The $130 MTA ‘invisible fare’

New Yorkers are hit with an “invisible fare” of $130 a month in taxes, fees and subsidies for the MTA, the city comptroller charged Monday.

This ranges from sales and payroll taxes to 50-cent fees on yellow cabs — as well as the money the NYPD spends policing the subway, according to the new analysis.

“This invisible fare is equivalent to every New York City household paying 130 bucks a month,” said Comptroller Scott Stringer. “That’s more than the cost of the monthly MetroCard before we even stand on a subway platform or pay a bridge toll.”

The 30-day MetroCard costs $116.50.

Residents and businesses chip in over $10 billion a year to the MTA’s coffers — with $5.3 billion coming from MetroCard purchases and tolls, the report said.

The remaining $4.8 billion includes eight taxes, four fees and nine subsidies. They include a payroll tax and a subsidy for private bus routes the MTA has taken over.

The city also directly budgets money for the MTA — including over $300 million a year for transit cops. Other sources of funding include expanding select bus service in Queens, The Bronx and Staten Island.

Stringer said he isn’t calling for the MTA to get less money but that Albany and the feds shouldn’t leave the city holding the bag.

The MTA is a state agency, but the analysis found it was only given about $603 million by Albany in the 2014 fiscal year. “It is a hypocrisy that city residents have lived with for years. It makes no sense,” said Stringer.

The MTA is currently facing a $14 billion gap in its five-year capital plan. More than half of it is devoted to the city’s subway.

Chairman Thomas Prendergast sent a letter to Mayor de Blasio on May 4 asking for a $1 billion investment in the Second Avenue Subway over five years.

The first phase will open on the Upper East Side in December next year, but the MTA wants to expand the new line to East Harlem. Prendergast also asked for $1.5 billion for repairs and maintenance for the city’s transit system.

An MTA spokesperson blasted back at Stringer’s comments.

“It is incredible that the comptroller acknowledges in the very first paragraph of his report that ‘the MTA needs more funding from every level of government’ but uses fuzzy math to justify letting the city off the hook for using some of its billion in future surpluses to pay its fair share for mass transit,” said MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz.

Run, Bernie, Please Keep Running

We all win when Bernie Sanders runs.

We need him to continue through the Democratic Convention and beyond.

You can pardon my enthusiasm, but I’ll now be sending him my $27.

That Bernie came in second in this past Tuesday’s primaries doesn’t mean much. He got more than enough votes to justify an ongoing campaign. And the longer he runs, the better for all of us.

This stuff about him being a “single-issue candidate” is nonsense. The corporate media and the regular Democrats can’t handle the complexity of what’s essentially a nuanced class and counter-cultural analysis. They’re desperate to avoid the realities of what’s being said.

The campaign, of course, is about way more than just Bernie.

And the calculations of delegates and vote counts and much of the rest of it have their place. But we need not lose heart when Hillary seems to get more votes. And she, above all, should be deeply grateful to a genuine grassroots campaign that’s been the only thing sparking any real life into an otherwise excruciating mainstream slog.

Every speech Bernie gives, every day his campaign proceeds, every moment of media time he gets is a plus for all of us.

He is, above all, educating and energizing a new wave of activists and ordinary citizens of all ages. The impacts are essential and incalculable. They will be with us for decades.

This past Sunday I watched Bernie speak to about 5,000 mostly young, very diverse citizens at Ohios State’s Schottenstein Arena. State Senator Nina Turner opened for him with amazing verve.

Bernie then talked for about an hour on a wide range of issues near and dear to us all: social justice, Social Security, Medicare, fair taxation, killing free trade agreements, climate chaos, Solartopian energy, native rights, women’s rights, LGBT, true family values, corporate power, the 1%, militarism, the power of activism, and more.

Of course he began by denouncing Donald Trump’s fascist demagoguery.

At the end, he simply pointed out that love is a more powerful force than hate.

In between, the speech was completely BS-free. There were no throwaway lines, no hokey begs for applause, no contentless filler (he did say something was HYUUUGE, but it was in reasonable context and genuinely endearing).

I found the whole thing deeply moving. Bernie’s essentially a 60s guy who marched with the rest of us for peace and civil rights back in the day. Thankfully, his politics don’t seem to have changed much since. But somehow he’s the guy who navigated the system and became a mayor, congressman and senator. Fantastic!

Now he’s a legitimate candidate for President of the United States. Against all odds he’s energized millions of citizens, raised millions of dollars, and won millions of votes.

And he calls himself a Socialist. He’s the first truly competitive presidential candidate to do that since Eugene V. Debs ran from a federal prison cell in 1920.

We can nit-pick that one. Debs’s Socialism called for public ownership and democratic management of the means of production … with the major financial, economic and industrial institutions run directly by the people, for the public benefit. Bernie has not gone that route except maybe on health care. Technically, in calling for basic justice, human rights, ecological sanity, and so much more, he’s a Social Democrat. Fine with me.

What’s crucial is that his campaign is part of a broad historic continuum. You can date it to December 1, 1955, when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on that Montgomery bus. Or back to Debs or the abolitionists or the better angels of our first Revolution. Or forward to the Vietnam protests, the mass No Nukes arrests, the Freeze Movement, Occupy, or #blacklivesmatter or whatever comes next.

Pick your spot in the mighty stream of nonviolent social activism. What matters is that at this point in our history, we have a society with sufficient social awareness and political commitment to sustain a campaign of this magnitude.

At some point it will end. Bernie may not get the Democratic nomination. He may not be elected president.

But we’ll have had this particular moment in the spiral of our history and now can further evolve, with that many more of us educated and energized.

We can all have our suggestions. Personally, I wish he would talk more directly about an end to militarism in general, asking every hour the $64 trillion question: “Why do we have 900 bases in 175 countries? Why have we been at endless imperial war since 1941?”

He could yell about the fact that in this coming election, 80% of the votes will be cast on electronic machines with zero paper trail, zero access to source code, zero real verification. We know black box elections (like 2000 and 2004) are easily stolen; 2016 is no exception. Bernie, we need you to talk about that. You did, after all, vote for the 2002 Help America Vote Act that foisted these machines on us. (Hillary voted NO. We should ask her why!)

I’d love to hear him more explicitly demand the shut-down of all US atomic reactors, with an even more rapid shift to Solartopia, a totally green-powered Earth.

I’m sure you all have your own laundry list.

But the point is … this is a nice movement wave. The corporate media will dismiss the candidate and ignore the issues. The Democrats will do what they will. And somewhere down the road, we’ll all have to decide how to cast our vote. And how to protect it once we do.

Then, the election will be over, we’ll have a new president, and we’ll all have to deal with what comes next.

In the meantime, a gracious, giving, often brilliant campaign has moved us forward. Let’s celebrate that (and Bernie!) and push it all forward as best we can with humor, grace, gratitude and joy.

Harvey Wasserman, Reader Supported News

The Political Revolution Has Just Begun

Rep. Alan Grayson: We Need Bernie to Energize the Blue Team from Reader Supported News on Vimeo.

Senator Bernie Sanders issued the following statement on Tuesday:

“I congratulate Secretary Clinton on her victories on Tuesday. I also want to thank the millions of voters across the nation who supported our campaign and elected delegates who will take us all the way to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

“With more than half the delegates yet to be chosen and a calendar that favors us in the weeks and months to come, we remain confident that our campaign is on a path to win the nomination.”

It won’t be easy. However it is wrong to say Bernie Sanders is finished. We hear the pundits saying that Sanders would need landslide victories to catch up. That is a stretch. He would need big wins, but the reality is better for Bernie than the establishment media will admit.

There are 28 more contests, with a total of 2020 delegates still to come. The remaining map favors Sanders. He could sweep the next month, although Arizona will be hard fought. What percentage would he need on average? In pledged delegates Hillary currently is 316 ahead of Bernie. So from now on Bernie would need 58% of the remaining delegates.

That is no easy task. The Clinton campaign is in a great spot right now and they expanded their map on Tuesday.

The Sanders campaign also said:

“What you will not hear from the political and media establishment is that, based on the primary and caucus schedule for the rest of the race, this is the high water mark for the Clinton campaign. Starting today, the map now shifts dramatically in our favor.

“Arizona, Idaho, and Utah are up next Tuesday. Alaska, Hawaii, and Washington State caucus the Saturday after. Then it’s Wisconsin’s turn to vote.

“That means we have an extremely good chance to win nearly every state that votes in the next month. If we continue to stand together, we’re just getting started for our political revolution.”

Like I said, we cannot deny that Hillary Clinton maximized her favorable early map and she has made it an uphill climb for Bernie. It is not time to surrender though. Anything can happen, especially in 2016.

Besides, if this is a political revolution, we need to build as broad an organization as we can in every state. Washington, Oregon, Pennsylvania, New York, Wisconsin, New Jersey, California, and many other states are still to come. The Political Revolution will need organization in all of those states if we are going to take our country back. It may not happen in 2016. Change takes struggle. Let’s keep fighting.

Scott Galindez, Reader Supported News

BRAD MEHLDAU: My Favorite Things – live at Jazz In Marciac 2010

Jazz You Too

Had a conversation about what music was, is or will be in our lives – Brad Mehldau became one the topics once again – years ago his concert had quite a different effect on us – cold, distant and playing for himself (not my opinion) were his sins back then and they last until today – for me, he is simply one of the best – I tried to humanize him by finding him talking about what he does – I couldn’t find a decent interview – maybe this rendition of My Favourite Things might free him a little from those charges!

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Noam Chomsky: “I Have Never Seen Such Lunatics in the Political System”

The philosopher and linguist lays waste to the Republican field and sounds the alarm about Hillary’s foreign policy

 

rofessor Chomsky was interviewed in Boston by the writer and activist Simone Chun for the Hankyoreh newspaper. Here is the English translation of the interview, courtesy of Ms. Chun. She was accompanied in her first meeting with Prof. Chomsky in November 2015 (pictured) by Christine Ahn, the founder of Women Cross DMZ, which led a historic march across the North-South Korean border last May (full disclosure, Ms. Chun, Ms. Ahn and myself are all affiliated with the Korea Peace Institute).

Ms. Chun’s interview recently took place, at Professor Chomsky’s office at MIT. Here is the Q&A.

Chun: Do you feel that there will be any significant change in the foreign policy of the United States after President Obama?

Chomsky: If Republicans are elected, there could be major changes that will be awful. I have never seen such lunatics in the political system. For instance, Ted Cruz’s response to terrorism is to carpet-bomb everyone.

Chun: Would you expect that Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy would be different from President Obama’s?

Chomsky: Judging by the record, she is kind of hawkish—much more militant than the centrist democrats, including Obama. Take for instance Libya: she was the one pressing the hardest for bombing, and look at what happened. They not only destroyed the country, but Libya has become the center for jihad all over Africa and the Middle East. It’s a total disaster in every respect, but it does not matter. Look at the so-called global war on terror. It started in 15 years ago with a small cell in a tribal sector in Afghanistan. Now it is all over, and you can understand why. It’s about comparative advantage of force.

Chun: How about Bernie Sanders–what do you think his foreign policy will be?

Chomsky: He is doing a lot better than I expected, but he doesn’t have much to say about foreign policy. He is a kind of New Deal Democrat and focuses primarily on domestic issues.

Chun: Some people in South Korea speculate that if Bernie Sanders gets elected, he may take a non-interventionist position towards foreign policy, which would then give more power to South Korea’s right-wing government.

Chomsky: The dynamics could be different. His emphasis on domestic policy might require an aggressive foreign policy. In order to shore up support for domestic policies, he may be forced to attack somebody weak.

Chun: Do you believe that Americans would support another war?

Chomsky: The public is easily amenable to lies: the more lies there are, the greater the support for war. For instance, when the public was told that Saddam Hussein would attack the U.S., this increased support for the war.

Chun: Do you mean that the media fuels lies?

Chomsky: The media is uncritical, and their so-called the concept of objectivity translates into keeping everything within the Beltway. However, Iraq was quite different. Here, there were flat-out lies, and they sort of knew it. They were desperately trying to make connections between Saddam Hussein and 9/11.

Chun: Do you think that the Iran nuclear deal is a good thing?

Chomsky: I don’t think that any deal was needed: Iran was not a threat. Even if Iran were a threat, there was a very easy way to handle it–by establishing a Middle East Nuclear Weapons Free Zone, which is something that nearly everyone in the world wants. Iran has been calling for it for years, and the Arab countries support it. Everyone except the United States and Israel support it. The U.S. won’t allow it because it means inspecting Israel’s nuclear weapons. The U.S. has continued to block it, and in fact blocked it again just a couple of days ago; it just wasn’t widely reported. Iran’s nuclear program, as U.S. intelligence points out, is deterrent, and the bottom line is that the U.S. and Israel don’t want Iran to have a deterrent. In any case, it is better to have some deal than no deal, but it’s interesting that Obama picked the day of implementing of Iran deal to impose new sanctions on North Korea.

Chun: And do you think that the same can be said about North Korea?

Chomsky: You can understand why. If North Korea doesn’t have a deterrent, they will be wiped out.

Chun: What is the most constructive way to address the nuclear issue in the Korean peninsula?

Chomsky: In 2005, there was a very sensible deal between the U.S. and North Korea. This deal would have settled North Korea’s so-called nuclear threat, but was subsequently undermined by George W. Bush, who attacked North Korean banks in Macau and blocked the North’s access to outside the world.

Chun: Why does the United States undermine efforts to reach an agreement with North Korea?

Chomsky: I don’t think that the United States cares. They just assume that North Korea will soon have nuclear weapons.

Chun: Can you elaborate?

Chomsky: If you look at the record, the United States has done very little to stop nuclear weapons. As soon as George W. Bush was elected, he did everything to encourage North Korea to act aggressively. In 2005 we were close to a deal, but North Korea has always been a low priority issue for the United States. In fact, look at the entire nuclear weapons strategy of the United States: from the beginning, in the 1950s, the United States didn’t worry much about a nuclear threat. It would have been possible to enter into a treaty with the one potential threat—the Soviet Union—and block development of these weapons. At that time, the Russians were way behind technologically, and Stalin wanted a peace deal, but the U.S. didn’t want to hear the USSR’s offer. The implication is that the U.S. is ready to have a terminal war at any time.

Chun: What do you think about U.S. “Pivot to Asia” policy?

Chomsky: It is aimed at China. China is already surrounded by hostile powers such as South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Guam, but the United States wants to build up more tension. For example, few days ago, a B-52 nuclear bomber flew within a couple of miles of China. It is very provocative. Nuclear war ends everything, but the United States always plays with fire.

Chun: What do you think about Japan? Do you think Japan is remilitarizing, and if so, does this pose a threat to the region and the world?

Chomsky: Yes, Japan is trying very hard, but it is not certain that it will succeed. Take for instance Okinawa. There is no actual military purpose, but the United States insists on maintaining a base there.

Chun: As you know, part of my work centers on supporting individual activists in South Korea who do not tend to receive media attention. Your statements of solidarity in support of them enable them to receive much-needed attention by the Korean media. It has been very effective.

Chomsky: I hope that my support has been helpful. Is there any hope or mood in Korea in support of Sunshine Policy?

Chun: It is difficult due to the incumbent right-wing government.

Chomsky: How about South Korean public opinion?

Chun: As you know, successive conservative governments have obstructed engagement with the North, and this has greatly deflated the public mood on the matter. Opposition parties remain divided and ineffective, and the current government exercises tight control over the media and represses any activists who would express criticism. South Korea appears to be heading back to the authoritarianism of the 1960s and 1970s.

Chomsky: Part of the reason why the United States doesn’t care about North Korea is that the North Korean threat provides justification for the right-wing conservative regime in the South.

Chun: Yes, many people argue that the biggest obstacle in dealing with North Korea is South Korean right-wing politics.

Chomsky: Relaxation with North Korea would mean conservatives losing power in the South. That’s why, for instance, we have to keep the war on terrorism.

Chun: Professor Chomsky, thank you again for your time and your support.

Simone Chun, Salon

Williamsburg Could Really Use That South 4th Subway Line Now

In most of this country, 230,000 people is enough for a big city. In New York, it’s the number of people who ride the L Train under the East River every day, through two passages called the Canarsie Tubes. When those parallel, one-track tunnels are shut down to repair flooding damage from Superstorm Sandy—and it seems likely they will be shut down entirely, for at least a year—fleets of ferries, buses and bicycles will be no substitute.

The good news is that the city has a plan for another subway link to Williamsburg that features two separate tunnels and four tracks beneath the East River, with direct service to Midtown. Existing stations have been designed to accommodate it.

The bad news is that the plan is from 1929, and only a small part of it is still under consideration by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

It’s called the South Fourth Street line, and it was once, alongside the Second Avenue Subway, thought to be a fixture of the future subway system.

At that point, New York City had already planned and broken ground on its Independent Rapid Transit Railroad, or IND, which includes most of today’s A, B, C, D, E, F, and G trains. This publicly built network would compete with the existing BMT and IRT companies. In September 1929, before any part of the IND had opened, the Board of Transportation announced a follow-up plan called the Second System. (This plan, along with many others, is documented in Joseph Raskin’s book The Routes Not Taken, a history of the city’s unbuilt subways.)

One of the major components of this hundred-mile expansion was the South Fourth Street Line, a six-track artery running through South Williamsburg.

While Brooklyn was already crossed by both subways and elevated lines (on Fulton Street, Myrtle Avenue, Third Avenue, and Lexington Avenue, for example), there was reason for the city to feel bullish: Annual subway ridership passed two billion in 1930, a mark the system would only reach again in 1946-47 (in 2014, it was 1.71 billion). Brooklyn had grown by 550,000 residents between 1920 and 1930. And southern and eastern Queens were (then as now) underdeveloped because of poor access to transit.

The new Williamsburg line was to reach Manhattan via two separate tunnels. The first would run beneath Grand Street (in Brooklyn) and Houston Street in Manhattan, linking into the Second Avenue F station; the second would swoop down Worth Street in Manhattan to join today’s E train tracks south of Canal Street.

A massive junction was planned for South Fourth and Union, at the G train’s Broadway stop. To the east, the subway was to split in Bushwick. Four tracks were to go north under Myrtle Avenue before branching into dozens of miles of new track in Queens, while four tracks proceeded down Stuyvesant Ave. through Bed-Stuy, continuing down Utica Ave. to Sheepshead Bay.

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The first plan for the Second System, 1929 (Wikicommons)

Once you know about the South Fourth Street line, a few other peculiarities of the subway start to make sense.

This is why the Utica Avenue A/C station is so deep — two platforms and four tracks are built into the ceiling. It’s also why the Second Avenue F station has four tracks — two were designed to head towards Williamsburg. The major Greenwich Village junction is called West Fourth Street to eliminate any confusion with South Fourth Street, which would have been just a few stops away.

The city went so far as to build part of the South Fourth Street station, carving out a six-track, three-platform station under Union Avenue in South Williamsburg.

It’s possible that if the new subway had been built, the city would have bought and demolished parts of today’s Broadway elevated line (as it did with the Sixth Avenue El, whose steel scraps were sold to Imperial Japan in the late 1930s).

Even so, the plan would have enhanced North Brooklyn’s subway capacity, and forever transformed the settlement patterns of eastern Queens and lower Utica Avenue. Real estate speculators had been pushing for a train on Utica for decades, and were willing to pay special assessment taxes for an elevated. “Any delay in authorizing the work is a serious menace to the proper development of Brooklyn,” one realtor told a newspaper in 1910.

11916secondplanbig.jpg
The second plan for the Second System, 1939 (Wikicommons)

But the Second System plan, with a projected cost of $800 million (in 1929 dollars), was soon postponed when the city ran out of borrowing power during the Great Depression. A 1939 plan reprised and simplified the South Fourth Street line, sending all trains down Utica Avenue and none to Queens. But the high-water mark of subway planning had passed. Most mid-century transportation projects in New York City involved the automobile.

Today, Utica Avenue is served by the B46 bus, New York’s second-busiest route. Mayor de Blasio has expressed interest in extending the subway to serve the avenue, and the MTA’s current capital plan allots $5 million to study the idea. But any Utica Avenue subway would be a continuation of the 3 or 4 train from Eastern Parkway — a modification proposed in the 1950s — with no new tracks running north.

The change is in part because the South Fourth Street plan would, at that point, have seriously congested Manhattan’s 6th and 8th Avenue lines, where the inbound trains were to merge.

“The full utilization of the lines in the outlying areas of the City,” wrote Board of Transportation chairman William Reid in 1948, “is now not possible because of the bottlenecks due to insufficient trunk lines in Manhattan.”

Still, it’s fun to imagine.

The biggest obstacle to building any new subway, of course, is money. For reasons that aren’t quite clear, the MTA spends more on per-kilometer subway construction than any transportation authority in the world —between $1.5 and $1.9 billion on each kilometer of new subway track. (By contrast, Paris is building 6 kilometers of subway and four new stations for $1.5 billion!)

At the hometown rate, the ten-mile Brooklyn portion of the 1939 South Fourth Street line—not including those precious tunnels—would cost $32 billion.

Put another way: If you live in Williamsburg, you should buy a bicycle.

Henry Grabar is a writer in New York. You can read more of his work here.

Mark Cuban: Here’s Why Millennials Love Bernie Sanders

Could billionaire entrepreneur and Shark Tank host Mark Cuban be considering a run for president?

You’d think from the tone of a blog post he published Monday, entitled “Some Thoughts on the Presidential Race and Socio-capitalism,” that it has at least crossed his mind. In the post, the outspoken Texas native ripped into candidates from both parties for what he perceives as a lack of leadership, poor understanding of technology, and an inability to craft a sound fiscal plan.

Cuban’s post is well-timed, with the New Hampshire primaries getting underway Tuesday and polls showing many of the candidates running neck-and-neck. The rhetoric in the run-up to the primaries has at times turned ugly in debates and town halls, where asserting progressive or conservative bona fides and voicing extremist views have often usurped discussion of the issues voters care most about.

he cites Millennials, who most frequently include an element of social entrepreneurship in their business plans. And he links their ideas and enthusiasm about using business to solve social problems to their support of Sanders’s campaign:

How can it be a surprise that Millennials are excited about Bernie Sanders? Millennials EXPECT capitalism to reflect a socialist element. I don’t think Bernie knew this going in. Either way, any candidate that expects to get millennial votes needs to understand that your father’s capitalism is not … how they understand the world. Soci0-Capitalism [sic] is who they are and what this country will be. Whether you like it or not.