No Minister

Archive for the ‘Transport’ Category

Do you need an NKVD for this?

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Based on history I would have said yes. Certainly the collectivisation of Russian farms in the USSR and Mao’s Great Leap Forward could not have been achieved without having a State police force pointing their firearms at unarmed civilians.

On the other hand, the last two years of General Tso’s Sickness has persuaded me that there are rather large chunks of our society who will willingly bend to the wishes of the State if they are both terrified enough and sense that opposition to the State’s plans is small and weak, plus another chunk that think they’ll be the ones in charge of all of this.

But what will happen to the land? Mr Kotsko already has that planned out too:

Because that has worked so well in the past. But aside from Communist failures the fact is that this ties in well with environmental groups, from the Very Far Left Sea Shepard, to the hideously wealthy capitalist sociopaths of the World Economic Forum – if the intention is to greatly reduce the size of the planet’s human population, which would solve all manner of problems.

I had no idea who this clown was, but he’s more than just another Toxic Twitter Leftist: he has his own Wikipedia page:

Adam Kotsko (born 1980) is an American theologian, religious scholar, culture critic, and translator, working in the field of political theology.

“Political Theology”? Ewwwwww. Sounds scary, even if it is a good description of what passes for politics nowadays. He’s also written a number of books, including Why We Love Sociopaths (2012): no word on whether he meant it as a warning or an instruction manual, possibly for the WEF. He certainly has not applied its analytics to himself.

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you – unless indeed you fail to meet the test!?– 2 Corinthians 13:5

Written by Tom Hunter

August 23, 2022 at 5:07 pm

Super Shitty

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Kip’s Law:  “Every advocate of central planning
always — always — envisions himself as the central planner.”

The other day I posted about a strange new utopian vision of a city, The Line, that is super dense with 9 million people packed into just 34 square kilometres. It’s one answer to the sprawl of modern cities, of which NZ has its own great example, Auckland.

One of the most powerful arguments against the massive expenditure on trains in Auckland has been that the city is simply too sprawling for them to work as they do in older, foreign, cities like London, NYC, Chicago, Berlin, Moscow, Paris and Madrid.

More modern cities of Auckland’s vintage like Australia’s major metropolises, and American cities like San Francisco, LA, Dallas, Houston, and Miami, don’t have significant commuter rail systems and attempts to extend them in those places have not gone well, either in terms of cost or usage and especially not in their primary aim of shifting people away from using private cars on roads. At best in these cities trains are supplements to the main public transport of buses.

One of the joking, dismissive responses to Auckland trains has been to point out that for them to work the city itself would have to be re-engineered into a denser form like London or NYC, if not the extremes of The Line.

However, some years ago it became apparent that lobbying outfits like Greater Auckland, Public Transport Users Association, and Auckland government itself are treating that idea entirely seriously. They have implicitly accepted the power of the argument against rail – but instead of giving up, they’ve basically said “Ok, we’ll change the city to fit the trains”: the most common phrase is that the Auckland trains will run through “high density corridors”.

Typical Central Planning thinking; the Big Plan doesn’t work? Make it bigger! The real problem is that, as with myriad bicycle path failures, it’s less that these people love trains, buses and bikes than that they hate cars.

The private automobile is the primary technical reason why suburbs were created – especially in the USA after WWII, but across the Western world. But the driving force was that people wanted more space for themselves; detached houses they owned rather than apartments they rented, with some gardens around them.

There was also the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). Created by FDR to develop urban public housing, it ended up doing not that great a job but in the hands of Harry Truman it started a mortgage insurance program that took the risk out of home lending and made the long-term (25–30 years), low-interest home mortgage the national US standard, which multiplied the effects of cars and industrialised house building. See the superb article, Suburbanization in the United States after 1945.

It’s ironic then that many on the Democrat-voting Left hated suburbs right from the start:

On the other side were the critics, who believed suburbia was inflicting profound damage on the American character. Academics, novelists, filmmakers, and designer-planners, among others, blamed mass suburbia for some of the most disturbing social trends of the era. Homogeneous suburban landscapes, they believed, spawned homogenous people, who followed the dictates of blind conformity. 

Even suburban family life was lambasted, portrayed as the polar opposite of the carefree innocence depicted on popular television sitcoms. Novelists and filmmakers in particular depicted all manner of suburban domestic dysfunction: alcoholism, adultery, inept parenting, wounding anxieties, deeply troubled marriages, and fraught sexuality, all concealed beneath a smiling public face.

No better single example of this criticism exists than the song popularised in the early 1960’s by the old American Stalinist musician, Pete Seeger: Little Boxes (“They’re all made out of ticky tacky, And they all look just the same.”). What he thought of Soviet apartment blocks is not known. What a POS he was.

You should also note that this is all long before environmental or energy arguments arose to be used against suburbs and “sprawl”. New arguments for the same ideologues with the same goals.

However, there were a few on the Left who embraced the new suburbs:

After 1918 there began to appear something that had never existed in England before: people of indeterminate social class. In 1910 every human being in these islands could be “placed” in an instant by his clothes, manners and accent. This is no longer the case… In those vast new wildernesses of glass and brick the sharp distinctions of the older kind of town, with its slums and mansions, or of the country, with its manor-houses and squalid cottages, no longer exist.

It is a rather restless, culture-less life, centering round tinned food, Picture Post, the radio and the internal combustion engine… To that civilisation belong the people who are most at home in and most definitely of the modern world, the technicians and the higher-paid skilled workers, the airmen and their mechanics, the radio experts, film producers, popular journalists and industrial chemists. They are the indeterminate stratum at which the older class distinctions are beginning to break down.

Orwell, of course, accepted the Marxist analysis of society, with its emphasis on economic class divisions and that, plus his own English experience, meant that he welcomed almost anything that would dissolve them. As he observed, soon as they could, people started escaping the old, dense cities, which had been built around different housing and transport technologies. This outward flow has continued into the 21st century:

Between 1982 and 2012, metropolitan regions ballooned in area, with real-estate development consuming 43 million acres of rural land, an area larger than Washington State…Even in comparatively slow-growing metro areas such as Pittsburgh and Detroit, rates of suburban sprawl outpaced population growth. By the early 21st century, Americans were driving more miles, spending more time in the car, and using more energy than ever before.

With the result that nearly three-quarters of metropolitan Americans now live in suburbs and roughly four in five home buyers prefer a single-family home. There’s a reason why so many people are fleeing major cities for bigger parcels of land. Even in cities we seek the outdoors and fresh air and try as the planner might, that’s just not what a high density apartment block provides.

You can also forget the the claims about a swing back to urbanisation:

Progressive theory today holds [that] the key groups that will shape the metropolitan future—millennials and minorities—will embrace ever-denser, more urbanized environments. Yet in the last decennial accounting, inner cores gained 206,000 people, while communities 10 miles and more from the core gained approximately 15 million people… after a brief period of slightly more rapid urban growth immediately following the recession, U.S. suburban growth rates began to again surpass those of urban cores. An analysis by Jed Kolko, chief economist at the real estate website Trulia, reports that between 2011 and 2012 less-dense-than-average Zip codes grew at double the rate of more-dense-than-average Zip codes in the 50 largest metropolitan areas. Americans, he wrote, “still love the suburbs.”

Moreover, notes Kolko, millennials are not moving to the denser inner ring suburban areas. They are moving to the “suburbiest” communities, largely on the periphery, where homes are cheaper, and often schools are better. When asked where their “ideal place to live,” according to a survey by Frank Magid and Associates, more millennials identified suburbs than previous generations. Another survey in the same year, this one by the Demand Institute, showed similar proclivities.

As I noted at the beginning, such facts do not deter the Urban Planners.

Density is their new holy grail, for both the world and the U.S. Across the country efforts are now being mounted—through HUD, the EPA, and scores of local agencies—to impede suburban home-building, or to raise its cost….The obstacles being erected include incentives for density, urban growth boundaries, and mounting environmental efforts to reduce sprawl…Notably in coastal California, but other places, too, suburban housing is increasingly relegated to the affluent...

Sound familiar? Actually it’s much of the political class, not just “Progressives” who increasingly want people to live differently. In fact it’s a whole bunch of people:

Banks, institutional investors, mega housing developers, international corporations, tech heavyweights, public utilities, and public agencies all prefer high density. Environmentalism provides cover.

The prevailing vision of environmentalism today, unfortunately, caters to a global oligarchy. They have decided it is in their interests, along with the interests of the planet—most definitely in that order—to preach imminent doom. Stack and pack, do it for the earth, and laugh all the way to the bank.

The architect Peter Cresswell pointed this out for Auckland, way back in 2005:

The same high-density planning imposition that Mother Hucker wants to impose in places like Glenn Innes and Panmure to make building slums compulsory are the same impositions planned for 51 ‘nodal developments’ from Pukekohe to Warkworth that are zoned for minimum densities greater than Central London, and these impositions come from the same planning mindset that is already making it virtually impossible to build at all outside the Metropopitan Urban Limit (MUL).

What’s new now is that the Auckland Regional Council’s planners have upped the stakes. With the so-called Smart Growth of ‘Plan Change 6‘ they’ve decided ‘Countryside Living’ — that’s the stuff you do outside the ‘growth boundary’ — is “unsustainable” because, get this, it “undermines public transport.” They mean it. This ‘plan change’ is in essence a plan to end countryside living and to make rural New Zealand a National Park.

Which you will be allowed to visit occasionally – assuming that your Social Credit score is high enough and that the trains are actually running.

Seventeen years later those densifying developments are proceeding apace, even as Auckland housing prices continue to rise and the Greater Auckland group blithely talks of turning us into Hong Kong. What’s also rising is crime in those areas, as I pointed out here:

Of course the idea where I live is that building lots of houses will obviously cure homelessness and thus reduce poverty and crime. So far the evidence is exactly the opposite. But it’s early days yet. As I said, the new houses look nice. My Chicago-born wife mutters “ghettos” as she drives through the areas.

As Joel Kotkin points out in his article, such plans are beginning to cause pushback in the USA, even – or perhaps especially – in Democrat Party areas:

Forced densification–the ultimate goal of the “smart growth” movement—also has inspired opposition in Los Angeles, where densification is being opposed in many neighborhoods, as well as traditionally more conservative Orange Country. Similar opposition has arisen in Northern Virginia suburbs, another key Democratic stronghold.

Or perhaps they just get the hell out of it all together and head for places like Pokeno, a once sleepy little SH1 town nestled into the Southern Bombay Hills. Seemingly abandoned when the Waikato Expressway bypassed it in the 2000’s it has exploded with new housing, with people commuting from there to both Hamilton and Auckland.

So after all this expenditure of human resources and money, the results, as usual for Urban Planning, have delivered almost none of their claimed goals, not even the environmental benefits of trains, for which all this city re-engineering is being done to Auckland:

Their mantra, a never-ending refrain, is more rail, fewer roads—and if in doubt, get motorists to pay more. “Rail, rail, rail, rail, rail.”

You’d think by their constant worship at the altar of rail that the environmental case for public transport was overwhelming!  That city’s could develop no other way. That rail really is the “highly energy-efficient means of commuter transport” the Greens website says it is.

But it’s not. Rail is far from the most efficient means of commuter transport, as figures from the U.S. government bureau of transportation statistics figures and the U.S.Dept. of Energy Transportation Energy Data Book demonstrate.  Brad Templeton looked at the figures from these sources and produced this handy graph, below, which shows that the average passenger uses less energy to travel a mile in the average car (with an average load of 1.57 passengers) than if he travelled in a diesel bus, a trolley bus, a heavy rail train, or a light rail train—and only marginally more energy than if he travelled by jet plane.

These people won’t stop unless they just plain run out of money or are overruled by Central Government. In the meantime the rest of us cope with their grandiose, “visionary” bullshit by:

refusing to cooperate with their grand plans and escaping to places where the plans are not being effected.

Written by Tom Hunter

July 30, 2022 at 11:22 am

Crush Depth

with 2 comments

Some genius architects and urban planners have come up with a brilliant idea for future cities on Earth.

“The Line” is a proposed three-dimensional city that is 200m wide, 500m high, 170km long, and built in the Saudi Arabian desert, 500m above sea level, according to the NEOM Project’s official website. Saudi Arabian Crown Prince and Chairman of the NEOM Board of Directors, Mohammed bin Salman, made the announcement on The Line’s official site.

No roads, cars or emissions, it will run on 100% renewable energy and 95% of land will be preserved for nature. People’s health and wellbeing will be prioritized over transportation and infrastructure, unlike traditional cities…[It] will eventually accommodate 9 million people and will be built on a footprint of just 34 square kilometers.

Here’s their two minute video.

So, what do readers think?

I think it blows! Big time. Just one of the objections I have is that line about “preserving nature” – as if humans are not also part of nature.

It’s something out of a dystopian Science Fiction story, starting out like those bright, clean spaceships in 2001: A Space Odyssey and other SF movies of the 1950’s-60’s, but likely to degrade to a BladeRunner type locale. It should be noted that critics praised the move in SF movies away from “bright and shiny” to “gritty” as being likely a touch more realistic.

Also, humans don’t react well to being “re-engineered”. We’re organic beings and often the things we create, like cities, are organic too, even if we use machines to build and run them they develop in quirky ways. Planned cities like Brasila (“...the Hotel Sector, the Banking Sector, and the Embassy Sector…“) are not regarded with any great love:

Nothing dates faster than people’s fantasies about the future. This is what you get when perfectly decent, intelligent, and talented men start thinking in terms of space rather than place; and single rather than multiple meanings. It’s what you get when you design for political aspirations rather than real human needs. You get miles of jerry-built platonic nowhere infested with Volkswagens. This, one may fervently hope, is the last experiment of its kind. The utopian buck stops here.

— Robert HughesThe Shock of the New, Episode 4: “Trouble in Utopia”, (1980)

Fervant hope dashed. I can’t recall a time in my life when Central Planners have ever given up on any of their utopian goals. At best they’ve destroyed themselves, in the sense that their plans have produced undeniably dreadful results, but mostly they’ve encountered pushback in the form of people refusing to cooperate with their grand plans and escaping to places where the plans are not being effected.

But like rust, the bastards never sleep. They never give up on their utopian schemes, witness the constant hopes in Lefty bastions like The Daily Blog and The Standard, that the government would once again own the entire power industry here.

There’s also another unspoken aspect to this, summarised well by the secondary headline in this article, The Dehumanizing Tyranny of Densification:

The prevailing vision of environmentalism today caters to a global oligarchy.

Or perhaps Kip’s Law:

“Every advocate of central planning always — always — envisions himself as the central planner.”

In other words I very much doubt that Mohammed bin Salman or any of the other Saudi Princes will be giving up their palaces to live in this utopia. It’s probably intended for the army of Pakistani immigrant workers that their economy needs in order to operate.

Written by Tom Hunter

July 29, 2022 at 2:19 pm

Germany’s a gas, man

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It was apparent several years ago to people like President Trump that Germany was getting far too hooked on Russian gas in its attempts to shut down it’s own coal-fired and nuclear generating plants. However, when Trump addressed this to Chancellor Merkel she dismissed the concerns and when he raised it again in a UN speech…

Germany will become totally dependent on Russian energy if it does not immediately change course.

…. the arrogant German representatives literally laughed at him (the video from which this is taken shows this even more clearly).

I guess the dumb bastards aren’t laughing any more, judging by the release of this analysis from Deutsche Bank.

Wood for heating? I’m cool with that for the farm, in fact I love my wood-burning fireplace. But for a mass of urban dwellers in a 21st century developed nation? How many houses would even have such a thing anymore?

And as this article points out, you can actually run cars on wood gas, and during WWII they did so in Germany and other nations.

Written by Tom Hunter

July 19, 2022 at 7:40 pm

Sustainable Living?

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I came across this rather sweet video a few weeks ago by an English guy who has, over the last five years, built an off-the-grid lifestyle on eighteen acres in the countryside.

The video is him showing viewers all the things he has built, which is a pretty impressive list:

  • A “cob” house.
  • Miniature hydro-electric dam.
  • Solar panels and power shed/workshop for batteries, invertors, etc.
  • Woodwork shop.
  • Metalworking shop (in progress).
  • Greenhouse.
  • Saw milling machine.

He’s also done this for very little money.

I suspect that he and his unseen girlfriend, “Pip”, are vegetarians because while he’s very proud of their vegetable gardens, he only refers to their chickens as a source of eggs, and although their are sheep there’s no mention of them being sources of meat.

But here’s the thing. As impressive as all this is, the fact is that he’s done it using machinery that had to be produced in factories: all of his big 3-phase woodworking machinery; numerous other smaller woodworking and metal working tools; the very useful chain saw; various electronics, including the components of the power system.

Those factories can’t be run off solar panels and small hydro dams. While it would have been possible to do all this by hand without such tools it would have been a hell of lot harder, taken longer, and the results likely more primitive. Aside from the construction itself his ongoing lifestyle will require regular replacements of components or entire machines – like the solar panels and batteries – which he cannot produce.

In short, it’s an industrial civilisation that’s enabling him to live like this. To what extent such a civilisation can be reduced or downgraded while still being able to support hundreds of millions or billions of people to live such a poetic and rustic lifestyle is an unanswered, and perhaps unanswerable, question. Certainly in the Developing world, billions of people are moving in the opposite direction from this guy – with all that implies about their demands for energy and technology.

Written by Tom Hunter

June 9, 2022 at 7:00 am

California Screaming – Inflation (UPDATE)

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I can’t say I ever enjoyed the gigantic expressway network of Los Angeles, even back in the 1990’s when it was nowhere near as bad as it is now in terms of traffic congestion and poor maintenance.

Even so, the one drive I did like was from LA International Airport down I-405 to Mission Viejo. Six months of blue skies, sun, warm but not oppressive temperatures, the wind in my face in the rented convertible, a smooth drive and traffic loads not much more than heading south on Auckland’s Southern Motorway in a mid-afternoon week day.

Then there were the gas prices. Surprisingly for a place where wages and salaries were about 20% higher than Illinois and where some goods and services were more expensive than in the Windy City, the price of gasoline was actually lower than Chicago. But that was a long time gone. This is an LA gas station just a couple of days ago.

Regular is equal to our 91-grade so let’s do the math:

  1. One US Gallon is 3.785 litres
  2. That means a price of $US 2.13 per litre.
  3. $US 1.00 dollar is $NZ 1.53.
  4. So that’s an equivalent of $NZ 3.25 / litre.

Cool. So California, or at least LA and likely the rest of the coastal strip, is now as expensive or even more expensive for petrol as Auckland, New Zealand – although there are some Auckland stations that approach the CA level.

Welcome to the rest of the world, America – or at least, welcome California.

UPDATE:
Oh dear, Calvin & Hobbes was prescient.

That cartoon is from the mid-late 1990’s when the average price of a gallon of US regular gasoline was in the range of $US 1.10 (inflation adjusted that’s $US 1.55), with some states like Illinois being higher (and Chicago higher still), and states like Texas lower.

Written by Tom Hunter

June 3, 2022 at 7:59 pm

US Gas prices like I’ve never seen them.

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One of the things I got used to in the USA is how cheap petrol (gasoline) was – or perhaps it was just the shock of dealing with NZ prices when I got back here.

Americans really do obsess over petrol prices too, constantly looking out for the cheapest deals whereas Kiwis just tend to pull up anywhere and start pumping – although that has begun to change here. I recall that we’d go to one gas station in Chicago because it was literally just over the city boundary and therefore not subject to the city tax, even though you couldn’t physically tell that you had “left” Chicago.

But thanks to the Biden administration’s war on fossil fuels, plus the Russian invasion of Ukraine, gas prices in the USA have exploded in the last year. Even so, the following photo, courtesy of one of the Powerline authors, Steve Hayward, who lives in California, is shocking.

I’m told this pic from the LA area is authentic—probably arriving here mid-state by noon tomorrow.

I ran the calculations and given US Gallons to Litres and the current conversion rate of the $US to $NZ I figure the $9.10 for Premium Gas is about $NZ 3.51 / litre.

New Zealand comes to California.

Heh!

Written by Tom Hunter

March 8, 2022 at 9:28 am

Biting back at the Masters of the Universe

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Given the post I wrote the other day about “The Masters”, inspired by an execrable little commentary from one of them at the WEF, it’s nice timing to write about something that bites back at them a little.

The truckers convoy in Canada being the No. 1 bite-back at the moment. It’s some 70km long (the longest such protest in history) and its arrival in the capital, Ottawa, has so frightened Prime Minister Trudeau that he and his family fled the city.

Naturally this is being held up by the MSM as a scary development, Canada’s own January 6 incident – after they chuckled about the Secret Service moving Trump from the Whitehouse to a more secure location during Antifa riots in 2020, riots that injured some sixty members of the Service.

There’s also lots of honking going on in Ottawa now. My God, the honking. I’m literally shaking.

In keeping with frightened little people like “Stephanie”, PM Trudeau has also tried to smear the truckers, calling them “a ‘fringe minority’ who hold ‘unacceptable views,’ opposing the way ‘most Canadians’ feel.”  Brave words from the tiniest human to ever be Canadian PM.

The MSM, following his lead, at first ignored the convoy

… unless it was to demonize it — as it was proof-positive that the people are not with them, the politicians they serve, or the ideology they support, despite all their claims to the contrary. The issue was that this gathering over the weekend around the truckers was so large that they had to acknowledge it.

But you could tell they weren’t happy about it and the “villains” narrative was the play, with plenty of smearing.

MSNBC Morning Joe hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski spent a segment of their program bashing the convoy and the accompanying rally. Brzezinski, arms folded and head shaking, described how the convoy escalated in reports of vandalism and severe criminal behavior including “the desecration of national monuments.”

I thought the Left loved desecrating national monuments?

She also took to Twitter to highlight a tweet claiming that the protesters had reportedly demanded free soup from a soup kitchen, and the kitchen gave in to prevent conflict.

“So these anti-vaxxers actually took food from the mouths of the homeless?” asked Scarborough. Scarborough then made fun of the rally-goers, labeling them as hypocrites for protesting the vaccines mandates while being vaccinated, then fired off the idea that these people have some sort of religious belief in their cause.

“This. Is. A. Cult,” Scarborough finished.

That’s funny coming from people who worshipped the likes of Governor Cuomo, Dr Fauci and others, even to the extent of having action figures of them and prayer candles!

The New York Times:

Thousands of protesters on foot, many carrying handmade signs on hockey sticks, wandered through the parked vehicles and the slow-moving traffic or gathered on the lawn in front of Parliament. Some of them carried Canadian flags upside down; at least one flag had swastikas drawn on it.

The London Times was more blatant:

There were chaotic scenes over the weekend as scores of articulated lorries began to roll in on Friday, joined by hundreds of pick-ups and cars, paralysing a large chunk of downtown Ottawa near the parliament building and filling the air with honks. Yesterday Canadian flags, “F*** Trudeau” banners and messages about tyranny mingled with Confederate flags, swastikas and the emblems of far-right groups.

Progressives always try to imply that if someone draws a swastika it means that person is pro-Nazi. Actually, it means (in this context, at least) that the person is accusing the Canadian government of using Nazi-like tactics. Smearing by inverting the intent behind the signs.

The BBC quoted Defence Minister Anita Anand that the incidents were “beyond reprehensible”.

What crap! No incident described in that report was even remotely violent, as that NYT report grudgingly acknowledged (“Despite fears that the demonstration could turn violent, by Saturday evening the police said there had been no significant incidents.“)

My personal favourite to laugh at was the Canadian Broadcasting (CBC) host who suggested that the Russians might be behind the protests.

Wow! A Canadian January 6 and Russia Collusion event.

But the worst was the Washington Post, with this opinion column and cartoon:

Yes! Really. This take sums up the MSM coverage very well:

This is the actual working class, the ones who kept things going during the last two years of General Tso’s Lung Rot pandemic while the laptop class (politicians, media, the professoriate, billionaires, etc.) sheltered at home. These people – whether truckers, store clerks, sanitation people, bus drivers, police, or dozens of other jobs that needed to be done – bravely went out despite the fear of an unknown disease, and were praised for doing so by the likes of Trudeau.

But now they’re Fascists.

These truckers stand for all the people in the West who have done everything their political leaders forced upon them. It turns out that most of these truckers are vaccinated, not surprising given the Canadian mandates, but they’re now sick of such mandates at the US-Canada border when they return, with testing and then isolation for Omicron. Hence the protest. There’s been talk of arresting people standing on roadsides cheering it on, that’s how badly TPTB have lost control of the story.

There was at least one MSM source (although one always sneered at for being “low class”) who got it, the NY Post:

Disdainful media, of course, spent days warning of violence to come and searched supporters’ messages for evidence of racism. “ ‘So many angry people’: Experts say online conversation around trucker convoy veering into dangerous territory” read a CTV News headline. CBC, Canada’s PBS and NPR, called Saturday’s protest “a raucous demonstration that has police on high alert for possible violence even as organizers urge the crowd to be peaceful.” Police said that night that “no incidents of violence or injuries” were reported and no protesters faced charges.

The elite media also paint the protesters as stupid hicks, claiming they don’t understand that provincial governments all have restrictions that Ottawa can do nothing about. But Saskatchewan premier Scott Moe told truckers he supports their “call to end the cross border ban on unvaccinated truckers” and announced his government will soon “be ending our proof of negative test/proof of vaccination policy in Saskatchewan.”

It’s also nice to see at least one billionaire who also gets it.

Meantime, enjoy some non-MSM sources, including these videos made by the truckers themselves. You might find yourself cheering them on, as Mark Steyn has.

Written by Tom Hunter

February 1, 2022 at 1:14 pm

A trucker speaks

with one comment

It’s always good to hear something from the coal face of a problem.

In this case the ongoing logistics crisis in the USA, which is much more than the global shipping problems that every nation is experiencing, see here, here and here.

I’m A Twenty Year Truck Driver, I Will Tell You Why America’s “Shipping Crisis” Will Not End.

It seems that one of the basic problems is that at the US ports there is perhaps only one crane for every 50-100 trucks.

Let’s start with understanding some things about ports. Outside of dedicated port trucking companies, most trucking companies won’t touch shipping containers. There is a reason for that.

Think of going to the port as going to WalMart on Black Friday, but imagine only ONE cashier for thousands of customers. Think about the lines. Except at a port, there are at least THREE lines to get a container in or out. The first line is the ‘in’ gate, where hundreds of trucks daily have to pass through 5–10 available gates. The second line is waiting to pick up your container. The third line is for waiting to get out. For each of these lines the wait time is a minimum of an hour, and I’ve waited up to 8 hours in the first line just to get into the port. Some ports are worse than others, but excessive wait times are not uncommon. It’s a rare day when a driver gets in and out in under two hours. By ‘rare day’, I mean maybe a handful of times a year.

The reason this didn’t matter before was that the system had been smoothly flowing for years without the sort of major disruptions caused by government Covid responses, but once those problems hit, the system can’t recover quickly because it has no reserves. Think of it like a huge power station running on coal or gas; it’ll run great for months or years on end, but it’s not designed for rapid start up so if you shut the whole thing down it takes days to fire up.

The driver points out that as member of the Teamsters union he gets paid by the hour so although frustrating he’s not losing money. That’s not the case for the majority of truckers who are owner-operators. His opinion is that most will make almost no money and therefore have not shown up. So:

  • Not enough trucks because there’s no money in it.
  • Not enough port workers because of vaccine mandates and government relief payments that have seen them not return.
  • Not enough warehouse workers (where containers are unpacked) because the money is shit and the job is tough.
  • Not enough spaces to store containers (see this post)

But his key takeaway is this one:

What is going to compel the shippers and carriers to invest in the needed infrastructure? The owners of these companies can theoretically not change anything and their business will still be at full capacity because of the backlog of containers. The backlog of containers doesn’t hurt them. It hurts anyone paying shipping costs — that is, manufacturers selling products and consumers buying products.

But it doesn’t hurt the owners of the transportation business — in fact the laws of supply and demand mean that they are actually going to make more money through higher rates, without changing a thing. They don’t have to improve or add infrastructure (because it’s costly), and they don’t have to pay their workers more (warehouse workers, crane operators, truckers).

Before the pandemic, through the pandemic, and really for the whole history of the freight industry at all levels, owners make their money by having low labor costs — that is, low wages and bare minimum staffing. Many supply chain workers are paid minimum wages, no benefits, and there’s a high rate of turnover because the physical conditions can be brutal

So this is a market failure, and he says that there are no incentives in the system that will make it change.

Nobody is compelling the transportation industries to make the needed changes to their infrastructure. There are no laws compelling them to hire the needed workers, or pay them a living wage, or improve working conditions. And nobody is compelling them to buy more container chassis units, more cranes, or more storage space. This is for an industry that literally every business in the world is reliant on in some way or another.

By “compelling” you know he means laws and regulations (he is a Teamster after all) and perhaps the industry is such a monopoly, even if there are many companies competing with each other inside it, that such are needed. But it’s not like the industry doesn’t already have a mountain of regulations and laws around it.

To me it seems that it’s better to see what incentives can be changed or introduced because market incentives work better and faster than compulsion.

But how? Because it’s infrastructure one can’t just craft up another port to equal that of LA. These so-called natural monopolies are why we have Transpower in NZ looking after the primary power transmission lines, since nobody would ever “compete” by building a second or third set. Perhaps in this case the port could be cut up into multiple companies that are able to set their own rules for shipping, thus creating competition in its best form, the competition of ideas about how to do things.

I see that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has already proposed one solution – send the ships to the ports of his state. That would be a major re-direction, especially for the China-US Pacific run (I’d think they’d transit the Indian and Atlantic oceans) but perhaps the extra time and fuel costs are now completely offset by the gains made in avoiding the West Coast?

Written by Tom Hunter

November 30, 2021 at 6:00 am

Good news from a simple solution

with one comment

In the last few weeks I’ve written a couple of posts on the supply chain problems cropping up around the world, in particular across the Pacific and especially between the USA and China:

The Shipping News

World’s Worst Job

Since then the problem has actually got worse, with even more ships parked outside the Port of Los Angeles. In reading one of my foreign sources I came across a link to the Twitter account of a guy called Ryan Petersen who had rented a boat to go and look at the port to see what was happening.

But that was as far as I read and it merely confirmed other news about the situation. As it happens I should have read further, because he discovered something amazing that is almost beyond belief.

As this commentator summarises while listing out the entire Twitter thread:

  1. There was a rule in the Port saying you could only stack shipping containers two containers high.
  2. This is despite the whole point of shipping containers being to stack them on top of each other so you can have a container ship.
  3. This rule was created, and I am not making this up, because it was decided that higher stacks were not sufficiently aesthetically pleasing.
  4. If you violated this rule, you lost your right to operate at the port.
  5. In normal times, this was annoying but not a huge deal.

The last point on that list is this:

None of those people managed to do anything about the rule, or even get word out about the rule. No reporters wrote up news reports. No one was calling for a fix. The supply chain problems kept getting worse and mostly everyone agreed not to talk about it much and hope it would go away.

It’s incredible that this one stupid bureaucratic rule could be so obviously part of a massive and growing problem and not have anything done about it.

As it happens the Twitter guy did do something about. Having spotted the problem he suggested the obvious solution of suspending the rule so that containers could be stacked more than two high.

So far, so what you may say. Well this is where the power of connecting people on Social Media, in this case Twitter, was made obvious and for once in a good way. That initial tweet got 16k retweets and 33k likes, and even the others got thousands of likes as well, so this successfully got many people’s attention – including the people who make decisions, like the Mayor of Long Beach where the port is located:

That decision was made just eight hours after Petersen’s Tweet thread was posted.

EIGHT HOURS!

You can read the following blog post – An Unexpected Victory – for a (lengthy) analysis of this incident as an example of problem solving – and a glimmer of hope for solving other problems:

If you’re not terrified that the United States is a dead player, you haven’t been paying attention – the whole reason this is a miracle, and that it shocked so many people, is that we didn’t think the system was capable of noticing a stupid, massively destructive rule with no non-trivial benefits and no defenders and scrapping it, certainly not within a day. If your model did expect it, I’m very curious to know how that is possible, and how you explain the years 2020 and 2021.

Sadly there are multiple problems involved in the supply chain crisis, of which this was just one.

Written by Tom Hunter

November 9, 2021 at 10:08 am