Tag: Infrastructure

Michigan brings two charges against former governor for Flint case

Well, I was wrong yesterday when I predicted that former Governor of Michigan Rick Snyder would be charged with obstruction of justice

I was wrong.

Snyder was hit with two counts of “Willful Neglect of Duty,” a misdemeanor.

Here is the statute, § 750.478:

When any duty is or shall be enjoined by law upon any public officer, or upon any person holding any public trust or employment, every willful neglect to perform such duty, where no special provision shall have been made for the punishment of such delinquency, constitutes a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 1 year or a fine of not more than $1,000.00.

This case is just plain weird, with indictments for felonies, a dismissal of those charges, and now this. 

I do not know how this will end, but I expect to be disappointed.

About Fucking Time

Rick Snyder, former governor of Michigan, as well as his senior staff, will be criminally charged over his role in the poisoning of the water in Flint

The specifics of the charges are not known at this time, so my guess is that we are looking at an obstruction of justice and the like:

Former Michigan governor Rick Snyder, his health director and other ex-officials have been told they’re being charged after a new investigation of the Flint water scandal, which devastated the majority Black city with lead-contaminated water and was blamed for a deadly outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in 2014-15, the Associated Press has learned.

Two people with knowledge of the planned prosecution told the AP on Tuesday that the attorney general’s office has informed defense lawyers about indictments in Flint and told them to expect initial court appearances soon. They spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

The AP could not determine the nature of the charges against Snyder, former health department director Nick Lyon and others who were in the Snyder administration. The attorney general’s office declined to comment on details of the ongoing investigation. Spokeswoman Courtney Covington Watkins said investigators were “working diligently” and “will share more as soon as we’re in a position to do so”.

Snyder’s attorney didn’t return calls seeking comment.

I have no direct knowledge as to the course of the investigations, or the prosecutions, but if Snyder were charged with something like taking bribes over the water pipeline, or some other explicit corruption, I think that other people would have been prosecuted, and have cut deals, before Snyder was charged.

It’s a Sucker Bet

So, you want your buddies to get their tax dollars so that they can buy a better boat, but you don’t want to tarnish your reputation as a good government Republican?

The solution is simple: A public-private partnership.

Your friends get their vig, and you get to pretend that you are working for the taxpayer.

Unfortunately, as Maryland Governor Larry “Governor Rat-F%$#: Hogan as demonstrated, these efforts never save a dime, and frequently cost money, as Richie Daley’s infamous Chicago Parking Meter Deal.

Well, sooner than anyone expected, Hogan’s public private partnerships are descending into chaos and litigation:

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan differs from President Trump about as much as possible for a Republican, but they share one characteristic: Both won their offices in part by selling themselves as experienced business executives who would run government efficiently and cheaply.

Hogan has applied that approach to his two biggest transportation projects, the light-rail Purple Line and a plan to add toll lanes to the Capital Beltway, Interstate 270 and the American Legion Bridge. He brought in private companies to share responsibility with the state for the enterprises, saying they would complete the work more efficiently than the government and save taxpayers money.

If it saves taxpayers money, then how are the profits generated, particularly the ridiculously high profits that the finance types demand?

It isn’t working out that way, and the difficulties threaten to tarnish Hogan’s legacy as he approaches the midpoint of his second and final term as governor. (Maryland governors are limited to two terms.)

The construction contractor for the Purple Line quit mid-project in a dispute with the state over a reported $800 million in unpaid cost overruns. The Maryland Transit Administration has taken over hundreds of subcontracts to continue the work while the state negotiates with the consortium of companies managing the project over whether the larger $5.6 billion partnership can be salvaged.

The Purple Line problems raise fresh questions about whether the much larger toll lanes project will fare any better.


“With the Purple Line, we have basically a fiasco on our hands,” said Melissa Deckman, chair of the political science department at Washington College in Chestertown, Md. “It calls into question in some way his legacy, his promotion of having the private sector solve big public problems.”

The Purple Line project is structured as a public-private partnership (P3). The state is also pursuing a P3 for the toll lanes project. In such deals, private companies help finance and construct the projects, then receive a return over the long-term either from state payments or money earned while managing the enterprises.

The theory is that taxpayers gain more from the private investment and promised efficiency than they lose by letting the companies reap a profit.

Which never happens.  Just profits for the private sector, with perhaps a nickel on the dollar up front to the politicians.

The strategy has backfired with the Purple Line, a 16-mile light-rail line running from New Carrollton in Prince George’s County to Bethesda in Montgomery County. The construction contractor has quit and the consortium managing the project, Purple Line Transit Partners, is in a legal battle with the state over extra costs caused by more than 2½ years of delays.


Critics say the experience highlights the risk in some P3s that private companies get too much power.

“The private entity can essentially hold the government and taxpayers hostage to ask for more money,” said Jeremy Mohler, communications director for In the Public Interest, a think tank.

Meanwhile, concerns have arisen about Hogan’s ambitious plan to add four toll lanes — two in each direction — to I-270 and the Maryland portion of the Beltway and build a new, wider American Legion Bridge. Tolls would vary according to congestion, and the existing lanes would remain free.

Hogan famously promised that using a public-private partnership would mean the project, with an estimated total price of up to $11 billion, would not cost taxpayers any money. But a draft state study warned in July that the plan could require a government subsidy of up to $1 billion, depending on how toll revenue compares with construction and financing costs.



Even if both projects collapsed entirely, which seems unlikely, Hogan could point to other accomplishments in what has generally been a politically successful governorship.

He was the state’s first Republican governor in 64 years to win reelection and has consistently had one of the highest favorability ratings among the nation’s state chief executives. He has blocked tax increases — his signature issue — and acted early to stem the coronavirus pandemic.

Which is what the PPP is all about:  He wants to keep his no new taxes pledge, and doesn’t care that he will be shafting the next 2-3 generations.  

Same as Richie Daley.

Once Again Da Vinci Amazes

Subscale Reconstruction

Some wonks at MIT just did a recreation of a bridge proposal from Leonardo Da Vince, and, if their reconstruction from his notes is correct,* his bridge was centuries ahead of the state of the art:

Some 500 years after his death, researchers are still discovering just how talented and brilliant Leonardo da Vinci was. Architects and civil engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology used a 3D printer to create a replica of a bridge da Vinci designed, but never built. To their surprise, not only did it work, but it would have also revolutionized bridge design five centuries ago.

As the story goes, in 1502 A.D. the Sultan Bayezid II wanted to build a bridge to connect the city of Istanbul to its neighbor, Galata. One of the proposed designs came from Leonardo da Vinci, who had already made a name for himself in the arts and sciences at the time. In a letter he sent to the sultan, accompanied by a notebook full of sketches, da Vinci described a bridge that would span the proposed distance using a single, flattened arch design, supported by bases on either shore. Bridges at the time were typically made using a series of semicircular arches, and to span the distance between the two cities would have required at least 10 evenly spaced piers in between to support the entire structure. Da Vinci’s design, which would have easily allowed sailboats to pass beneath it, was radically different (and centuries ahead of its time), which is probably why the sultan decided not to take the risk. Half a millennium later, researchers were curious if it would have succeeded.


Not only did the bridge work, remaining strong and stable without the use of any mortars or fasteners, but the team at MIT also realized that da Vinci had even engineered a way to minimize unwanted lateral movements in the structure, which would have quickly led to its collapse. The footings on either side of the arched bridge featured designs that splayed outwards to add a considerable amount of stability. The bridge would have even survived most earthquakes, which were common at the time in that area, as the MIT researchers discovered by putting their replica on two movable platforms. It wasn’t indestructible, but it would have been an ancient architectural marvel.

There are a number of “Ifs” here:

  • Did the technology of the day allow for the construction of abutments to handle the not-inconsiderable thrust loads.
  • Does the material handling technology of the day allow for the handling of the stone blocks.
  • could the barge and scaffolding technology of the day effectively provide for the support of the structure when under construction?

My guess is that Da Vinci never looked at the nitty-gritty details involved in actually putting up such a bridge, because he was never really a details kind of guy.

*That is a VERY big if.

Still Cheaper than the F-35 Mistake Jet

The Snake-And-Alligator Border Moat: A Budget Analysis

Defense One

Someone ran the numbers of Trump’s suggested border moat with various reptiles, and came up with, “$2.5 billion in set-up costs, plus annual operating costs of $1.8 billion.”

By comparison, the F-35 is expected to cost US$1.508 trillion through 2070, 64 years, or about $23½ billion a year.

Personally, I want Sharks with frikken lasers, or at least some ill-tempered mutated sea bass.

1 GB/S for $60/Month

A new community broadband network went live in Fort Collins, Colorado recently offering locals there gigabit fiber speeds for $60 a month with no caps, restrictions, or hidden fees. The network launch comes years after telecom giants like Comcast worked tirelessly to crush the effort. Voters approved the effort as part of a November 2017 ballot initiative, despite the telecom industry spending nearly $1 million on misleading ads to try and derail the effort. A study (pdf) by the Institute for Local Reliance estimated that actual competition in the town was likely to cost Comcast between $5.4 million and $22.8 million each year.

Unlike private operations, the Fort Collins Connexion network pledges to adhere to net neutrality. The folks behind the network told Ars Technica the goal is to offer faster broadband to the lion’s share of the city within the next few years:


The telecom sector simply loves trying to insist that community-run broadband is an inevitable taxpayer boondoggle. But such efforts are just like any other proposal and depend greatly on the quality of the business plan. And the industry likes to ignore the fact that such efforts would not be happening in the first place if American consumers weren’t outraged by the high prices, slow speeds, and terrible customer service the industry is known for. All symptoms of the limited competition industry apologists are usually very quick to pretend aren’t real problems (because when quarterly returns are all that matter to you, they aren’t).

The business model of Comcast, and Charter, and Verizon, etc. is to extract monopoly rents.

Providing better service, or serving customers, is simply not a part of their model.

Cuck Fomcast.

Like All Anti-Piracy Lists: FAIL

The EU is releasing a list of infringing sites, and the surprising thing is not that it is full of non-infringing sites, they all do, but that it includes Cloudflare, which is a close to a core technology for the whole internet as any single company gets these days:

In mid-January, the EU is hoping to finalize the EU Copyright Directive, including Article 13, which will effectively create mandatory copyright filters for many internet websites (while, laughably, insisting it creates no such burden — but leaving no other option for most sites). One of the key arguments being made by supporters of Article 13 is that it’s crazy to think that this law will be used to block legitimate content. This is pretty silly, considering how frequently we write about bogus DMCA takedowns. As if trying to prove just how bad they are at properly classifying infringing content, the EU recently released its “Counterfeit and Piracy Watch List”, which is a sort of EU version of the USTR’s “notorious markets” list. That list has been widely mocked for basically declaring any site that Hollywood doesn’t like “notorious”, even if no court has ever ruled that it’s breaking the law.

It would appear that the EU list has the same sort of problem. For example among the sites listed in the EU report is Cloudflare, a platform used by tons of internet companies (including Techdirt) as a CDN or to protect against DoS attacks (among other things). Cloudflare is simply a tool — like a phone line — that tons of internet companies use. If some of them are doing things that are against the law, that should be on those sites, not Cloudflare. Unfortunately, the EU doesn’t seem to care.

CloudFlare is a US based company, which provides hosting service combined with other services, including CDN services and distributed domain name server (DNS) services. According to the creative industries (film, music, book publishers, etc.) and other organisations, CloudFlare is used by approximately 40% of the pirate websites in the world. It operates as a front host between the user and the website’s back host, routing and filtering all content through its network of servers. Out of the top 500 infringing domains based on global Alexa rankings, 62% (311) are using CloudFlare’s services, according to stakeholders. A sample list of 6,337 infringing domain names presented by the film industry showed over 30% (2,119) using CloudFlare’s services.

 This is like claiming Verizon is a dope dealer because dope dealers use cell phones.

Tardis, Meet Turdis

The residents of Biggin Hill, which is perhaps the the most English place name in the UK, are upset because the local transit agency has installed a massive outside rest room for its bus drivers:

Residents on a quiet residential road have complained after transport planners installed an 11-ft lavatory block for bus drivers outside their homes.

On Tuesday Transport for London (TfL) installed the lavatory block – dubbed the “Turdis” by angry residents – on a street in Biggin Hill, on the border of South London and Kent, amid claims that homeowners on the road were not consulted.

Local councillor Julian Bennington said that furious residents smashed its windows within hours of its installation earlier this week and that its lock is already broken.

He said: “People are very angry – it’s literally outside their houses.

“It’s a monstrosity dumped here – the size of it and everything else – in the middle of what is a residential area.

“We knew nothing about it as local councillors and the council didn’t either. Residents have now been asking about why they weren’t consulted.”

I don’t want to make fun of this situation, but a, “Turdis in Biggin Hill,” is simply too much to ignore.

Burn, Motherf%$#er, Burn

The Director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Nick Lyon, has been charged with manslaughter for his role in the Flint water crisis:

A judge on Monday ordered Michigan’s top health official, Nick Lyon, to stand trial for involuntary manslaughter charges in two deaths linked to the Flint water crisis. Genesee District Judge David Goggins determined that there was probable cause that Lyon committed involuntary manslaughter against Robert Skidmore and John Snyder in 2015. The two men died during an outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease, which researchers have connected to the devastating use of improperly treated water in Flint starting in 2014.

Lyon, the director of Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services, is the highest-ranking official in the state to stand trial in connection with the catastrophe. An additional 14 current or former state and local officials have been criminally charged in connection with the water issues.

As Ars has reported previously, prosecutors allege that Lyon specifically had “willfully disregarded the deadly nature of the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak” and failed to warn the public in time to spare lives. He allegedly knew about the outbreak in early 2015 but waited until early 2016 to release a public advisory.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder was clearly involved in the obfuscation and I really hope that Lyon flips on him.

If not, I want him to go to jail for a very long time.

Why Does it Take So Long For Us to Build a Damn Bridge?

Putin annexed the Crimea in 2014

The contract to construct the bridge was issued in early in 2015, and the bridge opened today.

The 19km span is the longest bridge in Europe, and it would have taken at least twice as long in the US.

It took 25 years to complete the Bid Dig, and that tunnel borer underneath Seattle keeps breaking.

The New York Times noted something similar, where they discovered that per mile subway construction costs are from 5 to 10 times that of other similar projects in first world nations.

There is something seriously wrong here.