Sunday, November 19, 2017

America the Beautiful... Infrastructure 🚃

In all of 241 years, the United States of America, has risen to become the richest country and greatest power, ever.  The equity and assets built since the industrial revolution and furthermore, since WW2, have shaped this country into a leader and innovator.

The USA, where any man or woman can persevere to become whatever they want- "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness"; there are no caste systems, and everyone is guaranteed these "unalienable rights", as prescribed in the Declaration of Independence. With it's capitalist economy (and safety nets), independent states/republics and freedoms, it's no wonder that  millions (billions?) of people from all over the world want to live here.

That being said... The United States aren't without their problems and perils. The financial position of the USA is eroding, in part, due to developing nations increasing their wealth and adding to the global economy.  Although the wealth of the USA is growing, in terms of GDP- gross domestic product, it's at a slower rate than developing nations. Coupled with slower growth are increased liabilities or debt.



As far as money, debt and liabilities are concerned, you could point to countless inefficiencies and WASTE along the Federal, state and local governments, that contribute to our fiscal situation. Most of the time, when it comes to sorting out the problems, it all comes back to $$$.  Where are the tax dollars going? Well,  ~ 60% of the Federal budget goes to maintain social security, medicare/medicaid, safety net programs.  Spending is always on the lawmakers lips and government budgets seem to be a daily headline.  Whether it be funding for a new public high school, resurfacing for a major highway, military, social security, medicare, etc...  Soaring healthcare costs/spending and social security depletion are always talked about, but little is done.


If the USA is so rich, why are many services and systems sub standard when compared to other industrialized countries? 

"All politics is local" - Tip O'Neill

Infrastructure: roads, bridges, railroads, utilities, airports and ports, are the veins and arteries (literally) are the transportation systems that keep our country alive.  Hundreds of millions of Americans depend on them everyday.  Maintaining these infrastructures relies on a a stream of funding from all different sources- taxes (federal, state, local) to tolls and ridership fees.


One key component of major metropolitan cities are their commuter rail or subway systems that ferry people in and out of economic centers. The largest of which, the New York City Subway system, fittingly, operates in the largest city in the USA.  Although the Subway is the largest in terms of size and ridership, the problems experienced by it are mirrored in other aging transit systems across the country- increased ridership, worsening service.

The impressive assessment of NYC Subway, by the NYTimes- How Politics and Bad Decisions Starved New York's Subways is a scathing report of waste and mismanagement.

Now, without going into all the details regarding the disrepair of the system, (one of the oldest and largest in the world), the first few paragraphs struck like a sword-
"Signal problems and car equipment failures occur twice as frequently as a decade ago, but hundreds of mechanic positions have been cut because there is not enough money to pay them — even though the average total compensation for subway managers has grown to nearly $300,000 a year."

"Daily ridership has nearly doubled in the past two decades to 5.7 million, but New York is the only major city in the world with fewer miles of track than it had during World War II. Efforts to add new lines have been hampered by generous agreements with labor unions and private contractors that have inflated construction costs to five times the international average."

Among all the news/noise Americans hear all day, everyday, about current events and the likes, the most subvert situation nobody has challenged effectively are the cost, salaries and compensation of public works projects, workers and their impact on the areas they serve.

Now how is it, that a manager for the MTA (metro transit authority) makes $300k???  the same amount,as a highly trained, licensed, and experienced shipping pilot (captain), who him/herself is unionized too....   Public works and "fare wage" rates have gone through the roof and it's about time somebody stepped up to the mic, assess the problems and hold those accountable. BRAVO New York Times #NYTIMES for a great piece on the nation's most critical transportation system, and it's fleecing by directors, unions, politicians, contractors, and the likes.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Hurricane Alley


As of today, there have already been two Category 5 Atlantic hurricanes and 13 named (Atlantic) storms in total- the official hurricane season doesn't end until November 30th.

"The season is one of only six years to feature at least two Category 5 hurricanes" 
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Category_5_Atlantic_hurricanes

The bulk of the battery from these storms, has been felt by the Caribbean islands, mostly the Leeward Islands and the Bahamas.  Living and growing up in Hurricane Alley, the residents know how devastating these storms are, and what peril they bring.  I have spent much time in the Caribbean, and have a great affinity and kindred spirit for the islands, their people and the culture. My heart goes out to the people of these islands.

Although i've lived along the Atlantic seaboard and Gulf Coast the majority of my life, the most powerful hurricane i've had to endure was Hurricane Bob, in August 1991. Bob was only a Category 2-3 storm and wreaked havoc on North Carolina, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Long Island and Connecticut.


In the wake of Hurricane Bob and the ferocious Hurricane Andrew in 1992 (a Category 5 storm with 175mph winds), which blasted the Bahamas and Florida- Construction/building codes and standards were updated and upgraded across the maritime Atlantic states (and still are) to withstand the brutal impacts of these storms With Miami-Dade county, going so far as to writing their own.

In addition to the obvious destruction- loss of power and water, flooding and general chaos; one thing that blows me away, is how much the Caribbean islands still need proper education and training on wood frame and reinforced concrete construction.  Obviously, high-end construction is built to high standards, but that's because they have to protect their investments.

What i'm talking about, is the wealthy parent countries- like Britain, France, the Netherlands and USA, investing in infrastructure (buildings, roads and utilities), training and materials, to mitigate these disasters; in their overseas playgrounds, these small, autonomous, tourist dependent colonies.  Of these islands, the US territories (Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands) have, by far, the best infrastructure ~ in the Caribbean, that I have witnessed.



'Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.'

Materials, as paltry as a $0.27 - Simpson Strong-Tie H2.5A Hurricane tie, 
can mean the difference between your roof blowing off, or staying on.





Saturday, January 28, 2017

Politically speaking

After waking up and seeing the Bloomberg headline yesterday, "Deepening Feud Pushes U.S. and Mexico toward trade war" i took to facebook (pathetic), to rant and vent to my 'Friends'; as if they didn't have better things to read than some diatribe about economics and how NAFTA is important. Albeit in a maniacal, profane rant:
Economics crash course: USA manufacturing is at all time high, skilled manufacturing is and has been understaffed for years. Automation kills jobs too, assholes. If people think that they can just sit back and think that this coked up Messiah is gonna change your lives, you're fucked. Mexico 🇲🇽 is our #3 trading partner, #2 China and #1 Canada

From January 2016, from Factcheck.org


I did this, because some people are ignorant and need to wake the fuck up. I know that some people have it rough, but compared to 8-9-10 years ago, i'd say 80-95% of Americans are better off than they were after the Great Recession. But WTF, the government can't do everything for you, we live in a BIG country, one without border walls and one you are free to move around and live wherever you want.
I wrote on twitter (another social media shitstorm), that 30 years ago, kids had paper routes, now nobody reads papers, you don't see former paperboys sitting around, commiserating about getting their jobs back. You need to be able to adapt to the world instead of expecting the world to adapt to you.