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Free Minds & Free Markets

The Politician Behind California High Speed Rail Now Says It's 'Almost a Crime'

Quentin Kopp convinced voters to approve the project. Now he's suing to kill it.

High-speed rail lines began popping up in Europe and Asia in the early 1980s. Passengers were exhilarated by the futuristic trains rocketing between cities on glass-smooth rails at upwards of 200 miles per hour.

With high-profile roll-outs in France and Japan, bullet train mania was underway. And then reality set in.

"The costs of building such projects usually vastly outweigh the benefits," says Baruch Feigenbaum, assistant director of transportation policy at the Reason Foundation, the 501(c)(3) that publishes this website. "Rail is more of a nineteenth century technology [and] we don't have to go through these headaches and cost overruns to build a future transportation system."

Supporters, who claim that most high speed rail systems operate at a profit, use accounting tricks like leaving out construction costs and indirect subsidies. If you tabulate the full costs, only two systems in the world operate at a profit, and one breaks even.

But politicians can't resist the ribbon cutting ceremonies and imagery of sleek trains hurtling through the lush countryside. So the projects keep coming.

California's high speed rail line was sold to voters on the bold promise that it will someday whisk passengers between San Francisco and Los Angeles in under three hours. Nine years later, the project has turned into such a disaster that its biggest political champion is now suing to stop it.

An icon of California politics known as the "Great Dissenter," Quentin L. Kopp introduced the legislation that established the rail line, and became chairman of the High-Speed Rail Authority. He helped convince voters in 2008 to hand over $9 billion in bonds to the Rail Authority to get the project going. Since he left, Kopp says the agency mangled his plans.

"It is foolish, and it is almost a crime to sell bonds and encumber the taxpayers of California at a time when this is no longer high-speed rail," says Kopp. "And the litigation, which is pending, will result, I am confident, in the termination of the High-Speed Rail Authority's deceiving plan."

Voters supported the bond measure to pay for construction on the condition that the train would be self-sustaining. But multiple outside analyses conclude that the Rail Authority will have to massively hike ticket prices or rely on taxpayer largess. According to one recent estimate, the project's latest iteration would suck up at least $100 million in annual subsidies.

Since 2008, lawsuits have multiplied, private investors have fled, and even the official price tag has nearly doubled, from $33 billion to $64 billion. When the legislature cleared the way for the Rail Authority to begin selling the voter-approved bonds in early 2017 to fund construction, the agency declared it a "milestone."

Kopp was livid.

"It's deceit. That's not a milestone, it's desperation, because High-Speed Rail Authority is out of money," Kopp told Reason.

Kopp joined a lawsuit brought by attorney Stuart Flashman, who has represented environmental and transportation groups in several previous actions against the Rail Authority. He aims to stop the project on the grounds that the agency broke numerous promises to voters enshrined in the 2008 ballot measure, including that all the financing for a segment had to be in place before construction could begin.

Feigenbaum believes that starting construction even though there isn't enough funding allocated to finish the project is a deliberate strategy: The Rail Authority intends to sink as much money into the project as possible, hoping to extract further taxpayer subsidies to complete it.

Kopp and Flashman still believe in high speed rail. They say it's just that this particular project has been hijacked by special interests.

Since rail projects are usually driven more by politics than consumer demand, however, nonsensical design decisions are common. That's true even in France and Japan, where a couple of the first high speed rail lines were actually profitable. After those lines were up and running, they built dozens more money-losing systems.

Flashman says the California project has also become a land grab, and the lawsuit is named for one of the farmers whose property was threatened. But this is typical of bullet trains. By design, high-speed rail lines require wide swaths of land, which often means seizing property. Feigenbaum points to a proposed rail project in Texas that might not be financially viable due to the large amounts of land that would need to be seized from ranchers.

As for the often-promised environmental benefits of high-speed rail, Flashman acknowledges they won't materialize in California. Rail lines around the world have failed to remove cars from the road, and according to Feigenbaum, the initial construction of the California line alone would release more greenhouse gases than the train could recoup in 80 years.

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  • Jerryskids||

    "And the litigation, which is pending, will result, I am confident, in the termination of the High-Speed Rail Authority's deceiving plan."

    You were a moron for being the last to know what everybody else already knew - it was a boondoggle all along - and you're still a moron for thinking that "exposing" this as a boondoggle is somehow going to stop it. It's like finding out beer contains alcohol and trotting off to Anheuser Busch to alert them to this fact so they can stop putting this dangerous substance in their product. How did you get to be this old and still this goddamn stupid?

  • SoCal Deathmarch||

    Don't worry, he had good intentions.

  • TBlakely||

    He got his money up front.

  • ||

    I didn't think restricting hate speech would eventually turn on me! I swear!

    Progressives are slippery slope sluts.

  • damikesc||

    No joke. Watching Campus Reform's video of students saying it was OK for student groups to attack speakers is just horrifying.

    Why the fuck do they think THEY will be the ones to determine what speech is "OK"?

  • mpercy||

    Because they, like all progressives, imagine themselves as the inevitable "top men". Just wait until the future when they've got their restrictions passed, then find themselves on the wrong side of the stick when their own speech is deemed "hate speech".

    Anything else is unimaginable.

    Just like a Republican Senate majority on top of a Republican House majority...AND a Trump Presidency? Unthinkable...and what goes around comes around.

    "Elections have consequences, and at the end of the day, I won."

    "I've got a pen, and I've got a phone"

    The 'Biden Rule'.

    The nuclear option in the Senate for confirmations, and the pre-election call to double-down on and invoke the nuclear option for Supreme Court nominations (see comments from Tim Kaine and Harry Reid before they lost the elections that they just *knew* they were going to win).

    So-called "prosecutorial discretion", applied to immigration law, setting the stage for the same in labor law, environmental law, etc.

    Not bothering to even pretend to listen to Republicans on major legislation (Obamacare).

    Being derisive toward "fly-over country".

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    I was thinking that while reading it, especially with " They say it's just that this particular project has been hijacked by special interests."

    This guy is way too old to be surprised by that. Really it just reads like him making excuses for his participation in a boondoggle. It's always something, if only we had more money, if only special interests hadn't taken over, if only people actually wanted it. Bullshit. Sack up and admit your idea was fucked.

  • Mark22||

    California High Speed Rail is achieving its goals as planned: lots of jobs for faithful Democratic vote getters and lots of crony capitalism. The fact that it doesn't actually transport any significant number of people is utterly irrelevant: high speed rail was never intended to be a useful transportation system.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    I was thinking that while reading it, especially with " They say it's just that this particular project has been hijacked by special interests."

    This guy is way too old to be surprised by that. Really it just reads like him making excuses for his participation in a boondoggle. It's always something, if only we had more money, if only special interests hadn't taken over, if only people actually wanted it. Bullshit. Sack up and admit your idea was fucked.

  • The Last American Hero||

    His name should be associated with all future boodoggles - "Don't build that hyperloop, it's just going to be another Kopp!"

    He should also have to wear a sandwich board saying "I supported high speed rail" for the rest of his days.

  • DenverJ||

    You read his statement wrong.

    "It is foolish, and it is almost a crime to sell bonds and encumber the taxpayers of California at a time when this is no longer high-speed rail," says Kopp.


    So, he's suing, not because it's a boondongle, but it's not a high speed boondongle.

  • Mickey Rat||

    It is no longer the boondoggle he wanted.

  • ||

    I respect the fact the old dude figured it out at all. No need to hate on people who come around on topics we agree with. If we call everyone who went from a progressive to a more limited government stance on an issue a moron, then we will have a harder time convincing people we are right.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    So he's the Yassir Arafat of high speed rail?

  • GILMORE™||

    Quentin L. Kopp introduced the legislation that established the rail line, and became chairman of the High-Speed Rail Authority. He helped convince voters in 2008 to hand over $9 billion in bonds to the Rail Authority to get the project going. Since he left, Kopp says the agency mangled his plans.

    This is sort of like Robby getting Mary Koss to denounce the same "Campus Rape Crisis" which she had a direct hand in inventing

    I get that there's some value in getting liberals to criticize bad liberal ideas... but there's also value in rubbing their face in their own shit.

  • SoCal Deathmarch||

    This is why I have zero sympathy for Bret Weinstein. He helped create the culture at Evergreen State College and then is horrified when it bites the hand that fed it. He can go right ahead and fuck off.

  • GILMORE™||

    He helped create the culture at Evergreen State College

    I think that's a little presumptuous, and probably wrong.

    he's a biology teacher. I think the opportunity he had to promote critical-theory was limited. Not every lefty is a screaming progressive identity-politics fanatic.

    the debate/discussion he had with jordan peterson on Rogan's podcast was very good, worth watching

  • ChipToBeSquare||

    I found a lot to disagree with, and he was still very clearly a leftist, but he came off as a relatively smart guy in that debate. If only that was who we were actually talking to on the left

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I agree, I watched that whole interview. He says some things that beg the question-- the primary one that stuck out for me was that in a completely free market, the most unscrupulous will always win. I disagree with that premise.

    But he's far from being an unreasonable guy. He's a good guy, he may disagree with you, but you can have a conversation with the man, which is refreshing in this day of Twitter Outrage and constant journalistic calls for condemnation of wrongthink.

  • ||

    I respect Weinstein and disagree with him. The man can at least hear ideas without melting. And to people saying he helped create the problem blah blah blah... I have done lots of stupid things in my life that created problems that I then had to change how I think or live in order to fix. Let's not be like the left and make enemies out of everyone who doe not agree with 100% of everything we believe.

  • The Last American Hero||

    Struggle sessions aren't so funny when your the one caught on the wrong side of one.

  • GILMORE™||

    to put a sharper point on it: i think blaming Weinstein for Evergreen's nuttery would be a little like blaming Reason magazine for Richard Spencer's racism.

  • ||

    I agree and the interview on Rogan was outstanding.

    Still, I think it's fair to say he was naive and probably surprised by just how retarded Evergreen is.

  • ChipToBeSquare||

    There's a small contingent of leftists who have realized that they created a monster, and an even smaller contingent who are willing to fight it now rather than just use it to gain more power. I'm starting to like them

  • ChipToBeSquare||

    Related: The Royal Society just gave its award for best science book of the year to Testosterone Rex. In their paragraph, they said it made for a good companion to The Handmaid's Tale. Yes, they recommended you read a work of fiction alongside their winning book. I guess that makes sense though since it's also politically motivated fiction (Quillette and Why Evolution is True completely shredded it, among others)

    Can we start to have a real discussion now about whether or not science has become political?

  • colorblindkid||

    And ENB, just when I started loving her again, is on Twitter defending the book and getting angry at everybody for what she things is the exaggeration of biological gender differences.

  • The Last American Hero||

    Actually, it's more like blaming Dalmia for Reason's TDS - a contributor but not the only one.

  • Trigger Warning||

    I blame Reason magazine for employing Retard Soave.

  • damikesc||

    Yup. Yeah, it's a shame things went bad for Weinstein. I wonder what he was doing when the mob was attacking folks he did NOT like.

  • Jerryskids||

    Kopp and Flashman still believe in high speed rail. They say it's just that this particular project has been hijacked by special interests.

    Bernie Sanders still believes in socialism, it's just that every single time it's been tried it somehow gets hijacked by faux-socialist dictators. And I've got a model of a perpetual motion machine that needs just one more round of trials to get the last of the bugs worked out.

  • Mickey Rat||

    They are less upset that it is a boondoggle but that it is no longer the cool boondoggle that they had envisioned.

  • Sevo||

    "But politicians can't resist the ribbon cutting ceremonies and imagery of sleek trains hurtling through the lush countryside."

    You left out the part about how they are union hiring halls on wheels; which CA politico can resist *that*?

  • Fred G. Sanford||

    It's too late to stop it now. California will get Amtrack 2.0 regardless.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I suspect Amtrak is a tightly run ship compared to this.

  • ||

    Too many cronies are involved now. You can't turn back.

  • Trigger Warning||

    What the fuck have they done with the money they already had? Was there an explosion of union millionaires?

  • Eeyore||

    It costs a lot of money to pay people to study their own navels.

  • ChipToBeSquare||

    It's fascinating how the left keeps trying to build more trains

  • LarryA||

    Other forms of transportation allow you to choose a destination. Trains take you where the government runs the rails.

  • SIV||

    "Building a Bridge to the 19th Century"

    Yet they freak out over reactionary 1950s nostalgia.

  • mpercy||

    How else are we supposed to get to Atlas Shrugged's dystopia?

  • Sanjuro Tsubaki||

    Inconceivable! How could this happen?!

  • esteve7||

    Oh Go Fuck Yourself. This was a terrible idea from the start, and the opponents were called all the names in the book. Straight up lies were told to get voters to pass this garbage, and all the "guarantees" that were in it have been ruled by the courts to not really exist since it isn't stopping the gravy train.

    Again, go fuck yourself.

  • Crusty Juggler - Lawbertarian||

    OT: Bernie Casey, actor and poet, dead at 78

    RIP, renaissance man. Enjoy that nerd wedding in the sky.

  • GeneralWeygand||

    And as Colonel Rhombus in Spies Like Us

  • Crusty Juggler - Lawbertarian||

    Samantha Power sought to unmask Americans on almost daily basis, sources say

    Samantha Power, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, was 'unmasking' at such a rapid pace in the final months of the Obama administration that she averaged more than one request for every working day in 2016 – and even sought information in the days leading up to President Trump's inauguration, multiple sources close to the matter told Fox News.

    Two sources, who were not authorized to speak on the record, said the requests to identify Americans whose names surfaced in foreign intelligence reporting, known as unmasking, exceeded 260 last year. One source indicated this occurred in the final days of the Obama White House.

    The details emerged ahead of an expected appearance by Power next month on Capitol Hill. She is one of several Obama administration officials facing congressional scrutiny for their role in seeking the identities of Trump associates in intelligence reports – but the interest in her actions is particularly high.
  • Crusty Juggler - Lawbertarian||

    During congressional testimony since the unmasking controversy began, National Security Agency Director Adm. Mike Rogers has explained that unmasking is handled by the intelligence community in an independent review.

    "We [the NSA] apply two criteria in response to their request: number one, you must make the request in writing. Number two, the request must be made on the basis of your official duties, not the fact that you just find this report really interesting and you're just curious," he said in June. "It has to tie to your job and finally, I said two but there's a third criteria, and is the basis of the request must be that you need this identity to understand the intelligence you're reading."

    Previous U.N. ambassadors have made unmasking requests, but Fox News was told they number in the low double digits.

    Don't wanna be a thug, don't cross the main women responsible for the Libya disaster.

  • GILMORE™||

    I have long maintained that Cass Sunstein and Sam Power are the "Power-Couple of Evil"

    one is a guy who thinks we need to expand executive power and impose a more-perfect nanny state.

    the other is someone who wrote a book saying America can and must intervene to prevent/mitigate humanitarian disasters. Then she caused like 3 of them.

    They are the perfect case-study in how "Top People", with all the right academic credentials and the praise of their peers, will be handed positions of power, and proceed to cause nothing but misery, waste, and suffering...

    then they be given prizes and professorships, and everyone will pretend they did a great job.

  • Sports Reporter Charles Manson||

    "and finally, I said two but there's a third criteri[on]"

    Our two weapons are fear and surprise...and ruthless efficiency.... Our *three* weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency...and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope.... Our *four*...no... *Amongst* our weapons.... Amongst our weaponry...are such elements as fear, surprise.... I'll come in again.

  • Lily Bulero||

    The F-word: feminism must be reclaimed by today's teens – they're our future

    "Telling young people about the suffrage movement is a cause close to my heart. My young adult novel Things a Bright Girl Can Do was recently released (I like to think of it as Little Women, just with more with hunger strikes, trenches and lesbian snogging), and to get a sense of what young people thought about feminism, I asked around among my friends' teenage children. It made for depressing reading....

    "[One teenager] said: 'Many people my age wouldn't [call themselves feminists] because of how the word has been tainted." Most of them agreed that feminist was a dirty word.'...

    "Young women today have opportunities that my teenage characters could only dream of. But the fight is not over. Women are still 10 times more likely to be stay-at-home parents than men, they're still perceived as less competent than their male colleagues, and only 6% of all reported rapes in Britain are prosecuted. And today's young people face other, seemingly impossible, battles: the collapse of the world's ecosystems, our over-reliance on fossil fuels and the recent rise in racial tension, to name a few.

    "In the face of all that, I want teenagers to know that, 100 years ago, others fought seemingly hopeless battles and succeeded against the odds...."

  • Fooseven||

    Her cartoon strip sounds like it's depressing trash

  • colorblindkid||

    The Guardian is so much worse than the NYT or any of the major US news outlets when it comes to lefty bullshit.

  • Lily Bulero||

    Canadians...always on the cutting edge of social trends

    "While Civil War memorials may not be the most popular things lately, the world's newest monument to the American Civil War has just opened in Canada....

    "The monument, a black obelisk, honours Canadians who took up arms on both sides of the war...It was unveiled Saturday at a historical village outside Cornwall, Ont[ario]...

    "The volunteers included O Canada composer Calixa Lavallée, who was wounded at the Battle of Antietam. [Wikipedia says he was in the Union army]

    "John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of U.S. president Abraham Lincoln, was cornered and killed by a cavalry regiment led by Canadian Edward Doherty....

    ""We don't have any far-right maniacs, racists or anti-Semites, we're just town folks who are interested in history," the Grays and Blues president told Postmedia."

  • Colossal Douchebag||

    This is my surprised face.

  • Lily Bulero||

  • Lily Bulero||

    "Remember, thou hast made me more powerful than thyself. My height is superior to thine, my joints more supple. But I will not be tempted to set myself in opposition to thee. I am thy creature and I will be even mild and docile to my natural lord and king, if thou wilt also perform thy part, the which thou owest me. Oh, Frankenstein, be not equitable to every other and trample upon me alone, to whom thy justice, and even thy clemency and affection, is most due. Remember that I am thy creature, I ought to by thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed."

  • creech||

    Freaking Trump University had more chance of awarding valuable diplomas than this Cal High Speed Train had of making any kind of profit. Kopp should be sued and forced to return every cent he collected. But as Mencken said, the voters/ taxpayers got what they deserved, good and hard.

  • Sevo||

    Regarding fast choo-choos, there are several locales where they 'work'; whether they are profitable even in those areas is another question.
    For instance, in western China they are a wonderful alternative to auto travel in that, unlike the autos, they are not stopped for a police/military (couldn't tell which) check point every 40 miles or so. Instead, you are continually monitored on the train.

  • Lily Bulero||

    I'm not much familiar with China...is the Western part the one that's full of Uighurs?

  • Sevo||

    According to the Uighurs and the Mongols, it's now full of Han Chinese. Mostly Han Chinese 'hall monitors'.
    But yes: "China: A History" by John Keay (among others) makes it clear that the Han historically occupied (and occupies) what is now defined as Xinjiang, an area part of the Silk Road and not native Han territory (it's where the 'occidental' mummies were found).
    To be clear, I am not supporting the Uighur/Mongol claims, just making sure they are stated.
    The cultural dynamics of that area seem every bit as complex as the Tibetan issues.

  • Lily Bulero||

    Thank you for your serious answer to my fairly childish pun.

  • Sevo||

    I missed the pun, but you are welcome anyhow.

  • Lily Bulero||

    Whoa, serious issues involved, I shouldn't have mentioned that I was going for a cheap "Uighur/Wigger" joke.

  • Sevo||

    "...makes it clear that the Han historically occupied..."
    Let's be clear here (absent an "edit" feature):
    The Han "occupied" and "occupy" Xinjiang like the Russians "occupied", oh, East Germany; they are tolerated.

  • Lily Bulero||

  • Sevo||

    Wanna do some pull-quotes, or give us a hint of what you see?

  • Lily Bulero||

    You'd like me to read it? OK, just a sec...

  • Lily Bulero||

    "While nearly all [political philosophers] regard capitalism as essential to the economic goods they seek and the political liberties they support, they do not celebrate the non-instrumental importance of property rights, independent of these outcomes. Similarly, while well aware of the material benefits of commerce, they do not portray it as the site of intrinsically valuable relations....

    "Libertarians and their sympathizers have been an abundant sources of challenges to the quests for moral foundations of social democracy. The power of their criticisms does not depend on prior allegiance to their perspective....

    "...Even when a different set of holdings is morally desirable, this does not, in general, justify taking, as libertarians cogently note....

    "These are powerful reasons for changing the course of current quests for moral foundations for social democracy – but not for abandoning the project....

    "These lessons from libertarianism are a basis for abandoning libertarianism. A committed libertarian must condemn as wrong forcibly taking a life-preserver ornamenting another's flagpole to save someone from drowning and must support the enforcement of contracts to enter into slavery and clauses in home sales forbidding subsequent sales to African-Americans. What a relief to abandon such commitments, while relying on moral foundations for political choice enriched by lessons learned from libertarianism."

  • Lily Bulero||

    Hmmm...I was actually hoping you'd give the article a good sevo-ing.

  • Lily Bulero||

    OK, let me try:

    As I understand libertarianism, if someone makes a contract of personal service and then changes his mind, the employer could sue for damages, but wouldn't be allowed to chase the employee through the swamp with hounds, because recognizing a right of personal service doesn't mean endorsing all unjust methods of enforcement.

    And a libertarian would probably reply that the guy has a lot of nerve bringing up slavery given the slavelike relationship that people have to their government under "social democracy."

    How's that?

  • Sevo||

    Lily Bulero|9.21.17 @ 12:55AM|#
    "OK, let me try:
    As I understand libertarianism, if someone makes a contract of personal service and then changes his mind, the employer could sue for damages, but wouldn't be allowed to chase the employee through the swamp with hounds, because recognizing a right of personal service doesn't mean endorsing all unjust methods of enforcement."
    Dunno about "unjust" but the NAP pretty much means 'chasing someone through a swamp' is not part of the deal.
    ----------------------
    "And a libertarian would probably reply that the guy has a lot of nerve bringing up slavery given the slavelike relationship that people have to their government under "social democracy."
    How's that?
    Pretty much a lefty hoping to get someone with l-tarian views to validate lefty bullshit?
    How's that, lefty bullshitter?

  • Lily Bulero||

    "How's that?"

    The Road to Serfdom (Hayek)

    The Servile State (Belloc)

    Both works express the (very plausible) view that big-government regimes take us backward toward personal servitude, not forward to freedom.

    It's a fairly common trope, with which I am largely sympathetic, and I thought you'd be too.

  • Sevo||

    First, I do not 'cruise' the WAPO, nor the The Volokh Conspiracy (but I used to). But if you are going to gripe about it, it's not that I do not want to read it, I want to see what you gripe about. And you do have some 'interesting' quotes"
    ---------------
    "While nearly all [political philosophers] regard capitalism as essential to the economic goods they seek and the political liberties they support, they do not celebrate the non-instrumental importance of property rights, independent of these outcomes. Similarly, while well aware of the material benefits of commerce, they do not portray it as the site of intrinsically valuable relations...."

    OK, who do not "celebrate...."? Assertion; cites missing.
    -----------------
    "Libertarians and their sympathizers have been an abundant sources [sic, I presume] of challenges to the quests for moral foundations of social democracy. The power of their criticisms does not depend on prior allegiance to their perspective....

    I really have no idea WIH this means. Perhaps the criticisms are independent of any prior agreement to the principles involved?
    ------------------
    "...Even when a different set of holdings is morally desirable, this does not, in general, justify taking, as libertarians cogently note...."

    Agreed. What possible moral claim allows someone to 'take'?

  • Lily Bulero||

    "But if you are going to gripe about it"

    Gracious me, I wouldn't criticize someone for not being a masochist, which is what persistent reading of the WaPo would entail.

  • Lily Bulero||

    Even the small doses of WaPo I read have turned my hair white, I shudder to think of the results if anyone cruised that paper regularly.

  • Sevo||

    BTW, perhaps I'm wrong regarding your lefty sentiments and (presumed) attempts at sophistry regarding l-tarian views.
    If so I apologize, but also note that you are new here and ask the same sort of (loaded) questions which commonly come with a new handle.
    Please let us all know what your views are absent any sort of innuendo.

  • Lily Bulero||

    Much closer to libertarian than to what the author of the article is peddling.

    The country isn't in danger of too much liberty, it's being threatened by policies which restrict liberty too much.

    I haven't been a lefty in years. Of course if I were a lefty it would be better to try to convert me with gentle persuasion than to cry "heretic."

    "you are new here"

    The handle is new, I wouldn't say that I am.

  • Lily Bulero||

    Now, let's say a word in defense of the much-abused sophists.

    In ancient Athens, citizens had to represent themselves in litigation and in debating public issues - IIRC he couldn't hire someone to argue in his behalf. For a fee, a sophist would suggest techniques for the citizen to make his arguments more persuasive. If the citizen had a good case but wasn't all that articulate, the sophist could sharpen his arguments and make it more likely for him to get justice.

    A sophist of course must be prepared to make the best case for his client, as an attorney does, but unlike an attorney he couldn't speak for the client directly. The client had to learn the necessary rhetorical techniques from the sophist and maybe get a leg up on an opponent who might be richer in purse and more glib in tongue.

    The sophistical exercises in "making the worse appear the better cause" can actually be good training in learning how to appreciate a position one disagrees with and fashion an argument reflecting empathy and understanding of the opposing viewpoint.

    The Scholastics and the medieval universities also cultivated the art of making the best case for a proposition one might disagree with - sometimes one suspects that this art is lost today, given the prevalence of straw-manning.

  • Sevo||

    "These are powerful reasons for changing the course of current quests for moral foundations for social democracy – but not for abandoning the project...."

    What mean?
    --------------------
    "These lessons from libertarianism are a basis for abandoning libertarianism. A committed libertarian must condemn as wrong forcibly taking a life-preserver ornamenting another's flagpole to save someone from drowning and must support the enforcement of contracts to enter into slavery and clauses in home sales forbidding subsequent sales to African-Americans. What a relief to abandon such commitments, while relying on moral foundations for political choice enriched by lessons learned from libertarianism."

    Uh, that is one one of the most confused paragraphs I've ever seen.
    Yes, someone who owns that life-preserver can, morally, keep it for herself. Utopia is not offered by any program.
    No, the claim of libertarian support of slavery is ridiculous; it violates the NAP on an individual basis. I'm now hoping I'm not dealing with a 'f'g troll'

  • Bra Ket||

    " No, the claim of libertarian support of slavery is ridiculous; it violates the NAP on an individual basis. I'm now hoping I'm not dealing with a 'f'g troll'"

    This is a common headache when dealing with lefties regarding libertarianism. Some prominent self-described libertarian a few years back opined that a person should have the right to sell himself into slavery if he chooses, as his body is his own property. Seems rather silly to me as well for a few reasons.

    Naturally the lefties seized upon this one person's opinion to use against all libertarians for all time. So don't expect to ever stop hearing about it.

    As for the life preserver, someone should point out to that meathead that in every social democracy in the world, it is illegal to steal that life preserver.

  • Lily Bulero||

    I'm a troll in the sense of linking an article I know people will oppose - but I myself don't agree with the article.

    Strictly speaking, trolling is trying to get a reaction, which is what I was doing. But no, I am not a lefty or social democrat like the author.

  • Bra Ket||

    As for high speed rail, progressives will never give up on it just because of losing money. For one thing taxes are another word for rich assholes being forced to buy us shit. And second, you can't put a price on the feelz value of winning the socialism race. No one questions the trillions of dollars we pissed into outer space. On the contrary other countries look in awe at the accomplishments of our collectivism. We fucking out-centrally-planned the crap of the USSR that time. However the socialist nations are still kicking our asses at massive and bloated boondoggle projects right here on earth, we have to step up!

  • damikesc||

    Kopp...plenty of people pointed out how massively idiotic your plan was. Even if done "perfectly", it was a boondoggle. I don't feel much empathy for his concerns. It's not up to me to forgive him for his idiocy --- California did vote for it --- but to pretend that this wasn't eminently predictable is comic.

  • mpercy||

    Just about EVERYBODY not associate with the project predicted a boondoggle of epic proportions.

  • albo||

    They gotta build this train. How else could I go quickly from Merced to Fresno?

  • Fooseven||

    Prison train > prison bus

  • T E Simpson||

    I am reminded of an anecdote which may be "urban legend." The story takes place in the 70's when New York Central and other railroads were being consolidated into ConRail. The CEO of NYC was chastised by a CEO from one of the Big Three automakers for receiving a government "bailout." The railroader's response was that if the government subsidized tracks the same way it subsidized highways there would be no need for a bailout. The personal automobile is one of the largest manifestations of government welfare ever conceived.

  • T E Simpson||

    As a thought experiment, imagine I secured private ownership of a right-of-way through a wilderness between two cities. I can either build a railroad or a toll highway to capitalize on this opportunity, a canal would be way too slow. If I built a tollroad, I would have to concern myself with highway safety as reckless drivers would drive away consumers and cause damage to my infrastructure. There would be no individual mandate for insurance or any licensing in this imaginary government-free world. Therefore I would have to make sure that every driver was qualified and would have to enforce rules on every customer to avoid disaster. I would have to cost average the increased risk into my fees. I would have to force my customers to submit to my authority and pay for the privilege.
    If I built a railroad, The only drivers would be my employees, they would get paid for the privilege of obeying me. I would also be able to control traffic flows, load distributions, and equipment quality to maximize efficiency. Without any kind of government interference I would be able to provide transportation more cost effectively than a government funded highway.

  • Uncle Jay||

    RE: The Politician Behind California High Speed Rail Now Says It's 'Almost a Crime'
    Quentin Kopp convinced voters to approve the project. Now he's suing to kill it.

    Kalifornia's high speed rail was a huge success.
    Just ask any of Jerry Brown's cronies.

  • skunkman||

    The Dead Kennedys were on to Brown the first time the little Hitler was governor. Why did we expect different?

    I am Governor Jerry Brown
    My aura smiles and never frowns
    Soon I will be president

    Carter power will soon go 'way
    I will be Führer one day
    I will command all of you

    Your kids will meditate in school
    Your kids will meditate in school

    California Über Alles
    California Über Alles
    Über Alles California
    Über Alles California

    Zen fascists will control you
    Hundred percent natural
    You will jog for the master race
    And always wear the happy face
    Close your eyes, can't happen here
    Big Bro' on white horse is near
    The hippies won't come back, you say
    Mellow out or you will pay
    Mellow out or you will pay

    California Über Alles
    California Über Alles
    Über Alles California
    Über Alles California

    Now it is nineteen eighty-four
    Knock-knock at your front door
    It's the suede denim secret police
    They have come for your uncool niece
    Come quietly to the camp
    You'd look nice as a drawstring lamp
    Don't you worry, it's only a shower
    For your clothes, here's a pretty flower
    Die on organic poison gas
    Serpent's egg's already hatched
    You will croak, you little clown
    When you mess with President Brown
    When you mess with President Brown

    California Über Alles
    California Über Alles
    Über Alles California
    Über Alles California

  • Enemy of the State||

    PT Musk promising the same land grab for his 21st century version of a 19th century railroad...

  • retiredfire||

    Aren't government bonds a scam, anyway?
    When an investor buys a bond in a private company, those funds go towards something that makes a profit, part of which is paid to the bond-holder as interest.
    Government, however NEVER makes a profit, nor, in reality, should they. What gets paid out to bond-holders, above the initial investment, is nothing more than future taxes, not really interest.
    Why keep up the charade?

  • Episteme||

    For Crom's sake, people, I get here this late and there's not one monorail gag yet?

  • DrZ||

    What a great deal. Once the train is in place I can go from SF to LA in 3-4x the time it takes to go by airplane and at more than 5X the cost.

    Dumb consumers unite and make the train a reality!

  • DrZ||

    Can't wait to see what the bill to protect against terrorism will be. The train traverses a lot of semi-barren countryside that will make it an easy target for a small rocket launcher.

    Of course, all passengers will have to go through TSA checks to board the train.

    And, while I am at it, even if this train could go from SF to LA in 2:40, it won't. Why? Because the political pressure to stop at intermediate points will be high. The train will also likely bring increased population growth to California's Central Valley.

  • Davulek||

    Every time the government says "this time it will be different", grab your wallet and run for your life.

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