Friday, November 18, 2022

Quick Rail Boondoggle Update

Rail boondoggles seem to multiply in the US.

  • Honolulu rail is not alone at starting at under $5B in 2021, and surpassing $10B in 2020 with no ending in cost escalation, no opening date and continuously revealed construction problems (i.e., hammerhead pillar cracks) and operational problems (i.e., track switching "frogs.")

  • Now Austin's rail which started at $5.8B has surpassed $10.3B while mostly incomplete.
  • The pseudo high speed California HSR has surpassed $100B and is nowhere near Los Angeles or San Francisco.

Furthermore, "transit agencies nationwide are taking in less farebox revenue, with agencies recovering, on average, just 12.8 cents for every dollar they spent on operations in 2021, down from 32.3 cents in 2019." [Planetizen]
This indicates a much lower utilization and much higher resource consumption and pollution per passenger mile.

Let's build and expand more of these losers, shall we?

Monday, June 27, 2022

Why Panos Prevedouros left Hawaii

Mahalo to Dr. Keli'i Akina for the invitation and probing questions.

The state is at risk of a major natural catastrophe, he says, and its “suicidal” energy policy will just make everything worse

Hawaii’s policy mandate to go to 100% renewable energy is nothing short of suicidal.

That was the message of Panos Prevedouros, former chairman of the University of Hawaii civil engineering department, who spoke with host Keli’i Akina, president of the Grassroot Institute, on the June 22 episode of “Hawaii Together.”

Described by Akina as “one of Hawaii’s leading public intellectuals,” Prevedouros moved just last year from Honolulu, his home of 31 years, to Reno, Nevada. During his half-hour conversation with Akina, he explained why. Foremost was his concern about Hawaii’s energy policy and its relation to personal safety.

Because of its geographical isolation, he said, Hawaii needs reliable energy. In the event of a natural disaster, for example, Hawaii’s hospitals “must have reliable electricity for 10, 15, 20 days, or however long it takes for the military and other external providers of health assistance to come help a highly populated island like Oahu or Maui.”

Renewable options like wind and solar farms are not highly reliable, he said, especially since they can be totally demolished by the strong hurricane winds. Thus, Hawaii should be making reliability its top priority, even if that means using coal.

In general, Prevedouros said, Hawaii is totally unprepared for a natural disaster.

“I don’t see the [power] plants [or airports] being hardened. … Our harbors are absolutely not prepared to deal with a major surge from a hurricane or a major surge from a tsunami. Our harbors will be a complete mess. There will be cranes and they’re toppled and there will be containers all over the place.”

And when the Navy arrives from San Diego to help, he warned, “there will be nowhere for them to dock. Nobody is preparing plans to have resilience in our harbor.” 

He said the failure of Hawaii’s politicians to prepare better for a disaster is not peculiar to Hawaii.

“That’s a malaise that exists almost everywhere politically, because politicians, really, do not take a 1% to 2% risk very seriously, and plan to invest big money in that. However, unfortunately, bad luck … really catches up with these things, and we really need to protect the population.” 

Prevedouros said aside from his fears for his family’s safety, he left his beloved Hawaii because of a litany of “wrong” policy decisions.

“One wrong decision does not really change the whole picture,” he said. “There were so many wrong decisions, a litany of which, that, actually after that, I said, ‘Enough is enough.’” 

Well known as a critic of the Honolulu rail, Prevedouros said the recent proposal to stop the system a mile or so short of Ala Moana Center is “definitely a step in the right direction, but it’s not enough. They should have had the guts to stop it at Middle Street, and they probably will be forced to do something like that because now we have the other gift: inflation” — which is sure to drive up its construction costs.

To watch the entire conversation, click here.

Friday, April 29, 2022

Archegos -Theranos - Honolulu Rail: The Price of Lying

What do these three multi billion dollar failures have in common?

The repeated intentional lying about the workings and costs of each project.

Archegos (AXIOS)

The March 2021 implosion of the hedge fund-like Archegos was one for the ages, eventually costing banks like Morgan Stanley, Nomura and Credit Suisse billions of dollars.

Archegos' responses to questions were often "deceptive, false and misleading.”

It's interesting to see the banks portrayed as the victims in the saga, especially since several of them saw red flags around Archegos that made them nervous — but they stuck with him all the way down.

Theranos (Wikipedia)

By 2015, Forbes had named Holmes the youngest and wealthiest self-made female billionaire in America on the basis of a $9-billion valuation of her company. The credibility of Theranos was attributed in part to Holmes's personal connections and ability to recruit the support of influential people, including Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, Jim Mattis, and Betsy DeVos, all of whom had served or would go on to serve as U.S. presidential cabinet officials.

The decline of Theranos began in 2015, when a series of journalistic and regulatory investigations revealed doubts about the company's technology claims and whether Holmes had misled investors and the government. In 2018, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charged Theranos and Holmes with deceiving investors by "massive fraud" through false or exaggerated claims about the accuracy of the company's blood-testing technology.

Honolulu Rail

The project started by Mayor Mufi Hannemann as a 34 mile, $3 billion proposal in 2006 and settled into a 20 mile, $4.6 billion elevated steel-on-steel “light rail” in 2008, to be completed in 2019. At the present time, Honolulu Rail is an incomplete, underfunded 18-20 mile construction project with a year 2031 projected completion at a cost of well over $11 billion.

The project is under investigation by the US Department of Justice. There have been several allegations and instances of fraud and gross errors; two samples from 2016 and 2019:

Similar to the multi-year lying and defrauding at Archegos and Theranos, the fraud (i.e., the irresponsible wasting of billions of taxpayer dollars) at Honolulu Rail continues unabated: “Inside the ‘frantic’ push to shorten rail and keep its federal funding -- Project officials stress that they’re still fully committed to getting rail to Ala Moana, but it’s still not clear financially how that would happen. Rail leaders are presenting a “truncated project scope” to the Federal Transit Administration in order to secure rail’s remaining federal dollars. Project officials stress that they’re still fully committed to getting rail to Ala Moana, but it’s still not clear financially how that would happen.” (Honolulu Civil Beat, April 28, 2022)




Saturday, March 5, 2022

PSA: Avoid Airport Covid Testing by US Careways dba XpresCheck

April 23, 2022 UPDATE: BBB was unable to get ant response to my complaint from this shady company. See note at the end.


My public service announcement is based on personal experience and follows my complaint filed with the Better Business Bureau.

My dispute with US Careways involves a rapid Covid test I did at their  Denver Int'l airport  XpresCheck lab on February 21. 2022 at a cost of $250.

US Careways specializes at rapid Covid tests at airports. (At an exorbitant price, but that's besides the point.) Their lab at DEN provided me with a negative covid result without a time stamp, making the test invalid for my expensive international flight for which it was required.

See Figure 1 for the PDF results and Figure 2 for the on screen results.

I have taken several Covid tests required for flights and all of them come with the date and time the specimen was collected. See my sample test from CVS which correctly shows the date and time (Figure 3). This was the first incomplete test and caused me tremendous aggravation at Dulles Airport prior to being able to get on my flight to Europe. 

They must be stopped from charging $250 for a $10 test and provide incomplete (useless) results. 

Adding insult to injury, Chase Visa refused my dispute of this charge. They opined that the test was conducted as promised. But the service provided to me is like a car manufacturer selling me a car without a full VIN. I can't register and legally use the car!

Figure 1

Figure 2

Figure 3


In regards to your correspondence concerning US Careways, your position was communicated to the company. We regret to inform you that BBB was unsuccessful in obtaining a response from the company.

When a business does not respond to a dispute, its report with BBB is updated to reflect an unanswered dispute which has an adverse affect on its BBB rating. If the company has contacted you, please let us know so that our files may be updated. If not, we regret that BBB can be of no further assistance.

We appreciate you taking the time to contact BBB and report your experience. Please be assured that your complaint will remain in BBB’s file for this company for three years, and may be referred to if a pattern of similar practices emerges.

Madi Posey
Your Better Business Bureau

Monday, January 24, 2022

The Causes of Inflation

Consumer prices are up 7% year over year, the highest rate of increase since 1982. It's causing major headaches for the White House. Until we diagnose what’s really causing the inflation, we won’t be able to treat it, said economist Stephanie Kelton. (Axios, 1/24/2022)

The causes of inflation are rather obvious now. Free government money has created a substantial INCREASE in DEMAND. On the other hand, worker shortages worldwide due to free money from governments (why work... often for less $$$), and more worker shortages due to Covid illness/fears/deaths, retirements and fatigue (see nurses, teachers and cashiers) have caused a substantial DECREASE in SUPPLY. 

The reduced supply of materials and workers to create products and services that people demand has pushed costs up, which is inflation.

These are the main causes for the inflation. Other parts of the cost increase include infrastructure problems (capacity at ports and warehouses), energy jitters due to political games (Russia) and due to renewable and other expensive mandates, regional weather problems that compound the difficulties above, and various national or regional controls and restrictions for Covid that reduce productivity or directly increase costs.

The worst is not over, because now there is pressure for wage increases in both public and private sector. Income increases will affect both demand and production costs, adding more fuel to the inflation fire...

Friday, January 14, 2022

In Defense of Plant Based Meat

My Letter to the Editor

Reno Gazette Journal

January 12, 2022

"No Future in Manufactured Meat" by Jim Hightower (RGJ 1/2/22) will be one of the most erroneous editorial opinions this year. The article is peppered with scientific jargon to scare the reader about substances in plant-based meat. But these substances can be found in many foods consumed routinely. Hightower states a hyperbolic past cost, but today a 4oz plant-based meat hamburger putty is about $2 at Costco. 

Hightower asks, “who needs a meatless burger?” Everyone who likes meat does! The cattle industry is the number one agricultural source of greenhouse gasses worldwide, a major source of climate change that affects everyone. In June 2020, UC-Davis research estimated that livestock are responsible for 14.5% of global greenhouse gasses. 

Based on a large US-based study by the Harvard School of Public Health, in 2012 the National Institutes of Health informed that red meat is linked to increased risks of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain cancers: “one additional serving per day of unprocessed red meat over the course of the study raised the risk of total mortality by 13%”. 

Last month, the White House stated that high meat prices are caused by four monopolists in the US meat-processing controlling 85% of the market: Beef prices in November were up 21% from a year ago and climbing. 

Other benefits of increased substitution of red meat by plant-based meat include the reduction of animal slaughter, the reduction of water and land pollution from massive amounts of animal waste, and reduced handling, transportation and energy consumption because plant-based products are produced closer to the consumer.