Rule of Law Part II: How Do We Factor in the Mueller Report?

This past January I wrote a blog post that focused on how the concept of the “rule of law” was critical to our nation’s underlying democratic ethos. In that article I cited to one of our founders, James Madison, who expressed this idea for us in Federalist Paper No. 51 (1788) when he wrote:

“If men were angels, no government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”

It is important to learn whether our nation will see how effectively the rule of law is functioning following the issuance of the Mueller Report last month. It will be critical to test if Madison’s and the founders' concept of the separation of powers will continue to ensure that no one person stands above the law. Also, will we determine if the Houses of Congress still retain some level of control or oversight over the actions of the Executive branch.

The larger questions that loom for our nation can sometimes be lost in all the rhetoric that has followed publication of the [partially redacted] Mueller Report. While some reveled in the release of the four page summary issued by Attorney General William Barr and his assertions that Mueller had exonerated the President of all collusion with the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 presidential election as well as had no hand in any obstruction of justice, any careful review of the Report’s nearly 400 pages provides ample evidence that Trump campaign officials did little to dissuade Russian emissaries sent directly from Vladimir Putin from offering all kinds of assistance. Nor can any fair reading of the document ignore the numerous efforts cited by Mueller of Donald Trump to shut down the entire investigation.

As far back as June 2017, one of Mueller’s fiercest critics, the Wall Street Journal, categorically stated that “Russian meddling in U.S. elections is a serious matter and Americans need to know what happened,” they wrote. “If Mr. Trump or key associates canoodled with the Russians to steal an election, then he must face the likely consequence of impeachment.” But, more than any other conclusion that can be drawn from a fair reading of the Mueller Report is the fact the lack of criminality cited was not the result of a lack of trying by Trump; it was the fact that he went about trying to do so in such an incompetent manner that was compounded by the more astounding fact that so many around him willfully chose to ignore his numerous efforts to commit obstruction of justice.

NYTimes conservative columnist Bret Stephens cited just how well the rule of law operated to prevent these crimes of Trump from falling directly under the federal criminal codes that define such conduct:

“If his own staff hadn’t blocked him from firing Mueller, he would have done so. If Don Jr. had been delivered a crate full of stolen Clinton documents at that Trump Tower meeting with a shady Russian lawyer, he would have taken it. If this newspaper hadn’t exposed Paul Manafort for taking illicit cash from Ukraine’s president, he might well have wound up as a senior U.S. official vulnerable to Russian blackmail. If the Senate hadn’t blocked Trump from easing sanctions on Russia, or public opinion hadn’t revolted over his performance at Helsinki, he would have cozied up to Vladimir Putin.”

Mueller carefully drew the line that Trump did not cross — but not for lack of trying. Mueller is known for his scrupulous interpretation of the law. He has acted accordingly by stating in his Report that these series of actions of obstruction more properly should be pursued by the House of Representatives, the arm of government charged with ensuring that no President subverts the law while in office.

What is important to recognize is that Mueller believes he was fully and faithfully following the rule of law in recognizing that, based on the federal criminal codes, Trump and his minions did act in a fashion that evinced the elements of collusion with a host of Russians. But, and this is critical for each and every one who recognizes the importance of the laws that make up our democracy, what Mueller included in his Report was a direction to Congress to continue his investigation. This was because he believed a prior opinion from the Justice Department precluded him from indicting a sitting President.

It will be helpful to recall that the President was clearly identified as Individual #1 in the indictment of Michael Cohen for the illegal campaign contributions that Trump authorized to keep his out-of-wedlock affairs with Stormy Daniels and Stephanie Clifford from being made public in the weeks before the 2016 election. Mueller clearly believes that proceeding against the President while he is in office was prohibited by a Department of Justice legal opinion that precludes bringing a criminal proceeding against a sitting President.

Despite this DOJ legal opinion Trump and his counsel know that at least one criminal case awaits him the very day he leaves office. And, as Mueller has pointed out, there are another fourteen investigations he referred to other federal district courts that await future indictments of those in and around the Trump family. During his two-year investigation the Special Prosecutor brought criminal proceedings against thirty-six individuals, secured two convictions, and garnered guilty pleas and cooperating agreements from a number of other Trump insiders and campaign officials.

So, for today, the rule of law is alive and well. The Mueller Report has laid out a clear path for Congress to follow a host of findings that will determine the next series of events to take place over the next year or two. And, yes, these matters always seem to take much longer than most people believe they should. But we need to remember that the Watergate hearings, the ultimate test of the rule of law, took four years from the time a special counsel was appointed.

The question for our nation is best stated by Charles Blow, columnist for the NYTimes who stated the issue as follows:

“As Thomas Paine wrote over two hundred fifty years ago, “In America the law is king.” For as in absolute governments the king is law, so in free countries the law ought to be king; and there ought to be no other.”

“Who,” writes Blow, “will we let be king in this country, the president or the law?”

Please let me hear from you on this subject as we all have a vested interest in making sure that nobody forgets or ignores the importance of the foundations of democracy that gave us the rule of law, and that no man is above the law.

Why “Huggy-Kissy” Behavior Has Morphed in the #MeToo Era into “Creepy Feely”

When the candidates are lined up for political debates that start in two months you know that all sorts of issues will surface designed to let the proverbial fur begin to fly. So it is when the #MeToo movement meets the old style glad hand world of a politician such as Joe Biden – Democrats begin to do what they do best: turn on each other.

This past week, even before he had a chance to enter the fray, former VP Joe Biden, found himself facing charges that his well-known “touchy feely” style of politics became intermingled with allegations from several women from his past campaigns. Women across the country argued that what may have been acceptable in past generations did not excuse the failure of men today to understand what was never acceptable from their standpoint.

Initial responses reported women who outright condemned his behaviors followed by a chorus of women with a less negative viewpoint.

“Men were acculturated to behave in ways that ignored the sensibilities of women, and that is no longer acceptable,” Laura Petiford wrote. “I … struggle to understand how it is helpful to render men like Mr. Biden ‘unfit’ because of behaviors that were so deeply woven into the social fabric of this country that we are only now beginning to address them contextually.”

Susannah Sard wrote, “Sometimes we need to relax.” Eileen West wrote: “Joe Biden has plenty to answer for, especially his treatment of Anita Hill. Let his challengers question him on that, rather than being distracted by the media frenzy of the day.”

One person, who has supported a political competitor to Biden, acknowledges that she is speaking because Biden is considering entering the primaries; the other says that if Biden really respects women, he should not run and clear the field for the capable women candidates.

A kind of demand for a balanced perspective came from Theda Skocpol, a Harvard political scientist who stated: “Wait a minute: Is this what gender equality really means? Is this the kind of society we want to live in — where right-wingers can do any vicious thing they want to anyone and shrug it off, while people on the center-left are supposed to expel from public life anyone who says a single wrong word or has done something benignly intended in the past that now does not fit changed norms?

Questions we need to raise:

  • How should we fairly look at a situation that confronts older men who have, in years past, adopted a manner that likely made women uncomfortable even though the man in question never understood how unwelcome his behavior was?
  • How do we educate men about oafish and highly distasteful behaviors that may have been given a shrug of the shoulders in days of old but is now frequently being cited by women as outside established boundaries of comportment?
  • Are we going to put otherwise admirable and respected men quietly – or, as in the case of former Senator Al Franken – not so quietly out to pasture as proverbial dinosaurs of our #MeToo time?
  • Is this a debate that tries to draw a line between over exuberant affection vs. creepiness?
  • How will conversations between men and women (need to) change and will new customs define those boundaries for generations to come?

I would like to believe that Biden and men of my generation – men that may have never previously given much thought that certain behaviors made women uncomfortable – are beginning to make themselves aware that such behaviors are no longer acceptable. I even believe that every woman who comes forward asserting that a man made an uncomfortable or unrequested touching of her body deserves to be heeded and an apology from the man in question should be forthcoming.

But what we need is a recognition that situations that do not involve claims of sexual harassment or male job empowerment should not become a basis for automatic disqualification of such men for future jobs at the grocery store or in politics. We are going to need a great deal of discussion between men and women in this area and I am in favor of men paying increasing attention to behaviors that are unacceptable. But women also must play a part in the quiet re-education of men on a subject of importance that will require a large adjustment on the part of many men.

Considerations on the phrase of the year

As many of you know, each year I try to identify a word or phrase that I deem to be most descriptive of the moment in which we find ourselves. It is an exercise I do at the end of each year to try to help me understand where our nation lies in the larger spectrum of history and where we, individually can begin to put this moment in time in some kind of perspective.

In past years, some of these words included “relevant”, by which I discussed how so many events were swirling around us that we needed to find some anchor or ethos to give us some guidance during difficult moments. One year my word was “meaningful” and I went to great pains with some friends and family members to explain that we all needed to perform truly valuable deeds, big and small, that return us to the basics of our existence and showed our inner civility in times of #MeToo, wanton illegal gun attacks on our schools and churches and other events that have eroded our own sense of right and wrong.

So, with a great deal of thought based on the events of our nation over the past year, I pondered a number of words and phrases that I thought were most appropriate to the year ahead. As I wrote in my final blog post of 2018, the past year was inexorably linked to 1968 – some 50 years earlier – that threw our nation into a different kind of tailspin.

After much reflection I hereby announce that the phrase of the coming year is: [drum roll] rule of law.

The rule of law is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as:

"The authority and influence of law in society, especially when viewed as a constraint on individual and institutional behavior; the principle whereby all members of a society are considered equally subject to publicly disclosed legal codes and processes".

The phrase dates to the Magna Carta signed by King John in England in 1215. The king deemed it necessary to issue this pronouncement when a group of barons, powerful noblemen who supported the king in exchange for estates of land, demanded that the king sign the charter to recognize their rights. That document was written to ensure that the life, liberty, or property of free subjects of the king could not be arbitrarily taken away. Instead, the lawful judgment of the subject’s peers or the law of the land had to be followed.

So, what does this ancient document have to do with the year 2019? Quite a lot, it seems. The construct behind the phrase “rule of law” recognizes that a person’s fate should not be in the hands of a single individual—whether a king, a dictator or the president of the United States. Magna Carta planted the seeds for the concept of due process as it developed first in England, and then in the United States. Due process means that everyone is entitled to a fair and impartial hearing to determine their legal rights.

James Madison expressed this idea for us in Federalist Paper No. 51 (1788) when he wrote:

“If men were angels, no government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”

The framers of the U.S. Constitution addressed this problem by dividing power among the different branches of government (legislative, executive, and judicial). This framework for government, known as the separation of powers, ensures that no one person is able to gain absolute power and stand above the law. Each branch of our government has some level of control or oversight over the actions of the other branches.

When we talk about the rule of law, “we must understand that we are talking about a law that promotes freedom, that promotes justice, that promotes equality.” said former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who suggested in his writings that the rule of law has taken on special meaning for the people of the United States, based on our history of looking to the law to fulfill the promises of freedom, justice, and equality set forth in our nation’s founding documents.

One of my favorite movies is the adaptation of the story of Sir Thomas More whose life was memorialized in the Robert Bolt film, “A Man for All Seasons”. In the movie, Sir Thomas, played brilliantly by Paul Schofield, is faced with the mandate of the king that all citizens of the realm must swear an oath permitting the king to divorce his wife (against the dictates of the Catholic Church) and marry his lover, Anne Boleyn. More, facing false charges at his upcoming trial, learns from Richard Rich, his former protégé, that he will testify against More.

More’s son-in-law, Roper, demands that Sir Thomas find a reason to arrest Rich and charge him even though he hasn't broken any law. More explains to Roper, that he would give the benefit of law to the Devil, rather than arrest Rich on false charges.

MORE:  And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law!

ROPER:  So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law!

MORE:  Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

ROPER:  I’d cut down every law in England to do that!

MORE:  Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ‘round on you--where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast -- man's laws, not God's -- and if you cut them down -- and you're just the man to do it -- d'you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes. I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake.

We should not doubt – nor let others convince us – that these are ordinary times. We are in the midst of a constitutional crisis that will determine the future direction of our nation and the future of each of its 323 million citizens. We need to raise the critical questions as to whether our constitution is the essential wisdom that governs us or whether a cult of personality shall be permitted to subsume those fundamental rights that we have fought so hard to preserve.

The rule of law was essential to the ethos of England from the time of the Magna Carta. It was deemed at the heart of the Founding Fathers belief that our nation be governed as one derived from man’s laws. It was essential to the constructs underlying our union when spoken so ably by Abraham Lincoln as he worked to keep our nation together after secession of the southern states. And, it was essential to the protection of our democracy in the dark days of Watergate that led to the disgrace and resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974.

Today, we are as steadfastly in need of reliance on the rule of law as ever before in our history. We are a nation of laws. And it will be the laws that stand mightily to oppose any individual’s belief – whatever his place in our society -- that he or she is above the law.

Wishing each of you a prosperous and healthy new year.

The more things change.....

As we close out the final days of 2018, it is important we stop and understand what this year has meant to the citizens of our nation. To do so, I decided to look at not only the events of 2018 but to use this opportunity to look back fifty years to see the incredible events of that year.

In her exceedingly well-reviewed new book, These Truths: A History of the United States, award-winning historian, Jill Lepore, notes that the US was designed around three principles or truths: political equality, natural rights and popular sovereignty. The Founders believed we could establish good government “from reflection and choice” as opposed to being “forever destined to depend, for their political constitutional protection, on accident and force.” She tells a story of repeated torment and betrayal offset by decency and great innovation. Of a nation that has repeatedly departed from its founding truths but always, even in the worst of times, returned to them.

So, it is with this idea in mind, worthwhile to review the events of the past year and those of 1968 to determine our nation’s ability to recover from prior departures from a failure of “reflection and choice” to return to times where decency and innovation restored our commitment to these ideals. Here is what happened as these two years — fifty years apart — ensued:

1968

In the midst of the Vietnam war where over 54,000 American lives were lost, the year saw a beleaguered President Lyndon Johnson be challenged first by Sen. Eugene McCarthy then, in March the announcement that Johnson’s former Attorney General, Robert F. Kennedy, announce his own run only to lead, two weeks later, to the surprise announcement by the President that he would not run for re-election.

Two stunning events happened shortly thereafter. On April 4 while preparing to give a speech in Memphis Tennessee, Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated, triggering riots by blacks in US cities. Only two months later, on June 5, Robert Kennedy is shot and killed in Los Angeles immediately after winning the California Democratic primary. The August Democratic convention in Chicago turns into a riotous event. The uprising in Chicago saw the National Guard called out and the arrest of 150. To many, this event signaled a national uprising against the belief that governments could be trusted to do the right thing.

The Democrats’ selection of Vice President Hubert Humphrey was seen by more progressive Democrats as a desire of the establishment to maintain the status quo. To young people, it was seen as a commitment to keep the war in Vietnam going on while more young men were being cut down month after month. The GOP candidate Richard M. Nixon. Nixon’s “law and order” campaign leads to his election, barely, while third party candidate, George Wallace secures 19% of the vote and wins five states.

One of the most striking but little recognized events of that year was the request by US Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren secretly signaled to President Johnson his intention to resign by the end of the year, anticipating that Nixon might win the election.. Incredibly, Johnson chose not to appoint a liberal replacement to carry on the leftward leaning of the Warren Court. As a result, with the election of Nixon, he makes the appointment of Warren Burger, starting a five decade process of tilting the Court to a right wing orientation that continues to this very day.

Later in the year, three astronauts flew for the first time around the moon and returned safely leading to the first landing on the moon a year later. But, the nation was left to deal with the residue of the disruptive events that shattered a belief that we could establish good government “from reflection and choice”, two concepts that few Americans could associate with the events of 1968.

2018

Fifty years later, our nation is still challenged by events that divide us along lines of gender, race, religion and ethnicity. According to a new NBC\Wall St Journal poll out this month, Americans, just before the stock market collapse of the past two months, cited that the improving economic outlook was the key public event of 2018, Running closely with this finding was the realization that the American people viewed the year of the Parkland shootings and the mass slayings at the Pittsburgh synagogue as either the first or second most significant event of the year.

It was a year where the separation of migrant families and the number of immigrants seeking asylum was deemed in the poll almost as significant to Americans as the spate of terrible hurricanes and fires that damaged major parts of our nation — both attributable to aspects of climate change. Uncertainties over the outcome of the tariff wars and trade negotiations was followed by the Mueller investigation and the advent of the #MeToo movement to expose sexual harassment.

On the political platform, in a review of the Trump presidency, Michelle Goldberg, columnist of the NYTimes wrote that this was “The Year Justice Caught Up with Trumpworld”. She noted that “things many of us have taken for granted have been called into question, including the endurance of liberal democracy, the political salience of truth and the assumption that it would be a big scandal if a president were caught directing illegal payoffs to a pornographic film actress. Often it feels like in American politics, none of the old rules still apply.”

But the larger question is whether our nation, in 2019 is on a path to returning to its founding truths, returning slowly to a centrist government that is what most Americans believe governs best or will continue to be one of bitter divisiveness that turns citizen against citizen.

But, she also notes, that in 2018 this was a year when, perhaps, things may have started to begin sounding normal again. When the year started out Michael Cohen was still the loyal fixer for Donald Trump; Paul Manafort was still sleeping in his own bed waiting for a pardon from Trump; Special Counsel Mueller’s team had not yet sent a person to prison; Scott Pruitt, head of the EPA, was still indulging in enormous acts of corruption, Rob Porter, the presidential assistant, despite being accused previously of abuse by two ex-wives, was still in the White House, Gen. John Kelly was the new Chief of Staff trying to rein in Trump’s tweets, Steve Brannon had still not had his private sell out of Trump aired in Michael Wolfe’s book “Fire and Fury” and Gen. Jim Mattis had not resigned in protest as a result of a quixotic decision of the president to withdraw troops from Syria and Iraq.

The last twelve months has turned all this upside down and more. But the larger question is whether our nation, in 2019 is on a path to returning to its founding truths, returning slowly to a centrist government that is what most Americans believe governs best or will continue to be one of bitter divisiveness that turns citizen against citizen instead of rallying together to challenge the larger important issues of political unity, equal rights for all, and addressing the issues of our perilous infrastructure, climate change and permissive laws that permit our sickest citizens to use assault weapons on the best and most innocent of us.

Here’s hoping for a healthy and optimistic year ahead to each and every one of you.

Your Apps Know Where You Were Last Night, and They’re Not Keeping It Secret

When I was a college junior I took a course on Constitutional Law which introduced me to the idea of the "right to privacy". You see, I did not then know that there was no such right written into the US Constitution. I did not know that this idea, from a constitutional standpoint, was only created in 1961 and did not get support from the US Supreme Court until 1965. I learned that as early as 1928 then Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis stated that “the right to be left alone” was formed out of the freedom of conscience idea in the First Amendment; that it was formed from the Fourth Amendment’s right to be secure in one’s person; and was based on the Fifth Amendment’s right to refuse self-incrimination.

Today, we seem to take this right for granted. It is the basis for Roe v. Wade which is applied to a woman’s right to privacy as regards abortion rights. It is the basis for a case decided by the Supreme Court in 2003 that eliminated sodomy laws granting privacy rights to the LGBTQ community. It is the basis for the Supreme Court’s decision in 1967 (Katz v. US) granting protection of our telephone conversations that might be tapped by governmental agencies. And this is where technology has been slowly eroding the right to privacy.

Despite a federal Privacy Act of 1974, governing collection and use of personal information, we have seen how Edward Snowden disseminated secrets of the National Security Agency’s surveillance program (which allowed this agency to collect data stored on servers from Internet providers like Microsoft, Google, Facebook et without a warrant). Once Snowden revealed this fact, all the companies fought and won the battle requiring the US Government to be totally transparent in any request for personal data about us on these software servers.

Yet, as shown on the article published today in the NYTimes, we remain at even greater risk of all details of our lives from the very software companies who fought to preserve their rights from government intrusion. Ironically, it is our consent to the apps on our phones and IPads that permit these vendors to track our wanderings where we unwillingly provide the most intimate details of our lives: when we go to the pharmacy, where we practice yoga, if we attended the inauguration of a President, or where we met someone or did something that we hoped would never see the light of day. As the New York Times article shows those free apps are not really free after all. That’s because they sell our location information and make lots of money for their creators off the data given to other companies who analyze it and use it for their own purposes.

“Google and Facebook, which dominate the mobile ad market, also lead in location based advertising. Both companies collect the data from their own apps. They say they don’t sell it but keep it for themselves to personalize their services, sell targeted ads across the internet and track whether the ads lead to sales at brick-and-mortar stores. Google, which also receives precise location information from apps that use its ad services, said it modified that data to make it less exact.”

So we all have to start thinking about whether BIG Brother is here at last or whether we wish to push back and preserve the areas of our privacy that remain important to us. Can we forego getting weather information for the precise area in which we are standing from The Weather Channel app? Do you need Waze to stay on at all times when that enables you to be tracked 24 hours per day? How about Uber, Lyft, Via et al?

It is time to go to the Privacy sections of your phones and tablets and retake control of your own life’s facts. We are not yet ready for a full-throated takeover by Big Brother just yet.

Bob Herbert Interview with Barry LePatner on CUNY TV: Barry LePatner on the Polarization of Our Nation

Last nite, my interview with Bob Herbert, former columnist of the NYTimes aired on CUNY TV. Bob last interviewed me a year ago to assess the nation’s infrastructure scene and we held a wide ranging discussion about the perilous state of our roads, bridges, dams and other critical facilities.

This year Bob asked me to again appear on his program and we talked about a wide range of topics addressing the how and why our political world is so polarized and what that means for the near and far time future. As Bob stated in his introduction:

“America was once the envy of the world in terms of our standard of living; our vast, high-quality transportation networks; our unparalleled systems of public and higher education; and our commitment to freedom and democracy. It didn’t matter whether Democrats or Republicans were in power, there were norms and principles and ideals to which nearly all of us subscribed. That all seems a long time ago. What happened? How did it happen? And where are we now headed? I talk about this with my guest, Barry LePatner, an expert on infrastructure and development, and a veteran analyst of power, politics and government in the United States.”

The National Transportation Safety Board and the American Society of Civil Engineers Must Begin to Demand: NO MORE FRACTURE CRITICAL BRIDGES

In 2010, while doing research for Too Big to Fall: America’s Failing Infrastructure and the Way Forward, my research led me beyond the scary fact that since 1989 over 600 bridges in our nation had failed from an engineering standpoint. At that time, the American Society of Structural Engineers was pleased to report that about 11% of all the 600,000 bridges in the nation were rated “structurally deficient”, i.e. had such serious cracks, corrosion and conditions such as frozen bearings that local authorities were instructed by the federal government to close one or more lanes to ensure these bridges could – in their weakened condition – support the weight of the vehicles traveling over them each day.

Nowhere in the literature of the ASCE or local or federal government files was any reference to the 18,000 bridges designed in the late 1960s and into the 1970s that were built as “fracture critical”. These bridges, such as the recently demised old Tappan Zee Bridge over New York State’s Hudson River, the ill-fated I-35W that ran across the Mississippi River in Minneapolis and the tragic I-5 that ran across the Skagit River in the State of Washington, were built without redundancy. In other words, from an engineering standpoint, if one member of the bridge failed for any reason the bridge lacked the normal ability to transfer loads to other supporting parts of the bridge to prevent an outright collapse.

That our federal government ever approved bridges to be designed and built without “belts and suspenders” is startling in its own right. That the government permitted these dangerous facilities which transported millions of Americans across their spans each day into the 21st Century is to invite repeated tragedy. And that is precisely what happened for the I-35W which collapsed in 2007, killing 13 people and injuring another 145; that is exactly what happened in May 2013. See, https://gizmodo.com/new-analysis-confirms-why-the-skagit-river-bridge-colla-1785842162

A preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board attributed the failure to the bridge’s so-called “fracture-critical” design, whereby a small crack in just one essential part can trigger a chain reaction of even more failures. So when I secured data from a secret source within the Federal Highway Administration showing that the nation had nearly 8,000 bridges that were BOTH structurally deficient and fracture critical, I was attempting to highlight a critical failure of our federal and state leaders to address a most perilous condition in our bridge infrastructure system.

So, one can ask, how could our governmental authorities charged with building new bridge structures ever again permit engineers to design any new bridges using a fracture critical design? Hasn’t anyone learned this one lesson that without structural redundancy a failure of even one part of a bridge is a direct invitation to a collapse?

Then, this past March, we turned on our TVs only to see another unfolding of tragedy in Miami when an overpass over a crowded highway near Florida International University collapse while the prefabricated overpass was being put in place. Within hours, I was asked to give both TV and radio interviews to explain how this could happen and what the aftermath of this tragedy meant to the nation. From a review of certain plans of the bridge provided by a friendly engineer who quickly reviewed the drawings with me it became clear: this collapse was likely fostered by a potpourri of design and construction errors including one error that was unimaginable: as the installation of the overpass was being placed and contractors were tightening or loosening steel rods to address cracks that had already sent warning signals that something was amiss, how could the authorities have permitted vehicular traffic to flow beneath the overpass?

In addition, it has subsequently been determined that the overpass was designed as a fracture critical structure. Thus, when a section of the overpass no longer supported the intended weight of the bridge there were no other support members to handle the failed load to prevent a total collapse of the structure to the street below. Shades of the I-35W and I-5 bridges only recently examined as of the same ilk.

As long as the Federal government chooses to ignore the inherent perils of leaving these types of bridges to remain as structural hand grenades for an unsuspecting public to stumble upon we are exposed to dangers all across the nation. My website, SaveOurBridges.com shows that there are nearly 160 such dangerous bridges – each one both structurally deficient and fracture critical – in each of the 50 states.

Finally, when will the ASCE amend their Infrastructure Report Card to acknowledge these dangers? How can the engineers who design and maintain these bridges – and who are fully conversant with the dangers of every fracture critical bridge – deign to give a grade of C+ to our bridges and never mention the words “fracture critical’ in their report? https://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/cat-item/bridges/ ? How can they provide a glossary of terms addressing the problems of infrastructure without providing a definition and discussion of these fracture critical bridges? Maybe only having 8,000 of them is not of sufficient caliber to warrant discussion.

In ancient Greek mythology, the gods detested any time when man exhibited what they called hubris, i.e. a total lack of humility where a man took on the attitude of a god. Inevitably, the story would arouse the ire of one or more gods who sent down a messenger from the heavens to teach the man a lesson that he was human and not a god. The messenger they sent: you guessed it, Tragedy.


Cracks Where FIU Bridge Buckled May Have Signaled 'Imminent Failure'

MIAMIHERALD.COM

Published May 07, 2018 04:53 PM Updated May 09, 2018 03:08 PM
By Andres Viglucci, Nicholas Nehamas and Jenny Staletovich

Cracks were discovered in the Florida International University bridge 10 days before it was raised into the air above busy Tamiami Trail. The bridge collapsed on March 15, killing six people.  -Florida International University

Cracks were discovered in the Florida International University bridge 10 days before it was raised into the air above busy Tamiami Trail. The bridge collapsed on March 15, killing six people. -Florida International University

A key concrete support truss in the doomed Florida International University pedestrian bridge developed worrisome cracks 10 days before the structure was lifted into place over the Tamiami Trail, photographs and an internal email unintentionally released by the school show.

The documents, released in response to public records requests from the Miami Herald, show that FIU's construction and engineering team discovered potentially problematic cracks in the bridge earlier than officials have previously acknowledged.

The cracks were found in late February at the base of a diagonal support member at the north end of the span. Independent engineers have identified that as the point where the structure shattered on March 15 while under construction, sending the 950-ton bridge crashing onto the roadway below and claiming six lives.

Three independent engineers who examined the photos, records and bridge blueprints at the Herald's request concurred the cracks were a red flag signaling potentially critical structural problems. Outside experts have zeroed in on that truss member, identified in plans as No. 11, as being "under-designed" -- that is, not strong enough to withstand the pressure from the weight of the bridge it was supposed to hold up.

The location and diagonal shape of the cracks shown in the FIU team's photos support that theory, the engineers said. They said the cracks should have prompted work on the bridge to stop for an in-depth review that likely would have resulted in the truss connection being re-engineered and significantly reinforced.

"Knowing the stresses that member was under and what happened, that crack was something that in hindsight should have been investigated," said David Beck, a New Hampshire engineer who helped uncover mistakes in Boston's $10.8 billion Big Dig project.

Linwood Howell, a senior engineer at a Texas firm that specializes in bridge design and inspection, said the cracks were signs of the structure's "imminent failure."

"There's nothing they could have done short of starting over and redesigning the structure," said Howell, whose firm conducts bridge inspections for the state of Texas.

A dashcam video shows the FIU pedestrian bridge falling on Thursday, March 15, 2018. McClatchy@o2webdev via Instagram

A dashcam video shows the FIU pedestrian bridge falling on Thursday, March 15, 2018. McClatchy@o2webdev via Instagram

A third engineer consulted by the Herald concurred with the first two but asked not to be named.

A fourth bridge engineer, Ralph Verrastro of Naples, said the cracks did not appear significant to him.

"The photos don't clearly provide any clues to me related to ultimate failure," Verrastro said in an email. "I would assume these cracks would have been repaired by epoxy injection before the bridge was moved."

Because FIU and state transportation officials continue to withhold other critical records under instructions from the National Transportation Safety Board, it's hard to say what the FIU team's response to the cracks was.

In a Feb. 28 memo, Jose Morales, a consulting engineer for FIU, notes one crack in particular "merits special attention." Morales urges that the bridge engineer of record be consulted "to provide a response." That engineer of record is W. Denney Pate of FIGG Bridge Group, which designed the bridge. The memo was sent to a project manager at Munilla Construction Management, the bridge project's builder, and copied to Alberto Delgado, a construction project manager at FIU, and other members of the project team.

NTSB, which is investigating the bridge collapse, has told FIU and the Florida Department of Transportation not to release records dated after Feb. 19, so there are no available public records to document any response from FIGG or other team members to Morales' memo. The Herald has sued to obtain subsequent records related to the bridge collapse. The bridge collapse is also the subject of a Miami-Dade police homicide investigation and families of some of the victims have filed lawsuits.

The Feb. 28 memo and the attached photos of cracking were released in error, an FIU attorney, Eric Isicoff, said Monday. After the Herald contacted FIU for comment on the cracks, Isicoff demanded reporters delete any copies of the documents from their computers.

"Any hard copies that have been made also should be destroyed," Isicoff wrote.

Cracks such as the one pictured above may have been a sign of "imminent failure" of the Florida International University bridge that collapsed March 15, claiming six lives. Engineers had discovered the cracks days before the bridge was lifted into place.Florida International University

Cracks such as the one pictured above may have been a sign of "imminent failure" of the Florida International University bridge that collapsed March 15, claiming six lives. Engineers had discovered the cracks days before the bridge was lifted into place.Florida International University

Mark Caramanica, an attorney at Thomas & LoCicero representing the Herald in its public records requests to FIU, said the Herald has no obligation to comply.

"The Herald has a First Amendment right to publish this information, and the public has a right to know what may have led to this terrible event," he said.

The cracks documented in the Feb. 28 memo were discovered while the span was still resting on the ground, after the removal of temporary shoring that provided support while it was built by the side of the Trail.

Beck and Howell said that's potentially telling because the span at that point was resting only on a support on either end, mimicking the way it would stand once installed over the roadway. The cracks thus could have been a sign of shearing pressure -- a sideways stress -- that the No. 11 truss could not handle once under the full load it was meant to carry.

Both Beck and Howell, echoing other outside engineers who have analyzed publicly available blueprints, records, photos and videos, believe the connection between the No. 11 truss and the bridge deck -- the place where the cracking occurred -- was poorly designed, lacking sufficient steel and concrete to bear the enormous load placed on it. All the engineers emphasize that a clear-cut cause for the collapse may not be established until the NTSB publishes its conclusions, and that their analysis could change based on new information.

Ten days after the Feb. 28 memo, the bridge's main span, fabricated by the side of the road, was lifted into place by two special transporters. That means FIU's engineers and contractors had either done something to address the cracks or concluded they were not an issue, the outside engineers said.

The FIU-Sweetwater UniversityCity Bridge collapsed on a busy road March 15, killing six people and injuring several more.  -Pedro Portal Miami Herald

The FIU-Sweetwater UniversityCity Bridge collapsed on a busy road March 15, killing six people and injuring several more. -Pedro Portal Miami Herald

Concrete cracking in construction is common, and records show FIU bridge team members were expecting some cracking as they prepared the bridge span and moved it into place.

In fact, some minor cracking was discovered even earlier, other released records show, but dismissed as inconsequential -- a conclusion the independent engineers agree with.

But three days after the bridge was lifted into place, Pate called an FDOT official to report that cracking had been found at the north end of the bridge, records released by the agency immediately after the collapse show. In a recorded phone message, Pate said the cracks did not represent a safety hazard but should be repaired. It's quite possible that the cracks Pate reported were the same ones in the photos and memo from Feb. 28, Howell said.

The cracks might have become worse after the bridge was moved and set in place, resting atop a pylon at either end. That would especially be the case if the No. 11 truss, the last diagonal piece at the north end, was beginning to fail under the full load of the bridge, he said.

FILE from March 10, 2018: Early morning view of the main span of the FIU-Sweetwater UniversityCity Pedestrian Bridge as it was lifted from its temporary supports, rotated 90 degrees across an eight-lane thoroughfare and lowered into its permanent Pedro  Portalpportal@elnuevoherald.com

FILE from March 10, 2018: Early morning view of the main span of the FIU-Sweetwater UniversityCity Pedestrian Bridge as it was lifted from its temporary supports, rotated 90 degrees across an eight-lane thoroughfare and lowered into its permanent Pedro Portalpportal@elnuevoherald.com

The cracks were discussed at a meeting of project team members the morning of the collapse, though no safety concerns were raised, FDOT said. The bridge collapsed while crews were atop the walkway's canopy, adjusting the tension on steel support rods inside the No. 11 truss member as traffic continued to flow on the open road below.

“Whether the crews were tightening or loosening the rods has not been disclosed, but could be critical in explaining the cause of the collapse. Because the truss-type design of the bridge means there is no redundant support, the failure of a single structural piece can bring the entire overpass down under its own weight, experts say.”

One early report, by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, had the crews tightening the rods in an effort to close the cracks, leading to speculation that over-tightening could have caused the truss to shatter.

But other experts, citing released bridge plans, say they were more likely loosening the rods. The rods were apparently a modification to the plans, added to the bridge design after FDOT asked FIU to move the entire bridge 11 feet north to accommodate a future lane for transit.

The move forced a change in the carefully calibrated plan for moving the bridge into place. It put the north end of the main span well off the edge of the roadway on a canal bank. Because a transport machine could not traverse that roadway edge, the point where it would lift the structure was moved toward the center of the bridge. That means the end would sag when lifted. To prevent that, the rods were added to provide extra compressive support.

The rods were tightened before the bridge was lifted off the ground. The plans called for them to be loosened after the bridge was in place because that extra compression was no longer needed. That's the operation some experts believe was underway when the bridge plummeted to the ground.

Pictured is the blue SUV driven by 18-year-old Florida International University student Alexa Duran when she was killed by a 174-foot walkway being constructed near FIU during a bridge collapse on March 15, 2018. Richard ‘Richie’ Humble, a 19-year-old FIU student who escaped the vehicle alive, filed a civil lawsuit claiming the firms involved in the bridge’s construction acted negligently and should have re-routed traffic. - Sebastian Ballestas  sballestas@miamiherald.com

Pictured is the blue SUV driven by 18-year-old Florida International University student Alexa Duran when she was killed by a 174-foot walkway being constructed near FIU during a bridge collapse on March 15, 2018. Richard ‘Richie’ Humble, a 19-year-old FIU student who escaped the vehicle alive, filed a civil lawsuit claiming the firms involved in the bridge’s construction acted negligently and should have re-routed traffic. -Sebastian Ballestas sballestas@miamiherald.com

The cracks in the Feb. 28 document were discovered after the rods were tightened, or stressed, in preparation for the lift. In the accompanying memo, Morales, an engineer with FIU consultant Bolton Perez & Associates, asked MCM and Pate to "determine if these were expected during the bridge stressing," and singled out one crack that "due to the size" needed "special attention."

Citing the cracks and his own calculations showing that the No. 11 truss was crushingly overstressed, Howell speculated that either operation -- tightening or loosening -- could have been enough to shatter the connection.

"Since it was right on the brink of failure, anytime you disturb it -- boom -- it goes," Howell said. "It just needed a little push to go over the edge."

A sufficiently attentive engineer, knowing what kind of load the No. 11 member was supposed to carry, should have exercised great caution and ordered a thorough review, preferably by an independent engineer not involved in the project to ensure objectivity, Howell said.

Given the bridge was moved into place soon after and subsequently fell, he assumes that did not happen.

"The cracks are telling them that the connection is failing, but they're not seeing it," Howell said. "When it's your design, you rationalize your way around it."

Aerial footage shows what the scene at the FIU pedestrian bridge collapse looks like the morning after on March 16, 2018.  -Pedro Portal Miami Herald

Aerial footage shows what the scene at the FIU pedestrian bridge collapse looks like the morning after on March 16, 2018. -Pedro Portal Miami Herald

Seeking a line between government's right to retain information (it deems secret) and those times that transparency is what is best for its citizens

We all can agree that there are secrets best kept by government from the public for a multitude of reasons. For one thing, we will all agree that issues affecting national security, such as secret weapons, tactics to be used in the event of attack on our shores, etc., must be given protection from our enemies who could use that information to our detriment. There are incidents in our history, such as the full investigation into who killed John F. Kennedy which arguably, if they contain sensitive information, could fall into that category that the public is best not given the full and true picture.

However, I am not sure about total secrecy on such issues as whether we have aliens from another planet amidst us should be kept secret, but after several viewings of Men in Black and learning that some very famous people on the planet may well be amongst that non-human species, I can understand why facts about UFOs could be validly withheld from general knowledge.

But when it comes to facts about our infrastructure and the potentially perilous conditions of our bridges, roads, dams and electric grid I have gained too much information as a result of authoring “Too Big to Fall: America’s Failing Infrastructure and the Way Forward” to allow any claim by government that withholding such information from the public is a good thing. So this recent article authored by a very respected journalist identifies the spurious efforts of the New Jersey Transit folks to disclose information on which rail bridges may be in critical need of attention has brought this issue to the forefront. I wish to share my concern with each of you.

A NJ Transit passenger train passes over the train bridge at the Garfield Train Station

A NJ Transit passenger train passes over the train bridge at the Garfield Train Station

“Tens of thousands of NJ Transit commuters cross them on trains every day. But the statewide public transportation agency, which maintains hundreds of rail bridges, won't share any information with the public that would reveal whether they're safe or not.”

It seems that the journalist, Curtis Tate, who has written extensively on infrastructure issues for many years, sought to identify whether the NJ Transit officials have categorized railway bridges under its jurisdiction and showing signs of excessive corrosion and wear and tear associated with other structurally deficient bridges around the nation, was rebuffed repeatedly by the authorities. When he finally asked why they would not furnish the condition reports in their files that would validate serious concern for the bridges these railroads use for the travelling public, Tate was summarily told that:

"NJ Transit is in possession of documents containing information which, if disclosed, would jeopardize the safety and security of NJ Transit bridges," the denial letter said.

A further request to the NJ Attorney General’s office got a similar refusal and the statement that the documents "contain sensitive technical...information regarding the structural integrity of nearly six hundred bridges" maintained by the agency. Think about that: although New Jersey has hundreds, if not thousands of the nation’s approximately 55,000 structurally deficient bridges and these are widely known to the general public who seek this information, learning which rail bridges are in danger of collapse, bridges that carry a million passengers a year, is a secret only to be shared by those with Top Secret clearances.

When Curtis spoke with me for his article I pointed out that on the fifth anniversary of the collapse on August 1, 2007 of the I-35W in Minneapolis which killed 13 people and injured another 145, I published a Google map at www.SaveOurBridges.com that permitted every citizen who entered a zip code to see all the structurally deficient\fracture critical bridges (those in danger of imminent collapse) in that area. This website has been quoted publicly on many of the TV and radio stations with whom I have interviewed over the past ten years AND NO GOVERNMENTAL AUTHORITY HAS EVER ASKED ME TO TAKE IT DOWN for any reason, let alone national security reasons. Why then, I asked, could any transportation agency seek to preclude this acknowledgement of pending disaster from the questioning press or the public whom it serves?

We truly deserve better from our public officials. I hope that journalists such as Curtis Tate continue that fight. I hope he convinces his publishers to take this battle to court as an affront to our first amendment rights. And I hope that one day, the sunlight of transparency will shine brightly on our state and federal government leaders who, for the past four decades, have failed to exhibit the political will and the political leadership to make repairs to our imperiled infrastructure a primary mission before further disasters occur. I hope we all win that ultimate victory.

As always, please let me have your thoughts and ideas in response to this issue.

Construction Corruption in NYC

Illustration-by-Chris-Koehler.jpg

Throughout my forty year career in the design and construction community I have been called upon often by owners how best to address the 900 lb. gorilla that hovers over the industry: the existence and persistence of corruption in how buildings are designed and constructed.

Make no mistake about the nature of the problem. There have been regular reports that corruption is not solely limited to the construction world’s tendency among some to hide the true cost of construction; to create two sets of books for a project and make sure the owner only sees the set with higher costs; and the use of many workers who are shown as needed for a project who are, in fact, no-shows and reap unwarranted profits for construction executives.

But the problem often extends to complicit architects, interior designers, commercial real estate brokers and project managers all have been caught up by prosecutors in New York City for their roles in leading to bilking corporations, institutions and developers — as well as private owners — of hundreds of millions of dollars.

The article, "The anatomy of construction corruption: How bribery and overbilling schemes have become commonplace in the world of real estate’s middlemen", that recently appeared in The Real Deal, and which liberally quoted me on the subject, highlights the latest round up of contractors who were prosecuted for such heinous behavior. [https://therealdeal.com/issues_articles/the-anatomy-of-construction-corruption/]. Ultimately, we find that fines and penalties are imposed to recoup the monies wrongfully taken from their clients. Occasionally, a few executives of these companies are jailed. But, curiously, most of the largest culprits have paid their fines only to see their businesses continue to grow and prosper and treat their wrongdoing as a cost of doing business.

Inevitably, if our city, state and federal governments want to eliminate this kind of behavior our officials will need to become more serious about ending this type of unacceptable behavior. Setting boundaries going forward should include automatic jail sentences for those within each company who play a role in the setting of these payments and subcontractors who are complicit must also be penalized.

Finally, there should be one, two or five year suspensions of the licenses given to contractors to conduct business to emphasize the seriousness of this type of behavior. That will send the true level of the message we need to end this kind of virulent behavior for all time.

As always, please let me have your comments.

Trump’s infrastructure plan is “dead on arrival”: Barry LePatner

Following the recent derailment of an Amtrak commuter train north of Seattle, the producers of MSNBC reached out to me and asked me to join Ali Velshi and Stephanie Ruhle to discuss this disaster and the subject of our nation’s infrastructure. The five minute interview is shown by clicking on the image above.

MSNBC has highlighted the interview by citing my statement that the soon to be revealed Trump infrastructure plan is “dead on arrival”. I believe there will be little likelihood that the members of Congress can support a plan to improve our perilous infrastructure by adding $200 billion more to the nation’s deficit which just experienced an increase in the national debt of $1.5 trillion from the newly-passed tax plan of the GOP. Moreover, the infrastructure plan is heavily weighted to require states to make up a large portion of the $800 billion to be raised by outside equity and state contributions. This would only be possible by increases in state taxes – taxes that are not always deductible by its citizens under the new tax law.

For those of you who wrote about not receiving the video of my recent interview with Bob Herbert, former op-ed columnist for the NYTimes as shown on CUNY-TV, here is the link of that discussion about our nation’s infrastructure. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MkidnPrKzEs

Please share your comments and let me extend my warmest wishes to all for the upcoming holidays and the New Year

Taxing the American Dream

What does it mean when the best of our next and future generations will be deprived of gaining a hope for securing a masters degree or going for an advanced science degree or seeking a medical school education which will be much needed skills in the years ahead?

The American education system has been the gold standard for training our – and the world’s – future leaders in science, government, teaching and a host of other fields that are central to maintaining our exceptionalism. However, the new tax legislation under final consideration by the U.S. Congress appears to be a direct assault on any hopes of keeping that reputation alive for the future.

In his recent article for Medium, Graham Glusman of Columbia University notes that “college access has expanded dramatically in the past 75 years, enabling students from middle and low-income families to attend college.

This has largely been the result of federal programs and scholarships that were designed to do just that, such as the Pell Grant. In 1976, there were 1.9 million Pell Grant recipients, receiving $6.2 billion worth of financial aid. In 2012, that number had increased to 9.4 million recipients, who received nearly $40 billion in aid. As a result of heightened accessibility, the United States is one of the most educated countries in the world, which has had a reciprocal effect on Americans’ incomes and on the economy at large. On average, people with a bachelor’s degree make 66 percent more than those without them.”

The current tax proposal before Congress represents an assault on securing greater accessibility for undergrads. Worse, it is an outright effort to make it nearly impossible for graduate students from lower and middle income families from seeking advanced degrees – masters, doctoral and professional – by taxing their tuition waivers. Consider the following example cited in the article:

“if a student seeking a medical degree and making $2,000 a year part time at a coffee shop also received $30,000 a year from a university to help with tuition, that student’s taxable income would be $32,000. The absurdity of the proposal is that a student, who presumably takes on a job to help pay for basic necessities like food, heating, and rent, would have to pay taxes as if their earned income were 16 times higher than it actually is."

“In 2017, the federal tax on $32,000 was $2,763.75, more money than the student actually made at the coffee shop in the first place. What makes this plan so nonsensical is that the student never actually sees the $30,000 waiver; it is immediately deducted from their tuition, the rest of which they are still required to pay. So not only would students who received such waivers be in immediate debt simply for attending graduate programs, they would still have to pay the rest of the tuition that their waiver didn’t cover.”

What is the purpose of tax legislation that is punitive to those trying to gain a brighter future for themselves through education? What does it mean when the best of our next and future generations will be deprived of gaining a hope for securing a masters degree or going for an advanced science degree or seeking a medical school education which will be much needed skills in the years ahead?

Is this the kind of country that America should hold itself out as offering to its citizens? Do the voters even understand that their children and grandchildren’s opportunities have been frustrated by tax legislation that makes it near impossible for them to secure what used to be an inalienable right for all?

Please let me have your comments on this latest development. More importantly, reach out and let your Congressperson know that this is downright foolish as well as unfair.

Barry LePatner Discusses Our Failing Infrastructure with Bob Herbert of Op-Ed.TV

In case you were pulled in other directions the other evening, I thought I would send to you a link of my interview with Bob Herbert that aired Tuesday night on CUNY-TV. The discussion covered a broad range of infrastructure topics that I know you will find of interest.

Please share with me your comments and, most importantly, I hope each of you enjoys a heartwarming Thanksgiving.

Barry LePatner Interview with Bob Herbert on Infrastructure on CUNY-TV

bobherbertinterview.jpeg

There are members of the media who one meets at interviews for press, radio and TV. Many of these individuals are consummate professionals who have developed their craft as journalists over the course of their careers. Only a few rise to the level of being at the top of their field based on their wide range of experience and most importantly, who bring a critical level of empathy to the wide range of subjects they cover.

Bob Herbert joined The New York Times as an Op-Ed columnist in 1993. His twice a week column covered politics, urban affairs and social trends. He began his career as a reporter with The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J., in 1970. He became its night city editor in 1973. Over his career Bob won numerous awards, including the Meyer Berger Award for coverage of New York City and the American Society of Newspaper Editors award for distinguished newspaper writing. He was chairman of the Pulitzer Prize jury for spot news reporting in 1993.

Maybe I have had a special affinity for Bob because we share the distinct honor of both having been born in Brooklyn. Whereas I attended Brooklyn College, he has taught journalism at Brooklyn College as well as the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He currently writes for the Demos blog PolicyShop as well as The American Prospect magazine, which merged with Demos in 2010.

In 2014, Bob published, Losing Our Way: An Intimate Portrait of a Troubled America and I was honored to have been interviewed for the section he wrote on our failing infrastructure which detailed the cost to our nation for our failure to address this important sector of our nation’s history.

So, when Bob asked me recently to appear on his TV program, Bob Herbert’s Op-Ed.TV for CUNY-TV, I was excited to join him in a wide ranging interview on how our nation’s infrastructure has reached the critical juncture it now finds itself and where our nation must go if we are to address the sad state of our roads, bridges, power grid, dams and water supply in a constructive fashion.

You can see the premier of the upcoming interview will air on CUNY TV on the following dates:

Premieres on Monday, November 20 at 8:30pm

Repeats on:

  • Wednesday, November 22 - 11:30pm
  • Saturday, November 25 - 3:00pm
  • Sunday, November 26 - 9:30am
  • Monday, November 27 - 9:30am, 3:30pm
  • Saturday, December 2 - 3:00pm
  • Monday, December 4 - 9:30am, 3:30pm

CUNY TV is cablecast in New York City on Ch. 75 (Spectrum and Cablevision), Ch. 77 (RCN), and Ch. 30 (Verizon). CUNY TV is also digitally broadcast on Channel 25.3, reaching the New York metropolitan area.

After its television premiere, the episode will be posted on the show’s webpage at this link: http://www.cuny.tv/show/opedtv/PR2006362 I believe you will find our discussion to cover a broad perspective on this important subject and let you see why Bob Herbert is such an exceptional interviewer who deserves our attention.

Getting Older While Staying Young

It is inevitable that, as we grow older, we begin to focus our attention on the difference between one’s latter years and those that formed the first decades of our life. This distinction is one that comes to us slowly; there is no cathartic moment, no revelation that seemingly comes from the heavens to alert each of us to the onset of old age.

To think of one’s aging is to begin a new journey in one’s life. It should not be the presaging of the beginning of the end of life. For to think in such a pessimistic fashion is to fail to open ourselves to the many benefits to be derived from the experiences of our earlier years, to reflect on how we can best craft those experiences into a decade or two or four that can be the most fruitful times of our lives.

So it was with great pleasure that I came to read this summer the beautifully wrtiten book by the late Sherwin B. Nuland, The Art of Aging: A Doctor’s Prescription for Well-Being. Nuland wrote this book in 2007, some 17 years after he wrote “How We Die,” which won the National Book Award for nonfiction in 1994 and which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction in 1995, having sold more than 500,000 copies worldwide. In its concluding chapter, Dr. Nuland confessed that he, like many of his readers, desired a death without suffering “surrounded by the people and the things I love,” though he hastened to add that his odds were slim. This brought him to a final question.

“And so, if the classic image of dying with dignity must be modified or even discarded,” he wrote, “what is to be salvaged of our hope for the final memories we leave to those who love us? The dignity we seek in dying must be found in the dignity with which we have lived our lives.”

In “The Art of Aging” Nuland writes elegaically about how we must dedicate ourselves to accepting the onset of aging and not struggle to fight the contrasts between how our body and mind addresses growing older. He notes that "The rivalry within ourselves reflects a rivalry with youth, and it serves neither youth nor age at all well. Successful aging is about successfully adapting which brings the greater opportunity for far greater tensions and for brightening the later decades with a light not yet visible to the young,” it is the acknowledgement that aging is a gift that creates new boundaries in our lives. "Everything within those boundaries becomes more precious than it was before: love, learning, family, work, health and even the lessened time itself.”

His advice to us is to accept the wisdom that comes with age. Even if we did not attain wisdom at an earlier age, we can now begin a new journey that will bring us (1) a sense of mutual caring and connectedness with others; (2) the maintenance, insofar as we can influence it by own actions, of the physical capability of our bodies; and (3) creativity. Each of the three requires work; each of the three brings immense rewards.

I took several pages of notes from the book as they portrayed to me ratification of some of the principles I have adopted for my own onset of the aging process. My focused attention on staying in excellent help by investing in time in a gym doing workouts with weights to my time on a tennis court playing singles against others sometimes decades younger than myself was addressed by Nuland who cites Dr. Michael deBakey, inventor of the heart replacement operation who was performing these delicate operations at age 94. Nuland notes that "Planned, vigorous exercise is a far better anti-aging treatment than all the elixirs, creams, lotions, potions, and cosmetic surgery in the world.”

It was especially soothing to have Nuland point out that If there’s a Holy Grail, it’s our relationships with other people. For each older man and woman, "each needs to maintain a significant role as a distinctive individual within his or her familial and social encirclement – to have purpose, to have value, to have dignity – not only self-perception but in fact as well.” For, as he points out with examples, "Whatever else aging may represent to us, it is first and foremost a state of mind."

Finally, Nuland discusses the need to separate ourselves from our careers. As we age, we just cannot continue to identify who we are by what we did for a living. Our unique personality is what defines us not our chosen path of career. "So long as we are actively engaged in career, we must abide more or less strictly to the boundaries imposed by it. But *once we begin to separate ourselves, we bit by bit become freer to continue maturing in ways distinctive to ourselves. By such means, age becomes a liberator. The better we have used our years, the greater will be the rewards of individuality and accrued wisdom."

As friends and colleagues, I hope that you find the peace of mind to accept that growing older is mostly a state of mind and part of the exciting journey of our lives that is as important as all that came before…. if not more so.

Can Failing Infrastructure Be Bad For Your Health?

THE STREAM ALJAZEERA Tuesday, 5 Sept 2017 | 3:30 PM ET

Barry LePatner appeared on “The Stream” a live interview program put out to over 250 million households across the world by Aljazeera. Joining in on the discussion was a quite interesting group of knowledgeable participants including: Tom Smith, Executive Director, American Society of Civil Engineers, John Nichols, Author, "Horsemen of the Trumpocalypse” and Political correspondent, The Nation Magazine and Tanvi Misra, Staff writer, CityLab. The conversation addressed the state of the U.S. infrastructure and the prospects for remediating this troubled sector of our nation.

Barry LePatner is the Keynote Speaker at the Construction Industry Institute's Annual Conference

In my book on the inefficiencies of the construction industry, "Broken Buildings, Busted Budgets," I noted that the industry is the lowest spender per employee on technology to improve productivity. I said that insofar as advanced technology use in the construction world is concerned, the industry is in the first inning of a long awaited need to bring this $1 trillion a year sector of the U.S. economy into the 21st Century.

If anything, several new developments have triggered sufficient progress within the industry over the past few years to indicate that the construction world has incrementally moved forward into integrating new technology into the design\construction processes so integral in building our future societal needs.

Click here to see the speech, "A Brave New World: Who will survive when new technologies re-shape the A/E/C industry?" from the keynote speech I presented in Boston at the 2015 Construction Industr][2]y Institute last August. As you will see, it is a thought provoking presentation and evidences why new technology will be shaking up the hide bound industry within the next ten years.

I am proud that this speech received such a warm reception from the CII executives who attended. I know you will find it thought provoking and worth your time.

Barry LePatner is interviewed on CNBC to discuss our nation's infrastructure in light of the failed dam in Orreville, CA.

Barry LePatner was interviewed on CNBC by the four hosts of the daily business TV program, “Power Lunch" to discuss the state of our nation’s infrastructure and the news surrounding the failed dam in Orreville, California.

The hosts were very savvy on the subject and most interested when he urged the need for an “infrastructure Czar” to break thru the morass of the logjam created by the US Congress for the past several decades.

Mr. LePatner believes there remains substantial congressional logjams that will mitigate against the full onslaught of pushing through a comprehensive infrastructure program over the next few years. While we should remain hopeful, as this was a strong issue for President Trump, the hurdles his administration will face in trying to effect such a program will be substantial.

Reclaiming the Architect's Authority

January 24, 2011

Alexander Tuttle, a Partner with LePatner & Associates, recently wrote an article for distribution among friends and colleagues. In the article, entitled "Reclaiming the Architect's Authority," Mr. Tuttle discusses how architects' authority over construction projects have eroded in the last 40 years and advocates recapturing their role as "Master Builder". Currently, construction managers run unchecked on projects. Invariable delays occur, which lead to construction cost overruns.

Mr. Tuttle considers how implementing a fixed price construction process through up-front project planning, complete and coordinated construction documents and more extensive architectural project oversight will carve a new landscape in the industry -- reclaiming architects' authority. Consider, for example, if architects could stand behind complete and coordinate design documents? If architects could restore owner control over the project budgets? And if, when the design documents were completed, the owner secured an independent cost estimate that would define the parameters of the costs to be anticipated by the contractor bidders? This is the essence of the LePatner C3™ Methodolgy.

Mr. Tuttle concludes that the construction industry is ripe for change. And change will only emerge through construction cost certainty and architects reclaiming their role as efficient and effective intermediaries. We hope you find this article interesting.