Monday, June 1, 2020

Racial justice rioters are lashing out at a system they created


Since the death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, large cities across the U.S. have been rocked with protests degenerating into riots. Mobs of angry people  are looting businesses, burning buildings, destroying cars and killing people.

Public demonstrations and the occasional destruction of property have been a part of the American experience since the Boston Tea Party. The right to publicly protest our grievances is enshrined in the very first Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. We have exercised that right too many times to count since the Founding Fathers put forth our more perfect union.

There is something different about the 21st century flavor of outrage. Labor protests, civil rights demonstrations and the anti-war movement of the 20th century all had something in common that the most recent acts of disobedience and destruction don't have. The 20th century protesters were organized against arguably bona fide systemic injustices that they had no part in creating. Employers set wages and used the force of law to prevent organization of labor to bargain as an co-equal collective. The civil rights movement rose up against a  racist political, social and economic system that black Americans demonstrably had no role in building. The anti-war movement protested an undeclared war that sent mostly poor and working middle class young men off to die without their consent.

Despite the creation of The Great Society and Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty, the percentage of black Americans living in poverty (measured even by Democrats' ever-shifting standards) stands at about 25%. Despite nearly $20 trillion spent on fighting poverty since the mid-1960's, about one out of every four black Americans still lives in squalor. Housing programs failed Black America by pushing them into concentrated inner-city housing projects. Welfare programs failed black America by creating the insidious incentives that has all but destroyed the black American nuclear family headed by a married couple. Thanks to this truly systemic construct, there are multiple generations of black Americans who grew up without the benefit of both male and female role models.

The regulatory schemes created by the myriad of environmental and social engineering laws passed by liberal congresses from 1964 through 1994 severely hindered capital formation in the small business sector, while encouraging manufacturing corporations to move jobs overseas. This disproportionately limited job growth in lower skilled, lower income and entry level positions.  This, in turn, disproportionately affected black Americans.

By the mid-1990's, generational poverty and a general sense of hopelessness was hit head on by the shamefully named Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, written by then Senator and current presumptive Democrat Presidential nominee Joe Biden. Then signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

Donna Murch, writing at The New Republic, a liberal blog/opinion/news site, in 2016:
Both Hillary and Bill continue to enjoy enormous popularity among African Americans despite the devastating legacy of a presidency that resulted in the impoverishment and incarceration of hundreds of thousands of poor and working-class black people. Most shockingly, the total numbers of state and federal inmates grew more rapidly under Bill Clinton than under any other president, including the notorious Republican drug warriors Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush.
Murch also notes something I'm about to remind you of: the fact that Democrats from Lyndon Johnson through Bill Clinton have enjoyed almost monolithic support from black American voters. From Johnson's Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act all the way through Clinton's Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, black Americans have handed control of the levers of power to the same bunch that has sought to divide, impoverish and imprison their brothers and sisters for generations.

Johnson made sure black Americans would find it hard to escape squalid housing projects and impoverished schools. Clinton made sure that those who had survived by any means necessary had room in the new high tech prisons his trust fund paid for.

If black Americans believe their backs are against the wall, then they should ask who built the system that put them there. It wasn't the rich white conservatives. No, the second worst danger a black American faces today is the rich white liberal who has screwed him over at every opportunity. Why do black Americans keep supporting the modern day embodiment of the benevolent plantation owner?

That's not the end of this indictment of liberal "leadership." Nearly all of the large cities in the U.S. have been wracked with violent demonstrations since Floyd's death. The larger the city, it seems the greater the breadth and depth of the anger demonstrated by the people in their streets. With very few exceptions, these cities have Democrats as Mayors, and most have either majority Democrat or super-majority Democrat councils/commissions. Local leadership is responsible for establishing local law, and Mayor & The Gang are also responsible for enforcement. They hire the cops and they establish department policy, including policy on use of force.

Over the same weekend that George Floyd lost his life, 10 of his brothers in Chicago lost theirs. The linked story explains that New York and Los Angeles reported similar numbers. One can safely conclude that cities like Houston, San Francisco, Detroit, Boston, Miami and Baltimore collectively saw scores of violent deaths, mostly black males and mostly by the hands of other black males. While the biggest danger to the average black American is another black American, that threat is the direct and demonstrable result of a political establishment imagined, built, financed and enforced by liberals who could never have been elected without the always reliable votes of black Americans.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Grim state and local media coverage don't tell the whole Alabama COVID-19 story


As you read this, remember that the job of today's mass media is to sell cars,  drugs, legal services and laundry detergent. In order to do this job, they have to report on the state of current affairs, and they've found that fear, uncertainty and doubt sells more stuff than sunshine and optimism.

Nothing epitomizes the media mindset on the Coronavirus pandemic better than this op-ed piece from al.com's Kyle Whitmire. I hope you'll join me in walking straight past the bullshit to find the truth that there is every reason to be optimistic; that we aren't doing nearly as badly as our journalistic professionals would like you to believe.

The Alabama Department of Public Health has a website called the COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard, which includes case statistics and charts that help the public understand how the pandemic is affecting our state.

Real Clear Politics has another data aggregating website called the Coronavirus Tracker for the United States (they have a global aggregator page there, too).

These resources are updated in near real time, so when you load the pages the data you see are the freshest available and they are not edited.

Using the data provided by these resources, I've developed a set of interesting charts that strongly indicate that the worst of this disease's impacts are behind us (for this wave, anyway).


This shows the unweighted moving average of new cases reported to ADPH each day for the entire state. A moving average is used to smooth out the day-to-day "noise" in a time series and reveal trends that might not be discerned by looking at the noisy raw data.


Here's a plot of the same moving average for Mobile County. The shapes of the two plots are not radically different. Both show two peaks, occurring at about the same times. The state's second peak is higher, which is explained in part by higher levels of testing in more rural areas of the state. Neither of the two short term trends leading to the second peaks is sustainable because of the information revealed in the following chart.


This chart shows the percent positive vis-a-vis the number of positive test results. The percent positive line peaked at about the same time as the state's first peak in mid-April, but the total number of positive cases has trended generally higher. The only phenomenon that could cause such a divergence is the combination of increased testing and a decline in the proportion of the state population that has been infected with the virus. In other words, the state is looking harder for positive cases by increasing the number of tests, but is having a harder time finding positive test results. The total number of cases has gone up, but only because testing has gone up. The declining number of percent positive will probably continue, because stay-at-home, social distancing and quarantines have had their impact. All of the low hanging fruit has been harvested.

What about Alabama's status versus the rest of the country? According to the  RCP page in the link above, Alabama is:

  • 26th in the number of confirmed cases
  • 28th in the number of cases per 1 million population
  • 25th in the number of deaths
  • 25th in the number of deaths per 1 million population
  • 31st in confirmed case fatality rate
  • 22nd in tests performed 
So, an honest evaluation of how Alabama fares nationally would conclude that we're about average. About half of the country is doing better and about half is doing worse. In other words, it's not as bad as the tense, anxious news reports and op-eds would have you believe.


Friday, April 3, 2020

The IHME model showing mass COVID-19 deaths in Alabama is highly suspect


A model currently being used to make projections about the numbers of cases and fatalities due to the COVID-19 has serious flaws and its results should be viewed with great skepticism.

Risk management and numerical modeling is a major part of what I do in my day job. So I'm not parroting what I've heard from people who just don't like grisly numbers.

The basic problem with the model produced by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) is that it is using a horribly biased sample of existing cases in heavily populated areas of the United States. Then it is using inferential statistics with those data to reach conclusions about possible outcomes and thus producing expectations that are unrealistic. An analogy that I can communicate is this: It's as if I used a sample of homes taken from New York and New Jersey to represent floodprone properties in places like Elba, Geneva, Demopolis and Saraland in Alabama. Last month, I wrote a Facebook post about a quirk in the state's COVID-19 statistics, wherein I pointed out that Jefferson County's number of confirmed cases of the virus was out of whack with the county's proportion of the state population. Early on, JeffCo's case rate was as high as three times the county's population vis-a-vis the rest of the state. The county's population of about 660,000 is about 13.5% of Alabama's estimated 4.88 million souls but it was accounting for as much as 59% of our COVID-19 cases. Some of that can be explained by greater number of tests for the virus, but not all of it. As of this writing, the county has 340 of the state's 1340 cases, or about 25% of total cases. This has been a fairly stable rate for the last several days. Yet it is still twice the county's representation in the state population.

This pattern of a state's largest metro area see a case rate far out of balance with its representation in the state's population is occurring nearly everywhere else in the country.  The most extreme example is New York City. The Big Apple has 43% of the state's cases. That's a stable percentage and about where JeffCo was vis-a-vis Alabama. (New York City accounts for about 13% of all cases nationwide.)

The IHME approach has been to use the data with the most observations, and they have the most observations in New York and New Jersey, the epicenter of the pandemic in the U.S. They really can't be faulted for this--the Institute was tasked with rapidly producing a reasonable approximation of caseload and mortality for the purpose of planning for the numbers of hospital beds, ICU beds and ventilators. They had little choice but to use the large metro data because that's where all the data were. There are ways of testing for and adjusting the sample to remove bias, but the modelers either didn't have time or just didn't test and adjust their sample. This is an ad hoc planning model, after all.

Another problem I have is with how the planning model has been used in the media, and how news organizations are failing to properly communicate the importance of uncertainty, and how human intervention can drastically change what actually happens next week vs what's being forecast today. One average person making one good decision about how he interacts with others can remove entire branches of unfavorable outcomes in the decision tree. One average Joe making a stupid decision can add them all back again. The truth is that we just don't know, so modelers provide their forecasts with an uncertainty band. It allows the modeler to say something like, "we think the number could be as many as X, it could be as low as Y, but we think the actual number will be close to Z. But remember that this could all change tomorrow." None of that important context was presented in the story linked above or in the video segment that appeared on the station's news broadcast.

The takeaway is this--the IHME model has serious technical issues and that uncertainty is not being communicated properly by the media, causing undue alarm among a nervous public. It also causes people to be dismissive of modeling because the chance of the model's projections being realized down to the digit are infinitesimally small.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Beat Coronavirus -- Go Spend Money


The latest strain of a common cold virus has world leaders in abject panic. Part of the reason why they're freaking right the hell out is that this strain's higher-than-usual lethality rate threatens to swamp their government-run, inherently inefficient public healthcare systems. It is a fact--people are going to die because free healthcare is worth every cent you pay for it. We don't (yet) have such a healthcare disaster and we have an opportunity to keep it from happening when we vote in November's Presidential and Congressional elections.

We also have an opportunity to help the U.S. economy weather the storm of panic and reduced human contact. Common sense tells us to take precautions to reduce the rate of the virus' spread, and that means less person-to-person interaction and a slowdown in economic activity. These events--which economists refer to as "externalities"--are not caused by typical up-and-down economic cycles. The 1970's oil crisis was one. The 2004-2005 hurricanes were another. Sadly, so were the 9/11 terrorist attacks. No fiscal or monetary policies undertaken or contemplated cause these things to happen. They just do, and things usually right themselves sooner or later.

So, in the meantime, if you'd like to do your part to minimize the economic damage of COVID-19, go spend money.

It's ok to buy as much toilet paper, hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, rubbing alcohol and bleach as you can afford. The people who make all that stuff will just make more of it. By all means, stock up on canned goods, batteries, peanut butter, saltine crackers, bottled water, bandaids and aspirin/tylenol/ibuprofen. Their makers are also glad to have the business and will cheerfully restock shelves with all of your favorites.

If you don't need more of these things and are a little shy of people thinking you're a hoarder prepper doomsdayer, that's ok. Your car could probably use an oil change. Maybe a new set of tires or at least an inflate/rotate. Maybe fix those brakes or replace those belts that are whining at you all the time. Here on the gulf coast, mild temperatures and sunny days mean lots of pollen. and the automatic carwash folks are open for business. So, why not?

You know who else would appreciate your patronage? Your favorite fast food joint with drive-thru service. Sorry Five Guys... McDonalds, Burger King and Wendy's are social-distance friendly and their burgers ain't that bad, either. Tacos, chicken sandwiches, hotdogs and seafood are out there too, y'all. Partake in some nom-noms and be glad you did. Starbucks does drive-thru, don't they?

Earlier this month two of the most corrupt, authoritarian regimes in the world had a falling out over an oil price collusion scheme (that was doomed to fail, anyway). Both Russia and Saudi Arabia have thus opened their oil spigots in an attempt to drown each other in petroleum. As a result, gasoline is under $2.00/gallon on the gulf coast. Fill up your tank and smirk at the smarmy ecologist driving his now uneconomical electric golf-cart masquerading as a road-safe automobile. Funny how these things work, ain't it?

In the economic long run, free markets are never wrong. The collective, freely incentivized actions of consumers and suppliers will always allocate scarce resources in the most efficient manner. Unconstrained, unassisted buyers and sellers will always set the optimum price, and the desire to satisfy one's wants and needs will be met. As long as buyers buy, sellers will sell. People will have jobs and jobs mean money to spend, so forth and so on forever and ever, world without end, Amen.

So exercise your economic freedom, America.

Go buy stuff.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Coronavirus in Italy is a snapshot of America if Democrats win in November


Newsweek has published what is purported to be an op-ed from an "anonymous doctor" who lives and works in Italy. The op-ed is long on finger-shaking at western laissez faire culture and short on science and medicine, so let that guide you in deciding whether you're reading the opinion of an MD or that of an ethics-challenged journo with an axe to grind.

It does give us some insight on how a socialized, "free" healthcare system actually works.
Fast-forward two months, and we are drowning. Statistically speaking—judging by the curve in China—we are not even at the peak yet, but our fatality rate is at over 6 percent, double the known global average.

Put aside statistics. Here is how it looks in practice. Most of my childhood friends are now doctors working in north Italy. In Milan, in Bergamo, in Padua, they are having to choose between intubating a 40-year-old with two kids, a 40-year old who is fit and healthy with no co-morbidities, and a 60-year-old with high blood pressure, because they don't have enough beds. In the hallway, meanwhile, there are another 15 people waiting who are already hardly breathing and need oxygen.

The army is trying to bring some of them to other regions with helicopters but it's not enough: the flow is just too much, too many people are getting sick at the same time.
The Italian public healthcare system is heavily regulated and care is strictly rationed. Here's a synopsis from AllianzCare, an international health insurance provider that caters to expats and people who spend a lot of time abroad for both work and leisure.
The healthcare system in Italy is a regionally based national health service known as Servizio Sanitario Nazionale (SSN). It provides universal coverage to citizens and residents, with public healthcare largely free of charge. Treatments which are covered by the public system and a small co-payment include tests, medications, surgeries during hospitalisation, family doctor visits and medical assistance provided by paediatricians and other specialists. Furthermore, medication, out-patient treatments, and dental treatments are also available. However, public healthcare facilities in Italy vary in terms of quality depending on the region.

While the standard of public hospitals in Italy is generally adequate there are some state hospitals that fall well below the standards that some expats would be accustomed to. Therefore, regardless of where one comes from, it is best to organise health insurance before moving to Italy. Without it, issuance of a Permesso di Soggiorno (permit to stay) may not be possible.

...

If moving to Italy as a non-European Union citizen, travellers will be required to have private insurance cover (sic). Upon arrival, there is an eight-day window to visit the local police station and present a health policy that is valid throughout the duration of one’s stay.
Italian healthcare is thus free for Italians. Everyone else...

When everyone is healthy and demand for medical services is low, the system may work just fine. Deficiencies in the level of care have fewer harsh consequences. But in the midst of an international health emergency, uh oh. From WSJ (subscription required):
“I never was at war, but that’s how I imagine it,” said Federica Brena, a medical oncologist at a hospital in Bergamo, another hard-hit area in northern Italy, on Facebook. “The health-care system risks collapse.”

A photo showing a sleeping nurse slumped over a computer while still wearing protective gear was widely shared on social media, becoming a symbol of the emergency and the strain the epidemic has put on medical personnel.

“We are doing everything humanly possible,” said Dr. Mangiatordi, who took the photo. “But sometimes I feel powerless.”

Medical staff risk getting the infection themselves. Despite protective equipment—double gloves, tightened face masks and scrubs—medical personnel account for about 12% of those infected in Lombardy.
The following is from The Atlantic, a publication that is far from being accused of right-wing propaganda.
Today, Italy has 10,149 cases of the coronavirus. There are now simply too many patients for each one of them to receive adequate care. Doctors and nurses are unable to tend to everybody. They lack machines to ventilate all those gasping for air.

Now the Italian College of Anesthesia, Analgesia, Resuscitation and Intensive Care (SIAARTI) has published guidelines for the criteria that doctors and nurses should follow in these extraordinary circumstances. The document begins by likening the moral choices facing Italian doctors to the forms of wartime triage that are required in the field of “catastrophe medicine.” Instead of providing intensive care to all patients who need it, its authors suggest, it may become necessary to follow “the most widely shared criteria regarding distributive justice and the appropriate allocation of limited health resources.”

The principle they settle upon is utilitarian. “Informed by the principle of maximizing benefits for the largest number,” they suggest that “the allocation criteria need to guarantee that those patients with the highest chance of therapeutic success will retain access to intensive care.”
This is what socialized, public, "free" healthcare looks like, y'all. It's a clear snapshot of what the U.S. healthcare system will look like if the left gains control of the levers of power in November and implements their wacked out plans for our healthcare system. "Medicare for All" or the "public option" will transform the world's greatest healthcare marketplace into a third world system of rationing; where doctors and their bosses decide whether you live or die. Our system is great because it's private sector financed, despite the burdens already placed on it by the Obamacare debacle.

Make no mistake about this truth as well--if you're rich enough, powerful enough and connected enough, you will be treated in Italy today. If tomorrow's U.S. system looks anything like today's Italian mess, do you really think the Mike Bloombergs, Warren Buffets and Robert DeNiros will have to stand in line with the rest of us schmucks?

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Amtrak decision is still costly, still risky and still appealing


The Mobile City Council postponed (again) the decision on whether to roll the dice on restoring Amtrak service to Mobile. Who can blame them? It's a big decision with big risk, as we saw in this post from December 2019, reposted here just ICYMI.

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 18, 2019
Amtrak's return to Mobile will be expensive and risky


If left alone to sink or swim on its own financial viability, Amtrak would have gone under long ago and we would never be having a discussion over whether the City of Mobile should commit scarce resources to an Amtrak station here.

Amtrak is not a profitable enterprise. It never really has been, either. At the end of Fiscal Year 2019, the national passenger rail service reported its lowest ever adjusted operating loss of $29.8 million. That followed operating losses of $194.1 million in FY 2017 and $170.6 million in 2018. Under Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (the standard that publicly traded companies use in reporting to the Securities and Exchange Commission), net losses for 2018 and 2019 would have been $817 million and $875 million. Amtrak has just one route that would be profitable under real-world accounting rules--the Northeast Corridor. This route serves the country's most densely populated region and most closely resembles places like Japan and Germany with dense, high-income population centers.

The national rail service receives about $234 million in subsidies from state and local governments it serves. Without those subsidies, losses would have been well over $1.0 billion. In addition, Amtrak receives $1.3 billion annually in federal allocations, without which Amtrak would have been broken up and sold for scrap years ago. President Trump initially proposed a complete elimination of federal subsidies, then acquiesced and requested $611 million for FY2020, only to have Congress restore the $1.3 billion from prior budgets. Trump is likely to propose cuts in FY2021 and beyond.

Which brings us to the decision faced by the Mobile City Council on New Year's Eve. From John Sharp's excellent reporting at al.com:

City Council members were asked Tuesday to subsidize a local match to a federal grant that passenger rail advocates believe will not cost more than $3 million over three years. ...

“This investment is totally an offset for operational costs,” said Wiley Blankenship, president & CEO of the Coastal Alabama Partnership and chairman of the 21-member Southern Rail Commission that is charged with prompting passenger rail service and pursuing funding opportunities to support its mission. ...

As proposed, the three-year commitment under what rail commissioners call a “worst-case” scenario -- where annual ridership is around 38,000 people who spend an average of $18.33 per trip – would cost city taxpayers $3 million from 2023-2025. Over five years, the subsidy would rise to $7.7 million.

Rail commissioners, however, are proposing what they believe is a more realistic “conservative” estimate of around 86,400 riders per year who spend an average of $30 per trip. Under that proposal, it would cost Mobile around $2 million to subsidize the train’s operations, and about $5.4 million over five years.
Under the "worst case scenario" from Sharp's report, the route would generate gross receipts of about $3.96 million annually, the city's annual subsidy tab would be $1.0 million and Amtrak collects about $5 million total. Under the "conservative" estimate, annual gross receipts would be about $20.45 million, the city ponies up $1.67 million and Amtrak collects $22.1 million.

Amtrak collects all of this revenue. Ticket fare, food, beverage and sundry services all go to Amtrak and none go to the city or the state.

The city will also be on the hook to secure funding for capital improvements that could cost as much as $7.7 million. This will be needed for railway modifications west of the city and a new train station at Brookley, which is destined to become Mobile's consolidated commercial and industrial air traffic center.

Under neither of the two scenarios does the city's obligation fall below $1 million annually for the three-year planning scenario (years 2026 and 2027 do, presumably due to discounting). Keep in mind that both of the scenarios are "what if" imaginations of proponents. It's entirely possible that either scenario plays out or reality plays out somewhere in between. If we're honest about the City of Mobile's history in projecting usage of its grand ideas, even the worst case scenario is a tad on the optimistic side. A hard question with an unpleasant answer: "What is our cost if we get 5,000 riders a year and they only spend $10.00 each?"

Sharp's reporting also touches on the impact to Mobile's bona fide cash cow--The Alabama State Port Authority. The State Docks has said that moving any Amtrak station to Brookley would be preferable to having it located downtown near the Outlaw Convention Center on Water Street. However, it would still represent a significant and costly disruption to rail traffic through the port. We all hate it when rail cars are stacked up along Water Street and cut off access to the waterfront along Mobile River. That gets worse and costlier for both port traffic and tourism if the port's rail operations are disrupted for the twice (at least) daily arrivals and departures of the passenger train.

All of the above is not to say that passenger rail service with stops along the Gulf Coast from Mobile west to New Orleans doesn't have tremendous economic, cultural and historical appeal. This stretch of the Gulf Coast has a magnetic draw on tourists from elsewhere in North America and abroad. The State of Alabama is celebrating its bicentennial this year. The communities along this rail route have already celebrated their tricentennials. The culture of this region is unlike anything found elsewhere on the continent. A visit that encompasses the 150-ish miles between the cuisine of Louisiana and the pristine beaches of South Alabama with fun and gaming along the Mississippi coast is unique. History, fun, food, charm, hospitality, mild climate... It's a moneymaker. But the infrastructure to support that recreational order of magnitude is... expensive.

The City Council has a big decision to make on New Year's Eve. The cost of putting Mobile at the eastern edge of the proposed rail route is much more than just the $3 to $5 million dangled by the Coastal Alabama Partnership and the Southern Rail Commission. Ridership is probably going to be lower than projected (at first) and fares are probably going to be higher than the $25-ish estimate. Capital costs for railway improvements and station construction will go up because they always do. The disruption of business at the port will cost millions and probably a lot of jobs. Plus, Amtrak's finances are an unmitigated disaster and President Trump could scrap the whole system before 2023 even rolls around. There should be no misunderstanding that going forward will be costly and risky.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

ALDOT and bridge proponents are still NOT LISTENING


The problem with the Mobile River Bridge & Bayway Project is NOT the toll. The problem is much deeper and more complex than that. At any toll rate, even zero, the MRB&B Project represents a bad investment for Mobile & Baldwin Counties, the State of Alabama, the region and the Nation.

In August 2019, the Eastern Shore Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) voted to remove the Mobile River Bridge & Bayway Project from its Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP), effectively blocking federal funding for the project. The impetus for that vote was the product of public opposition to a proposed $3 to $6 one way toll to finance a project with a need that was never clearly established. The Facebook Block the Mobile Bayway Toll Group mobilized public opposition and made it clear to local elected figures that they were having none of this foolishness.

Now comes a news report detailing how ALDOT thinks that a "much cheaper toll" would be ok. These people at ALDOT and local proponents are still not listening.

Weeks before that fateful vote, this blog argued that the toll was never the real problem. The real problem was in the planning, engineering and design of a Taj Mahal bridge and bayway system that's not necessary and would never be economically feasible.
This project's problem isn't the toll. This project's problem is a failure to meet a basic NEPA requirement to evaluate a full range of alternatives. It won't be the tolling pain that kills the project. It will be the NEPA failure.

By now, it should be clear that nowhere in the public process of preparing the necessary NEPA documents is it stated that this project's economic benefits are equal to or greater than its costs.

The Benefit-Cost Ratio is a mathematical expression of a project's worth to taxpayers. A BCR greater than 1-to-1 means that the project will improve our economic well being. A BCR less than 1-to-1 means that the project will harm our economic well being. A toll would only make our state's agony worse.

Until this project's BCR is proven to be greater than 1.0, the statement "the cost of doing nothing is too high" is patently false.
In layman's terms, ALDOT designed and engineered a bridge and bayway system that would have been overbuilt. They failed to acknowledge that there is a level of storm surge damage risk that we are willing to accept. That level of risk is far higher than what ALDOT was asking us to pay for.

From an economics perspective, the project will suck more money from our local and regional economy than it ever could hope to pay for in more businesses, jobs and tax revenue.

ALDOT deliberately withheld information about the project during the public review period.

ALDOT also inadvertently disclosed what would have been the recommended plan had they accepted the fact that they were proposing an unnecessary behemoth of a project. They withheld information they knew we needed and accidentally disclosed information that showed their lack of candor.

Here is my full review of the Environmental Impact Statement for the project.

Here is an Economic Impact Fact Sheet showing that even with a reduced toll, the project is still a proposal for economic disaster.

The project will not go forward under the NEPA document ALDOT attempted to foist off on the public. Try it, and we'll see it aired out in federal court.


Saturday, January 4, 2020

Colin Cowherd sets out to prove that even broken clocks are right sooner or later


The sun will rise tomorrow. February is coming soon. After winter's chill is over, spring will thaw and summer will warm again. Nick Saban's time will come to an end, some other program will enjoy a fleeting period of success and Colin Cowherd thinks that time is now.

Cowherd, Paul Finebaum and Jim Rome are sports media personalities that don't get ratings and don't make money unless they say stuff knowing that they may have to take it back and apologize for saying it later. It's just what they do. Car dealers sell cars, thieves steal things and pot stirrer-uppers stir up the pot.  But pot stirrer-uppers have an out when they make bold predictions like "the end of an era is upon us." Even the most outrageous doomsayer will be right sooner or later. This is much like the proverbial broken clock. It's always right twice a day.

Nick Saban is a mortal human and his time at Alabama is limited. It is unlikely that any near term replacement will duplicate (or even exceed) his success. But anybody who watched all of the Tide's 13 games in the 2019 season saw a program that was about a cat hair's distance from being another link in the dynastic chain. The team was loaded with talent among the first-teamers but just didn't have the depth and experience of the 2015-2018 teams. Those teams made four appearances in the CFP Championship game and won two while beating would-be aspirants Clemson and Georgia twice each. Injuries and eventual graduation to the NFL are part of the game of Big Boy College Football. That both bugs bit in the same season doesn't mean that an empire is crumbling. Not... yet.

Anyway, here's the pot stirrer-upper, practicing his craft.



Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Dylan Moses to return to Alabama


He's coming back, y'all.

Dylan Moses was the missing part in a good-but-not-great 2019 Alabama defense. After the devastating knee injury suffered in August, the team lacked a squad leader. Fans watching Alabama football this season could sense that something was missing:
Moses brings a steadying presence to the quarterback spot of a complex Alabama defense. He was the veteran voice obviously missing from a defense that regressed through attrition. This program overcame incredibly bad linebacker injury luck in 2017 but just didn’t have the depth when disaster struck in August.

Opponents picked on the inexperienced middle linebackers with schemes designed to attack them. Moses was always around the program but couldn’t have the impact he’ll have next fall counseling them from the field instead of the film room.

“I think a lot of the times,” Golding said Sunday of the freshman linebackers, “they are looking for confirmation and the guy beside him doesn’t really know either. And I think that’s been the big difference.”
Coach Nick Saban is delighted, of course:
“He can create value by coming back, and we certainly have to, as an institution and an organization, make him feel comfortable relative to how we insure him and what he can do so that hopefully he’s not going to have these kinds of problems and he’ll be able to improve his draft status.

“I think the big thing with Dylan was he wanted to be a part of the team. He wanted to be a leader of the team, he wanted to come back and play well for Alabama and that was probably the deciding factor for him. Obviously, he’s a great player, he’s a good person and a good leader, and he can make a significant impact on making us better next year.”
Some people who fancy themselves gurus of the draft were a little perturbed:
Oh, well. Roll Tide!

In WaPo Op-Ed, Doug Jones parrots Chuck Schumer


Providing proof beyond reasonable doubt that Doug Jones is a Chuck Schumer puppet, the doomed Democrat junior Senator from Alabama pleads with his colleagues in the upper chamber to "pursue the truth over all else."

This is insulting.

If there were any honest truth-seekers left in the Democrat Party, this impeachment circus would have folded its tents and left town before Halloween. Honest truth-seekers would have read the transcript of the phone call between President Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky and said, "nothing to see here." Instead, Democrats and their media mouthpieces manufactured a no-no out of whole cloth and blatantly lied through their teeth about what the two heads of state said to each other.

They conducted closed-door hearings, hand-selected their own witnesses, conspired with a "whistleblower" to fabricate a second- and third-hand story, refused to allow Republicans to subpoena witnesses, leaked testimony and paraded a bunch of Deep State bureaucrats before the public who just didn't like how President Trump was exercising his Article II, Section 2 powers.

Democrats rushed the impeachment process. They issued subpoenas to everyone listed in Schumer-Jones Op-Ed. When the people summoned declined to testify, the Democrats failed to seek court orders to compel testimony. Why? Because they didn't have time to wait for a drawn-out court battle. No, in the age of the internet, 24-hour news cycles and the microwave Starbucks, the old fashioned way just would not due. So after a scant 84 days, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rammed two Articles of Impeachment through the House on a party-line vote.

That Chuck Schumer would cry about an impending Senate trial that lacks truth is insulting. This is a purely partisan attempt to fulfill a fantasy Democrats have held since November 2016. There hasn't been one iota of truth in this since Eric Ciaramella filed his complaint.

What Democrats demand is not the Senate's cross to bear. This is the political equivalent of empowering a courtroom jury to call witnesses and develop its own evidence. That was the House's job. They failed so miserably that neither of the two Articles of Impeachment even allege that the President has committed a crime. Fortunately, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his Republican majority are having none of this nonsense. A trial will be conducted and votes will be held based on the evidence developed by the House.

And that will be that.

Doug Jones is doomed. Unless Republicans crap the bed and nominate Creepy Uncle Roy to run against him, Jones' tour of the DC cocktail circuit ends January 2021 with the election of Jeff Sessions, Tommy Tuberville or Bradley Byrne. So, Jones will vote to convict-and-remove if the Articles ever come up for a vote in the Senate. He'll do it because Schumer has commanded him to do so. Even if he dares to defy his master and he votes to acquit, there's no chance that it saves his job.