Blogs

Infrastructure

INFRASTRUCTURE....What kind of infrastructure program is Barack Obama likely to support once he gets into office? Well, Obama's choice to head up the OMB is Peter Orszag, so Alex Tabarrok suggests looking at Orszag's previous statements on infrastructure when he...

| Tue Dec. 9, 2008 8:26 PM EST

INFRASTRUCTURE....What kind of infrastructure program is Barack Obama likely to support once he gets into office? Well, Obama's choice to head up the OMB is Peter Orszag, so Alex Tabarrok suggests looking at Orszag's previous statements on infrastructure when he was head of the Congressional Budget Office.

With that in mind, then, here's a chart from testimony he gave to Congress last May. For a range of activity, it shows that the infrastructure budget ought to be increased $20 billion to maintain current service levels, but that nearly $80 billion more could be economically justified. However, here's what he says about the highway portion:

[A]ccording to a detailed analysis that the FHWA provided to CBO, over the next five years, investments required to maintain current levels of highway service would represent 58 percent of the total spending for all economically justifiable investments for highways, but they would provide 83 percent of the net benefits.

More than likely, then, Orszag won't be pushing for lots of additional spending on roads and bridges, since he believes the net benefit is pretty small once you get past the initial boost needed just to maintain the current system.

Alex suggests that Obama should instead focus on congestion pricing and electricity infrastructure (the famous "smart grid" that everyone talks about but no one ever seems to make any progress on). Here at Mother Jones, in a piece that just went online today, James K. Galbraith proposes a long-term investment program (not just a "stimulus") that includes aid to states, increased Social Security benefits, a payroll tax holiday, and this:

Finally, we must change how we produce energy, how we consume it, and above all how much greenhouse gas we emit. That's a long-term proposition that will require research and reconstruction on a grand scale: support for universities, for national labs, for federal and state planning agencies, a new Department of Energy and Climate. It's the project around which the economy of the next generation must be designed. It's the key to future employment and future growth — and to our physical survival.

Obama's radio speech this weekend outlining his stimulus-related spending plans had some decent points but wasn't exactly a barnburner. After he rolls out his environment team later this week, hopefully green energy development and smart grids will get a little more attention.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Chart of the Day - 12.09.2008

CHART OF THE DAY....Adapted from Secular Right, here's a graph showing frequency of prayer plotted against strength of partisanship. The data is from the General Social Survey. Apparently, strong political partisans also tend to pray a lot. Weak partisans and...

| Tue Dec. 9, 2008 7:33 PM EST

CHART OF THE DAY....Adapted from Secular Right, here's a graph showing frequency of prayer plotted against strength of partisanship. The data is from the General Social Survey. Apparently, strong political partisans also tend to pray a lot. Weak partisans and independents, not so much. The effect is roughly the same if you confine the analysis to whites only.

Why? Is it just a reflection that some people are strong believers and others aren't, and this temperamental cast applies to everything they believe in? Or is it something else? Speculate away!

Coldplay Deny Plagiarism Accusation, Get Dissed By Reuters

They just can't win. As reported here on Friday, UK ballad-producers and castoff-military-gear-sporters Coldplay had their highest-profile plagiarism accusation to date when guitarist Joe Satriani filed suit against the band, saying they'd ripped off one of his songs. Well, Coldplay have responded, calling any resemblance between "Viva La Vida" and Satriani's "If I Could Fly" "entirely coincidental": "If there are any similarities between our...

| Tue Dec. 9, 2008 6:57 PM EST

mojo-photo-coldplaysatriani.jpgThey just can't win. As reported here on Friday, UK ballad-producers and castoff-military-gear-sporters Coldplay had their highest-profile plagiarism accusation to date when guitarist Joe Satriani filed suit against the band, saying they'd ripped off one of his songs. Well, Coldplay have responded, calling any resemblance between "Viva La Vida" and Satriani's "If I Could Fly" "entirely coincidental":

"If there are any similarities between our two pieces of music, they are entirely coincidental, and just as surprising to us as to him," the band said in a posting on its website.
"Joe Satriani is a great musician, but he did not write or have any influence on the song 'Viva La Vida.' We respectfully ask him to accept our assurances of this and wish him well with all future endeavours."

So, take that, right? But Reuters can't help but have some fun, describing the band in a way that's gotta make Chris Martin wince:

Coldplay, whose soaring atmospheric tunes have been unfavourably compared to those of U2, brushed off the allegations.

"Unfavourably"? Is that really necessary? I mean, yes, totally, but that doesn't seem like, you know, reporting. But hey, if Reuters says it, it must be a fact. Either way, it's a good excuse for me to run my cute Photoshop collage again.

Blur to Reunite, Inspiring This Collection of YouTube Videos

While I was over looking at NME's Top 10 Singles of 2008, I noticed another screaming headline, pictured on the cover of the new issue: BLUR REUNITED! For the uninitiated, the legendary London four-piece lost guitarist Graham Coxon in 2002 after he got really annoyed during the recording of their last album. Lead singer Damon Albarn went on to wild critical and commercial success...

| Tue Dec. 9, 2008 6:26 PM EST

mojo-photo-blurband.jpgWhile I was over looking at NME's Top 10 Singles of 2008, I noticed another screaming headline, pictured on the cover of the new issue: BLUR REUNITED! For the uninitiated, the legendary London four-piece lost guitarist Graham Coxon in 2002 after he got really annoyed during the recording of their last album. Lead singer Damon Albarn went on to wild critical and commercial success with Gorillaz and The Good, The Bad and The Queen, so he's not exactly hurting for cash, but he and Coxon have apparently buried the hatchet (hooray!) so the reunited band can play some gigs in 2009:

"It just felt it was right again," declared Albarn of Blur's return. "It somehow feels like there's something for us to do again, we're not completely useless or pointless, we've got a reason to exist." Coxon agreed, explaining the band were "making public what's been going on a little bit privately. For the benefit of the fans and those interested we can say that something's on the cards."

A single show is currently planned at London's Hyde Park on July 3rd, and an appearance at Glastonbury is rumored. Hey, howabout Coachella?

After the jump: Blur, a YouTube history!

The GOP's Fannie/Freddie Fixation

Congressional Republicans finally got their big chance to blame the financial crisis on the Democrats. Ever since the House...

| Tue Dec. 9, 2008 6:05 PM EST

aig-lehman-fannie-freddie-gravestones-300x225.jpg

Congressional Republicans finally got their big chance to blame the financial crisis on the Democrats. Ever since the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform began investigating the causes of the nation's current economic troubles in early October, the panel's Republican members have been agitating for a hearing on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. They charged that their Democratic colleagues failed to rein in the two government sponsored enterprises (GSEs), which were placed in receivership in September, frequently noting that Democrats had accepted significant campaign contributions from the companies. (Republican members of the committee also took in their fair share.) Many GOPers blame the financial crisis on the extension of mortgages to poor people and minorities who couldn't afford them, which they say was facilitated by lax oversight of Fannie and Freddie. On Tuesday, with the presidential election safely over, committee chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) gave the GOP members their hearing.

Deluder in Chief

Rod Blagojevich may well be the nation's ballsiest governor, but his delusions of grandeur pale in comparison to those of...

| Tue Dec. 9, 2008 6:02 PM EST

president-bush-150x110.jpgRod Blagojevich may well be the nation's ballsiest governor, but his delusions of grandeur pale in comparison to those of our sitting president. The LA Times has obtained a copy of a talking points memo, sent by the White House to cabinet members and top officials, highlighting successes in Bush's tenure.

From the Times:

Titled "Speech Topper on the Bush Record," the talking points state that Bush "kept the American people safe" after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, lifted the economy after 2001 through tax cuts, curbed AIDS in Africa and maintained "the honor and the dignity of his office."

The document presents the Bush record as an unalloyed success.

It mentions none of the episodes that detractors say have marred his presidency: the collapse of the housing market and major financial services companies, the flawed intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq war, the federal response to Hurricane Katrina or the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

In a section on the economy, speakers are invited to say that Bush cut taxes after 2001, setting the stage for years of job growth.

As for the current economic crisis, the memo says that Bush "responded with bold measures to prevent an economic meltdown."

The document is otherwise silent on the recession, which claimed 533,000 jobs in November, the highest number in 34 years."

And the kicker: The memo concludes with a quote from Bush's 1999 memoir, A Charge to Keep:

"Above all, George W. Bush promised to uphold the honor and the dignity of his office. And through all the challenges and trials of his time in office, that is a charge that our president has kept."

For another perspective, Mother Jones's September/October issue features interviews with myriad historians, scientists, lawyers, and policy-makers on Bush's legacy and How to Fix a Post-Bush Nation. You can find all of their interviews here.

We want to hear from you, too: Did Bush succeed in upholding the "honor and dignity" of the office of president?

Photo used under Creative Commons license.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Possible Byproduct of a Down Economy: Less Gun Violence

Due to increasingly successful gun trade-in programs. The AP, via AMERICAblog: A program to exchange guns for gifts brought in...

| Tue Dec. 9, 2008 5:46 PM EST

Due to increasingly successful gun trade-in programs. The AP, via AMERICAblog:

A program to exchange guns for gifts brought in a record number of weapons this year as residents hit hard by the economy look under the bed and in closets to find items to trade for groceries.
The annual Gifts for Guns program ended Sunday in Compton [in which] the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department allows residents to anonymously relinquish firearms in return for $100 gift cards....
In years past, Target and Best Buy were the cards of choice, with residents wanting presents for the holidays. This year, most asked for the supermarket cards, said sheriff's Sgt. Byron Woods. "People just don't have the money to buy the food these days," he said.
Authorities said Sunday that a record 965 firearms and two hand grenades were handed in during the two weekends the program was in operation. That's more than in any other year and easily eclipses last year's total of 387 guns collected over both weekends.

Freedom's Watch Not Immune to Financial Crisis

After little more than a year in existence, conservative advocacy group Freedom's Watch is closing up shop. The group's primary...

| Tue Dec. 9, 2008 5:33 PM EST

After little more than a year in existence, conservative advocacy group Freedom's Watch is closing up shop. The group's primary financial backer was Sheldon Adelson, the owner of Las Vegas Sands Corp. and Forbes' third richest man last year. But Sands Corp. stock has taken a 95% hit in 2008, and Freedom's Watch seems to be one of the first casualties along with Adelson's net worth ranking.

There were signs that Freedom's Watch was on its way out before yesterday's announcement. According to the Washington Times, the group spent $30 million on political races this year—a relatively small sum considering it originally planned to hand out $200 million to conservative candidates. Before that, when the cash was still flowing, it funded a $15 million campaign to promote the surge in Iraq. Here's one of those ads:


NME Best Singles of 2008 List All About 2007

We know it's hard. Singles get released in one year, then the album's released the next; UK release dates come months before we get them here; or maybe you got a promo copy (or—gasp!—a leak) in December, and it didn't go on sale until January. Then there's human error: what if you just didn't get around to checking out that Amadou and Mariam album...

| Tue Dec. 9, 2008 4:58 PM EST

mojo-photo-bestof20087.jpgWe know it's hard. Singles get released in one year, then the album's released the next; UK release dates come months before we get them here; or maybe you got a promo copy (or—gasp!—a leak) in December, and it didn't go on sale until January. Then there's human error: what if you just didn't get around to checking out that Amadou and Mariam album until 2006? Keeping your year-end best-of list to the actual calendar year can be tough, but you'd think British music mag NME would at least try to stick to the rules. The magazine released their "tracks of the year" last week, but amusingly enough, fully half of them came out in 2007. Check out their list and my bitter commentary after the jump.

Patrick Fitzgerald Is Back: Maybe This Time GOPers Will Not Attack

Patrick Fitzgerald is back. With his dramatic arrest of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich on an assortment of corruption charges--including the...

| Tue Dec. 9, 2008 3:44 PM EST

Patrick Fitzgerald is back.

With his dramatic arrest of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich on an assortment of corruption charges--including the allegation that Blagojevich wanted to sell the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama--Fitzgerald, the hard-charging U.S. attorney in Chicago, has returned to the national stage as a scourge of dishonest government. His last star turn was as the special counsel who successfully prosecuted Scooter Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, for having lied to FBI agents and a grand jury during the investigation of the leak that outed CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson.

Throughout that investigation, the no-nonsense Fitzgerald repeatedly insisted that the case was about a simple matter: whether Libby had lied. But he did note it had wider implications. When Fitzgerald presented his closing argument, he declared, "There is a cloud on the vice president." He added: "And that cloud remains because this defendant obstructed justice." Two weeks later, after winning a guilty verdict on four of five counts, Fitzgerald noted, "Mr. Libby had failed to remove that cloud....Sometimes when people tell the truth, clouds disappear. Sometimes they do not." And when Bush commuted Libby's sentence, ensuring that Libby would serve no prison time, Fitzgerald huffed, "It is fundamental to the rule of law that all citizens stand before the bar of justice as equals."

His not-too-subtle point was that when it came to integrity, the Bush White House--or at least Cheney's wing--was, well, cloudy. (The trial had revealed much about Cheney's hard-edged political operation.)

The Libby case, for some, was a hard-to-follow affair, and conservatives and Republican allies of Libby and the Bush administration had rampaged against Fitzgerald and tried mightily to muddy up the episode. Thus, Fitzgerald's implied indictment of the Bush crowd partially got lost in the middle of a partisan mud fight. With the Blagojevich case, Fitzgerald is once again championing honest government, but this time he appears to have a case less likely to get caught up in the distracting swirl of ideological attacks. After all, Blagojevich has few friends who will go on cable TV to blast Fitzgerald for being a run-amok prosecutor. There may even be Republicans who praise his pursuit of Blagojevich, a Democrat.