Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Look; the High-Speed Rail Emperor Has No Clothes

This is so good that I had to bring it to everyone who reads this blog.  It's written by someone like me,  living in Menlo Park. He wrote this for the "guest opinion" section of the weekly Alamanac.  I like this so much because Mr. Rakov 'gets it.'  He understands that this project is not being promoted because it is a new train system that we have demonstrated that we need in California.

Rakov sees this project for the political scam that it really is.  It's a charade, masked as a train project, the purpose of which is to extract huge amounts of as yet undetermined funds from the tax rolls and process them through the hands of select insiders, contractors and consultants, politicians and their croneys, land speculators, developers and attorneys who stand to participate in all the litigation a project such as this provokes. 

Please understand, no one has any hope for obtaining the mega-billions required; this train will never get built. But, it is a money-magnet for the state, aimed at the federal government for the time being and that's good enough.

It is my fervent hope that more and more people will come to understand this hoax of a project for what it really is.  I know that's difficult.  It's been presented in such a seductive way and we have all become enamored of the sales culture shovelled at us daily by TV.  We are a nation of materialism, consumerism, self-indulgence, entitlement, and greed.  We have been lured into believing we want and deserve the luxurious travel high-speed rail provides. Let someone else pay for it.

Meanwhile, we have all been played for suckers. Why? Because, as I say, we will never get this train.  There's not that much money anywhere, public or private, that can approach the actual development and operating costs required for this train.  

And meanwhile, this project has its hands in our pockets and in our wallets -- unless it's stopped -- now and forever! I should also say that our Governor has aligned himself with the forces that are grasping for the several billions now on the table from Washington, regardless of the mismanagement, incompetence, and corrupt behaviors of the organization in charge of this project. 

Thank you, Mr. Rakov, for giving us a glimpse of the Emperor without his clothes.

Viewpoint - Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Guest opinion: Where is James Bond?
by Mikhail A. Rakov

In the 1985 James Bond movie "A View to a Kill," the heinous villain and former KGB agent Max Zorin devises a terrible plan to destroy Silicon Valley by a mega-earthquake triggered by a huge underground bomb located near the San Andreas Fault. Fortunately, his plans are discovered and thwarted by a valiant Bond, who ultimately blows up the villain's blimp in a fierce battle atop the Golden Gate Bridge, and sends him down in the cold waters of the Pacific.

I wonder if something similar to Zorin's plan is possible in real life? To be sure, I have in mind the High-Speed Rail Authority's plan to cut a bleeding wound through Peninsula communities and cities.

It is common knowledge that railroads, traditionally and firmly, have set golden standards for a lack of openness, honesty and fair play. More than 100 years ago, O. Henry wrote about the "schemes of money-getting so fraudulent and high-financial that they wouldn't have been allowed in the bylaws of a railroad rebate systems."

Actually, on the surface there is nothing especially complicated about the high-speed rail plan. But this simplicity is deceptive. Quoting O. Henry once more, "It was beautiful and simple as all truly great swindles are."

The main idea is really primitive: to get access to taxpayers' money, and then to channel it into private pockets, having practically no responsibility for the results of the project. The trick is to do all this in open view, using as a cover noble phrases about technical progress, public needs and conveniently stretched laws and statistical data.

This is a real art: creating something like a concept of perfect crime, without any risk for personal freedom and finances. How much smarter it is than the unsophisticated Ponzi scheme of Bernie Madoff, who will never leave his prison cell.

To tell the truth, I have a suspicion that there is a bit more system to this madness. There is a possibility that the High-Speed Rail Authority purposely designed this totally crazy project as a backup that will allow them to claim innocence by reason of insanity in the case of its inevitable collapse. They have nothing to lose. For them the process of milking public funds is more important, not the achievement of some specific result.

Until they are paid, they will continue to fight to the very last moment, and to the very last penny. There is no room for compromise. The only way to finish this pseudo project is to cut their financing.

The question is, will we wait for the arrival of a new James Bond? Or maybe some of our elected legislators will finally admit to obvious facts and will have the courage to blow up this dark balloon that is hovering over our heads, diverting resources from real needs of California?

I hope that its empty shell and misleading logos will be soon washed away in the cold waters of the Pacific Ocean.

Mikhail A. Rakov lives on Alma Street in Menlo Park.

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