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Gender: Male
Hometown: Detroit, MI
Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
Number of posts: 75,491

Journal Archives

David Sirota: The left’s Citizens United hypocrisy: Why Hillary is getting a free pass

from Salon:

The left’s Citizens United hypocrisy: Why Hillary is getting a free pass
Democrats condemn the Supreme Court's decision but look the other way when it benefits one of their own


Less than three weeks into her presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton has already accomplished a stunning feat: She appears to have unified large swaths of the Democratic Party and its activist base to support the core tenets of the Citizens United decision — the one that effectively allowed unlimited money into politics.

That 2010 Supreme Court ruling declared that, unless there is an explicit quid pro quo, the fact that major campaign donors “may have influence over or access to elected officials does not mean that these officials are corrupt.” The theory is that as long as a donor and a politician do not agree to an overt bribe, everything is A-OK.

When the ruling was handed down, Democrats were outraged, and Hillary Clinton herself has recently suggested she wants it overturned. Yet with revelations that firms with business before Clinton’s State Department donated to her foundation and paid her husband, Clinton’s campaign and rank-and-file Democratic activists are suddenly championing the Citizens United theory.

In campaign statements and talking points — and in activists’ tweets and Facebook comments — the party seems to be collectively saying that without evidence of any explicit quid pro quo, all the Clinton cash is acceptable. Moreover, the inference seems to be that the revelations aren’t even newsworthy because, in the words of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, “there’s nothing new” here. ...............(more)


Robert Reich: The wealthy have broken society by siphoning all its money to themselves

(Salon) Robert Reich, the Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton, published an essay in the most recent American Prospect in which he argues that the wealth inequality isn’t a problem because of current economic policy, but because the financial elite starting rigging the game against the middle- and lower-class half a century ago.

Debates between those on the left and the right about the merits of government intervention versus the free market distract people from the real problem, Reich said, which is how different the market is than it was 50 years ago.

“Its current organization is failing to deliver the widely shared prosperity it delivered then,” he explains, because it’s no longer designed to reward hard work. Everything from intellectual property rights to basic contract laws has been altered at the behest of corporate interests, creating a system in which — if functioning properly — money is siphoned from the bottom up.

The entry-level wages of female college graduates have dropped by more than 8 percent, and male graduates by more than 6.5 percent. While a college education has become a prerequisite for joining the middle class, it is no longer a sure means for gaining ground once admitted to it. That’s largely because the middle class’s share of the total economic pie continues to shrink, while the share going to the top continues to grow. .............(more)


"One Newark" Exemplifies the Shock Doctrine

from The Progressive:

by Jan Resseger

In her 2007 book, The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein describes the takeover of the New Orleans schools in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina as a grand experiment perpetrated by policy makers on a city so vulnerable nobody could protect the public assets that should have been rescued. Klein concludes, “I call these orchestrated raids on the public sphere in the wake of catastrophic events, combined with the treatment of disasters as exciting market opportunities, “disaster capitalism.” (The Shock Doctrine, p. 6)

When we think about the Shock Doctrine applied to education, New Orleans—where the schools were charterized and all the teachers fired—is the example that comes to mind, but our test-and-punish system under the No Child Left Behind Act has branded the schools in our poorest cities as “failures” and created a crisis atmosphere that has also made way for the application of the Shock Doctrine. Back in 2010, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, working with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, seized such an “opportunity” and set up Newark for an experiment in disaster capitalism; he staged his Shock Doctrine live on the Oprah Winfrey Show, where Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg handed Booker $100 million to fix Newark’s schools. In a recent article Washington Post education writer Lyndsey Layton summarizes what happened as the “One Newark” plan was put in place by Christie and his appointed overseer Newark school superintendent, Cami Anderson. Public schools were closed and charter operators brought in. Union agreements were abrogated. It has been easy to move quickly in Newark, where the schools have been under state control for twenty years and residents have been unable to establish sufficient checks and balances despite the presence of an elected school board that lacks virtually any power. Cami Anderson has not bothered to attend any meetings of Newark’s school board for well over a year now.

Layton describes One Newark:

“The plan is the signature initiative crafted by Anderson, who was appointed by Gov. Chris Christie (R) in 2011 to run Newark Public Schools. The state seized control of Newark Public Schools in 1995 amid academic and financial failure, but two decades of state control has resulted in little progress. One Newark, which fully took effect in the current academic year (2014-2015), essentially blew up the old school system. It eliminated neighborhood schools in favor of a citywide lottery designed to give parents more choices. It prompted mass firings of principals and teachers, and it led to numerous school closures and a sharp rise in the city’s reliance on charter schools. . . With Christie’s blessing—and freed from the need for approval from a local school board—Anderson pushed through a raft of changes, many of which were untested. . . As a result, many families saw their children spread among multiple schools or sent across town. The scattering has been problematic for a city divided along gang lines, and where many residents don’t own cars. The end of neighborhood schools meant that newcomers no longer had a right to attend the school down the street. The new citywide lottery, relying on a computer algorithm, forced many students to change schools while dividing siblings in some cases between different schools in different parts of the city. Meanwhile, state test scores have stayed flat or even declined. . .”

Local elected officials have tried unsuccessfully to protect the right of parents and citizens of Newark to control their public schools. Senator Ronald Rice, chair of the New Jersey Legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Schools, was able only after repeated attempts to require Cami Anderson to appear before his committee to defend her plan, but she refused to discuss matters of substance with his committee. A civil rights complaint was filed earlier this year with the U.S. Department of Education. A group of high school students occupied the offices of Superintendent Cami Anderson for several days in February. U.S. Rep. Donald Payne, Jr., Newark’s representative to Congress, recently petitioned Cami Anderson in a formal letter to respond to the concerns of his constituents: “Your failure to respond and to engage in a meaningful dialogue on behalf of all Newark students is very disappointing to my constituents and me. There is a crisis situation going on in Newark.” And just this week, in an attempt to gain leverage, Newark’s new mayor, Ras Baraka, a high school principal elected on a pro-public school platform in the spring of 2014, was able to get his own “Children’s First Team” of three elected to the local elected board of education. All five of the elected board members support Baraka and oppose Cami Anderson’s One Newark plan. ...............(more)


When you lie down with dogs........

from the BBC:

Germany's national intelligence agency, the BND, spied on top French officials and the EU's headquarters on behalf of US intelligence, German media report.

The leaks from a secret BND report suggest that its monitoring station at Bad Aibling spied on France's presidential palace and foreign ministry, and the European Commission.

The US National Security Agency also allegedly spied on some European firms.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere denies claims of a cover-up.

The BND reportedly collected information on European firms at Washington's behest to check if they were breaking trade embargos.
According to the reports, the BND did not target German or US officials in the surveillance, as they are protected by a BND-NSA agreement signed in 2002. ..........................(more)


Detroit-area transit agencies consider single fare card

(Detroit Free Press) Imagine grabbing a DDOT or SMART bus and paying with a plastic card that you just used to ride the People Mover and M-1 Rail.

Later, you head to Ann Arbor and use the same plastic card to ride the bus there.

Or maybe you just used a credit card or smartphone app to do the same thing.

A study is under way to transform how the four transit agencies under the umbrella of the Regional Transportation Authority of Southeast Michigan — DDOT, SMART, Detroit People Mover and the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority — collect fares and how updating technology would make transferring from one system to another seamless.


The M-1 Rail streetcar line under construction on Woodward Avenue is not technically part of the RTA but has been participating in the discussions on the study, which began last year and is expected to be completed in June. M-1 Rail is expected to be ready for operation as early as late 2016. ...................(more)


Newark Airtrain, Only 19 Years Old, Is Too Shoddy To Fix

The Port Authority has decided to address the problem-plagued Newark Airtrain by giving up on it entirely and building a new one. The cost could be as high as $2 billion.

The preliminary plan alone will cost $40 million, an expenditure approved by the board of directors on Thursday. The authority will seek approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to come up with the money by raising fees on passengers using the airport.

Executive director Pat Foye conceded that the Airtrain began having problems soon after it opened in 1996. "As I understand it, Port Authority staff became concerned about whether it was robust enough," he said. "We don't want to repeat that mistake."

The authority has already sunk $170 million into keeping the Newark Airtrain running. It is regularly shut down overnight for maintenance and, last year, was closed altogether for eight weeks to undergo major repairs. The authority plans to complete the new monorail by 2020, when the current one reaches the end of its useful life. .................(more)


Thom Hartmann: A Real Progressive is Running for President!

(begins at 7:54 in video, segment with Mike Papantonio)

Published on Apr 30, 2015

Thom discusses how Bernie Sanders will impact the presidential race with attorney and radio host Mike Papantonio and Thom premieres Rep. Alan Grayson’s new nine minute anti-TPP video in its entirety. In tonight’s special Thursday edition of “Conversations with Great Minds” Thom talks with activist Tom Hayden, author of the new book “Listen, Yankee!: Why Cuba Matters.”

Drone Strikes (cartoon)


How Shale Is Becoming The Dot-Com Bubble Of The 21st Century

By Leonard Brecken, a portfolio manager and principal at Brecken Capital LLC, a hedge fund focused on domestic equities. You can follow Leonard on Twitter: @Lbrecken13. Originally published at OilPrice

As I review the financials of one of the largest shale producers in the United States, Whiting Petroleum (WLL), I can’t help but notice the parallels to the .COM era of 1999 which, to some extent, has already returned to the technology and biotech sectors of today. Back then, the faster you burned cash to capture customers regardless of earnings to drive your topline, the higher your valuation. The theory was that after capturing the customers (in energy today, it is the wells) spending would slow and so would customer additions allowing companies to generate cash. By the way, a classic recent case is none other than Netflix (NFLX) which, in the past was exposed for accounting gimmicks that continue even today. It is still following this path of burning cash for the sake of customer additions, while never generating any cash in its entire existence.

Cash was plentiful in 1999 so it could always be raised as the Federal Reserve began its easy money era creating a series of bubbles for the next 15 years. Does this sound familiar to what is occurring now? It will end the same way and that process has already started as currency wars heat up and our economy grinds to a halt proving QE does not, in fact, create wealth (temporary yes for the 1%, short term, until POP) but instead it destroys it by distorting asset prices, misallocating investments, and ultimately creating an equity crash.

We just witnessed this in energy, as all the economic stats that distorted the real underlying economic weakness in the economy led energy producers to overproduce while easy money fueled it and expanded speculation in the futures market. Back in 1999 did the internet companies adapt their business models? Some which still survive today did, but most went bankrupt. The parallels here with energy are simply stunning as most E&P companies need to spend well over their operational cash flow in order to not only grow but to replace the wells that are producing tied to depletion. Money is free right? Well we are witnessing the first stages now and it may not last, as junk bond investors in energy can attest.

Further, US equity markets are beginning to “realize” that the US economy isn’t better off vs. Europe and the US dollar begins to fade as it shows signs of correcting as well. The Fed clearly isn’t as accommodative by instantly launching QE4, for a host of reasons, thus potentially opening the door to a deeper correction vs. prior ones in order to get what the 1% wants again: more QE. Yes the Keynesian feedback loop is real as, in the past, each equity correction was met with more QE. ..............(more)


Paul Krugman: The Rise of the Machines: It's Happening

The Rise of the Machines: It's Happening

Thursday, 30 April 2015 13:36
By Paul Krugman, Krugman & Co. | Op-Ed

Way back in 1996, on the 100th anniversary of The New York Times Magazine, The Times had a clever idea: They asked a number of people to write essays pretending to look backward a century from the perspective of 2096.

Sadly, most of the writers were too uptight and dignified to comply; they wrote blah-blah-the-decades-to-come stuff. But I threw myself into the assignment with a little piece titled "White Collars Turn Blue." As the title suggested, one theme of the essay was a pushback against the notion that advancing technology would result in an ever-growing demand for highly educated workers.

I argued that computers would take over many of the cognitive tasks that we find difficult, but that human beings would continue to be wanted for jobs that require common sense, including many forms of manual labor. Or as one friend described it at the time, my thesis was that we'll always need maids and gardeners.

And it's happening.


An obvious implication of these findings is that the belief that income inequality is all about, and can be fixed by, education is even more wrong than you thought. .....................(more)


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