Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Downside of Using Mercenaries

WASHINGTON — Just weeks before Blackwater guards fatally shot 17 civilians at Baghdad's Nisour Square in 2007, the State Department began investigating the security contractor's operations in Iraq. But the inquiry was abandoned after Blackwater's top manager there issued a threat: "that he could kill" the government's chief investigator and "no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq," according to department reports. American Embassy officials in Baghdad sided with Blackwater rather than the State Department investigators as a dispute over the probe escalated in August 2007, the previously undisclosed documents show. The officials told the investigators that they had disrupted the embassy's relationship with the security contractor and ordered them to leave the country, according to the reports. After returning to Washington, the chief investigator wrote a scathing report to State Department officials documenting misconduct by Blackwater employees and warning that lax oversight of the company, which had a contract worth more than $1 billion to protect American diplomats, had created "an environment full of liability and negligence."

Who the hell thought this was a good idea?  The Randian imbeciles want to outsource anything and everything in the name of profit. 

We are ruled by fools. Oftentimes, belligerent, malicious fools. 

WASHINGTON — Just weeks before Blackwater guards fatally shot 17 civilians at Baghdad's Nisour Square in 2007, the State Department began investigating the security contractor's operations in Iraq. But the inquiry was abandoned after Blackwater's top manager there issued a threat: "that he could kill" the government's chief investigator and "no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq," according to department reports. American Embassy officials in Baghdad sided with Blackwater rather than the State Department investigators as a dispute over the probe escalated in August 2007, the previously undisclosed documents show. The officials told the investigators that they had disrupted the embassy's relationship with the security contractor and ordered them to leave the country, according to the reports. After returning to Washington, the chief investigator wrote a scathing report to State Department officials documenting misconduct by Blackwater employees and warning that lax oversight of the company, which had a contract worth more than $1 billion to protect American diplomats, had created "an environment full of liability and negligence."

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/30/us/before-shooting-in-iraq-warning-on-blackwater.html?_r=0



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Friday, June 27, 2014

Brilliant Essay On Inequality By A Rational 0.01%er

Just go read Hanauer today, by @DavidOAtkins
Read and share.
"But the problem isn't that we have inequality. Some inequality is intrinsic to any high-functioning capitalist economy. The problem is that inequality is at historically high levels and getting worse every day. Our country is rapidly becoming less a capitalist society and more a feudal society. Unless our policies change dramatically, the middle class will disappear, and we will be back to late 18th-century France. Before the revolution. And so I have a message for my fellow filthy rich, for all of us who live in our gated bubble worlds: Wake up, people. It won't last. If we don't do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn't eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It's not if, it's when...."

I've long held this view, though I am not a wealthy person.  It is cold logic.  And frankly, I do not want my family and friends trampled by the mob - or becoming the mob - at pitchfork time.  Nor do I wish to live in a police state.  We need to make social changes before it gets to that point, and we are already far along that road.

Fulton Street Really Coming Together

View towards uptown 4/5 platform.
View towards A/C/2/3/J/Z connection
View from the sidewalk on Broadway.
Yes, construction is ongoing with finishing work and the escalators are not running yet, but the station is closer and closer to a full opening.  For all the delays, and the cost overruns (not all of which are the fault of MTA, by the way, see, e.g., Corbin Building) this oft-maligned new headhouse will change the lives of the people who pass through here on a daily basis.

The old station was a byzantine maze with the air of a medieval dungeon.  One might have expected to face a Minotaur in the bowels of the complex.  One can already tell that commuting through this station will be a more civilized, uplifting experience.  It's impossible to put a price tag on an intangible like this, and I won't say that this was the best possible use of transit funds.  But let's be honest, this station complex was a depressing mess before.

Our number one focus should be on expanding the reach and capacity of the system, but the overall rider experience is important too.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Do We Ever Learn?

Arming And Training Has Worked Great So Far

Another $500M to destabilize Syria. 

Meanwhile we can't pass a highway bill, or care for our vets, or adequately invest in mass transit, or [insert valuable domestic initiative here]. 

Sometimes I feel like I'm living in a Twilight Zone episode. 
"President Barack Obama is asking Congress for $500 million to train and arm vetted members of the Syrian opposition"

http://www.eschatonblog.com/2014/06/arming-and-training-has-worked-great-so.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+blogspot%2FbRuz+%28Eschaton%29

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Reckless Driver Decapitated In Cobble Hill

Police Chase Ends in Decapitation
Thankfully no pedestrians were injured.  Something else to consider: this interchange is dangerous even without reckless behavior.  But alas, when the state cancelled the Stakeholders Advisory Committee for the Brooklyn Heights portion of the BQE, any plan to improve this stretch of highway and its ramps was shelved.
"A car chase through Brooklyn ended in a horrifying scene yesterday when the driver of a black Infiniti crashed into the back of a flatbed truck and lost his head. According to a witness, the 22-year-old driver was going about 80 miles per hour when he slammed into the back of the stopped truck at the end of the Atlantic Avenue exit on the Gowanus Expressway. "

Never run from the police.  Your odds of success are slim, and the chance of vastly upgraded charges (and the chance that you will gravely harm yourself or someone else) are great.

de Blasio's NYC DOT Ahead In Implementing Vision Zero, But When Will New York State DOT Enter 21st Century?

From earlier this week, Mayor de Blasio signed 11 bills into law to improve the safety of NYC's streets:
Mayor de Blasio signed a sweeping package of 11 new laws Monday designed to crack down on reckless drivers and advance his “Vision Zero” plan to cut traffic deaths.
The new laws will lower the speed limit to 15 to 20 miles per hours near 50 schools each year, and allow the city to suspend the license of a cabbie who kills or seriously injures someone while committing a traffic violation.
They will make it a crime to hit a pedestrian or cyclist who has the right of way, as well as banning stunt driving by motorcyclists and requiring the city to fix broken traffic signals within 24 hours.
“Fundamentally, it comes down to reducing speeding, reducing reckless driving,” de Blasio said.
“The vision is to end traffic fatalities in this city. It’s not easy,” he said. “We can’t keep losing New Yorkers because we haven’t done all in our power to protect them.”
But on the other hand, New York State DOT has declined to adopt NACTO standards for safer, multi-modal streets:
The 2014 Smart Growth America “Dangerous by Design” pedestrian fatality study found that, though just 15 percent of lane miles in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut are classified as arterials, from 2003 to 2012 they accounted for 50 percent or more of pedestrian deaths in 90 percent of counties.
There’s a reason the report is called “Dangerous by Design” — streets and roads designed for maximum auto throughput are not safe for people who walk and bike. If anything, the status quo on these streets should be an argument in favor of incorporating NACTO designs into the NYS DOT tool kit. Though states including California, Washington, Massachusetts — even Tennessee — have updated their guidelines, apparently NYS DOT won’t be following suit because they conflict with outmoded designs recommended by AASHTO.
 It would be great to see a cultural change at NYS DOT to reflect the current state of the art in street safety.  As it stands our state DOT is still steeped in a mid to late 20th century mindset.

Don't get me started on my old state of New Jersey, which is home to some truly disastrous traffic engineering that has rendered large swaths of the state brutally inhospitable to pedestrians.  It will take decades to undo the damage in NJ.  And there's no time like the present to get started.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Reminder: Elliot Abrams Is A War Criminal

The worst neocon of all? I think it's this guy...

Yet in this Bizarro America we inhabit, Elliot Abrams is not rotting in a prison. He was hired by George W. Bush to commit further depraved acts. And now he's getting articles published in Politico. 

Meritocracy!
"He's one of those zombies who's been around for decades wreaking havoc wherever he goes. But he did something very, very, very bad during the 1980s that ranks up there with the worst things Americans have ever done --- he covered up a massacre by US sponsored forces in El Salvador. That's not a "policy disagreement". It's a straight-up war crime. Basically, this proves that there is literally nothing a hawk can ever do to lose his reputation in the American national security establishment."

http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2014/06/the-worst-neocon-of-all-i-think-its.html

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Atrios On The Myth Of Self Defense

The Myth Of Self Defense

All of this is correct, especially the open carry / concealed carry characterizations. 

Gun nuts have an extremely dangerous fetish. 
A gun in the home for the purposes of self defense is either safe and useless (unloaded, locked up), or much more likely to kill someone due to an "accident" than actually be used for self defense.

http://www.eschatonblog.com/2014/06/the-myth-of-self-defense.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+blogspot%2FbRuz+%28Eschaton%29

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Supreme Court Re-discovers The Fourth Amendment

After several decades of chipping away at the 4th Amendment, a unanimous court held this morning that police must obtain a warrant to search cellphone contents.  A very pleasant surprise.

Nydia Velazquez Cruises To Primary Victory

WILLIAMSBURG: Velazq-yes! Incumbent cruises to victory in congressional primary

I still have no idea what Kurzon was thinking.  But congrats Nydia!

"Eleven-term incumbent Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez (D–Brooklyn) steam-rolled Dumbo attorney Jeff Kurzon in the District 7 Democratic primary on Tuesday, garnering 82 percent of the vote. Velazquez cheered the victory and promised to return to Washington stronger than ever. "I know now that I can go there and do the people's work without any kind of fear, because my people here are watching my back," she said."

http://www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/37/26/dtg-velazquez-primary-2014-06-27-bk_37_26.html

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Are The Saudis Paying Cheney?

Maybe It's Time Liz and Dick Cheney Registered Under FARA?

Dick Cheney's been advancing Saudi Arabia's interests for a quarter century. But I do wonder if Dick or Baby Dick is drawing a check?

"This whole "Alliance for a Stronger America" schtick seems to do nothing else but lobby for the use of American service members and weapons to serve the interests of our "friends" — presumably Saudi Arabia and Israel — in the Middle East. If they want to advocate for risking US lives and treasure to serve the Saudis, that's their prerogative. But the law — the Foreign Agents Registration Act — requires that " persons acting as agents of foreign principals in a political or quasi-political capacity to make periodic public disclosure of their relationship with the foreign principal, as well as activities, receipts and disbursements in support of those activities." It's probably time for the Cheney's to disclose who they're working for here. No matter how prominently they feature the word "America" in their organization name, they appear to be working for other governments. Given that they're acting like agents of a foreign power, they probably should admit that formally."

http://www.emptywheel.net/2014/06/25/maybe-its-time-liz-and-dick-cheney-registered-under-fara/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=maybe-its-time-liz-and-dick-cheney-registered-under-fara

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Hey Peter Beinart - You're One of Them!

My Mea Culpa: I was wrong about Peter Beinart being right about being wrong. He's just wrong.

One of those smug faces that shouldn't be allowed back onto our TV screens to pontificate on Iraq, that is.  "Not as awful as Bill Kristol" is not good enough. 

"For crying out loud. The assumption that the US could have done anything to prevent this short of keeping a large military presence in the country at huge expense to America in blood and treasure is nonsense. That they could have done it by "sending messages" and "pushing harder" is delusional.The sad reality is that we broke Humpty Dumpty and all the presidents horses and all the president's men can't put Humpty Dumpty together again. So, here's my mea culpa: I was wrong to give Peter Beinart the benefit of the doubt. Just because you acknowledge that you were wrong about Iraq it doesn't prove that you've given up the line of thinking that assumes America has a special ability to change the world by sheer will and good intentions. That's a children's fairy tale. "

http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2014/06/my-mea-culpa-i-was-wrong-about-peter.html

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Digg.com: There the Anglo-French machinations planted the seeds of instability and conflict among the present day Arab states and between Arabs and Israelis. The British encouraged and assisted Arabs of the Ottoman Empire to rise against their Turkish masters who were allies of Germany and Austria, promising them in return their independence in a unified state. Simultaneously and in secret, the British were dividing the same territories between themselves and their wartime allies (The Sykes-Picot Agreement) and promising Palestine to European Zionists. After the end of the War, the British and the French established their control over these so-called Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire. British and French diplomats drew boundaries of new centralized states of Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. For each, quasi-state institutions were established so these future states would act as clients of their former colonial masters after independence. Less known is how the War changed the direction of Iran’s history. Iran suffered the ravages of the war as Ottoman and Russian forces fought each other on its territory. An estimated quarter of the population in the northwestern parts of the country perished as result of war related famines. In the years immediately following the end of the War, British intervention was to also change the direction of Iran’s history. For nearly one hundred years before 1914 Iran had been a pawn in the great game of imperial rivalry between Russia and Britain. By the turn of the 20th Century, Iran had no effective central government and either the British or Russians controlled its most important economic activities. Then in 1907, the two imperial powers secretly divided Iran into their own zones of Influence.

How WW I, British Greed, and Oil Distorted Modern Iran

I think part of the problem with US foreign policy is that most Americans are almost totally ignorant of the early 20th and 19th century history of the region.  

And so they listen fairly uncritically to the blithering idiots and amoral hucksters like Bill Kristol, Tom Friedman, David Brooks, John McCain, various Pollacks, Michael O'Hanlons, etc. that the corporate media sees fit to punish us with. 

This is just a snippet of the history, but it's important background for understanding the current dynamic. 

Just imagine for a moment that the US and UK did not depose Mossadegh and install the Shah to do the bidding of our oil companies.  What would the region look like today?  And that's just one element. 

"There the Anglo-French machinations planted the seeds of instability and conflict among the present day Arab states and between Arabs and Israelis. The British encouraged and assisted Arabs of the Ottoman Empire to rise against their Turkish masters who were allies of Germany and Austria, promising them in return their independence in a unified state. Simultaneously and in secret, the British were dividing the same territories between themselves and their wartime allies (The Sykes-Picot Agreement) and promising Palestine to European Zionists. After the end of the War, the British and the French established their control over these so-called Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire. British and French diplomats drew boundaries of new centralized states of Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. For each, quasi-state institutions were established so these future states would act as clients of their former colonial masters after independence. Less known is how the War changed the direction of Iran's history. Iran suffered the ravages of the war as Ottoman and Russian forces fought each other on its territory. An estimated quarter of the population in the northwestern parts of the country perished as result of war related famines. In the years immediately following the end of the War, British intervention was to also change the direction of Iran's history. For nearly one hundred years before 1914 Iran had been a pawn in the great game of imperial rivalry between Russia and Britain. By the turn of the 20th Century, Iran had no effective central government and either the British or Russians controlled its most important economic activities. Then in 1907, the two imperial powers secretly divided Iran into their own zones of Influence."

http://www.juancole.com/2014/06/british-distorted-modern.html

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Christie Is Toast

Bridgegate II: Chris Christie Has Another Big Bridge Problem

And so is his boy Samson.  Chris Christie is a bully and a thug, and he treated the Port a Authority like NJ's piggy bank.  He cancelled an extremely important interstate rail project so he could ladle the gravy to NJ highway contractors and keep gas taxes artificially low. And on top of that, he funneled Port Authority money to the Pulaski Skyway repairs, which were NJ's responsibility. 

But you know, just a straight-talk in' fiscal conservative.  He's going to break Joe Scarborough's heart. 

"One bridge investigation has led to another for the Chris Christie administration, further diminishing the New Jersey governor's chances of running for president in 2016. (Potential Republican candidates just can't stop getting prosecuted.) In this chapter of the Christie corruption saga, the Manhattan district attorney and the Securities and Exchange Commission are looking into the administration's use of Port Authority funds (shared between New York and New Jersey) on repairs to the Pulaski Skyway, a bridge connecting Newark and Jersey City (both in New Jersey). There might be felony charges coming."

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2014/06/chris-christie-has-another-big-bridge-problem.html

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Democratic Primary Day: Vote For Nydia Velazquez Today!

I've cut and pasted some details below from an email from Brad Lander.  For my own part, I can say that Nydia has been a tireless advocate for our borough, our city , our state, for working people, for our kids, for small businesses. She's everywhere, and she brings it home for Brooklyn. 

I met her challenger, who seems like a nice enough guy but was unable to articulate any credible reason why we would abandon a veteran lawmaker who votes the right way on every issue for a totally unknown quantity.  I'll confess I am baffled by his campaign. 

I was only the second person from my ED at 9:20 - so get out there and vote !

From Brad:

There are a few Congressional primaries around the city tomorrow and that includes one here in Brooklyn (you shouldn't be embarrassed if you didn't realize!)  Nydia Velázquez is running for re-election in the 11th Congressional District (including Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Gowanus, and some of Park Slope) and the primary is tomorrow.

Nydia has been a great partner in our Bridging Gowanus effort (as a reminder, our next community planning meeting is this Wednesday from 6:30-9:00 at the Wyckoff Gardens Community Center, 280 Wyckoff Street) and in efforts to secure equitable development of our waterfront.  I hope you will join me in supporting her.  Either way, I hope you will exercise your right to be heard and go to the polls tomorrow.

You can can look up your address here to see if you're in the 11th Congressional District and confirm your poll site.  Polls are open from 6:00am-9:00pm.


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Monday, June 23, 2014

Tea Party Grifters

The Grift Pays

How do these people sleep at night?

"In from Georgia, Martin has been spending much of the past three weeks in the state, holding conferences, making fundraising calls, meeting with local chapters of the tea party, and yes, walking door-to-door to turn out the vote for conservative Senate hopeful Chris McDaniel. But unlike most volunteers here, as the head of the national Tea Party Patriots, a group she co-founded and helped bring to national prominence, she's on track to make $450,000 this year doing all this, according to the latest Federal Election Commission reports and Internal Revenue Service filings. And to top that off, the group's latest disclosures also note that she is allowed to travel first-class on any domestic flight she takes as president of the organization — although her lawyer says she doesn't take advantage of the perk."

http://www.balloon-juice.com/2014/06/23/the-grift-pays/

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Krugman on Paulson, Carbon Tax, Climate Change

First, consider rules like fuel efficiency standards, or "net metering" mandates requiring that utilities buy back the electricity generated by homeowners' solar panels. Any economics student can tell you that such rules are inefficient compared with the clean incentives provided by an emissions tax. But we don't have an emissions tax, and fuel efficiency rules and net metering reduce greenhouse gas emissions. So a question for conservative environmentalists: Do you support the continuation of such mandates, or are you with the business groups (spearheaded by the Koch brothers) campaigning to eliminate them and impose fees on home solar installations? Second, consider government support for clean energy via subsidies and loan guarantees. Again, if we had an appropriately high emissions tax such support might not be necessary (there would be a case for investment promotion even then, but never mind). But we don't have such a tax. So the question is, Are you O.K. with things like loan guarantees for solar plants, even though we know that some loans will go bad, Solyndra-style? Finally, what about the Environmental Protection Agency's proposal that it use its regulatory authority to impose large reductions in emissions from power plants? The agency is eager to pursue market-friendly solutions to the extent it can — basically by imposing emissions limits on states, while encouraging states or groups of states to create cap-and-trade systems that effectively put a price on carbon. But this will nonetheless be a partial approach that addresses only one source of greenhouse gas emissions. Are you willing to support this partial approach? By the way: Readers well versed in economics will recognize that I'm talking about what is technically known as the "theory of the second best." According to this theory, distortions in one market — in this case, the fact that there are large social costs to carbon emissions, but individuals and firms don't pay a price for emitting carbon — can justify government intervention in other, related markets. Second-best arguments have a dubious reputation in economics, because the right policy is always to eliminate the primary distortion, if you can. But sometimes you can't, and this is one of those times.

Paul Krugman responds to Hank Paulson's call for a Carbon Tax this morning.  Krugman points out the unlikely passage of such a tax in the current environment and proposes some "second best" alternatives to deal with the urgent problem in the interim. 

But note what's not on his list: the odious cap and trade flim-flam.  Cap and trade is a grift, a rip-off, snake oil.  That's why the Third Way types love it.

Shared from the Digg iPhone app:
First, consider rules like fuel efficiency standards, or "net metering" mandates requiring that utilities buy back the electricity generated by homeowners' solar panels. Any economics student can tell you that such rules are inefficient compared with the clean incentives provided by an emissions tax. But we don't have an emissions tax, and fuel efficiency rules and net metering reduce greenhouse gas emissions. So a question for conservative environmentalists: Do you support the continuation of such mandates, or are you with the business groups (spearheaded by the Koch brothers) campaigning to eliminate them and impose fees on home solar installations? Second, consider government support for clean energy via subsidies and loan guarantees. Again, if we had an appropriately high emissions tax such support might not be necessary (there would be a case for investment promotion even then, but never mind). But we don't have such a tax. So the question is, Are you O.K. with things like loan guarantees for solar plants, even though we know that some loans will go bad, Solyndra-style? Finally, what about the Environmental Protection Agency's proposal that it use its regulatory authority to impose large reductions in emissions from power plants? The agency is eager to pursue market-friendly solutions to the extent it can — basically by imposing emissions limits on states, while encouraging states or groups of states to create cap-and-trade systems that effectively put a price on carbon. But this will nonetheless be a partial approach that addresses only one source of greenhouse gas emissions. Are you willing to support this partial approach? By the way: Readers well versed in economics will recognize that I'm talking about what is technically known as the "theory of the second best." According to this theory, distortions in one market — in this case, the fact that there are large social costs to carbon emissions, but individuals and firms don't pay a price for emitting carbon — can justify government intervention in other, related markets. Second-best arguments have a dubious reputation in economics, because the right policy is always to eliminate the primary distortion, if you can. But sometimes you can't, and this is one of those times.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/23/opinion/paul-krugman-conservatives-and-climate-change.html?hp&rref=opinion&_r=0



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We Need A Carbon Tax, Not Cap and Trade

Why a Carbon Tax is Better Than Obama's Cap and Trade

Kudos to Hank Paulson, late as he is, for stating explicitly that a carbon tax is what's needed. The LAST thing we need is "cap and trade", which is a regulatory shell game for grifters to loot money from the system with little benefit to show for it. 

Cap and trade is a Rube Goldberg policy approach that is designed to avoid taxes and generate profits under the fig leaf guise of cutting carbon emissions. 

What we need is a carbon tax, not another skim operation. 

"We need to craft national policy that uses market forces to provide incentives for the technological advances required to address climate change. As I've said, we can do this by placing a tax on carbon dioxide emissions. Many respected economists, of all ideological persuasions, support this approach. We can debate the appropriate pricing and policy design and how to use the money generated. But a price on carbon would change the behavior of both individuals and businesses. At the same time, all fossil fuel — and renewable energy — subsidies should be phased out. Renewable energy can outcompete dirty fuels once pollution costs are accounted for… A tax on carbon emissions will unleash a wave of innovation to develop technologies, lower the costs of clean energy and create jobs as we and other nations develop new energy products and infrastructure. This would strengthen national security by reducing the world's dependence on governments like Russia and Iran."

http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2014/06/why-carbon-tax-is-better-than-cap-and-trade.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+NakedCapitalism+%28naked+capitalism%29

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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Weekend Subway Service Advisories

Looking good in our neck of the woods:


From 11:15 p.m. Friday, June 20 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 23, Coney Island Stillwell Av-bound F trains are rerouted via the E line from Jackson Hts-Roosevelt Av to 5 Av/53 St due to Second Avenue Subway construction work.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, June 20 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 23, Coney Island Stillwell Av-bound F trains skip Sutphin Blvd, Briarwood-Van Wyck Blvd and 75 Av due to rail work south of Parsons Blvd.

And the citywide situation and MTA news over at Ben's:


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Friday, June 20, 2014

Sewer Work On 3rd Place At Henry Street

It's an old city.  Stuff breaks down.
Today was not the day to drive or bike down 3rd Place.

Esquire: Chris Christie Is In Deep Samson

Couldn't have happened to a nicer bunch of guys.  I still blame Jon Corzine for being a lousy governor and allowing the rise of Chris Christie as a result.  But Corzine looks like a prince next to the amoral back-slapping crook that succeeded him:

Paul Fishman, the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, wades through the sewage of Christie’s stewardship. Two sources with intimate knowledge of the case say Fishman’s pace is quickening -- he has empaneled a second grand jury, and the U.S. Justice Department has sent assistant prosecutors and FBI agents to work the case.  
“What’s taking the most time,” according to one source, “is separating what's viable from all the bad stuff they’re finding that may not be viable.”
Fishman’s challenge is to nail down specific criminal charges on several fronts -- the diversion of Port Authority money to fund New Jersey road and bridge projects; the four-day rush-hour closures of George Washington Bridge lanes in Ft. Lee; and a web of real-estate deals spun by David Samson, long a Christie crony, when he chaired the PA’s Board of Commissioners as Christie’s appointee. (One such deal, a stalled office-tower development in Hoboken, New Jersey, is central to a claim that Christie’s lieutenant governor told the town’s mayor that the state would withhold Hurricane Sandy relief aid from Hoboken if the mayor didn’t sign off on the development project.)
 And then there is this:
Fishman has cut no deals with anyone so far, and the looming indictments have encouraged Christie’s PA appointees to sing. “Don’t underestimate what Wildstein has on Christie,” says one source. “And Wildstein and Baroni have both turned on Samson. If Samson doesn't give Fishman Christie, Samson is toast.” 
. . . .
 “They’ve got [Samson] cold,” says one source. “He got sloppy, arrogant, and greedy. Samson will want a deal. This way, he’d get one or two years. He’d have a future on the other side. He won’t want to die in jail.”  
These guys are as dirty as it gets.  And they're going to go down for it.

Now, supposedly we're going to get a bi-state report on suggested reforms for the Port Authority Christie abused so baldly and badly.  Any substantive effort to change the authority should be free of any influence from the corrupt influence of the Chris Christie administration.

The PANYNJ is a vital and important organization; what this region needs is more interstate cooperation, not less.  It takes regional planning and regional cooperation to effectively manage the needs of the New York City metropolitan area.  We need to prevent more Chris Christies from raiding the Port Authority for their own selfish purposes, but we also need strong bistate cooperation to further the PA's core mission of moving people and goods efficiently through the region.  Our port and transportation infrastructure is the vital economic engine of the region.  We can and must do better.  The Cross-Harbor Rail Tunnel (freight) and the Gateway project (passenger) are vital to the future prosperity of New York City.  With the WTC project finally nearing substantial completion, the PANYNJ must return to its roots and drive the next phase of economic growth with a focus on those two key infrastructure projects.

A Banner Day In New York: Budgets, Safe Streets and Settlement, Oh My

NYC budget deal reached, and early at that.

Safe Streets Bill lowering NYC speed limit to 25 MPH passed in Albany.

Central Park 5 wrongful conviction case settled.  A monumental injustice has now been corrected (as best we can, anyway).  I still vividly recall the media frenzy over this case at the time.  I can't imagine what it's like to lose the prime years of your life for a crime you didn't commit.  For anybody who complains about the payout - how much money would you trade your freedom and reputation for?

There's also the medical marijuana issue, but I'll have to take a closer look at that.  From what I read yesterday we were looking at a mixed bag with that bill.

Damn, that's a good day!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Keeping Car Washes Accountable

Brad Lander Dusts Up Car Wash Industry Panel

Not a topic we think about most days, but these provisions make sense. And the industry response is a sadly typical circle-the-wagons approach. 

"Councilman Brad Lander blasted the leaders of the Association Car Wash Owners in a hearing today over the group's opposition to a package of new regulations designed to combat environmental and labor abuses in the automobile cleaning industry. "If the industry's good actors had come together to weed out the bad actors, we wouldn't have needed legislation," the Brooklyn councilman said. "That you formed a trade association in response to legislation and not pro-actively makes it hard to believe you're here in good faith." Mr. Lander, a high-ranking member of the left-leaning body, attacked the group–made up of 85 car wash owners–for objecting to the proposed laws, which would require car washes to be licensed by the city, that they implement new systems for chemical disposal and take on a $300,000 bond to cover damage to cars. The bill sponsors–who include Mr. Lander and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito– and their union backers argued that the laws will give the city the power to be sure that the businesses are following labor laws and to prevent owners from paying for injuries to vehicles out of workers' wages and tips."

http://observer.com/2014/06/brad-lander-dusts-up-car-wash-industry-panel/

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Glimmer of Hope For Gas Tax?

Senators Murphy (D) and Corker (R) Propose 12-Cent Gas Tax Increase

It's long past due. And as Atrios rightly points out, with current gas prices and price fluctuations, consumers would not even notice the implementation. There are greater than 12-cent swings week to week as it is. 
"Senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) have proposed increasing the gas tax by 12 cents a gallon over two years. The federal gas tax currently stands at 18.4 cents a gallon, where it has been set since 1993, when gas cost $1.16 a gallon. The senators' proposal would also extend some expiring tax cuts as a way to reduce the impact on Americans. This proposal — while still not introduced as a formal bill — has far more potential than anything else that's been offered. President Obama's corporate tax scheme was dead on arrival, even though it had support from the Republican chair of the Ways and Means Committee, Dave Camp. Rep. Peter DeFazio's idea of a per-barrel oil fee and Sen. Barbara Boxer's idea for a wholesale oil tax don't have Republican support. Neither does Rep. Earl Blumenauer's 15-cent gas tax hike, which was the most logical proposal on the table, until now. What the House Republicans want to do is fund the transportation bill by reducing Saturday postal service — a hare-brained scheme if ever there was one."

http://usa.streetsblog.org/2014/06/18/sens-chris-murphy-d-and-bob-corker-r-propose-12-cent-gas-tax-increase/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Streetsblog+%28Streetsblog%29

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Dana Milbank Hands Dylan Byers His Ass

I read Byers's post, and there was indeed a disaster: the sort of disaster that occurs when a journalist, from the comfort of his office, levels accusations based on a nine-minute clip of a 65-minute panel he hadn't attended. (Heritage didn't post the full video until well after the Byers report, and Byers didn't take me up on my offer to provide him earlier with my audio recording.) Byers wrote that the Heritage Foundation "feels that the event was 'mischaracterized' by Milbank. It also notes that while the event took place at Heritage, it was hosted by the Benghazi Accountability Coalition." But had Byers been at the event himself, he wouldn't have swallowed the Heritage spin — hook, line and sinker. He would have been handed the agenda, printed on paper with the Heritage logo, announcing: "The Benghazi Accountability Coalition and The Heritage Foundation Cordially Invite You to a Symposium" on Benghazi.  He would have seen the accompanying paper noting that Heritage is a member of the Benghazi Accountability Coalition, and he would have heard John Hilboldt, the head of Heritage's lecture program, give remarks opening the panel. This wasn't in the video excerpt Byers viewed.

People are generally aware that The Politico is owned by right wing Republicans, right?

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I read Byers's post, and there was indeed a disaster: the sort of disaster that occurs when a journalist, from the comfort of his office, levels accusations based on a nine-minute clip of a 65-minute panel he hadn't attended. (Heritage didn't post the full video until well after the Byers report, and Byers didn't take me up on my offer to provide him earlier with my audio recording.) Byers wrote that the Heritage Foundation "feels that the event was 'mischaracterized' by Milbank. It also notes that while the event took place at Heritage, it was hosted by the Benghazi Accountability Coalition." But had Byers been at the event himself, he wouldn't have swallowed the Heritage spin — hook, line and sinker. He would have been handed the agenda, printed on paper with the Heritage logo, announcing: "The Benghazi Accountability Coalition and The Heritage Foundation Cordially Invite You to a Symposium" on Benghazi.  He would have seen the accompanying paper noting that Heritage is a member of the Benghazi Accountability Coalition, and he would have heard John Hilboldt, the head of Heritage's lecture program, give remarks opening the panel. This wasn't in the video excerpt Byers viewed.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2014/06/18/politicos-reporting-disaster/



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The Reason Your Commute Was Slow This Morning

It's Hot, Humid, and a Power Outage Just Delayed Every Single Subway Line

Let's hope this is not a harbinger for the summer to come. Ditto the humidity. 

"To commemorate the first morning of the year in which every single person is miserable, cranky, and soaked in sweat, the subway just stopped working altogether. "Due to a temporary power loss system wide, expect delays on all lines. Allow additional travel time," the MTA announced around 10 a.m. Pray for everyone underground, and their deodorant. Con Ed apparently "lost two high tension power feeders, which then caused a power outage to the whole city," but the glitch seems to have worked itself out and the trains are running again."

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2014/06/power-outage-delays-every-single-subway-line.html

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Things To Do: Governors Island

Wondering What To Do This Weekend? Karl's Video of Governor's Island Makes The Decision Easy

There's a lot to do on our car-less neighbor in the harbor this summer. 

"There are many great weekends ahead this summer on Governor's Island, so having a "I don't know what do you want to do Marty" problem every weekend is totally avoidable. Check out the island's schedule here. And watch Karl's video to see more!"

http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/67961

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Dick Cheney Adds One More Notch To His Belt

The Death of Irony

There is no other response to these monsters than ridicule, since Obama shows no sign of interest in bringing war crimes to justice. 

"Irony shuffled dispiritedly from his bedroom in worn, smelly pajamas, fetching yesterday's copy of The Wall Street Journal from the magazine rack, brewing a cup of tea and sitting down with a sigh at the ratty, stained kitchen table."

http://www.balloon-juice.com/2014/06/18/the-death-of-irony-2/

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Monday, June 16, 2014

The Worst People In The World: Kristol and Kagan(s)

"Now is not the time to re-litigate either the decision to invade Iraq in 2003 or the decision to wi

Are you kidding me?  These two asshats should be dropped off in Tikrit if even a single US soldier goes back to Iraq.  So much blood on both their hands, and they're somehow still not banished from our society. 

"Now is not the time to re-litigate either the decision to invade Iraq in 2003 or the decision to withdraw from it in 2011," William Kristol and Frederick Kagan write. Agreed! This is no time for blood-soaked proven idiot monsters to crawl back out and try to talk to us about war policy. Shut up forever."

http://gawker.com/now-is-not-the-time-to-re-litigate-either-the-decision-1591633283?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+gawker%2Ffull+%28Gawker%29

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MoveNY Plan Popular With NYers

The Move NY Fair Tolling Plan Is Polling Better Than Congestion Pricing

As well it should be. There is something there for everyone.  This is a plan that we should implement post-haste.  Fairness, equity, convenience and money for desperately needed road and transit improvements.

"Toll reform is polling better in New York City than congestion pricing did, even when pollsters don't mention that the Move NY plan would mean billions in transit revenue."

http://www.streetsblog.org/2014/06/16/the-move-ny-fair-tolling-plan-is-polling-better-than-congestion-pricing/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Streetsblog+%28Streetsblog%29

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NBC and ABC Sunday Crapfests

NBC and ABC's Sunday news shows turned to discredited architects of the Iraq War to opine on the appropriate U.S. response to growing violence in Iraq, without acknowledging their history of deceit and faulty predictions.

Yes, Paul Wolfowitz and Bill Kristol are the people we should be turning to for answers.  I no longer watch any Sunday morning news gabfests, because every one of them is a load of tendentious horseshit. 

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NBC and ABC's Sunday news shows turned to discredited architects of the Iraq War to opine on the appropriate U.S. response to growing violence in Iraq, without acknowledging their history of deceit and faulty predictions.

http://mediamatters.org/blog/2014/06/15/sunday-shows-turn-to-discredited-iraq-war-archi/199735



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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Our $85B/Year Toybox

State Department and CIA officials pressured countries seen as potential destinations to turn Snowden away, reducing his options to a handful hostile toward the United States. Among them was Bolivia, whose president had signaled publicly that he would consider giving Snowden asylum. "Why not?" Morales said during a July visit to Moscow. "Bolivia is there to welcome personalities who denounce — I don't know if it's espionage or control." In interviews, U.S. officials acknowledged that they had no specific intelligence that Snowden would be on Morales's plane. But the Bolivian leader's remark was enough to set in motion a plan to enlist France, Spain, Italy and Portugal to block the Bolivian president's flight home. "The United States did not request that any country force down President Morales's plane," said Hayden, the National Security Council spokeswoman. "What we did do . . . was communicate via diplomatic and law enforcement channels with countries through which Mr. Snowden might transit." Another U.S. official described the effort as a "full-court press" involving CIA station chiefs in Europe. As it crossed Austria, the aircraft made a sudden U-turn and landed in Vienna, where authorities searched the cabin — with Morales's permission, officials said — but saw no sign of Snowden. The initial, official explanation that Morales was merely making a refueling stop quickly yielded to recriminations and embarrassment.

We spend an insane amount of money so petulant adult children can play cloak and dagger dress-up games.  Freedom!

It's almost funny, until you think about what they'd do if they got ahold of him.  And for what?  Letting Americans know that our government has trashed the constitution to spy on all of us.  It's worse now than it was under Nixon and Hoover, and that's saying something. 

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State Department and CIA officials pressured countries seen as potential destinations to turn Snowden away, reducing his options to a handful hostile toward the United States. Among them was Bolivia, whose president had signaled publicly that he would consider giving Snowden asylum. "Why not?" Morales said during a July visit to Moscow. "Bolivia is there to welcome personalities who denounce — I don't know if it's espionage or control." In interviews, U.S. officials acknowledged that they had no specific intelligence that Snowden would be on Morales's plane. But the Bolivian leader's remark was enough to set in motion a plan to enlist France, Spain, Italy and Portugal to block the Bolivian president's flight home. "The United States did not request that any country force down President Morales's plane," said Hayden, the National Security Council spokeswoman. "What we did do . . . was communicate via diplomatic and law enforcement channels with countries through which Mr. Snowden might transit." Another U.S. official described the effort as a "full-court press" involving CIA station chiefs in Europe. As it crossed Austria, the aircraft made a sudden U-turn and landed in Vienna, where authorities searched the cabin — with Morales's permission, officials said — but saw no sign of Snowden. The initial, official explanation that Morales was merely making a refueling stop quickly yielded to recriminations and embarrassment.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/us-officials-scrambling-to-nab-snowden-hoped-he-would-take-a-wrong-step-he-didnt/2014/06/14/057a1ed2-f1ae-11e3-bf76-447a5df6411f_story.html



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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Bowe Bergdahl: Scapegoat For Bilious, Frustrated Right-wingers

It's not every day (or possibly ever) that I link to the American Conservative.  But this tracks with my thesis of GOP desperately scratching for anything to feed their ravenous, slavering base.  I'll quibble about the percentages - I don't believe we're close to an even split.  The bitterly angry reactionary contingent is maybe 30% of the population. 

www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/bowe-bergdahl-takes-obamas-heat

"The country is divided roughly down the middle, and worse, the political overlap between the two parties is almost non-existent," said Eugene Fidell, who teaches military law at Yale University. And the Republicans, he said, "determined early on that their best strategy was to neuter this president." This, he added, will join "endless doomed efforts" to do that, like the campaign against "Obamacare" and Benghazi (referring to the 9/11/12attack on the U.S consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi, the truth of which a host of Republicans say has been covered up by the White House).

"In all honesty, it looks like to me, here is an element of the Republican Party that was hoping that Benghazi was going to be the club to bludgeon the president with and when that didn't work out then this comes along," said one Army officer who did not want to give his name. Another, a Navy JAG officer, told TAC he believed the Republican was actually elevating the five newly released Taliban, making them more important—and potentially more dangerous—than they ever were.

It may just be politics, critics point out to TAC, but the results are poisonous. "I make no particular brief on behalf of Bergdahl," said author Mike Lofgren, who spent 30 years working as a staffer on Capitol Hill, "but maybe they should wait until the facts come out. The fact that the Bergdahl family is subject to death threats shows that the Republicans are basically exploiting a current of psychotic vindictiveness."


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Friday, June 13, 2014

345 Carroll Sales Office and Demolition Porn

Condo Sales Kick off as Demolition Begins at Regency Carts Building in Gowanus

The sales office with full window glossy rendering is right around the corner from Firstandcourt. Brownstoner has some pics of the demo work. Looks like a good project, though I've always had a soft spot for that white brick building. 

Developer Sterling Equities has launched sales for the planned condo development at 345 Carroll Street in Gowanus, where demo has begun on the Regency Carts building. The GLUCK+-designed building will…

http://www.brownstoner.com/blog/2014/06/condo-sales-kick-off-as-demolition-begins-at-regency-carts-building-in-gowanus/

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On Humanitarian Interventionists

My Rule

Who are not remotely humanitarian. What Atrios said. 

"If your willingness to spend money to help people by bombing them isn't roughly matched by your willingness to spend money to resettle desperate refugees, then I'm not especially interested in hearing your bomb bomb plan. Corollary: I'll never have to take seriously a bomb bomb plan again. "

http://www.eschatonblog.com/2014/06/my-rule.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+blogspot%2FbRuz+%28Eschaton%29

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Thursday, June 12, 2014

$21M Of Federal Funds for NYC bike/Pedestrian Safety

NYC Bike-Ped Projects Get $21 Million in Federal Funds From State DOT

This is great news. And two of the bigger projects address dangerous conditions nearby in downtown Brooklyn and Sunset Park. 

"$4 million for 0.7 miles of Fourth Avenue from 33rd to 47th Streets in Brooklyn. This project widens medians to up to 19 feet to include planted areas and pedestrian refuges. $4 million for Tillary and Adams Streets in Brooklyn. Improvements include bike lanes and protected paths, larger pedestrian islands, and shorter crossings."

http://www.streetsblog.org/2014/06/12/nine-nyc-bike-ped-projects-get-21-million-in-federal-funds-from-state-dot/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Streetsblog+%28Streetsblog%29

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Populism On The Rise; Democrats Must Embrace And Steer Left

A las Barricadas

Right-wing populism is the ugly cousin that thrives in the vacuum left behind when the GOP is a wholly owned subsidiary of the 0.01% and the Democratic Party listens to the ThirdWay/FixtheDebt/NoLabels/DLC/PetePeterson charlatans. 

People are hurting. Inequality is reaching record highs.  And the party of labor, the party of working families has not fought hard enough for our core values over the last 40 years.  Embrace progressivism, aka left-wing populism, and we will take back Congress.  And then just maybe we can have nice things like universal healthcare, universal pre-k, and a decent social safety net like other industrialized countries do. 

"Voters said Cantor was "out of touch" and that's a problem for both Republicans and Democrats, IMO. I hear "out of touch" more often than I hear any specific complaint. There's a real populist shift on both sides, I think. The Tea Party's will be horrible and xenophobic but the Democrats need to address it, develop a liberal version, or conservatives will run away with the whole concept. I think it's real. I think she's right. As the only one of the two viable political parties in this country that is not a wholly owned subsidiary of the 1%, Democrats should benefit from a populist groundswell, but only if they recognize and channel it. From President Obama down, many have addressed the income inequality issue and the basic unfairness of how the game is rigged right now, thanks to GOP policies. That's a message every damn one of them needs to be shouting from the rooftops for the next two years."

http://www.balloon-juice.com/2014/06/12/a-las-barricadas/

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Incredible Unpunished Incompetence of Art Laffer

Why Don't We Hold Pundits Accountable?

Why are this man's ideas still discussed as if he was a serious contributor?  He's been tied for first (with Ben Stein) for years in the "Bill Kristol of Economics" contest. 

"Five years ago, Arthur Laffer — creator of the Laffer curve and a member of President Ronald Reagan's Economic Policy Advisory Board from 1981-89 — wrote an op-ed article. It was a grab bag of his pet peeves: opposition to Federal Reserve policies in response to the financial crisis and concern about the "unfunded liabilities of federal programs," including Social Security and Medicare. And, of course, he decried deficits, which in large part are the result of his thesis that tax cuts often increase revenue. As it turns out, for the most part, they don't. The article he penned on June 11, 2009? "Get Ready for Inflation and Higher Interest Rates." "Alas," he wrote "I doubt very much that the Fed will do what is necessary to guard against future inflation and higher interest rates." At the time, the yield on the 10-year Treasury was 3.86 percent, and we were in a crisis-driven deflationary environment of negative 1.4 percent inflation. Today, the 10-year yields 2.65 percent and inflation is running at less than 2 percent. Inflation wasn't the only thing Laffer whiffed on. Continues here"

http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2014/06/why-dont-we-hold-pundits-accountable/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TheBigPicture+%28The+Big+Picture%29

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Education Privatization Grift Spreads To Public Universities?

Privatizing America's Public Universities as "Shock Doctrine" (or not)

Higher education is already rife with grifters of the overpriced private college and online university variety. But it's never enough.  

"You mean charters aren't the whole story of privatizing education? What fresh hell is this? I've got to say my jaw dropped when I read this in Bloomberg; I hadn't thought that privatization rot had gone so far: From Pennsylvania to Oregon, the number of top public universities bidding to shake off government control keeps growing. How exactly does "public university" "shake off government control"? By letting the administrators cut their own checks? The universities want more control over tuition and academic programs as they become less dependent on public subsidies. Some state systems have resisted because, without their flagships, they lose premier faculty and students as well as clout in legislatures that set funding. Pennsylvania's West Chester University, the fastest-growing of 14 state-owned campuses and the one with the highest SAT scores, could break away under legislation filed this year. Its departure would deepen a divide between independent 'haves' and tightly controlled 'have nots' plagued by dwindling funding and enrollment. Pennsylvania State University and three other public institutions already operate autonomously. "Plagued by"? Note the lack of agency. Who's doing the "plaguing," and why? And what does "autonomously" mean? After gaining greater independence, many public universities have increased tuition, raising fears that West Chester would follow suit."

http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2014/06/privatizing-americas-public-universities-shock-doctrine.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+NakedCapitalism+%28naked+capitalism%29

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Kentile Was An Asbestos Tile Maker?

GOWANUS: Good riddance to Kentile Floors!

The things you learn. 

"The Kentile Floors factory at Ninth Street and Second Avenue started operations in 1898 and cranked out tiles containing the deadly carcinogen asbestos as early as 1949, according to the Mesothelioma Center website asbestos.com. Tile sales took off in the post-World-War-II boom years as Kentile advertised widely and developed a tile new homeowners could install themselves, according to the Center. The operation employed more than 400 workers at the company's peak in the 1960s, according to preservationists at the Municipal Arts Society. But asbestos, which constituted as much as a quarter of the material that went into certain tiles, came back to bite company bosses when it became synonymous with poison. Faced with a rising tide of consumer lawsuits, the company filed for bankruptcy in 1992 and idled its machines several years later, leaving its sign as a landmark for drivers and straphangers and a a muse to local artists."

http://www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/37/24/dtg-kentile-floors-history-2014-06-13-bk_37_24.html

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Congress's Most Disingenuous Member Eric Cantor Loses Primary

Eric Cantor's Shocking, Richly Deserved Primary Defeat

Frequent Worst Person In The World honoree Eric Cantor will be forcibly retired from Congress this year. The man who beat him is possibly even worse. Will this make for a more competitive general election race?  Let's hope so. 

"Cantor went out the way he carried himself throughout his career: making comically disingenuous attacks. His television commercials assailed Brat as a tax-loving Democrat — he served on a non-partisan state revenue-estimating commission — and actually ran ads calling him a "liberal college professor": It is conceivable that, by preposterously describing a Rand-loving right-wing crank as a liberal, Cantor actually managed to underestimate the intellectual discernment of his voters. In any case, he had ceded all the premises of the argument to his opponent even in the course of smearing him. Cantor was, finally, Cantor'd. He will not be missed."

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2014/06/eric-cantors-shocking-richly-deserved-defeat.html

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