The dog days of Summer

The good news this summer continues to be a gradually improving market demand for the wood, which has meant a relatively stable demand for logging. Most loggers are working with a backlog of projects for some time out in front, and while not flush with cash (and still recovering from the past several years) overall rates are allowing that sometimes illusive position of profit.

It appears, from most of the contractors we talk with, that we’re at the start of a pretty good uptick, with a huge backlog of domestic demand for wood and fiber, which means we’re seeing new equipment and improved technology in the woods. Good news for logging.

Only in California

Over the Fourth of July I flew down to Southern California to visit the grandkids and step in the sometimes surreal world of California. While the entire left coast (Oregon, Washington and California) share some loony characteristics, particularly in politics, the California of today leads that loonyness in numerous and varied (at least to outsiders) ways. It makes one wonder if anyone at all is paying attention or considering if their policy path is improving or leading the desired results, or leading to further negative consequences.

This particular item popped up as we were driving west towards Los Angeles on a 10-lane (or more) freeway thick with traffic, although that is what brought some confusion because the three lanes were bumper to bumper (at 65 or more MPH, a whole separate issue) two of the lanes were essentially empty.... Yes, empty. And while I’d expected there to be barriers and “road work ahead” signs none, appeared YET with the exception of a few hybrid cars flashing past, for as far ahead as one could see, there were three lanes moving slowly and two empty.

Finally I asked my daughter/driver “...what’s up with the two empty lanes?” She explained that the first empty lane was for “high occupancy” vehicles with more than two in the car, and that the far empty late was for the “FAST TRACK”Metro ExpressLanes... whence we enter into the California “Twilight Zone” of bureaucratic contempt, and weirdness.

You’ve got to read the bureaucratese to fully appreciate this:

Metro ExpressLanes is a one-year demonstration program overseen by Metro, Caltrans and several other mobility partners that have joined forces to develop multi-modal solutions to improve traffic flow and provide enhanced travel options on the I-110 and I-10 Freeways in Los Angeles County.

The program includes the introduction of congestion pricing by converting High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes to High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes; improving transit service and other alternatives to driving; updating transit facilities; and providing demand-based parking pricing in downtown Los Angeles.

It is about improving mobility and offering a safe and reliable trip for users. Everyone benefits with reduced congestion and greenhouse gas emissions (see the Green Fact Sheet ), increased travel time savings, and better trip reliability. Metro ExpressLanes is primarily funded with a $210 million congestion reduction demonstration grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Tolling began on November 10, 2012 on the I-110 and February 23, 2013 on the I-10.

All sounds well, provided you accept, without question, the thinking and ideological motivation of the bureaucratic class who have taken a free ride from the legislature to impose their vision on “the masses.” 

The substance of the system is a vehicle transponder, and centralized tower it transmits too, to keep track of when you’re in the “fast track” lanes, at what hours, and with how many passengers... nice (but no Big Brother of course). What’s rich in this: the transponder/towers and such are owned and run by an outside company, who (we’re told) turns over a percentage of revenue then to the government (this must be what is meant by the new ecoomy).

Those bodacious enough to question authority might be tempted to question what the driving interest is in this system. We’d suggest the motivation is not about voter convenience, but two fold: 1) a new revenue stream for government and 2) yet another method of forcing mass transportation on a public, which is not especially interested. 
What occurs to this cheerfully non-Californian is the California Mass Transit authority has far more bureaucrats on staff than needed with far too much time on their hands. I’d suggest dramatically reducing their upper and middle-level management teams, then reducing general staff as well.

As we looked at the open lanes, contemplated the sheer cost, the waste of open lanes, and the ideological excess driving this process it serves as yet another reminder of WHY people need to be involved in the political process. This is the spawn of indifference to the process, which allows it to become an entity with limited accountability, under the shell of political correctness. While California seems to revel in such absurdity, this should serve as a warning to other free people to open up your eyes and call BULLsh*t when you see it.
FastTrak in California can stay in California.

A different solution

We’d suggest a different solution to congestion... economic opportunity in rural America. Certainly not a topic that would hold much appeal for Obama-esque style politicians, we’d suggest rather than importing resources, and removing power sources without viable alternatives, that instead, as a public policy change, open up our Federally controlled natural resources, preferably by privatizing them or actively managing them, and revive economic opportunity beyond the population centers.

There are some shocking possibilities that directly address inner city problems created by crowding created from jobs being centered within the metropolitan areas: smaller government, more participation in local governments, more responsive governments, and (shock of shock) private enterprise growing, thriving, encouraging economic growth and opportunity. Bears a resemblance to the original growth created when the west was originally opened for settlement in the mid-1800s