When completed, the new east span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge will be not only the most complex engineering feat in California history, but also the most expensive, with a cost never subjected to public scrutiny.
Although today’s price tag stands at $6.3 billion, the figure accounts for only salaries and hard materials—things like concrete and steel and cranes. When all is said and done, the new Bay Bridge will wind up costing tax- and toll-payers more than $12 billion—a figure that leaves even the officials in charge “staggered.”
Much of the difference comes from interest and other financing charges—money that commuters will be paying off until at least 2049. Little attention has been paid to billions of dollars not included in the direct construction cost projections published in glossy public reports.
Why the price has skyrocketed is a tale of politics, bureaucratic bumbling, and unforeseen construction problems—all classic ingredients of California public works projects. It is a tale of obscure but powerful agencies, legislative bickering, and four successive governors grappling with a project so massive and complex that one consultant suggested the human mind might be unable to grasp, or accept, “the magnitude of the undertaking and the time and resources required to complete it.”
The 113th United States Congress was sworn into office in Washington, D.C. The new Congress features the most women and racial minorities of any Congress in history, with 43 African Americans (8 percent of the total number of representatives), 32 Hispanics (6 percent), 12 Asian Americans (2 percent), and 101 women (19 percent), as well as the first Buddhist, the first Hindu, and the first openly bisexual legislator. The Democratic Party formed the first caucus in which white men were not the majority, and the Republican Party welcomed the first black senator from the South since Reconstruction.
:: from The Weekly Review via Harpers (which is about my favorite email all week, thanks Ash!) ::
It’s no secret that the CIA and FBI can read your emails for any old reason they choose without having to clear it with anyone first (because you’re a terrorist). That was on track to change with an amendment attached to an upcoming bill… before said amendment was quietly dropped from said bill.
The bill in question is the smoothy titled Video Privacy Protection Act Amendments Act of 2012, which requires video service providers like Netflix to allow you to opt out of having your information posted on places like your Facebook page. According to AllGov, an amendment that was attached to the bill that would’ve required the federal government to obtain a warrant before snooping around your inbox disappeared as the bill was passed.
In the context of the the uproar over CIA director David Petraeus’s extra marital affair, I think it’s worth noting that the CIA director Alan Dulles fucked the queen of Greece one day in his coat room and it wasn’t a big deal.
Nate Silver at the FiveThirtyEight blog currently has meta poll analysis showing that Obama has a 83.7% chance of winning the election. It makes people annnnngry
The more I think about the rift between political journalism and Nate Silver, the more it seems that it’s one that’s fundamentally an issue of epistemology — how journalists know what they know. Here’s why I think that’s the case.
When we talk about the epistemology of journalism, it all eventually ties into objectivity. The journalistic norm of objectivity is more than just a careful neutrality or attempt to appear unbiased; for journalists, it’s the grounds on which they claim the authority to describe reality to us. And the authority of objectivity is rooted in a particular process.
That process is very roughly this: Journalists get access to privileged information from official sources, then evaluate, filter, and order it through the rather ineffable quality alternatively known as “news judgment,” “news sense,” or “savvy.” This norm of objectivity is how political journalists say to the public (and to themselves), “This is why you can trust what we say we know — because we found it out through this process.” (This is far from a new observation – there are decades ofsociologicalresearch on this.)
Silver’s process — his epistemology — is almost exactly the opposite of this: Where political journalists’ information is privileged, his is public, coming from poll results that all the rest of us see, too.
Where political journalists’ information is evaluated through a subjective and nebulous professional/cultural sense of judgment, his evaluation is systematic and scientifically based. It involves judgment, too, but because it’s based in a scientific process, we can trace how he applied that judgment to reach his conclusions.
Both of those different ways of knowing inevitably result in different types of conclusions.
At this point in the election everyone knows who they are going to vote for (or at least who they are posturing around but won’t actually get around to visiting the polls for). At this point horserace politics and endless snark is basically all that’s happening. I’m, much, much more interested in the way that we get at the nature of how we acquire our knowledge and the process by which we make decisions.
All jackets should have a pocket big enough to fit a kindle.
- I finished reading the Wheel of Time Book 1 – The Eye of the World.
It was good and addictive but other times is was dreadfully slow. I like fiction that has a spectacular story (check!) but also says something about the world at large (not so much). Aside from some potshots at fundamentalist religions and fantastic prose, I’m not sure I learned anything from it. The Krugster just wrote a new introduction for the Foundation Series and he blurbs wheel of time:
This unique plot structure creates an ironic resonance between the ‘Foundation’ novels and a seemingly unrelated genre, what I’d call prophetic fantasy. These are novels – Robert Jordan’s ‘Wheel of Time’ cycle comes to mind – in which the protagonists have a mystical destiny, foreshadowed in visions and ancient writings, and the unfolding of the plot tells of their march toward that destiny. Actually, I’m a sucker for that kind of fiction, which makes for great escapism precisely because real life is nothing like that. The first half of the ‘Foundation’ series manages, however, to have the structure of prophecy and destiny without the mysticism; it’s all about the laws of psychohistory, you see, and Hari Seldon’s prescience comes from his mathematics.
- I got about half way through Decision Points – The Autobiography of George W. Bush before I gave up. One is given the distinct impression that Bush is a great man with an uncommon vision and leadership skills mercilessly set upon by a duplicitous media for no reason whatsoever. It’s somehow tragic the way in which he is deeply frustrated and personally hurt that no one else realizes that his administration was an unmitigated success. I found it strange to read because it jumps around in time with no warning, one sentence he’s talking about the 70s the next he’s talking about being bombarded by pardon requests at the end of his term. Sometimes the changes are thematically related, other times they appear to be completely random free associations. The book dispelled a few myths that I believed about Bush but made me realize some things were far worse than I knew. For instance, I had long believed that Bush’s Texas cowboy persona was a deftly calculated act by an east coast upper crust ivy leaguer. It turns out that aside from college and boarding school he spent his whole life in Texas. He is a man who is routinely portrayed as possessing this shoot first, ask questions later cowboy swagger. That’s not the right description. Cowboy has a lot of hero connotation in popular culture, it’s more accurate to say that he is an arrogant fratboy. I was amazed by how open he was about binge drinking, drinking and driving, hard partying and just generally fucking around with his life. What hit me was how lucky the country is that Bush at least surrounded himself with intelligent people. After hearing about the 9/11 attacks he actually demanded to fly back to the whitehouse to show that he wasn’t afraid of an entirely unknown assault. The secret service wouldn’t let him. He also refers to Clarence Thomas as a wise, principled and humble man which blew my mind.
- I am currently reading The Nine: The Secret World of the Supreme Court By Jeffrey Toobin. It seems more like a long magazine article than a book. Interesting perspective on Sandra Day O’Connor was one of the most important jurists of the century. I will probably read The Oath: The Obama Whitehouse and the Supreme Court by Jeffrey Toobin next.
Does anyone remember the American Jobs Act? A year ago President Obama proposed boosting the economy with a combination of tax cuts and spending increases, aimed in particular at sustaining state and local government employment. Independent analysts reacted favorably. For example, the consulting firm Macroeconomic Advisers estimated that the act would add 1.3 million jobs by the end of 2012.
There were good reasons for these positive assessments. Although you’d never know it from political debate, worldwide experience since the financial crisis struck in 2008 has overwhelmingly confirmed the proposition that fiscal policy “works,” that temporary increases in spending boost employment in a depressed economy (and that spending cuts increase unemployment). The Jobs Act would have been just what the doctor ordered.
But the bill went nowhere, of course, blocked by Republicans in Congress. And now, having prevented Mr. Obama from implementing any of his policies, those same Republicans are pointing to disappointing job numbers and declaring that the president’s policies have failed.
Think of it as a two-part strategy. First, obstruct any and all efforts to strengthen the economy, then exploit the economy’s weakness for political gain. If this strategy sounds cynical, that’s because it is. Yet it’s the G.O.P.’s best chance for victory in November.
But are Republicans really playing that cynical a game?
You could argue that we’re having a genuine debate about economic policy, in which Republicans sincerely believe that the things Mr. Obama proposes would actually hurt, not help, job creation. However, even if that were true, the fact is that the economy we have right now doesn’t reflect the policies the president wanted.
In 1927, Johnson taught mostly Mexican children at the Welhausen School in Cotulla, some ninety miles south of San Antonio in La Salle County. When he returned to San Marcos in 1965, after having signed the Higher Education Act of 1965, Johnson looked back:
“I shall never forget the faces of the boys and the girls in that little Welhausen Mexican School, and I remember even yet the pain of realizing and knowing then that college was closed to practically every one of those children because they were too poor. And I think it was then that I made up my mind that this nation could never rest while the door to knowledge remained closed to any American.”
“In his years of working on Johnson, Robert Caro has come to know him better — or to understand him better — than Johnson knew or understood himself. He knows Johnson’s good side and his bad: how he became the youngest Senate majority leader in history and how, by whispering one thing in the ears of the Southern senators and another in Northern ears, he got the Civil Rights Act of 1957 through a Congress that had squelched every civil rights bill since 1875; how he fudged his war record and earned himself a medal by doing nothing more than taking a single plane ride; how, while vice president during the Cuban missile crisis, his hawkishness scared the daylights out of President Kennedy and his brother Robert. Caro has learned about Johnson’s rages, his ruthlessness, his lies, his bribes, his insecurities, his wheedling, his groveling, his bluster, his sycophancy, his charm, his kindness, his streak of compassion, his friends, his enemies, his girlfriends, his gofers and bagmen, his table manners, his drinking habits, even his nickname for his penis: not Johnson, but Jumbo.”
“The Muslim Brotherhood can’t even penetrate the Egyptian government.”
- A Muslim Brotherhood leader, in response to claims that his group had infiltrated top levels of the U.S. government.
I want to put another picture here but the only thing I have handy is this elephant playing at the beach.
The head of the DEA, Michelle Leonhart, just said that medical marijuana should be between a patient and their doctor. This is huge news. I love the way that Rep. Steve Cohen used a Navy Seal with cancer as a fulcrum in his argument.
This particular comment was lobbed at me primarily from aggrieved straight white males. Leaving aside entirely that the piece was neither, let me just say that I think it’s delightfulthat these straight white males are now engaged on issues of racism and sexism. It would be additionally delightful if they were engaged on issues of racism and sexism even when they did not feel it was being applied to them — say, for example,when it’s regarding people who historically have most often had to deal with racism and sexism (i.e., not white males). Keep at it, straight white males! You’re on the path now!
I also enjoyed this one
5. What about affirmative action (and/or other similar programs)? It just proves SWMs don’t have it easy anymore!
Asserting that programs designed to counteract decades of systematic discrimination are proof that Straight White Males are not operating on the lowest difficulty setting in the game of life is not the winning argument you apparently believe it is.
Both the original piece and the followup are great, quick reads. The comments on both are always entertaining and occasionally insightful. I think it’s a bit easier to explain privilege as just the person who doesn’t get discriminated against in that particular scenario.
I’d say this guy got away lucky, especially for pulling something this stupid.