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Gender: Male
Hometown: Detroit, MI
Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
Number of posts: 74,622

Journal Archives

"F**K THE NRA.....WE'RE AWASH IN GUNS!" ...... Cenk Uygur goes off!

How the Clinton and Sanders Infrastructure Plans Measure Up

How the Clinton and Sanders Infrastructure Plans Measure Up

Thursday, 03 December 2015 00:00
By Dave Johnson, Campaign for America's Future | News Analysis


Clinton's Infrastructure Plan

Clinton on Monday announced a plan for investing in infrastructure improvements. Meteor Blades laid out the need for infrastructure investment at Daily Kos in "Clinton proposes $275 billion spending for infrastructure":

… 11 percent of the nation's bridges are structurally deficient and a fourth of them are functionally obsolete. Similar deficiencies can be found in schools, dams, levees, railroads, the electrical grid, and wastewater facilities. In its 2013 quadrennial report card on U.S. infrastructure, the American Society of Civil Engineers said the nation would need to invest an additional $1.6 trillion by 2020 to put its infrastructure into good repair. And that doesn't include innovative infrastructure like universal broadband.
Clinton's infrastructure plan is detailed at her website in "Hillary Clinton's Infrastructure Plan: Building Tomorrow's Economy Today." Here is a distillation:

● $250 billion in infrastructure investment, spread out over five years as additional spending of $50 billion each year.

● An additional one-time $25 billion to seed a national infrastructure bank. The bank will support up to an additional $225 billion in direct loans, loan guarantees, and other forms of credit enhancement. These are loans to states and cities which will require tolls, fees, etc. to pay off.

● Spending priorities include "smart investments in ports, airports, roads, and waterways"; "giving all American households access to world-class broadband and creating connected 'smart cities'"; "building airports and air traffic control systems"; "a smart, resilient electrical grid"; "safe and reliable sources of water"; "a national freight investment program"; "upgrade our dams and levees to improve safety and generate clean energy"; safe, smart roads and highways that are ready for the connected cars of tomorrow" and "the new energy sources that will power them."

● A promise of "a faster, safer, and higher capacity passenger rail system." But the plan does not mention high-speed rail. (Note that a single high-speed rail system from Los Angeles to San Francisco is expected to cost up to $60 billion, which alone is almost one-fourth of Clinton's entire five-year infrastructure investment for all infrastructure needs.)

Sanders' Infrastructure Plan

Clinton's $275 billion infrastructure plan offers modest spending and contains few specifics. Contrast that with candidate Bernie Sanders, who has proposed a highly detailed, $1 trillion plan.

Sanders' infrastructure plan was originally introduced in January as a Senate bill called the Rebuild America Act. A summary is laid out on his campaign issues page, Creating Jobs Rebuilding America. The plan calls for spending $1 trillion over the same five-year period. Here's what his plan includes:

● A $125 billion National Infrastructure Bank to leverage private capital to finance new projects.

● $75 billion to upgrade our passenger and freight rail lines.

● $12.5 billion to improve airports across the country.

● $17.5 billion to upgrade air traffic control systems.

● $15 billion to improve inland waterways, coastal harbors and shipping channels.

● $12 billion each year on high-hazard dams that provide flood control, drinking water, irrigation, hydropower, and recreation across the country; and the flood levees.

● $6 billion a year so states can improve drinking water systems.

● $6 billion a year to improve the wastewater plants and stormwater infrastructure.

● $10 billion a year for power transmission and distribution modernization projects.

● $5 billion a year to expand high-speed broadband networks in underserved and unserved areas, and to boost speeds and capacity all across the country.


Why So Little?

Why does Clinton propose spending so much less than the needed amount? The second paragraph of her plan says, "Estimates of the size of our 'infrastructure gap' register in the trillions of dollars." Following the fourth paragraph, a new section begins, "That's why Hillary Clinton is announcing a five-year $275 billion dollar infrastructure plan." That sums up Clinton's less-than-courageous proposal. ................(more)


The Rise of the Illegitimate Authority of Transnational Corporations

The Rise of the Illegitimate Authority of Transnational Corporations

Thursday, 03 December 2015 00:00
By Susan George, Polity Books | Book Excerpt

The following is an excerpt from the introduction to Shadow Sovereigns: How Global Corporations are Seizing Power:

We're surrounded.

Everywhere you look you find masses, droves, gangs of unelected, unaccountable, profit-oriented indi­viduals, corporations and new institutions surfacing everywhere, making official policy in areas ranging from public health to food and agriculture; from taxes to finance and trade. Some are lob­byists for particular private companies or for entire industries, others executives of the world's largest businesses, often with a turnover much greater than the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of many of the countries where they operate; more and more often, the entities they have created have become quasi-governmental bodies cooperating across national frontiers.

Their role is overtly political and they exercise illegitimate power. They work through lobbies but also directly through governments - not just by convincing elected officials to pass this law or that one, but also through obscure 'expert commit­tees' or ad hoc bodies whose quiet 'mission creep' may gain them official standing. Their activities may be carried out for the benefit of a single company or for an entire industry.

Sometimes they form their own powerful international organizations with large budgets devoted to intervention in world affairs. They have become expert in the careful preparation of strategic trade treaties to be negotiated in secret but under the constant sur­veillance of corporate delegates.

They've got ordinary citizens under their broad thumb, an appendage also used to thumb their noses at the public interest and the common good. Throughout North America and Europe in particular, this corporate spawn is spearheading an important political shift that I call the 'rise of illegitimate authority,' and the constellations of organized interest groups constitute a genuine threat to democracy.

....government in the usual sense, carried out by clearly identifiable, democratically elected officials, is gradually being eroded, sometimes even supplanted by shadow 'governments' to which these officials have made huge conces­sions. This may happen by choice, because officialdom is scared of the giants or admires and wants to pander to them. To be more generous, the bureaucrats and leadership may simply be blind to the long-term implications of their choices. In any case, they have handed over substantial power to these behemoths that now make decisions in innumerable areas that affect our lives. ...........(more)


The TPP State of Play: How We Defeat the Largest Trade Deal in History

from the Electronic Frontier Foundation:

The TPP State of Play: How We Defeat the Largest Trade Deal in History

The official release of the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) on November 5 not only confirmed our fears about how it would threaten our rights online and over our digital devices, but also kicked off a 90-day countdown to President Obama signing the deal. A few days later, the White House formally requested the International Trade Commission (ITC) to begin its study of the impacts of the TPP on the U.S. economy for a report to come out in the Spring before Congress approves (or ratifies) the deal—which as explained below, is a separate and later step to signature of the deal. Now that the TPP's approval and ratification in the United States is on the horizon, here's what you need to know about what's going on and what's to come. This state of play will be useful as we work to defend our digital rights against the largest trade deal in history.

The Critical Timelines

The series of procedural requirements imposed by the Fast Track bill that passed this summer gives us a useful timeframe to know what's coming next. But this clarity still doesn't make up for the loss of congressional oversight that we would have had if that bill had not passed. What Congress gave up with Fast Track was the ability to challenge any of the thousands of provisions that had been decided behind closed doors. So after February 4, 2016, the President will be able to unilaterally sign the TPP for the U.S. Thankfully, there's one more hoop the TPP must jump through before it becomes binding on the United States.

Both congressional houses must ratify the agreement in the form of approving "implementing legislation" that the White House will submit to lawmakers. This submission will happen after the President's signature, likely sometime in April or May. Once that happens, the House has 60 days from the bill's introduction to hold a vote on it and the Senate gets another 30 days, so 90 days in total, to approve or reject it. Since this second timeline only begins when the White House decides that they're ready for it, it all rests on whether the executive branch believes that it has the votes to get it through both houses. That's why it's critical that we call on our lawmakers to come out against this agreement: because that's how we can stop it.

White House Heavily Lobbies Congress

President Obama only needs a simple majority to get TPP approved in both houses, so the Administration has been wasting no time convincing members of Congress to support it. They've been in lobbying overdrive since they concluded negotiations in the end of October even before the text was released. While some lawmakers have already come out in clear support or opposition to the deal, most say they'll weigh their decision after reading the actual contents of the more than 6,000 page text—though it's difficult to believe that many of them will actually do this. ................(more)


“They are afraid of the terrorists, but they’re also afraid of the truth”

from The Progressive:

Young Activists to World Leaders in Paris: Stop Hiding Behind Counter-Terrorism and Take Action on Climate Change
Posted: December 3, 2015

by Roberto Lovato

PARIS--I met Emma Karanov and Julie Berluzzi, two high school seniors from Paris, at a sit-in during the climate summit the Place de la République, one of the centers of political expression in a country whose streets are paved with a long history of protest, and terror.

Along with the Bataclan nightclub where ninety mostly young people were killed in the terrorist attacks of November 13, the square is currently a major center of emotional and political gravity. It was filled with more 10,000 pairs of shoes this past week, standing in for the hundreds of thousands of marchers anticipated before the protests were cancelled in the wake of the terrorist attacks.

“We wanted to make a statement by leaving our shoes here,” said Berluzzi, who joined several thousand people in the shoe action after French President Francois Hollande used emergency powers to forbid the planned protests. “Then the police showed up and started arresting people. We don’t know why they started encircling us,” she added, looking at a human barricade of heavily armed police surrounding the activists and Marianne, the storied statue at the center of Republique and personification of the French Republic. “When they started getting violent, many of us decided to sit.”

“They are afraid of the terrorists, but they’re also afraid of the truth” injected Karanov, who says she will study art after she graduates. “I’m more afraid of climate change than I am of terrorism because climate change is already impacting millions around the world.”

The terrorist attacks, the government’s response, and climate change all affect young people in particular, the students said. .................(more)

- See more at: http://progressive.org/news/2015/12/188442/young-activists-world-leaders-paris-stop-hiding-behind-terrorism-and-take-action#sthash.xiR1WjUr.dpuf

It's So Bad in Brazil That Olympians Will Have to Pay for Their Own AC

(Bloomberg) The Brazilian economic crisis has finally hit the 2016 Olympics. Following a new round of cost-cutting by the Rio 2016 organizers, athletes will be asked to pay for the air conditioning in their dorm rooms. Stadium backdrops will be stripped to their bare essentials. Fancy cars and gourmet food for VIPs are out.

"The goal here is to organize games without public funding and to organize games that make sense from an economic point of view," Rio 2016 spokesman Mario Andrada said in an interview.

That economic focus has changed radically in the six years since Rio was awarded the Games – South America’s first. At the time, Brazil’s government pledged $700 million toward any budgetary overrun. Then the economy tanked. Unemployment has soared, and the local currency, the real, has lost one-third of its value against the dollar in the last year.

Now, with costs that ran up to 2 billion reais ($520 million) over budget and the public commitment in doubt, the organizers must stick firmly to the 7.4 billion reais they expect to earn from sponsorships, ticket sales, and a grant from the International Olympic Committee. Final decisions on what to pare back and how much should be finalized by next week, Andrada said. ............(more)


I'll give Microsoft a backhanded compliment on Windows 10............

............ it's an improvement over the atrocious Windows 8, but all of a sudden I have issues with disappearing text. I'll type or copy/paste something and the last word or two will mysteriously go poof! ..... Anybody else have this experience with 10?

“Distress” in US Corporate Debt Spikes to 2009 Level

“Distress” in US Corporate Debt Spikes to 2009 Level
by Wolf Richter • December 2, 2015

Investors, lured into the $1.8-trillion US junk-bond minefield by the Fed’s siren call to be fleeced by Wall Street and Corporate America, are now getting bloodied as these bonds are plunging.

Standard & Poor’s “distress ratio” for bonds, which started rising a year ago, reached 20.1% by the end of November, up from 19.1% in October. It was its worst level since September 2009.

It engulfed 228 companies at the end of November, with $180 billion of distressed debt, up from 225 companies in October with $166 billion of distressed debt, S&P Capital IQ reported.

Bonds are “distressed” when prices have dropped so low that yields are 1,000 basis points (10 percentage points) above Treasury yields. The “distress ratio” is the number of non-defaulted distressed junk-bond issues divided by the total number of junk-bond issues. Once bonds take the next step and default, they’re pulled out of the “distress ratio” and added to the “default rate.”

During the Financial Crisis, the distress ratio fluctuated between 14.6% and, as the report put it, a “staggering” 70%. So this can still get a lot worse. ................(more)


‘I Put in White Tenants’: The Grim, Racist (and Likely Illegal) Methods of One Brooklyn Landlord

from New York magazine:

‘I Put in White Tenants’: The Grim, Racist (and Likely Illegal) Methods of One Brooklyn Landlord
By DW Gibson

For the past three years, I've traveled around the city, talking with New Yorkers as they experience gentrification. There is little consensus on the topic — even the word itself is defined differently by each of us. I've spoken with tenants, activists, lawyers, investors, architects, construction workers, real-estate agents, drug dealers, business owners. Many people occupy several of these spaces at once, a fact that underscores just how quickly this conversation becomes complicated.

Ephraim is both developer and landlord. His thick beard and heavyset frame make him look much older than his 26 years. He is a Hasid, and he started buying buildings a few years ago, in the wake of the housing crash.

A real-estate agent introduced us. "Anything for that guy," Ephraim told me when I asked if I could interview him. We met in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens where I found him sitting in his parked car with the engine running. I hopped into the passenger seat and went for an afternoon ride-along through the neighborhoods where he does most of his business: Bushwick, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Crown Heights.


If there’s a black tenant in the house—in every building we have, I put in white tenants. They want to know if black people are going to be living there. So sometimes we have ten apartments and everything is white, and then all of the sudden one tenant comes in with one black roommate, and they don’t like it. They see black people and get all riled up, they call me: “We’re not paying that much money to have black people live in the building.” If it’s white tenants only, it’s clean. I know it’s a little bit racist but it’s not. They’re the ones that are paying and I have to give them what they want. Or I’m not going to get the tenants and the money is not going to be what it is.

The scary part about doing this is, if the black guys start to realize how much the property will sell for. This is a new thing now, the past year. A million, two million dollars—it’s crazy, crazy numbers. None of them realize yet—some of them do—the amount of money you can get. The scary part is they’re going to realize they can get the same exact house in East New York for $400,000, $500,000 and they can get paid $1.5 million for their home in Bed-Stuy, they’re going to start dumping houses on the market and the market’s going to be flooded and it’s going to cool down. It’s already cooling down. ..................(more)


Report: Detroit a leader in initiatives for black males

(Detroit Free Press) Terry Irby says it's not easy growing up in Detroit, but the 14-year-old freshman at Cass Technical High School says he's going to be a success in life.

And despite his father's death two years ago, he still has strong male role models in his life, and plans to go to college, play football, study political science and someday run for president.

"There are bad influences everywhere around," said Irby, who considers himself lucky to be able to attend one of the city's premier high schools.

Irby is what organizations around the country are working to produce: a generation of African-American boys and young men who graduate from high school, avoid trouble and defy disheartening statistics that show too many black youths attend sub-par schools, face discrimination in hiring and employment and higher incarceration rates for drug offenses disproportionate to their white peers.

A new report to be released today by the national Campaign for Black Male Achievement rates Detroit highly in the fight to reduce disparities and create more opportunities for black men to succeed in life.

The organization, whose members include more than 4,700 leaders from 2,500 organizations around the country, rated 50 U.S. cities on how much they're doing to address the achievement gap. On a scale from 0 to 100, Detroit came out on top, at 95, along with Oakland, Calif., and Washington, D.C. The median score was 48.5. ................(more)


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