Archive for infrastructure

Roads and bridges falling down, falling down, falling down...

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LondonBridgew384h202

Sing it with me, now!

Roads and bridges falling down,

Falling down,

Falling down!

Roads and bridges falling down!

Where is Congress?

Face it, America, not only is our infrastructure in a total state of disrepair, but our stellar lawmakers *coughGOPcough* make our roads and bridges look positively reliable.

Via the Los Angeles Times:

America's transportation infrastructure, once an engine of mobility and productivity, has fallen into such disrepair that it's become an economic albatross. Consumers shell out billions of dollars for extra car repairs every year. Insufficient and poorly maintained roads mean costly bottlenecks for businesses, which discourage expansion and hobble American companies competing in the global economy. [...]

A quarter of the country's 147,870 bridges are deficient or obsolete, according to a July report by the White House on infrastructure investment. [...]

[In East Greenwich, south of Providence, Rhode Island]... some of the supporting beams underneath were so beaten down by time and rainwater that they were "paper-thin." [...] All told, about a third of [California's] public roads are in bad shape, compared with 14% nationally.

Public safety, schmublic schmafety.

"Pro-life" my ass.

Here's a little flashback dedicated to Republican Congress members who obstruct infrastructure bills the way Fox obstructs truth in broadcasting:

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Overnight: The Tennessee Valley Authority

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TVA

Whenever I hear right-wingers / Libertarians complaining about the Federal Government, it's clear to me they have not the slightest idea about how to run a country and the important role the Federal Government can play and has played. Ask them about the Tennessee Valley Authority and you will draw a blank.

Here's what the TVA did for the south, thanks to the New Deal.

From YouTube (for this video)

President Roosevelt's Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) brings electricity to the masses as it works to build dams and transport coal in horse drawn carriages throughout the Tennessee region. Norris Dam and Muscle Shoals and Wheeler are all featured in this Department of the Interior footage from the National Archives.

Tennessee Valley, 1936

Part 1 shows a dam, generators, power lines and a power house; workers constructing a dam with steam shovels and other machinery; the flooded Tennessee River; and views of horse drawn coal cars, deserted farms, and eroded land. President Roosevelt addresses Congress requesting the creation of Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). It shows Wilson dam and powerhouse at Muscle Shoals, Ala., and Norris dam under construction. Part 2 shows views of laborers operating dump trucks, drills, steam shovels, and other equipment to construct Norris dam. Mrs. Roosevelt, Arthur E. Morgan, and David Lilienthal inspect Norris dam site. Includes an aerial view of the town of Norris. Part 3 shows the library, bank, dormitories, homes, and cafeteria for workers in Norris, and views of machine shops and trade schools. Workers watch a track meet. Wheeler dam is shown under construction. Rock is drilled and blasted, power shovels scoop up the rock, and concrete is poured into forms. President Roosevelt arrives in a motorcade, inspects the TVA area, and speaks. Part 4 shows a drill taking a rock core sample, men chopping down trees and burning brush, and men spraying river banks. Includes views of eroded land and a fertilizer factory. In part 5, land is contour plowed to prevent erosion. Water flows over Wilson dam at Muscle Shoals. Scenes of city streets and building illustrate the blessings of electric power from TVA. Contrasts the old animal and human muscle methods of performing farm chores with the modern electrical way.

The federal government is just as important today as it was when FDR was president.

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You Can Pay At The Pump Or At The Body Shop

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gas pumps

As if the price of gas isn't high enough already comes this news from The Hill:

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) is introducing legislation that would nearly double the 18.4-cents-per-gallon federal gas tax that is traditionally used to pay for federal transportation projects.

Blumenauer's bill would increase the gas tax by 15 cents, matching a proposal that was included in the 2011 Simpson-Bowles budget reform recommendations.

The legislation would result in drivers paying an extra 33.4 cents per gallon on their purchases, in addition to state taxes.

On the surface, this pisses me off. But then I got to thinking, you know what else pisses me off? Last week I hit a pot hole at night and damaged my car and threw the front tire out of alignment. I got it adjusted, but I was out a hundred dollars.

Streets aren't repairing themselves on their own. And bridges, overpasses, rail lines and runways aren't getting any safer with the lack of action by the 113th congress. They're content with just talking about our need to upgrade infrastructure. They're not willing to do anything about it.

We can't wait much longer. We're paying for it one way or another. If I hit that pothole, how many other people have done the same and how many more will be following behind me?

Blumenauer's bill sounds pricey. But when you come down to it, his proposed increase, along with the current federal tax on gasoline comes to less than 10% of the current price/gallon -- an amount similar to the sales tax in many places right now. But look what we could get for that. Safety on the roads, high speed rail upgrades (currently they exist only in California), repaired airport runways.

I'm not generally down for tax increases, but rather for taxes going down. Yet I'm also not for automobile repairs that are caused by a crumbling infrastructure. Maybe it's better to pay the 10% at the pump than face body shop work or worse, the potential loss of life.

Can we put a price on that? We're already paying in more ways than one. And consider this as well: The last time the federal gas tax was increased was 1993. You don't remember, do you? That's because we learned to live with it. And we didn't suffer irreparably. Prices didn't increase. Productivity didn't go down. People didn't lose jobs. So maybe it's time to pay the piper -- so long as he uses the money to employ the workers to fix the problems. That means jobs which help our economy and that's something we have do have to fix right away.

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What's Your EDR Telling The Government About You?

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spy vs spy

My EDR. What's that? And how does the government even know I  have one?

Well, for starters, an EDR is an event data recorder. It's a device that goes into your car. For it's intended purpose, it records key functions of your vehicle and in case of an accident, it can be accessed and details of what was going on just before, during and immediately after the event can be studied. Think of it as your car's Black Box -- like airlines use.

On the surface that sounds pretty cool. Maybe it can even be used to prove that a cop who wrote you a ticket for speeding was wrong. Of if accused of not coming to a complete stop at a stop sign, you might be able to show you actually had. There's all kinds of good uses this EDR could be for all of us.

All of us? Yep. It seems they're now standard equipment on personal vehicles, cars and light trucks. The HILL

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) mandated that all light-duty vehicles be installed with EDRs and more than 96 percent of 2013 car models have the technology already.

This appears to be benign on the surface. But, hold on a minute. It will monitor things beyond just brake usage, speed, seatbelt engagement -- it'll also monitor location, outgoing or incoming phone calls, and our routines.

Who's going to have access to that information?

Right now, it's generally open season. A few states have initiated privacy laws about when and how that data can be retrieved and disseminated. But generally speaking, many hackers and the US government have access. This means they can be tracking you, monitoring you and even selling your information like what markets you shop at, where you drop by to grab a brewski on the way home from work, even if you're having an affair at some hotel or motel.

The senators said they were concerned because currently there are no limitations on what information can be recorded and who can use it.

But fear not:

Several states have passed EDR privacy laws, but (Senators) Klobuchar and Hoeven said all American drivers deserve the same protections. Their bill would allow the data to be used if it is requested by a court of law or an owner consents.

“While technologies like EDRs have shown tremendous promise in improving safety on our roadways, we need to make sure that technological advancements don’t outpace privacy protections,” Klobuchar said. “This bipartisan bill makes clear that the vehicle owner is also the rightful owner of any data collected by an EDR, while still ensuring law enforcement has the tools they need to protect citizens.”

With the NSA snooping into everything we do, they don't need more unauthorized spying and recording of our habits. Here's a h/t to the bi-partisan efforts of Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.) who just announced that they’d introduce a bill aimed at protecting the privacy of drivers.

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Engineers: Thousands of US bridges dangerously close to collapsing, "only a matter of time"

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london bridge is falling down

Hey, remember when President Obama was out there campaigning for that crazy stimulus package? To rebuild our crumbling infrastructure? To make our roads and bridges safe again? And remember when Republicans obstructed and belittled him, saying that all he wanted to do was spend, spend, spend! and that would lead to the collapse of our already fragile economy!

How ironic, because by preventing a substantial economic stimulus program, those on the right are causing the collapse of our already fragile infrastructure before our very eyes, and very possibly the collapse of very lives and livelihoods.

According to the Times, "some of the most important bridge links in the country are now threatened by age." No sh**, Sherlock.

The Los Angeles Times:

America's roads and bridges have been eroding for decades, but the deeper they fall into disrepair, the less money there is to fix them. First, the recession crippled local budgets, cutting the money available for transportation projects. As states began to recover, the federal government adopted its own mandatory budget cuts via sequestration. Then last month, the federal legislation that annually funds transportation projects across the country hit a roadblock of Republican opposition that throttled multibillion-dollar transportation bills in the House and Senate. [...]

Every day, U.S. commuters are taking more than 200 million trips across deficient bridges, according to a variety of analyses, and at least 8,000 bridges across the country are both "structurally deficient" and "fracture critical" — engineering terms for bridges that could fail if even a single component breaks. [...]

Officials from several states, including Pennsylvania, have warned that without substantial new federal funding of the kind recently roadblocked in Congress, they may be forced to close many of their deficient bridges, potentially preventing cars, emergency vehicles and school buses from getting to entire neighborhoods. [...]

Got that, Republicans? Because you blocked funding, Americans are facing life-threatening situations, whether it be the misfortune of crossing a bridge just as it falls to pieces, or being denied emergency care due to a lack of access. Nice.

I live in Southern California, and per the Times report, 16 bridges right here in the Los Angeles area are "in the highest-risk category, aging and subject to collapse with the failure of a single component."

Thanks, GOP. You've done it again.

Via .ecobumperstickers.com

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ENTIRE VIDEO: Pres. Obama speaks in Chattanooga, Tenn., scoffs at #Keystone, at GOP for having no jobs plan

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Obama Chattanooga Tennesse middle class jobs speech

President Obama's speech starts at about 22:50.

He spoke at an Amazon distribution center in Chattanooga, Tennessee on his "grand bargain" proposal. Despite the GOP's pre-emptive rejection of his ideas, he's trying to break the gridlock over the deficit by cutting corporate tax rates in exchange for job investment to help the middle class.

He suggested boosting natural gas production (as well as solar and wind energy) as long as we "protect our air and our water." Elaborate, please, Mr. President, because fracking is already hurting our air and our water.

And then he came to my favorite part:

I am laying out my ideas to give the middle class a better shot in a 21st-century economy. Now it’s time for Republicans to lay out theirs. If they’ve got a better plan to bring back more manufacturing jobs, or create jobs rebuilding our infrastructure for the long run, or help workers earn the high-tech skills our businesses demand, let’s hear ‘em. But gutting protections for our air and water isn’t a jobs plan. Gutting investments in things like education and energy isn’t a jobs plan. Putting all your eggs in the basket of an oil pipeline that may only create about 50 permanent jobs, and wasting the country’s time by taking something like 40 meaningless votes to repeal Obamacare isn’t a jobs plan.

Waitwhat? Did he just imply that he may very well reject the Keystone XL tar sands Pipeline disaster-in-waiting project? Oh pleaseohplease make it so.

And the mockitude of the GOP was entertaining, too.

Here are a few more excerpts from the speech as written:

We’ve seen a faction of Republicans in Congress hurt a fragile recovery by suggesting they wouldn’t pay the very bills Congress rang up, and threaten to shut down the people’s government if they can’t shut down Obamacare. Then, rather reduce our deficits with a scalpel in a way that promotes growth – by cutting programs we don’t need, fixing ones we do, and making government more efficient – this same group has left in place a meat cleaver called “the sequester” that harms growth, hurts our military, and guts the investments in education, science, and medical research we need to make this country a magnet for good jobs.

So here’s the bottom line: I’m willing to work with Republicans on reforming our corporate tax code, as long as we use the money from transitioning to a simpler tax system for a significant investment in creating middle-class jobs. That’s the deal. [...]

[From the delivered speech, off script:] I get it, I'm not popular in Tennessee. But I've run my last campaign, so I don't need to spin. The truth is...  [and then he went back on script]...

The very last part of the speech got a lot of cheers. Check it out.

mitch mcconnell gridlock obstruction

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"What a sad caricature our democracy has become."

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frustrated14

Today's Los Angeles Times letters to the editor, because our voices matter:

Re "Deficit extremists, blind to data, are doing active economic harm," Column, June 12

It is so refreshing to read Michael Hiltzik's explanation of how Congress' ill-timed obsession with deficit reduction actually retards economic growth. Other priorities, especially job creation, deserve much greater emphasis.

But Hiltzik makes another valuable point that merits wider discussion: With current interest rates so low, this is an ideal time to start digging ourselves out of our backlog in infrastructure maintenance.

In its "2013 Report Card for America's Infrastructure," the American Society of Civil Engineers gives America a "D+" for the state of our dams, levees, roads and schools, among others. Just one of many distressing examples: The National Park Service struggles with an $11 billion maintenance backlog.

To create jobs, grow the economy and remedy this shameful underfunding, we need investment in infrastructure now.

Grace Bertalot

Anaheim

***

Re "A restrained state budget," Editorial, and "A longer day in court," June 13

Shame on the governor, the Legislature and, frankly, The Times' editorial board. The dismantling of the California legal system, our third branch of government, continues with the new proposed state budget. Your editorial makes no mention of our courts, where citizens wait too long for justice.

The California courthouse infrastructure, especially in Los Angeles County, was built from decades of prudent decisions, and now many locations are being closed down. We have a transportation infrastructure built over decades with billions of dollars. Would we shut down the 5 Freeway through the Grapevine to save money? Of course not; that would be stupid and silly.

So is the closing of our courthouses.

Clayton Anderson

San Clemente

***

Re "Warning on greenhouse gases," June 11

The International Energy Agency, "an independent research group established by the world's most-industrialized nations," has sounded a warning on the perils of climate change if greenhouse gas emissions remain unchecked. The lying, greedy conspiracy of climate scientists has obviously gotten to them.

Congress remains uninterested, but a miraculous reversal in interest would suddenly manifest if only the scientific community could outmatch the fossil fuel industry's kickbacks to lawmakers loyally blocking any action. What a sad caricature our democracy has become.

Wendy Blais

North Hills

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