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Gender: Male
Hometown: Detroit, MI
Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
Number of posts: 75,468

Journal Archives

Ohio paper nixes Tamir Rice comment section: ‘A small army’ couldn’t stop the ‘cesspool’ of racism

The Cleveland Plain Dealer explained this week that it had disabled comments on all of its stories about a 12-year-old black child who was shot by police because “a small army” of administrators could not delete the racist comments fast enough.

In a column on Monday, Chris Quinn, the Northeast Ohio Media Group’s Vice President of Content, said that the paper had hoped that articles about the shooting of Tamir Rice would be “an ideal subject for us to meet one of our chief goals at cleveland.com, hosting community conversations on topics of widespread interest.”

But he noted that comments had been disabled in October because “we don’t fancy our website as a place of hate, and the Tamir Rice story has been a magnet for haters.”

“We enlisted a small army on our staff to monitor the comments and delete any that violated our standards,” Quinn wrote. “The trouble was that we couldn’t keep up. Just about every piece we published about Tamir immediately became a cesspool of hateful, inflammatory or hostile comments.”

“Rather than discuss the facts of the case, many commenters debased the conversation with racist invective. Or they made absurd statements about the clothing and appearance of people involved in the story. Or they attacked each other for having contrasting viewpoints. In many cases, well over half of the comments on Tamir stories broke our rules and had to be deleted.” ...................(more)


Chicago: Red and Purple lines modernization


from the CTA:

What's RPM?

We’re undertaking the largest capital improvement project in CTA history: the Red and Purple Modernization Program (RPM). This major initiative will completely rebuild the nearly century old North Red Line from Belmont to Howard and the Purple Line from Belmont to Linden in Wilmette. As we rebuild, much needed capacity will be added in this growing residential corridor to accommodate current and future riders, and to deliver faster and smoother rides with less crowding and more frequent service.

This massive, multi-stage project is scheduled to be completed in phases, which allows us to make the greatest number of improvements while minimizing impacts on riders and the surrounding communities.




[font size="4"]About the Red & Purple Modernization Program[/font]
[font color="purple"]Rebuilding vital infrastructure for Chicago’s future[/font]

The Red and Purple Modernization (RPM) corridor is a 9.6 mile stretch of track that was built close to a century ago—much of it in 1924—when Calvin Coolidge was President and the Wrigley Building had just been constructed. Most of this infrastructure is at the end of its useful lifespan. Frequent maintenance to repair tracks and remove slow zones is costly and hinders service.

[font size="3"][font color="blue"]Significant ridership, population growth[/font][/font]

The Red Line is now Chicago’s busiest ‘L’ line, serving some of the most densely populated neighborhoods in the country, and the number of riders along this corridor is only growing. Morning and evening rush period ridership increased by nearly 40 percent over five years.

CTA needs to increase service on the Red Line to serve more riders, yet with current infrastructure constraints it has reached capacity – we cannot add more trains during rush periods. If nothing is done, CTA will be unable to add more trains to accommodate riders, trains will become more overcrowded, and passengers wait times will increase.

Chart showing projected ridership on the north side 'L' lines, showing how demand is expected to outgrow the current capacity of the cooridor as limited by Clark Junction (where Brown Line's Ravenswood Branch branches off)

[font size="3"][font color="blue"]RPM: Meeting future ridership demand[/font][/font]

In order to completely rebuild and modernize the stations, tracks and infrastructure along this corridor, we must be able to improve the efficiency of our operations to be able to increase the number of trains to meeting rising ridership demand. ...................(more)


Toronto: TTC Leslie Barns: Home of your new streetcar! (neat vid for transit geeks)

'Yes' Vote on Seattle's $930M Transportation Levy Emboldens Boosters in Portland

McClatchy, via MassTransitMag:

Nov. 25--Earlier this month, Seattle residents approved a record $930 million property tax levy to pay for a laundry list of transportation projects.

Portland has its own list -- including a backlog of paving work, two proposed high-capacity transit lines, a bottleneck through the Rose Quarter -- and transportation leaders think the ballot-box victory in Seattle might be a model that could be replicated here.

Already, Portlanders are expected to weigh a gas-tax hike to pay for paving projects in Portland in May.

And Rep. Earl Blumenauer earlier this month told the TriMet board they might have a fleeting window for a big funding ask, given a compelling enough package of projects.

"I will admit that I am shamelessly lobbying for people to look at 2016," the Oregon Democrat told the board. "There will never be, I think, a better time in our lifetime to be able to make the case to the public and secure support." ...............(more)


As Puerto Rico Crisis Worsens, Congress In No Rush to Help

(Bloomberg) Puerto Rico’s $70 billion debt crisis has already led to four hearings this year in the U.S. Congress, hours of testimony and no consensus over how to help the Caribbean commonwealth. Another hearing Tuesday is unlikely to change that.

As Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla’s administration decides whether to default on $354 million of bond payments coming due, he will appear before a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has power over a bill that would allow some Puerto Rico agencies to file for bankruptcy. That measure has stalled for lack of a single Republican sponsor.

Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the committee’s chairman, and fellow Republicans are expected to echo criticism of Puerto Rico expressed at the previous meetings, when lawmakers reprimanded the island’s accounting practices and said any aid would be wasted if it doesn’t contend with its chronic budget shortfalls. Republicans control both houses of Congress.

“Grassley is likely to criticize the current Puerto Rico government for not doing enough in terms of austerity and not producing the audited financial statements,” said Brandon Barford, a partner at Beacon Policy Advisors in Washington and a former Senate aide. “And Grassley is crucial to passing any legislation that would help Puerto Rico.” ................(more)


Scandal at CalPERS

CalPERS Board, Scandal-Ridden Fiduciary Counsel, Plan to Break California Law in Effort to Silence Board Member for Asking Too Many Questions, Seeking Records
Posted on December 1, 2015 by Yves Smith

The starkest proof of how CalPERS’ board is willing go to extreme, and in this case, illegal steps to defend staff rather than oversee it came in its Governance Committee meeting last month. We’ve chronicled how the board fell in line with recommendation by staff and its new, tainted fiduciary counsel, Robert Klausner, for fewer board meetings, even though CEO Anne Stausboll offered no factual support for of her assertion that her subordinates are overworked or that she has considered, much less exhausted, alternatives for streamlining the process or increasing staffing. Moreover, to the extent that board meeting take a lot of employee time, Stausboll’s stage management of the monthly board meetings via illegal private briefings is a major contributor.

In the next section of this board meeting, Klausner and most of the board participated in what one observer called a “hating on JJ Jelincic” session. Board member JJ Jelincic has engaged in what is an unpardonable sin: he asks too many questions at board meeting and occasionally requests documents from staff. If you’ve looked at board videos (as we have) the alleged “too many questions” are few in number save when staff obfuscates and Jelincic tries to get to the bottom of things.

This section of the Governance Committee meeting clearly shows that the board, aided and abetted by Klausner, is in the process of establishing a procedure for implementing trumped-up sanctions against Jelincic, presumably so as to facilitate an opponent unseating him in his next election. But Jelincic’s term isn’t up until 2018, so from their perspective they are stuck with an apostate in their ranks for an uncomfortably long amount of time. Part of their strategy appears to harass him into compliance with the posture the rest of the board, that of ceding authority to staff and conducting board meetings that are largely ceremonial. We strongly urge you to watch the pertinent portion in full, and have provide a link and annotations at the end of this post.*

And what are Jelincic’s supposed cardinal sins, aside from being too inquisitive? That of using the California Public Records Act (California’s version of FOIA) to request documents that staff refused to produce. Mind you, Jelincic has used the PRA all of three times, in #2029 on June 8, 2015, #2077 on July 14, 2015 and #2084 (a duplicate of #2077, so it is not really a separate request, as far as staff effort is concerned) on July 16, 2015. And these requests were for a small number of recent, readily accessible records. By contrast, virtually all of our Public Records Act requests have been far more difficult to fulfill, so it is hard to depict Jelincic’s modest submissions as burdensome. ...................(more)



CalPERS Used Sleight of Hand, Accounting Tricks, to Make False “There is No Alternative” Claim for Private Equity
Posted on December 1, 2015 by Yves Smith

One of the striking elements of the November CalPERS private equity workshop for the ostensible benefit of its board was the length to which the giant pension fund was willing to go to distort data and abuse analytical methods to make the case that only private equity could offer the returns needed to meet CalPERS’ performance targets. These tricks were obvious to finance experts, which means that it is almost certain that CalPERS’ staff and the experts on its panel understood full well that they were pulling the wool over the board’s and public’s eyes.

The fact that CalPERS could not make an honest case for private equity suggests that there was no honest case to be made.

Here is a short form dissection of the CalPERS trickery from our illegally-curtalied public comments (more on the violations of the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act in a future post):


The overarching message of this workshop has been that private equity delivers returns that are superior and are necessary for CalPERS’ program. In other words, There Is No Alternative. As a result, CalPERS must submit to various indignities, such as lack of transparency, extremely high fees, and one-sided agreements, and outright corruption.

This message is false. There was considerable amount of slight of hand is at work in these slides, most important in the analysis of returns. Professor Batt touched on that a bit. Due to time limits I can give only a few examples.

First, in the opening section, you implicitly had a new benchmark introduced. The returns were compared against that of other asset classes in CalPERS’ portfolio. That’s not how private equity has been presented to the board in the past, nor is it what you will see in the next section when Réal Desrochers presents the annual program review.

If you look in the next section on pages 20 and 21 of his slides, you see that private equity has not met it benchmarks over the last ten years or in any sub-period. Worse, PE not only failed to meet its risk premium, it’s often failed to beat similar stocks. In other words, CalPERS is not being paid enough for the risks it is taking in private equity, and by a lot.

Let’s unpack this a bit. ..................(more)


There Better Be a Miracle for Retailers

There Better Be a Miracle for Retailers
by Wolf Richter • November 30, 2015

They tried to spin it in the most favorable light, and even then it was ugly.

It’s early in the shopping season, and Americans might still come out and head to the mall in massive numbers and do their patriotic duty and buy things that ideally no one needs made in countries they don’t know with money they don’t have to prop up manufactures, middlemen, transportation companies, oil companies, the entire supply chain, and finally US retailers that have hired hundreds of thousands of part-timers just for this sacred period of the year.

The hope is that these consumers will get their act together to relieve the enormous pressures that have built up behind the scenes: ballooning inventories. But it doesn’t look like it.

After months of crummy retail sales across the nation, followed up by earnings warnings and lousy results from big retailers, the first numbers are in for the Thanksgiving Weekend. And they support ugly anecdotal evidence of less crowded malls and parking lots: Brick-and-mortar retailers are having a hard time.

The results of the National Retail Federation’s Thanksgiving Weekend Survey were painfully – some might say willfully – murky: It said nearly 102 million people shopped in stores over the Thanksgiving weekend, while over 103 million shopped online, including via mobile devices. Given the overlap, over 151 million people did at least some shopping over the weekend. That’s 47% of the entire US population of 319 million. This would be a good sign, at least the surge in online shopping would be. But average spending over the weekend was a measly $299.60 per person.


But Bloomberg compared the numbers that were “not comparable” and found that the average spent per person over the weekend had been $380.95 in 2014 and $407.02 in 2013. So this year’s sales would represent a 26% and 27% plunge! .............(more)


Keiser Report: American Way! Bail out Bankers

Published on Nov 28, 2015

Check Keiser Report website for more: http://www.maxkeiser.com/

In this special episode of the Keiser Report from New York City, Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert discuss short term gains for long term losses as our future chickens come home to roost. They discuss stock buybacks, CalPERS pensions shortfall and Osborne’s not very long term economic plan. In the second half, Max interviews Tina Louise Rothery of NanaBloc about this weekend’s climate change and anti-fracking protests.

Chris Hedges: The Age of the Demagogues

from truthdig:

The Age of the Demagogues

Posted on Nov 29, 2015
By Chris Hedges

The increase in nihilistic violence such as school shootings and Friday’s lethal assault on a Planned Parenthood clinic, the frequent executions of poor people of color by police, and the rise of thuggish demagogues such as Donald Trump are symptoms of the collapse of our political and cultural institutions.

These institutions, which once made possible piecemeal and incremental reform, which sought to protect the weak from the tyranny of the majority and give them a voice, acted as a safety valve to ameliorate the excesses of capitalism and address the grievances of the underclass. They did not defy the system of capitalism. They colluded with the structures of privilege and white supremacy. But they provided some restraints on the worst abuse and exploitation. The capturing of major institutions by corporate power and the moral bankruptcy of our elites, especially members of our self-identified liberal class, have shattered this equilibrium.

A faux liberal class, epitomized by amoral politicians such as the Clintons and Barack Obama, has led many disenfranchised people, especially the white underclass, to direct a legitimate rage toward liberals and the supposed liberal values they represent. Racism, bigotry, religious intolerance, homophobia, sexism and vigilante violence, condemned by liberal, college-educated elites, are embraced by those who have been betrayed, those who now speak back to liberal elites in words, gestures and acts, sometimes violent, designed to denigrate the core values of a liberal democracy. The hatred is the product of a liberal class that did nothing to halt corporations from driving tens of millions of families into poverty and desperation as it mouthed empty platitudes about rights and economic advancement.

The Republican business elites, which declared war on the liberal class’ call for cultural diversity, allied themselves with an array of protofascists in the Christian right, the tea party, groups such as the National Rifle Association and The Heritage Foundation, the neo-Confederate movement, the right-to-life movement and right-wing militias. The elites in the Republican Party, who needed an ideological veneer to mask their complicity in the corporate assault, saw these protofascists as useful idiots. They thought, naively, that by demonizing liberals, feminists, African-Americans, Muslims, abortion providers, undocumented workers, intellectuals and homosexuals they could redirect the growing rage of the masses, sending it against the vulnerable, as well as against the only institution that could curb corporate power, the government, while they greedily disemboweled the nation. ..................(more)


Jeremy Corbyn 'Systematically' Attacked By British Press The Moment He Became Leader: Research

The British press "systematically undermined" Jeremy Corbyn with an onslaught of negative media coverage in his first week as Labour leader, new research has claimed.

The Media Reform Coalition analysed nearly 500 pieces across eight national newspapers, including The Sun, The Times, Guardian and Daily Mail, and found 60% of their articles were 'negative', meaning they were openly hostile or expressed animosity or ridicule.

Out of the 494 articles across the papers during Corbyn's first seven days at leader, 60% (296 articles) were negative, with only 13% positive stories (65 articles) and 27% taking a "neutral" stance (133 articles), the report says.

The research, given exclusively to The Huffington Post UK, looked at news, comment and editorial leaders - and claims that "the press set out to systematically undermine Jeremy Corbyn during his first week as Labour Leader with a barrage of overwhelmingly negative coverage".

It was released by the Media Reform Coalition, a group of academics, media campaigners and civil society groups which claims not to be linked to any political party. ..................(more)


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