Friday, January 20, 2012

Cynthia Ward, in the spirit of the colonial pamphleteers, speaking out against high-speed rail.

If you Google the word "Broadside", this is what you will learn: Broadsides were posters, printed on one side and put up in public places for all to see. Often they were strongly worded political statements, expressions of a 17th and 18th century 'free' press in the Colonies, anticipating, for example, the Declaration of Independence (the "Dunlap broadside") and otherwise blasting imperial and oppressive Great Britain. "A forceful verbal attack, as in a speech or editorial." ". . .a strongly worded critical attack."

Cynthia Ward presents us with the posting of such an electronic, modern-day 'broadside,' blasting the governmental powers and the Governor himself for abusing his authority at the expense of the people. In the 17th century, such expressions would be considered seditious, as would be this blog. We now call them 'patriots.' I will call Cynthia a patriot. 

[I hereby thank our founding fathers for their courage, fortitude and vision, including free speech and a free press.]

It is of constant amazement to me how this HSR project falls along Party lines. The Governor and the Democratic Legislature in California have deluded themselves into the belief that the construction of this project itself, whether ever to be completed or not, is good for the state economy and the creation of employment where none now exists. Since the state does not need, nor can afford to build this train, the issue is, realistically, no longer about creating a high-speed train connecting San Francisco and Los Angeles. 

It's about nothing more than getting and spending around $6 billion of federal and bond-generated funds in the state as a matter of political propaganda. State book-keepers will add those $6 billion to the bottom line, making it look so much better than it would otherwise. That's it.  No Democrat in their right mind can now believe that these funds are merely the initial pump primers for the flood of hundreds of billions required to actually build the train. None in the Legislature can be that delusory.

Therefore, it's about digging holes in the Central Valley; acquiring and tearing up a lot of real estate, thereby doing a huge amount of damage. But, they must be thinking, this is the collateral damage that can't be avoided in order for us to get our hands on that $6 billion.  And, after all, those sacrifices are for the greater good of this cash-strapped state. That must be their thinking. How else can this be explained?

One final comment, triggered by Cynthia's excellent broadside.  When Obama pronounced his vision of having 80% of all Americans achieving 'access' to high-speed rail, he saw himself in the mirror image of John Kennedy announcing the US's entry into the race to the moon.  That Sputnik-driven moon race was a surrogate for the on-going Cold War and the fear that the Soviets would launch nuclear missiles from the moon if they got there first.  

What is the high-speed rail program a surrogate for?  Is this Obama's high-speed train-race against the Chinese, or the Europeans, or perhaps the Saudis building their HSR pilgrimage train for their wealthy sheiks? Is this some kind of  propaganda war?  If we don't throw trillions of dollars into a national (remember, 80%) high-speed rail race, will those evil foreigners launch their high-speed trains at us? Are we really that stupid?

No, that's not what this is about.  It's a political war between the two Parties over who will win the jobs-and-economy civil war.

At this point in time, this project is about November's elections. 

Gov Brown Shoots Himself in the Foot, His Friends Help Him Reload
Cynthia Ward (Pamphleteer)
on January 20th, 2012

In his recent State of the State speech, Moonbeam Brown staked his political career on High Speed Rail, not surprising since he did it the first time he was Governor. Sadly the system is no more viable today than it was in the Age of Aquarius. Criticism of the project, broadly panned by both community groups and rail experts, has not stopped Brown from insisting on moving forward. If anything his support has become even more strident, labeling anyone who does not agree with his “vision” for California as “dystopian.” But attacking the (rapidly growing) population now critical of the project is not going to get Jerry his own way-indeed voters may turn on him quickly when he continues to extort tithes from California taxpayers in forced worship at the altar to cronyism.

What is surprising is the apparent support of the Orange County Business Council, reported by the OC Register following Brown’s address to about 50 business leaders here in OC this week. OCBC released a statement,saying they applaud the Governor’s vision for California. Common wisdom dictates that raising taxes to pay for an agriculture-crippling transportation project is the opposite of business-friendly, but OCBC has consistently backed the boondoggle HSR for years. These people are the best of the best at reading a Business Plan, but apparently have not read through the plan recently produced by the CHSRA. Sure glad Lucy Dunn knows more about evaluating a transportation project than Will Kempton. Shame on OCBC for drinking the liberal Kool-Aid!

Less shocking was the partisan support, which is increasingly dividing along party lines, as more Republicans get on board with leaders like Doug LaMalfa and Diane Harkey, who have been speaking out against this project for some time now.

Speaker John Perez and Senate President Pro-Tem Darrell Steinberg seemed embarrassed to have to follow up with a presser of their own in support of the project, and the video is worth watching. They sheepishly made comments that even they did not seem to take seriously, often glancing between each other for moral support as the Democrats talking points were repeated.

Speaker Perez began with the statement that, “It’s an artificial discussion to talk about which piece of the track we build first.” Well no, actually, when we are scheduled, nay ORDERED by the Feds to break ground this year in order to secure stimulus funding, it is not “artificial” to need to know where we will begin. The folks being forced from their farms and dairies would like a head’s up as well, oddly enough.

To date the High Speed Rail Authority, despite millions in “public outreach” has not yet contacted the property owners along any of the proposed rights of way. It is a discussion we must have. The Authority gives all new meaning to the phrase, “Ready or not, here I come.”

During the press conference, Steinberg discussed, “State, Federal, and other funding sources.”Apparently he did not get the memo that there ARE no other funding sources! The private sector is not going to step up, in fact the only private businesses that appear interested in working with the Authority are those scheduled to work on the project for a fee. Nobody is sinking their own dollars into this quagmire. Tax dollars, whether State bonds, Federal Stimulus, or local/regional such as the ARTIC station, are the only funds this project will access.

Let’s look at what taxpayers are being offered for our “investment in the future of California.” For $100 billion, (on the low end of the estimates) we get 800 miles of track, right of way, possibly some rolling stock, but none of that is offered in the first segment. Stations are not being built for that money; communities are being told that they must provide their own.

If private funds come forward, the most obvious investor would be Warren Buffet. As the owner of BNSF, he already controls or influences much of the right of way being proposed for “shared ROW”, and he stands to gain the most in terms of rail lines and related stations and peripheral investments becoming more valuable if HSR is a viable project. But Buffet is nothing if not a good businessman, and the deal he got for BNSF is not in the same league as what HSR expects taxpayers to put out. 

Berkshire Hathaway bought up BNSF for $34 billion, and for that price they got 32,000 route miles of track in 28 states and 2 Canadian provinces, plus rolling stock and equipment, in a business that was already proven and profitable. Taxpayers are being asked to fund the Central Valley alignment with NO promise of trains or electrification, those many billions of dollars for the first segment are for right of way and track, only. Not included is the additional cost of impact mitigation, NONE of which is addressed to date in the current documents. The cost to replace the only bovine rendering plant in the valley? Not there. The cost of new roads for the farmers being cut off from their existing access roads? Not there. The cost to relocate a pioneer cemetery? Not there. So expect that number to go up-way up. Nope, the private sector will not be stepping up here, someone needs to tell Steinberg the only funding source is the taxpaying public he is hornswaggling in that conference. But then, what does one expect from a politician that is seen here congratulating Sacramento for being ONLY $13 billion in the hole?

Speaker Perez justified the continuing scam, claiming, “the voters are the ones who acted on HSR”, but we now know that voters were deceived by false reports in the 2008 ballot statement and given the opportunity to vote today, a majority would kill the project.

Brown, in his State of the State speech, and Perez and Steinberg following, compared HSR with other infrastructure projects of the past. “It has nothing to do with high-speed rail,” said Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, R-Dana Point. “Those all had dedicated funding streams. High-speed rail has no money.”

The difference is that those previous projects had funding plans that did not rely on ridership numbers that have been identified as fiction along the work of fantasy.

Citing this as a jobs program in response to California’s dismal unemployment numbers is also disingenuous. California had a laundry list of truly “shovel-ready” projects including grade crossings, road improvements, and positive train control that would’ve prevented the type of deadly crashes we see in the headlines. Gov Arnold chose to throw that application for ARRA funding into a drawer to keep it from competing with HSR’s application. Sacramento is not interested in job creation so much as using job creation as a buzzword to drum up support for their own pet project, one that appears to be lining the pockets of politically connected consultants and land speculators.

At the end of the press conference, Steinberg closed with a statement that they have the obligation to balance the budget and restore our economy, and HSR is certainly part of the 2nd part of that. At this, Perez and Steinberg were clearly so uncomfortable they were looking back and forth at each other, shifting, desperate to get off camera before their noses grow even longer, recorded for eternity on digital files. calls the project, “corrupt, outrageously expensive, fiscally ruinous, poorly planned government efforts to build a 19th century means of transportation for which there’s no demand.” If this is what Governor Brown is staking his political future on, he is doing Republicans a huge favor, making it that much easier to win key offices in the future. Conservatives will fight back against raising taxes while paying for a train nobody wants, and liberals will never forgive him for pursuing this while cutting social programs. Altogether his support of the project during his speech gave us something for everyone to oppose. His friends should be warning him, not standing by him.

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