Our New Favorite Television Program At the S.P.I.T.

We don’t often advocate for a television program here at the Serious Poo-Poo Institute of Technology. But the History Channel is now broadcasting a program that’s pretty darned important.

It’s called “Inspector: America.” Season pass it dude. Seriously.

The show features Timothy Galarnyk, a construction inspector, as he examines the infrastructure of the Untied States of America. The episode I’ve got on right now focuses on Minneapolis/St. Paul, which as you might recall was the location of the bridge what fell out of the sky.

This ain’t the sexy stuff. But man is it vital.

The Infrastructure Expectation and D.C. Metro

One point I failed to make in my previous post regarding infrastructure.

I argued in that post that key to solving the energy crisis is the larger issue of infrastructure. I wrote as an example of my own ability to never ever hardly drive because I live in the D.C. Metro region, an area that has historically invested in the public transportation infrastructure.

What I failed to write was “what have ya done for me lately.”

Today is a year since I’ve been on a Metro train. Metro has been working for years to scare the living shit out of me and to convince me to ride buses instead. A year ago, those trains killed nine people and at last forced me to a more time-consuming but more reassuring commute. I mainly stopped riding because I was sick and tired of the trains stopping underground; I don’t like the feeling that gives me, not after I was stuck underground for 20 minutes when Foggy Bottom caught fire a few years ago, and not after 9/11. It’s not a rational reason. But it’s mine.

But then you see some stories. Like how this one train was taken out of service and blasted through like six stops before someone realized that there were two women aboard the train, held hostage by their own attempt to commute. Or, there’s the recent story of a bunch of ten-car trains on the track when they’re only supposed to use an eight-car train or fewer (this leaves the last two cars of the train stuck in the tunnel). Or, there’s shit like this:

So it’s not surprising to me that a report by The Washington Post says that, one year following the fatal wreck, Metro’s record on safety has not improved, and that this is in part due to a failure to invest in the system and in a failure to regulate it as well.

The part I forgot to mention is that the Washington Metro system is in a shambles, and there is precious little being done to improve and invest in this system that I’ve been riding since I’m 12 years old, even in the wake of nine dead people. That is the sad truth regarding what once was one of the nation’s finest commuter rail systems. And it is why I’m likely to be a bus guy for the duration.

Props to unsuckdcmetro.

The Infrastructure Expectation

We went to dinner, and I forgot to reset the DVR to record the Prez this evening. So, what I’m writing here might be somewhat disjointed. Which is too bad because it really shouldn’t be.

I drive a four-door sedan. ‘Murcan made. She’s eleven years old. And she has 63,000 miles on her.

This is a bit of a joke around my family, how little I drive. Now this is not to say that I don’t use a hell of a lot of power in its other forms. I run a television in probably unhealthy amounts, a laptop compyooter, an iPhone, and an entire household, not to mention the electricity I use in my office. But. 63K in 11 years. That’s pretty impressive, and I imagine it shrinks my carbon footprint somewhat.

But I’m only allowed to do that for one reason: I live in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, which, in the past, has thought it vital to fund and build things like subway systems and a system of commuter buses. You can’t do that in many other regions of the United States. In fact, it is entirely possible to live in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area and—get this—not even own an automobile.

This is especially true, I should add, with the establishment of the Zipcar. This is an amazing little service whereby you can reserve an automobile using the Internet, and then, that afternoon, you can hike over and get in your car and drive off. This service, along with the more traditional methods of public transportation, make it the 63,000 mile 11-year-old car possible. Without that infrastructure, that odo would have turned over long ago.

But there is another aspect that must be present for such a success. There must be somewhat of a culture that expects to be able to use said infrastructure, a culture that believes in and trusts the infrastructure. There must be some of that population that grows up using the infrastructure, that learns the ins and outs of their hometowns just by getting around. You’ve got to have the infrastructure, but you’ve also got to have the infrastructure expectation.

As we discuss possible solutions to whatever you think the “energy crisis” is, I think we tend to go around in circles and to speak in terms of fragments. We have special-interest TV commercials, and this one’s touting ethanol, and that one seems to be touting solar and other alternatives. We talk about geothermal, conservation, nuclear, offshore drilling, coal, and so on. This method or that method versus that.

I hate to keep bringing this up, but we recently had a bridge fall out of the sky. In America. And yet, this President had to compromise his way out of infrastructure stimulus dollars. People hurl around “tax-and-spend” as if the word “bastard” is to immediately follow. The notion that, as a nation, we require a basic infrastructure that government has a larger interest in creating and maintaining than do for-profit fuck-pigs, that notion is now, incredibly, ridiculed and even dismissed as “socialist.”

The whole enchilada regarding “energy alternatives” rests on infrastructure and the expectation of infrastructure. Without the trains and the buses, and without a general public that intends to rely on those transportation regularly, all you’ve got is a bunch of people in their own cars. And that leads, too, to its own discussion of infrastructure.

Have I written the word “infrastructure” enough times?

It may not be a sexy sexy topic, but bricks and mortar, that’s the crux of the issue. This discussion should not just reflect what methods we will use to create power or where to put the damned spent nuclear waste or whatever. It should reflect the larger issue of the national infrastructure as well.

That’s what it’s all aboat.

The First Thing Hilda Solis Should Do…

…now that she’s been sworn in as Secretary of Labor is to meet with Paul Rinaldi, Executive Vice President,
National Air Traffic Controllers Association.

Rinaldi is a frequent guest on The Ed Schultz Show, and, from what he says, this country’s in deep crap when it comes to the state of our air traffic control system. They’re retiring by the dozens and not stocking up on replacements—bear in mind, it takes five years to train one of these people to the point where they’re ready to go solo. Not to mention, much of the equipment they have to work with is antiquated.

Solis should make a meeting with Rinaldi at the top of her list. She should hear his concerns about replenishing the labor force, about the union’s contract issues, and about the underlying infrastructure concerns. She should tap other department heads, such as at Transportation, to help as well. But the primary issue with air traffic control is an issue of labor and demands her department’s immediate attention.

Kudos to Parade

Parade is that little insert in the Sunday paper I usually thumb through for a second if I even bother at all before it goes in recycling. This week, Parade worth a look.

How We Can Save Our Roads” is not overly ambitious editorially, though it is good for specific examples of novel approaches some states are taking to tackle infrastructure woes. But it does something terrific: It puts infrastructure on the cover in color on a publication that says it’s the most widely-read magazine in America.

Next to campaign finance and election reform, infrastructure is the most vital issue there is, and, in light of the pressing need now for the economic pump to be primed, it might just eclipse the former these days. What’s left of our press should be shining a bright light on the crumbling infrastructure instead of, for instance, making a desperate, insane woman with too many children the spotlight’s center.

Infrastructure. Infrastructure. Infrastructure.

It's Such a Fine Line Between Stupid and Clever

Harry Shearer is awesome. Not only was he Derek Smalls. But he is well worth a subscription over at the HuffPo. Because it is useful to be updated on what’s happening in New Orleans.

There are certain things that it is useful to remember. Hurricane Katrina is one of those touchstones, as is Terri Schiavo, as is September Eleventh, things to hold onto in your heart to recall exactly how inept and stupid the current president and his administration have been. Remember how many times in the last eight years something has happened in America that once upon a time you’d always say to yourself that something like that would never happen in America. Remember the film of the desperate people shouting for help outside of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, the stories of people drowning in their own attics, remember that cops shot at people who tried to flee New Orleans via the bridge to Gretna, remember that you lived in America in a time when we had domestic “refugees.”

Shearer’s column today notes a speech by the current president on the progress since Katrina, notes that little has changed and that there has been no accountability for the breached levys, that one of the largest port cities in America is today just as vulnerable to a Katrina as then. These are our masters of “national security,” who conduct a stupid irrelevant war abroad while leaving ports vulnerable, roads crumbling, our hyper-deregulated airlines choking and our mines frighteningly unsafe. Hold onto New Orleans as a reminder that John McWeirdsmile is just another proxy for these wicked disaster capitalists.

Money Can Be Used in Exchange for Goods and Services

Below, an embedded suggested listen, Thom Hartmann’s interview today with Stephen Zarlenga, Director of the American Monetary Institute, about reforming our monetary system. I don’t no much about no monetary policy. But I like the nexus of monetary policy and infrastructure investment that this guy throws out. Interesting.

P.S. Good reading on this subject at The Smirking Chimp, which is still amidst its summer fund raising drive.

Bonus: Listen to Seton Motley of the “Media Research Center” lose his goddamned mind:

High-five to Motley though for throwing in a plug for The Decembrists.


I daresay. Rachel Maddow does special commenting just as good as does The Keith.

Transcribed from her broadcast of December 18, re: recent ice storms and subsequent power outtages in the Midwest:

We are the richest most powerful nation in the world, and we apparently are unable to get electricity to the middle part of our country in the wintertime. We are no longer capable of that. In the 1960s, we could put a man on the moon, but now we can’t get electricity to Oklahoma. Because our electrical grid, our electricity infrastructure, it’s “just that good.” Something on the order of 90,000 Americans, 90,000 people in Oklahoma, are looking at day nine without power. To me, this is a homeland security issue. Sure, you know, weather happens. That happens seasonally. It has something to do with Copernicus. But this is not like we were just hit with a once every 500-years’ storm, and there’s no way we could have seen this coming and there’s no way we could have withstood it. This is just winter. I mean, yeah, it was an ice storm. It was a big ice storm, sure, but ice storms happen. Ice storms happen every single year, but we are now so fragile as a nation that we fall apart at the smallest insult. And when we see these things, in response to acts of God, when we see these things, when we see ourselves unable to snap back after some act of nature, some sort of weather event, some sort of storm, something like this, the natural response is to categorize this as oooh must have been a bad storm, act of God, those poor people, let’s see if we can get some charity out there and hope this doesn’t happen to us. But if you start to look at these stories in terms of what a nation ought to be expected to be able to withstand in the 2007-sies, what the richest and most powerful nation on Earth ought to be able to take without blinking, you start to realize that this ought to be, even if it’s not, this ought to be a political story. It ought to be a call for a political response because it ought to be a national shame there ought to be an angry political outcry over the fact that we as a nation have not invested in our infrastructure and the basic stuff that we need to support our citizenry living on our land. We haven’t done enough to support what it means to live in this country in terms of our public sector so that this stuff doesn’t happen. There ought to be an outcry that ought to cry out for a political response. And the first presidential candidate to give a cogent series of speeches, to push a cogent, moving patriotic American strength platform about rebuilding America’s infrastructure, about making out public sector strong again, that person will get my support. Swoosh.


I have a lot of family in southeast Kansas, a lot of whom were without power for seven days.