Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Location: Brunswick, Maine, United States

I'm back to work for the Global Network. Will continue to help Lisa Savage for US Senate campaign on my free time. Trying to self-isolate as much as possible. Best wishes and good luck to you all.

Friday, December 26, 2008

ROADS OR RAIL - OBAMA APPOINTS REPUBLICAN TO TRANSPORTATION


Retiring Illinois Republican Congressman Ray LaHood, a 14-year veteran of the House, has been chosen by Obama to be Secretary of Transportation.

Hood has a lifetime League of Conservation Voters score of 27% on his key environmental issue votes. Except for voting to expand Amtrack last year, and not wanting to see it privatized in Illinois, I have not been able to find any real transportation background that he might have had.

Rep. Hood was the chairman during most of Bill Clinton's impeachment in the House of Representatives a decade ago.

LaHood’s appointment should translate to sales opportunities and benefits for Caterpillar Inc., which is based in his Peoria, Illinois district. Caterpillar is a serious supplier of road building equipment and would stand to make big money from the Obama stimulus package that will put alot dollars into road work.

Brian Imus, director of the public interest group Illinois PIRG, said LaHood would face a difficult task rebuilding "a federal [transportation] system that is truly broke," adding, "It appears as though others with longer, more distinguished resumes were bypassed [for the job of Transportation Secretary]."

Among those LaHood maintained a friendly relationship with over the years is White House chief of staff-designate Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., whose aggressive style infuriated many Republicans but whom LaHood praised publicly for competence and pragmatism.

President-elect Obama should make it a top priority to build a national mass transit network. But early indications are he is talking about rebuilding roads and bridges which are fundamental to the car culture in the U.S. I’ve yet to hear him utter the words mass transportation – but coming from Chicago public mass transit should not be a foreign concept to him.

The Progressive reports that such a major expansion of mass transit would be keeping with his pledge to jolt the economy back to work and to take seriously the crisis of global warming. Economically, a coast-to-coast high-speed rail network would put Americans back to work in big numbers.

In California alone, planners estimate creating nearly 160,000 construction-related jobs to build such a system, with an additional 450,000 permanent jobs by 2035. Overall, the state anticipates more than $1 billion in annual revenue could come from such a rail system.

The University of Mass-Amherst Economics Department study in October, 2007 showed that investing $1 billion of our tax dollars in mass transit production would create 19,795 jobs but if that same $1 billion is instead spent on military production only 8,555 jobs would be created.

Your call - which shall it be? More and wider roads or a national rail system. Speak up now please.

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