Posts Tagged ‘infrastructure’
* Transcript from the September 19 meeting of the Cooper Union Board of Trustees. Even putting aside that their short-sighted and obviously bad decisions caused the problem in the first place, the enthusiasm with which these supposed trustees speak about the possibility of closing the school is just unreal.
* All of which brings you back to one central point: if you care about the integrity of elections and people actually being able to vote, the supposed cures for vote fraud are vastly more destructive than the problem. All evidence suggests that vote fraud is a minuscule, minuscule problem. Voter ID and most of the other nostrums are solutions looking for a problem. The people who support these policies are either ignorant of the facts or actually want to cull a certain subsection of the population from democratic participation. There are simply no two ways about it.
* “Since it won’t reform itself, Starfleet needs to be destroyed.” Star Trek into Darkness Hostile to Star Trek, Intelligence.
Remember how Kirk was going to nobly take Khan to Earth to stand trial? Did this actually happen? Is it possible to imagine such a trial ending with a court imposing the punishment of cryogenic stasis? How could a court not demand the other 72 be brought back to life? Wouldn’t such a trial inevitably entail Marcus’s cimes — leading to the exposure of his massive corruption and a public outcry to structurally reform Starfleet?
* The best headline ever? The FBI Investigated the Song ‘Louie Louie’ for Two Years.
* The kids are all right: Teens hate Facebook.
* Historian Helen Fry, who has written a book called The M Room: Secret Listeners who bugged the Nazis, says the information gleaned by the eavesdropping of the German generals was vitally important to the war effort – so much so that it was given an unlimited budget by the government. She believes what was learned by the M room operations was as significant as the code-breaking work being done at Bletchley Park.
The headline reads, “World’s Dams Unprepared for Climate Change Conditions.”
The United States government can currently borrow at a -0.34% yield, meaning we’d actually have to pay back less money than we borrow after adjusting for inflation. It’s literally free money. Meanwhile we have a deep recession, high unemployment, and tons of important infrastructure work that needs to be done. This is the whole reason national debts exist in the first place.
I have no idea what the White House could possibly be thinking. Cutting government spending in this context makes absolutely no sense. We should be borrowing like crazy. Here’s Ezra:
The path forward is obvious: We should borrow now and put in place a firm plan to cut deficits later, once the economy is back on track and investors have other places to put their money. But refusing better-than-free money now in order to talk about reducing our deficit later? Well, that may be the craziest sentence I’ve ever had to include in a column.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has made a final decision to cancel a planned $8.7 billion rail tunnel, local media reported on Tuesday.
The tunnel, in the works for 20 years, is designed to supplement a century-old two-track tunnel and would double train capacity between New York and its populous New Jersey suburbs. Officials estimate it would provide 6,000 construction jobs immediately and as many as 40,000 jobs after its completion in 2018. Construction began last year.
The railroad tunnel project, all set and ready to go, would have provided jobs for 6,000 construction workers, not to mention all the residual employment that accompanies such projects. What we’ll get instead, if it is not built, is the increased pollution and worsening traffic jams that result when tens of thousands of commuters who would have preferred to take the train are redirected to their automobiles.
Just to underscore the rapidity of the decline, as recently as 1999, the U.S. was ranked by the World Health Organization as 24th in life expectancy. It’s now 49th. There are other similarly potent indicators. In 2009, the National Center for Health Statistics ranked the U.S. in 30th place in global infant mortality rates. Out of 20 “rich countries” measured by UNICEF, the U.S.ranks 19th in “child well-being.” Out of 33 nations measured by the OECD, the U.S. ranks 27th for student math literacy and 22nd for student science literacy. In 2009, the World Economic Forum ranked 133 nations in terms of “soundness” of their banks, and the U.S. was ranked in 108th place, just behind Tanzania and just ahead of Venezuela.
There is, however, some good news: the U.S. is now in fifth place in total number of executions, behind only China, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, and comfortably ahead of Yemen and Sudan, while there are two categories in which the U.S. has been and remains the undisputed champion of the world – this one and this one. And, of course, the U.S. is not just objectively the greatest country on the planet, but the greatest country ever to exist in all of human history — as Dave Roberts put it in response to these life expectancy numbers: “but we’re No. 1 in bestness!” — so we’re every bit as exceptional as ever.
How much did the Cold War cost everyone from 1948 to 1991, and how much of that was for nuclear weapons? The total cost has been estimated at $18.5 trillion, with $7.8 trillion for nuclear. At the peak the Soviet Union had 95,000 weapons and the US had 20 to 40,000. America’s current seriously degraded infrastructure would cost about $2.2 trillion to fix—all the gas lines and water lines and schools and bridges. We spent that money on bombs we never intended to use—all of the Cold War players, major and minor, told Rhodes that everyone knew that the bombs must not and could not be used. Much of the nuclear expansion was for domestic consumption: one must appear “ahead,” even though numbers past a couple dozen warheads were functionally meaningless.
…At dinner Rhodes reflected that nuclear weapons may come to be seen as a strange fetishistic behavior by nations at a certain period in history. They were insanely expensive and thoroughly useless. Their only function was to keep a bizarre form of score.
* First, the big news: Casey Affleck has admitted I’m Still Here is a hoax. Shock! Terror!
* Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert will hold “competing” rallies on the Mall in Washington, D.C., to restore sanity and keep fear alive respectively. I think this is a good idea and I’m glad they’re doing it, but it’s frustrating to once again see legitimate criticism of Bush equated with totally insane criticism of Obama in the name of “balance” and “moderation.”
* Our long national nightmare is finally over: Karl Rove has surrendered to Christine O’Donnell.
* Understanding the Tea Party, from Glenn Greenwald. A good pullquote: Given all that, I’d really like to hear what it is about Christine O’Donnell, or Sharron Angle, or any of these other candidates that sets them apart from decades of radical right-wing elected officials who came before them? They seem far more similar to me than different. When was this idealized era of GOP Adult Reasonableness?
* The first Earth-like planet orbiting another star will be announced in May next year, if the discovery of extrasolar planets continues at its present rate, say researchers Samuel Arbesman from Harvard Medical School in Boston and Gregory Laughlin at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Melissa Boteach, my colleague who focuses on poverty issues, points out that congress has the opportunity to act before things get even worse:
In just two weeks a job-creation engine known as the TANF Emergency Fund will expire, forcing states to begin shutting down successful partnerships with the private sector that have already created nearly a quarter-million jobs for low-income families. Congress must act before September 30 to extend the TANF Emergency Fund for another year and allow this innovative jobs program to continue.
Unfortunately, congress is typically more interested in the tax burden of millionaires than in the welfare of the poor and near-poor.
* Self-absorbed, self-indulged, and self-loathing, the Baby Boom generation at last has the chance to step out of the so-called Greatest Generation’s historical shadow. Boomers may not have the opportunity to save the world, as their predecessors did, but they can still redeem themselves by saving the American economy from the fiscal mess that they, and their fathers and mothers, are leaving behind. Via the latest MetaFilter post on the ongoing Third-Worldization of America.
* And All-Star Superman will be made into animated movie. I don’t know why it hasn’t been green-lit for the next live-action Superman yet. Jon Hamm could kill it.
* Playboy yes, Ulysses no: A federal judge has declared unconstitutional a Virginia prison policy that denies inmates access to classic literature with sexually explicit passages yet allows them to peruse Playboy magazine.
* Can’t win for winning: The GOP now has more control over the federal judiciary than it did under Bush, despite two years of Obama appointments. Thank the Senate.
* I’m more than a bit worried about the future of Mad Men now that I know the “real” Don Draper married the “real” Peggy Olson. That’s not a storyline I want to see at all.
* And even the editor of even the liberal New Republic thinks Muslims aren’t really citizens:
But, frankly, Muslim life is cheap, most notably to Muslims. And among those Muslims led by the Imam Rauf there is hardly one who has raised a fuss about the routine and random bloodshed that defines their brotherhood. So, yes, I wonder whether I need honor these people and pretend that they are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment which I have in my gut the sense that they will abuse.
Jaimee says this article about Green Recovery provisions hidden in the stimulus bill made her feel better about Obama (and about the future) than she’s felt in months, and though it’s setting the bar even lower I tend to agree.
For starters, the Recovery Act is the most ambitious energy legislation in history, converting the Energy Department into the world’s largest venture-capital fund. It’s pouring $90 billion into clean energy, including unprecedented investments in a smart grid; energy efficiency; electric cars; renewable power from the sun, wind and earth; cleaner coal; advanced biofuels; and factories to manufacture green stuff in the U.S. The act will also triple the number of smart electric meters in our homes, quadruple the number of hybrids in the federal auto fleet and finance far-out energy research through a new government incubator modeled after the Pentagon agency that fathered the Internet.
The green industrial revolution begins with gee-whiz companies like A123 Systems of Watertown, Mass. Founded in 2001 by MIT nanotechnology geeks who landed a $100,000 federal grant, A123 grew into a global player in the lithium-ion battery market, with 1,800 employees and five factories in China. It has won $249 million to build two plants in Michigan, where it will help supply the first generation of mass-market electric cars. At least four of A123′s suppliers received stimulus money too. The Administration is also financing three of the world’s first electric-car plants, including a $529 million loan to help Fisker Automotive reopen a shuttered General Motors factory in Delaware (Biden’s home state) to build sedans powered by A123 batteries. Another A123 customer, Navistar, got cash to build electric trucks in Indiana. And since electric vehicles need juice, the stimulus will also boost the number of U.S. battery-charging stations by 3,200%. (See how Americans are spending now.)
“Without government, there’s no way we would’ve done this in the U.S.,” A123 chief technology officer Bart Riley told TIME. “But now you’re going to see the industry reach critical mass here.”
The Recovery Act’s clean-energy push is designed not only to reduce our old economy dependence on fossil fuels that broil the planet, blacken the Gulf and strengthen foreign petro-thugs but also to avoid replacing it with a new economy that is just as dependent on foreign countries for technology and manufacturing. Last year, exactly two U.S. factories made advanced batteries for electric vehicles. The stimulus will create 30 new ones, expanding U.S. production capacity from 1% of the global market to 20%, supporting half a million plug-ins and hybrids. The idea is as old as land-grant colleges: to use tax dollars as an engine of innovation. It rejects free-market purism but also the old industrial-policy approach of dumping cash into a few favored firms. Instead, the Recovery Act floods the zone, targeting a variety of energy problems and providing seed money for firms with a variety of potential solutions. The winners must attract private capital to match public dollars — A123 held an IPO to raise the required cash — and after competing for grants, they still must compete in the marketplace. “They won’t all succeed,” Rogers says. “But some will, and they’ll change the world.”
The investments extend all along the food chain. A brave new world of electric cars powered by coal plants could be dirtier than the oil-soaked status quo, so the stimulus includes an unheard-of $3.4 billion for clean-coal projects aiming to sequester or reuse carbon. There are also lucrative loan guarantees for constructing the first American nuclear plants in three decades. And after the credit crunch froze financing for green energy, stimulus cash has fueled a comeback, putting the U.S. on track to exceed Obama’s goal of doubling renewable power by 2012. The wind industry added a record 10,000 megawatts in 2009. The stimulus is also supporting the nation’s largest photovoltaic solar plant, in Florida, and what will be the world’s two largest solar thermal plants, in Arizona and California, plus thousands of solar installations on homes and buildings.
Obama made headlines today (and garnered some well-deserved praise) with a call for an additional $50 billion in stimulus money for infrastructure spending. This is a strategy for November that could stem the bleeding, especially as the Republicans double-down on their strategy of deliberately tanking the economy. I just don’t know why we’re only reading about it now, in Time, two years after the fact. Why isn’t he touting this aspect of the stimulus? It’s the best and most important part.