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Archive for November, 2010

States are outdated constructions, when we need a better system for governing metro areas that span multiple states.

In two recent cases, one with the Metro in Washington, D.C. and the other with the train tunnel in N.J./N.Y., state governments have proven themselves wholly unable to manage structural infrastructure projects for their general regions. A hilarious excerpt from the approval process in D.C.:

As the Washington region begins an important effort to fix Metro’s outdated, unwieldy governing apparatus, here’s a way to appreciate the scale of the challenge: The task requires eight separate governmental bodies representing 12 distinct political jurisdictions to agree to rearrange how they oversee a ninth body, the transit system itself…

If that’s not daunting enough, consider that the biggest changes would require four entities – Maryland, Virginia, the District and Congress – to agree unanimously on identical wording to change the 44-year-old regional compact that created Metro.

Yes, Washington is a uniquely screwed-up corner of American government, and yes, transit systems are unique in their need for interstate cooperation. Nevertheless, the byzantine process to approve such measures helps to demonstrate the difficulty of mass infrastructure improvements in the U.S.

Many states follow the New York or Illinois model of big cities surrounded by suburbs surrounded by vast, mostly empty rural areas. Today, such a model seems simply foolish, considering the differences in the needs of these different zones. China, for instance, has administrative zones defined by historical boundaries and political expediency (Shanghai, Beijing and Chongqing have their own province-level governments under the federal government).

A metro area government for, say, the Washington, D.C. area would be much more able to handle everything from school reform (Washington’s metro area has the highest rate of college graduates, yet D.C. Public Schools are among the worst in the country) to urban zoning reform (better parking management, say).

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Every Arnold Schwarzenegger scream in film.

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Good idea: holding football games at Wrigley Field before you have a proper stadium.

Bad idea: this…

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A new Girl Talk album just dropped.

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It’s unclear what the junta’s game is, but the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is undoubtedly good news.

“It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it. Most Burmese are familiar with the four a-gati, the four kinds of corruption. Chanda-gati, corruption induced by desire, is deviation from the right path in pursuit of bribes or for the sake of those one loves. Dosa-gati is taking the wrong path to spite those against whom one bears ill will, and moga-gati is aberration due to ignorance. But perhaps the worst of the four is bhaya-gati, for not only does bhaya, fear, stifle and slowly destroy all sense of right and wrong, it so often lies at the root of the other three kinds of corruption. Just as chanda-gati, when not the result of sheer avarice, can be caused by fear of want or fear of losing the goodwill of those one loves, so fear of being surpassed, humiliated or injured in some way can provide the impetus for ill will. And it would be difficult to dispel ignorance unless there is freedom to pursue the truth unfettered by fear. With so close a relationship between fear and corruption it is little wonder that in any society where fear is rife corruption in all forms becomes deeply entrenched.”

— Aung San Suu Kyi, “Freedom From Fear”

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UPDATE: Obama administration denies it all. But I would point out that this is exactly what happened with the public option. The Obama administration publicly stated that it would support a public option, then backed down, then got called on it, then vehemently denied backing down, then backed down in the end.

I would be surprised if a similar future did not await the tax cut sunset.

ORIGINAL POST:

Just, wow. Just, no. Just, I don’t even, I don’t, I can’t, I… damn:

President Barack Obama’s top adviser suggested to The Huffington Post late Wednesday that the administration is ready to accept an across-the-board continuation of steep Bush-era tax cuts, including those for the wealthiest taxpayers.

That appears to be the only way, said David Axelrod, that middle-class taxpayers can keep their tax cuts, given the legislative and political realities facing Obama in the aftermath of last week’s electoral defeat.

And I just threw up in my own mouth.

There’s just nothing Democrats like more than coughing up the ball. You had a great issue! You could have had a great showdown in the Senate. “We’re trying to keep a middle class tax cut, while keeping taxes high on the super-rich! Republicans aren’t! See, they haven’t changed!” The debate itself would make the deficit hawks appear ridiculous, and open up the discussion of why the rich aren’t paying their share. Not to mention, the tax cuts will expire on their own anyways! They only get extended if the bill gets through both houses of Congress.

There’s an argument to be made that going against tax cuts is always stupid (an argument that is wrong, of course). But the tactical point is, the Obama administration just made clear that it gave up the tax cut fight for nothing. Do you think the Republicans will give one inch, back down one iota, hold back from gutting health care reform and financial reform one second? If you do, then the Stockholm Syndrome of the beltway is truly unstoppable. “Compromise” only works when the other side gives something back in return.

Nothing like this kind of news to wake you up in the morning. Bluuuuuuuuurgh.

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I don’t know what’s more ridiculous…

a) that this movie will be released this weekend

or b) that I think I’ve already seen it before

If someone can explain Denzel Washington’s inexplicable continued professional relationship with the increasingly awful Tony Scott, let me know.

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