Thursday, November 3, 2011

Some gratuitous comments on High-Speed Rail in California

The rail authority guys know what they are doing, or they don't. Either way, they have lied on this business plan and in their hearings, meetings and press conferences.  They are lying about high-speed rail costs and performance.  They are lying about the financials of all overseas HSR systems. They are lying. . . . .over and over again.

Most of the media aren't picking up on this because the writers don't devote their days, week-ends and evenings to researching all this stuff.

Way too many of the articles we are reading, and there sure are lots of them, pick up on and repeat these lies -- let's call them misinformation -- and they repeat them in their articles as gospel.  That's lazy journalism.  

It shatters the myth of a free press as the Fourth Estate, (as Edmund Burke and Thomas Carlyle called it after the French Revolution).  

Let me ramble further for a moment.  I am deeply anxious for my grandchildren in an America with a rapidly eroding Democracy dominated by corporate interests purchasing control over the Legislative process that favors the 1% over the rest of the 99%.  There's no use denying this; the evidence is overwhelming.

This HSR train project, in the large sense, is the dying gasp, like the building of vast marble palaces, of a declining Imperial Ancient Rome.  Rapacious self-interest has been, and continue to be, the driving force behind this project.  There is no way, if ever built, that this rail system will solve any of the claimed problems.  Indeed, it will cause far more harm than we even appreciate now.  This project, initially supported by the voters with a modest majority, makes a mockery of the Democratic process.

The rail authority, the Board and staff, hold all of us, complainers or not, in great contempt. So does the Legislature in Sacramento. Very few of them have heard our concerns.  Yes, I know that there are exceptions. Certainly more of the Republicans understand our concerns, since it matches their agenda.

It is a project permeated with deceit. Deceit on the part of both Parties.  And therefore, we are caught in the middle.  The over-all message, however, is that this Rail Authority is here to stay, lies and all.  

Whether there is additional funding in the next three or thirty years, the rail authority offices will be open for business.   With no construction funds, they will take a handful of millions here and there and conduct endless and pointless studies.  It will have become a permanent government bureaucracy, waiting for the next cycle of federal largesse.

They will -- unless a miracle happens -- begin to dig holes in the Central Valley next September (if not sooner).  There is no one to stop them.  All the meetings, protest, debates, hearings, etc. are merely white noise; nothing will come of them. There is no responsible oversight or accountability. 

The rail authority will produce required documents, they are getting better at it, that satisfy Senators Simitian, Lowenthal and the other power-brokers in the State Legislature, along with the Governor, who are determined to bring those $3.5 billion from the FRA into California.

We all are doing what we believe we must.  But, I urge harsh, cold-blooded realism in our intentions and game plan.  We need to set aside wishful thinking.  I have no trust for those among us who, regardless of their excellent work and efforts, still seek some kind of compromise or accommodation with the HSR and Caltrain.  I have no use at all for a high-speed rail philosophy of "doing it right."  The reason is that it cannot, by definition, be done right.  It would be like squaring the circle.

Am I too pessimistic? So I am told. At my age, nothing surprises me any more. I firmly believe in the principle: The most cynical explanation of any political situation is invariably the most accurate. 

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