They say a prosecutor could get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich, and this always seemed like hyperbole, until Friday night a Texas grand jury announced an indictment of governor Rick Perry. The “crime” for which Perry faces a sentence of 5 to 99 years in prison is vetoing funding for a state agency. The conventions of reporting — which treat the fact of an indictment as the primary news, and its merit as a secondary analytic question — make it difficult for people reading the news to grasp just how farfetched this indictment is.
Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg — a Democrat who oversees the state’s Public Corruption unit — was arrested for driving very, very drunk. What followed was a relatively ordinary political dispute. Perry, not unreasonably, urged Lehmberg to resign. Democrats, not unreasonably, resisted out of fear that Perry would replace her with a Republican. Perry, not unreasonably, announced and carried out a threat to veto funding for her agency until Lehmberg resigned.
‘Fixing L.A.’s century-old water pipes, according to DWP officials, could take 300 years. “That’s probably longer than we would like it to be and we will be looking at all of our infrastructure, in light of this incident,’ DWP Senior Assistant General Manager Jim McDaniel said at a news conference.”
“Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail,” Mr. Obama said in his 2011 State of the Union address. “This could allow you to go places in half the time it takes to travel by car. For some trips, it will be faster than flying — without the pat-down.”
But as Mr. Obama’s second term nears an end, some experts say the president’s words were a fantasy.
“The idea that we would have a high-speed system that 80 percent of Americans could access in that short period of time was unadulterated hype, and it didn’t take an expert to see through it,” said Kenneth Orski, the editor and publisher of an influential transportation newsletter who served in the Nixon and Ford administrations. “And scattering money all around the country rather than focusing it on areas ripe for high-speed rail didn’t help.”
Well, I have a few comments. First, I think the main reason this got voted down is the same reason Obama was re-elected; people made opinions without a solid understanding of the facts. This decision is foolish and short-sighted. The Macquarie deal is likely the best offer we could have expected. I believe that from this point the network will go dark, wasted. Where there is no vision, the people perish.
The principal objections seemed to be as follows:
Objection – Internet infrastructure isn’t the proper role of government.
Response – Infrastructure is EXACTLY the role of local governments and has been time out of mind. Sewers, streets, power lines, etc. are provided by municipalities, paid for by taxes in almost every case. There may be public-private partnerships, such as trash collection or power generation over the city’s wires, but the infrastructure is the role of local government. I think this misunderstanding comes from a very simplistic application of national politics at the local level.
Objection – Internet technology gets obsolete so quickly. This network will be obsolete before the commitment expires.
Response – While technology changes rapidly, the infrastructure does not. The copper wires we get our internet on right now are very old technology. We have the internet speeds we have now because technology advanced to take the most advantage of coax and telephone lines. The top end for copper is close, though. Fiber has much higher throughput and we can expect similar long-term usefulness of a fiber backbone as technology improves.
Objection – We can do this with wireless technologies.
Response – While there have been advances in bandwidth over the air, the very fastest wireless technologies are 1/20th the speed of the slowest fiber connections. Wireless is inefficient and notoriously bad at handling both high throughput and high traffic (multiple users connecting to the same access point). Fiber is a better solution in the long term.
Objection – Internet access is not a basic service.
Response – This is 2014. Access to the Internet is a gateway to education, enterprise, and community like we’ve never seen in this world. A fiber backbone can handle phone and television as well as data, for less cost than over copper. I challenge anyone who thinks that our poor don’t need internet access to go to the Orem Library and watch who is using the computers there. This is a basic service and only a Luddite would deny it to the poor in our city.
Here’s the quote and link from the Deseret News:
Members of the Orem City Council voted 6-1 to reject an offer by Australia-based Macquarie Capital Group, which would see the firm assume management of the embattled UTOPIA fiber optic network for 30 years in exchange for a monthly fee of initially $18 to $20 levied against all residents.
Government, we are sometimes told, is just another word for things we choose to do together.
Like a lot of things politicians say, this sounds good. And, also like a lot of things politicians say, it isn’t the least bit true.
Many of the things government does, we don’t choose. Many of the things we choose, government doesn’t do. And whatever gets done, we’re not the ones doing it. And those who are doing it often interpret their mandates selfishly.
Take, for example, the Veterans Administration. The American people — most of us, anyway — did “choose” to provide first-class medical care for our veterans. But we didn’t do it. We set up the Veterans Administration to do it. And the Veterans Administration — or, more accurately, some of the people who work for and run the Veterans Administration — had a stronger interest in other things. Things like fat bonuses, and low workloads in comfy offices.
Thus we find that, even though veterans were dying, and books were being cooked, every single VA senior executive received an evaluation of “fully successful” or better over a 4-year period. That’s right. Every single one. Over four years. At least 65% of them received bonuses (“performance awards”). All while veterans around the country were suffering and dying because of delayed care. The executives got these bonuses, in part, because they cooked the books, because the bonuses were more important to them than the veterans’ care.
The union in question is The National Treasury Employees Union. According to the web site of the NTEU, the mission of the union is “To organize federal employees to work together to ensure that every federal employee is treated with dignity and respect.” That’s a tall order, in part because there are so very many federal employees. The NTEU’s web site includes a nifty interactive graphic that shows you just how many there are in each state: 279,622 in Texas, for example, 350,544 in California, 165,943 in New York, etc., etc. There are, in short, millions of them.And what political party do you suppose they support? In the 2012 election cycle, 94% its PAC contributions went to Democrats, 4% to Republicans. That’s only one year, of course. How about 2010? That year 98% of its contributions went to Democrats, 2% went to Republicans. 2008 was a bit more balanced: that year only 96% went to Democrats. As Andrew Stiles pointed out at National Review, the NTEU is a “powerful, deeply partisan union whose boss has publicly disparaged the Tea Party and criticized the Republican party for having ties to it.”
I’m sure this is just a coincidence:
Despite assurances to the contrary, the IRS didn’t destroy all of the donor lists scooped up in its tea party targeting — and a check of those lists reveals that the tax agency audited 10 percent of those donors, much higher than the audit rate for average Americans, House Republicans revealed Wednesday.
Republicans argue that the Internal Revenue Service still hasn’t come clean about the full extent of its targeting, which swept up dozens of conservative groups.
I can only assume he’s a member of the AFGE.
“So this guy is making $125,000, spending two to six hours a day looking at porno,” said Rep. John Mica (R-FL), who was told by officials that the worker had been given performance awards – despite one time spending four straight hours on a website called, “Sadism is Beautiful.”
“How much pornography would it take for an EPA employee to lose their job?” asked a frustrated Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA).
There was no concrete response from officials, given the lengthy process that it takes for the federal government to “separate” an employee from the civil service.
What happened? Hathaway and Litan shrug their shoulders after finding that these trends held steady across all states and metropolitan areas. Clearly, “business dynamism and entrepreneurship are experiencing a troubling secular decline,” they conclude, but “our findings stop short of demonstrating why these trends are occurring, and perhaps more importantly, what can be done about it.” However, the chart itself suggests one answer in particular. The decades involved in this study saw a significant and accelerating expansion of federal regulatory power, which only had one period of significant reversal – the Reagan era. That period shows the only significant return to a higher rate of business births in the last thirty-five years. The consistency of the decline across regions and states also bolsters this interpretation. Some states and regions have better economic growth rates than others; Texas Governor Rick Perry has recruited major employers from California on that basis, most recently Toyota’s US headquarters and its 5,000 jobs. Despite a friendlier tax and economic climate, though, Texas still has a lower business birth rate than it did thirty years ago, and so does every other state, and every metropolitan area save one unnamed.