Saturday, May 31, 2014

John Kerry's Disgraceful Snowden Comments

I happen to have Daniel Ellsberg right here ...
In an Annie Hall moment, Daniel Ellsberg responds to John Kerry's (utterly bullshit) suggestion that Snowden could come back to the US and "make his case" here:
"As Snowden told Brian Williams on NBC later that night and Snowden's lawyer told me the next morning, he would have no chance whatsoever to come home and make his case – in public or in court. Snowden would come back home to a jail cell – and not just an ordinary cell-block but isolation in solitary confinement, not just for months like Chelsea Manning but for the rest of his sentence, and probably the rest of his life. His legal adviser, Ben Wizner, told me that he estimates Snowden's chance of being allowed out on bail as zero. (I was out on bond, speaking against the Vietnam war, the whole 23 months I was under indictment). More importantly, the current state of whistleblowing prosecutions under the Espionage Act makes a truly fair trial wholly unavailable to an American who has exposed classified wrongdoing. Legal scholars have strongly argued that the US supreme court – which has never yet addressed the constitutionality of applying the Espionage Act to leaks to the American public – should find the use of it overbroad and unconstitutional in the absence of a public interest defense. The Espionage Act, as applied to whistleblowers, violates the First Amendment, is what they're saying. As I know from my own case, even Snowden's own testimony on the stand would be gagged by government objections and the (arguably unconstitutional) nature of his charges. That was my own experience in court, as the first American to be prosecuted under the Espionage Act – or any other statute – for giving information to the American people."
It's a travesty that our surveillance state is worse than it was under Nixon and that we are in many ways actually less free than we were under Nixon. 

John Kerry should be ashamed of himself for making a claim that is ridiculous on its face.  And most of our press should be ashamed to have uncritically repeated it. 

Weekend Subway Service Advisories

The local:


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, May 30, toMonday, June 2, Coney Island Stilwell Av-bound F trains skip Sutphin Blvd, Briarwood-Van Wyck Blvd, and 75 Av due to rail worksouth of Parsons Blvd.


From 11:30 p.m. Friday, May 30, toMonday, June 2, Coney Island Stilwell Av-bound F trains run express between Jay St-MetroTech and Church Av due to signal work at Church Av.


From 11:00 p.m. Friday, May 30 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 2, G trains are suspended between Church Av and Hoyt-Schermerhorns Sts due to signal work at Church Av.

And the big picture:


Typos courtesy of my iPhone

Friday, May 30, 2014

I Can Relate!

Even Grammarians Are Now Misusing Exclamation Marks

I used to judgy about exclamation points. But now I find myself using them frequently after gradually ramping up over the last 15 years. 
And sometimes I still feel pangs of writer's guilt. 
""Exclamation points are becoming the standard after salutations and happy or eager statements such as 'I'm looking forward to seeing you,'" she said in an email to Science of Us. "It almost seems mandatory in e-mail." Well, okay. "Mandatory" for anyone who still doesn't know exactly what a semicolon is for, but surely not for someone who makes a living explaining good grammar to others? Nope. Even she is not immune. "Although my training tells me not to overuse exclamation points because they are shouty and juvenile, I find myself using them because I fear being seen as unfriendly or insincere if I only use a period." This has caused her some angst: "Sometimes I'm in such a quandary that I put them in and take them out and put them in again, but if I weren't Grammar Girl and I didn't think my writing was being scrutinized, I'm sure I'd use them liberally without a second thought.""

http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2014/05/even-grammarians-are-misusing-exclamation-marks.html

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Somaly Mam Resignation

Sex Trafficking Activist Accused of Lying Resigns

Is everything a grift?  Because this is pretty dispiriting. 
"Somaly Mam, an internationally renowned human rights activist and Oprah-approved author, resigned from her eponymous foundation this week after a damning Newsweek exposé suggested she lied on numerous occasions about instances of sexual abuse and rape. According to the Newsweek story, Mam encouraged young women to fabricate stories of sex trafficking and may have lied about details from her own past."

http://gawker.com/sex-trafficking-activist-accused-of-lying-steps-down-1582950856?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+gawker%2Ffull+%28Gawker%29

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No 2024 Olympics Bid

Mayor de Blasio Killed NYC's 2024 Olympic Bid Early

Amen to that!
"The architect of the NYC2012 bid, Dan Doctoroff, broached a 2024 bid with Governor Andrew Cuomo, who was reportedly looking into Doctoroff's proposal earlier this month. But a de Blasio staffer told The Wall Street Journal that the mayor is more interested in "sound economic and public policy" goals than catering to the whims of a two-week sporting event."

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2014/05/mayor-de-blasio-kills-2024-olympic-bid.html

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John Kerry's Dishonesty

Kerry Tells Snowden to 'Man Up'

Kerry's statement is so absurd as to be insulting. Past experience shows that Snowden would be jailed, and most likely mistreated, immediately. So much for making his case in public. 

And, given our federal rules of evidence, he would likely be barred from "making his case" in court as well.  John Kerry ought to know better.  A defendant doesn't get to just stand up in a court room and make speeches.
"Kerry said, "A patriot would not run away. ... He can come home but he's a fugitive from justice." "Let him come back and make his case," the secretary added. "If he cares so much about America and he believes in America, he should trust the American system of justice." "I think he's confused," Kerry added. "I think it's very sad. But this is a man who has done great damage to his country.""

http://gregmitchellwriter.blogspot.com/2014/05/kerry-tells-snowden-to-man-up.html

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The Creatine Menace!!!1!

No, Creatine Did Not Make Elliot Rodger Kill People

What passes for journalism these days.  I heard the North Korean leader is all hopped up on Creatine too. /sarcasm

"Literally any other drug of choice that Elliot Rodger could have chosen would be a more likely candidate for making him crazy, because creatine does not make you crazy. It does not make you anything, except more physiologically prepared to lift weights should you choose to do so. It is found naturally in food such as meat. One might as well compare Outback Steakhouse to a crackhouse as compare creatine to a crazymaking drug. The most insane part of this story is that it's already spread all over the whole world ! (Thanks to the fine journalistic efforts of News Corp papers.) And it is completely implausible. If Chris Akin is just a troll, he is a very successful one. Update: It looks like "Chris Akin" is a troll. Here is a thread on the FitMisc.com message board in which a user writes, "okay so im sitting here wackin it nd i get a message from some freelancer reporter bisch asking questions about elliot, as i have/had a few friends who were troll accounts that were pretending to be him. now, ill just let you read the messages." He then posts screenshots of Facebook messages sent to him by Mirror reporter Emma Foster, who was apparently emailing all of Rodger's Facebook friends. "Akin"'s replies—which are, as we noted, complete fiction—match the quotes in the Mirror story. Screenshots of the full conversation are posted here. And that's how easy it is to make a complete lie into worldwide news."

http://gawker.com/no-creatine-did-not-make-elliot-rodger-kill-people-1582565092?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+gawker%2Ffull+%28Gawker%29

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Common Sense On Guns

Cliff Schechter nails it on guns, by @DavidOAtkins

Common sense, unfortunately, loses over and over again to the NRA's well funded gun cult.  Read the whole thing. 
"Of course, there is one easy case study that proves the rule: Hawaii, which is separated from every other state by quite a bit of ocean. The Aloha State, which boasts the lowest gun ownership rate and among the strongest gun laws in our country, has the lowest gun violence rate, according to The Law Center To Prevent Gun Violence. Meanwhile, in Arizona, with those ridiculously nonexistent gun laws, you're five times more likely to die from a gun than in Hawaii. This pattern extends throughout the country, from lax regulation states like Mississippi and Alaska (18.3 and 17.6 gun deaths, per 100,000 people, respectively) to strong regulation states like Rhode Island and Massachusetts (3.5 and 3.6 gun deaths per 100,000, respectively). This really isn't that hard. "

http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2014/05/cliff-schechter-nails-it-on-guns-by.html

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Ongoing Flareup of Greenwald Derangement Syndrome


Almost by definition, most establishment journalists accept an implicit framework within which they can work while still being accepted by the establishment of which they're a part. This doesn't mean they can't do excellent journalism, and many of them certainly do. But for others, I suspect there's a sense of subornment, a recognition that they've sold out, that they're owned or at least rented by the people they pretend to hold to account. A recognition like this, no matter how oblique, isn't psychologically comfortable. And the uncompromising work and aggressive deportment of someone like Greenwald acts as a kind of mirror in which these people are forced to view the most unflattering version of themselves. The admirable reaction would be to hold yourself to a higher standard and try to do better. The more common reaction is to hate the person who is causing your increased awareness of your own shortcomings. Of course I could be wrong, but this theory would explain some of the differing reactions to Greenwald, on the one hand, and Barton Gellman, on the other. After all, Greenwald and Gellman have both covered some of the same ground and broken some huge stories based on Snowden's whistleblowing. Indeed, both have won Polk awards, and the organizations they reported with have won Pulitzers, for their Snowden-based reporting. And yet I've never seen fellow journalists going after Gellman on a personal level. I've seen no attempts to marginalize him as an activist, a go-between, a perpetrator, etc. Certainly I've seen no calls for his imprisonment. What explains the different reactions? Sure, some of it can be attributed to temperament. Gellman strikes me as having a knack for disarming people, a knack Greenwald has no apparent inclination to develop or deploy himself. But I think there's something more fundamental at work here. Correctly or incorrectly, I think Gellman is widely perceived to be adversarial within the system, and this is something the system is willing to accept even if the reporter in question does the kind of superb journalism Gellman does. But Greenwald, again correctly or incorrectly, is widely perceived to be adversarial to that system. And for the system itself, that kind of adversity is an unpardonable sin.
Truly bizarre behavior from people who consider themselves journalists. 
Almost by definition, most establishment journalists accept an implicit framework within which they can work while still being accepted by the establishment of which they're a part. This doesn't mean they can't do excellent journalism, and many of them certainly do. But for others, I suspect there's a sense of subornment, a recognition that they've sold out, that they're owned or at least rented by the people they pretend to hold to account. A recognition like this, no matter how oblique, isn't psychologically comfortable. And the uncompromising work and aggressive deportment of someone like Greenwald acts as a kind of mirror in which these people are forced to view the most unflattering version of themselves. The admirable reaction would be to hold yourself to a higher standard and try to do better. The more common reaction is to hate the person who is causing your increased awareness of your own shortcomings. Of course I could be wrong, but this theory would explain some of the differing reactions to Greenwald, on the one hand, and Barton Gellman, on the other. After all, Greenwald and Gellman have both covered some of the same ground and broken some huge stories based on Snowden's whistleblowing. Indeed, both have won Polk awards, and the organizations they reported with have won Pulitzers, for their Snowden-based reporting. And yet I've never seen fellow journalists going after Gellman on a personal level. I've seen no attempts to marginalize him as an activist, a go-between, a perpetrator, etc. Certainly I've seen no calls for his imprisonment. What explains the different reactions? Sure, some of it can be attributed to temperament. Gellman strikes me as having a knack for disarming people, a knack Greenwald has no apparent inclination to develop or deploy himself. But I think there's something more fundamental at work here. Correctly or incorrectly, I think Gellman is widely perceived to be adversarial within the system, and this is something the system is willing to accept even if the reporter in question does the kind of superb journalism Gellman does. But Greenwald, again correctly or incorrectly, is widely perceived to be adversarial to that system. And for the system itself, that kind of adversity is an unpardonable sin.

DEP To Lightstone: Quiet Down!

DEP Tells Lightstone Group That Their Pile Driving In Gowanus Is Way Too Loud. Issues 5 Day Cure Notice
Good to see some reaction from DEP, which regulates not only water and sewer but also air quality and noise pollution:
If you live anywhere near Lightstone Group's mega development site at 363-365 Bond Street in Gowanus, you may be wondering why it is so quiet today. After frustrated residents called 311, reached out to Council Member Brad Lander's office, and signed a petition asking Lightstone to use noise reduction measures in place while driving more than 1200 piles into the marshy ground, the NYC Department of Environmental Protection has paid the site a visit this past Wednesday and Friday. And surprise! According to Brad Lander's office, DEP noise inspectors on Friday "found the noise recordings to be 'unreasonable' and issued a 5 day cure notice."

And kudos to Brad Lander and staff for aiding in the process.

Captain Trips?

Could super flu escape the laboratory?
This has been a lurking fear of mine ever since I read The Stand 25 years ago.
A new paper estimates the risk of a laboratory-enhanced flu strain escaping said laboratory at between 5 and 60 percent. Maryn McKenna explains what that wide, wide spread actually means.

Great book, by the way.

Gun Nut Bingo

Here's Basically Every Pro-Gun Cliché That Exists On The Internet
Awesome.
Here's Basically Every Pro-Gun Cliché That Exists On The Internet
Steel yourself for the inevitable, intractable exchanges with America's least-subtle Second Amendment Men using this "Arguing With Gun Nuts on Twitter" bingo card, via writer and seasoned Twitter trol…

I'm really getting tired of this game.

Jonathan Alter: Another Odious Fake Liberal

Thought leader
I don't pay much attention to Jonathan Alter.  But if you do, read this compilation of Altered Reality liberalism.  Digby starts with this Alter tweet and gets rolling from there.
If u missed great Kinsley review of Greenwald, one of biggest jerks in journo even if partly right. @PamelaPaulNYT http://t.co/j4ediOv236 — Jonathan Alter (@jonathanalter) …

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day

As you're enjoying the day off (and it is a beautiful one here in New York) remember to reflect and give thanks for those who lost their lives in service to this country.

The best way to honor the fallen is to avoid adding to their number.  I'm somewhat encouraged that we haven't rushed foolishly into conflict in Syria last September or the Ukraine more recently.  Too many of our pundits and leaders have an itchy trigger finger when it comes to sending other people to fight unnecessary battles.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Primal Fear Remake?


"So there never was a Mikey Suits?"
Representative Michael Grimm Just Couldn't Let Mikey Suits Go
"You disappoint me, Counselor. There never was a Michael Grimm."
"There's no doubt that Representative Michael Grimm, the Staten Island Republican who was recently charged with tax evasion and other crimes committed while running an Upper East Side health food restaurant, has led an interesting life. Perhaps the most colorful aspect of his past is the time he spent working as a FBI agent, when he posed as mobbed-up stockbroker Michael Garabaldi — better known as "Mikey Suits," thanks to his eye-catching wardrobe — in order to investigate insider trading schemes. (The New Yorker chronicled some of Grimm/Garabaldi/Suits's adventures back in 2011.) On Thursday, the New York Daily News reported that Grimm seems to have remained quite attached to his FBI alter ego."

SPOILER BELOW:

Irrational Exuberance: A Portrait

Looks like Easy Al's had a bit to drink., and is ready to sign off on the Bush tax cuts.

Giles On Piketty: The Lady Doth Protest Too Much

Is Piketty All Wrong?
Mistakes? Surely. But the reasoning and conclusions stand. If anything, Piketty understates the problem.
"And there's also the economic story. In the United States, income inequality has soared since 1980 by any measure you use. Unless the affluent starting saving less than the working class, this rise in income disparity must have led to a rise in wealth disparity over time. The point is that Giles is proving too much; if his attempted reworking of Piketty leads to the conclusion that nothing has happened to wealth inequality, what that really shows is that he's doing something wrong. None of this absolves Piketty from the need to respond to each of the individual questions. But anyone imagining that the whole notion of rising wealth inequality has been refuted is almost surely going to be disappointed."


Cap'n Transit: Extend The N To Astoria

It's time to extend the N train to LaGuardia
It was foolish and shortsighted of the community to oppose the N extension to LGA at the time. But times change.  We need to think big about the next phase of transit expansion in our city and region. Subway access to LGA is an excellent candidate - and the timing is right.  Since we're in the early stages of a major airport modernization, we ought to provision for improved transit access.
"The train was indeed shelved due to community opposition, as everyone reminds us, but what they fail to note is that the "community leaders" are all gone. Read through the list of politicians who came out against the plan. Denis Butler and Walter McCaffrey are dead. Peter Vallone, Senior is retired, and so is George Onorato, and Vallone Junior has been term-limited out. John Sabini was hustled off to the Racing Authority after a DUI conviction in 2007. Not only are these windshield-perspective politicians gone, but their replacements are much less wedded to the idea that cars are the future. Senator Michael Gianaris and his protégée Assemblymember Aravella Simotas are disappointing in some ways, but they've kept their car activism pretty low-key, as has Senator José Peralta. City Council members Jimmy Van Bramer and Costa Constantinides are both progressive on transit issues. Van Bramer, who represents me, has supported congestion pricing and the Midtown Tunnel Bus. Constantinides lost a bit of cred by coming out way too early in support of another term for Jimmy Vacca as head of the Transportation Committee, but has been a strong supporter of livable streets issues overall. I believe that Van Bramer is a member of Transportation Alternatives, and I know Constantinides has been not just a member but an active supporter, marching with them at public events. They may keep their One Less Car T-shirts in the bottom of their drawers, but they definitely do not see cars as the only way to prosperity for their constituents. Community Board 1 may still be led by trolls who think parking is Astoria's number one issue, but they'll be gone soon as well. More importantly, the voters and donors in that area care more about trains than parking today."


Simpleton of the Day

Simple answers to stupid questions
Chuck Toddler.
Why do electeds put out Memorial Day statements? Any reporter in country writing story thinking, "oh, what does Congressman Schmengee say"? — Chuck Todd …

Weekend Subway Service Advisories

The local:


From 9:45 p.m. Friday, May 23 to 5:00 a.m. Tuesday, May 27, Queens-bound F trains are rerouted via the E line from 47-50 Sts-Rock Ctr to Queens Plaza due to Second Avenue Subway construction work.


From 12:30 a.m. Saturday, May 24 to 5:00 a.m. Tuesday, May 27, F trains run local in both directions in Queens due to CPM signal modernization at Forest Hills-71 Av and Kew Gardens-Union Tpke.


From 5:00 a.m. to 12 midnight,Saturday, May 24 to Monday, May 26, G trains run every 20 minutes between Long Island City-Court Sq and Bedford-Nostrand Avs due to Sandy recovery work in the Greenpoint Tube. The last stop for some trains headed toward Long Island City-Court Sq is Bedford-Nostrand Avs.

And the full picture:



Typos courtesy of my iPhone

Friday, May 23, 2014

Obama On False Equivalence

President Calls Out GOP for Extremism, Media for False Equivalence
This is a speech that should be made on the radio or television.
Via Greg Sargent , some on-point remarks from the president during a fundraiser last night: "You'll hear if you watch the nightly news or you read the newspapers that, well, there's gridlock, Congress is broken, approval ratings for Congress are terrible. And there’s a tendency to say, a plague on both your houses. But the truth of the matter is that the problem in Congress is very specific. We have a group of folks in the Republican Party who have taken over who are so ideologically rigid, who are so committed to an economic theory that says if folks at the top do very well then everybody else is somehow going to do well; who deny the science of climate change; who don’t think making investments in early childhood education makes sense; who have repeatedly blocked raising a minimum wage so if you work full-time in this country you’re not living in poverty; who scoff at the notion that we might have a problem with women not getting paid for doing the same work that men are doing. . . . "


Michael Kinsley Is Terrible, Has Always Been Terrible

Michael Kinsley once again takes the plebes to task for failing to understand that they don't matter.
Michael Kinsley is the right-wing caricature of a liberal that the media presented as an actual liberal when I was coming of age.  He's like the unholy love child of Richard Cohen and Joe Klein, and he doesn't deserve your attention.  This takedown of Kinsley's latest tendentious bullshit, however, does.
Michael Kinsley once again takes the plebes to task for failing to understand that they don't matter. by digby So His Grace, Michael the Duke of Kinsley decided to read Glenn Greenwald's book and H…

It's guys like Kinsley that made it hard for me to self-identify as a liberal until I was in my mid to late twenties.

Narcan: A Second Bite At The Apple For Big Pharma

I'm not sure that Narcan should be the top priority in responding to the opiate/heroin epidemic.
The three people were saved by the opiate antidote Narcan, a nasal spray that has been distributed to nearly all Ocean County police departments by the Prosecutor's Office in an effort to curb opiate deaths.
But officials have already seen the limits of the drug and the power of addiction.
Last week, on May 16, a 19-year-old woman in Brick who overdosed on suspected fentanyl, an opiate, was revived by Narcan, according to the Prosecutor's Office. At 10:30 the morning of May 19, police were called to her home again for a fentanyl overdose. She was pronounced dead 20 minutes later, the office said.
"Plain and simple, for some folks it's a second chance they can make good on," Prosecutor's Office spokesman Al Della Fave said. "For others, it's not. But it's a life, so you've got to take a shot that the individual will have an awakening."
Absent significant funding for treatment and education, just resuscitating addicts is like swimming against the tide. Lawmakers should start by curtailing legal access to prescription opiates, demanding transparency and accountability from pharmacies and doctors and cracking down on pill mills.

But none of those steps are profitable for the pharmaceutical indistry . . . and selling Narcan is.  So the pharmaceutical companies win twice.  They mass produce the pills that have spawned a generation of heroin addicts.  And now they're selling a treatment (not a cure!) for the problem they created.

Latest On LICH

If the deal is concluded with the State University of New York, developer Peebles Corp. would maintain a walk-in ER at the site, and resume ambulance service by July 15. Peebles plans a mixed use development of the LICH campus. The deal offers much less healthcare than community advocates and officials have been fighting for. "I will be signing the document," Justice Baynes told the courtroom. "No judge is going to block what three, four attorneys want to do." He cautioned, however, "It's a tough time for everybody, and I don't think it's over yet." SUNY has agreed to keep the ER open until May 27 while North Shore-LIJ, one of Peeble's health care partners, takes over its staffing and eventually, its operation. SUNY is closing the remainder of the historic Cobble Hill hospital and laying off the staff at midnight on Thursday. In recognition that no survey of the healthcare needs of LICH's catchment area has ever been carried out, the deal also requires that Peebles and its partners hire an independent health care consultant to conduct a "data-driven, transparent" community medical needs assessment of the LICH catchment area, "without any political considerations." Based on the results of this survey, Peebles' partners Maimonides Medical Center, North Shore-LIJ, ProHEALTH and the Institute for Family Health, would be expected to "work in good faith to provide the services deemed advisable."
Where we stand as of last night.
If the deal is concluded with the State University of New York, developer Peebles Corp. would maintain a walk-in ER at the site, and resume ambulance service by July 15. Peebles plans a mixed use development of the LICH campus. The deal offers much less healthcare than community advocates and officials have been fighting for. "I will be signing the document," Justice Baynes told the courtroom. "No judge is going to block what three, four attorneys want to do." He cautioned, however, "It's a tough time for everybody, and I don't think it's over yet." SUNY has agreed to keep the ER open until May 27 while North Shore-LIJ, one of Peeble's health care partners, takes over its staffing and eventually, its operation. SUNY is closing the remainder of the historic Cobble Hill hospital and laying off the staff at midnight on Thursday. In recognition that no survey of the healthcare needs of LICH's catchment area has ever been carried out, the deal also requires that Peebles and its partners hire an independent health care consultant to conduct a "data-driven, transparent" community medical needs assessment of the LICH catchment area, "without any political considerations." Based on the results of this survey, Peebles' partners Maimonides Medical Center, North Shore-LIJ, ProHEALTH and the Institute for Family Health, would be expected to "work in good faith to provide the services deemed advisable."

Jim Walden and team must be exhausted by now.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Fulton Transit Center Nears Completion

These look like the cartoon people from an architect's rendering, don't they?
Fulton Street Transit Center.  It's taken so long it's hard to believe we're almost finished.  And since the change has been gradual most of the way, one can almost forget what a urine-soaked dungeon this station once was.  Broadway-Nassau was a depressing, oppressive place to pass through.  I'm cognizant of the point that this was a large investment without additional capacity.  There is, however, something to be said for added convenience and an improved rider experience.

What was once a miserable part of a commute will now be much more pleasant.  That's an intangible, but it's not without value.

Massive WTC PATH Spine Resembles A Partially Unearthed Urban Megafossil

There's something H.R. Giger-esque about this that really appeals to me.  I would leave off Calatrava's soaring white wings and leave this spine of powerful mechanical vertebrae. 
As seen from the west entrance to Fulkton Street transit center 4/5 line.

Koch Binge


The Brutal Battle That Tore Apart America's Most Powerful Family
This long read on the Koch brothers (FYI, there are four, not two) explains a lot.  

If Charles and David would see a therapist we could all be so much happier.
Fred rarely displayed affection toward his sons, as if doing so might breed weakness in them. "Fred was just a very stiff, calculated businessman," Chapple said. "I don't mean this in a critical way, but his interest was not in the kids, other than the fact that he wanted them well educated." He was not the kind of dad who played catch; he was the type of father, one Koch relative recalled, who taught his children to swim by throwing them into the pool and walking away. "He ruled the boys with an iron fist."

Enron 2.0: Energy Prices Manipulated

Enron 2.0: Energy Prices Manipulated
Free market capitalism!
Wall Street Manipulates Energy Prices … and Every Other Market: The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission says that JP Morgan has massively manipulated energy markets in  California and the Midwest. . .

Electricity deregulation, pushed so hard by the GOP in the 80s and 90s, was never anything but an enormous grift.  As with our disastrous health insurance system, it introduced a dead weight loss to a natural monopoly, which they marketed under the name of "competition" and "free markets".

Enron and these guys are just the natural progression of the grift.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Parking Madness Should Be In DSM IV

I share Atrios frustration.  Parking debates lead some otherwise rational, intelligent people I know to completely ignore logic and data, and adhere to almost religious arguments of the earth-is-flat, sun-revolves-around-earth variety.  And then there is that large cohort of less than rational or intelligent people . . .
What drives me nuts about parking-over-everything people is so often they get it wrong. They support curb cuts, which convert one public space into one private one. They demand new residents buy parking spots, ensuring that those new residents will be car owners, likely owning more than one.
But walk around Philly neighborhood and you'll find plenty of long term parkers. Cars which just sit there, almost if not completely unused. It currently costs $35/year to store your first car, $50/year for the second one, and $75/year for the third. That's new. Until this year, every car cost $35 for the initial permit and then $20/year for the renewal. $100/year for five cars. There's space on the street on most blocks for one car/home.
I don't think parking fees should be extremely punitive. I'm fine with that first car in a household being pretty cheap. But parking is a scarce resource in some neighborhoods, and it is way underpriced. It's so cheap that there's no disincentive for owning multiple cars. That's the parking problem. 
Eliminate minimum parking requirements.  Price street parking more rationally.  Improve access to transit. Ban most curb cuts and front-yard parking.

A Tale of Two Retailers

Two headlines juxtaposed in my news feed serve as a good perspective frame:

Target profit falls 16%, missing estimates

Tiffany & Co. Smashes Street Expectations As First Quarter Earnings Surge 50%

Go long on caviar and metal scavenging.

House GOP Wants To Take Food Out of "Urban" Kids Mouths

We can't have any of those "urban" children getting nutritional benefits.  Only our all-American rural kids:
Since 2010, the program has operated from an initial appropriation of $85 million, and the goal has been to test alternative approaches to distribute aid when schools are not in session. The White House asked for an additional $30 million to continue the effort, but the House bill provides $27 million for what’s described as an entirely new pilot program focused on rural areas only.
Democrats were surprised to see urban children were excluded. And the GOP had some trouble explaining the history itself. But a spokeswoman confirmed that the intent of the bill is a pilot project in “rural areas” only.
These people are assholes.

"Difficult People" Filming On 1st Place Today


Billy on our street.
The Emmy-nominated Billy on the Street host is teaming with longtime friend and head writer Julie Klausner (Mulaney) to create and star in a scripted comedy for USA, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.
In Difficult People, which Eichner and Klausner created, the duo star as frustrated comedians and pop culture-loving best friends living in New York City who hate everyone -- except each other.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Hell Is David Brooks

Just repeating the same vapid up-is-down nonsense over and over again for all eternity.  And your low information but literate acquaintances, colleagues and family members nodding along as if it made sense.
Perhaps you are skeptical that the Simpson-Bowles model is the way to accomplish this, given that the commission began its work four years ago, and evidence of legislative progress is difficult to detect. If that is the "quickest way" to implement the elitist agenda, you may ask, what would be an example of a slower way? The problem here is that Simpson and Bowles simply did not enjoy enough sanctimonious endorsements from the political, media, and corporate elite. Brooks believes that the drumbeat on behalf of Simpson-Bowles is but a small taste of what is needed to reshape the face of American politics. He foresees a future in which we "Gather small groups of the great and the good together to hammer out bipartisan reforms — on immigration, entitlement reform, a social mobility agenda, etc. — and then rally establishment opinion to browbeat the plans through." If Simpson and Bowles failed, it is only due to a surfeit of hammering and browbeating. This can be fixed for future Simpson-Bowles commissions. For instance, why is Morning Joe a mere three hours long? It should be on 24 hours a day, and all Americans should have to watch it, Clockwork Orange–style.

I'm surprised this guy can change his own pants, yet he is given multiple bullhorns in our meritocracy. 

Carnage In Brooklyn: Speeding Driver and Passenger Killed

I'm glad that Mayor de Blasio has made street safety a top priority.  Because this kind of driving poses an unacceptable risk to everyone else in society.  It's practically a miracle that no bystanders were killed.
A driver and his passenger were killed after their car crashed into another vehicle on Flatbush Avenue at Avenue U in Marine Park, Brooklyn last night around 6:40 p.m. Multiple sources say the driver was going 100 mph or faster.
According to the official police statement, the driver of a Nissan Maxima was traveling south on Flatbush Avenue when he struck a BMW, which was turning onto Avenue U from northbound Flatbush Avenue. The Nissan's driver, 20-year-old Philbert Martin Williams, was pronounced dead at Coney Island Hospital. His passenger, Christina Wipper, 18, was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver and passenger of the BMW suffered minor injuries and were taken to Kings County Hospital.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Assemblywoman Joan Millman Tapped For Spot at NYC Dept for the Aging, Will Not Run For Reelection

In local politics, this is big news tonight.  It's hard for me to imagine the 52nd Assembly District without Joan; she's held the seat since long before I moved to the neighborhood.  17 years!

From the Brooklyn Eagle, with the scoop:
Assemblywoman Millman has represented neighborhoods including Brooklyn Heights, Carroll Gardens, Downtown Brooklyn, Gowanus, Prospect Heights and parts of Park Slope and for over 17 years.
Noted for her advocacy for both children and seniors, Millman said she will be moving to a position at the New York City Department for the Aging.
“It has been my great pleasure to represent our communities in the State Assembly for the past 17 years,” she said in a statement. “The support I have received from my neighbors and constituents has been truly humbling, and the work we have accomplished together will have a lasting impact on our communities. I am deeply grateful to have had the opportunity to serve and I look forward to continuing to advocate on behalf of seniors.” 
Congratulations on the new position and the much better commute, Joan.  I'll have more to add later.  This caught me by surprise right before bed!

Brooklyn Bridge Park Beach and Pier 2 Open Thursday

Just in time for Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial early start of summer.  Beat the traffic this year and walk to the beach.  Details at Brooklyn Heights Blog.

Note to Brooklyn Bridge Park: your website is not the friendliest.

UPDATE:  I've been informed that the new BBP website is not yet complete but will be fully functional by June 3rd.  Good to know!

Spying For Me, But Not For Thee

US Indicts Chinese Hackers for Stealing Information on Trade Negotiations
Will be interesting to follow the cognitive dissonance over this latest spotlight on hypocritical US spying policy.
"I in no way mean to minimize the impact of this spying on USS and USW. I also suspect they were targeted because the two organizations partner together on an increasingly successful manufacturing organization.Which would still constitute a fair spying target, but also one against which China has acute interests. But that still doesn't make it different from what the US does when it engages in spearphishing — or worse — to steal information to help us in trade negotiations or disputes. We've just criminalized something the NSA does all the time."

It's ok for the NSA to do it of course.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Weekend Subway Service Advisories

What's happening this weekend?

The local:
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, May 16 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, May 19, Queens-bound F trains run express from Church Av to Smith-9 Sts due to signal work at Church Av.

From 12:30 a.m. Saturday, May 17 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, May 19, Queens-bound F trains run local between Queens Plaza and Forest Hills-71 Av due to CPM signal modernization at Forest Hills-71 Av and Kew Gardens-Union Tpke. Coney Island-Stillwell Av-bound F trains run local between Forest Hills-71 Av and 21 St-Queensbridge.

From 9:45 p.m. Friday, May 16 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, May 19, Queens-bound F trains are rerouted via the E line from 47-50 Sts-Rock Ctr to Queens Plaza due toSecond Avenue Subway construction work.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, May 16 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, May 19, Queens-bound G trains run express from Church Av to Smith-9 Sts due to signal work at Church Av.
And the big picture:

Friday, May 16, 2014

Congressional Republicans: Wholly Owned Subsidiary of the Rentier Class

Comcast buys themselves a Majority Leader, tries to become rent seeker extraordinaire, by @DavidOAtkins
Comcast is an egregious example, and a particularly pernicious one given the importance of an open internet. But they are just one among many.
"ISPs attempting to rid themselves of pesky net neutrality in order to charge a toll for higher speeds online is a classic example of rent seeking. Comcast didn't do anything to earn the right to charge those prices. The taxpayers funded most of the infrastructure of the Internet. Comcast is simply one of the companies that made it to the top of the heap when we foolishly privatized the profits of the internet investment We the People made. Now they want to strip net neutrality regulations in order to charge a toll for no good reason at all. Rent seeking is at the heart of much of the economic malaise we suffer from. Exorbitant and pervasive rent-seeking is a byproduct of the misguided move to worship asset ownership instead of working wages. Using our utterly corrupt money-is-speech election donation system to buy rules to allow greater rent seeking is the epitome of economic evil in politics. And Comcast and John Boehner are right in the middle of it."

Money isn't speech. Corporations are not people.  And a bought and paid for government is what you get when you allow rent-seeking behavior to flourish. 

Sterling Story Cast

It was a bitterly funny turn of events for some longtime Johnson observers, who remember when he was the guy making repulsive admissions on tape while speaking with a much younger female with whom he never should've been involved. At the very least, they believe Johnson—with an assist from Rhee—earned a lifetime ban from the moral high ground many years ago. "All I can say is the factually supported charges against Johnson certainly bring into question holding him out to be a moral compass," says New York attorney Gerald Walpin. From 2007 to 2009, Walpin was inspector general for the Corporation for National Community Service. That's the federal agency that oversees AmeriCorps. On that job, Walpin investigated St. HOPE Academy, a group Johnson founded to run charter schools in his hometown of Sacramento that got lots of AmeriCorps money. In 2008, Walpin issued a referral to the local U.S. Attorney for the "criminal and civil prosecution" of Johnson for "obtaining by law federal funds under a grant," and the "filing of false and fraudulent claims" in connection with subsidies totaling $845,018.75. The allegations included lots of bogus accounting. People on AmeriCorps's dime as St. HOPE tutors, according to a joint report on Walpin's investigation issued by Congressional Republicans, were being asked to "wash his car [and] run personal errands" for Johnson. But the seamiest stuff in those files, and there's a lot of it, comes when investigators take a break from possible fiscal malfeasance to accuse Johnson of physical misdeeds. According to the oversight committee's report, Walpin included allegations of "inappropriate sexual conduct" against Johnson in his criminal referral to the U.S. attorney's office because they could "seriously impact ... both the security of young [AmeriCorps] Members placed in the care of grantees and ... the ability of AmeriCorps to continue to attract volunteers." Johnson's past, as outlined by the committee, also includes alleged hush-money payments to make all this bad news go away. Judging by the non-mention in The New York Times's opus, it largely has gone away.
No heroes, only villains.
It was a bitterly funny turn of events for some longtime Johnson observers, who remember when he was the guy making repulsive admissions on tape while speaking with a much younger female with whom he never should've been involved. At the very least, they believe Johnson—with an assist from Rhee—earned a lifetime ban from the moral high ground many years ago. "All I can say is the factually supported charges against Johnson certainly bring into question holding him out to be a moral compass," says New York attorney Gerald Walpin. From 2007 to 2009, Walpin was inspector general for the Corporation for National Community Service. That's the federal agency that oversees AmeriCorps. On that job, Walpin investigated St. HOPE Academy, a group Johnson founded to run charter schools in his hometown of Sacramento that got lots of AmeriCorps money. In 2008, Walpin issued a referral to the local U.S. Attorney for the "criminal and civil prosecution" of Johnson for "obtaining by law federal funds under a grant," and the "filing of false and fraudulent claims" in connection with subsidies totaling $845,018.75. The allegations included lots of bogus accounting. People on AmeriCorps's dime as St. HOPE tutors, according to a joint report on Walpin's investigation issued by Congressional Republicans, were being asked to "wash his car [and] run personal errands" for Johnson. But the seamiest stuff in those files, and there's a lot of it, comes when investigators take a break from possible fiscal malfeasance to accuse Johnson of physical misdeeds. According to the oversight committee's report, Walpin included allegations of "inappropriate sexual conduct" against Johnson in his criminal referral to the U.S. attorney's office because they could "seriously impact ... both the security of young [AmeriCorps] Members placed in the care of grantees and ... the ability of AmeriCorps to continue to attract volunteers." Johnson's past, as outlined by the committee, also includes alleged hush-money payments to make all this bad news go away. Judging by the non-mention in The New York Times's opus, it largely has gone away.


This story just gets weirder and weirder. The ever-grifting Michelle Rhee even makes an appearance.  You can't make this stuff up.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Man Charged In Horrific Fatal E. Village Beating

Mother of Man Charged in Fatal Beating Says He Doesn't Remember the Attack
I understand that a mother commonly grasps at straws in these situations, but that is possibly the least plausible excuse I have ever seen.
"On Wednesday afternoon, 20-year-old Jamie Pugh was charged with assault, robbery, and murder in the death of Ruan Wen Hui, the 68-year-old who was beaten and left on the street near his East Village home over the weekend. Shortly before Pugh's arraignment in Manhattan Criminal Court, his mother, Charlotte Pugh-Douglas, told DNAinfo that her son doesn't recall the brutal incident, which was captured by a surveillance camera, because he had taken MDMA beforehand."

Because that's what people always do on MDMA aka Ecstacy: fly into violent rages.

reBar Owner Facing Bars Of A Different Sort

Jason Stevens, the owner of popular Brooklyn wedding venue reBar, turned himself in to police on Thu
This whole story is a real shame.
"Jason Stevens, the owner of popular Brooklyn wedding venue reBar , turned himself in to police on Thursday. He was arrested and charged with grand larceny and four counts of tax fraud."

I find myself wondering just what the hell happened?  Apparently we're talking about a couple of million dollars here.

VMT? Just Increase The Damn Gas Tax

Oregon Adopts Program To Allow Guz Guzzler Drivers To Lower Their Gas Taxes
Exactly.  What Atrios says.
"One day a vehicle mileage tax might be a necessary replacement for a gas tax, but we are nowhere near that day. Just increase the damn gas tax."

Why does it always have to be some Rube Goldberg approach to policy in this country?  A higher gas tax will fund transit and transportation projects in the short term, and encourage greater fuel efficiency in the long term, and the collection mechanism is already in place.

Russia-Ukraine Doubleshot Part 2



There's not much comfort here for any side in the West when you frame Putin's actions through local politics. Here, in our proxy war way of framing Ukraine, either Putin's a crazy evil empire-r looking to reestablish his empire, meaning we better stop him now; or Putin's merely reacting defensively to our aggression (or, according to the faulty thinking of a lot of people sick of American interventionism, Putin is heroically defying the US Empire, acting as a counterweight). What he's doing is shoring up his new political base while tightening the screws on whatever remained of liberal freedom in Russia, taking control of the Internet, seizing control of the handful of opposition online media sites, and ramping up the culture war against liberals, gays, the decadent West… The fact that we, the US and EU and a few billionaires, funded violent regime change groups in bed with west Ukraine fascists and Russophobes has only made Putin's domestic job easier. You can see it in the aftermath of the Odessa fire massacre that killed over 40 pro-Russian separatists: It shut up even Navalny. The liberal-yuppie elites' momentum is over. Putin's popularity among the rest of the country has never been higher. So if Putin is neither the defiant counterweight hero or the neo-Stalinist imperialist, but rather playing a Russian version of vicious Nixon politics, what should the West do? That's easy: Stay the Hell out of Russia's way for awhile, its version of Nixon politics is just beginning, and it's going to get uglier. Russia has a history of turning inward in ways that will strike us as feral and alien, something the abandoned Silent Majority will welcome, but no one else will. (Our sanctions only helped speed up that process of inward isolationism.)
And the Mark Ames piece alluded to in the last post.  The framing of foreign policy/world news in the US media is so poor it verges on disinformation. 

http://pando.com/2014/05/14/sorry-america-the-ukraine-isnt-all-about-you/
There's not much comfort here for any side in the West when you frame Putin's actions through local politics. Here, in our proxy war way of framing Ukraine, either Putin's a crazy evil empire-r looking to reestablish his empire, meaning we better stop him now; or Putin's merely reacting defensively to our aggression (or, according to the faulty thinking of a lot of people sick of American interventionism, Putin is heroically defying the US Empire, acting as a counterweight). What he's doing is shoring up his new political base while tightening the screws on whatever remained of liberal freedom in Russia, taking control of the Internet, seizing control of the handful of opposition online media sites, and ramping up the culture war against liberals, gays, the decadent West… The fact that we, the US and EU and a few billionaires, funded violent regime change groups in bed with west Ukraine fascists and Russophobes has only made Putin's domestic job easier. You can see it in the aftermath of the Odessa fire massacre that killed over 40 pro-Russian separatists: It shut up even Navalny. The liberal-yuppie elites' momentum is over. Putin's popularity among the rest of the country has never been higher. So if Putin is neither the defiant counterweight hero or the neo-Stalinist imperialist, but rather playing a Russian version of vicious Nixon politics, what should the West do? That's easy: Stay the Hell out of Russia's way for awhile, its version of Nixon politics is just beginning, and it's going to get uglier. Russia has a history of turning inward in ways that will strike us as feral and alien, something the abandoned Silent Majority will welcome, but no one else will. (Our sanctions only helped speed up that process of inward isolationism.)


Russia-Ukraine Doubleshot Part 1


Adventures of the Deep State
This dialog between Greenwald and Billmon on Twitter is more insightful than anything you will see on television news.  And it serves as a good preamble for the Mark Ames apiece I will be posting in a moment.

Adventures of the Deep State
"As the media gets more and more uhm... emotional about events in Russia and Ukraine, it's past time to start asking some important questions. This dialog between Billmon and Greenwald is a very interesting place to start:"

You're better off being completely ignorant of world affairs than you are if you follow them in American news media.  The coverage here is so bad that you will be disinformed on any given topic outside of sports coverage or natural disaster coverage.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

As Predicted

World of Hurt
Of course there was more to that NYT  story.  The most shocking part, however, is that they paid Bill Keller for his execrable work. I hope, at least, he is paying the Times to run his awful column.
But if it wasn't just that Abramson found out that she was paid significantly less than her male predecessor and one of her male deputies and then got fired over it, that does seem to have been a significant part of the equation. And that's just thermonuclear. The 'additional' potential issue that this behavior confirmed Sulzberger's and Thompson's perception that she was "pushy" does not sound like something that will help management's case.

I'm no fan of Abramson's (see Miller, Judith), but this was utterly hamfisted on the NYT's management's part.  

DCCC's Pele of Own Goals: Steve Israel

Pushing the wave
The inexcusable incompetence of Steve Israel.  Personally speaking, I won't give a nickel to DCCC or DSCC, because they routinely push "centrist" DLC types at the expense of liberal/progressive candidates.
If you read Howie Klein's Down With Tyranny on a regular basis you already know that the DCCC's strategy this cycle under the alleged leadership of Steve Israel  is a clown show of epic proportions. There are examples all over the country of the Democrats backing the losing candidates over the ones who might win, ignoring winnable races and leaving vulnerable GOP incumbents alone.  But nothing reveals the depth of the incompetence better than this:

Heckuva job.

NYT Makes A Surprise Change; What's Up?

Hmm.  This is a pretty unusual move.
New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson is departing the paper, effective immediately. She has been replaced by former managing editor Dean Baquet. The news broke on Wednesday, exploding across Twitter and yielding a Times article that itself expressed confusion at the development.
As photos from within the stunned newsroom spread online, it became clear that Times publisher and chairman of The New York Times Company Arthur Sulzberger Jr. was behind the switch. “Arthur made the decision because he believed that new leadership would improve some aspects of the management of the newsroom,” a company spokesperson told AdAge.
“There is nothing more at issue here,” Sulzberger told the newsroom, according to CNN host and former Times journalist Brian Stelter.
And by 'nothing more at issue here', I presume he meant "there is with absolute certainty something more at issue here".

But what?

Must See TV: The United States of Secrets

The United States of Secrets
This is something I've been outraged about for over a dozen years now.  The story has been soft-pedaled in the press, and I think most people don't have a good grasp of just how this all went down. It's an epic crime story.
I sincerely hope that everyone who is skeptical about the value and necessity of NSA whistleblowing will watch the PBS Frontline program called The United States of Secrets. You won't have to be offended by Glenn Greenwald's passion (although he does appear toward the end briefly) or reflexively defend the Obama administration because it's mostly the programs that Dick Cheney and his deranged lieutenant David Addington energetically pushed and defended as Michael Hayden and the NSA willingly carried it out. This is the whole story told in linear fashion, with recollections from players like Alberto Gonzales (who admits that all he tried to do was "protect the president" when he signed the legal authorization when Jack Goldsmith refused.) You'll see, probably for the first time, the first person accounts of righteous patriots who tried to blow the whistle from the very beginning. The details are all fascinating and the story is well told. But I think it's vitally important for liberals who are ambivalent about whether this program required whistleblower with proof to watch it to understand how it was protected and advanced by Vice President Cheney and his counsel Addington through lies and obfuscation and finally just plain thuggish political power. (And yes, how despite the fact that President Obama ran for president explicitly against such abuse of power, he did nothing to challenge it. That's on him.)

Typos courtesy of my iPhone