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Gender: Male
Hometown: Detroit, Michigan
Home country: Citizen of the world whose address is in the U.S.
Current location: Detroit, Michigan
Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
Number of posts: 68,698

Journal Archives

Mass Transportation in the 1960s: Public Transit Systems of North America

From Paris to Boston, Terrorists Were Already Known to Authorities

(The Intercept) WHENEVER A TERRORIST ATTACK OCCURS, it never takes long for politicians to begin calling for more surveillance powers. The horrendous attacks in Paris last week, which left more than 120 people dead, are no exception to this rule. In recent days, officials in the United Kingdom and the United States have been among those arguing that more surveillance of Internet communications is necessary to prevent further atrocities.

The case for expanded surveillance of communications, however, is complicated by an analysis of recent terrorist attacks. The Intercept has reviewed 10 high-profile jihadi attacks carried out in Western countries between 2013 and 2015 (see below), and in each case some or all of the perpetrators were already known to the authorities before they executed their plot. In other words, most of the terrorists involved were not ghost operatives who sprang from nowhere to commit their crimes; they were already viewed as a potential threat, yet were not subjected to sufficient scrutiny by authorities under existing counterterrorism powers. Some of those involved in last week’s Paris massacre, for instance, were already known to authorities; at least three of the men appear to have been flagged at different times as having been radicalized, but warning signs were ignored.

In the aftermath of a terrorist atrocity, government officials often seem to talk about surveillance as if it were some sort of panacea, a silver bullet. But what they always fail to explain is how, even with mass surveillance systems already in place in countries like France, the United States, and the United Kingdom, attacks still happen. In reality, it is only possible to watch some of the people some of the time, not all of the people all of the time. Even if you had every single person in the world under constant electronic surveillance, you would still need a human being to analyze the data and assess any threats in a timely fashion. And human resources are limited and fallible.

There is no doubt that we live in a dangerous world and that intelligence agencies and the police have a difficult job to do, particularly in the current geopolitical environment. They know about hundreds or thousands of individuals who sympathize with terrorist groups, any one of whom may be plotting an attack, yet they do not appear to have the means to monitor each of these people closely over sustained periods of time. If any lesson can be learned from studying the perpetrators of recent attacks, it is that there needs to be a greater investment in conducting targeted surveillance of known terror suspects and a move away from the constant knee-jerk expansion of dragnet surveillance, which has simply not proven itself to be effective, regardless of the debate about whether it is legal or ethical in the first place. ....................(more)


Boston: MBTA Chief vows Snow Won't Shut Down System

MA: MBTA Chief vows Snow Won't Shut Down System


Nov. 18--MBTA General Manager Frank DePaola said a repeat of last winter's record-breaking snowfalls should not shut down the transit system, with improvements underway.

"We've made a significant investment and we're continuing to make investments into the system," DePaola told Boston Herald Radio. "We have an $82.7 million program to get ready for the winter. About $70 million of that will be capital investments in both track and also in new equipment.

"We also will have about $12 million in reserve to provide assistance during the winter if we need it to call in outside help," which would consist of laborers or contractors to assist with snow removal at bus stops, sidewalks, station platforms and parking lots.

DePaola indicated that low-cost labor could be provided by county prisons.

Money from the winter program budget would focus on upgrades to the third rail on the Red Line, heating and de-icing on the Orange Line, and maintenance equipment including plows and snow augers. ................(more)


Illinois: Metra Prepares for Debut of Paperless Ticketing

IL: Metra Prepares for Debut of Paperless Ticketing


Nov. 19--As Metra rolls out paperless ticketing Thursday, the agency says it plans to give riders as much help as possible downloading the new Ventra mobile app and educating customers on how to use it.

The app will allow Metra's 150,000 daily customers to use their smartphones, tablets or laptops as virtual tickets, instead of the traditional paper tickets.

"We want to stress the benefits of mobile ticketing, which is the most significant development, tech-wise, for Metra riders in quite a while," spokesman Michael Gillis said. "We want to get them familiar with the app and not be put off by the technology or scared to try it."

The app, developed with the CTA and Pace, will enable customers to use their mobile devices to pay for rides using credit or debit cards on all three Chicago-area transit systems, check account balances, and receive real-time travel and service information. ..................(more)


John Cusack and Arundhati Roy | Things That Can and Cannot Be Said

John Cusack and Arundhati Roy | Things That Can and Cannot Be Said

Monday, 16 November 2015 00:00
By John Cusack and Arundhati Roy, Outlook | Op-Ed

1. Things That Can and Cannot Be Said: A Conversation With Arundhati Roy
by John Cusack

"Every nation-state tends towards the imperial - that is the point. Through banks, armies, secret police, propaganda, courts and jails, treaties, taxes, laws and orders, myths of civil obedience, assumptions of civic virtue at the top. Still it should be said of the political left, we expect something better. And correctly. We put more trust in those who show a measure of compassion, who denounce the hideous social arrangements that make war inevitable and human desire omnipresent; which fosters corporate selfishness, panders to appetites and disorder, waste the earth."—Daniel Berrigan, poet, Jesuit priest.


One morning as I scanned the news - horror in the Middle East, Russia and America facing off in the Ukraine, I thought of Edward Snowden and wondered how he was holding up in Moscow. I began to imagine a conversation between him and Daniel Ellsberg (who leaked the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam war). And then, interestingly, in my imagination a third person made her way into the room - the writer Arundhati Roy. It occurred to me that trying to get the three of them together would be a fine thing to do.

I had heard Roy speak in Chicago, and had met her several times. One gets the feeling very quickly with her and comes to the rapid conclusion that there are no pre-formatted assumptions or givens. Through our conversations I became very aware that what gets lost, or goes unsaid, in most of the debates around surveillance and whistleblowing is a perspective and context from outside the United States and Europe. The debates around them have gradually centred around corporate overreach and the rights of privacy of US citizens.

The philosopher/theosophist Rudolf Steiner says that any perception or truth that is isolated and removed from its larger context ceases to be true.

"When any single thought emerges in consciousness, I cannot rest until this is brought into harmony with the rest of my thinking. Such an isolated concept, apart from the rest of my mental world, is entirely unendurable...there exists an inwardly sustained harmony among thoughts...when our thought world bears the character of inner harmony, we can feel we are in possession of the truth.... All elements are related one to the other...every such isolation is an abnormality, an untruth." In other words, every isolated idea that doesn't relate to others yet is taken as true (as a kind of niche truth) is not just bad politics, it is somehow also fundamentally untrue.... To me, Arundhati Roy's writing and thinking strives for such unity of thought. And for her, like for Steiner, reason comes from the heart. .................(more)


Professor Richard Wolff on what ails America and the cure

Clinton, Finally Forced to Confront a Single Payer Advocate in Debate, Can’t Win on Policy, Falls...

Clinton, Finally Forced to Confront a Single Payer Advocate in Debate, Can’t Win on Policy, Falls Back on Demagoguery and Distortion
By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Most of the post-Democratic debate analysis has focused Clinton’s response to Sanders’ challenge on her Wall Street ties; a response that was, to put it charitably, confused. There has been little focus on her exchange with Sanders on health care which, from a pure public policy standpoint — that is, leaving aside corruption — is arguably more important. So, despite DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s successful suppression of viewership, the debates really are doing what they are supposed to be doing: Allowing voters to compare and contrast the candidates. Now, we remember from 2014 that Clinton, despite her lofty claims to an evidence-based approach to policy, refused to even mention single payer in two back-to-back major speeches on health care. So let’s see how she did in the debate on this topic, when faced with Sanders, a single payer advocate. Spoiler alert: Badly. First I’ll take a look at the debate transcript, and then I’ll take a quick look at the Sanders plan. Spoiler alert: Not all one might wish.

The Debate

To the transcript! Sanders comes first, so I’ll pick his performance apart first. Then Clinton brings the demagoguery. (Recall that the debate location was held at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, the first caucus state in 2016. That will become important in one of Clinton’s responses to Sanders.)

NANCY CORDES: Back to healthcare by popular demand. First to you, Senator Sanders. You prefer to scrap ObamaCare and move to a single-payer system, essentially Medicare for all. You say you wanna put the private insurance companies out of business. Is it realistic to think that you can pull the plug on a $1 trillion industry?

BERNIE SANDERS: It’s not gonna happen tomorrow. And it’s probably not gonna happen until you have real campaign finance reform and get rid of all these super PACs and the power of the insurance companies and the drug companies. But at the end of the day, Nancy, here is a question. In this great country of ours, with so much intelligence, with so much capabilities, why do we remain the only (UNINTEL) country on earth that does not guarantee healthcare to all people as a right?

A CBS analyst just treated “single payer” “Medicare for All” as a not-insane policy proposal. That’s called dragging the Overton Window left (which has been my sole criterion for success from a Sanders campaign).

The “health insurance industry” is not, following Veblen, an industry; unlike health care, it creates no value; it is wholly parasitic and should not exist. “One does not improve a tapeworm; one removes it.” Pragmatically, I grant it’s not possible for anybody to answer Cordes’s question in those terms on national television, even on a Saturday night in Des Moines, but Sanders doesn’t even address it (though Clinton, in another sign of inattention or confusion, doesn’t call him on that). Somebody on the Sanders team needs to figure this out, because people will have noticed, and the question will come up again. ..............(more)


Barbara Lee, sole vote against unlimited war post 9/11, calls for repeal of AUMF

Fourteen years ago, California Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee cast the sole dissenting vote against the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. Three days after the Sept. 11 attacks, she took to the floor of the House and said: "Our country is in a state of mourning. Some of us must say, let’s step back for a moment. Let’s just pause just for a minute and think through the implications of our actions today so that this does not spiral out of control." Rep. Lee is now calling on Congress to repeal the 2001 and 2002 authorizations for military force, saying they have been used as blank checks for endless war.


Baltic Dry Shipping Index Drops to All-Time Low

(Bloomberg) The cost of shipping commodities fell to a record, amid signs that Chinese demand growth for iron ore and coal is slowing, hurting the industry’s biggest source of cargoes.

The Baltic Dry Index, a measure of shipping rates for everything from coal to ore to grains, fell to 504 points on Thursday, the lowest data from the London-based Baltic Exchange going back to 1985. Among the causes of shipowners’ pain is slowing economic growth in China, which is translating into weakening demand for imported iron ore that’s used to make the steel.

“The main issue is the lack of demand for iron ore from China,” Eirik Haavaldsen, a shipping analyst at Pareto Securities AS in Oslo, said by phone. “This market is looking like a disaster and the rates are a reflection of that. It is looking scary for the market and it doesn’t look like there is going to be any life in the market in the near term.”

Just as China’s surging imports of iron ore and other commodities led a surge in the Baltic Dry Index to a record in the last decade, now rates are sliding ever lower as that growth stalls. The nation’s ore purchases will expand by just 1 percent in 2016, about half this year’s expansion and the weakest pace in six years, according to data from Clarkson Plc, the world’s biggest shipbroker. Global trade in the raw material will increase the most slowly since 2001. China’s economy will grow by 6.5 percent in 2016, the least in a generation, economists’ forecasts compiled by Bloomberg show. ................(more)


The Department of Homeland Security: the largest police force nobody monitors

from the Guardian UK:

More than 55,000 armed law enforcement officers operate inside of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as the foot soldiers of the mass deportation system. They work as you would expect any police force to operate but without even the semblance of oversight.

With an annual budget line item of $18bn solely for immigration enforcement the federal government spends more on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Patrol (BPE) than all other federal law enforcement agencies combined. Yet the systems to monitor the vast network of field directors, detention officers and arresting officers under its purview are either non-existent or wracked with the same corruption they’re intended to prevent.

When Terrence Kullom was killed at his doorstep in Detroit, it was an ICE agent serving a warrant that pulled the trigger. In immigration detention centers, over 150 people have died since 2003. A recent report highlighted not just a lack of transparency at the agency, but ICE’s outright refusal to cooperate or answer questions related to the deaths. CBS News reported that CBP agents allegedly sexually assaulted women or children immigrant detainees at least 35 times between 2012 and 2014, taking advantage of what an ousted CBP official characterized as a “culture of impunity”.

Each agent claims blanket authority to police, arrest, search, seize property, detain and yes, shoot to kill almost anyone, and they often act as judge and jury – with few limitations from immigration courts. DHS remains one of the nation’s largest jailers, holding up to 34,000 noncitizens on any given day in private and public detention centers. ................(more)


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