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The Saudi Arabia is a Backwards, Laughable Shithole Thread

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I think we really should not be burning so much oil for just moving people, seeing as we need it for important chemical processes other than combustion, regardless of any global warming arguments

 

So... What's your recommendation for moving people, instead?

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High speed rail is generally electrical, but putting it in would require competent, graft-free infrastructure programs that I'm not sure the majority of US municipalities are capable of.  Also, the much lower population density of the USA makes profitable high speed rail implementation harder everywhere but the East Coast (where there is correspondingly more graft).

 

I would be very curious to know what the high-quality continuously welded rail required for bullet trains costs per mile vs. roads.

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I honestly don't think that corruption is as big of an issue as people like to go on about. So long as things actually get built.

Population density and land ownership/entitlements/servitude are the big killers for trains.

I have seen it said that automation of cars would be hella efficient, as the model would change to a taxi system (no idle vehicles in parking lots or garages) and the vehicles themselves would be able to slipstream very efficiently. This requires 100% automation though.

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Hmmm, I wonder how much we can get out of fuel cell technology

http://www.railwaygazette.com/news/technology/single-view/view/fuel-cells-to-power-regional-trainsets.html

Obviously this is not something to be solved overnight, but we probably should not also be waiting until we run out of oil completely

 

Where do they get the electricity to make the hydrogen?  Ain't no hydrogen mines on this planet.

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I honestly don't think that corruption is as big of an issue as people like to go on about. So long as things actually get built.

Population density and land ownership/entitlements/servitude are the big killers for trains.

I have seen it said that automation of cars would be hella efficient, as the model would change to a taxi system (no idle vehicles in parking lots or garages) and the vehicles themselves would be able to slipstream very efficiently. This requires 100% automation though.

 

Graft is absolutely murderous on US infrastructure spending at this point.  In certain instances the US has moved from the Asian Dictator model to the African Dictator model:

 

 

 

An African dictator paid a visit to an Asian dictator in his home country. He noted the lavish private airport, the richly planted gardens surrounding the official palace, and the fabulously expensive furnishings of the official residence. Knowing that this country was as poor as his own, he asked the Asian dictator "However could you afford such things"? The Asian dictator smiled, and pointed out the window to the new bridge being built with funds from international aid agencies. "You see that bridge?" he asked. He then smiled, tapped his finger on his chest, and said "Ten percent. Did you see that new dam being built on the river?" Again, he smiled, tapped himself on the chest, and said "Ten percent. You see, that is how I can afford such things". Now the African dictator was smiling too, and thanked the Asian dictator for the valuable lesson.

A couple of years later, the Asian dictator visited the African dictator in his country. He noted the airport was even more lavish than his own, the gardens even more lush, and the official palace even more palatial. Astounded at the African dictator's sudden wealth, he asked "However could you afford all this?". The African dictator pointed out the window. "You see that new bridge being built?". The Asian dictator scanned from horizon to horizon, and said "But I don't see any bridge!". The African dictator smiled, thumped himself on the chest, and said "One HUNDRED per cent!".

 

But let it not be said that Yankee ingenuity is dead.  In most cases it won't do to have the people who arrange the contracts just plain steal all the money.  In most cases.  That is shamefully transparent theft, and Americans won't stand for it.  You have to put on a theatrical performance to convince people that it's not theft.

 

I have personally seen bridges with roads that dead end with signs next to them proudly declaring them to be the product of the 2009 American Recover and Reinvestment Act.  In the particular case I am thinking of the road dead ends because the people who put in the road couldn't be bothered to see if the maps they had of the property upon which the road was to be built were accurate.  You see, if you cleverly disguise graft as incompetence, people are suddenly OK with it, probably because they expect incompetence and are inured to its annoyance the same way they are to mosquitoes, small yappy dogs, and children at weddings.

 

But there's this magical double standard applied when it's Federal funding that's being wasted this way.  If the city or county had raised funds to build a bridge by raising taxes or selling bonds or what have you, and then they'd built this monument to idiocy that goes literally nowhere, the people responsible for it would be hung upside down from the damned thing Mussolini style, the prime contractor and his family would be garroted and their flesh consumed in an orgy and then everything would be OK again.  But for some reason when the money comes from the Feds it's perfectly acceptable to go through whatever murky bidding process occurred to award the contract to whomever's brother before the surveyors had even come back and confirmed that the land in question was even the city's to build upon, and they throw up their hands and say "haha, we goofed, and we could go through the necessary steps to adversely possess the land in question so we could build the road we promised that would make this potentially not an obvious waste of time and money, but we're just so inbred and feckless that we shan't!"  This contains an implied "and besides, we already shoveled that delicious Federal money to our preferred contractor, so we don't give a damn if this stupid thing ever gets finished or not at this point.  Sucks to be outside the system, doesn't it, you damnable greasy plebes?"

There are a great many necessary large-scale infrastructure and organization projects that are impossible in the Western USA because they need to go across jurisdictional lines.  Wildfire fighting, for instance, requires the coordination of multiple firefighting organizations on land belonging to various private owners, cities, counties, and Federal landowners like the BLM and Forest Service.  This makes it a total nonstarter.  You could sooner reunify the Balkans then get these actors to work together in a cohesive way.  Every time someone tries anything on a grand scale its probability of failure increases as a power function of the number of fiefdoms it crosses.  And by the end of it something half-assed and obviously useless stands where the shiny, useful project was supposed to be, and all the money has disappeared down a thousand rat holes.  This may not exactly meet the Transparency International definition of corruption, but it's still graft.  It doesn't happen by accident and any investigator who's gotten their teeth into one of these cases will tell you so.

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I think the United States - or at least North America - has pretty much become oil independent between the frakking done here and in our colony of Canada. It's the Japanese and Europeans that are going to be shit out of luck if the black flag of Islamic revolution finally goes up in Riyadh. And China. 

 

Wait...

 

Why are we supporting Saudi Arabia again?

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Graft is absolutely murderous on US infrastructure spending at this point.  In certain instances the US has moved from the Asian Dictator model to the African Dictator model:

 

 

But let it not be said that Yankee ingenuity is dead.  In most cases it won't do to have the people who arrange the contracts just plain steal all the money.  In most cases.  That is shamefully transparent theft, and Americans won't stand for it.  You have to put on a theatrical performance to convince people that it's not theft.

 

I have personally seen bridges with roads that dead end with signs next to them proudly declaring them to be the product of the 2009 American Recover and Reinvestment Act.  In the particular case I am thinking of the road dead ends because the people who put in the road couldn't be bothered to see if the maps they had of the property upon which the road was to be built were accurate.  You see, if you cleverly disguise graft as incompetence, people are suddenly OK with it, probably because they expect incompetence and are inured to its annoyance the same way they are to mosquitoes, small yappy dogs, and children at weddings.

 

But there's this magical double standard applied when it's Federal funding that's being wasted this way.  If the city or county had raised funds to build a bridge by raising taxes or selling bonds or what have you, and then they'd built this monument to idiocy that goes literally nowhere, the people responsible for it would be hung upside down from the damned thing Mussolini style, the prime contractor and his family would be garroted and their flesh consumed in an orgy and then everything would be OK again.  But for some reason when the money comes from the Feds it's perfectly acceptable to go through whatever murky bidding process occurred to award the contract to whomever's brother before the surveyors had even come back and confirmed that the land in question was even the city's to build upon, and they throw up their hands and say "haha, we goofed, and we could go through the necessary steps to adversely possess the land in question so we could build the road we promised that would make this potentially not an obvious waste of time and money, but we're just so inbred and feckless that we shan't!"  This contains an implied "and besides, we already shoveled that delicious Federal money to our preferred contractor, so we don't give a damn if this stupid thing ever gets finished or not at this point.  Sucks to be outside the system, doesn't it, you damnable greasy plebes?"

There are a great many necessary large-scale infrastructure and organization projects that are impossible in the Western USA because they need to go across jurisdictional lines.  Wildfire fighting, for instance, requires the coordination of multiple firefighting organizations on land belonging to various private owners, cities, counties, and Federal landowners like the BLM and Forest Service.  This makes it a total nonstarter.  You could sooner reunify the Balkans then get these actors to work together in a cohesive way.  Every time someone tries anything on a grand scale its probability of failure increases as a power function of the number of fiefdoms it crosses.  And by the end of it something half-assed and obviously useless stands where the shiny, useful project was supposed to be, and all the money has disappeared down a thousand rat holes.  This may not exactly meet the Transparency International definition of corruption, but it's still graft.  It doesn't happen by accident and any investigator who's gotten their teeth into one of these cases will tell you so.

From the same mind that brought you this:

 

I strongly suspect that the War on Drugs is a useful tool to law enforcement, actually.

 

Consider this piece by Fred Reed.  And then look at some recidivism rates.  Then read this piece.

 

Basically most serious crime, including most violent crime in the United States is committed by a professional criminal caste.  For various reasons including perverse incentives, political shenanigans, and laziness, the law enforcement apparatus in the United States has no will to contain or eliminate this class.

 

What they do generally have to do, however, is keep serious crime at a level that's tolerable enough that routine business can continue.  In some important cases they have failed to do so (e.g. Baltimore, Detroit).

 

Cops can be pretty lazy, but their higher-ups are far lazier, and DAs are lazier still.  Modern science (and pseudoscience) has a formidable arsenal of ways to figure out whodunit, but these are slow and expensive, and generally employed theatrically.  Because of laziness, mostly.

 

So in order to get criminals into jail, there need to be crimes that are ubiquitous and extremely easy to prove.  Because criminals are generally chavs, proles, lumpenproletariats, and assorted other subhuman scum, and chavs all do drugs, drug laws allow an extremely straightforward and easy way to put particularly obstreperous chavs into jail, where they will become violent and insane, but will temporarily not be a problem to society at large.  The sheer volume of drug arrests in the US makes this temporary kludge into a mostly workable system, which also employs millions of people in the private prison sector and other auxiliary industries who likely have no other useful skills.

 

If drug laws were done away with, crime would either become rampant or the police would have to stop being lazy.  I know how I would bet.

 

So please, let's keep the War on Drugs.  It provides an efficient way to arbitrarily imprison people who would otherwise very likely cause problems.  Certainly it's wasteful, racist, murderous, and it's a damn good thing that Colombians follow a religion that emphasizes forgiveness rather than vengeance after all the defoliants the US has sprayed willy-nilly on them.  But I'm pretty sure the alternative is even worse.

 

I hate to say it, but there's a point where your well-practiced cynicism shades over into a sort of weird naivety.

 

Corruption is something that has been with us since the pyramids at least. Certainly the exact form of corruption you describe was either present for all the major US infrastructure projects.

 

All that matters is that the actual work gets done and that there is some sort of counterbalancing mechanism to try and mop up the worst of the graft. Anything more should be a pleasant surprise.

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I hate to say it, but there's a point where your well-practiced cynicism shades over into a sort of weird naivety.

 

Corruption is something that has been with us since the pyramids at least. Certainly the exact form of corruption you describe was either present for all the major US infrastructure projects.

 

All that matters is that the actual work gets done and that there is some sort of counterbalancing mechanism to try and mop up the worst of the graft. Anything more should be a pleasant surprise.

 

 

The USA ain't what it used to be.  

 

Once upon a time Teddy Roosevelt could argue for a Panama route vs a Nicaraguan one, in no small part because his family and friends stood to benefit from it, but in the end the canal got built and it was enormously useful.  And then he could go laugh and slaughter a few continents' worth of animals and everyone had a smashing good time.

 

Once upon a time JFK could declare that the US would put men on the moon by the end of the decade, and NASA duly collected all the smartest people they could get their hands on and gave them enough cigarettes to reduce the global albedo, and they built a skyscraper-sized rocket that goddamn well put men on the moon.  And maybe there was some footsie about whose districts the expensive parts of that rocket got built in, and God knows how dirty Kennedy was in general.  But men got put on the moon, and the human race has failed to do anything so interesting since.

 

Asian dictator style corruption; ten percent into the pocket of you and yours.  A bit of grease on the wheels; but nothing so blatant or absurd that it will chase away foreign investors or cause a stir that can't be hushed up.  In fifteen years they'll call it a "tiger economy" and they'll put a statue of you up somewhere.  Unless you're a crazy bastard like Lee Kuan Yew who actually insists on their being no corruption.  But few men are so saintly.

 

It's not like that anymore.  The magic is exhausted.  In 1965 Lyndon Johnson signed a bill to build high speed rail lines.  Some were built, I guess, but barely any have been built since then, and they have not turned a profit (unless you believe their voodoo accounting that ignores capital costs).  Rail lines in the US have actually shrunk since then and continue to do so.  Reagan called for a hypersonic transport in 1986, and nothing remotely like that has materialized.  You extrapolate the trend out two and a half decades, and you've got bridges to nowhere and Solyndra.

 

There's a very clear difference between Rockefeller having undue political influence and the recent doubling of green energy subsidy.  That difference is the very criterion you lay down; that the work gets done.  It's not getting done.

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The USA ain't what it used to be.  

 

Once upon a time Teddy Roosevelt could argue for a Panama route vs a Nicaraguan one, in no small part because his family and friends stood to benefit from it, but in the end the canal got built and it was enormously useful.  And then he could go laugh and slaughter a few continents' worth of animals and everyone had a smashing good time.

 

Once upon a time JFK could declare that the US would put men on the moon by the end of the decade, and NASA duly collected all the smartest people they could get their hands on and gave them enough cigarettes to reduce the global albedo, and they built a skyscraper-sized rocket that goddamn well put men on the moon.  And maybe there was some footsie about whose districts the expensive parts of that rocket got built in, and God knows how dirty Kennedy was in general.  But men got put on the moon, and the human race has failed to do anything so interesting since.

 

Asian dictator style corruption; ten percent into the pocket of you and yours.  A bit of grease on the wheels; but nothing so blatant or absurd that it will chase away foreign investors or cause a stir that can't be hushed up.  In fifteen years they'll call it a "tiger economy" and they'll put a statue of you up somewhere.  Unless you're a crazy bastard like Lee Kuan Yew who actually insists on their being no corruption.  But few men are so saintly.

 

It's not like that anymore.  The magic is exhausted.  In 1965 Lyndon Johnson signed a bill to build high speed rail lines.  Some were built, I guess, but barely any have been built since then, and they have not turned a profit (unless you believe their voodoo accounting that ignores capital costs).  Rail lines in the US have actually shrunk since then and continue to do so.  Reagan called for a hypersonic transport in 1986, and nothing remotely like that has materialized.  You extrapolate the trend out two and a half decades, and you've got bridges to nowhere and Solyndra.

 

There's a very clear difference between Rockefeller having undue political influence and the recent doubling of green energy subsidy.  That difference is the very criterion you lay down; that the work gets done.  It's not getting done.

Then we can agree that you're fucked.

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