Morning Reads for Tuesday, October 9th

Starting with Georgia:

And the rest of the World:
  • On building a home that is off the grid (WSJ)
  • SCOTUS to decide on how colleges look at admitting the kid (NYT)
  • Romney’s foreign policy speech borders on absurd (Guardian)
  • A defense of defunding Big Bird (NewHampshireUnionLeader)
  • Obama regroups after debate disaster (ABC-Tapper)
  • Homeless billionaire’s deep thoughts while living at the Astor (Businessweek)
  • Broker sent Oil Prices to 8 month high in Drunken Stupor (OilPrice)
  • Pesticides better than “Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper” (AppliedMythology)

Oh, and follow me on the twitters @StefanTurk


  1. Rambler14 says:

    “MARTA has long battled criticism of its management and spending, with state lawmakers especially critical. State Rep. Mike Jacobs, R-Atlanta, called the absence of a written evaluation from the Marietta consultant troubling.
    “It’s a fairly extensive evaluation on an odd subject matter for which there appears to be no tangible result,” said Jacobs, who chairs the legislative committee that oversees MARTA. “I am going to ask questions about it. I would inquire into what was spent, how it was used and what the results were. I’m not going to prejudge the propriety of he expenditure but it certainly is questionable on its face.”

    Why the heck should the state legislature have any power/authority/interest over this when the State hasn’t given a dime to MARTA?

    We want to tell you how to spend your budget and review personnel decisions and reviews, without contributing to your budget ourselves. Nice.

    • Harry says:

      As our friend Todd Rehm points out…”Actually, because MARTA is a creature of the legislature through the MARTA Act, the legislature does have the right and responsibility of oversight.”

      • Stefan says:

        Right, right, Rambler isn’t suggesting they don’t have a role, merely that since they don’t contribute, that they shouldn’t. The Georgia legislature is sort of the 47% as it relates to Marta. You know, people playing the victims who don’t actually contribute? Too much of a stretch?

        • bgsmallz says:

          Now wait….they don’t currently contribute, but saying they haven’t contributed is historically inaccurate when you look at the history of the organization and the legislature creating it.

          The problem is that many of the folks screaming for the state to either fund it or stay out of the way would probably prefer the latter with the current regime. That’s not good because as anyone who has the slightest interest in seeing a viable transit system in our region knows, it will need regional coordination and state support.(just like every other working transit system in the country)

          Mike Jacobs is my state rep…I’ve heard him talk about Marta enough to know that he doesn’t believe in the death of mass transit. What left-leaning, pro-transit folks need to decide is if they want transit to succeed or for Marta to succeed…do they want transit victories or Democrat victories? When an audit comes out and basically says that Marta overspends on maintenance staff and pensions and you have folks that are commenting on CL saying that it is a conspiracy and that the GOP is trying to kill Marta rather than addressing the matters in the report or you have Maria Saporta basically telling Rep. Jacobs, the chairperson of Marta, to butt-out of the GM selection process, whether it be the actually selection or the exposure of sunshine law violations…sometimes I wonder what the goal is.

          IMO- the sooner the state abolishes MARTA for a truly regional agency, so long as that agency receives state funding, the better.

              • Andre says:

                Organized labor almost always seems to oppose privatization, and I think that’s because privatization results in fewer union workers and fewer union dues from those fewer union workers.

                According to the audit, MARTA spends an estimated $17.8 million annually in cleaning costs.

                The KPMG audit (which you can read here) says that, over five years, MARTA will spend $89,300,000 towards cleaning its stations, trains and buses.

                If the cleaning was outsourced (and privatized), the audit says, MARTA would save between $29.3 and $49.5 million over five years. In other words, outsourcing will cut MARTA’s cleaning expenses in half.

                To me, that is both fiscally responsible and it also frees up taxpayer dollars to pursue other projects that improves the operation of MARTA.

                The fact is that MARTA needs to get its fiscal house in order, eliminate wasteful spending, and make a good faith showing to the state that the old way of doing things is in the past.

                • benevolus says:

                  Corporations almost always seem to oppose collective bargaining, and I think that’s because higher wages for workers sometimes results in slightly lower profits for shareholders.

                  • bgsmallz says:

                    Right…because profits are bad. As an employee, I hope that my bank account always shows $0 at the end of the month. That’s a real safe place to be financially.

                    Not to completely discount your point…the push to please the shareholder/wall street is a dangerous mistress. However, sticking with this real example, the shareholders are the citizens of our area and in 2012, I don’t think there is any willingness to pay an extra $20M in wages in order to keep unions cleaning our subways.

                    • benevolus says:

                      So those cleaning workers are making $27 an hour. To clean train station bathrooms. At night. In December. And you want to cut their pay? I guess if you get some Mexicans you could get it done cheaper, which is almost certainly what would happen with outsourcing.

                      That cleaning cost is a pretty big number, but there is up to $100 million in other savings to look at too, which may be worth investigating before whacking those doing the hardest work for not much pay.

                    • bgsmallz says:

                      So in the end, it isn’t really about making Marta efficient…it is about cutting those other things that before you cut this thing that I like or care about.

                      And that’s the answer that will (rightfully) keep Marta from receiving dedicated funding from the state. If Marta is paying 2.18 times the going rate per payroll check, they need to fix it. If Marta is paying $23 an hour to cleaning crews (who don’t seem to keep the stations that clean in the first place) instead of $17 an hour, that’s just stupid.

                      [And just to point out one other completely stupified point from your comment…have you been in a Marta station at night lately? If you have, did you use the restroom?

                      The answer is ‘probably not’ considering that there are only 9 stations with functioning bathrooms and only one station in the entire system with a bathroom open past 7pm…and it is only open until 10pm.

                      Save the sob stories for real people…not hypothetical people that you make up in order to make me feel bad for wanting to pay someone $18 a hour to clean rather than $27 an hour.]

                    • benevolus says:

                      It’s just illustrative that the word “union”, or more specifically in this case “represented” draws the conservative attention rather than the other $100 million dollars in potential savings. It’s downright Pavlovian.

      • gt7348b says:

        Actually, MARTA is a local instrumentality of Fulton, DeKalb, Clayton and Gwinnett counties passed through a local constitutional amendment under the 1949 constitution (such amendments are no longer allowed in the current Georgia constitution). It is not a creature of the legislature. Also MARTOC was only created in the late 1970s and originally had a sunset clause.

        • bgsmallz says:

          Actually, that’s not anywhere close to accurate…actually. While the 1962 amendment to the constitution allowed the region of Atlanta to operate a transit system, MARTA was created in 1965 by an act of the state legislature which was ratified by Gwinett, DeKalb, Fulton, and Clayton. It began operations in 1966. The state legislature in 1971 passed bills that would allow local sales taxes to be collected for transit and authorized a regional 1% sales tax for Marta.

        • Andre says:

          I have to disagree with that comment based on the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority’s own description of its origin.

 reads, “In the 1950s, planners recognized the importance of public transportation – including a new rail system – to the growth of Atlanta and the region. In the 1960s regional planners and transit experts focused on proposals for rapid transit systems, highlighted by a Metropolitan Atlanta Transit Study Commission report recommending a 66-mile, five-county rail system with feeder bus operation and park-and-ride facilities. Action shifted to the legislative arena and by 1965, the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority Act was passed by the state legislature and subsequently approved in four counties and the City of Atlanta, creating MARTA.”

          The MARTA act of 1965 was introduced in the Georgia General Assembly as Senate Bill 102 as local legislation, meaning a majority of the House and Senate delegations from each affected county signed off on the bill before it was considered by each legislative chamber.

          Governor Carl Sanders approved the MARTA act, and it became public law number 78.

          So the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority is indeed a creation of the Georgia General Assembly.

          In fact, the Georgia General Assembly has continuously amended the MARTA act of 1965 each year from 1966 to present day; the most recent amendment coming in 2010, when the legislature passed House Bill 277, reducing the transit agency’s board of directors from eighteen to eleven and removing the representatives of Clayton, Cobb, and Gwinnett counties from the MARTA board.

    • Harry says:

      CNN needs to come clean on foreign “donations”.

      “CNNi has aggressively pursued a business strategy of extensive, multifaceted financial arrangements between the network and several of the most repressive regimes around the world which the network purports to cover,” writes Greenwald. “Its financial dealings with Bahrain are deep and longstanding.”

      Specifically, he notes, the network aggressively pursued – and then came to rely on – revenue from several Middle East regimes, in order to remain viable, especially after the 2008 economic recession, “which caused the network to suffer significant losses in corporate sponsorships.”

      The result: The employment of journalistically dubious ways to earn revenue from the very governments the network was created to cover.

      The arrangement goes far beyond simple advertising agreements. According to CNN, programming is produced in what the network describes as an “in association with” type of arrangement with a government.

      “These programs are then featured as part of CNNi’s so-called ‘Eye on’ series (‘Eye on Georgia,’ ‘Eye on the Philippines,’ ‘Eye on Poland’), or ‘Marketplace Middle East,’ all of which is designed to tout the positive economic, social and political features of that country,” says Greenwald.

      As you might have guessed, disclosure of these arrangements is often deft and wholly unnoticeable by all but the most trained journalistic eye.

      In mid-July, Myles Smith, a Central Asia-based consultant, pointed out that a series CNNi produced on oil-rich Kazakhstan was similarly skewed – and similarly government-sponsored.

      Paid coverage is akin to tainted coverage

      “Most of the spots are quirky, soft-core reportage and travelogue sprinkled with carefully framed shots of the glitziest parts of Astana and Almaty. Topics include economic diversification, transportation infrastructure, skiing, and dating games,” he writes. “CNN International offers no coverage of labor strikes, human rights abuses, nascent violent insurgencies, violence against women, or any other diversions from the narrative of relentless growth and limitless opportunity.”

      Smith notes, “…[W]hat looks to the unsuspecting viewer like more of CNN at its finest appears in fact to be sponsored advertisements paid for by none other than Kazakhstan’s oil-rich government.”

      As for Lyon, she says that China and many other foreign, authoritarian regimes also pay CNN and other mainstream networks to run flowery, flattering propaganda pieces. And what’s more, she says a number of reporters and producers at the network have privately complained about the paid-sponsorship of programming, but believe they can’t complain publicly out of fear they will be blacklisted within the news industry and branded troublemakers.

      Couple this revelation with our earlier coverage of an admission by The New York Times that many mainstream media stories are actually scripted by the White House, and you get a sense of why Natural News and a number of other leading “alternative” sites are where information consumers are increasingly turning to for honest reporting.

  2. View from Brookhaven says:

    You ran out of ideas for the last couple of rhymes under the GA section, didn’t you?

      • Stefan says:

        Silence, I see, ok, pick one and I will change the post:

        A: “More Bug Spray would not be a blooper”
        B: “Your salad tastes like “Off”, but c’mon, be a trouper:
        C: “Pesticides Better than “Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper”

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