Saturday, April 22, 2017
The Internet. Will it remain the one open frequency where humanity can bypass filters and barriers, or become the greatest spying machine ever imagined? The future is being coded as we type. Across Oceania, States have been erecting and installing measures to legalise the watching, tracking and storage of data of party-members and proles alike. If such plans materialize, will this place ever be the same? Join our plucky host Robert Foster as he conducts an incisive analysis of the situation at hand. Joining him are newly appointed Thought Police General at the Pentopticon, Darth O'Brien Baxter, and a surprisingly lucid Terence Winston Moonseed. Once again, in the midst of this Grand Human Experiment, we ask tough questions about our future. Will it involve a free internet which will continue to revolutionise the way the world communicates with itself? Or is our picture of the future a Boot stamping on this Human InterFace forever?
Written & created by Giordano Nanni & Hugo Farrant - on Wurundjeri Land in Melbourne, Australia.
Friday, April 21, 2017
Full Meeting segment below
Director mistakenly congratulates SMART for "converting to electricity" which is of course, false. He was referring to the proposal by CalTrain on the San Mateo peninsula to electrify. Also, his praise of SMART is wholly unfounded. SMART has been plagued with landslides, faulty engines, crossing controls, engineering challenges and budget over runs.
We pay these folks hundreds of thousands of dollars to mismanage the tax payers funds. Buses are ONE HUNDRED times less expensive.
Thursday, April 20, 2017
California high court sets stage for major pension ruling
SACRAMENTO – The battle over reforming California’s does not involve any particular legislative proposal or initiative idea at this time but is centered on a coming state Supreme Court battle over an arcane legal concept.
Legislators have largely avoided the pension issue since passage of a reform law that went into effect in 2013, and reformers have struggled to settle on an initiative strategy to take to voters. That’s unlikely to change. But last week the high court a union appeal of a decision involving an obscure concept known as the California Rule. The decision could change everything.
The is not actually a rule, but a legal doctrine that emanated from a 1955 court case. Essentially, it states that no vested public-employee benefit such as a pension can be reduced unless public employees are granted another benefit of equal or greater value. Unions claim that a 2013 state law unfairly deprives them of vested benefits.
The rule remains the stumbling block for most efforts to reduce pension costs, given that it severely limits public agencies’ efforts to slice current pension costs. Hence, pension reformers and unions alike are eager to get a final verdict on the matter.
In the private sector, companies that offer defined-benefit pension plans – those plans that guarantee a pension payout based on a formula, as opposed to 401(k)s – are free to reduce the benefits . In other words, employees must be made whole through today, but may start receiving lower benefits . By contrast, in California and other states that follow this rule, government workers must be paid the full amount of the promised benefits until they (and their spouses) pass away.
The accepted interpretation has been that a benefit hike, once approved by a government agency, is permanent. It can never be rolled back. As a result, most pension reform proposals deal only with shaving benefits for new hires, who won’t start retiring for 25 or 30 years. That leaves service cuts and tax hikes as the only way to deal with increasing pension debt.
Some localities have tried to take on the rule. In 2012, for instance, San Jose officials put a pension-reform on the ballot that required current city employees to choose between new pension plans that offered fewer benefits than current plans. It passed with 70 percent of the vote, but the courts later gutted that measure. They relied on the California Rule.
But now the California Supreme Court is ready to address the issue, at least around the margins. Last week, the court, without comment, agreed to a union challenge of a that put limits on the application of the rule. Last summer, unions appealed a similar Marin County case, in which an appeals court also put some limits on the rule’s application.
At issue is the , which went into effect in January 2013. Most analysts viewed the law as a modest attempt to get control of the state’s growing unfunded pension liabilities, or debt. Most of it applied only to newly hired state workers. But it did include a handful of provisions that affect current workers.
On Dec. 30, the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco rejected a challenge by a state firefighters’ union claiming that PEPRA’s elimination of a 2003 benefit that let firefighters purchase up to five years of additional credits (airtime) before retiring was in violation of the rule.
“The unions argued that their members had a legal right to the pension benefits that were in effect when they were hired and that the state broke its contractual promise to them by eliminating those benefits,” according to a . The 3-0 written opinion found that public employees have a right to a “reasonable pension” but they aren’t guaranteed “fixed or definite benefits immune from modification or elimination.”
“(P)laintiffs assert a vested contractual right to purchase up to five years of airtime service credit that is not subject to elimination or destruction by legislative amendment or repeal ‘even before the benefit has been accessed or the time for retirement has arrived.’” The court said plaintiffs “disregard the fact that, when amending the statutory scheme governing pension rights, the Legislature in fact provided (eligible public employees) … a several-month window in which to purchase the airtime service credit before the option terminated.”
The high court could uphold the rule or overturn it, or put certain limits on its application and deal narrowly with the “airtime” issue. , five unions challenged PEPRA’s limitation of various ways that public employees enhance, or spike, their end-of-career salaries (bonuses, unused leave, etc.) to boost their lifetime retirement pay.
Unions argue that the reform reduced their vested pension benefits and was therefore in violation of their constitutional rights, as upheld by – you guessed it – the California Rule. “(W)hile a public employee does have a ‘vested right’ to a pension, that right is only to a ‘reasonable’ pension – not an immutable entitlement to the most optimal formula of calculating that pension,” ruled Justice James Richman, in language similar to the San Francisco ruling. He wrote that the Legislature may “prior to the employee’s retirement, alter the formula, thereby reducing the anticipated pension.”
As reporter , “The high court will wait until an appeals court rules on three similar spiking ban suits consolidated from Alameda, Contra Costa and Merced counties.” That might take some time, but this issue is definitely coming to the state’s high court in one form or another, sooner or later.
Battle lines are drawn. The unions claim that state and local agencies may not reduce any pension benefits. Pension reformers – and the courts, in recent decisions – say that while a reasonable pension remains a right, that doesn’t stop localities from reducing some things. These cases deal with pension-spiking enhancements and the purchase of airtime – controversial and somewhat limited practices. But the future of pension reform is on the line.
Little Pink House, a new feature film written and directed by Courtney Balaker, looks at eminent domain abuse by recounting the true story behind of an epic 2005 Supreme Court case. Though President Trump is no longer directly managing his real estate business, the story depicted in the film is more relevant than ever given his authoritarian tendencies.
Marin residents have much to worry about with new laws recently enacted providing sweeping powers of redevelopment agencies in California to condemn properties. Among the targets are low density neighborhoods near a transit corridor. Virtually all land within 1/2 mile of the 101 Freeway in Marin is considered part of the "101 Priority Development Area" by Plan Bay Area. Many people in regional government demand that Marin urbanize with high density development to "take the pressure off" their own communities.
It is a rocky road ahead.
Wednesday, April 19, 2017
Tuesday, April 18, 2017
The bar is now, technically, over 500 meters from the street.
By Cara Giaimo
APRIL 14, 2017
Last December, India’s Supreme Court banned alcohol sales within 500 meters (about a third of a mile) of national and state highways. Meant to reduce drunk driving, the law bothered many of the country’s hotel, restaurant, and bar owners, who saw only two choices: move their establishments, or lose vital revenue.
The employees of Aiswarya Bar—located 150 meters from Highway 17, in Kerala—saw a third option. A few days before the law went into effect, they began building a small maze out of prefabricated concrete walls, leading from the building’s entrance to the street. When they finished, the distance from barstool to road had stretched three times its original length.
“We have constructed an extended way to reach the bar,” Aiswarya’s manager, Shiju P., told the Times of India. “Now it is 520 meters from the highway.”
“A walk before and after a drink will actually be good for health,” a neighboring vendor, who is considering a similar strategy, added.
It's so expensive to live in San Francisco, almost half of millennials want to leave
A staggering 46% of millennials living in the San Francisco Bay Area say they're ready to leave the nation's hottest rental market.
A new poll from the Bay Area Council showed millennials (defined as people ages 18 to 39) led all age groups who said they're looking to leave the region in the next few years.
Cost of living was the biggest motivating factor, with 65% of millennial survey respondents ranking it among the top three problems facing the Bay Area.
The group behind the poll painted a gloomy picture for the Bay Area's future.
"Losing our youth is a very bad economic and social strategy," Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council, said in a statement. "But until we get serious about building the housing we need we're going to continue seeing our region drained of the young and diverse talent that has helped make the Bay Area an economic powerhouse."
The Bay Area draws in millennials with its top-ranked colleges, vibrant culture, and proximity to Silicon Valley, where the promise for young entrepreneurs of becoming the next tech billionaire never dies. The region has added about 100,000 new jobs every year since 2011, though growth is starting to wane, and unemployment levels are at their lowest in 15 years.
Even still, millennials are struggling to make ends meet.
The Bay Area is one of the most competitive rental markets in the US. In San Francisco, the median rent tops $4,200 a month, according to real estate site Trulia.
One analysis from rental listing startup Radpad suggests mid- to senior-level engineers at companies like Google, Uber, Airbnb, and Twitter can expect to pay between 40% and 50% of their salary renting an apartment near work in order to avoid a gnarly commute.
These urban dwellers are finding creative — and sometimes uncomfortable — solutions to make it work. They live in sailboats, tiny houses, vans, and even wooden boxes of their own making. An increasing number of millennials are squeezing into apartments and homes with large numbers of people. Communal living, or "co-living," is often more affordable than traditional rentals because it comes with perks, like free internet, maid service, and new friends.
The results of the Bay Area Council's poll shows millennials may no longer see a future there.
Wunderman, of the Bay Area Council, told The San Francisco Business Times that young people flocked to the Bay Area after graduating college or completing graduate programs. Now that those transplants are entering their 30s, they're thinking about starting a family or owning a home. It's less and less doable as the housing affordability crisis continues.
"I would say the thinking amongst younger folks that the Bay Area doesn't hold their future is really settling in and that's concerning," Wunderman said.