Pic of the Day

Click to enlargeREUTERS/Brian Snyder

A demonstrator holds a sign with a photograph of former U.S. spy agency NSA contractor Edward Snowden and the word “HERO” during Fourth of July Independence Day celebrations in Boston, Massachusetts…

Great photo. Looked at a number of versions without discovering who did the original poster.

Bet someone in Obama’s office told the boss by now. 🙂

Repairing infrastructure can help repair economy, employment

If you have spent much time traveling around the United States, you likely have noticed that our infrastructure looks a bit worn and tired and in need of some refreshing. If you spend much time traveling around the world, however, you will notice that our infrastructure is shockingly bad. So bad that it’s not an exaggeration to declare it a national disgrace, a global embarrassment and a massive security risk.

Not too long ago, the infrastructure of the United States was the envy of the world. We had an extensive interstate highway system, deep-water ports connected to a well-developed rail system and a new airport in every major city (and most minor ones). Electricity was accessible to the vast majority of the nation’s residents, as was Ma Bell’s telephone network.

That was then. In the ensuing decades, we have allowed the transportation grid to get old and out of shape. Our interstate highway system is in disrepair; our bridges are rusting away, with some collapsing now and then. The electrical grid is a patchwork of jury-rigged fixes, vulnerable to blackouts and foreign cyberattacks. The cell system of the United States is a laughingstock versus Asia’s or Europe’s coverage. There are very few things that are done better by government mandate than by the free market, but cell coverage is one of them. Broadband, almost as laughable as our cell coverage, is another…

Don’t take my word for it. The American Society of Civil Engineers recently issued a U.S. Infrastructure Report Card…that reviewed key civil engineering projects on their quality and state of repair. The society graded aviation, bridges, dams, drinking water, energy, hazardous waste, inland waterways, levees, public parks and recreation, rail, roads, schools, solid waste, transit and wastewater.

Overall, America’s infrastructure GPA was a “D.” We earned our highest grade in solid waste — a C+ (insert your own infrastructure joke here).

To get to an “A” would require a five-year infrastructure investment of $2.2 trillion dollars. You can understand why recent proposals of $50 billion were so underwhelming. That is 10 percent of what is required to return the United States to a competitive level with the rest of the developed world. Even the emerging world outshines us in these areas.

A massive infrastructure program would have numerous benefits, not the least of which would be giving a boost to the economy when it could use one. The big advantage of infrastructure rebuilds is that they create a lasting effect by creating tools and platforms that the private sector can build upon. Consider the vast economic benefits we have enjoyed from the interstate highway system, DARPAnet and NASA, and you have a sense of what a massive infrastructure program can yield.

That’s the intro. Barry Ritholtz published this at his Washington Post blog October 22, 2011. Ain’t anything much changed. The longer Congressional Republicans keep saying “NO” – the higher the eventual price tag will be.

Barry Ritholtz is one of my favorite Recovering Republicans. He’s retained the essentials of traditional American conservatism including respect for science and mathematics – two qualities missing entirely from the spooky crap sloughed off as ideology by the Tea Party and craven rightwingers huddled inside the dimbulb country club still called the Republican Party.

Click through the link in my post and read the details. They still make sense and all they would provide is a rescue for the infrastructure going back to FDR and Eisenhower, jobs and training for millions of Americans.

Xi says GDP not China’s officials’ sole focus

Xi Jinping

China’s President Xi Jinping said officials shouldn’t be judged solely on their record in boosting gross domestic product, the latest signal that policy makers are prepared to tolerate slower economic expansion.

The Communist Party should instead place more importance on achievements in improving people’s livelihood, social development and environmental quality when evaluating the performance of officials, the Xinhua News Agency reported June 29, citing Xi at a meeting on personnel management on the eve of the 92nd anniversary of the party’s founding.

Xi’s comments follow remarks he made in May that China won’t sacrifice the environment to ensure short-term growth, and take place as the world’s second-largest economy undergoes its worst cash crunch in at least a decade as the government seeks to wring speculative lending out of the banking system.

“Xi is further legitimizing the case for slower growth,” said Andy Mantel, chief executive officer of Pacific Sun Advisors, an asset manager in Hong Kong that invests in Chinese stocks. “It is important to let local government officials know there is less importance of non-stop economic growth. There will be less pressure for local government officials to pump up their economic growth forecasts.”

China needs growth of about 7 percent to double per capita gross domestic product by 2020 from the level in 2010, Premier Li Keqiang said May 27 in Berlin after meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. That’s down from an average pace of 10.5 percent a year over the past decade, with growth driven by surging credit, government investment, and exports…

“Xi’s speech includes a forward-looking recognition that obsessive emphasis on economic growth targets is obsolete and must now be balanced against vital environmental and social concerns,” said William Overholt, a senior research fellow at Harvard University…

Any number of economists and financial analysts worth anything, from Stephen Roach to Barry Ritholtz, who bring experience and study to bear on questions of national and international economics agree on this.

And, then, there are the talking heads of American TV and journalist lapdogs.

Obama proves the Ugly American still defines US foreign policy

Yeah – I put in just enough to illustrate continuity

Latin American leaders slammed European governments on Wednesday for diverting Bolivian President Evo Morales’ plane on rumors it was carrying a wanted former U.S. spy agency contractor, adding a new diplomatic twist to the Edward Snowden saga.

Bolivia said Morales was returning from Moscow on Tuesday when France and Portugal abruptly banned his plane from entering their airspace due to suspicions that Snowden, wanted by Washington for leaking secrets, was onboard. Italy and Spain also banned the plane from their skies, it said.

The unusual treatment of the Bolivian military aircraft touched a sensitive nerve in the region, which has a history of U.S.-backed coups. Regional leaders, particularly from the left, rallied behind Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president and a former union leader of the country’s coca farmers.

“(These are) vestiges of a colonialism that we thought were long over. We believe this constitutes not only the humiliation of a sister nation but of all South America,” Argentine President Cristina Kirchner said in a speech in Buenos Aires.

“Latin America demands an explanation,” tweeted Ecuadorean leader Rafael Correa. “If what happened to Evo does not merit a Unasur summit, I don’t know what does.”

Dilma Rousseff, president of regional economic powerhouse Brazil, issued a statement repudiating the European countries that denied Morales access to their airspace based on what she called the “fanciful” notion that Snowden might be on board…

Much more blunt was the statement from Mexico’s Congress condemning what it called the “disgraceful and discriminatory” treatment Morales had received in Europe…

Spokesmen ranging from petty bureaucrats in France to tame professors in Chicago offered predictable plausible deniability. RTFA if you think you need to.

The Bolivian government said it had filed a formal complaint with the United Nations and was studying other legal avenues to prove its rights had been violated under international law…

In May of this year, Morales expelled a U.S. development agency from Bolivia in protest after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry referred to Latin America as Washington’s “backyard.”

The comment was a stark reminder of the United States’ history exploiting South America’s natural resources and supporting some repressive right-wing regimes…

Ugly American is a pejorative that refers to loud, arrogant, demeaning, thoughtless, ignorant, and ethnocentric behavior of Americans abroad…including the actions of our government and its leaders. We used the term a lot during the resistance to the VietNam War. Taking it from the book by Burdick and Lederer, it characterized the lies and deceit perfectly agreed to by Democrats and Republicans alike in the rape and murder of Southeast Asia.

In the early 19th Century our government warned the world of the Monroe doctrine. It meant Latin America was our own private Africa. Europeans had to maintain their retreat from the continent of South America under threat of war with the United States. Resources, the natural wealth of South America was reserved for American corporations.

The average ignorant American voter may have to Google the details; but, no Latin American with even a minimal education has any difficulty describing the policy. Only speechwriters for US political campaigns and Congressional declarations try to convince the rest of the world it ever ended.