Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Short List - July 6, 2011

  • Syrian armed forces reportedly killed 22 and left 80 wounded when they drove into Hama yesterday.  Amnesty International has accused the regime of crimes against humanity.

  • A British drone, controlled by the US Air Force from Nevada, killed four civilians, along with two militants in Helman province in southern Afghanistan in late March according to the British government, which was compelled to confirm the report originally made public by The Guardian.  In other British-Afghanistan news, Prime Minister Cameron has announced the UK will withdraw 500 troops from Afghanistan by 2012, bringing their total force in the country to around 9,000.  The UK is the second largest single country force in the country behind the US.

  • Moody's has downgraded Portugal's debt to junk status and warned a second round of rescue funds may be needed.

  • The US has indicted a Somali national in civilian court in New York, after the suspect was held for two months on a Navy ship and interrogated.  He has not been charged with a crime specifically tied to an attack on the US, but does accuse the suspect of providing material support to al-Shabab and AQAP.

  • Rebel groups claim pro-Qaddafi forces have killed at least 11 civilians in Misurata, Libya after constant shelling.


Colin said...

Even though $230 billion is probably still too high, I applaud this move by Mica. The amounts of money being spent by the feds on transportation are ludicrous. To place the $500-550 billion figure desired by the Obama administration in perspective, the construction of the entire interstate highways system cost about $459 billion (in 2010 dollars) over 35 years.

If bridges, roads, etc. are in need of repair, why shouldn't the state or local government pay for it? Why do we send money to Washington, which then turns around and hands it right back to the states as it sees fit? Makes little sense.

Note, I am not saying there is zero federal role in transportation. I can see this for genuine federal -- i.e. multistate -- transportation issues. But why the DOT should be paying for bike trails or local projects such as the resurfacing of 18th St in Adams-Morgan is beyond me.

As for Gulliver's remark that "[t]he best way to get high-speed rail to succeed in America is to actually build it somewhere, and then to wait for the other states to say 'I want that!'", this is rather strange as HSR in fact already has been built in multiple places: China, Spain, Germany and France all readily spring to mind. There's nothing stopping state officials from traveling and checking these out, and as I recall Gov. Schwarzenegger in fact did visit China last year and saw their HSR up close and personal.

The problem with HSR isn't that it lacks concrete examples or remains a purely theoretical concept, it's that it doesn't make any sense.

Colin said...

Oh, one other point: I agree with the WashPost article that the gas tax is problematic. A better means is taxing cars based on miled traveled rather than gas consumed.

Jason said...

Where are you getting the $459 billion figure?

The Constitution gives the federal government purview over interstate commerce, which would include much of the nation's transportation system. If you object to pork project, I would share your objection.

Again with trains, the federal government has purview over interstate commerce so a state like California could, on its own accord, build a rather substantial rail network, but when you considering the rail system in the northeast corridor that cuts through as many as 8 states and the District of Columbia, it's a project that would require federal coordination.