’s newspaper circulation in the hands of two corporate giants.

More from the New York Times, focusing on problems in Tribune Publishing’s California papers:

In recent years, The Los Angeles Times has become a flash point for disagreement between Tribune Publishing and its California newspapers. Austin Beutner, The Times’s publisher, was ousted last fall after only a year in the position because company executives viewed his ambitious plan to dominate California journalism as defiant and a threat to their centralized strategy. The newsroom has been reduced by job cuts. The philanthropist Eli Broad has long sought to buy the paper, but his moves have been spurned.

In a further sign of discontent between Tribune Publishing and its California newspapers — in addition to The Los Angeles Times, the company also owns The San Diego Union-Tribune — the two entities have sparred over financial projections.

More recently, Tribune Publishing failed in its bid for Freedom Communications, which owns The Orange County Register and The Press-Enterprise of Riverside, Calif., after the Justice Department objected to the deal.

The Wall Street Journal looks at key differences between the two publishing giants:

Gannett owns 107 mostly small- and mid-market U.S. dailies in 34 states, as well as its flagship, USA Today. Last summer, after Gannett was spun off as a newspaper group from television properties that now make up Tegna Inc., Mr. Dickey said the company would aggressively pursue acquisitions of larger market publications.

Tribune Publishing also was separated from television holdings but has struggled to find its footing as an independent company since the split in late 2014, less than two years after its predecessor company emerged from bankruptcy. Tribune owns 11 big dailies in disparate markets that have made it difficult to combine costs as well as others have.

The company has reported declining year-over-year revenue in almost every quarter since the spinoff. Its stock price has tumbled 69% since then, from $24.50 a share to $7.52 at market close Friday. On Monday, following news of the proposal, shares of Tribune Publishing jumped 53% to $11.50.

Back when esnl came to California in 1967, all of the California papers involved were family owned, with the San Diego publications owned by the Copley family and the Los Angeles Times by the Chandlers. Both families are now gone from the business.

Otis Chandler, the last of his family to run the Times, was unique in that for all his considerable imperial ambitions and a reluctance to expose the misdeeds of some of LA’s rich and powerful, under his reign the Times accomplished some remarkable journalism and opened up bureaus on other continents.

He was ousted by his own family, who wanted cash more than Pulitzers, and the paper went steadily downhill until today it’s a mere shadow of what it was when Otis was at the helm.

The San Diego Union and Tribune, then two separate publications, were owned by the Copley family and managed by retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen Victor “Brute” Krulak. Investment bankers took over Copley’s papers, then sold them to Tribune Publishing, leaving California newspaper landscape more consolidated, as well as devastated.

Coping with the inevitability of climate change


Given that global climate change is already happening, and the reality that political leaders lack the will or ability to implement measures to head off imminent impacts, what then?

That’s the subject of How To Let Go of the World -and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change, the new documentary from Josh Fox, direct of the award-winning 2010 documentary Gasland.

Here’s how the reviewer for the New York Times sums up the film:

The film’s title will use up many of the allotted words for this review, so it’s best to be terse when critiquing “How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change.” Hence, a one-word assessment of this documentary: Tough. As in, tough to watch. Tough to consider. Tough to ignore.

But beneath the despair Fox conveys a certain optimism in this discussion with Chris Hedges for the latest installment of Days of Revolt, Hedges’ weekly series for teleSUR English.

The optimism lies not in any conviction Fox has that quick, massive response may avert the worst impacts — he has none. Rather, his optimism stems from the ability of the human spirit to craft emotional responses that foster a spirit of community, responses mediated by song, dance, and the other arts.

From Days of Revolt:

Days of Revolt: Letting Go of the World

From the transcript:

HEDGES: I just want to interrupt–you in the film point out that it’s not like we stop at 2 degrees. That becomes essentially, once we hit 2 degrees, it just begins to accelerate.

FOX: The problem is we’ve already warmed the Earth by about a degree Celsius over pre-industrial times. We have enough heat and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and methane in the atmosphere now to bring us to definitely 1.5 degrees and perhaps beyond. Some of the projections for this year even bring us to 1.3 degrees, and we’re talking Celsius. Doesn’t sound like so much. But if you think about your freezer at home, if you take it from 32 degrees Fahrenheit to 34 degrees Fahrenheit, everything starts to melt and everything starts to spoil, which is what’s happening on the planet Earth right now. Everything that?s supposed to stay frozen is melting and that has created feedback loops and all the things we know will continue to accelerate.

HEDGES: Explain feedback loops.

FOX: So at the top of the Earth and at the bottom of the Earth, there are these poles which have white snow and ice, and white reflects heat and light and black absorbs it, right? So that heat that would otherwise radiate back out to space, because it’s reflecting off of the poles. As the poles shrink as we melt them, then all of a sudden there’s even less reflectivity. So that’s one feedback loop. Another feedback loop is that as we melt the permafrost, there’s all sort of methane trapped inside the permafrost that creates even greater greenhouse gas emissions. These things start to accelerate and spiral.

HEDGES: You also talk about the animal agriculture industry, which many people avoid, but is a major contributor to climate change.

FOX: Of course, there’s so many contributors. Not just oil and gas and coal but yes, animal agriculture and deforestation is another major cause because trees basically bring carbon into them and exhale oxygen which we need to survive. So the more we cut down the forest, you get less oxygen and you get more carbon dioxide. What was most startling to me is the sea level rise projections. When you 5-9 meters of sea level rise, that’s basically say goodbye to Philadelphia, Boston, Washington D.C., Baltimore.

HEDGES: You show in the film what it will look like. What these cities will look like when huge sections of these cities are gone.

FOX: In New York it’s always interesting because whenever we show that map to people in New York, you see the Lower Eastside get eaten, you see Williamsburg, Red Hook and The Rockaways. And people always go, ‘Well, I live over here in Park Slope. I’m on a hill.’ I’m like ‘Okay that’s cool. Yeah you’re right, you know. The Brooklyn Bridge won’t be under water but the onramp will be.’ Now you won’t be able to take the subway. It’s so funny how we think these things aren’t going to happen to us and yet, that is extraordinarily startling.

So what does this mean, this 2 degrees? Basically what it means is if we’re already for all intents and purposes are at 1.5 or beyond, there is no scenario in which New York, Baltimore or D.C., Miami, New Orleans stays above water if we continue to develop and drill for more fossil fuels. And just today, the oil and gas industry had a huge auction in the SuperDome in New Orleans to ten more years of oil and gas drilling offshore. We’re talking about frack gas expanding. We have proposals right now for 300 frack gas power plants throughout the United States and people are battling them every single place we go. They’re battling the pipelines, they’re battling the power plants. Hillary Clinton speaks of natural gas as a bridge fuel. So does Barack Obama, by the way. What that bridge means is 30-40 more years of dependence on fossil fuel, the worst fossil fuel that there is for climate change. That’s not responsible action, that’s not what is says in the Paris Accords. You have an incredible contradiction right now among this administration that saying, ‘We wanna take on climate change. We wanna keep climate change well below 2 degrees,’ is what they said in Paris. And yet you have FERC permitting all these pipelines.