American Elephants

All About Repairing “Crumbling” Roads and Bridges by The Elephant's Child


President Obama has always had trouble with the jobs thing. According to his biography, he only worked for a year in the private sector, as a copywriter, and hated the job. He conceives of public sector jobs as “service” jobs, doing good things for humanity, and the private sector, the free market; capitalism as uniformly bad, greedy and self-interested. A viewpoint that makes it a little hard to deal with a major unemployment problem.

From the very first, Obama spoke of building infrastructure, repairing those ‘crumbling’ roads and bridges, and if you remember — he was surprised to find that there weren’t any “shovel-ready jobs.” He does not understand the process of building infrastructure, nor exactly what ‘infrastructure’ actually is. It was a brand new word in 1927, according to Merriam Webster Online.

in·fra·struc·ture: noun

1.the underlying foundation or basic framework (as of a system or organization
2.the permanent installations required for military purposes
3. the system of public works of a country, state, or region; also :  the resources (as personnel, buildings, or equipment) required for an activity

For example, the Keystone XL pipeline is infrastructure.

In his newest book, The Rule of Nobody, Philip K. Howard uses the Bayonne Bridge as an example. It spans in a single graceful arch, the Kill Van Kull, a narrow channel that connects New York Harbor to the port of Newark, the largest port on the East Coast. The new generation of container ships, designed to pass through the newly widened Panama Canal require clearance of 215 feet. The Bayonne Bridge was 151 feet above the water. In 2008 the engineers turned in the solutions— a new bridge or a tunnel — to the Port Authority of NY & NJ. Each would cost more than $4 billion.

The project manager gulped and asked the engineers if the present bridge could not be retrofitted? The engineers came back in a few months and said yes, a new roadway could be constructed within the existing span, ½ at a time to keep the roads open, for a cost of $1 billion, a savings of $3 billion. That was 2009. By 2013 the Port still lacked approvals to start construction. Timing was important for the canal would reopen in 2015. No government official had the authority to appoint a lead agency.

A lead agency can issue a “finding of no significant impact” (FONSI) to deal with the environmental assessment. Letters went to a long list of possible “lead agencies,” but after another year, only the Coast Guard was left. Because of a federal regulation about a “navigable waterway,” there was a long list of approvals: an historic buildings survey, Native American tribes approval, The Eastern Environmental Law Center objected to possible second-level effects. More efficient ships might make the port more successful, quality of life, increased truck traffic. The EPA got involved. In 2012, president Obama declared the Bridge as one of seven essential port projects and committed to completing all permit decisions by April 2013. Who said that was final?

The average length of environmental review for highway projects is eight years. A project for a bridge one mile south has taken about 10 years. We desperately need a new electrical grid, but the government is incapable of making the decisions necessary to complete it. We are warned of the dangers of a potential EMP attack, and need to harden the grid, but there is no movement to do so.

Our federal government is always very busy creating new laws and regulations, but it is very bad at eliminating laws or regulations. They stay on the books and direct the work of millions of bureaucrats at millions of bureaucratic desks. Congress likes to make big general laws which they can brag about, but doesn’t like the nitty-gritty of ironing out all the fine points, legalities and consequences. They turn that over to the agencies, which is clearly not a satisfactory solution. See HHS, EPA, VA, IRS,  NSA, TSA, and a few hundred other agencies.

Philip  Howard explained: “The process is not aimed at trying to solve problems, but aimed at trying to find problems. You can’t get into trouble by saying no. With any large project something might go wrong. More studies are done.”

A Note to Republicans, Conservatives, Tea Partiers, Libertarians, Evangelicals, Rhinos, et all by The Elephant's Child


The Republican Party is supposed to be a “big tent” — home to everybody on the Right, not just those who agree with you. Big tent means including a wide variety of opinions. Lots of people do not like Speaker of the House John Boehner because he has not fought hard enough, in their opinion, against Obama.

But the Speaker of the House is chosen by the members of the House to lead them. You don’t get to make that choice. Somebody has to understand the history and the body of regulations that govern the operations of the House and the Congress. He is not chosen to be their only spokesperson. There are probably 435 representatives happy to grab the nearest microphone at any time.

It would be helpful to concentrate on the laws and regulations inflicted by the Obama administration and what the Republicans can do better. The people of America need to know, for example, why ObamaCare is so bad and promises to become worse, but are scared that Republicans will take away the health insurance.

I believe that the whole thing should be repealed, not “fixed”. I want insurance to be handled by insurance companies with just barely enough regulation to insure protection from abuse. I think doctors and hospitals can handle medicine far better than members of Congress, and that the government should get out of the health care business. The free market works remarkably well, and when competition is encouraged, costs come down. There are a few physicians in Congress, but the rest of the members don’t know diddly-squat about running a nation’s health care. Doctors endure all they have to go through in becoming a physician because they want to take care of people.

Medicaid, the program for the poor is, according to careful studies, worse for outcomes than doing without insurance entirely. They keep the costs down by paying doctors so little that no one will see Medicaid patients, and grossly limiting who they can see and what services can be used. The Indian Health Service is reportedly significantly worse than Medicaid. And even knowing what has gone wrong at the Veterans Administration health care system, like killing vets from neglect and inability to see a doctor, has not even really begun to be fixed. That should be evidence that the federal government has no qualifications to control health care. But the American people have trouble evaluating qualifications. They are swayed by theatrics and appearances, and are not good at evaluating speech for veracity.

A card-carrying Liberal believes in lots of regulation, because they regard themselves as “smart” and the hoi-polloi as “stupid” — see Jonathan Gruber. When regulation does not accomplish the desired ends, a Liberal believes the answer lies in more regulation, and more money (not for the capitalist doctors, but for the administration). It is simply a circulating machine, requiring constant feeding, until it slowly grinds to a halt, or kills most of its patients.

Laws and regulations are very imperfect solutions to humanity’s problems, not the answer.

ADDENDUM: I inadvertently called Mr.Boehner the Majority Leader (brain freeze) and was reminded. Now corrected. Thanks to the reader who called it to my attention.

Obama Is Right, So He Will Not Alter His Views! by The Elephant's Child


President Obama said today, during a press conference in Myanmar, that a looming vote in the Republican-led House of Representatives to approve the Keystone XL pipeline would not alter his views on the project. He accused GOP leaders of falsifying the numbers of jobs created by the pipeline.

Understand what this project is: It is providing the ability of Canada to pump their oil, send it through our land, down to the Gulf, where it will be sold everywhere else. It doesn’t have an impact on U.S. gas prices,” the president said, issuing some of his strongest language yet against Keystone.

I have also noted that, as policy matter, my government believes that we should judge this pipeline based on whether or not it accelerates climate change or whether it helps the American people with their energy costs and their gas prices,” he added. “And I have to constantly push back against this idea that somehow the Keystone pipeline is either this massive jobs bill for the United States, or is somehow lowering gas prices.

The president’s “strongest language yet” reveals nothing quite so much as the fact that he has no understanding at all of how an economy works. Look at how he transforms the project from a benefit to both nations into a greedy Canada using us to transport their oil which they will sell all over the world — with no benefit to the U.S. at all. He is apparently speaking to the same stupid voters that Jonathan Gruber says they tricked into approving ObamaCare.

TransCanada spelled out the number of jobs that would be required, 13,000 construction and 7,000 to build the pipeline materials, for a total of 20,000. Then there are spin-off jobs. The workers have to eat, be sheltered, buy gas for their cars. The U.S. has stalled Canada for so long, that the Canadians have made other plans for a pipeline to the West Coast and one to the East Coast, so there may be less oil being sent down to Texas, but I believe that sector is still needed. I’m just confident that the Canadians will no longer trust the U.S. to do what it claims it will.

Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana is fighting for her Senate seat in a runoff election, and the Democrats have pulled their money out. She introduced the bill in the Senate in a two-hour plea to the chamber. She is hoping her effort will persuade Louisiana voters to return her to office.

Democrats in the House and Senate are not as protective as they were before the election in which they feel he really let them down. It quickly passed the house 152-161 with 31 Democrats crossing over to vote in favor, and one Republican, Rep. Justin Amash (MI) voting “present.” The Senate will vote on Tuesday. The Wall Street Journal mentioned:

Someone should tell the President that oil markets are global and adding to global supply might well reduce U.S. gas prices, other things being equal. A tutor could add that Keystone XL will also carry U.S. light oil from North Dakota’s Bakken Shale. So even if he thinks that bilateral trade only helps Canada, he’s still wrong about Keystone.

The oil will be transported to the market. The world needs the oil. It is currently being transported by oil train tanker cars. Trains derail, sometimes spectacularly, and sometimes kill people. Pipelines are safer.


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