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Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
Number of posts: 71,212

Journal Archives

Chicago: Study Says CTA Attracts More Haters on Twitter Than Other Transit Agencies

from RedEye, via Mass Transit Mag:

Feb. 12--The CTA tends to draw more trolls on Twitter than other major public transit systems possibly because the agency doesn't regularly respond to rider comments, which is key in tamping down critics on social media, according to a new university study that analyzed mean tweets toward public transit systems.

The CTA was the least popular public transit system on Twitter among the 10 systems that were part of the University of Southern California study, which was published in December in the Journal of the American Planning Association.

The six-year study also looked at Twitter commentary about transit systems compared with chatter about celebrities, police departments and social programs. There were more mean tweets about the CTA than the IRS and the Kardashians but the CTA but did fare better on Twitter than Osama bin Laden, Obamacare and the Westboro Baptist Church, an anti-gay group that pickets military funerals.

Lisa Schweitzer, a USC public policy professor who authored the report, found the CTA does not have much Twitter interaction with its riders compared with other public transit agencies, which could be why there is so much negative feedback on Twitter about the CTA. ......................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.masstransitmag.com/news/11842544/study-says-cta-attracts-more-haters-on-twitter-than-other-transit-agencies

Sixty-four unions and community groups are demanding a banking public option—at the post office.

from In These Times:

Banking Goes Postal
Sixty-four unions and community groups are demanding a banking public option—at the post office.


American Postal Workers Union (APWU) president Mark Dimondstein has an offer that should be hard to refuse, especially for the 10 million American households, mostly low-income, that do not have a checking account or other basic banking services.

Through its network of 30,000 post offices and other outlets, the United States Postal Service (USPS) could readily and cheaply provide many banking services (just as it now provides money orders), no matter where you live or what you earn. This could save people without bank access from paying the exorbitant interest and fees at currency exchanges, payday lenders, rent-to-own dealers, pawn shops and other subprime financial institutions.

Postal workers would also win: Expanding postal services would create more jobs. Moreover, the additional revenue would strengthen USPS’s finances, bolstering the four major postal unions’ ongoing fight against management’s austerity measures. Although the postal service earned a surplus on operations in 2014, it ran a deficit overall because of perverse requirements Congress imposed in 2006 that retiree healthcare benefits for the next 75 years be fully pre-funded within a decade, a standard far more demanding than those required by any other retirement systems. Much more than the decline in first class mail, that manufactured budget crisis has fueled USPS management’s campaign of job cuts. The postal workforce dropped from about 700,000 in 2006 to less than 500,000 last year, and management hopes to reduce it by as many as 15,000 more this year. USPS management’s campaign of job cuts also involves service degradation, post office closings and privatization—such as delivering postal services at the office-supply store Staples, where jobs are low-wage and non-union. If postal unions can implement banking and roll back the retiree pre-pay requirement, they will return the postal service to solvency while expanding the public sector to address private market shortcomings.

When talks for a new APWU contract start in February, Dimondstein intends to make establishing postal banking a major demand, even though it falls outside the bread-and-butter issues unions typically bring up in bargaining. He plans to argue that creation of the bank would profoundly affect the mandatory bargaining issues of wages, hours and working conditions. ................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://inthesetimes.com/article/17633/banking_goes_postal

Portugal Cut Addiction Rates in Half by Connecting Users With Communities Instead of Jailing Them

from YES! Magazine:

Portugal Cut Addiction Rates in Half by Connecting Drug Users With Communities Instead of Jailing Them
Fifteen years ago, the Portuguese had one of the worst drug problems in Europe. So they decriminalized drugs, took money out of prisons, put it into holistic rehabilitation, and found that human connection is the antidote to addiction.

Johann Hari posted Feb 12, 2015

It is now one hundred years since drugs were first banned—and all through this long century of waging war on drugs, we have been told a story about addiction by our teachers and by our governments. This story is so deeply ingrained in our minds that we take it for granted: There are strong chemical hooks in these drugs, so if we stopped on day twenty-one, our bodies would need the chemical. We would have a ferocious craving. We would be addicted. That’s what addiction means.

This theory was first established, in part, through rat experiments—ones that were injected into the American psyche in the 1980s, in a famous advertisement by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. You may remember it. The experiment is simple. Put a rat in a cage, alone, with two water bottles. One is just water. The other is water laced with heroin or cocaine. Almost every time you run this experiment, the rat will become obsessed with the drugged water, and keep coming back for more and more, until it kills itself.

The ad explains: “Only one drug is so addictive, nine out of ten laboratory rats will use it. And use it. And use it. Until dead. It’s called cocaine. And it can do the same thing to you.”

But in the 1970s, a professor of Psychology in Vancouver called Bruce Alexander noticed something odd about this experiment. The rat is put in the cage all alone. It has nothing to do but take the drugs. What would happen, he wondered, if we tried this differently?


This isn’t theoretical. It is happening. I have seen it. Nearly 15 years ago, Portugal had one of the worst drug problems in Europe, with one percent of the population addicted to heroin. They had tried a drug war, and the problem just kept getting worse.

So they decided to do something radically different. They resolved to decriminalize all drugs, and transfer all the money they used to spend on arresting and jailing drug addicts, and spend it instead on reconnecting them—to their own feelings, and to the wider society. ................(more)


Has the IMF Annexed Ukraine?

via truthdig:

Michael Hudson, an economist at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and author of the upcoming book “Killing the Host: Financial Parasites and Wall Street’s War on Capitalism,” says the terms attached to the loans made by the IMF to Ukraine are likely to turn its people into penniless debtors of international banks.

In the video above, Sharmini Peries at The Real News Network asks Hudson, “In a recent interview [by former State Department official James Carden] published in The National Interest magazine you said that most media covers Russia as if it is the greatest threat to Ukraine. History suggests that the IMF may be far more dangerous. What did you mean by that?”

Hudson responds, “Well, the terms on which the IMF make loans, first of all, are based on austerity. The terms require more austerity and a withdrawal of all public subsidies. Now, you have the Ukrainian population absolutely devastated. The only result of the IMF’s austerity program, the conditions that it’s laying down for making loans to Ukraine, is you have to repay the debts, but you don’t have the ability to repay the debts. So there’s only one way to do it, and that’s the way that we’ve told Greece and other countries to do. You have to begin selling off whatever you have left of your public domain. Or you have to have your leading oligarchs take on partnerships with American or European investors so that they can buy out into the monopolies in the Ukraine.

“So essentially, the IMF has a two stage, one-two punch. Punch number one is: ‘Here’s the money, now you have to repay us after cutting back public spending and causing a depression.’ The two punch is: ‘Oh, you can’t pay us? I’m sorry that all of our projections are wrong.’ ...................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truthdig.com/avbooth/item/has_the_imf_annexed_ukraine_20150214

If Teachers Can’t Make Their Unions More Democratic and Social Justice-Minded, Public Ed Is Doomed

(In These Times) If we don’t transform teacher unions now, our schools, our profession, and our democracy—what’s left of it—will likely be destroyed. I know. I am from Wisconsin, the home of Scott Walker and Paul Ryan.

In 2011, in the wake of the largest workers uprising in recent U.S. history, I was elected president of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association (MTEA). Unfortunately, that spring uprising, although massive and inspirational, was not strong enough to stop Gov. Walker from enacting the most draconian anti-public sector labor law in the nation.

That law, known as Act 10, received support from the Koch brothers and a cabal of national right-wing funders and organizations. It was imposed on all public sector workers except the police and firefighter unions that endorsed Walker and whose members are predominantly white and male.

Act 10 took away virtually all collective bargaining rights, including the right to arbitration. It left intact only the right to bargain base-wage increases up to the cost of living. The new law prohibited “agency shops,” in which all employees of a bargaining unit pay union dues. It also prohibited payroll deduction of dues. It imposed an unprecedented annual recertification requirement on public sector unions, requiring a 51 percent (not 50 percent plus one) vote of all eligible employees, counting anyone who does not vote as a “no.” Using those criteria, Walker would never have been elected. ...................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/17632/democratic_teachers_unions

White man pulls gun on black Minnesota man he assumes is a drug dealer

VIDEO: White man pulls gun on black Minnesota man he assumes is a drug dealer

A black Minnesota man recorded a tense confrontation with a white man who pulled a gun after apparently mistaking him for a drug dealer.

Demetrius Taylor, of St. Paul, said he was sitting with his nephew in a parked car that he was considering buying when a resident began photographing them.

Taylor got out of the car to confront the man, who has not been identified, while using his own cell phone to record video of the encounter.

That’s when the man pulled a gun and loaded a bullet into the chamber, Taylor said.

“You just pulled a gun – I got it on video, I’m videotaping just like you,” Taylor says on the video. “Make sure you call 911. I got it on video just like you. (You) just pulled a gun on me, for no reason at all. You taking pictures and you recording? I’m doing the same thing – it’s not against the law. I’m not armed.” ..................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2015/02/video-white-man-pulls-gun-on-black-minnesota-man-he-assumes-is-a-drug-dealer/

The party of "fiscal responsibility": Bobby Jindal's Louisiana disaster

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Year after year, Louisiana didn't have enough money to cover its expenses, yet Gov. Bobby Jindal refused to roll back income tax cuts or ever-increasing corporate tax breaks. Instead, he raided reserve funds and sold off state property.

Jindal suggested job growth from his economic development wins would replenish those assets once the recession ended. It hasn't — and money from the lucrative oil industry has taken a nose dive with crude prices. Now, the Republican is running out of short-term patches and is struggling to plug a $1.6 billion budget hole just as he tries to build support for a possible 2016 presidential run.

Funding for higher education and health care services will almost certainly be subject to cuts deeper than what they already have endured in recent years, and Jindal's successor will have to repay a string of debts and IOUs. .................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://news.yahoo.com/jindal-leave-louisianas-next-governor-budget-mess-164848646.html

Did Jimmy John’s Fire Yet Another Worker for Supporting a Union?

(In These Times) Franchise operators at Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches in Baltimore are proving true to the national chain’s anti-union reputation with an aggressive counter-attack against local labor organizing, including a decision in late January to fire an outspoken union supporter, say advocates for the Jimmy John’s Workers Union, an affiliate of the radical union Industrial Workers of the World.

Delivery driver Brennan Leister says he was fired Jan. 23 at the Jimmy John’s location in downtown Baltimore’s tourist district. The reason cited by the manager was an infraction of the rules governing clocking out for breaks. But the “real reason,” Leister charges, is that he is an active and vocal union supporter. He says he is likely to file an unfair labor practice complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) over the firing, but that he intends to continue to agitate for the union whether he is re-hired or not.

Leister’s dismissal is of a piece with the franchisee’s larger effort to push back against the union campaign, sometimes using tactics that appear to violate labor law, says Issac Dalto, also a Jimmy John’s delivery driver and union supporter. Since going public with their organizing effort last year, Dalto says, the local franchise owners fired another prominent union supporter, distributed anti-union materials in worker paychecks and hired a local anti-union law firm to contest separate unfair labor practice charges filed at the NLRB by the union last August.

Those charges are now tied up in NLRB delays as the franchisees challenge the Board’s subpoena of company employment records, Dalto reports. Appearing on NLRB documents as the representative of Jimmy John’s franchisees Daniel Dorch and Michael Gilette is Kevin McCormick, a lawyer with the firm Whiteford Taylor Preston. The firm’s own website states it handles “union organizational avoidance” for businesses of all kinds. ..................(more)


Is the Trans-Pacific Partnership a Danger to Public Banks?

Is the Trans-Pacific Partnership a Danger to Public Banks?

posted by MATT STANNARD |
January 29, 2015

Many people fear that secretive trade talks with corporate lobbyists may prohibit public rights to control common assets.

The United States Congress is very close to granting President Obama the authority to “fast track” negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal largely negotiated in secret that could have profound implications on financial, labor, and environmental standards in the United States. Democracy Now! reports:

The top U.S. trade official has told lawmakers the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal could be wrapped up within months and urged Congress to give the White House fast-track authority to approve the deal. Protesters with the group Flush the Trans-Pacific Partnership repeatedly interrupted U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman’s testimony before Congress. The protesters -- Dr. Margaret Flowers, Kevin Zeese and retired steelworker Richard Ochs -- were all arrested after being removed from the hearing.

And, according to Barbara Chicherio, writing last year in Nation of Change:

The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) has the potential to become the biggest regional Free Trade Agreement in history. . . The chief agricultural negotiator for the US is the former Monsanto lobbyist, Islam Siddique. If ratified the TPP would impose punishing regulations that give multinational corporations unprecedented right to demand taxpayer compensation for policies that corporations deem a barrier to their profits.

For at least the last two years, since activists have been expressing concern about the TPP, many commentators have speculated that the agreement poses an immediate, long-term threat to publicly owned banks like the Bank of North Dakota. The rationale for this concern is that public banks are “state-owned enterprises” that are seen as a barrier to private profits—something against which the TPP would throw considerable barriers. In an April 2013 interview on The Real News Network, Kevin Zeese called the TPP “NAFTA on steroids” and “a global corporate coup,” warning:

"No matter what issue you care about—whether its wages, jobs, protecting the environment . . . this issue is going to adversely affect it . . . .

If a country takes a step to try to regulate the financial industry or set up a public bank to represent the public interest, it can be sued . . . ."

The suspicion that publicly owned entities would be targeted by the TPP, and that public banks would be included in that targeting, is most notably detailed in a March 2013 analysis by Sam Knight, who describes trade lobbyists as specifically concerned with the “preferential financing” afforded to public services—possibly (though not decisively) services like those financed by the BND. ..................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.publicbankinginstitute.org/is_the_trans_pacific_partnership_a_danger_to_public_banks

Why Public Banks Outperform Private Banks: Unfair Competition or a Better Mousetrap?

Why Public Banks Outperform Private Banks: Unfair Competition or a Better Mousetrap?
Posted on February 10, 2015 by Ellen Brown

Public banks in North Dakota, Germany and Switzerland have been shown to outperform their private counterparts. Under the TPP and TTIP, however, publicly-owned banks on both sides of the oceans might wind up getting sued for unfair competition because they have advantages not available to private banks.

In November 2014, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Bank of North Dakota (BND), the nation’s only state-owned bank, “is more profitable than Goldman Sachs Group Inc., has a better credit rating than J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and hasn’t seen profit growth drop since 2003.” The article credited the shale oil boom; but as discussed earlier here, North Dakota was already reporting record profits in the spring of 2009, when every other state was in the red and the oil boom had not yet hit. The later increase in state deposits cannot explain the bank’s stellar record either.

Then what does explain it? The BND turns a tidy profit year after year because it has substantially lower costs and risks then private commercial banks. It has no exorbitantly-paid executives; pays no bonuses, fees, or commissions; has no private shareholders; and has low borrowing costs. It does not need to advertise for depositors (it has a captive deposit base in the state itself) or for borrowers (it is a wholesome wholesale bank that partners with local banks that have located borrowers). The BND also has no losses from derivative trades gone wrong. It engages in old-fashioned conservative banking and does not speculate in derivatives.

Lest there be any doubt about the greater profitability of the public banking model, however, this conclusion was confirmed in January 2015 in a report by the Savings Banks Foundation for International Cooperation (SBFIC) (the Sparkassenstiftung für internationale Kooperation), a non-profit organization founded by the the Sparkassen Finance Group (Sparkassen-Finanzgruppe) in Germany. The SBFIC was formed in 1992 to make the experience of the German Sparkassen – municipally-owned savings banks – accessible in other countries.

The Sparkassen were instituted in the late 18th century as nonprofit organizations to aid the poor. The intent was to help people with low incomes save small sums of money, and to support business start-ups. Today, about half the total assets of the German banking system are in the public sector. (Another substantial chunk is in cooperative savings banks.) Local public banks are key tools of German industrial policy, specializing in loans to the Mittelstand, the small-to-medium size businesses that are at the core of that country’s export engine. The savings banks operate a network of over 15,600 branches and offices and employ over 250,000 people, and they have a strong record of investing wisely in local businesses. ................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://ellenbrown.com/2015/02/10/why-public-banks-outperform-private-banks-unfair-competition-or-a-better-mousetrap/

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