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Gender: Male
Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
Number of posts: 70,152

Journal Archives

Georgia: $1 Billion for Roads, Not a Dime for Transit

Journal-Constitution, via MassTransitMag:

The state Senate is poised to vote today on a billion-dollar plan to solve Georgia's transportation troubles. But something is missing.

Funding for any form of mass transportation isn't anywhere to be found in HB 170, the transportation funding bill, which would devote those hundreds of millions of dollars to roads and bridges.

The lack of investment in transit by the state's politicians seems a puzzling disconnect from what metro Atlantans — who account for half the state's population and about two-thirds of its gross domestic product — say is the best way to clear the key arteries in the car-clogged heart of Georgia.

Traffic was seen as the biggest problem facing metro Atlanta, according to respondents to a 10-county regional survey last year — moreso than even the economy, public education and crime. Forty-two percent in the Atlanta Regional Commission poll said expanding public transit was the best way to fix traffic. By comparison, 30 percent thought improving roads and highways was a better solution. ...............(more)


As Scathing SEIU Ad Hits Rahm Emanuel Where It Hurts, Chuy Garcia Endorses Financial Transaction Tax

from In These Times:

A new ad attacking Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s record hit airwaves on Friday, skewering the mayor’s policies on education, public safety, taxes and corporate cronyism. The ad comes on the same day Emanuel's progressive challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia announced for the first time his support of a national tax on financial transactions aimed at big banks.

The ad, funded by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Illinois Council PAC, comes just over two weeks ahead of the historic mayoral runoff election between Emanuel and Garcia on April 7, in what is widely being viewed as a national referendum on neoliberal, corporate-centric governance—and the future of the Democratic Party.

Two different visions of Chicago are contrasted in the ad, one high above the gleaming skyscrapers of downtown and another in the city’s neighborhood streets, where, “under Rahm Emanuel, we’ve seen nearly 10,000 shootings, 50 neighborhood schools shut down, and a mayor who hits working people with higher taxes and fees while giving special tax breaks to his friends at the very top.”

Emanuel’s record on education and public safety is widely unpopular among Chicago residents, and this ad pulls no punches in going after the mayor where he is most vulnerable, while also linking him to sweetheart deals with corporate interests and wealthy campaign contributors. .....................(more)


Why Can’t One of America’s Most ‘Progressive’ Cities Reform Its Police Force?

(The Nation) It was just after midnight on a September Sunday when several police officers, responding to reports of property damage, approached a small group of young black men walking down a street in north Portland, Oregon. Among them was 16-year-old Thai Gurule, a football player at Roosevelt High School, and his older brother Giovanni. Officers ordered Thai to stop. He kept walking.

Within minutes Thai would be tackled by several officers, forced to the ground, tased and handcuffed. Later, despite a judge’s ruling that the initial stop was illegal, he’d face charges of resisting arrest, assaulting a public safety officer and attempted strangulation. Giovanni would face similar, though less serious, charges. The Portland Police Bureau worked quickly to defend their officers, releasing a statement that explained that the Gurule brothers were “very hostile,” and that Thai demonstrated “active aggression, including his choking the female officer.”

Cell phone videos captured a different scene: Thai, slight of body, standing still between two officers. “Can I ask you a question?” Giovanni can be heard saying. “What did my little brother do? He don’t do nothing. He plays football for Roosevelt, come on now. He don’t drink. He don’t smoke.” Suddenly, the officers pull Thai towards the ground. His white hat falls off, and he reaches for it through the scrum. Officers bark orders, and bystanders shout: “Stop pulling his hair!” “Why are you punching him?” “That’s illegal!” “What’s the problem that he caused?” “Fucking pigs!” When they tase him, Thai begins to gasp, his high-pitched keening overlaid by the hoarser, panicked protests coming from his older brother.

Less than a month earlier, the Portland Police Bureau had reached a “groundbreaking” agreement with the Department of Justice to settle a case stemming from repeated incidences of police violence. There was the schizophrenic who was beaten to death by officers; the suicidal young black man who was shot in the back after concerned relatives called the police; another young man in a mental health crisis who was shot to death after cops pulled him over for driving “like a gangster.” The deal, as described by the DOJ, will put in place “innovative new mechanisms” for community oversight and requires reforms to training and use-of-force guidelines. ...............(more)


The Growing Degradation of Work and Life, and What We Might Do to End it

The Growing Degradation of Work and Life, and What We Might Do to End it

Saturday, 21 March 2015 00:00
By Michael D. Yates, Truthout | News Analysis

In a recent New York Times' article, former labor editor Steven Greenhouse writes about how employers in the service sector often demand that their employees work shifts that allow them little time for rest. For example, a worker might have to close a night shift on Wednesday and open the morning shift on Thursday:

"At Hudson County Community College in Jersey City, Ramsey Montanez struggles to stay alert on the mornings that he returns to his security guard station at 7 am, after wrapping up a 16-hour double shift at 11 pm the night before."

Given that it takes precious minutes to get home, at least an hour or two to wind down and take care of chores, and an hour or more to prepare and then get back to work the next morning, Montanez probably has to get by on no more than five hours of sleep. If he has children or is responsible for the care of others, then the time crunch is still worse.

The practice of having employees close late and open early has become common enough that there is now a word for it - "clopening." Management justifies the practice by claiming that turnover in restaurant and other service jobs is so high that only the relatively few longer-term employees are sufficiently trustworthy and "have the authority and experience to close at night and open in the morning." Labor advocates say that the reason for clopening is that scheduling is often no longer done by actual managers but by "sophisticated software" purchased by companies. ..................(more)


California’s Next Megadrought Has Already Begun

(Slate) As California limps through another nearly rain-free rainy season, the state is taking increasingly bold action to save water.

On Tuesday, the California state government imposed new mandatory restrictions on lawn watering and incentives to limit water use in hotels and restaurants as part of its latest emergency drought regulations. On Thursday, California Gov. Jerry Brown announced a $1 billion plan to support water projects statewide and speed aid to hard-hit communities already dealing with shortages. Last month federal water managers announced a “zero allocation” of agricultural water to a key state canal system for the second year in a row, essentially transforming thousands of acres of California farmland into dust.

This week’s moves come after the state has fallen behind targets to increase water efficiency in 2015 amid the state’s worst drought in 1,200 years. Last year, voters passed a $7.5 billion water bond and the legislature approved its first-ever restrictions on groundwater pumping, which won’t go into full effect until 2025. Stricter, more immediate limits on water use are possible as summer approaches.

But it’s not enough. These moves are small potatoes compared to what’s needed to reign in statewide water use, of which agriculture forms the vast majority. Last week, a pair of op-eds, one in the Guardian, the other in the Los Angeles Times, spoke with urgency about the West’s growing water crisis. ...............(more)


Robert Scheer: They Know Everything About You

Truthdig Editor-in-Chief Robert Scheer spoke about his new book, “They Know Everything About You: How Data-Collecting Corporations and Snooping Government Agencies Are Destroying Democracy,” at a town hall event in Seattle on Monday.

Monsanto Weedkiller Is 'Probably Carcinogenic,' WHO Says

(Bloomberg) -- Monsanto Co.’s best-selling weedkiller Roundup probably causes cancer, the World Health Organization said in a report that’s at odds with prior findings.

Roundup is the market name for the chemical glyphosate. A report published by the WHO in the journal Lancet Oncology said Friday there is “limited evidence” that the weedkiller can cause non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and lung cancer and “convincing evidence” it can cause cancer in lab animals. The report was posted on the website of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, or IARC, the Lyon, France-based arm of the WHO.

Monsanto, which invented glyphosate in 1974, made its herbicide the world’s most popular with the mid-1990s introduction of crops such as corn and soybeans that are genetically engineered to survive it. The WHO didn’t examine any new data and its findings are inconsistent with assessments from the U.S., European Union and elsewhere, Monsanto said.

“We don’t know how IARC could reach a conclusion that is such a dramatic departure from the conclusion reached by all regulatory agencies around the globe,” Philip Miller, Monsanto vice president for global regulatory affairs, said in a statement. .........(more)


Louie Louie says it's time to bomb Iran

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) said he thinks it's time to take drastic measures against Iran.

"It's time to bomb Iran," Gohmert said in an interview Wednesday with Family Research Council President Tony Perkins on the radio show "Washington Watch," according to Right Wing Watch.

“We need to make clear to Iran: You can play these silly games with our president that buys into them and our secretary of state, but the American people aren’t buying it and you’re going to pay a price,” Gohmert added. "We have got to get that message across." ..................(more)


Juan Cole: Thomas Friedman Has Officially Lost His Mind When It Comes to Israel and Iran

This post originally ran on Juan Cole’s Web page.

Being a liberal Zionist was always a tough thing to pull off, but it is becoming increasingly just impossible. The intrinsic contradiction between wanting social justice and equity at home and supporting a militaristic and Apartheid Israel abroad produces what psychologists call cognitive dissonance. It is hard to believe two opposite ideologies at the same time. And the effort seems to have driven the New York Times‘s Tom Friedman bonkers. Many otherwise sensible people who are strong supporters of Israel have concluded that Iran is so dire threat to it that extraordinary measures against Tehran are in order. Friedman seems to have abruptly joined this group (he used to be more measured on Iran). Now he seems to suggest that if the choice is between a US grand coalition against Daesh (ISIL or ISIS) that includes a de facto alliance with Iran, or a grand coalition against Iran that might include Daesh/ISIL, he actually favors the latter. Well, he sidesteps his support by wondering why no one takes this position; but what else could he mean?

His rationale is that the US has removed Iran’s enemies twice before, overthrowing the Taliban in Afghanistan and then Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and making Iran into a regional hegemon. If, he seems to say, the US crushes ISIL, it will be consolidating Iranian regional power. He doesn’t bring up Israel, but his commitment to it must be driving this bizarre calculation that leads him to want to arm the beheaders and ethnic cleansers and traffickers of young girls. (He doesn’t bring up that he was all for overthrowing Saddam Hussein in Iraq, which means he was part of the problem he is now describing).

Iran is not a strategic threat to the United States. It has a small underfunded regular military and the neighborhood volunteers of the Basij that are counted by Iranophobes in their armed forces are not trained soldiers. US intelligence has dropped Iran and Lebanon’s Hizbullah as terrorist threats this year, making the opposite calculation of Friedman, that if the choice is between letting ISIL run wild or de facto allying with Iran and its Lebanese ally, the latter is far preferable.

Digby takes Friedman and Marco Rubio and others who have engaged in this reasoning apart here

But Friedman is not a Rubio. What accounts for him being in this category of Daesh-supporters when he is not a conservative (in the American political sense of conservative)? It is his Zionism. For Israel, Daesh is just a manifestation of chaos and not threatening to Israel which has the best military in the Middle East. But for many Israelis and supporters of Israel, it is the big conventional rejectionist states and armies with their potential for nuclear weaponry that are the real danger. That is why Friedman supported Bush’s Iraq War, as well. Apparently, for this strain of Zionism, the Middle East has to be in flames and broken up by constant American military invasions and special ops covert actions and coups in order to keep Israel from having any peer militarily in the region. Daesh is just a set of gangs and aids in keeping Syria and Iraq in chaos, so from this point of view, it is a good thing and should be armed to cause more chaos. ................(more)


What Happened to the “Feel Good” Economy?


from Naked Capitalism:

What Happened to the “Feel Good” Economy?
Posted on March 20, 2015 by Yves Smith

Even though this video is from December (hat tip Philip Pilkington), it gives an informative and nuanced explanation of the rise in income inequality and consumer debt levels, and how they play into our unimpressive “recovery”. The interview of Steve Fazzari and Barry Cynamon by Marshall Auerback discusses how the rise of inequality has many drivers, but the biggest appears to be financialization which is so pervasive and well-protected politically as to make it hard to roll back. It also put focus on key metrics that often get lost in conventional coverage. For instance, inflation and productivity adjusted wages would now need to be over $20 to match the levels of the 1960s.

From the overview at the INET website:

One of the conundrums in regard to the recent US midterm elections is the apparent disconnect between the improvement in the unemployment rate—which has dropped below 6 percent—and the fact that so many Americans continue to feel so disillusioned about the economy. In reality, this election was not about the unemployment rate per se or what any economist says about how the economy is doing. Rather, it was about how Americans feel the economy is doing. The fact is that most Americans do not believe the economy is doing better. Specifically, they do not think their personal economy has yet recovered.

Why is this the case? According to Professor Steve Fazzari and Barry Cynamon of the St. Louis Fed, prevailing trends towards greater inequality continue to skew the benefits of a growing economy to a smaller and smaller number of people. Indeed, Fazzari and Cynamon go further: Rising inequality reduced income growth for the bottom 95 percent of the income distribution. This is not a new trend. It began around 1980, but that group’s consumption growth did not fall proportionally. Instead, most accumulated more debt in order to sustain their lifestyles and prevent further erosion of their living standards. The rise in debt coincided with three other causal trends. First, the suppression of real wages which meant that consumption expenditure could really only be maintained by accessing credit; second, the rise of the financial engineers and their elaborate and usually fraudulent or misleading marketing schemes, which forced more debt onto the naive households; third, the increasing tendency for national governments to pursue fiscal surpluses, which further squeezed private purchasing power and promoted the credit binge.

All of these factors help to explain why the Great Recession was so devastating for so many people, as well as providing a sound rationale as to why these inequality trends persist in its aftermath. Income inequality has a snowballing effect on the wealth distribution: top incomes are being saved at high rates, pushing wealth concentration up; in turn, rising wealth inequality leads to rising capital income concentration, which contributes to further increasing top income and wealth shares. Which leaves much of the population with an (in)ability to generate adequate demand, thereby explaining why the economic recovery remains relatively tepid and why the “feel good” factor remains so elusive.

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