The Sunday Times: America’s lost its can-do spirit in the jam of trains, planes and automobiles

Photo: Will Langenberg

Photo: Will Langenberg

I wish I could say that last week’s tragedy in Philadelphia — where a speeding Amtrak train jumped the tracks, killing eight people and injuring more than 200 — will create sufficient shockwaves that the government will have to change its attitude towards America’s crumbling infrastructure.

Even a small change would help, such as an end to the political deadlock over fitting all trains with the new anti-accident technology known as positive train control. Unfortunately I don’t think that’s possible.

America is a young country, not even 250 years old. Yet a creeping sclerosis is spreading through the body politic. The country’s ability and, more important, its will, to fix what needs fixing and improve what needs improving is collapsing.

Continue reading…

The Sunday Times: The ‘mad as hell’ brigade stir to wobble the Washington bubble

Photo: Marko Berndt

Photo: Marko Berndt

In the 1976 film Network, a crazed news anchor becomes so disgusted with the venal idiocy of American television that he refuses to say his lines. During a meltdown on air he encourages audiences to follow his lead and shout: “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more.” Instead of laughing at him the nation grinds to a halt as millions of Americans join in, screaming their frustration from the rooftops.

Last week 65,000 Republican voters in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District offered their own version of “I’m as mad as hell”. Only instead of screaming in frustration they used the primary race to get rid of Eric Cantor, the Republican majority leader in the House of Representatives. Instead of being good little followers and ticking the Cantor box, they voted for an economics professor, David Brat.

As the US media gleefully reported: Brat won by a whopping 56%-44%, despite having no name recognition and minuscule financial support. His campaign raised just $122,793; Cantor’s election headquarters spent $168,637 on steak dinners alone.

Continue reading…