Mass Transit

Rejoice, Californians! The High-Speed Rail Vote Shows the System Working!

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Smooth. So smooth.

Sure, the decision to commit billions of dollars to the first leg of a high-speed rail project in rural California may bankrupt the state, but the important thing is that legislature operated in a functional manner!

This is the bizarre theme of Los Angeles Times political columnist George Skelton in Thursday's paper. "Sure you drove off a cliff, but you kept your hands on the wheel at ten and two and you weren't speeding!"

That's not a direct quote. But this is:

We're talking about functional versus dysfunctional, leadership versus ineptitude — a system that is running smoothly rather than broken.

We're not necessarily talking about a desired policy result. Sometimes you lose. (If you're a California Republican, you usually do in Sacramento.)

Interesting how he wants to argue that "running smoothly" is the opposite of "broken." In our alleged two-party system, one party has so little power in California that it is isn't even a speedbump in the way of the other party doing whatever it wants in the legislature. The only checks on the Democratic Party are other Democrats who are worried about their own electoral future. That's a pretty smooth system all right, and completely, utterly broken.

Skelton talks us through the sausage-making of the vote, showing how smoothly Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic leaders promised whatever the hell they needed to promise in order to wrangle state senators' votes for the project. Here are some examples of that smooth system:

The fourth Democratic opponent, Sen. Fran Pavley of Agoura Hills, was given a pass. She's in a tight reelection race in a newly redrawn district where the bullet train isn't particularly popular. So she was allowed to quietly vote "no" without any repercussion in the Capitol. …

Sen. Louis Correa (D-Santa Ana) wanted assurances that Orange County wouldn't be punished in future bullet train funding because of local tea-party opposition to the project. Brown assured him. …

Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod (D-Chino) cast the 21st vote that officially put the bill over the top. Roads were deteriorating in her district, she complained. So the Brown administration promised to prioritize some for repair. Also, Steinberg got a promise from Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers union, to quietly help Negrete McLeod with Latinos in her congressional race.

How nice of the Capitol to give Pavley permission to actually represent the wishes of her voters rather than what Brown wanted. The system truly does work!

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  1. What’s it with rail anyway? Isn’t horse and carriage the way to go?

    1. Horse drawn barges to win the future.

      1. High Speed horse drawn barges.

      2. This implies a long overdue resurgence of canal building! Huzzah!

  2. In our alleged two-party system, one party has so little power in California that it is isn’t even a speedbump in the way of the other party doing whatever it wants in the legislature. The only checks on the Democratic Party are other Democrats who are worried about their own electoral future. That’s a pretty smooth system all right, and completely, utterly broken.

    The republican party must be destroyed.

    In California, it has already destroyed itself.

    1. wef|7.12.12 @ 9:49PM|#
      “The republican party must be destroyed.”

      Yes, because the repubs really screwed this up, right?
      What a bozo!

      1. Wef is either literally crazy or a Democratic operative.

        1. I’m saying “yes”.

        2. Or a snarker.

          1. Nope. S/he’s pitched that “The republican party must be destroyed” line since day one.
            I once got a grudging ‘the dems should be destroyed too’, but it was quite clear it was a CYA post.
            Team Blue cheerleader, trying to hide it.

    2. And look at the success California is experiencing as a result.

    3. In a way, I think you’re right, Weffie. The last I saw, the CAGOP had just launched their opposition to the CADEM agenda, essentially saying they didn’t like the color of the new HSR locomotives and that they wanted to stick the state only 15″ up the ass of anyone making money in CA, not the 16″ the Dems had planned.

      With a program like that, they need to die. Quickly.

  3. We are fucked. Have been for some time now.

  4. Who in their right mind would buy the 6 billion in bonds that cali needs to sell for this?

    1. Bernanke.

      1. Bernanke is in his right mind?

        1. Yes, but it’s not his money, so party on.

  5. There’s a guy name of Leno who apparently lives in Pelosi’s purse, under the lipstick if she can find him. He’s a CA rep from (wait for it)………….
    SF!
    He made the rounds making sure everyone knew ‘Nancy wants this’.
    To paraphrase Roberts re Obamacare. ‘you *can* read it that way’ – that the system is working -. I’m sure you can read a report of a train-wreck as a good thing, if you hold your mouth right.

  6. They have to build it to see how much it costs.

    1. To be fair, that applies to every project not done with a fixed price contract.

      1. True enough, but if it’s your money, you have a bit of a say in the matter.

      2. As if the FP contract made the slightest difference. They’ll just change-order the state to death instead of running up the TM tab.

  7. If you’re going to drive your car off a cliff, it’s important that it be running smoothly.

    High speed rail to bankruptcy!

    Should that be all caps?

    HIGH SPEED RAIL TO BANKRUPTCY!

    1. Monorail!

  8. We’re talking about functional versus dysfunctional, leadership versus ineptitude ? a system that is running smoothly rather than broken.

    We’re talking about solving a problem right, versus solving the right problem.

  9. You know, I don’t understand why sausage making is seen as such a terrible thing to watch. It’s just grinding and mixing meat and spices.

    1. Well, back when they used intestines as casings it might have been a little nauseating, but they’ve generally moved away from that in the past several decades.

  10. We’re not necessarily talking about a desired policy result.

    What is we keep saying about intentions versus results?

  11. We’re not necessarily talking about a desired policy result.

    What is we keep saying about intentions versus results?

  12. We’re not necessarily talking about a desired policy result.

    What is we keep saying about intentions versus results?

    1. Joe’s law, so I won’t comment on grammar.
      “What is we keep saying about intentions versus results?”
      The writer in this case isn’t removed from the results by a single proxy; he’s simply arguing that a one-party legislature is more ‘functional’ than a two-party legislature.
      The outcome doesn’t even have to reflect intent; it got passed since it was lubed from the get go; that’s enough to make this guy smile.
      According to hem, anything that passes without anyone griping is a *POSITIVE RESULT* regardless of intent or what happens.
      This is stupid ^2.

  13. The squirrels they love me

  14. Wow what a ridiculous article. Californians voted for a complete high speed rail route from LA to SF for a total of 8 billion dollars. Why not ask if people want to cure cancer for 8 billion dollars and then pass legislation to start studying it for 69 billion. Very dumb

  15. Why does HSR work in Japan and France but not here? Density of population? More looters and moochers in the those countries?

    1. I thought the conclusion is that most of those “working” HSR routes aren;t actually profitable and only appear to work because they’re massively subsidized.

      1. Although by that argument, highways and roads don’t “work” either, since they are subsidized. Even reason.com doesn’t “work”; they have to beg for donations:

        https://www.reason.com/donatenow/donate.php

        Why doesn’t reason.com pull itself up by its bootstraps?

        1. I’m not sure if you’re trolling, but soliciting donations is a fair sight different from putting you in a cage if you do’t donate.

        2. Your road analogy doesn’t hold water because most roads don’t charge per use like trains do. Why does a system that charges $X per use need to be subsidized?

          BTW, toll roads tend to make back their costs + extra $ for maintenance pretty quickly.

          1. Yes, and the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges made back their construction and maintenance costs many times over already. But the tolls keep going up, and politicians keep wringing their hands about whether they will be able to “seismically upgrade” or otherwise improve the “aging infrastructure.” the truth is that these and other bridges would be wildly self-sufficient at lower tolls, if they were not viewed as cash cows for alternative transit and other programs that are similarly not self-sustaining. It’s quite a racket, as is the HSR, but the latter is more impressive, as it has already commanded vast sums of money for the mere promise of unrealistic benefit in what amounts to the far future. I have no choice but to salute ueber-chicanery.

        3. Highways work for the most part. They are paid for entirely by licensing fees and fuel taxes, as they should be. Tolls are good, too.

          1. Yes and highway users are actually subsidizing others big time and have been for years.

            About 20% to 25% of federal gas tax money paid by drivers is used to subsidize mass transit boondoggles, bike paths, community centers, etc.

            Also drivers have been paying for a political giveaway to labor unions on every single federal construction job since the 1930’s courtesy of the Davis-Bacon Act which essentially makes drivers pay for overpriced union labor.

    2. Because you could fit seven Switzerlands in the State of New Mexico.

      When my grandfather would come and visit this country, he would always want to take a quick drive to some other state because of something he read about it or had some passing interesting in something there.

      It was very hard for him to conceive that those quick trips were the equivalent of a trans-Siberian railroad trip lasting a week.

      1. It’s odd because I didn’t mention Switzerland; I mentioned France and Japan. You can’t fit even one France (674,843 km2) or Japan (377,944 km2) in New Mexico (315,194 km2).

      2. Actually, in New England and the DC Atlantic seaboard area, this kind of multi-state day-trip is fairly easy. Whenever my wife takes business trips back east, she likes to do just that. “Those states are all so small and cute,” she says, being used to the immensity of California after a lifetime spent here. I suppose that Texans feel similarly. I lived in San Antonio and Abeliene one year, when I was very young, and remember my Mom driving and driving and driving all day and night (with a tornado chasing us at one point), yet still being in Texas the next day.

    3. Population density is exactly right. It is ten times higher than the US in Japan, and four times higher in France, with the densest metros being only a few hundred miles apart, at the most. US is far more sprawling, so the trains make more stops, go for longer distances, and carry fewer passengers.

  16. Was there a time in this country when politicians would commit suicide in shame? Or am I imagining that? Just curious.

  17. Throughout modern history, the countries with one-party systems always really got shit done.

    1. The trouble with that Keith is that we could do with less shit.

      1. +1, y’all.

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