America’s Highways, Running on Empty –


WASHINGTON — IF you think your commute is getting worse, it’s probably not your imagination. And no, it’s not because there are more cars on the road. The potholes, the stalled construction projects, the congestion — it’s because the highway trust fund is almost empty and, without a fix, could run out of money this summer.

Federal transportation funding relies heavily on user-based fees, in the form of gas taxes. While that worked for decades, it began to break down after Congress stopped raising the tax, which has been stuck at 18.4 cents a gallon for over 20 years. Since then, people have begun driving less and using more fuel-efficient cars, which means less tax is paid. Even worse, the tax is not indexed to inflation.

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Rima NYT Comment SmallUnfortunately, this congress is nowhere near passing laws that are going to address the problem in any real way. In the absence of the enactment of a real infrastructure and jobs bill since 2010, and the exhaustion of stimulus funds, states have been scrambling to find ways to meet their needs. Many states have resorted to privatizing roads. Obviously, putting toll booths on every highway of every state is not a workable or fair solution.

We hear from McClatchy-DC that congressional Republicans want to siphon money to transportation from cutting USPS mail delivery to 5 days a week. 

“Rather than raise the tax or find some other stable source of revenue, Congress has borrowed $54 billion in general funds since 2008. The House Transportation Committee projects that as much as $15 billion would be needed to extend the highway fund for just one year.

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On Inequality Denial –

Paul Krugman

A while back I published an article titled “The Rich, the Right, and the Facts,” in which I described politically motivated efforts to deny the obvious — the sharp rise in U.S. inequality, especially at the very top of the income scale. It probably won’t surprise you to hear that I found a lot of statistical malpractice in high places.

Nor will it surprise you to learn that nothing much has changed. Not only do the usual suspects continue to deny the obvious, but they keep rolling out the same discredited arguments: Inequality isn’t really rising; O.K., it’s rising, but it doesn’t matter because we have so much social mobility; anyway, it’s a good thing, and anyone who suggests that it’s a problem is a Marxist.

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Rima NYT Comment SmallThe Giles piece, in many ways, is worse than the Reinhardt and Rogoff “error.” There is no error here; only an attempt to tarnish and discredit, all a part of the right’s mission to pull the wool over the world’s eyes. That’s right. I am saying it. The right wing conspiracy is an international one.

It’s really sad that the Financial Times is complicit in the lie. It’s sad that so many of the trusted institutions that make up the media are divided between right and left, truth and lies, facts and fiction – engaging in propaganda.

That Piketty’s book contained errors is normal for such a huge book. US data, the lion’s share of capital, was not in question. The errors change nothing. 

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How to Get Girls Into Coding –

WHEN I was 7 years old, I knew the capitals of most major countries and their currencies. I had to, if I wanted to track down a devious criminal mastermind in the computer game “Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?” On screen, the ACME Detective Agency would spit out clues like notable landmarks to help players identify the city where Carmen’s globe-trotting henchmen were hiding out. I wouldn’t learn how to pronounce Reykjavik for more than a decade, but I could tell you that its currency was called the krona.

I was the child of Indian immigrants, and like any begrudging Bengal tiger cub, I penciled in fill-in-the-blank maps and memorized multiplication tables after dinner. I was much more motivated to learn about geography by chasing Carmen Sandiego on the family Macintosh Plus. I couldn’t confidently point to Iceland on a map. But I did become a technology reporter.

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Rima NYT Comment SmallYour assessment is spot-on, Nitasha!

The problems we’re up against are the strong resurgent sexist and anti-intellectual sentiments in our lives today. It is unsurprising to read about the discouragement of those girls who gave after-school programs a try. Where is the nurturing and support from the rest of us? Where would they get the sense that society is encouraging them? Where is that wind of change that tells a girl that it’s ok, she can be whoever she wants to be and she’ll have the same chance at a technical career as her male peers? If even Google can’t manage to hire more women… Right?

My daugher is a second year fine arts major with a strong interest in gaming design. Here’s what she has to say:

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Full Screed Ahead –

Frank Bruni

WE no longer have news. We have springboards for commentary. We have cues for Tweets.

Something happens, and before the facts are even settled, the morals are deduced and the lessons drawn. The story is absorbed into agendas. Everyone has a preferred take on it, a particular use for it. And as one person after another posits its real significance, the discussion travels so far from what set it in motion that the truth — the knowable, verifiable truth — is left in the dust.

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Rima NYT Comment Small“… Americans have seemingly grown accustomed to this. They may even hunger for it.”

Not this American. No, sir! There isn’t a day when I don’t lament the fact that our national press looks more like the National Enquirer used to look to most of us up until a dozen years ago. CNN and its obsessively ludicrous coverage of Flight 370 is only one example of how a news outlet undergoes a “Foxification.” So, when the Jill Abramson story hit the wire, it wasn’t so much the whys of her story, but how the Times handled it. The handling was as far from classy as you can get. People come and go. They succeed or fail. That’s expected. How those successes and failures are handled, on the other hand, need to inspire confidence.

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