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Member since: Thu Oct 28, 2004, 11:18 PM
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Journal Archives

Robert Scheer: Who Needs the Gestapo When You Have ‘Angry Birds’?

from truthdig:

Who Needs the Gestapo When You Have ‘Angry Birds’?

Posted on Jan 28, 2014
By Robert Scheer

Somewhere in the lowest reaches of hell, Adolf Hitler and his coterie of lesser dictators must be tormented by the knowledge they did not live long enough to get their hands on “Angry Birds.” How much diabolical power they would have had, not playing the game, but rather mining the data freely volunteered by its billion unsuspecting customers.

“When a smartphone user opens Angry Birds, the popular game application, and starts slinging birds at chortling green pigs, spy agencies have plotted how to lurk in the background to snatch data revealing the player’s location, age, sex and other personal information ...” The New York Times reported, based on the latest of Edward Snowden’s leaks.

No need then for the Gestapo to go crashing through apartment doors to brutally interrogate citizens as to the most guarded moments of their personal lives when a vast amount of private information from gaming, mapping and social networking sites is pirated by the government. No totalitarian leader could ever imagine such surveillance power over his populace.

Of course, such nightmarish fantasies are a long way from the rationalizations of our own democratically oriented U.S. and British spy agencies that assure us they only ever target the bad guys. But the harrowing specificity about our once presumed private lives, as revealed this week in yet another devastating trove of documents from Snowden and reported in the Times and The Guardian, might one day open the floodgates to a totally regimented society. ...................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/who_needs_the_gestapo_when_you_have_angry_birds_20140128

CA Gov Jerry Brown asks state Supreme Court to intervene on high-speed rail

The Brown administration, which previously downplayed the significance of court rulings against California's $68 billion high-speed rail project, asked the California Supreme Court to intervene on Friday, saying the rulings "imperil" the project, threatening state and federal funding.

The request to the California Supreme Court comes after a Sacramento Superior Court judge in November ordered the state to rescind its original funding plan for the project. The lower court ruled the California High-Speed Rail Authority failed to comply with provisions of Proposition 1A, the initiative in which voters approved initial funding for the project in 2008.

The administration said in a request for expedited review that "the trial court's approach to these issues cripples government's ability to function" and could have implications for other infrastructure projects. .................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.fresnobee.com/2014/01/24/3731282/capitol-alert-brown-asks-supreme.html#storylink=cpy

High in the Alps, Plutocrats Play at Pondering

from Too Much: A Commentary on Excess and Inequality:

High in the Alps, Plutocrats Play at Pondering
January 26, 2014

At the annual retreat of our global elites, the world’s wealthy wring their hands over the widening inequality they so relentlessly widen.

By Sam Pizzigati

Every January our global corporate and financial executive superstars, accompanied by assorted heads of state and deep thinkers, make the trek up the Alps to the Swiss village of Davos. They don’t come to party, though they do their share of imbibing. They come instead to “solve” the world’s problems.

Through five days of workshops and lectures, these swells discuss and debate. Hundreds of reporters intently track their deliberations. The whole world listens.

The irony in all this problem solving? The world faces no greater problem than the concentrated wealth and power the men of Davos hold in their hands and stuff in their pockets, an irony never more obvious than at this year’s edition of the annual Davos “World Economic Forum.”

This year’s Davos confab opened last Wednesday just after the release of a Davos 700-expert survey that named our world’s “chronic gap” between rich and poor the risk “most likely to cause serious damage globally” in the decade ahead. .....................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://toomuchonline.org/high-in-the-alps-plutocrats-play-at-pondering/#sthash.DYtJhNKw.dpuf

Chris Hedges: The Myth of Human Progress and the Collapse of Complex Societies

from truthdig:

The Myth of Human Progress and the Collapse of Complex Societies

Posted on Jan 26, 2014
By Chris Hedges

Editor’s note: The following is the transcript of a speech that Chris Hedges gave in Santa Monica, Calif., on Oct. 13, 2013.

The most prescient portrait of the American character and our ultimate fate as a species is found in Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick.” Melville makes our murderous obsessions, our hubris, violent impulses, moral weakness and inevitable self-destruction visible in his chronicle of a whaling voyage. He is our foremost oracle. He is to us what William Shakespeare was to Elizabethan England or Fyodor Dostoyevsky to czarist Russia.

Our country is given shape in the form of the ship, the Pequod, named after the Indian tribe exterminated in 1638 by the Puritans and their Native American allies. The ship’s 30-man crew—there were 30 states in the Union when Melville wrote the novel—is a mixture of races and creeds. The object of the hunt is a massive white whale, Moby Dick, which in a previous encounter maimed the ship’s captain, Ahab, by dismembering one of his legs. The self-destructive fury of the quest, much like that of the one we are on, assures the Pequod’s destruction. And those on the ship, on some level, know they are doomed—just as many of us know that a consumer culture based on corporate profit, limitless exploitation and the continued extraction of fossil fuels is doomed.

“If I had been downright honest with myself,” Ishmael admits, “I would have seen very plainly in my heart that I did but half fancy being committed this way to so long a voyage, without once laying my eyes on the man who was to be the absolute dictator of it, so soon as the ship sailed out upon the open sea. But when a man suspects any wrong, it sometimes happens that if he be already involved in the matter, he insensibly strives to cover up his suspicions even from himself. And much this way it was with me. I said nothing, and tried to think nothing.”

Our financial system—like our participatory democracy—is a mirage. The Federal Reserve purchases $85 billion in U.S. Treasury bonds—much of it worthless subprime mortgages—each month. It has been artificially propping up the government and Wall Street like this for five years. It has loaned trillions of dollars at virtually no interest to banks and firms that make money—because wages are kept low—by lending it to us at staggering interest rates that can climb to as high as 30 percent. ... Or our corporate oligarchs hoard the money or gamble with it in an overinflated stock market. Estimates put the looting by banks and investment firms of the U.S. Treasury at between $15 trillion and $20 trillion. But none of us know. The figures are not public. And the reason this systematic looting will continue until collapse is that our economy [would] go into a tailspin without this giddy infusion of free cash. ..........................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/chris_hedges_jan_27_column_transcript_collapse_of_complex_societies_2014012

Noam Chomsky "On The Elite's View Of The Poor"

The 51 Busiest Train Stations in the World– All but 6 Located in Japan


Shinjuku, Tokyo

Umeda Station, Osaka

Taipei Railway Station

Gare du Nord, Paris


Here’s the full list of 51 stations. If you don’t live in Japan there’s a slight chance your country is on there.

1 Shinjuku (Tokyo, Japan)

2 Shibuya (Tokyo, Japan)

3 Ikebukuro (Tokyo, Japan)

4 Umeda (Osaka, Japan)

5 Yokohama (Kanagawa, Japan)

6 Kita-Senju (Tokyo, Japan)

7 Nagoya (Aichi, Japan)

8 Tokyo (Tokyo, Japan)

9 Shinagawa (Tokyo, Japan)

10 Takadanobaba (Tokyo, Japan)


24 Paris Nord (Paris, France)

25 Taipei Railway Station (Taipei,Taiwan)

26 Machida (Tokyo, Japan)

27 Gare de Chatelet (Paris, France)

28 Kawasaki (Kanagawa, Japan)

29 Roma Termini Railway Station (Rome, Italy)

....................... (more)

The complete piece is at: http://en.rocketnews24.com/2013/01/30/the-51-busiest-train-stations-in-the-world-all-but-6-located-in-japan/

Kansas City Council Gives Green Light to Plans for Larger Streetcar Taxing District

MO: Kansas City Council Gives Green Light to Plans for Larger Streetcar Taxing District
Lynn Horsley

Source: The Kansas City Star
Created: January 24, 2014

Jan. 24--The Kansas City Council on Thursday gave the green light to preparations for a streetcar funding district that would encompass much of Kansas City south of the Missouri River.

If voters approve the new funding district, it will help pay for 8 to 10 more miles of streetcar extensions. The taxing district would run from State Line Road to Interstate 435 and from the Missouri River generally to 85th Street. The city is contemplating a 1-cent sales tax increase within the district, plus property tax assessments close to the streetcar lines.

Voters would have to approve the new district in an August election and the actual tax increases in a November election. The local funding would be part of a financing package that would include at least 50 percent federal funding. The local taxes would not take effect unless matching federal funds were also committed to the streetcar expansion, which probably wouldn't occur for several years.

Mayor Sly James said his meeting Wednesday with federal transportation officials in Washington, D.C., went very well and they were impressed with Kansas City's progress. But he said the process is very competitive and several other cities are also lobbying aggressively for federal streetcar funds. ...............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.masstransitmag.com/news/11299468/kansas-city-council-gives-green-light-to-plans-for-larger-streetcar-taxing-district

San Francisco's bus wars are a proxy fight against gentrification

from the LA Times:

San Francisco's bus wars are a proxy fight against gentrification
As wealthy tech industry types move into some neighborhoods at the expense of current residents, the private buses carrying high-tech workers to their jobs have become a flashpoint.

By The Times editorial board
January 24, 2014

Commuter buses are usually pretty noncontroversial. Governments like them because they get single-passenger cars off the road and reduce air pollution. And riders like them because they can relax on the way to and from work and save on gas and other expenses. Cleaner, greener and more convenient — everyone's happy, right?

Not in San Francisco, where there's been a growing fight over the shuttle buses provided by Google, Facebook and other tech companies to ferry workers from their San Francisco homes to their Silicon Valley jobs. Critics say the shuttles stop at city bus stops, delaying public transit and causing bicyclists to swerve out of bike lanes. Activists have protested by blocking buses. In one case, they slashed the tires of a Google bus and hurled a rock through a window.

All this fury over some buses? Not really. The fight against the shuttles is really a proxy fight against rising rents and gentrification, as wealthy tech industry types move into some neighborhoods at the expense of current residents.

On Tuesday, San Francisco transportation officials adopted a compromise designed to address specific concerns with the shuttles. During an 18-month pilot program, the agency will designate public bus stops that can be shared by the shuttles. Tech companies will apply for permits for their buses and pay $1 each time one of the buses makes a stop, which will cover the cost of the permitting and enforcement. .....................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-google-bus-san-francisco-20140123,0,5252076.story#ixzz2rWPeGBaz

Twin Cities: Metro Transit reports ridership gain for fourth year in a row

(Star-Tribune) Ridership on Metro Transit buses and trains increased for the fourth straight year as the agency provided nearly 81.4 million rides in 2013, according to figures released Thursday.

Boardings on the Northstar Commuter line were up 12 percent compared to the previous year and were among the reasons Metro Transit saw an overall increase of 315,000 rides system wide, agency officials said.

"Only twice in 32 years has Metro Transit ridership reached this level," said General Manager Brian Lamb. "In 2013, we provided five million more rides than just four years ago."

Surprisingly, the number of people using the Blue Line dipped 3.2 percent to just over 10.1 million. But gains on the Northstar Line (up by 86,963 rides) and urban bus service (up by 565,266 rides) more than offset the drop in ridership on the light-rail line from downtown Minneapolis to the Mall of America. Agency officials attributed the ridership drop on the Blue Line to weekend disruptions. ....................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.startribune.com/local/blogs/241672341.html

"It's Hard to Say" if U.S. Bike Share Systems Will Survive Bixi's Bankruptcy -- Reporter

Earlier this week, Montreal's Bixi bike share program filed for bankruptcy. Now, a reporter closely following that company's sorry financial history says that could have implications for the Bixi-designed software used by many bike share systems in the U.S.

In an interview with NPR's Renee Montaigne, Andy Riga—the transportation reporter for the Montreal Gazette—says Bixi's financial troubles stem from loss of control of its software, which led to delays in cities including New York, Chicago, and San Francisco.

"If in fact Bixi fails, what does it means to other cities?" Montaigne asked. "Can they survive if Bixi doesn't?"

"That's hard to say," Riga responded, saying that there was talk New York and other systems might start over with software. ..................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.wnyc.org/story/its-hard-say-if-us-bike-share-systems-survive-bixi-bankruptcy-reporter/

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