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Bill Clinton: Infrastructure Bank and BUILD Act

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Halfway To Discontent
Halfway To Discontent

Charles Pierce and Mark Warren interview Bill Clinton, well worth a read. I had many disagreements with President Clinton, but I admire his political savvy and intelligence.

I like this idea:

ESQUIRE: Where’s the demand from outside, though? Where are the people insisting, “Hey, my bridge is falling down, and ‘We can’t afford to fix it’ is not a good enough answer for me. And if you can’t come up with a better one, then you’re back in the private sector”?

CLINTON: One of the things that I think should be done is the infrastructure bill that Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Kerry proposed, which sets up an infrastructure bank which would be seeded with U. S. taxpayers’ money, but it would be open to investors. Like, you and I could buy a $1,000 infrastructure bond, or the Chinese sovereign wealth fund, Saudi sovereign wealth fund, anybody could invest in it, and the returns on infrastructure are significant enough that in an uncertain stock market, I think you could get a lot of private capital.

And then it would be really interesting, it’d be a great opportunity — all this dispute about the one tenth of 1 percent of America that Paul Krugman’s always talking about. I believe that people of my income group should pay more, and I explained why, but that won’t necessarily lift overall wage levels. To do that, you’ve gotta have more jobs, a tighter labor market, different job mix. This is one way that wealthy Americans could really contribute. They could put hundreds of millions of dollars into the infrastructure bank, be a good investment for them, for their children, for their grandchildren, and they would directly contribute to revitalizing a big sector of middle-class wages in America and making our country more productive, so that we could create more opportunity. But I think that we could get a lot of grassroots support from, like, local chambers of commerce and other things if they understood exactly how this infrastructure bank would work. I hope that the president will make more of this, and I wouldn’t be as sure as everyone is now that nothing will be done next year. If we get this done, then I think he ought to challenge them to make a deal on corporate taxes and establishing the infrastructure bank that can take private capital, and you can make some slice of that deal repatriating a bunch of that money that’s overseas now at a lower tax rate, and put that money directly in the infrastructure bank. That’s the federal government’s contribution, and then open it up for other investment. And I think, you know, you might have $100 billion by the time you get done — that could put people to work right away.

(click here to continue reading Print – Bill Clinton: Someone We Can All Agree On – Esquire.)

Is this privatization? or just investment. If it is the latter, I’m for it. Our national infrastructure is crumbling, and the Republicans, for the most part, seem to be pleased about this. Repairing bridges, water mains and the like is also an employment boon – you can’t outsource that kind of work so easily.

Decline and Fall of Empire
Decline and Fall of Empire

I had never heard of this concept, turns out Senators John Kerry and Kay Bailey Hutchison proposed it back in March 2011, but I guess it went nowhere.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011 WASHINGTON, D.C. – At a press conference today, Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.), Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Ranking Member of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, and Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), Member of the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, announced legislation to create an infrastructure bank that would help close America’s widening infrastructure funding gap, create millions of American jobs in the next decade, and make the United States more competitive in the 21st century.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who also attended the event, underscored the unique coalition of business and labor uniting around this initiative.

“This is a bi-partisan moment to make a once bi-partisan issue bi-partisan once again,” said Sen. Kerry.  “Democrats and Republicans, business and labor, are now united to create an American infrastructure bank to leverage private investment, make America the world’s builders once again, and close the deficit in our infrastructure investments.  The BUILD Act will create good jobs, strengthen our competitiveness, and do more with less.  Most of all, this bill breaks a partisan stalemate to get America back in the game.  When you’ve got a Massachusetts Democrat, a Texas Republican, the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO preaching from the same hymnal, you’ll find a sweet spot that can translate into a major legislative step forward.”

“I have been working to overhaul our nation’s aging infrastructure for nearly 20 years. This national infrastructure bank is an innovative way to leverage private-public partnerships and maximize private funding to address our water, transportation, and energy infrastructure needs. It is essential to think outside the box as we work to solve national challenges, particularly in this fiscal crisis. We must be creative to meet the needs of our country and to spur economic development and job growth while protecting taxpayers from new federal spending as much as possible,” said Sen. Hutchison, who served on the Commission to Promote Investment in America’s Infrastructure in 1993 as State Treasurer of Texas and is the Ranking Member on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.

“The United States is spending less than two-percent of its GDP on infrastructure, while India spends five-percent and China spends nine-percent,” said Sen. Warner. “As a matter of global competitiveness, we need to find additional ways to upgrade our nation’s infrastructure, and this bank will help us strike the right balance between near-term discipline and investment in future growth.”

“A national infrastructure bank is a great place to start securing the funding we need to increase our mobility, create jobs, and enhance our global competitiveness,” said Donohue. “With a modest initial investment of $10 billion, a national infrastructure bank could leverage up to $600 billion in private investments to repair, modernize, and expand our ailing infrastructure system. While private capital is badly needed, we must also recognize our public financing mechanism is broken. Receipts to the Highway Trust Fund have fallen dramatically, funds are being diverted to non-infrastructure projects, and the gas tax has not been increased in 17 years. We need a multiyear highway bill to meet immediate needs, but we have to figure out a way to ensure we have adequate public investments for years to come.”

The Building and Upgrading Infrastructure for Long-Term Development (BUILD) Act would establish an American Infrastructure Financing Authority (AIFA) – a kind of infrastructure bank – to complement our existing infrastructure funding.  This institution, which would provide loans and loan guarantees, would be both fiscally responsible and robust enough to address America’s needs.

 

AIFA is independent of the political process.  It would fund the most important and most economically viable projects across the country, our states, and our communities.

AIFA is also fiscally responsible.  While AIFA will receive initial funding from the government, after that it must become self-sustaining.

Finally, AIFA relies on the private sector.  It can never provide more than 50 percent of a project’s costs, and in many cases would provide much less, just enough to bring in private investment.

(click here to continue reading John Kerry – United States Senator for Massachusetts: Press Room.)

Division Street Bridge
Division Street Bridge

More:

Earlier this year, Sen. John Kerry introduced the BUILD Act as new legislation to tackle the problems of jobs, economic growth and our declining infrastructure simultaneously. The centerpiece of the legislation calls for the creation of an American Infrastructure Financing Authority, or what is coming to be known as an “infrastructure bank.” This essay will touch on the fundamentals of the bill and the problem it attempts to solve, explain ways it could be improved, argue that it is a good idea, and advocate political support for it. The BUILD Act creates a financial institution modeled after the Export-Import Bank, which was created by FDR during the Great Depression. The bill would require a small amount of start-up capital financed by the federal government, but it would conduct its business as an independent agency. A CEO and a seven-member board of directors would be appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. Although the initial start-up capital ($10B) would be provided by the federal government, the bank would be required to become self-sufficient in five years.

(click here to continue reading Daily Kos: Building on the BUILD Act.)

So, we’ll see. Apparently John Boehner’s House minions don’t like the idea of country first over party victory, so have refused to move the bill forward.

Written by Seth Anderson

January 22nd, 2012 at 9:45 am

Posted in Business,government

Tagged with ,

Upcoming Park Projects In Chicago

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The Temperature is Rising
The Temperature is Rising

Pleased to read of these projects going forward despite the city’s budgetary woes. Investing in infrastructure is nearly always worth the expense, in the long run.

Several major projects remain on the city’s lakefront docket, aiming to complete the makeover that began nearly a decade ago and create an unbroken, 3-mile stretch of green jewels. Up first is a do-over for Navy Pier. Remade just a decade and a half ago for $225 million, the current version is widely seen as a pavement-heavy, retail-dominated tourist trap.

The new scheme, shaped by the pier’s owners and Gensler design, envisions new green spaces, sculptures and pools to go along with a redesign of the shopping arcade and family pavilion. A design competition is underway. Several favorites – including Rem Koolhaas, Zaha Hadid and local architect and recent MacArthur “genius” winner Jeanne Gang – have already been eliminated.

The finalists, announced a couple months ago, include James Corner, designer of the High Line, the Danish firm BIG, and Chicago up-and-comer UrbanLab, which won several awards for its visionary Growing Water proposal a couple years ago.

The winning design is to be announced in mid-February, after a public viewing period of the finalists’ proposals, starting February 2. The project, which is scheduled for completion for the pier’s 100th anniversary, is budgeted around $200 million.

Just west of the pier, the Navy Pier Flyover is set to begin construction this year at a cost of $50 million. An elevated overpass for bikers and pedestrians, the flyover will increase safety and reduce the bottleneck on the busiest section of the lakefront trail, near Grand Avenue and Lake Shore Drive. Plans also include ramps and pathways leading to the pier itself and nearby DuSable Park.

A new section of Grant Park is also in the offing. New York architecture firm Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates has laid out a detailed plan for the $30 million remaking of the park’s north end, expected to begin this fall. It includes a climbing mountain, a skating ribbon, rather than a rink, and a handful of meandering trails, green spaces and sculptures. The work should be completed in 2015.

(click here to continue reading A Green Revolution in Chicago – Design – The Atlantic Cities.)

Little Shop of Industrial Horror
Little Shop of Industrial Horror

and slightly more on the Grant Park project:

Long-awaited designs for renovating north Grant Park finally were unveiled at a recent meeting conducted by Gia Biaggi, director of park planning for the Chicago Park District. The meeting was one of several public gatherings sponsored by the Grant Park Conservancy (GPC) and the Chicago Park District (CPD) over the last 18 months.

The project will transform Grant Park between Randolph and Monroe Streets and from Columbus Drive east to the Cancer Survivors Garden. It grew out of the need to replace the interior of the Monroe Garage, which supports Daley Bicentennial Plaza. With the garage closed, workers have almost completed the interior work. In Phase II, they will repair the garage roof; because of its position below the park and beneath the plaza, they must remove almost 20 acres of park land to complete this phase.

“We decided on a new park design because of this,” said Bob O’Neill, GPC president. “We will begin breaking ground in the fall of 2012 and remove the garage when summer is over. Hopefully, they’ll start doing the park in 2013 and open in the spring of 2015. It’s an enormous project, but to do it right, we can’t do it any faster.”

The park will offer a variety of unusual amenities, to make it attractive to as many people as possible. The project budget is about $30 million, but O’Neill would like it increased by another $20 million from corporate and private sponsorship. Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, the landscape architecture firm chosen to design the project, strives for environmentally sustainable landforms offering “fluidity.”

One amenity under consideration is a waterfall that would become a wall of ice in winter. Van Walkenburgh explained his philosophy that a park can provide more than a network of paths by introducing rolling landforms that create diverse usage; have naturalistic planting; mitigate noise, wind, and sun for comfort; and offer untraditional play areas for children.

He wants to make “one of the very best playgrounds that America has” for kids in North Grant Park. Besides the traditional swings and play equipment, he plans to create innovative play spaces using green materials and nature to encourage exploration and imagination and add diversity to children’s enjoyment. The firm will fill the park predominantly with green space, water, natural materials, and landforms winding around and flowing naturally through the park.

Sculptures scattered throughout the winding paths will enhance the experience. North Grant Park will be both active and passive.

The active area will allow visitors to interact with the environment, explore nature, and “roll in the grass and play in the snow,” Van Walkenburgh said. The current design includes a climbing wall and ice skating; a circuit of trails will allow people of all ages to wander among trees and engage in imaginative play.

Passive enjoyment will come from benches allowing visitors to rest, observe, and “feel one with nature,” he said. “The intention is to mix it up and give people choices.” Van Valkenburgh noted the park’s urban component, an important feature that will offer cafes, beer gardens, green markets, and places where people of all ages can gather.

(click here to continue reading Gazette Chicago » Officials reveal Grant Park renovation plans to public.)

Some Kinda Bubble Boy
Some Kinda Bubble Boy

The bike trail gets pretty funky by Navy Pier, especially on a warm, summer day, so this is good news.

The Navy Pier Flyover, a proposed overpass that’s been touted as a safety boon for bikers and pedestrians on the heavily-traveled lakefront trail, is slated to get a big chunk of money that could make the project a reality.

The proposal envisions a half-mile bridge that would deliver walkers and pedalers across the Chicago River and over a thorny intersection at Grand Avenue and the lower level of Lake Shore Drive. Just west of Navy Pier, the junction is widely known as a magnet for high-risk traffic, channeling thousands of day commuters and tourists by the hour.

Running 18 miles in total, the trail begins at Hollywood Avenue on the city’s North Side and reaches down to 71st Street on the South Side. But the area near Navy Pier is one of the busiest parts of the whole path, and most in need of help, according to Chicago Department of Transportation spokesman Brian Steele.

The flyover project, passed before the city’s plan commission in February, currently touts a price tag of $49.1 million. Part of that bill could be footed if the proposal makes its way into the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program, a federally-funded reimbursement initiative that is managed by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning and aimed at tackling transit-pollution issues in the region. CMAP, which oversees infrastructure and transportation projects in Northeastern Illinois, is considering forking over $11.3 million to help with the construction of the bridge in two phases. That’s just one of 350 applications — totaling requests of over $1.8 billion — that the agency is currently reviewing. The program has between $350 and $400 million dollars to dole out for projects running through 2016.

(click here to continue reading Congested lakeshore path could get cash for a revamp near Navy Pier | News | Skyline.)

Written by Seth Anderson

January 12th, 2012 at 8:44 am

Posted in Chicago-esque

Tagged with , , ,

Investment Shortfall for Water Infrastructure

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Natural Science
Natural Science

Speaking of water infrastructure, this report is disturbing:

A new report by the American Society of Civil Engineers takes a dim view of the state of the country’s 54,000 community-based drinking-water systems and its 15,000 public wastewater treatment facilities. The systems are rusty, aging and seriously inadequate for meeting future needs, the study warns.

The drinking-water systems, just under half of which are publicly owned, supply 264 million people. The wastewater treatment facilities supply about 225 million people, but they are so prone to failure that 900 billion gallons of untreated sewage are discharged each year, the Environmental Protection Agency estimated in 2004.

The E.P.A.’s 2010 estimate of the capital cost of modernizing this infrastructure was $91 billion, the report said, but financing for that purpose amounted to only $35 million. If systemic neglect continues, it adds, that shortfall will only increase.

(click here to continue reading Report Sees Investment Shortfall for Water Infrastructure – NYTimes.com.)

If only there was an unemployment crisis in the United States that could be solved by hiring folks to repair infrastructure. Oh wait, there is! Too bad the Rethuglican plan is to destroy our country by any means necessary, including sabotage of the economy…

Written by Seth Anderson

December 21st, 2011 at 9:50 am

Posted in government

Tagged with ,

A Jobs Program In America

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Restorative Harmony
Restorative Harmony

If only our politicians were as brave and bold as Franklin Roosevelt…I wouldn’t hold my breath

Bob Herbert writes:

Politicians have given little more than lip service to this terrible turn of events. If there was but one message that I would try to get through to the nation’s leadership, it is that we cannot begin to get the United States back on track until we begin to put our people back to work.

And there is so much work to be done. Start with the crying need to rebuild the nation’s aging, deteriorating infrastructure – its bridges and highways, airports and air traffic control systems, its sewer and wastewater treatment facilities, the electrical grid, inland waterways, public transportation systems, levees and floodwalls and ports and dams, and on and on. Lawrence Summers, until recently President Obama’s top economic adviser, has pointed out that 75 percent of America’s public schools have structural deficiencies. Twelve percent of the nation’s bridges have been rated structurally deficient and another 15 percent are functionally obsolete.

Three to four trillion dollars worth of improvements will be needed over the next decade just to bring the infrastructure into a reasonable state of repair. Meanwhile, we’ve got legions of unemployed construction workers, manufacturing workers, engineers and others who are ready and eager to step into the breach, to take on jobs ranging from infrastructure maintenance and repair to infrastructure design and new construction. It shouldn’t require a genius to put together those two gigantic pieces of America’s economic puzzle – infrastructure and unemployment.

Yes, it would be expensive. But the money spent  would be an investment designed to bring about a stronger, more stable economic environment. Putting people to work bolsters the economy and the newly-employed workers begin paying taxes again. Improving the infrastructure would make American industry much more competitive overall, and would spawn new industries. Creation of a national infrastructure bank that would use government funds to leverage additional investments from the private sector to finance projects of national importance would lead to extraordinary longterm benefits.

But even rebuilding the infrastructure is not enough. The employment crisis facing the U.S. is enormous and is taking a particularly harsh toll on the less well-educated members of the society. We need to take our cue from Franklin Roosevelt who understood during the Depression that nothing short of a federal jobs program was essential. The two-pronged goal was to alleviate the suffering of the unemployed and, as the workers began spending their wages, improve the economy.

Roosevelt put millions of Americans to work, including artists, writers, photographers and musicians. It was an unprecedented undertaking, and it worked.

(click here to continue reading HOME – PolicyShop.)

Broken History

Broken History

and meanwhile, the GOP’s prescription for creating jobs is laughable. Laughable if this wasn’t my country we are talking about. But we are discussing the US, so the joke isn’t very funny.

The Republicans think these things will be useful: destroying unions, more free trade agreements, lowering business taxes even lower, repealing EPA and other regulations, and cutting the minimum wage. If you think any of these policy ideas are going to jump-start our anemic economy, I have a beautiful bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.

Sarah Jaffe reports at Alternet:

Washington, nearly a year after the 2010 election that was supposedly all about jobs, finally seems to have woken up to the fact that the economy is still in the dumps and Americans are sort of angry about it. Make that very angry. And with Republicans in charge of at least part of Congress as well as many state governments, they know they’re about to take some of the blame for the continuing lack of any policy ideas on job creation–recent polls show only 24 percent of the country approves of how they’re doing their jobs. Not to mention the GOP primary field is loaded with contenders claiming they have the magic solution to the jobs problem.

So what is this masterful GOP jobs agenda? You won’t be shocked to hear that it’s more of the same—more deregulation, more tax cuts, more whining about deficits. “House Republicans are planning votes for almost every week this fall in an effort to repeal environmental and labor requirements on business that they say have hampered job growth,” says the Washington Post. But since you’re about to be hearing these same ideas, with minor variations, over and over again, we thought we’d count down the five worst ideas, and arm you with some reasons why they’re so very bad.

Written by Seth Anderson

September 4th, 2011 at 8:46 am

Saying Goodbye to Afghanistan

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Whipped Into A Frenzy
Whipped Into A Frenzy

Our never-ending war with the Muslim world doesn’t sound like it is going so well in Afghanistan. What’s our end game? Why are we pissing away lives and dollars in this forsaken backwater? Once we leave, and we will leave eventually, if only to invade some other failing country, what happens then?

Dexter Filkins reports, in part:

And then there is President Karzai himself, who appears to be increasingly estranged not only from his NATO allies but also from reality. For years, American officials put up with Karzai’s excesses and even apologized for them; in so doing, they encouraged him to become more and more delusional. In a speech earlier this month, Karzai suggested to an audience of his countrymen that NATO forces were using nuclear weapons in Afghanistan, and accused them of killing innocent civilians and damaging the environment. He said of the Americans, “They have come to our country for their own goals and interests, and they are using our country.”

It will not be difficult to say goodbye to a man like this. But what of the thirty million other Afghans? The premise that anchored counter-insurgency strategy in Afghanistan—and in Iraq—was never explicitly humanitarian. The idea was that America could succeed only by helping these countries find a way to stand on their own. Otherwise, the places would collapse, and we’d have to go back. In Iraq, after many years of bloodshed, the Americans seem to have found a formula for maintaining rudimentary stability. In Afghanistan, after years of mismanagement and neglect, we manifestly have not. The country remains riddled with violence, and negotiations with the Taliban—a last-resort option—have led nowhere. It is not hard to imagine a repeat of the Afghan civil war, which engulfed the country after the withdrawal of the Soviet Union, and which ultimately gave rise to the Taliban. Bloodied but unbroken, the Taliban hardly seem like an army preparing to beg for peace. Their leaders greeted Obama’s words with a swift promise: “Our armed struggle will increase.”

For the moment, the prospect of all-out civil war in Afghanistan rests safely on a distant horizon. Even after the thirty-three thousand troops have departed, by the end of 2012, the Americans and their NATO partners will have nearly a hundred thousand soldiers there. The effects of the drawdown might not be visible for years. But the moment of maximum American influence is passing without very much to show for it. “These long wars will come to a responsible end,” the President said toward the end of his speech. That’s an appropriately tortured construction for two badly managed occupations. As a prediction for Afghanistan, though, it seems more like a prayer

(click here to continue reading Saying Goodbye to Afghanistan : The New Yorker.)

Instead, we should invade urban blight in America, and rebuild there (here).

 

Written by Seth Anderson

July 6th, 2011 at 8:08 am

Division Street North Branch Bridge

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Division Street Bridge in need of repair

The Halsted bridge is undergoing complete reconstruction, but the Division Street bridge is not, at least yet. Presumedly soon though as it is not in good shape1. Apparently last rehabilitated in 1983, built in 1903.

This is one of Chicago’s oldest surviving highway bascule bridges, an example of the first generation of bascule bridges built in Chicago and among the oldest surviving bascule bridges in North America. The success of these bridges had a profound influence on Chicago’s decision to populate essentially the entire navigable river/canal system in the city with trunnion bascule bridges during the 20th Century. Further, these bridges were noted by a number of cities across the country who adopted the specific form of the trunnion bascule bridge which became known as the “Chicago trunnion bascule” bridge type.

Each surviving bascule bridge of this first generation in Chicago is nationally significant and should be given the highest preservation priority. This specific bridge was the fourth bridge built in the city according to the first bascule bridge design, which was a complex part-through part-pony truss design as seen here. The superstructure for this bridge was built by Roemheld & Gallery and the Fitzsimmons and Connell Company (both of Chicago) constructed the substructure. Of the small number of surviving first generation bascule bridges in Chicago, this is one of the most heavily altered with a significant number of members, members toward the center of the bridge, having been replaced and/or rivets being replaced with bolts.

(click here to continue reading Division Street North Branch Bridge Historic North Branch Chicago River Division Street.)

Division Street Bridge

Division Street Bridge

 

Somebody's Lunch

Just a wee bit of decay and rust, no?

Footnotes:
  1. to my non-engineer eye []

Written by Seth Anderson

April 27th, 2011 at 10:26 am

Posted in Chicago-esque

Tagged with ,

Google to offer high speed internet

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Alternative Google

Press release from Google’s corporate blog:

Official Google Blog: Think big with a gig: Our experimental fiber network: “We’re planning to build and test ultra high-speed broadband networks in a small number of trial locations across the United States. We’ll deliver Internet speeds more than 100 times faster than what most Americans have access to today with 1 gigabit per second, fiber-to-the-home connections. We plan to offer service at a competitive price to at least 50,000 and potentially up to 500,000 people.”

Sign me up! Much more interested in a fast, reliable, neutral network for my business than any social networking dreck.

I’d wager that the City of Chicago will not be part of the initial test, but maybe we’ll make the second round? Google is not the perfect corporate entity of course, but have you ever dealt with the AT&T Death Star? I’d much rather have our pipes supplied by Google.

Written by Seth Anderson

February 10th, 2010 at 1:21 pm

Posted in Business

Tagged with , ,

Reading Around on April 15th through April 16th

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A few interesting links collected April 15th through April 16th:

  • The White House – Blog Post – A Vision for High Speed Rail – "The report formalizes the identification of ten high-speed rail corridors as potential recipients of federal funding. Those lines are: California, Pacific Northwest, South Central, Gulf Coast, Chicago Hub Network, Florida, Southeast, Keystone, Empire and Northern New England. Also, opportunities exist for the Northeast Corridor from Washington to Boston to compete for funds to improve the nation’s only existing high-speed rail service:"

    Sign me up!

  • Broward Palm Beach – The Juice – Fort Lauderdale, You Have Tea On Your Face – "And I'm a reporter, I took an (imaginary) oath to comfort the afflicted.

    "What freedoms have you had taken from you?"

    She looked confused. I thought, perhaps in the places Jane gets her news (cough cough Fox News cough) reporters don't worry about those pesky follow-up questions. There was a long pause.

    "Uh…uh…the freedom to choose…the…uh…" Awkward moment"

    idiots – protesting without any clue what they are even protesting.

  • honoria in ciberspazio – Proposal for Live Art Blogging Interactive Austin 2009 – "Problem: After a stimulating conference, attendees' notes lay black and white and sometimes unreadable on the page while vital insights are bright, yet fading in participants' memories.

    Solution: Honoria Starbuck creates live colorful abstract artworks that zing with the high energy in the conference room. Honoria's drawings highlight epiphanies and explore expanding new directions with dynamic aesthetic gusto. These abstract drawings keep the open nature of inquiry buzzing in the wake of the conference."

Written by swanksalot

April 16th, 2009 at 2:00 pm

Rebuilding America

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We’re all fairly sick of hearing about the so-called “greatest generation”, but let there be no doubt, the Civilian Conservation Corps did awesome work for the nation, and the spirit of the WPA should be resurrected to rebuild our current crumbling country. Just think how much good could be accomplished with the $700,000,000 proposed to bail out Wall Street fat cats (not to mention taxpayer funds handed over to AIG, IndyMac, Fannie Mae and all the rest. Money that could instead be spent beautifying our nation.)

WPA Project No 960

Before surging ahead, however, let’s look back. Seventy-five years ago, our country faced an even deeper depression. Millions of men had neither jobs, nor job prospects. Families were struggling to put food on the table. And President Franklin Delano Roosevelt acted. He created the Civilian Conservation Corps, soon widely known as the CCC.

From 1933 to 1942, the CCC enrolled nearly 3.5 million men in roughly 4,500 camps across the country. It helped to build roads, build and repair bridges, clear brush and fight forest fires, create state parks and recreational areas, and otherwise develop and improve our nation’s infrastructure — work no less desperately needed today than it was back then. These young men — women were not included — willingly lived in primitive camps and barracks, sacrificing to support their families who were hurting back home.

My father, who served in the CCC from 1935 to 1937, was among those young men. They earned $30 a month for their labor — a dollar a day — and he sent home $25 of that to support the family. For those modest wages, he and others like him gave liberally to our country in return. The stats are still impressive: 800 state parks developed; 125,000 miles of road built; more than two billion trees planted; 972 million fish stocked. The list goes on and on in jaw-dropping detail.

Not only did the CCC improve our country physically, you might even say that experiencing it prepared a significant part of the “greatest generation” of World War II for greatness. After all, veterans of the CCC had already learned to work and sacrifice for something larger than themselves — for, in fact, their families, their state, their country. As important as the G.I. Bill was to veterans returning from that war and to our country’s economic boom in the 1950s, the CCC was certainly no less important in building character and instilling an ethic of teamwork, service, and sacrifice in a generation of American men.

[From Tomgram: William Astore, Rebuilding America, Remaking Ourselves]

and don’t forget the cash pissed away in the sands of Iraq:

Here’s where our federal government really should step in, just as it did in 1933. For we face an enormous national challenge today which goes largely unaddressed: shoring up our nation’s crumbling infrastructure. The prestigious American Society of Civil Engineers did a survey of, and a report card on, the state of the American infrastructure. Our country’s backbone earned a dismal “D,” barely above a failing (and fatal) grade. The Society estimates that we need to invest $1.6 trillion in infrastructure maintenance and improvements over the next five years or face ever more collapsing bridges and bursting dams. It’s a staggering sum, until you realize that we’re already approaching a trillion dollars spent on the Iraq war alone.

Written by swanksalot

September 24th, 2008 at 2:45 pm