Six maps that show America’s vast infrastructure — much of which is past its sell-by date


Click to enlargeRAILROADS

Probably 99% of these rails and roadbeds aren’t suitable for any traffic more demanding than 1950. Most industrial or wannabe-modern nations work at keeping the capability of their national rail system up-to-date. Or better.

We don’t.

Lots more in the article. Trump and the TeaPublican Party assign themselves the mantle of modern with their proposal for advancing, rebuilding infrastructure. It’s about 10% of the commitment the Chinese government has assigned for that nation.

Don’t worry, we’ll show ’em. Guaranteed we can spend more for less than anyone in the world.

Billion$ + 10 years = No air traffic control modernization, No final price tag, No end date

The Federal Aviation Administration has little to show for a decade of work on modernizing air traffic control, and faces barriers and billions more in spending to realize its full benefits, says a report released last Tuesday by a government watchdog.

The FAA estimates it will spend a total $5.7 billion to finish its current work on six “transformational” technology programs at the heart of its NextGen modernization effort, said the report by the Department of Transportation’s inspector general. But the agency’s current efforts don’t fully implement the programs, and there are no timetables or cost estimates for completion…

Moreover, there has been “significant ambiguity both within FAA and the aviation community about expectations for NextGen,” including the ability of core programs to deliver important new capabilities, the report said.

Most of the airline industry has made privatizing air traffic control their top legislative goal — with Congressman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., as their champion. They have the support of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, the union that represents controllers. Paul Rinaldi, the union’s president, said controllers have lost faith in FAA’s modernization effort and want the new air traffic tools they see in use in other countries like Canada, which has privatized air traffic operations.

Most Democrats, other FAA unions and segments of the aviation industry, like business aircraft operators, are opposed to privatization.

“The inspector general’s report at most faults the FAA for describing NextGen programs as ‘transformational’ when they really just improve how the FAA manages air traffic,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon, the senior Democrat on the transportation committee.

It is far from clear that privatizing the air traffic control system would expedite NextGen and address the issues raised in the inspector general’s report, he said…

Air traffic control never recovered from the Reagan lockout in 1981. The United States muddled through with crap performance made acceptable by the Reagan White House and obedient flunkies in Congress. Trouble is that style of work remained in place over the decades since. Little attention paid to how computer systems have been modernized in both installation and use, common software and updates – and a helluva lot more traffic.

And then there are the lobbyists fiddling how anything is sold to the federal government and where that has gotten to following Reagan models – and Clinton copies of Reagan models.

The ten safest airlines in the world


Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

British Airways is one of the world’s ten safest commercial airlines, a new study has claimed.

Two other European airlines, Air France-KLM and Lufthansa, featured in the report, which was published by the Geneva-based Air Transport Rating Agency (ATRA).

Six of the ten safest airlines – Continental Airlines, Delta Airlines, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, American Airlines and US Airways – are based in the United States. Japan Airlines was also named among the top ten.

In its “Holistic Safety Rating” report ATRA compared publicly available data on 100 of the world’s largest airlines.

It took into account 15 different criteria, including the age of the each airline’s fleet, their pilot training facilities and the number of accidents they have been involved in during the last ten years.

Though I refuse to fly anymore – with the advent of TSA and their Homeland Insecurity nanny – the topic is still important to many of you.

I suppose there could be sufficient emergency or motivation to get me back on an airplane. I used to fly with some frequency. But, I refuse to cave into the fear mantra that rules our society and politics nowadays. That includes refusing the ritual “approval” to fly.

Here’s the profiling system the airlines want


Muslims and dark-skin folks / Proven Euro genes / White businessmen

Billing it as a way to end the one-size-fits-all approach to airport security, the International Air Transport Association on Tuesday unveiled a mock-up of what it called the “Checkpoint of the Future.”

Instead of a single screening procedure applied to all fliers, the group envisions that passengers would be divided into risk categories based on the information available about them. Otherwise called profiling.

They would then be directed to one of three lanes: “Known Traveler,” “Normal” and “Enhanced Security.”

The first — and quickest — lane would only be available to fliers who have registered and undergone background checks with their governments.

Normal screening in the second lane would apply to the majority of travelers. New technology would allow them to walk through without having to take off their clothes or shoes, or unpack their bags.

Passengers for whom less information is available, who are randomly selected or who are deemed to be an “elevated risk,” would receive more screening in the third lane.

The system would focus resources on passengers who pose the greatest threat while reducing the hassle for the vast majority of travelers who are low risk, said the International Air Transport Association, which represents the world’s major airlines…

That means moving from a system that looks for bad objects to one that can find bad people,” Bisignani said.

Should be immensely popular with patriotic American bigots – until the first time TSA/FBI/NSA sends them through the “wrong” corridor.

If and when it becomes a system approved by all the Right politicians, they plan on adding a fourth doorway which sends you directly to Gitmo – or a gas chamber.

Keeping us safe from snow globe-wielding terrorists

Mother Nature Network reader and friend Charlie D. shot this photograph at LaGuardia airport of a TSA poster warning travelers that “snow globes are not allowed through the security checkpoint” because our safety is their priority.

This would be funny if it wasn’t so stupidly sad. We’ve wasted billions of dollars on responding to the old attacks while creating an airport security apparatus that stomps all over average citizens while doing little to prevent an attack from any half-bright would-be terrorist. It’s airport security theater.

And you know you can’t have a snow globe in a theater. Heavens no. That would be far too dangerous.

It’s a stretch to come up with a new commentary about the inmates in charge of this asylum.

Yes, of course, a reasonable amount of security checks – and certainly intelligence services that get out of the country club once in a while – are all to the good. But, overreacting to each little prod and poke from semi-barbarous bandits keeps the United States the laughingstock of the whole world.

And drives the rest of us nuts!

They already told us to expect pay toilets – but, standing room?


Have your boarding pass ready!

Plans by Ryanair to introduce standing room on its aircraft will not happen for at least two years and may never materialise if the airline fails to meet stringent European safety requirements.

The budget airline’s boss, Michael O’Leary, will talk about his plans to replace 10 rows of seats with a standing area as well as introducing a coin-operated toilet on some planes in an interview on ITV’s How to Beat the Budget Airlines tonight.

However, safety officials at the European Aviation Safety Agency (Easa), which regulates safety issues on European airlines, said its rules would have to be ripped up and rewritten in order to allow standing room on Ryanair flights. In Easa’s certification specifications it states: “A seat (or berth for a non-ambulant person) must be provided for each occupant who has reached his or her second birthday.”

“This idea [of Ryanair’s] is unprecedented and unlikely to be certified in the near future,” said a spokesman for Easa. The Civil Aviation Authority, which regulates UK but not Irish airlines, added that Easa’s safety requirements were “quite stringent” and include rules on restraint during take-off and landing; restraint during periods of turbulence; the “crashworthiness” of airline seats; the ability of the seating to withstand a certain amount of gravitational force; and evacuation and flammability issues.

Ryanair itself admits both ideas – for standing room and paid-for toilets – were in the “very early stages”.

I’d say very early stages of dementia.

Harper will turn over control of Canadian air travel to U.S.

The Harper government has quietly presented a bill in the House of Commons that would give U.S. officials final say over who may board aircraft in Canada if they are to fly over the United States en route to a third country.

Canadian sovereignty has gone right out the window,” Liberal transport critic Joe Volpe told The Gazette in recent telephone interview. “You are going to be subject to American law…”

At present, airlines are only required to give passenger information to the U.S. government on flights landing in the United States…

If you are on a no-fly list or have the same name as someone on a no-fly list, you could be questioned, delayed or even barred from the flight. If your name does not match, Homeland Security tells the airline you may have a boarding pass.

Currently, Canadian airlines check names against no-fly lists provided by the United States and Canadian governments. But the airlines decide who gets a boarding pass.

Volpe noted that Bill C-42 does not refer specifically to the United States, adding that “with a stroke of the pen” the government is agreeing to provide data on Canadian passengers to any foreign government.

“They just opened the door to everybody without even so much as, ‘Hello, why are you doing this?’

“They can harass our airlines, harass our passengers, anything they want to.”

RTFA. Especially if you’re one of our Canadian readers.

Extortion comes to mind when you read of the “negotiations” permitted in this process. If your government doesn’t feel like being under the thumb of our Homeland Insecurity Department they’re told they won’t mind losing landing rights for their jetliners in the United States – will they?

Living inside the belly of a bully doesn’t make me feel any safer.

Make Spain the air hub for Europe and avoid volcanic ash?


Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

The dispersal of large ash plumes from the Eyjafjallajökull eruption in Iceland has generated widespread interest due largely to the impact on air transport and reports of ash-fall throughout the British Isles. Some reports allude to this as a unique event, which may be true as far as living memory is concerned, but there is ample evidence for such events occurring many times before in recent human history.

The RHOXTOR research group, a joint initiative between Royal Holloway, University of London and Oxford University, is dedicated to the study of past volcanic ash falls in Europe, and holds records of their sources, distributions and ages spanning the past 50,000 years and more. This provides information on recurrence intervals of volcanic activity and patterns of dispersal at the continental scale.

Dr Simon Blockley…says: “One interesting point that emerges from our database is the common transport patterns of the Icelandic ash falls and, more importantly, the apparent absence of volcanic ash from sites in Spain. Recent investigations…found that volcanic ash is absent from sediments spanning the last 40,000 years.”

He adds, “So far the number of sites investigated in Spain for these tiny volcanic glass particles is relatively low, and there is therefore urgent need for further research, but the evidence uncovered thus far lends support to the proposal to view Spain as a potential emergency international air travel hub during times of Icelandic ash dispersal over Europe…”

The President of Iceland and scientific sources have made a significant point which everyone seems afraid to address. The history of volcanic eruptions in Iceland is consistent and frequent enough to be a problem for the whole travel infrastructure built-up in the last 100 years.

Someone should start paying attention to solutions.

New airline rules from Homeland Insecurity start Saturday

Beginning Saturday, many air travelers will be asked their birth dates and genders when making airline reservations.

It’s the latest “publicly visible” expansion of Secure Flight, a program that transfers responsibility for checking air passengers’ identities from the airlines to the federal government, the Transportation Security Administration said…

Currently, the airlines check passenger identifications against lists of suspected terrorists. But the 9/11 Commission said the job was better suited for the federal government, which compiles the “terror watch lists.” Government control increases security, according to the TSA, while reducing the number of instances in which innocent people are mistakenly confused with possible terrorists having similar or identical names.

In May, the federal government began the first public phase of “Secure Flight” when four small airlines began asking passengers to provide their names, as the names appeared on the government-issued IDs they would be traveling with, when making reservations. Since then, additional airlines have begun asking for full names, TSA spokeswoman Sterling Payne said, though she declined to say how many airlines are participating for security reasons.

The new change requires travelers to provide three pieces of information when making reservations: the passenger’s full name as it appears on the government-issued ID they will be using, their birth date and their gender. The airline will transmit that information to the TSA, which will compare it to a “no-fly” list of people prohibited from flying or a list of “selectees” who can fly after they pass additional physical screening…

“Secure Flight is a key tool in confirming that someone identified as a ‘No Fly’ does not receive a boarding pass,” TSA acting Administrator Gale Rossides said in a statement Wednesday. “Secure Flight will make travel safer and easier for passengers.”

So, you can look forward to every stage of air travel encountering double the bureaucratic fear and trembling. All managed by folks unqualified for more than $2 an hour above minimum wage.

When will these fumble-brained beancounters step back and run the equation of time and money wasted on absolutely unnecessary “precautions” vs. number of attempts and successes at killing off the civilian population by demented gangsters?