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Gender: Male
Hometown: Detroit, MI
Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
Number of posts: 74,639

Journal Archives

Global Oil Job Cuts Top 250,000

(Bloomberg) The number of jobs gutted from oil and gas companies around the world has now passed the 250,000 mark, with still more to come, according to industry consultant Graves & Co.

"I was surprised it’s gotten this far," John Graves, whose Houston firm assists in oil and gas deals with audits and due diligence, said Friday in a phone interview.

The industry has idled more than 1,000 rigs and slashed more than $100 billion in spending this year to cope with oil prices that have fallen by more than half since 2014. Oil services, drilling and supply companies are bearing the brunt of the downturn, having accounted for 79 percent of the layoffs, according to Graves.

U.S. oil producers resumed their pullback on drilling this week, idling 10 rigs in an effort to cut costs and stem the rising tide of crude supplies that’s gutted oil prices to about $40 a barrel. The cuts extended a five-year low in activity after the two rigs added last week proved to be a short-lived pause in three months of downsizing. ................(more)


The GOP Stampede Toward Fascism After the Paris Attacks

The GOP Stampede Toward Fascism After the Paris Attacks
We are witnessing one of the most morally calamitous reactions to a refugee crisis in the country’s history.

By Sasha Abramsky

(The Nation)  I have spent the past week shuddering at the vast depths of nihilism that ISIS represents—at a movement that takes joy in killing innocents, be they Russian holidaymakers over Egypt; shoppers and businesspeople in Beirut; diners, sports fans and concertgoers in Paris; or Norwegian and Chinese hostages.

I have, too, spent much of the past couple of years shuddering at the horrors unleashed within ISIS’s self-styled caliphate as well. For no matter how grisly the events in Paris, far more Syrians and Iraqis have died at the hands of ISIS than have any other nationality.

 The victims of ISIS (as well as the broader war in Syria) have been fleeing in unprecedented numbers—fleeing to Lebanon, to Turkey, taking deadly boat journeys across the Mediterranean, walking across countries, across continents—seeking safety and sanctuary. Many have died on this journey, including young children drowned at sea. Many more, inevitably, will die on this journey. It is a spectacle of misery extraordinary in its scale, and in its moral urgency.

And yet, after November 13, countries across Europe have begun shutting out these refugees, and in the United States we are witnessing one of the most morally calamitous reactions to a refugee crisis in the country’s history.

Over the past several days, one Republican governor after another has closed his state to refugees from Syria—or, since they technically do not have the legal power to prevent the federal government from admitting refugees, has pledged to refuse all state resources to aid in this process. A Republican mayor in Virginia has called for using the World War II internment system that was used against Japanese Americans—itself one of the most widely discredited and shameful episodes in recent American history—as a model for how to approach the Syrians. Some Texas Republicans have argued that they should not take in Syrian refugees because they already are dealing with undocumented immigrants from Mexico—and that they can’t take in Syrian refugees because it would be too easy for them to buy guns (that may be true… but, as we’ve seen so often in recent years, it’s equally easy for angry young white Christian men to purchase guns and go on mass-shooting sprees, and yet Texas hasn’t closed its borders to that demographic, nor have its political leaders made any effort to enforce sensible gun-control policies). ........................(more)


Professor Richard Wolff: Regulation under capitalism is a "delusion"

by Richard Wolff

Volkswagen (VW), we now know, systematically evaded pollution control regulations. Over the last decade it defrauded 11 million buyers of its diesel-engine vehicles, fouled the planet's environment and thereby damaged the health and lives of countless living organisms. Regulation-defeating deception gave VW diesel autos competitive advantages over other companies' diesel products and thereby enhanced its profits, the driving purpose of capitalist corporations.

VW's massive evasion was hardly the only socially destructive mockery of regulation. Ford and other auto companies had earlier done the same as Volkswagen, gotten caught and paid fines. Other auto companies have not yet been caught, but similar evidence has surfaced about diesel vehicles produced by Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Mazda and Mitsubishi. Exposures and punishments, if and when they occur, clearly fall far short of dissuading major capitalists from evading regulations. Thus, we now know that General Motors and Toyota did not follow regulations recently requiring notification of government agencies after crashes, injuries and deaths associated with ignitions and airbags, respectively.

As products using computer devices increase, they spread opportunities for similar evasions of regulations. New mechanisms have enabled electrical appliance makers to falsify regulated energy-use tests. Capitalist competition and profit were motivators in these and many other regulation evasions too. The problem is endemic, for example, in the food and drink industry. Since 2008's global capitalist crash, the world has learned of parallel failures of financial regulation with horrific social consequences. Nor is the failed relationship of capitalism and regulation only a US problem; it is global.

The histories of countries where capitalism prevails illustrate an endless cycle of industrial misdeeds provoking the usual struggles over regulation, the profitable delays in achieving regulations followed by profitable evasions of those regulations. Often - as with smoking, genetically modified organisms, lead additives to fuel, etc. - the cycle in one country functions as prelude and provocation to the cycle's nearly identical repetition in another.


Regulation thus represents an enduring delusion (much like taxes on profits that show parallel histories of corporate opposition and evasion). Whether it be "self-regulation," performed by capitalist enterprises or industry organizations, or regulation by government, both amount to applying bandages when the problem is a grave internal illness. Regulations do not successfully correct or repair an increasingly dysfunctional (for the 99%) capitalism. The endless dialectic of capitalism and regulation teaches those not lost in ideological apologies the necessity of system change. ..................(more)


Mass Transportation in the 1960s: Public Transit Systems of North America

From Paris to Boston, Terrorists Were Already Known to Authorities

(The Intercept) WHENEVER A TERRORIST ATTACK OCCURS, it never takes long for politicians to begin calling for more surveillance powers. The horrendous attacks in Paris last week, which left more than 120 people dead, are no exception to this rule. In recent days, officials in the United Kingdom and the United States have been among those arguing that more surveillance of Internet communications is necessary to prevent further atrocities.

The case for expanded surveillance of communications, however, is complicated by an analysis of recent terrorist attacks. The Intercept has reviewed 10 high-profile jihadi attacks carried out in Western countries between 2013 and 2015 (see below), and in each case some or all of the perpetrators were already known to the authorities before they executed their plot. In other words, most of the terrorists involved were not ghost operatives who sprang from nowhere to commit their crimes; they were already viewed as a potential threat, yet were not subjected to sufficient scrutiny by authorities under existing counterterrorism powers. Some of those involved in last week’s Paris massacre, for instance, were already known to authorities; at least three of the men appear to have been flagged at different times as having been radicalized, but warning signs were ignored.

In the aftermath of a terrorist atrocity, government officials often seem to talk about surveillance as if it were some sort of panacea, a silver bullet. But what they always fail to explain is how, even with mass surveillance systems already in place in countries like France, the United States, and the United Kingdom, attacks still happen. In reality, it is only possible to watch some of the people some of the time, not all of the people all of the time. Even if you had every single person in the world under constant electronic surveillance, you would still need a human being to analyze the data and assess any threats in a timely fashion. And human resources are limited and fallible.

There is no doubt that we live in a dangerous world and that intelligence agencies and the police have a difficult job to do, particularly in the current geopolitical environment. They know about hundreds or thousands of individuals who sympathize with terrorist groups, any one of whom may be plotting an attack, yet they do not appear to have the means to monitor each of these people closely over sustained periods of time. If any lesson can be learned from studying the perpetrators of recent attacks, it is that there needs to be a greater investment in conducting targeted surveillance of known terror suspects and a move away from the constant knee-jerk expansion of dragnet surveillance, which has simply not proven itself to be effective, regardless of the debate about whether it is legal or ethical in the first place. ....................(more)


Boston: MBTA Chief vows Snow Won't Shut Down System

MA: MBTA Chief vows Snow Won't Shut Down System


Nov. 18--MBTA General Manager Frank DePaola said a repeat of last winter's record-breaking snowfalls should not shut down the transit system, with improvements underway.

"We've made a significant investment and we're continuing to make investments into the system," DePaola told Boston Herald Radio. "We have an $82.7 million program to get ready for the winter. About $70 million of that will be capital investments in both track and also in new equipment.

"We also will have about $12 million in reserve to provide assistance during the winter if we need it to call in outside help," which would consist of laborers or contractors to assist with snow removal at bus stops, sidewalks, station platforms and parking lots.

DePaola indicated that low-cost labor could be provided by county prisons.

Money from the winter program budget would focus on upgrades to the third rail on the Red Line, heating and de-icing on the Orange Line, and maintenance equipment including plows and snow augers. ................(more)


Illinois: Metra Prepares for Debut of Paperless Ticketing

IL: Metra Prepares for Debut of Paperless Ticketing


Nov. 19--As Metra rolls out paperless ticketing Thursday, the agency says it plans to give riders as much help as possible downloading the new Ventra mobile app and educating customers on how to use it.

The app will allow Metra's 150,000 daily customers to use their smartphones, tablets or laptops as virtual tickets, instead of the traditional paper tickets.

"We want to stress the benefits of mobile ticketing, which is the most significant development, tech-wise, for Metra riders in quite a while," spokesman Michael Gillis said. "We want to get them familiar with the app and not be put off by the technology or scared to try it."

The app, developed with the CTA and Pace, will enable customers to use their mobile devices to pay for rides using credit or debit cards on all three Chicago-area transit systems, check account balances, and receive real-time travel and service information. ..................(more)


John Cusack and Arundhati Roy | Things That Can and Cannot Be Said

John Cusack and Arundhati Roy | Things That Can and Cannot Be Said

Monday, 16 November 2015 00:00
By John Cusack and Arundhati Roy, Outlook | Op-Ed

1. Things That Can and Cannot Be Said: A Conversation With Arundhati Roy
by John Cusack

"Every nation-state tends towards the imperial - that is the point. Through banks, armies, secret police, propaganda, courts and jails, treaties, taxes, laws and orders, myths of civil obedience, assumptions of civic virtue at the top. Still it should be said of the political left, we expect something better. And correctly. We put more trust in those who show a measure of compassion, who denounce the hideous social arrangements that make war inevitable and human desire omnipresent; which fosters corporate selfishness, panders to appetites and disorder, waste the earth."—Daniel Berrigan, poet, Jesuit priest.


One morning as I scanned the news - horror in the Middle East, Russia and America facing off in the Ukraine, I thought of Edward Snowden and wondered how he was holding up in Moscow. I began to imagine a conversation between him and Daniel Ellsberg (who leaked the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam war). And then, interestingly, in my imagination a third person made her way into the room - the writer Arundhati Roy. It occurred to me that trying to get the three of them together would be a fine thing to do.

I had heard Roy speak in Chicago, and had met her several times. One gets the feeling very quickly with her and comes to the rapid conclusion that there are no pre-formatted assumptions or givens. Through our conversations I became very aware that what gets lost, or goes unsaid, in most of the debates around surveillance and whistleblowing is a perspective and context from outside the United States and Europe. The debates around them have gradually centred around corporate overreach and the rights of privacy of US citizens.

The philosopher/theosophist Rudolf Steiner says that any perception or truth that is isolated and removed from its larger context ceases to be true.

"When any single thought emerges in consciousness, I cannot rest until this is brought into harmony with the rest of my thinking. Such an isolated concept, apart from the rest of my mental world, is entirely unendurable...there exists an inwardly sustained harmony among thoughts...when our thought world bears the character of inner harmony, we can feel we are in possession of the truth.... All elements are related one to the other...every such isolation is an abnormality, an untruth." In other words, every isolated idea that doesn't relate to others yet is taken as true (as a kind of niche truth) is not just bad politics, it is somehow also fundamentally untrue.... To me, Arundhati Roy's writing and thinking strives for such unity of thought. And for her, like for Steiner, reason comes from the heart. .................(more)


Professor Richard Wolff on what ails America and the cure

Clinton, Finally Forced to Confront a Single Payer Advocate in Debate, Can’t Win on Policy, Falls...

Clinton, Finally Forced to Confront a Single Payer Advocate in Debate, Can’t Win on Policy, Falls Back on Demagoguery and Distortion
By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Most of the post-Democratic debate analysis has focused Clinton’s response to Sanders’ challenge on her Wall Street ties; a response that was, to put it charitably, confused. There has been little focus on her exchange with Sanders on health care which, from a pure public policy standpoint — that is, leaving aside corruption — is arguably more important. So, despite DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s successful suppression of viewership, the debates really are doing what they are supposed to be doing: Allowing voters to compare and contrast the candidates. Now, we remember from 2014 that Clinton, despite her lofty claims to an evidence-based approach to policy, refused to even mention single payer in two back-to-back major speeches on health care. So let’s see how she did in the debate on this topic, when faced with Sanders, a single payer advocate. Spoiler alert: Badly. First I’ll take a look at the debate transcript, and then I’ll take a quick look at the Sanders plan. Spoiler alert: Not all one might wish.

The Debate

To the transcript! Sanders comes first, so I’ll pick his performance apart first. Then Clinton brings the demagoguery. (Recall that the debate location was held at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, the first caucus state in 2016. That will become important in one of Clinton’s responses to Sanders.)

NANCY CORDES: Back to healthcare by popular demand. First to you, Senator Sanders. You prefer to scrap ObamaCare and move to a single-payer system, essentially Medicare for all. You say you wanna put the private insurance companies out of business. Is it realistic to think that you can pull the plug on a $1 trillion industry?

BERNIE SANDERS: It’s not gonna happen tomorrow. And it’s probably not gonna happen until you have real campaign finance reform and get rid of all these super PACs and the power of the insurance companies and the drug companies. But at the end of the day, Nancy, here is a question. In this great country of ours, with so much intelligence, with so much capabilities, why do we remain the only (UNINTEL) country on earth that does not guarantee healthcare to all people as a right?

A CBS analyst just treated “single payer” “Medicare for All” as a not-insane policy proposal. That’s called dragging the Overton Window left (which has been my sole criterion for success from a Sanders campaign).

The “health insurance industry” is not, following Veblen, an industry; unlike health care, it creates no value; it is wholly parasitic and should not exist. “One does not improve a tapeworm; one removes it.” Pragmatically, I grant it’s not possible for anybody to answer Cordes’s question in those terms on national television, even on a Saturday night in Des Moines, but Sanders doesn’t even address it (though Clinton, in another sign of inattention or confusion, doesn’t call him on that). Somebody on the Sanders team needs to figure this out, because people will have noticed, and the question will come up again. ..............(more)


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