Thursday, October 21, 2010

More Infrastructural Development in Afghanistan

Good Afghan News also reports on highway improvements that are in motion. Yes, good news. [Click on the title for a link.]

Road construction projects underway in Faryab, Kabul, Parwan and Bamiyan provinces

Earlier this week, Afghanistan’s Public Works Ministry announced that a 7.7 kilometer road will be built in Maimana, the capital of Afghanistan’s northern province of Faryab. The project will cost $2.4 million and it is scheduled to take one year to complete. The ministry said that the government has given the construction work to a local Afghan company because they want to boost the private business sector in Afghanistan.

Yesterday, the mayor of Kabul, Muhammad Yunus Nawandesh, told reporters that a project to asphalt the Parwan-sea road, Badam Bagh Square, Lab Jar road, Chelmetra road, Tajor Sultan High School road and Malika Soraya road has started. A total of 5.2 kilometers of road will be asphalted once the project is completed. The work is expected to take 6 months to complete. Kabulis hope that once the project is completed, it will help reduce traffic congestion in the city.

Today, Afghanistan’s Public Works Ministry announced that work on a highway between Parwan province and Bamiyan province has started. The road will be 104 kilometers long and 11 meters wide, and it is scheduled to take one year to complete. Once the work has been completed, travel between the two provinces will be much easier and faster, and it will improve the economy as it will be safer to take goods to markets and it will reduce travel time.

A railroad through Afghanistan

Good Afghan News [A great name, right?] has reported that the Chinese are planning to build a railroad through Afghanistan. In the long run, railroads, pipelines, airports, good highways, cell phones -- these will transform Afghanistan by making the country accessible to more influences and more opportunities by reducing the price and time of contact with the wider world. But also, importantly, infrastructural improvements like railroads make heavy industries more feasible. The huge copper mine being developed by the Chinese as Aynak are the immediate inducement to the Chinese to develop this railroad, but that railroad, with an extension into Hajigak, might also carry iron ore.

The Chinese are thinking ahead 50 years while many of us in the US can think ahead barely four years at a time.

Here is the article [click on my title above for a direct link]:

Afghanistan’s Ministry of Mines and the state-owned China Metallurgical Group Corporation (MCC) signed an agreement today in Kabul in which the Chinese firm agreed to construct a railway corridor in Afghanistan.

MCC will construct a railway corridor from Aynak Copper Mine in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Logar to eastern Torkham and northern Hairatan border towns. Logar is 60 km south of the capital city of Kabul. “This northern railway is part of a wider plan to extend the Afghan rail network to connect Afghanistan to ports in Iran and Pakistan,” Afghanistan’s Minister of Mines, Wahidullah Shahrani told the media today.

Shahrani also told the media that the railway corridor will not only be used for transporting mineral deposits, but will also be used for the transportation of goods and passengers as well. According to the Ministry, MCC has also committed to employ Afghan workers as much as possible, and at all levels of the project.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Who was the most profligate president?

Who was the most profligate president?

Many Americans seem to think that the Obama administration has been overspending wildly. And they seem to recoil from the recommendations of many economists, that the government should borrow even more than it has in order to get the economy moving, especially to fund improvements in the country’s aging infrastructure. The Republicans seem to have won over many folks to the view that the government should cut back spending at a time when it would be better to jump-start the flagging economy.

The discussion brings to mind a statement by Christopher Buckley, the son of the notable conservative William F. Buckley, on the PBS program NOW with Bill Moyers [3/3/06].

“President Bush has now borrowed more money than all other Presidents combined. The spending that he has enacted is amazing. It amazes me that he calls himself "conservative."”

I am ill equipped to know if this statement is correct. In fact, I’m unsure if anyone could know, because the Bush administration took the two wars they were fighting off-line. Presumably there is no good way to find out. Moreover, I don’t know if Christopher was a Republican like his father. But his statement is arresting, for it makes a claim about the profligacy of a recent Republican administration that American people have no idea of.

What worries me is that, unaware of exactly where the budget deficit came from, or who to blame for the collapse of the economy, the American people could elect back into office the very group of people that signed off on the profligacy of the former president.

And so bring the foxes back into the hen-house.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Text and Subtext in South Carolina Politics

Nikki Haley is likely to be elected governor of South Carolina, but to do that she has had to go through some hoops that reveal the actual nature of politics in South Carolina. Look at an article in the WSJ June 22, 2010: “Haley Keeps Taking the Southern Test.”

The article says that in order to pass muster with certain South Carolinans Mrs. Haley had to demonstrate that she identified with their “feelings” “about the state’s Civil War history.” In a debate with other Republican candidates she was questioned about her "compliance with conservative values." Mrs. Haley was, in fact, the only one to be asked “what she thought had caused the Civil War,” because she was the only one whose family had not been established in the state for several generations; she comes from a Sikh family although she now is Christian.

What startled me was the conception of the Civil War that stood behind this inquiry: “The South” here cannot mean the blacks of the south. Twenty-nine percent of South Carolina is black; the questioners had no interest in what those southern citizens "felt" about the Civil War. The Civil War: what could it mean to the blacks of South Carolina?

The “Southern Test” was of course a “White Southern Test”. A century and a half after the Civil War some people – white people -- in South Carolina are still fighting it. The subtext is race by another name.

If Nikki Haley is elected governor of the state it seems unlikely that she will represent the “feelings” of nearly a third of the state’s citizenry, the blacks whose “conservative values” will likely differ from those who demanded that she reconstruct the past into their particular image of it. The subtext of the past and of the present is, for these whites, the same.