Daily Archive: 05/06/2014

May 06 2014

Sunday Train: Freight Transport and the Highway Funding Crisis

Belated edition ~ technical difficulties interfered with posting to Soap Blox blogs

We are going to be hearing increasingly this year about the Highway Funding Crisis. Much of that discussion will be directed toward exploiting the political leverage that our car addiction gives to the Highway Lobby.

But there is the other side of the Highway Funding Crisis, which is freight transport. Our freight transport system has been as deliberately addicted to road funding as our passenger transport system, and in the process is quite heavily addicted to diesel fuel.

Now, the Sunday Train has frequently tackled this issue from the side of the physical unsustainability of our dependence on petroleum based fuels for a majority of our transport. However, its also the case that the system of public finance upon which we built our road transport system is becoming more and more financially unsustainable.

May 06 2014

Voting is to politics…

…as praying is to religion.

And produces about the same results.

May 06 2014

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Dean Baker: A year after being discredited, austerity economics still reigns

The world still hasn’t learned its lesson from the Reinhart-Rogoff debacle

It has been a bit more than a year since the Excel spreadsheet error that shook the world. For those who may have missed it, in April of 2013, Thomas Herndon, a University of Massachusetts graduate student in economics, found an error in the calculations of Harvard professors Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff on the relationship between government debt and economic growth.

Reinhart and Rogoff had done an enormously influential analysis showing that countries experienced sharply slower growth once their debt-to-GDP ratio exceeded 90 percent. With the United States and many European countries reaching debt-to-GDP ratios in this 90 percent range in the wake of the Great Recession, Reinhart and Rogoff’s work was seen as a warning. It was taken as evidence that governments would have to reduce spending, raise taxes or both to get or stay below the 90 percent threshold.

Political leaders and central bankers around the world were happy to trumpet the Reinhart-Rogoff findings. The story was that cutting deficits may slow growth in the short term and seriously hurt those directly affected by the cuts, such as laid-off government workers, but it was essential medicine for sustaining a healthy economy.

David Cay Johnston: Enron-style price gouging is making a comeback

Wall Street makes naked attempt to jack up electricity prices in New England

The price of electricity would soar under the latest scheme by Wall Street financial engineers to game the electricity markets.

If regulators side with Wall Street – and indications are that they will – expect the cost of electricity to rise from Maine to California as others duplicate this scheme to manipulate the markets, as Enron did on the West Coast 14 years ago, before the electricity-trading company collapsed under allegations of accounting fraud and corruption.

The test case is playing out in New England. Energy Capital Partners, an investment group that uses tax-avoiding offshore investing techniques and has deep ties to Goldman Sachs, paid $650 million last year to acquire three generating plant complexes, including the second largest electric power plant in New England, Brayton Point in Massachusetts.

Five weeks after the deal closed, Energy partners moved to shutter Brayton Point. Why would anyone spend hundreds of millions of dollars to buy the second largest electric power plant in New England and then quickly take steps to shut it down?

Robert Redford: U.S. Senate Shouldn’t Circumvent the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline Process

On Friday we learned that a lot of Republican U.S. senators and a smattering of Democrats are once again trying to make an end run around a legitimate process to assess the impacts of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, in favor of moving legislation authorizing its immediate construction.

While the political process in Washington, D.C., has come to give a lot of us pause, the good news is, it only furthers the resolve of tens of thousands of Americans to work harder to make their voices heard.  [..]

So it is particularly painful to see some members of Congress once again trying to circumvent a legitimate process to push approval of Keystone XL — a pipeline that would take some of the world’s dirtiest oil from Canada, through the heart of America, to the Gulf Coast and then off to overseas markets.

Brian Krebs: What Target and Co aren’t telling you: your credit card data is still out there

Hackers have an open window that no fallen CEO has bothered to close, because the retail industry is looking for security in all the wrong places

Target wants you to know that you can trust it again. Nearly seven months after the second biggest retailer in America ignored multiple alarm bells, allowing thieves to virtually hijack the cash registers at some 1,800 stores and siphon at least 40m credit and debit card records plus contact info for more than 70m customers, CEO Gregg Steinhafel is out, and the company has pledged to spend $100m upgrading the security of its checkout system.

But Monday’s mea culpa papers over problems still endemic throughout the American retail industry: an over-reliance on in-store technology rather than cybersecurity experts in the boardroom, and a tendency to underestimate the lengths to which bad guys will go to steal anything that isn’t properly nailed down.

Robert Reich: The Four Biggest Right-Wing Lies About Inequality

Even though French economist Thomas Piketty has made an air-tight case that we’re heading toward levels of inequality not seen since the days of the nineteenth-century robber barons, right-wing conservatives haven’t stopped lying about what’s happening and what to do about it.

Herewith, the four biggest right-wing lies about inequality, followed by the truth. [..]

The truth is, America’s lurch toward widening inequality can be reversed. But doing so will require bold political steps.

At the least, the rich must pay higher taxes in order to pay for better-quality education for kids from poor and middle-class families. Labor unions must be strengthened, especially in lower-wage occupations, in order to give workers the bargaining power they need to get better pay. And the minimum wage must be raised.

Don’t listen to the right-wing lies about inequality. Know the truth, and act on it.

Ban Ki-moon: Climate change affects us all. So what’s stopping us joining forces to act on it?

I have seen that effective, affordable climate solutions exist. The push-back against sceptics must start in earnest at the UN’s 2014 summit in New York

Three decades from now the world is going to be a very different place. How it looks will depend on actions we take today. We have big decisions to make and little time to make them if we are to provide stability and greater prosperity to the world’s growing population. Top of the priority list is climate change.

All around the world it is plain that climate change is happening and that human activities are the principal cause. Last month the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change confirmed that the effects of climate change are already widespread, costly and consequential – from the tropics to the poles, from small islands to large continents, and from the poorest countries to the wealthiest. The world’s top scientists are clear. Climate change is affecting agriculture, water resources, human health, and ecosystems on land and in the oceans. It poses sweeping risks for economic stability and the security of nations.

May 06 2014

What Happened to Obama’s Promised Net Neutrality?

Net Neutrality may shortly become another broken promise made by Barack Obama during is campaign for the presidency. His appointment of telecommunications lobbyist, Thomas Wheeler, may well be the nail in its coffin. Bill Moyers and his guests, David Carr of the New York Times and Susan Crawford, a visiting professor at Harvard Law School think is still time to stop it death if the public takes action.

“For most Americans, they have no choice for all the information, data, entertainment coming through their house, other than their local cable monopoly.  And here, we have a situation where that monopoly potentially can pick and choose winners and losers, decide what you see,” Crawford tells Moyers.

Carr adds: “People have a close, intimate relationship with the web in a way they don’t other technologies … they have the precious propriety feelings about it.  And I’m not sure if the FCC really knows what they’re getting into.”



TRanscript can be read here

The problem, Bill Moyers says, is that “business and government are now so intertwined that public officials and corporate retainers are interchangeable parts of what Chief Justice John Roberts might call ‘the gratitude machine.'” FCC officials, including Wheeler, transit back and forth through the revolving door between public service and lucrative private commerce, losing sight of the greater good. But there’s still time to speak up and make your voices heard.



Transcript can be read here

Don’t Let Net Neutrality Become Another Broken Promise

by Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

Barack Obama told us there would be no compromise on Net neutrality. We heard him say it back in 2007, when he first was running for president. [..]

He said it many more times. And defenders of Net neutrality believed him, that he would preserve Internet access for all, without selling out to providers like Verizon and Comcast who want to charge higher fees for speedier access – hustling more cash from those who can afford to buy a place at the front of the line. On this issue so important to democracy, they believed he would keep his word, would see to it that when private interests set upon the Internet like sharks to blood in the water, its fate would be in the hands of honest brokers who would listen politely to the pleas of the greedy, and then show them the door.

Unfortunately, it turned out to be Washington’s infamous revolving door. Last May, President Obama named Tom Wheeler to be FCC chairman. He had other choices, men or women whose loyalty was to the public, not to rich and powerful corporations. But Tom Wheeler had been one of Obama’s top bundlers of campaign cash – both in 2008 and again in 2012, when he raised at least half a million dollars for the president’s re-election. Like his proposed new rules for the Web, that put him at the front of the line.

Take Action Now

   » Save the Internet has a sample script, an email petition and instructions on how to call Wheeler and request that the chairman abandon his proposal.

   » Using WhiteHouse.gov’s We the People site, critics of the new proposal have also launched a petition, calling for “nothing less than complete neutrality in our communication channels.” It already has over 40,000 signatures.

   » A second petition asks the FCC to reclassify broadband as a regulated common-carrier service, which means it would have to be open to all, and serve all customers without discrimination. Currently broadband is classified as an information service, a category that gives the FCC a fairly limited set of regulatory options.

   » There are a number of other organizations that are working on maintaining Net neutrality, including: Access, CREDO Action, Demand Progress, Fight for the Future, Free Press, Open Technology Institute, Public Knowledge, Voices for Internet Freedom

May 06 2014

The Breakfast Club: 5-6-2014

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Everyone’s welcome here, no special handshake required. Just check your meta at the door.

Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

 photo BeerBreakfast_web_zps646fca37.png

This Day in History

May 06 2014

On This Day In History May 6

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge

May 6 is the 126th day of the year (127th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 239 days remaining until the end of the year.



On this day in 1994, English Channel tunnel opens.

In a ceremony presided over by England’s Queen Elizabeth II and French President François Mitterand, a rail tunnel under the English Channel was officially opened, connecting Britain and the European mainland for the first time since the Ice Age.

The channel tunnel, or “Chunnel,” connects Folkstone, England, with Sangatte, France, 31 miles away.  The Chunnel cut travel time between England and France to a swift 35 minutes and eventually between London and Paris to two-and-a-half hours.

As the world’s longest undersea tunnel, the Chunnel runs under water for 23 miles, with an average depth of 150 feet below the seabed. Each day, about 30,000 people, 6,000 cars and 3,500 trucks journey through the Chunnel on passenger, shuttle and freight trains.

Millions of tons of earth were moved to build the two rail tunnels–one for northbound and one for southbound traffic–and one service tunnel.   Fifteen thousand people were employed at the peak of construction.  Ten people were killed during construction.

Proposals and attempts

In 1802, French mining engineer Albert Mathieu put forward a proposal to tunnel under the English Channel, with illumination from oil lamps, horse-drawn coaches, and an artificial island mid-Channel for changing horses.

In the 1830s, Frenchman Aimé Thomé de Gamond performed the first geological and hydrographical surveys on the Channel, between Calais and Dover. Thomé de Gamond explored several schemes and, in 1856, he presented a proposal to Napoleon III for a mined railway tunnel from Cap Gris-Nez to Eastwater Point with a port/airshaft on the Varne sandbank at a cost of 170 million francs, or less than £7 million.

In 1865, a deputation led by George Ward Hunt proposed the idea of a tunnel to the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the day, William Ewart Gladstone.

After 1867, William Low and Sir John Clarke Hawkshaw promoted ideas, but none were implemented. An official Anglo-French protocol was established in 1876 for a cross-Channel railway tunnel. In 1881, British railway entrepreneur Sir William Watkin and French Suez Canal contractor Alexandre Lavalley were in the Anglo-French Submarine Railway Company that conducted exploratory work on both sides of the Channel. On the English side a 2.13-metre (7 ft) diameter Beaumont-English boring machine dug a 1,893-metre (6,211 ft) pilot tunnel from Shakespeare Cliff. On the French side, a similar machine dug 1,669 m (5,476 ft) from Sangatte. The project was abandoned in May 1882, owing to British political and press campaigns advocating that a tunnel would compromise Britain’s national defences. These early works were encountered more than a century later during the TML project.

In 1919, during the Paris Peace Conference, British Prime Minister David Lloyd George repeatedly brought up the idea of a Channel tunnel as a way of reassuring France about British willingness to defend against another German attack. The French did not take the idea seriously and nothing came of Lloyd George’s proposal.

In 1955, defence arguments were accepted to be irrelevant because of the dominance of air power; thus, both the British and French governments supported technical and geological surveys. Construction work commenced on both sides of the Channel in 1974, a government-funded project using twin tunnels on either side of a service tunnel, with capability for car shuttle wagons. In January 1975, to the dismay of the French partners, the British government cancelled the project. The government had changed to the Labour Party and there was uncertainty about EEC membership, cost estimates had ballooned to 200% and the national economy was troubled. By this time the British Priestly tunnel boring machine was ready and the Ministry of Transport was able to do a 300 m (980 ft) experimental drive. This short tunnel would however be reused as the starting and access point for tunnelling operations from the British side.

In 1979, the “Mouse-hole Project” was suggested when the Conservatives came to power in Britain. The concept was a single-track rail tunnel with a service tunnel, but without shuttle terminals. The British government took no interest in funding the project, but Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said she had no objection to a privately funded project. In 1981 British and French leaders Margaret Thatcher and François Mitterrand agreed to set up a working group to look into a privately funded project, and in April 1985 promoters were formally invited to submit scheme proposals. Four submissions were shortlisted:

   a rail proposal based on the 1975 scheme presented by Channel Tunnel Group/France-Manche (CTG/F-M),

   Eurobridge: a 4.5 km (2.8 mi) span suspension bridge with a roadway in an enclosed tube

   Euroroute: a 21 km (13 mi) tunnel between artificial islands approached by bridges, and

   Channel Expressway: large diameter road tunnels with mid-channel ventilation towers.

The cross-Channel ferry industry protested under the name “Flexilink”. In 1975 there was no campaign protesting against a fixed link, with one of the largest ferry operators (Sealink) being state-owned. Flexilink continued rousing opposition throughout 1986 and 1987. Public opinion strongly favoured a drive-through tunnel, but ventilation issues, concerns about accident management, and fear of driver mesmerisation led to the only shortlisted rail submission, CTG/F-M, being awarded the project.

May 06 2014

TDS/TCR (Cinco)

TDS TCR

After a greeting like that I can’t reasonably ask for more, but I do.

Yes, that is Yackety Sax.