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marmar

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

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Mittens is on CBS this morning, talking about Russia......


..... or at least reading off the cue cards what was written to him about Russia, slamming President Obama and Hillary Clinton, and talking about how people are longing for the 1980s and "great leaders" like President Reagan.
And I began to think, "Is this clown planning on running again?"

How many times do you have to be rejected until you figure out that maybe Americans just aren't that into you?


Maryland: Purple Line receives federal environmental approval, allowing condemnations to begin




(WaPo) Federal officials have approved an environmental study for a proposed 16-mile Purple Line in the Maryland suburbs, a milestone that allows the state to begin condemning private property for the light-rail line’s construction, Maryland officials said Thursday.

The approval, called a “record of decision,” also sets the clock ticking on potential lawsuits, which must be filed within 150 days.

The proposed light-rail line would run two-car trains mostly along local streets between Bethesda in Montgomery County and New Carrollton in Prince George’s County. It would have 21 stations and connect Maryland’s spokes of the Metrorail system.

President Obama’s fiscal 2015 budget recently recommended a federal commitment of $900 million toward the project’s estimated $2.37 billion construction costs. The next step will be continuing the line’s design and negotiating a long-term funding agreement with the Federal Transit Administration. ....................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/purple-line-receives-federal-environmental-approval-allowing-condemnations-to-begin/2014/03/20/5377d250-b06d-11e3-9627-c65021d6d572_story.html?wprss=rss_traffic



That Sucking Sound? It’s The 73 Billion-Dollar Corporate Robbery of The States

from the Working Life blog:


That Sucking Sound? It’s The 73 Billion-Dollar Corporate Robbery of The States
Posted on 20 March 2014.


What I really like about corporate skullduggery is that at least it’s usually done with big numbers, as in billions of dollars. Nothing on the cheap (except, of course, when it comes to paying workers). In another installment of “how can we fill our coffers, pay our CEO millions of dollars and fleece the public” comes today’s news: Corporate-based America is robbing the states of billions of dollars by dodging taxes.

Once again, Citizens for Tax Justice (now there’s an organization that deserves the Medal of Freedom) has another in-depth study, which is quite detailed but I’ll summarize it here:

* 90 companies paid no state income tax at all in at least one year, and 38 companies avoided taxes in two or more years.
* 10 companies, including Boeing, Merck, Rockwell Automation, paid no state income tax at all over the five-year period covered by the study.
* The average weighted state corporate income tax rate is 6.25 percent, but the 269 companies paid an average rate of just 3.06 percent.
* The companies examined collectively avoided paying $73.1 billion in state corporate income tax.


And the kicker:

In 2012 alone, 25 companies paid no state income tax. Another 127 of the companies paid less than half the weighted-average statutory state corporate tax rate that year, meaning that more than half of the companies in our sample paid less than half the average legal state tax rate in that year
....................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.workinglife.org/2014/03/20/that-sucking-sound-its-the-73-billion-dollar-corporate-robbery-of-the-states/#sthash.5RMnov0W.dpuf



The End of Jobs?


from In These Times:


The End of Jobs?
BY SARAH JAFFE


In a major victory for a long-running campaign, port truck drivers at Pacific 9 Transportation in California have won the right to be considered employees under the National Labor Relations Act, and to form a union.

That ruling, by Region 21 of the National Labor Relations Board, that the truckers had been misclassified as “independent contractors” comes after months of sustained actions, including strikes, by port truckers. It comes in an industry where union jobs were the standard until deregulation turned all workers into “free agents.” Free agency, they quickly found, didn't come with much freedom, as they still had their hours and working conditions dictated by the company for whom they worked--but it came with a price tag. The cost of gas, truck maintenance and licenses landed on their shoulders instead of their employers'.

It's in this context that I'm thinking about the “end of jobs as we know them.”

.....(snip).....

In 2011, I wrote at AlterNet that a future beyond jobs, where we all work less, used to be a major goal of the U.S. labor movement. More freedom, less production for its own sake, would actually create a more sustainable world. (Alyssa Battistoni compellingly made this argument recently at Jacobin.) Lowering the amount of hours worked by each person would help distribute jobs better among the people who still don't have them, as economist Dean Baker has repeatedly argued.

But I noted that moving beyond jobs would necessitate tackling issues of inequality and concentration of power in the hands of the wealthy. At the moment, the “end of jobs” has meant sustained high unemployment and low wages, not more freedom. The disappearance of jobs in America has as much to do with the power of global capital to move where and when it wants and the ability, post-crisis, of businesses to squeeze more and more productivity out of the few workers they keep, as it does with technology making certain professions obsolete. And the rise of the “free agent” worker has at least as much to do with the desire of businesses to have an easy-hire, easy-fire, just-in-time workforce (as I wrote about in some detail recently) that absorbs—as the port truckers do—most of the labor costs, as it does with workers who simply enjoy the freedom of not having a boss. Power is as big or bigger a force as technology in shaping the labor landscape today. ..................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/16472/the_end_of_jobs



How Would Buddha Organize Our Cutthroat Modern Economy?


How Would Buddha Organize Our Cutthroat Modern Economy?

March 19, 2014
by Joshua Holland


Clair Brown, a professor emeritus at UC Berkeley, taught economics for over 30 years. She often found that the students in her sprawling introductory classes had a hard time reconciling the dominant neoclassical model that she taught with the real world that they experienced from day to day.

.....(snip).....

Joshua Holland: One of the materials you offer in your course is a book called Buddhist Economics: A Middle Way for the Market Place. It’s by Prayudh Payutto, a Thai practitioner, and he writes:

| Economics is one science which most clearly integrates the concrete and the abstract. It is the realm in which abstract human values interact most palpably with the material world. If economists were to stop evading the issues of moral values, they would be in a better position to influence the world in a fundamental way. |


What would incorporating moral values into the realm of economics look like in practice?


Clair Brown: I see Buddhist economics as having three legs. One is the capabilities and freedom approach of Amartya Sen, for which he won the Nobel Prize. And he’s a wonderfully deep thinker, in that he explains very carefully what’s wrong with the mainstream neoclassical model. He says that you absolutely have to be able to compare rich people and poor people and their wellbeing, and you absolutely have to care about inequality. He comes from India and his contribution is in development economics, so he says, “What do people get from the economy and from economic growth?” What they want is a better life. He developed an economic model that looks at how well people can live their lives, and that includes very basic things, like their health, their education, their integration into society. We care a lot about the distribution of income within a society. So he developed a model, for which he won the Nobel Prize, which has had an enormous impact.

I see it as the cornerstone of how Buddha would teach economics to undergraduates, but we need to add two things. One is that Amartya Sen didn’t really spend a whole lot of time on sustainability, and there’s been a lot more work done on how we can incorporate sustainability into economics, and that’s called ecological economics. And that’s very important. Then we add one more thing — which is really important to Buddhists — that you relieve suffering. We make that the third leg.

.....(snip).....

Holland: But does it fit into a modern, industrialized economy like ours? What would Buddha say about workplace conditions and labor relations? Would a Buddhist economy require a corporate model that’s different from the hierarchical one in which most of us in the United States work?

Brown: I think that the main thing that you need to embrace is “right livelihood,” which is one of the cornerstones of Buddhist economics. That’s basically how you make a living and how you produce goods and services. And the number one rule there is that you harm no one. Now, that’s a pretty big order. That means that you have really strong enforcement of labor standards, not only at home, but abroad because of imports, and you would not allow companies or workers to harm each other or to be harmed. And so right livelihood is a very powerful mandate in Buddhist economics. And as some of my students said, “Wow, it sounds like it’d be impossible to do this. We just do so much harm all the time in our economy.” And it is a challenge. It’s a really big challenge, but that’s one of the things we need to think about: When am I harming others, and what can I do differently? ...................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://billmoyers.com/2014/03/19/how-would-buddha-organize-our-cutthroat-modern-economy/



A New Wall Street Looting Scheme: Disaster Savings Accounts


from Naked Capitalism:


A New Wall Street Looting Scheme: Disaster Savings Accounts
Posted on March 21, 2014 by Yves Smith


As famed short seller David Einhorn says, no matter how bad you think it is, it’s worse. We’ve got proof of his dictum in the form of a new looting scheme, the Disaster Savings Account Act. Since the financiers haven’t yet gotten their hands on Social Security, they are looking for new worlds to plunder. Here’s the blurb from one of its promoters:

An Open Letter to the House and Senate:
Support Measures to Encourage Private Disaster Mitigation


Dear Member of Congress,

We write to urge you to support the Disaster Savings Account Act introduced by Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., and Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla. The act, which allows individuals to deduct up to $5,000 per year to spend on disaster mitigation or recovery, is a strong step toward ensuring Americans are kept safe from natural disasters and extreme weather events.

In 2011 and 2012 alone, 25 separate disasters each caused more than $1 billion in damage. Since 1996, there have been 15 natural disasters that have cost the Federal Emergency Management Agency more than $500 million, with totals for several of those events running into the billions. This pattern is unsustainable. By encouraging individuals to use their own dollars to prepare for disasters, the Disaster Savings Account Act reduces future financial liabilities for the federal government and, most crucially, saves lives by guaranteeing communities are better prepared before disaster strikes.

With the anticipated rollback of 2012′s reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program, it’s more important than ever to take steps to prevent damage from flood events. NFIP is already $25 billion in debt, and future storm events will further erode its balance sheet. But increased mitigation can help reduce this impact.

Beyond stemming the impact from floods, the Disaster Savings Account Act will diminish the effects of many other catastrophic events, from wildfires to tornadoes to hail storms. Already, California is experiencing its driest year yet, increasing the risk of wildfires, while 46 tornadoes have ripped across the South and Midwest. As of March 12, ten disaster areas already have been named in 2014.

The stakes are incredibly high. Motivating individuals to assess their natural disaster risks and prepare accordingly should be a top priority. While it isn’t the federal government’s role to come into communities and mitigate against every possible disaster, offering incentives to those looking to prepare privately is a reasonable step for Congress to take.

Therefore we ask that you support the Disaster Savings Account Act and move the legislation to passage.

Sincerely,

Lori Sanders
R Street Institute


This is an unvarnished effort to use climate change as a cover to funnel more money to Wall Street via a tax break, which of course will prove useful only to people with discretionary income, as in top 20% earners. So of course, as is always the case with neoliberal programs, lower income people must be made to suffer because they deserve it.

And the excuse is that this sop to Wall Street will help cut disaster relief spending. First, that is never gonna occur. Not helping people in distress, is a great way to assure unfavorable media coverage. Remember what Katrina did for Bush? .................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2014/03/wall-street-looting-disaster-savings-account.html



A New Wall Street Looting Scheme: Disaster Savings Accounts


from Naked Capitalism:


A New Wall Street Looting Scheme: Disaster Savings Accounts
Posted on March 21, 2014 by Yves Smith


As famed short seller David Einhorn says, no matter how bad you think it is, it’s worse. We’ve got proof of his dictum in the form of a new looting scheme, the Disaster Savings Account Act. Since the financiers haven’t yet gotten their hands on Social Security, they are looking for new worlds to plunder. Here’s the blurb from one of its promoters:

An Open Letter to the House and Senate:
Support Measures to Encourage Private Disaster Mitigation


Dear Member of Congress,

We write to urge you to support the Disaster Savings Account Act introduced by Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., and Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla. The act, which allows individuals to deduct up to $5,000 per year to spend on disaster mitigation or recovery, is a strong step toward ensuring Americans are kept safe from natural disasters and extreme weather events.

In 2011 and 2012 alone, 25 separate disasters each caused more than $1 billion in damage. Since 1996, there have been 15 natural disasters that have cost the Federal Emergency Management Agency more than $500 million, with totals for several of those events running into the billions. This pattern is unsustainable. By encouraging individuals to use their own dollars to prepare for disasters, the Disaster Savings Account Act reduces future financial liabilities for the federal government and, most crucially, saves lives by guaranteeing communities are better prepared before disaster strikes.

With the anticipated rollback of 2012′s reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program, it’s more important than ever to take steps to prevent damage from flood events. NFIP is already $25 billion in debt, and future storm events will further erode its balance sheet. But increased mitigation can help reduce this impact.

Beyond stemming the impact from floods, the Disaster Savings Account Act will diminish the effects of many other catastrophic events, from wildfires to tornadoes to hail storms. Already, California is experiencing its driest year yet, increasing the risk of wildfires, while 46 tornadoes have ripped across the South and Midwest. As of March 12, ten disaster areas already have been named in 2014.

The stakes are incredibly high. Motivating individuals to assess their natural disaster risks and prepare accordingly should be a top priority. While it isn’t the federal government’s role to come into communities and mitigate against every possible disaster, offering incentives to those looking to prepare privately is a reasonable step for Congress to take.

Therefore we ask that you support the Disaster Savings Account Act and move the legislation to passage.

Sincerely,

Lori Sanders
R Street Institute


This is an unvarnished effort to use climate change as a cover to funnel more money to Wall Street via a tax break, which of course will prove useful only to people with discretionary income, as in top 20% earners. So of course, as is always the case with neoliberal programs, lower income people must be made to suffer because they deserve it.

And the excuse is that this sop to Wall Street will help cut disaster relief spending. First, that is never gonna occur. Not helping people in distress, is a great way to assure unfavorable media coverage. Remember what Katrina did for Bush? .................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2014/03/wall-street-looting-disaster-savings-account.html



Why More U.S. Cities Need to Embrace Bus-Rapid Transit


from the Atlantic Cities:


Why More U.S. Cities Need to Embrace Bus-Rapid Transit
YONAH FREEMARKFEB 25, 2014





American cities welcomed the automobile in the 20th century by yielding much of their street space to cars. The damage done by this approach can be measured in rising pedestrian deaths or declining walking rates, but a less obviously legacy is the reluctance cities still show toward reshaping their streets — a resistance that's playing out full-bore in local debates over so-called bus-rapid transit lines. It's a feud that calls into question the street's very role in the modern city: Is it to convey automobiles, or is to provide mobility for everyone?

Bus-Rapid Transit lines, or BRT, are designed to address a flaw in most public bus systems: they're slowed down by the automobile traffic that surrounds them. Stuck in lanes shared with cars, caught up at frequent traffic lights, and often stopping every block, buses too often fail to attract riders who have an alternative. Slow speeds, infrequent arrival, and a generally low service level too often make buses less appealing than rail.

The following chart, compiled with data from the American Public Transportation Association, shows that of ten U.S. cities that had rail systems in 2001 that have not since been significantly expanded, only one (Buffalo) had faster growth in ridership on its buses than its rail lines:



What BRT attempts to do is ape the benefits of rail service at a much lower cost, and in city after city, BRT services have indeed increased ridership. But effective BRT requires giving buses some street space previously allocated to cars, so they can operate in their own exclusive lanes, and taking lanes from cars has proven politically toxic. Even in otherwise progressive places like Berkeley and New York, BRT projects have been subject to incredibly contentious public meetings and hostile press. Drivers have complained about the prospect of increasing congestion and business owners have moaned about lost sales. ..................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.theatlanticcities.com/commute/2014/02/why-more-us-cities-need-embrace-bus-rapid-transit/8480/


Recent Trends in Bus and Rail Ridership




from the Transport Politic blog:

Recent Trends in Bus and Rail Ridership
Yonah Freemark


In researching the article I wrote last week for the Atlantic Cities on bus rapid transit (BRT), I wanted to provide a basic piece of evidence that offered support for the idea that typical bus operations were not offering the sort of service that attracted riders effectively. My sense (hardly a unique perspective, of course) was that bus services in cities around the country are often simply too slow and too unreliable for many people to choose them over automobile alternatives. Rail, particularly in the form of frequent and relatively fast light and heavy rail, may be more effective in attracting riders, but so might, the article hypothesizes, BRT services, which provide many of the service improvements offered by rail.

To provide such evidence, I compared ridership growth between 2001 and 2012 on urban bus and rail services on the ten U.S. transit networks that had rail routes in 2001 and did not expand them significantly during that period, as shown in the following chart. I excluded cities with rapidly growing rail networks, such as Los Angeles or Portland, under the presumption that the installation of a new rail line may result in a considerable shift from bus to rail simply because of changes in service patterns resulting from the opening of that line (e.g., riders may be encouraged to take rail rather than bus because certain bus routes are eliminated or re-routed with the opening).



The chart’s data — based on a limited sample of information — show that nine of ten urban rail and bus systems saw higher ridership gains along their rail routes than their bus routes (or less loss). The only exception noted here is Buffalo, whose bus routes saw a higher jump than the city’s light rail line. The conclusion we can take from this compelling, if limited, data point is that rail services do seem to be providing a greater benefit to passengers than buses do.*

Similarly, as the following chart demonstrates, when evaluating growth of ridership by mode as a share of overall system growth, the evidence suggests that rail lines, new or not, are more effective in contributing to building overall transit ridership than bus services (a slightly different metric than the above chart, which simply compares ridership by mode in 2001 with same-mode ridership in 2012). Of the 27 systems shown here, the rail lines of 22 of them contributed a higher proportion of ridership growth than the bus lines. ..................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.thetransportpolitic.com/2014/03/03/recent-trends-in-bus-and-rail-ridership/

NY: Congestion pricing plan gains actual momentum


(Capital New York) In 1980, Mayor Ed Koch proposed banning single-occupant cars from the East River bridges, which have no tolls, during morning rush hour. The idea was to reduce congestion in Manhattan’s central business district by making those same drivers pay tolls at other crossings.

The Automobile Club of New York sued. And won.

“The New York driver, like drivers elsewhere, is a difficult person to convince to change,” Sam Schwartz, then Koch’s assistant transportation commissioner, said that year.

And didn’t he know it.

......(snip)......

In an interview, John Corlett, chair of AAA New York State’s legislative committee, described the Automobile Club as “tentatively supportive.”

“For the first time in a long time we’re talking about distinct benefits for our members, including toll reductions,” he said. “When’s the last time you heard of a toll reductions? And capital improvements in roads and bridges, which we know are a mess.” ...........(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2014/03/8542363/congestion-pricing-plan-gains-actual-momentum



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