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Getting things done…

It’s worth a cup of coffee to read this article because it shows well how unbalanced and skewed we have become when it comes to building and fixing things. When Ronald Reagan said in 1980 that government is the problem, institutions responded – cutting government employees (paid less but “hard to get rid of”) and hiring “private”firms which depend entirely on tax revenues for their personnel and profits – instead of paying, say, a government project manager 80,000 in 2000, as we were doing at the Port of Seattle when I was rebuilding the airport there, in the interests of “efficiency” we instead cut our staff FTE count and hired consultants to do the same this, except they cost 200,000 a year – their 80,000 salary plus a high markup for overhead and profit. The mantra was this made sense because the private worker could be canned and the government worker, less easily. But with a big capital project, lasting years, the costs become huge. And don’t get me going on design build projects, either, the idea that letting the private firm design and build something is faster and cheaper. It isn’t because the government has all their own staff shadowing and watching what the private firm does, total double-counting of workers. It’s a huge scandal, and it contributes greatly to why things take forever and cost so much. Sure, regulations and environmental standards and social engineering departments have an impact, And don’t even mention PPPs, public private partnerships, which are a bigger scandal yet – selling off public assets to private companies, letting them run things and earn a yearly toll and revenue flow, and in the end sticking the state – the public – with the cost overruns and never-done maintenance and repair at the end.

Here’s a thought – set up a modern CCC and hire surplus military personnel and eager workers to rebuild our infrastructure like we did 80 years ago – simply, directly, and fast – avoid overhead, profit to the private companies that exist only to do government work, and build to last. Those old CCC projects, built with laborers drawn from everywhere, still exist today, all across the country, still sound. If our grandfathers could do it, why can’t we? Oh, that’s right – back then there was a depression underway and the wolf was at the door, no question, and a solution had to be found to get people to work. These days we are suffering from 40 years and more of an ideology driven theory justifying greed, selfishness, and this idea that government – the entity we choose to manage ourselves and our human tendencies to fight and grab, the institution we fought a revolution to create for WE THE PEOPLE – is the PROBLEM and a private company, set up to make a profit, period, avoiding all the externalities it creates and uses is somehow going to be better and more efficient at also running the many public goods we all need and use – water, sewage, roads, health – is the solution. Really?

The return of the Dark Ages…..the end of science…

It is happening. I have feared for several years we face a time not long in the future when people will whisper back and forth that there used to be a time when society relied on the scientific method to reveal truth, rather than belief-driven and tribal-driven “facts”. As in, “Don’t repeat this but there was actually a time in human history, about 300 years,  called the Enlightenment, when people used a method of investigation – hypothesis, test, evaluate, and finding – to determine reality. Yes, really. I know, today this is blasphemy, but it is true. ”

“Fake news.” “Alternative facts.” “We will make our own reality.”

It is happening, right now, as the article attached here shows. We seem to be returning to a time of magical thinking, wishful thinking, and belief-driven “reality.,” Are punishments for blasphemy and witchcraft far behind?

Road Trip Hiccup

Almost had a huge hiccup on my bookstore visit road trip. Close call, perhaps you could say. My last day I had planned on heading back to Seattle from Leavenworth, but then at the last minute decided to go out to Chelan first, stop at a store there, then return to Seattle. Fifty four miles, Route 97 north, east side of the Columbia. It’s beautiful along that river.


Anyway I am driving north and see ahead over some cliffs and rocks a plume of smoke or dust. I think, mining, maybe they are blasting, it looked like the cloud from rock blasting. But then as I got closer I saw it was smoke, not dust, and then I got closer still and saw this:


A big semi was on fire. It had just happened. I was, like, the fourth car in line, and we crept by, somehow, even before real fire equipment had showed up, flaggers, any of that. So I crept by, instead of being stopped, as surely traffic then was, for hours. Took a shot as I passed:


Later at a gas station met a guy who had also been by the fire, he was  trucker, told me the brakes had done something and caught fire. I went to Chelan, had a terrific visit with the owner of the bookstore there, Riverwalk Books, then drove back 97 Alt along the west side of the river. I could still see smoke rising where the truck had been, now almost two hours later.