The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

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Thursday, and hindsight is 2020.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Survivors, rejoice. You made it. New Year’s Eve. It’s been 293 days since the New York State lockdown orders of Friday the 13th of March were announced. That’s 7,032 hours if you’re the curious type. There’s a few things I’d like you to think about as we move forward into the future, here in these United States…

The photo above depicts the Sunnyside Yards, which is rumored to have been the actual target used by the Soviets for their thermonuclear bomb tipped missiles. The United States has ostensibly been preparing and spending an astronomical amount of money for more than 70 years preparing for the various shapes which the apocalypse might take. That includes, as George W. Bush reminded us when updating the spending program twenty years ago, preparing and updating responses to attack vectors for “nuclear,” “chemical,” and “biological” weapons.

Where has all that money gone, and why were was the greatest military power in history caught so flat footed by a predictable respiratory pandemic whose scope doesn’t begin to touch what an engineered bioweapon would do to us?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Governor Nelson Rockefeller and President Richard Nixon oversaw the nationalization of local and inter city transit systems in the early 1970’s. Bankrupt private capital railroad firms were turned into publicly owned and operated “authorities” and “corporations.” Nixon created Amtrak for passenger service, and Conrail for freight. Rockefeller combined the subways, buses, and commuter trains in New York State into the Metropolitan Transit Authority. The MTA’s annual budget is 17 billion dollars. If you were to stack individual dollar bills until arriving at the amount of 17 billion, you’d have a stack of money which is 1,154.3 miles high.

Fifty years later the MTA still operates its systems as if it was day one after the nationalization of the Subways, Buses, and Penn Central commuter services, with little or no interoperability having been achieved between its various divisions in the interim, and they operate in a state of perennial near bankruptcy. Conrail is largely irrelevant these days due to the private capital underlying modern rail shipping companies like CSX, whereas Amtrak has become a political football bandied about and abused by Congressional game players. Where does all that money go, and why hasn’t NYC’s regional transit system been modernized with interoperability and shared resources in mind?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You can vow to wean your culture off of petroleum all you want, but without massive capital expenditures and tax breaks for those having to junk and replace their “installed base” of equipment you’re just blowing hot air. You can’t just quit heroin without withdrawal symptoms, can’t stop drinking without the “DT’s,” or just quit smoking the Crack without some sort of psychotic reaction. Petroleum is a drug, which you pour over your economy to make it go “vrooooom.”

Historically, any new or novel technology – let’s say that Star Trek style unlimited and non-polluting energy reactors appear tomorrow, for instance – it would be a good 50 years before they became commonplace. New fuel sources have historically had a long adoption period where the installed base of the last energy source is phased out and the new one is deployed. In the case of wood to coal in industry, it was about 150 years. Coal to Petroleum took around 75 years, and there are still several major industries (notably manufactured gas) which consume a magnificent amount of coal. Look to the United States Navy as the bel weather on this subject.

Happy New Year, ya filthy animals!

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, December 28th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates here, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 31, 2020 at 2:00 pm

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