Archive for Privatization

Apr
16

I-77 Widening: Ah, Privatization

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In case you missed it last Friday. This is NC Speaker of the House Thom Tillis’ latest brainchild, one opposed by local businessmen, the Mecklenburg-area T-party, and contrary to his party’s own platform. (Emphasis mine):

Raleigh – The N.C. Department of Transportation announces the apparent successful bidder for its first Public-Private-Partnership (P3) contract to improve the traffic flow along 26 miles of I-77 in the Charlotte area, one of the most congested roadways in the state.

P3 contracts are an innovative way of leveraging new funding sources to lessen the financial impact to the state and help complete projects sooner through investments by a private firm. Following a required bidding process, and pending final review, it appears Cintra Infraestructures, S.A. will construct the I-77 project through a joint venture with F.A. Southeast, W.C. English, and the lead design firm of The Louis Berger Group.

Cintra, a world-wide leader in managed lanes projects, estimates the total project cost at $655 million. Cintra will invest the majority of that in return for toll revenue generated from the managed lanes. NCDOT will contribute $88 million for the project, which is significantly less than the $170 million it had projected.

Wow, that is innovative. The state’s estimated $170 million highway project will now cost $655 million, but only cost the state $88 million in tax dollars. (Update: To be clear, general-purpose lanes were estimated at about $500 million.)

Hmm, where will the Spain-based company, Cintra, make up the difference? Oh, right, by collecting tolls from drivers for next 50 years. But — now listen up — those 50 years of tolls paid to a foreign conglomerate are not taxes. So, Freedom!

Of course, Cintra will have to manage to stay in business if it means to collect. They’re about to go into default on their toll road in San Antonio after only a year in operation. This from last October:

Texas’ first foreign-owned toll road financed through a controversial public private partnership just got downgraded to junk bond status by Moody’s Investors Service. The Spain-based firm, Cintra (65% ownership), and San Antonio-based Zachry (35% ownership), known as SH 130 Concession Company opened the southern leg of State Highway 130 last November.

What innovations will aspiring Speaker of the House and Tillis’ fellow ALEC board member, Rep. Tim Moffitt, bring North Carolina, if re-elected? Maybe a PPP for the I-26 project in Buncombe County? Surely Moffitt will listen to his constituents more than Tillis? You think?

Feb
28

Cashing In On Kids

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Yesterday the American Federation of Teachers and In the Public Interest launched Cashing in on Kids, a website devoted to researching and exposing corporate influence in and privatization of public education. We have written plenty about that here.

Cashing in on Kids is described as

 a one-stop shop for the facts about for-profit education in America. The site profiles five for-profit charter operators: K12 Inc., Imagine Schools, White Hat, Academica and Charter Schools USA. It identifies several issues that need to be addressed in charter school policy, including public control, equity, transparency and accountability.

Rent-seeking investors see a huge potential for private profit in public education. The only obstacle is the public part. By state constitution and/or by the statehood acts that admitted them, states states provide education on a not-for-profit basis (the HORROR!). Investors need to elbow states, communities and public school teachers out of the way if they want to get at … well, let Rupert Murdoch explain it:

In 2010 Rupert Murdoch, who now has a growing education division called Amplify, said recently that “[w]hen it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S.”

The site features details on the failures in major cyber and for-profit charter schools. All seem to suffer from a lack of transparency, public control and accountability. The site hopes to serve as a resource for tracking the underperformance of the national chains.

“This is a simple exercise of following the money,” says Randi Weingarten, president of the AFT, one of the nation’s two largest teachers unions. “How many times do people simply get up on a pedestal and say we care about kids, and then you realize that they care about profits, they care about tax deductions, they care about privatizing the public system?”

Weingarten says she is not ideologically opposed to charters.

“I am not anti-charter, and there are many people that run great charter schools that are very well-intentioned and well-meaning,” she says. “But there are also people within the so-called charter school movement … who are really all about profiteering.”

Follow the money.

Categories : Education, Privatization
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Jan
20

No Problemo. Shower Away.

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You always knew that someone in authority would simply declare the drinking water safe no matter what the truth, rather than, you know, tearing out and replacing fouled piping in 300,000 homes and the surrounding environs.

On January 18, 2014, Dr. Ben Stout, an ecologist from Wheeling Jesuit University, took water samples from the kitchen faucet and hot water tank of an unflushed Charleston, West Virginia home. Stout is testing for crude 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol, which leaked from a storage tank at Freedom Industries in Charleston, West Virginia into the Elk River on January 9 (possibly January 8). Residents in 9 counties receive their water from the Elk River.

Stout suggests that people manually flush their hot water tank for the 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol is likely forming an oily ring in the tank. The 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol smells like cherry licorice, is light, oily and floats to the top of water.

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Wow! That’s terrific bunny …

Federal judge strikes down Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s welfare drug testing law

A federal judge in Orlando, Florida ruled Tuesday that the state’s law requiring drug tests from all applicants for public assistance is unconstitutional. According to the New York Times, Judge Mary S. Scriven found that the law — Tea Party Gov. Rick Scott (R)’s signature piece of legislation — violates the U.S. Constitution’s protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

“The court finds there is no set of circumstances under which the warrantless, suspicionless drug testing at issue in this case could be constitutionally applied,” Scriven wrote.

South Korea: Rail Workers, Repression and Resistance

In South Korea, no one can hear you scream. Workers have the right to organize, just not the right to do anything with it.

As the strike dragged on -soon becoming the longest rail strike in Korean history -the repression intensified. On December 17, police raided the headquarters of the Korean Railway Workers’ Union (KRWU) in search of top leaders to arrest -but found none. Instead they confiscated office equipment. including disk drives and confidential documents. Two days later, they carried out similar raids on union offices in four other cities.

Frustrated by their inability to locate the union leaders, police then besieged the headquarters of the KCTU, where they believed the railway workers’ leaders had sought protection. Trade unionists formed a defensive cordon but eventually riot police charged the building, smashing down glass doors and firing pepper gas, causing several injuries. There were reports that some of the trade unionists responded with improvised water cannon.

On Christmas, Republicans Quietly Declare War on Themselves

The news came in the Wall Street Journal, where the Chamber of Commerce disclosed that it will be teaming up with Republican establishment leaders to spend $50 million in an effort to stem the tide of “fools” who have overwhelmed Republican ballots in recent seasons. Check out the language Chamber strategist Scott Reed used in announcing the new campaign:

Our No. 1 focus is to make sure, when it comes to the Senate, that we have no loser candidates… That will be our mantra: No fools on our ticket.

Good luck with that.

The primary NSA issue isn’t privacy, it’s authority

Government’s access to that data must be determined, in turn, by a separate and much more stringent set of laws born of the principles set forth in the Bill of Rights and built with the knowledge that government has the means to use our information against us, in secret. Does theNSA’s mass collection, analysis, and use of communications metadata violate the Fourth Amendment? I think it does because it acts as surveillance over innocent citizens, treating all of us as criminals in government’s dragnet without probable cause or due process. Or as Jay Rosen puts it: “My liberty is being violated because ‘someone has the power to do so should they choose.’ Thus: It’s not privacy; it’s freedom.”

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Dec
29

Aquapalypse Now Redux

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Rep. Tim Moffitt’s legislation to terminate (with extreme prejudice) the city’s control of its water system is in the courts. So it’s been quiet lately. Still, file this away for future reference. If things don’t change in Raleigh soon, you might need it.

This report from Europe is from last March, but does this sound familiar or what? [Emphasis mine.]

The European Commission has in recent weeks gone on a PR offensive in response to growing criticism of its pro-privatisation agenda for the water sector …

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Nov
26

A Vicious Set of Assumptions

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“America’s descending into madness,” writes Henry Giroux in his latest book. The author appeared on Bill Moyer’s program Friday as the nation observed the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. Since the Reagan-Thatcher era, Kennedy’s calls to public service and national aspiration have been systematically supplanted with an ethos of radical self-interest and tawdry appeals to men’s basest instincts. It is a world, Giroux asserts, in which elites consider that “survival of the fittest is all that matters” and that “democracy is an excess.” Giroux is appalled.

… the notion that profit making is the essence of democracy, the notion that economics is divorced from ethics, the notion that the only obligation of citizenship is consumerism, the notion that the welfare state is a pathology, that any form of dependency basically is disreputable and needs to be attacked, I mean, this is a vicious set of assumptions.

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Sep
24

America for Sale at Outsourcing Eddie’s!

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Mark Fiore helps introduce the Center for Media and Democracy’s (ALEC Exposed) new website, Outsourcing America Exposed.

From their press release:

“Across the country, for-profit companies are engaged in a hostile takeover of our schools, roads, prisons, drinking water, and even local government itself,” said Lisa Graves, Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy, adding that, “CMD’s Outsourcing America Exposed project will give taxpayers the tools they need to identify these privatizers and profiteers, their eye-popping salaries, and the raw deals contained in their contracts that puts taxpayers on the hook, and it will tell taxpayers how they can take back control of public assets and public services.”

Psst. Hey, bud. C’mere. I got this bridge in Manhattan.

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Sep
18

This Week In Privatization

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The Brooklyn Bridge (courtesy Wikipedia Commons)

You know the joke about the con man who tries to sell some sucker the Brooklyn Bridge? Of course you do. It’s an obvious con because everybody knows the Brooklyn Bridge is public property. Now listen up, pal, or the next joke may be on you.

Investors that failed to privatize Social Security under the Bush administration and who got badly burned in the crash of 2008 are looking to get their hands on public property at bargain prices. Even the Brooklyn Bridge is not out of the question.

Public private partnerships are a hot, new investment vehicle. PPPs are a way for getting public infrastructure — that you, your parents, and their parents’ parents paid for and maybe even built with their own hands — out of public hands and under the control of private investors who are more than happy to sell your own property back to you at a tidy profit. A turnpike here, an airport there, or your city’s water system.

Psst. Hey, bud. C’mere. I got this bridge in Manhattan…

And from the In-Box comes a posting from inthepublicinterest.org. This week in privatization, including one of Barry Summers’ favorites, the Macquarie Group. And lookee, they’re buying a bridge in Manhattan:

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Jun
18

National Treasure

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IMG_0915Sequoia National Park — The Giant Forest

This is like the Area 51 of trees. I keep thinking what it would have taken to get up here before the roads and cars. It would take a week with pack horses to get up here. There is no hint down below that anything like this might exist up here. Such trees might have been the stuff of local legends. Tinfoil hat stuff. Who would believed you if you told them about the giant Sequoia?

On the drive up here I kept looking at the rock walls constructed along the road. Damned socialist make-work spending. (And I and wonder why we are not putting people to work doing this sort of thing when so many people need employment right now. The Blue Ridge Parkway has been an economic benefit to western North Carolina since the Depression.) Visitors from all over the world come to Sequoia national Park to see these trees, a national and world heritage. President Bill Clinton added the Sequoia National Monument Section in 2000.

But I suppose we must roll with the changes. Austerians tell us there is little money for national heritage. And none for world heritage. (Plenty for wars, though.) Besides, nobody knows who the dead presidents and generals are after whom some of these trees are named anyway.

Isn’t it time for corporate sponsorship (if not outright privatization) of our national heritage? So the General Sherman tree now will be the Goldman Sachs Tree. The General Grant Tree will be the Bank of America tree. And the McKinley Tree will be the Walmart Tree. Henceforth, all these giants will be named after large corporations and banks because these things are too big to fail.

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May
20

NC Senate Budget Proposal

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Use this thread for all things budgety. The proposed Senate Budget does not include any tax reform details. Rumor has it that the poor and middle class will be paying more under the coming tax shift, while big corporations and the wealthiest pay less. Keep that context in mind as you read all of the spin. Also bear in mind that education and health care are two of the primary pathways out of poverty and for staying in the middle class. The Legislature will deal with raising taxes on the poor a little further down the road. Here are some bulleted budget points from various sources.

WRAL:
- Senate leaders released a $20.6 billion budget Sunday night

- overall education spending dropping when compared to the current year.

- paves the way for an effort to privatize [Medicaid], something the governor is already studying.

- Among the other proposed changes the Senate budget would make to Medicaid and health services are:
— cuts covered doctor visits on Medicaid from 22 per year to 10.
— raises co-pays for services.
— cuts private nursing services by $5 million.
— cuts mental health drugs by $5 million.
— cuts aids drug assistance by 25 percent, or $2 million. The budget also contains a provisions that would direct the state prisons to seek to use ADAP funding to pay for HIV drugs for those in the state prison system.
— closes the state’s three alcohol and drug abuse treatment centers, saving $37 million. In turn, the budget sets aside $10 million to pay for drug treatment services provided through regional mental health care agencies.

- includes a controversial provision that would require applicants for certain welfare programs to undergo drug testing.

- remove class-size caps for elementary school grades.

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