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Gender: Male
Hometown: Detroit, MI
Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
Number of posts: 74,624

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San Francisco: $260 Million Bailout in Works for Troubled Transit Center Project

CA: $260 Million Bailout in Works for Troubled Transit Center Project

J.K. Dineen On Apr 11, 2016
Source: McClatchy

The city is proposing a $260 million emergency bailout of the struggling Transbay Transit Center construction project in downtown San Francisco, a loan that officials say is needed to prevent work on the $2.25 billion transportation hub from shutting down this summer.

The unusual loan, which would be paid back over the next five to 10 years with taxes collected from developers and property owners in the neighborhood's burgeoning high-rise district, is proposed as projected costs on the transit center have climbed $360 million in the past two years alone. Since 2008, project costs have soared by $1 billion.

On Tuesday, city Controller Ben Rosenfield will introduce the proposed financing package to the Board of Supervisors, which must approve it along with the regional Metropolitan Transportation Commission. The short-term financing will cover a projected shortfall of $149 million for fiscal year 2017 and $98.5 million in 2018. The city will borrow $160 million from Wells Fargo, and the MTC will provide $100 million.

'An investment'

The proposed financing comes just a week after sources say the Transbay Joint Powers Authority Board of Directors decided to oust Maria Ayerdi-Kaplan, the longtime executive director of the agency, which is responsible for the construction and oversight of the transit center. The date of Ayerdi-Kaplan's departure is still unclear, and she didn't return a call seeking comment. .......(more)


Chicago's Torquemada Square

(Guardian UK) Internal documents from the Chicago police department show that officers used physical force on at least 14 men already in custody at the warehouse known as Homan Square.

Police used punches, knee strikes, elbow strikes, slaps, wrist twists, baton blows and Tasers at Homan Square, according to documents released to the Guardian in the course of its transparency lawsuit about the warehouse. The new information contradicts an official denial about treatment of prisoners at the facility.

The injured men are among at least 7,351 people – over 6,000 of them black – who, police documents show, have been detained and interrogated at Homan Square without a public notice of their whereabouts or access to an attorney.

None of the men identified in these newest documents had fled custody or were injured in the course of a lawful arrest. All were subject to force by Chicago police officers after they were already in custody at Homan Square. According to depositions with officers and more than two dozen first-hand accounts, handcuffing is standard. Police applied force to some arrestees sufficient enough to warrant hospitalization. .............(more)


Come and play. Everything's A-OK. Greedy neighbors there. That's where we meet.......


Chris Hedges: "All cultures decay and die. Dying cultures...begin to deeply fear change"

from truthdig:

The Wages of Sin

Posted on Apr 10, 2016
By Chris Hedges

When Plato wrote “The Republic,” his lament for a lost Athenian democracy, he did not believe democracy could be recovered. The classical world, unlike our own, did not see time as linear. Time was cyclical. It inevitably brought decay and eventually death. This true for both individuals and societies. And in his “Republic,” Plato proposed that those who attempted in the future to create the ideal state carry out a series of draconian measures, including banning drama and music, which diverted the citizen from performing civic duties and instilled corruption, and removing children from their parents to provide a proper indoctrination. Plato wanted to slow the process of dissolution. He wanted to stymie change. But that decay and death would come was certain, even in Plato’s ideal state.

History has proved the ancient Greeks correct: All cultures decay and die. Dying cultures, even when they cannot fully articulate their reality, begin to deeply fear change. Change, they find, brings with it increasing dysfunction, misery and suffering. This fear of change soon becomes irrational. It compounds decay and accelerates morbidity. To see modern-day victims of this process, we need only look to white American workers who once had good manufacturing jobs and benefited from the structures of white supremacy.

Those who promise to miraculously roll back time rise up in decaying cultures to hypnotize a bewildered and confused population. Plastic surgeons who provide the illusion of eternal youth, religious leaders who promise a return to a simplified biblical morality, political demagogues who hold out the promise of a renewed greatness, and charlatans offering techniques for self-advancement and success all peddle magical thinking. A desperate population, fearing change, clamors for greater and greater illusion. The forces that ensure collective death—including corporate capitalism, the fossil fuel industry and the animal agriculture industry—are blotted out of consciousness.

When a society laments the past and dreads the future, when it senses the looming presence of death, it falls down a rabbit hole. And as in the case of Alice—who “went on saying to herself, in a dreamy sort of way, ‘Do cats eat bats? Do cats eat bats?’ and sometimes, ‘Do bats eat cats?’ for, you see, as she couldn’t answer either question, it didn’t much matter which way she put it”—language becomes unmoored from experience. Daily discourse, especially public discourse, is, as our presidential campaign illustrates, reduced to childish gibberish.


The pent-up anger and frustration among the white working class have given birth to dark pathologies of hate. The hate is directed against those of different skin color or ethnicity who somehow seem to have heralded the changes that destroyed families and communities.

This sentiment, on display at Donald Trump rallies, will outlive the Trump campaign even should the candidate be, as I expect, deposed by the party elites. It is a very dangerous force. ............(more)


Radical Politics in the Age of American Authoritarianism: Connecting the Dots

Radical Politics in the Age of American Authoritarianism: Connecting the Dots

Sunday, 10 April 2016 00:00
By Henry A. Giroux, Truthout | News Analysis

[font size="1"]If the left is to fight back against authoritarianism, we must bring together diverse movements working for social change. (Photos: Bob Simpson, Ella, Workers Solidarity Movement, Mark Klotz, Mark Klotz / Flickr; Edited: JR / TO)[/font]

The United States stands at the endpoint of a long series of attacks on democracy, and the choices faced by many in the US today point to the divide between those who are and those who are not willing to commit to democracy. Debates over whether Donald Trump is a fascist are a tactical diversion because the real issue is what it will take to prevent the United States from sliding further into a distinctive form of authoritarianism.

The willingness of contemporary politicians and pundits to use totalitarian themes echoes alarmingly fascist and totalitarian elements of the past. This willingness also prefigures the emergence of a distinctive mode of authoritarianism that threatens to further foreclose venues for social justice and civil rights. The need for resistance has become urgent. The struggle is not over specific institutions such as higher education or so-called democratic procedures such as elections but over what it means to get to the root of the problems facing the United States and to draw more people into subversive actions modeled after both historical struggles from the days of the underground railroad and contemporary movements for economic, social and environmental justice.

Yet, such struggles will only succeed if more progressives embrace an expansive understanding of politics, not fixating singularly on elections or any other issue but rather emphasizing the connections among diverse social movements. An expansive understanding such as this necessarily links the calls for a living wage and environment justice to calls for access to quality health care and the elimination of the conditions fostering assaults by the state against Black people, immigrants, workers and women. The movement against mass incarceration and capital punishment cannot be separated from a movement for racial justice; full employment; free, quality health care and housing. Such analyses also suggest the merging of labor unions and social movements, and the development of progressive cultural apparatuses such as alternative media, think tanks and social services for those marginalized by race, class and ethnicity. These alternative apparatuses must also embrace those who are angry with existing political parties and casino capitalism but who lack a critical frame of reference for understanding the conditions for their anger.


There has never been a more pressing time to rethink the meaning of politics, justice, struggle, collective action, and the development of new political parties and social movements. The ongoing violence against Black youth, the impending ecological crisis, the use of prisons to warehouse people who represent social problems, and the ongoing war on women's reproductive rights, among other crises, demand a new language for developing modes of creative long-term resistance, a wider understanding of politics, and a new urgency to create modes of collective struggles rooted in more enduring and unified political formations. The American public needs a new discourse to resuscitate historical memories and methods of resistance to address the connections between the escalating destabilization of the earth's biosphere, impoverishment, inequality, police violence, mass incarceration, corporate crime and the poisoning of low-income communities. ..............(more)


Americans pay 300% more for this prostate cancer drug than much of the rest of the world

(MarketWatch) A cancer drug that costs $129,000 a year—more than three times the price in Japan and Sweden and four times the cost in Canada—has become the latest subject of public and congressional scrutiny, as 12 representatives joined nonprofits to call for a public hearing on the drug’s price.

Xtandi, a prostate cancer drug co-licenced by Japan’s Astellas Pharma Inc. 4503, -1.24% and Medivation Inc. MDVN, +1.00% was developed at a U.S. university with grants funded by taxpayer dollars. That gives the federal government the right to revoke the patent if the terms are unreasonable, said the letter, dated Monday.

“We do not think that charging U.S. residents more than anyone else in the world meets the obligation to make the invention available to U.S. residents on reasonable terms,” said the letter, which had Sen. and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Elijah Cummings among its signatories. ................(more)


Robert Scheer: How Clinton Democrats Killed Roosevelt’s Dream of the Affordable Home

from truthdig:

How Clinton Democrats Killed Roosevelt’s Dream of the Affordable Home
Posted on Apr 7, 2016

By Robert Scheer

Editor’s note: The following excerpt from Robert Scheer’s book “The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street” details the perversion of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. This is particularly relevant to explain the connection between Clinton “progressives” and the 2008 housing meltdown that impoverished millions. Copyright © 2010. Available from Nation Books, an imprint of Perseus Books, a division of PBG Publishing, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

Chapter 7: Poverty Pimps

When the Bush administration was forced in the fall of 2008 to bail out the “government sponsored enterprises” or GSEs, as the mortgage buying companies of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are referred to, grateful conservatives finally had what appeared to be a convenient government villain. Working backwards from the GSEs’ founding mandate to support the market for middle- and low-income buyers by buying up mortgages from lenders and then repackaging them as securities, longtime critics were only too excited to blame do-gooder liberalism as the fly in the ointment of capitalism. Specifically, House Financial Services Committee chair Barney Frank was singled out as having pressured the GSEs to make loans to unqualified poor people—especially minorities—who then defaulted and caused the economic downturn.

“Taxpayers are now on the hook for as much as $200 billion to rescue Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and if you want to know why, look no further than the rapid response to this bailout from House baron Barney Frank,” wrote the Wall Street Journal in a September 9, 2008, editorial. “Mr. Frank wants you to pick up the tab for its failures, while he still vows to block a reform that might prevent the same disaster from happening again.”

The editorial is worth quoting at length because it summarizes a perspective broadly held and argued by conservatives. It correctly criticizes Frank for statements he made in 2004, when Fannie Mae revealed a “multibillion-dollar financial ‘misstatement.’ ” Frank had said that he felt that despite this, the mortgage lender was not a danger to taxpayers. “I think Wall Street will get over it,” Frank had said. The Journal mocked this response—“Yes they’re certainly ‘over it’ ... now that Uncle Sam is guaranteeing their Fannie paper, and even Fannie’s subordinated debt.” The newspaper then ridiculed Frank for his criticism of conservative economic policies, saying that what really blocked reform was Frank’s insistence that “any reform be watered down and not include any reduction in their MBS [mortgage backed security] holdings.”

Some liberal pundits, most notably the New York Times’ Paul Krugman, attempted to play down the role of Freddie and Fannie, arguing, incorrectly, that they only made proper “conforming” loans. But that was false, for the definition of conforming is whatever Freddie and Fannie approved of, and those turned out to be as disastrously irresponsible as any.

The free-market conservatives are right in criticizing those GSEs, for they were highly culpable, and the grand swindle could not have taken place without them. But they are wrong in describing the GSEs led by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as do-gooder public entities; in reality they are privately owned, profit-driven companies that richly reward their executives for stock market success. That is the source of much confusion in this debate; the top executives of the GSEs were compensated as handsomely, and often more so, than any other corporate executives, but because of their original government sponsorship, they made for convenient targets for the wrath of free-market ideologues. ................(more)


KKR’s Chilling Message about the “End of the Credit Cycle”

KKR’s Chilling Message about the “End of the Credit Cycle”
by Wolf Richter • April 6, 2016

[font color="blue"]“Opportunities in Distressed Assets” as current investors get crushed[/font]

After seven years of “emergency” monetary policies that allowed companies to borrow cheaply even if they didn’t have the cash flow to service their debts, other than by borrowing even more, has created the beginnings of a tsunami of defaults.

The number of corporate defaults in the fourth quarter 2015 was the fifth highest on record. Three of the other four quarters were in 2009, during the Financial Crisis.

At stake? $8.2 trillion in corporate bonds outstanding, up 77% from ten years ago! On top of nearly $2 trillion in commercial and industrial loans outstanding, up over 100% from ten years ago. Debt everywhere!

Of these bonds, about $1.8 trillion are junk-rated, according to JP Morgan data. Standard & Poor’s warned that the average credit rating of US corporate borrowers, at “BB,” and thus in junk territory, hit a record low, even “below the average we recorded in the aftermath of the 2008-2009 credit crisis.”

The risks? A company with a credit rating of B- has a 1-in-10 chance of defaulting within 12 months! ...................(more)


Google Tells Customers “Ownership” is now an Illusion

Google Tells Customers “Ownership” is now an Illusion
by Electronic Frontier Foundation • April 6, 2016

[font color="blue"]You just think you own the device you paid for.[/font]
By Kit Walsh, Staff Attorney, Electronic Frontier Foundation:

Nest Labs, a home automation company acquired by Google in 2014, will disable some of its customers’ home automation control devices in May.

This move is causing quite a stir among people who purchased the $300 Revolv Hub devices—customers who reasonably expected that the promised “lifetime” of updates would enable the hardware they paid for to actually work, only to discover the manufacturer can turn their device into a useless brick when it so chooses.

It used to be that when you bought an appliance, you owned it, and you could take it apart, repair it, and plug in whatever accessories you wanted without the manufacturer’s knowledge or permission.

Nowadays, software enables devices to do new, useful things, but it also enables manufacturers to exert more control than ever before over their customers. Manufacturers use software to ensure a device serves their financial interests throughout its lifetime, forcing you to go to an authorized repair shop, buy official parts, and stay out of the secret workings of the device that would let you know what it’s doing with the data it collects about you.

The latest example, the Hub, communicates with and controls home electronics using several different communication standards. The Hub debuted in 2013 and was discontinued after Nest acquired Revolv in late 2014. One selling point was that the one-time payment of $300 included a “Lifetime Subscription,” including updates. In fact, the device shipped without all of its antennas being functional yet. Customers expected that the antennas would be enabled via updates. ..........(more)


Ahh, the American justice system......

from the Star-Ledger (NJ):

This man, the King of Coal, belongs in jail

Donald Blankenship is the type of ruthless coal baron you'd expect to see in a James Bond movie, traveling around by black helicopter, counting wads of cash and twirling his dark mustache.

His company, Massey Energy, shamelessly flouted safety standards with all kinds of dirty tricks aimed at boosting profits. Then, when 29 of its workers in Appalachia were killed in 2010, in the worst U.S. mining disaster in 40 years, he called it "an act of God."

In fact, it was an act of greed. Blankenship knew his foremen were being told to cheat on safety standards. In the event of a surprise inspection, minors were tipped off with codes like, "It's a cloudy day," and had to cover up violations like excess coal dust or inadequate ventilation.

Blankenship kept this under wraps, ordering that a 2009 memo detailing the brazen deceptions be kept "privileged and confidential." In the event of a trial, he said, it would be "a terrible document to have in discovery."

As it turned out, it was. Yet this reptile still may walk away with little more than a fine. He faced much heavier penalties for lying to investigators and regulators, a charge on which he was ultimately acquitted, than for conspiring to break safety rules – for which he was found guilty. ..............(more)


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