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Half A Century of Empire: A Progress Report

by BruceMcF Sun Nov 21st, 2010 at 12:47:22 PM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for the Arc of the Sun

We are sabotaging our main labor resource with mindless rote learning to pass "achievement" tests to avoid being punished for not being full of kids of upper middle class households, we are allowing our equipment resource to collapse through lack of demand and we are sabotaging our natural resource through treating nonrenewable resources as an excuse to destroy renewable resources and treating renewable resources as non-renewable resources, which is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In fifty years we have gone from technological leadership on all fronts to technological leadership only in some of those areas under the umbrella of War Department Industrial Policy, and from massive trade surpluses that demanded recycling via overseas investment and imports to maintain international liquidity, to massive trade deficits to allow the Chinese to export their unemployment to us.

In forty years we have gone from energy independence to importing twice as much oil as we produce.

And thirty years, we have shifted our record on land wars in Asia from 0-1 with one draw, to at best 0-2 with two draws, and at worst 0-3 with one draw.

If this damn Empire collapses soon enough, we might have a chance to start rebuilding from the catastrophe it represents, but an equally plausible outcome is falling apart into a squabbling series of small and mid-sized nation states, many harboring revanchiste dreams of re-establishing the Empire.

Read more... (100 comments, 364 words in story)

Night Train: Losing HSR Battles while Winning the Transport War

by BruceMcF Wed Nov 17th, 2010 at 05:22:59 PM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

Last week I raised the certainty that Kasich will return $375m of Ohio's $400m grant for laying the 110mph 3C corridor track and running 79mph trains on them ... and the likelihood that Wisconsin's Governor-elect Jobs Walkabout will return all or most of Wisconsin's $810m for the Milwaukee to Madison Emerging HSR corridor.

Thing is, even if the opponents of HSR killed two (or, see inside, three): they had to kill them all. Every HSR line that gets finished will undermine their case, and raise intra-regional and inter-regional jealousies as a force ensuring that HSR funding is provided at the Federal level and matching funds are raised at the state level.

Read more... (8 comments, 1020 words in story)

Sunday Train: Northeastern HSR Alignments & The Move to Tuesdays

by BruceMcF Wed Oct 13th, 2010 at 06:49:37 PM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

For the Daily Kos edition of this essay, I wrote:

This is a fairly short Sunday Train, but I thought I better get something posted, so I had somewhere to put this scheduling announcement:
  • Due to a new prep on Monday Morning this coming Fall term, the Sunday Train is temporarily moving to Tuesday Evenings until the end of year Holidays, starting next week (19 October)
... but, hell, given the haphazard scheduling of the crossposts (eg, posting on Sunday and crossposting on Wednesday evening), y'all likely won't notice the change.

The actual Sunday Train portion is about one element of the Amtrak proposal for a High Speed Rail corridor for the Northeast: the alignment. At the preliminary proposal stage, an alignment must be selected for study so that preliminary cost and patronage estimates can be performed. However, if the decision is made to go ahead, a range of alignments will be (and, indeed, must be) studied.

So tonight I take a brief look at the alignment options from the report.

Read more... (5 comments, 1088 words in story)

Sunday Train: 1:36 NYC/Boston, 1:23 NYC/DC, $117b, 30yrs

by BruceMcF Mon Oct 4th, 2010 at 12:22:02 AM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

Sunday Train is normally written flat chat and for a yank audiences at the Daily Kos, with all that entails

As The Transport Politic reported earlier this week: Amtrak Unveils Ambitious Northeast Corridor Plan, But It Would Take 30 Years to be Realized

After months of sitting on the sidelines as states and regional agencies promoted major new high-speed rail investments, Amtrak has finally announced what it hopes to achieve over the next thirty years: A brand-new, 426-mile, two-track corridor running from Boston to Washington, bringing true [Express] high-speed rail to the Northeast Corridor for the first time.

Some questions and answers, over the fold.

Read more... (7 comments, 1361 words in story)

Sunday Train: Crowding Out vs Crowding In and Transport

by BruceMcF Tue Sep 21st, 2010 at 05:32:35 PM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

I was reading a Grist article critical of the most recent MIT report promoting nuclear power, and one of the arguments made got me thinking about transport:

Another critical omission in the MIT analysis is the fact that large commitments to nuclear construction tends to crowd out alternatives. The financial and managerial resources of the utility are concentrated on bringing these large complex plants online. Policies that reduce demand or promote alternatives are seen as a threat to the viability of the large nuclear project. My analysis of France and the U.S. bears this out. [emphasis in the original]

This got me thinking, because Crowding Out versus Crowding In is an important issue to face when looking for Oil-Independent Tranport in pursuit of Economic Independent for the US.

Read more... (2 comments, 2853 words in story)

O'Donnell Hits a Social Security Foul Tip

by BruceMcF Wed Sep 1st, 2010 at 06:39:28 PM EST

Speaking of President Obama not even trying to do the right thing ...

Burning the Midnight Oil for Progressive Populism

When Lawrence O'Donnell started berating the woman who received the email from Alan Simpson with this BS (5:05), I was forced to leave the room until Rachel came on:

It is solvent until 2037.
Workers your age who are contributing to social security every day, we concurrently tell you when your time comes to collect, the money will not be there according to all projections we have today.

"According to all the projections we have today"? First, that is false. Its according to one projection we have today ~ among a range of projections that are made. And second, if Lawrence O'Donnell is going to shift from host to pundit, he is responsible when he uses figures in a misleading way.

Over the fold, how this is wrong, let me Countdown the Ways.

Read more... (3 comments, 2737 words in story)

Sunday Train: Can Trains Help Win the Day in Australia?

by BruceMcF Mon Aug 30th, 2010 at 02:43:03 PM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

It seems as if many people have been paying more attention to the Beckapalooza in DC ... and the whole furor had me initially confused, as originally I thought it was something to do with Beck the Mongolian Chop Squad ...

But last weekend, there was an election in Australia, and on the night it seemed like it could be the closest in Australian history. As the week went on, that proved to be the case. And I got to thinking, listening to the various independents that hold the balance of power, that there could well be an unlikely working partnership available, where trains could help delivered a progressive governing majority on the most improbable of foundations.


NB: the grassfire in a dry lake bed shot that I use on occasion is in fact from Australia, suffering what has been characterized as a long running drought, but what seems more likely to be a secular shift to a dryer climate.

Read more... (2 comments, 3384 words in story)

Sunday Train: Guaranteeing Rural Transport in the face of Peak Oil

by BruceMcF Mon Aug 23rd, 2010 at 02:02:18 AM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

In the firefly-dreaming edition of last week's Burning the Midnight Oil for Progressive Populism diary, RiaD raised the issue:

only that i'm a rural dweller, we must have a vehicle as there is no mass transit here. but we do pay very close attention to our trips to town (10+ miles) & city(40+ miles) and do as much as possible each trip. i would guess we actually use less gas living rurally than most city/urban dwellers.

we've got to start thinking differently as a nation.
become more citizens of the planet than american consumers
imo anyway.

... which set me thinking about the difference between One-Size-Fits-All solutions like Auto-Uber-Alles and A-Fit-For-Each-Size solutions. One size fits all makes is seem as if "that does not do this" is a massive obstacle ... when under A Fit for Each Size, it is a challenge to find the means of accomplishing that task.

Read more... (11 comments, 1902 words in story)

Sunday Train: Richard Florida and the End of the Automobile Age

by BruceMcF Sun Aug 15th, 2010 at 06:52:12 PM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

Due at Agent Orange Wednesday, 5pm EDT

This week in The New Republic, Richard Florida presented his vision of High Speed Rail as the central strategic point of leverage in an economic "reset" to get us out of the doldrums resulting from the failure of the 20th century growth model to deliver ongoing, sustained growth any more ... though the way he frame it is:

As dismal as housing prices continue to be, they have yet to hit bottom in some places. Unemployment remains frozen at an overall level of nine-plus percent, and job creation has been anemic. If the crisis belonged to George W. Bush, the recovery has been Obama's--and it has been a fragile and tentative one at best. Along with billions of dollars in stimulus payments, the president has spent down most of his political capital. So what is his next step?

So ... what is the next step?

Read more... (26 comments, 2113 words in story)

The Fightback against Cutting Electric Prices with Wind Power

by BruceMcF Mon Aug 9th, 2010 at 04:01:43 AM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

crossposted then reclisted at Agent Orange

Recently, Jerome a Paris and afew from the European Tribune published a piece in New Scientist on why having sufficient wind turbines in an energy portfolio has been observed to lower energy prices to consumers.

After tweeting that article, I started to receive tweets with links to the anti-wind conservative echo chamber, including The American Thinker, and the Oil-money founded and partly funded Cato Institue.

The piece I am looking at today is a brilliant example of the echo-chamber shell game: how you fill up the echo chamber with outdated, irrelevant, or partial and misleading facts so that there are "facts! facts!" that can be cited in social media, complete with demands "answer the facts!" by those who either are pushing a line for strategic reasons or have been taken in by the argument.

Entitled "Wind Energy's Ghosts", the information in the piece is familiar to anyone who has participated in online discussion of wind power or renewable energy in general and has encountered the oil or coal industry sponsored and inspired pushback.

front-paged by afew

Read more... (31 comments, 4498 words in story)

Sunday Train: Local Electric Transport and the Energy Independence Levy

by BruceMcF Sun May 16th, 2010 at 11:03:35 PM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

If we reduce our oil consumption by 5% a year over each of the next twenty years, that allows use to be free of our oil addiction if we choose to be. But as I observed last week, since 60%-70% of our oil consumption is in transport, that means that in each decade, seven out of the ten 5% reductions have to come out of transport.

I set forward three of the seven for the coming decade last week: the Steel Interstates, national funding for sustainable power local transit corridors, and a target of 5% "Active Transport" - pedestrian and cycle transport.

I have written at some length on the Steel Interstate, but this was the first airing of the rest of the proposal. I promised to go into more depth this week ... and that's what I aim to do today.

Read more... (1 comment, 3179 words in story)

What Difference does 2nd Preference make in London?

by BruceMcF Sat May 8th, 2010 at 11:26:35 PM EST

Previously, in What difference could 2nd Pref make for SE England Results? w/Poll, I took a look at a second dimension  of electoral reform, the potential waste of your vote if your have the temerity to end up voting for a someone standing for a party other than the top two most supported parties, who are the two competing for the seat under First Past The Post.

The most immediate way to avoid this disenfranchisement of the supporters of third and minor parties is to allow each elector a first preference vote and a second preference vote. This can be done on the same ballot paper as used at present, with the first preference marked with an X or "1" and the second preference, if desired marked with a "2".

The simplest Instant Run-Off version is that the top two vote recipients on First Preference vote are the candidates for election, but the eliminated first preference votes are gone through again, and second preferences for one or the other are added to their tally. This can therefore be tallied on election night with some additional work, but not the days that may be required for full preference voting with elimination in rounds.

Assuming that Labor and Libs would deliver a net 80% of votes to each other (75% is a figure I just saw in a poll on LD support for an LD/Labour coalition), that Greens and Socialists would do the same for Labour, that the loonie rightwing fringe would do that same for the Tories, I worked through the Southeast, with the LD going from four to six seats, and Labour going from four to nine seats.

I put up a poll, and the winner of the poll on which to do next was London. It had one vote, Wales had one vote, and since my request to tell me what to do with PC vote in Wales had not taker, London it is.

Read more... (4 comments, 1157 words in story)

What difference could 2nd Pref make for SE England Results? w/Poll

by BruceMcF Fri May 7th, 2010 at 05:31:37 PM EST

This is digging into the UK election results in the SE Region, using the BBC election results site.

I am going through the results, and performing an experiment based on arbitrarily allocated a net 80% of third and lower placed party second preference votes to one of the top two parties on first preference. Conservative (including loonie fringe) parties to the Tories, LD and Labor to each other, and vaguely progressive or radical to either LD or Labor. In LD/Labor marginals, I assume all second preferences net out so that the FPTP result stands ... but going in, I'm assuming that's not critical in the Southeast region.

Nothing fancy, just looking to see what patterns there may be in the vote patterns.

And what is the pattern with FPTP? The Tories got about 50% of the vote, and about 90% of the seats. The Lib-Dems got about 26% of the vote and about 5% of the seats, Labour about 16% of the vote and about 5% of the seats, and the Greens 1.4% of the vote and about 1.2% of the seats.

Read more... (3 comments, 1781 words in story)

Sunday Train: Kasich Lies About Strickland's 3C Victory, 3C Moves Ahead

by BruceMcF Mon Apr 26th, 2010 at 06:43:52 PM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

There was recently a fight over the 3C starter line for Ohio's High Speed Rail system, which Governor Strickland won ... and the presumptive Republican nominee for Governor took this position:

... GOP challenger John Kasich, who said money awarded to Ohio for the 3C rail project could be better spent on Ohio roads and highways.

These are High Speed Rail funds. Arguing that they could be "better spent on Ohio roads and highways" is a blatant effort to mislead Ohio's voters into thinking that this $400m will stay in state if Republican sabotage of the project succeeds.

And it seems that coverage has buried one of the ledes in this story - getting the presumptive Republican nominee on the record as a slimy politician willing to mislead the electorate in his efforts to sabotage investment in Ohio transportation infrastructure.

Read more... (2 comments, 2275 words in story)

Sunday Train: Working on the Railroad - Why Krugman is Wrong

by BruceMcF Sun Apr 11th, 2010 at 09:08:46 PM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

In his inimitable "twisting mainstream economics in as progressive direction as he can accomplish" style, Paul Krugman has made a splash among those following the challenge of our headlong and reckless pursuit of Climate Chaos with a column on the cost of policies to put the brakes on that reckless gamble.

Hat tip to A Siegal, who nailed a critical failing of Krugman's analysis:

Krugman falls into the trap of discussing the costs of dealing with climate change ... a robust cost/benefits analysis would ... result in a very serious statement as to the "huge risks and costs of inaction vs the very serious benefits of action".

In particular, it is a common failing of mainstream economics to assume an economy that naturally tends to full employment, so that policies that boost employment are a cost, when in the real world they are a benefit.

[Update] See also Peter Dorman's What’s Missing in Paul Krugman’s Climate Economics Primer ... this elaborates a part of his Point 3 - Economic Interactions.

Read more... (13 comments, 2487 words in story)

The Job Free Recovery Continues

by BruceMcF Thu Apr 8th, 2010 at 04:32:57 AM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for a Brawny Recovery

The US March Jobs Report has come, and though there appears to have been some employment growth in the rose colored glasses retailing sector, in most other sectors, the headline is that the Job Free Recovery continues.

There are three main numbers to focus on when looking at the monthly employment report:

  • employment
  • the headline unemployment rate, seasonally adjusted
  • the broad ("U6") unemployment rate, seasonally adjusted

... so let's have a look at them.

Promoted with slight edit by afew

Read more... (19 comments, 923 words in story)

Sunday Train: King of the Mountain, Part 1

by BruceMcF Sun Apr 4th, 2010 at 08:24:55 PM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

I noted near the beginning of the Appalachian Hub series about the special advantages offered by rail electrification for this project.

Now that I have sketched out a process by which a national Steel Interstate network of corridors can, in fact, be built in this coming decade, this is probably a good time to come back and take a look at the challenges that are faced when putting the Steel Interstates through hilly and mountainous terrain.

Of course, if rail electrification was a particular benefit in mountainous terrain, one would expect to see it in places like, say, Switzerland.
Picture of a Swiss electric freight west of the Albula tunnel

Read more... (18 comments, 1410 words in story)

Sunday Train: Heritage Opposes Freedom to Choose High Speed Rail

by BruceMcF Sun Mar 21st, 2010 at 08:09:22 PM EST

As is normally the case for the Sunday Train, written with a US audience foremost in mind. The Oil company funded belief tanks are up to their same old tricks ...

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

I'm shocked, shocked I say, that a belief tank partly funded by Big Oil and Union Busters would issue a piece attacking High Speed Rail. But they did, claiming that there is a "Coming High Speed Rail Financial Disaster".

Less shocking is that the argument in the piece is tissue-thin, relying on shell games and appeal to stereotype in lieu of evidence.

Of course, just because its an empty argument does not mean its a pointless one. When you are trying to prevent solutions to problems, FUD ... Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt ... can sometimes be as effective as genuine argument.

Well, I hope someone out there is able to frame great counter-arguments that are useful in cracking into Dr. Utt's (Economics) target audience of those with short attention spans and limited access to information. What I can offer here is raw material for those counter-arguments.

Read more... (2 comments, 2540 words in story)

Sunday Train: Economic Independence will Help Pay For Itself

by BruceMcF Sun Mar 14th, 2010 at 11:50:02 PM EST

You'd think there was no European content in this, but individual programs that can allow the US to cut its oil imports by 10% or more are programs with potential global impacts.

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

Last week I presented a draft of a national Steel Interstate plan. The focus was on the Institutional Framework required to be able to build it, including the source for the interest subsidy to finance its up front capital cost.

Possibly lost in the wall of words was an important point, which was focused on by some commentary: the users are paying the capital construction cost. As a country, we need it, so as a country, it makes sense to find a way to jumpstart it and have it available for the oil prices shocks that are coming in this next two decades.

... but once it starts getting used, that's what will cover the original construction cost. One way we can tell we are heading toward Economic Freedom is that it helps pay for itself.

Read more... (30 comments, 2182 words in story)

Sunday Train: A Nationwide Freight and Passenger Regional HSR System

by BruceMcF Sun Mar 7th, 2010 at 09:12:32 PM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for Energy Independence

It often seems there is a deep canyon lying between what we can do and what needs to be done as a community, as a local region, as a state, as a national region, or as a nation.

But the Steel Interstate is a national program that a coalition of determined groups of advocates scattered across the country could get going. It bridges regional interest conflicts, and offers a way to advance some of the interests of so many - Interstate motorists, advocates of freedom from cars, organized labor, the largely disorganized army of the unemployed, advocates of ecological sustainability, advocates of mitigating climate chaos, and Progressive Patriots, to name just a few.

Of course, I want to talk process, but it seems to be network maps that catches people's interest. So how I will go about this is alternating Map and Process.

Read more... (18 comments, 4021 words in story)
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