Links from Nate Berg, Charles Bagli, Francis Fukuyama, and others.
In a monumental shift that is roiling the country’s politics, Brazil has switched — for the first time in decades — from being a net exporter to a net importer of people. The development, confirmed in recent government statistics, has been driven by a number of factors related to the country’s explosive economic growth of recent years: South Americans and Asians flocking to the world’s sixth-largest economy, Brazilian expats in countries like the United States returning home for more abundant jobs, and the European economic slowdown that is seeing a wave of Portuguese headed to work in the former colony (more than 50,000 got visas just between January 2010 and June 2011).
Los Angeles County is only putting a toe in the water. The toll applies to 11 miles of roadway, with another 14-mile stretch on Interstate 10 to open toll lanes next year. It is a one-year pilot program, financed by the federal government. Carpoolers (defined, generously, as a vehicle carrying two passengers), motorcycles and buses still travel free. And the county has a nearby example to study, since congestion pricing began in neighboring Orange County in 1995.
On February 1, 1953, a fierce, sustained storm created a huge surge in the North Sea off the coast of Holland. Floodwaters overtopped the dikes, swallowing half a million acres of land and killing nearly two thousand people. Within weeks of the storm, a government commission issued what came to be known as the Delta Plan, a set of recommendations for flood-control measures. Over the next four decades, the Dutch invested billions of guilders in a vast set of dams and barriers, culminating in the construction of the Maeslant Barrier, an enormous movable seawall to protect the port of Rotterdam. Since the Delta Plan went into effect, the Netherlands has not been flooded by the sea again.
If the Netherlands can build a wall system that protects an entire country that lies below sea level, then New York City can protect itself. Who should pay for these defenses? The protected property owners, of course. There is no reason why New York should look to the federal government in Washington for this spending.
The city has the money to pay the bill, and it should champion the principle that we only build sea walls or other barriers when the people who are protected pay for them. This helps ensure that the benefits justify the costs. We don’t want to go further down a path where every hamlet on the Eastern seaboard feels it has a right to federally financed storm protection.
Only about a dozen states have rules requiring judges to recuse themselves when lawyers who have contributed to their campaigns come into their courtrooms. Outdated disclosure rules allow interest groups to hide their contributions by channelling them through the state political party or front organisations.
…the 39 states that elect high-court judges need improved recusal requirements and robust public funding to keep judges from “dialling for dollars”. Instead, if the past several years are any kind of prologue, politicians will continue trying to hollow out judicial freedom by weakening independent commissions and strengthening the hands of governors and legislators in picking judges.