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marmar

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Gender: Male
Member since: Thu Oct 28, 2004, 11:18 PM
Number of posts: 72,234

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Taking Back the Grid (Boulder's attempt at energy municipalization)


(Dissent magazine) There’s a government takeover of the energy industry brewing and it’s not in Venezuela or Greece—it’s in Boulder, Colorado. In late 2011, the progressive town (squeezed “between the Rocky Mountains and reality,” as a local saying has it) scored two ballot initiatives empowering city hall to pursue “municipalization” of its electricity grid. The voters’ justification? Ditching fossil fuels and going solar, as the private utility that currently supplies Boulder’s energy, Xcel Energy, refuses to do.

Boulder is in many ways a natural setting for a voter-led experiment in wresting the grid back from corporations and going green. Residents of this college town, which is also home to the National Center for Atmospheric Research, are accustomed to regional jibes about their cultural isolation from the rest of the state: there’s a Buddhist university that Allen Ginsberg helped to start; people with dogs, by law, are not owners but “guardians”; and one would be forgiven for not knowing that marijuana has only been legal for a year. Eccentricities aside, the Boulder-Denver economy is booming and the area boasts among the highest levels of personal health and happiness in the country.

Moreover, the Rocky Mountain West has always had a strong constituency of environmentalists; those living at the foot of the mountains see how much there is to lose without strong laws in place to protect open space and wildlife from private exploitation. In 1967, environmentalists pushed Boulder to buy a “green belt” of protected lands to guard the city from overdevelopment, and the city borders one of the United States’ largest continuous stretches of national forest. Little wonder that Boulderites are trying to dissociate themselves from a regional and national energy politics dominated by coal lobbyists, climate deniers, and arctic drillers. Lucky for them, local geography is also on renewable energy’s side: despite snowy winters and a high elevation, the Boulder-Denver area is among the sunniest places in the United States.

Yet three years after its citizens voted overwhelmingly for a pair of ballot initiatives in favor of energy municipalization, Boulder’s plan to de-privatize its grid and create a public utility remains stalled. Onlookers from both left and right are watching with rapt attention to see if the experiment can still succeed—and if it can be replicated elsewhere. ................(more)

http://www.dissentmagazine.org/online_articles/taking-back-grid-boulder-municipalization-xcel-energy




As Gentrification Persists in San Francisco, Evictions Take New Forms


(Truthout) Last year, the mainstream press swarmed to San Francisco to cover the tech bus protests, gentrification, and activists' disdain for Silicon Valley and "tech." Those stories have largely died down, but the underlying grievances of many San Franciscans have not. Evictions continue. The battle being waged by residents of one building in the Mission District, which is currently facing eviction, demonstrates the persistent intensity of the attacks on low-income tenants.

On a sunny Monday afternoon in early March, tenants from Station 40, an affordable housing complex in San Francisco's rapidly gentrifying Mission District, joined with activists from the Housing Rights Committee and Anti-Eviction Mapping Project to hold a press conference condemning one of the latest evictions happening in the city. In late February, Station 40 tenants were slapped with an eviction notice from their landlords, Ahuva, Emanuel and Barak Jolish.

The complex houses more than a dozen tenants at 3030B 16th Street in the Mission. It sits right across the street from the 16th Street Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) stop. Station 40 has provided affordable housing for its residents for the past 11 years. It is also known for housing members of activist groups like Food Not Bombs, which shares home-cooked, free meals on the 16th Street BART plaza every week, and Coffee Not Cops, which shares free coffee and pastries at the same plaza and organizes against police patrols in the area.

"Station 40 has been home to anarchist, queer and transgender refugees, broke people, veterans against war, those healing from the prison system, lifelong San Franciscans, immigrants, people with disabilities, and those who were previously homeless," according to the groups' press statement. Station 40 has also "hosted and/or organized hundreds of anticapitalist-oriented events, including fund-raiser, critical discussions, film screenings and performances, assemblies, book releases, art shows and workshops, and indie media projects, contributing to the rebel spirit of the Bay Area." ..................(more)

http://truth-out.org/news/item/29737-as-gentrification-persists-in-san-francisco-evictions-take-new-forms




What Happened to the “Feel Good” Economy?

http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2015/03/happened-feel-good-economy.html


from Naked Capitalism:


What Happened to the “Feel Good” Economy?
Posted on March 20, 2015 by Yves Smith


Even though this video is from December (hat tip Philip Pilkington), it gives an informative and nuanced explanation of the rise in income inequality and consumer debt levels, and how they play into our unimpressive “recovery”. The interview of Steve Fazzari and Barry Cynamon by Marshall Auerback discusses how the rise of inequality has many drivers, but the biggest appears to be financialization which is so pervasive and well-protected politically as to make it hard to roll back. It also put focus on key metrics that often get lost in conventional coverage. For instance, inflation and productivity adjusted wages would now need to be over $20 to match the levels of the 1960s.



From the overview at the INET website:

One of the conundrums in regard to the recent US midterm elections is the apparent disconnect between the improvement in the unemployment rate—which has dropped below 6 percent—and the fact that so many Americans continue to feel so disillusioned about the economy. In reality, this election was not about the unemployment rate per se or what any economist says about how the economy is doing. Rather, it was about how Americans feel the economy is doing. The fact is that most Americans do not believe the economy is doing better. Specifically, they do not think their personal economy has yet recovered.

Why is this the case? According to Professor Steve Fazzari and Barry Cynamon of the St. Louis Fed, prevailing trends towards greater inequality continue to skew the benefits of a growing economy to a smaller and smaller number of people. Indeed, Fazzari and Cynamon go further: Rising inequality reduced income growth for the bottom 95 percent of the income distribution. This is not a new trend. It began around 1980, but that group’s consumption growth did not fall proportionally. Instead, most accumulated more debt in order to sustain their lifestyles and prevent further erosion of their living standards. The rise in debt coincided with three other causal trends. First, the suppression of real wages which meant that consumption expenditure could really only be maintained by accessing credit; second, the rise of the financial engineers and their elaborate and usually fraudulent or misleading marketing schemes, which forced more debt onto the naive households; third, the increasing tendency for national governments to pursue fiscal surpluses, which further squeezed private purchasing power and promoted the credit binge.

All of these factors help to explain why the Great Recession was so devastating for so many people, as well as providing a sound rationale as to why these inequality trends persist in its aftermath. Income inequality has a snowballing effect on the wealth distribution: top incomes are being saved at high rates, pushing wealth concentration up; in turn, rising wealth inequality leads to rising capital income concentration, which contributes to further increasing top income and wealth shares. Which leaves much of the population with an (in)ability to generate adequate demand, thereby explaining why the economic recovery remains relatively tepid and why the “feel good” factor remains so elusive.


Obama Seeks Fast Track for TPP, Trade Deal that Could Thwart "Almost Any Progressive Policy or Goal"





Published on Mar 19, 2015

http://democracynow.org - Congressional Democrats are openly criticizing the secrecy surrounding the negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), just as President Obama begins a major push to pass the controversial deal. The United States is engaged in talks with 11 Latin American and Asian countries for the sweeping trade pact that would cover 40 percent of the global economy. But its provisions have mostly been kept secret. After the White House deemed a briefing on the trade pact "classified," Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut called the measures "needlessly secretive," saying: "If the TPP would be as good for American jobs as they claim, there should be nothing to hide." This comes as Obama recently called on Congress to pass "fast track" legislation to streamline the passage of trade deals through Congress. Meanwhile, the AFL-CIO says it will withhold contributions to congressional Democrats to pressure them to vote no on fast-track authority. And some tea party-backed Republicans are saying Obama cannot be trusted with the same negotiating authority that past presidents have had. This spring, the White House has invited Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to address a joint session of Congress in which he may promote the TPP. For more, we speak with by Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, who has been sounding the alarm about the negotiations. She says Congress could vote on the TPP proposal in the third week in April.



To Solve California’s Water Crisis, We Must Change the Nation’s Food System


from truthdig:


To Solve California’s Water Crisis, We Must Change the Nation’s Food System

Posted on Mar 19, 2015
By Sonali Kolhatkar


The bold headline of a recent Los Angeles Times editorial by the hydrologist Jay Famiglietti starkly warned: “California has about one year of water left. Will you ration now?” The write-up quickly made the social media rounds, prompting both panic and the usual blame game: It’s because of the meat eaters or the vegan almond-milk drinkers or the bottled-water guzzlers or the Southern California lawn soakers.

California’s water loss has been terrifying. But people everywhere should be scared, not just Californians, because this story goes far beyond state lines. It is a story of global climate change and industrial agriculture. It is also a saga that began many decades ago—with the early water wars of the 1930s immortalized in the 1974 Roman Polanski film “Chinatown.”

When my family first moved to the Los Angeles area, we spent years adjusting our lifestyle to be more in line with our values. Ten years ago, we stopped watering our lawn and eventually replaced the lawn with plants that were drought-tolerant or native to California. Three years ago, we installed solar panels on our roofs. Last year, we diverted our laundry runoff to our vegetable garden and fruit trees through a graywater system. We have replaced all our toilets with dual-flush systems to take advantage of local rebates, and we practice responsible flushing. We almost never wash our cars, and we shower less often in the winter. We are investigating rainwater barrels in our latest effort to be responsible stewards of our water. Yet none of our efforts to be an example to others have done anything other than make us feel morally self-righteous enough to wag our fingers at water wasters.

.......(snip).......

The truth is that California’s Central Valley, which is where the vast majority of the state’s farming businesses are located, is a desert. That desert is irrigated with enough precious water to artificially sustain the growing of one-third of the nation’s fruits and vegetables, a $40 billion industry.

Think about it. A third of all produce in the United States is grown in a desert in a state that has almost no water left. That produce is trucked from the West Coast all over the country in fossil-fuel-consuming vehicles, thereby contributing to the very mechanism of climate change that is likely to be driving California’s historic drought. .................(more)

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/headline_to_solve_californias_water_crisis_we_must_transform_20150319



Hedge Fund-Backed Castellan Real Estate Group Intimidates NYC Tenants to Vacate Rent-Stabilized Apts





Published on Mar 18, 2015

http://democracynow.org - In his latest column for the New York Daily News, Democracy Now! co-host Juan González reports on intimidation tactics used by Castellan Real Estate Partners, the hedge fund-backed owner of more than 50 rent-stabilized apartments in New York City. Despite a state-appointed monitor, Castellan continues to force out tenants by improperly demanding proof of citizenship or income, and then jacking up rents by up to 50 percent.


Obama Seeks Fast Track for TPP, Trade Deal that Could Thwart "Almost Any Progressive Policy or Goal"





Published on Mar 19, 2015

http://democracynow.org - Congressional Democrats are openly criticizing the secrecy surrounding the negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), just as President Obama begins a major push to pass the controversial deal. The United States is engaged in talks with 11 Latin American and Asian countries for the sweeping trade pact that would cover 40 percent of the global economy. But its provisions have mostly been kept secret. After the White House deemed a briefing on the trade pact "classified," Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut called the measures "needlessly secretive," saying: "If the TPP would be as good for American jobs as they claim, there should be nothing to hide." This comes as Obama recently called on Congress to pass "fast track" legislation to streamline the passage of trade deals through Congress. Meanwhile, the AFL-CIO says it will withhold contributions to congressional Democrats to pressure them to vote no on fast-track authority. And some tea party-backed Republicans are saying Obama cannot be trusted with the same negotiating authority that past presidents have had. This spring, the White House has invited Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to address a joint session of Congress in which he may promote the TPP. For more, we speak with by Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, who has been sounding the alarm about the negotiations. She says Congress could vote on the TPP proposal in the third week in April.



U.S. Companies Are Leading Bidders in British Health Service Sell-Off


http://www.truthdig.com/eartotheground/item/us_health_companies_leading_bidders_in_british_health_20150319


via truthdig:


A leaked memo cited by a parliamentary candidate for the U.K. Labour Party details an effort to sell off cancer and end-of-life services relied on by some 3.8 million beneficiaries of the British National Health Service to private U.S. health care companies that will be free to restructure the services along lines of profitability rather than quality of care.

“There are lots of firsts here,” candidate Kate Godfrey, who received the confidential documents, writes at The Guardian:

It is the first time that cancer or end-of-life care has been contracted out. The first use of the prime provider model on anything like this scale. The first privatisation without formal consultation. The first huge international NHS contract that could fall under TTIP. Transfer these services out of the NHS now, and we may never get them back.

The leading bidders are all US private healthcare companies, some of them implicated in failures of care elsewhere. One is Optum, the US brand facing allegations over the American hospice-packing scandal. (Optum is defending itself against the allegations.) It is the first time that the commissioning responsibility held by local clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) – the right to spend a billion pounds on behalf of the NHS – will simply be gifted to a private company. ...

The winning bidder will be free to decommission or disinvest as they like – cutting contracts with local hospices, therapeutic providers or even frontline healthcare such as radiotherapy and surgery.

The bidder could simply replace them, delivering services such as radiotherapy themselves, further fragmenting the services that mean most to patients. Or they could just squeeze existing contracts. No payment structure is specified. Bidding companies can decide for themselves what they are worth, as long as their fees are self-funding within the current budget. Based on similar health privatisation contracts, £100m in fees is the minimum that a private provider will accept. This money will be diverted straight from funds currently spent on frontline care.





Robert Scheer: They Know Everything About You





Truthdig Editor-in-Chief Robert Scheer spoke about his new book, “They Know Everything About You: How Data-Collecting Corporations and Snooping Government Agencies Are Destroying Democracy,” at a town hall event in Seattle on Monday.



Chicago Transit Riders Warned to Brace for Possible Service Cuts, Fare Hikes

Chicago Tribune, via Mass Transit Mag:




March 19--Transit officials Wednesday laid out a grim scenario of service cuts on buses and trains, fare increases, layoffs and commuters returning to their cars in droves as early as summer if lawmakers approve Gov. Bruce Rauner's plan to cut nearly $170 million to Chicago-area mass transit.

The CTA, which provides 81 percent of the rides in the area, would suffer the largest funding hit under Rauner's fiscal 2016 budget proposal, Regional Transportation Authority officials said. They were to present their findings to the RTA board Thursday.

The CTA would face a 45 percent decrease in state funding, or a $130.1 million annual cut, according to the latest numbers crunched by the RTA, based on the governor's proposed budget book and discussions with his staff. The projected cut, up from an earlier estimate of $105 million, equals 9 percent of the CTA's operating budget, officials said.

To put that in perspective, $130.1 million pays for more than 10 weeks of bus service on the entire CTA system, CTA officials said. ...............(more)

http://www.masstransitmag.com/news/11888024/chicago-transit-riders-warned-to-brace-for-possible-service-cuts-fare-hikes




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