Wednesday, September 14, 2011

When smart people are dumb 1

Photo by Brigitte Lacombe

Even smart people look dumb when they write about issues before doing any homework. Adam Gopnik in the Sept. 12 New Yorker:

But the crucial point is that this is the result of active choice, not passive indifference: people who don't want high-speed rail are not just indifferent to fast trains. They are offended by fast trains, as the New York Post is offended by bike lanes and open-air plazas: these things give too much pleasure to those they hate. They would rather have exhaust and noise and traffic jams, if such things sufficiently annoy liberals.

Gopnik, who apparently sees himself as a Big Thinker, is faking it here, since he clearly doesn't know what he's talking about. The well-informed critics of the California high-speed rail project are only offended by a stupid, very costly project undertaken at great public expense that could bankrupt the State of California. 

Martin Engel at High Speed Train Talk takes no offense at fast trains.

Nor does Mark Powell at Against California High Speed Rail.

Nor do the folks at Community Coalition on High Speed Rail, especially Alain Enthoven, William Grindley, and William Warren, who wrote the best critique of this boondoggle last year, The Financial Risks of California's High-Speed Rail Project. They followed that up with studies on different aspects of this stupid project that's beloved by liberals, who seem determined to verify the right-wing portrayal of them as reckless squanderers of taxpayers' money.

In fact Grindley, like me, is a Democrat who's ashamed of his party for pushing this project. Naturally, San Francisco Democrats and their representatives are behind the project. Fortunately, the state will be saved from financial catastrophe by Republicans in Washington who are going to cut off the crucial federal money for the project.

Governor Brown may also be about to pull the plug on the project, as reported in the L.A. Times:

Brown recently appointed two financial experts to the rail authority's board and charged them with conducting a fresh examination. A Brown advisor, speaking on condition that he not be identified, said a "steep erosion in confidence" in the authority has led to concerns about the project. The authority had planned to issue a new business plan in October to support the upcoming bond issue, but that plan may be delayed by Brown's review, he said.

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At 11:46 AM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

Martin Engel lives near a railroad right of way in Menlo Park. He got his property cheap because of it, but is now deathly afraid that the line may start running again - and knows that HSR will enable that, such that he will do anything to stop the project.

Ad Hominem? No. If I said Martin Engel is an idiot, therefore we cannot believe what he says, that is Ad Hominem. This is called "Conflict of Interest" - he has a vested interest in the outcome so he ignores facts that are detrimental to his preferred outcome. This has been shown over and over to be the case. He is not a reliable source.

At 12:59 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Engel is quite right to be worried about the impact this dumb project will have on his property. He would have to be an idiot to not be concerned.

But that's completely irrelevant to the work he's doing on that site. Attacking someon's motives in an argument is a fallacy, Murph. You still need to come to grips with his writing on this project, which of course you are incapable of doing.

It would also be helpful if you listed the "facts that are detrimental to his preferred outcome" that he's ignored.

No comment on the other sources I list? Don't let the fact that you haven't read any of it stop you, since that never has in the past.

At 1:22 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

Engel is quite right to be worried about the impact this dumb project will have on his property. He would have to be an idiot to not be concerned.

He bought a house on a railroad line, what did he expect? Of course he's concerned, but cry me a river. Preventing the railroad from using that right of way is a taking.

His stuff has been debunked over and over. You want to read it? Google is --> That way.

At 1:36 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Funny that you can't even provide a link for all that "over and over" critique. Still no comment on the other sources?

Even if Engel was tied to the railroad tracks with a HSR approaching, it wouldn't invalidate what he's written on the subject.

At 2:32 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

Does it really matter? Even if I did the legwork to look up a source, and you read it, you'd say "Bullshit! Martin Engle debunks that in the link I gave!"

Not worth wasting my time since neither you or Engle have any power to stop the project. it's nice for you to have a hobby though.

At 3:23 PM, Blogger Mikesonn said...

+1 murph

At 3:30 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

You've never done any "legwork" to support your stupid comments in the past, so why should you start now? No, Engel and I can't stop the project, but Governor Brown and/or the Republicans will do that. Oh, it will be a sad day for you and all the other "progressive" bike morons who cling to this and other dumb rail projects because...let me guess: trains, like bikes, are somehow morally superior to cars!

At 10:48 AM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

Governor Brown and/or the Republicans will do that.

Why don't we make it a bit more interesting - care to make a wager?

At 12:58 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"Wager" on what? That the system won't be built or exactly how it's killed or who kills it?

Look at the numbers just to build the system from the CHSRA's last business plan:

Federal Grants: $17-19 billion
Prop. 1A bonds: $9.95 billion
Local Grants: $4-5 billion
Private Funds: $10-12 billion

Can anyone still think that the feds are going to give the state $19 billion to build this system? Especially with the Republicans in control of the House. They've trickled in around $3 billion so far, but that will probably be the last of it.

"Local grants": Does anyone---even HSR supporters---really think that the state's cities and counties---almost all of which are in the red---are going to chip in $5 billion to build the system?

Almost three years after voters passed Prop. 1A, there's still no private money available to build the system.

And the business plan doesn't tell us that our state taxpayers will be responsible for the inevitable cost over-runs during construction (that's also true of the Central Subway, by the way, which Herrera pointed out the other day.)

Governor Brown's financial experts referred to in the LA Times story I quoted are going to give that bad news to the governor. He's said that he'll do everything he can to keep the project going, but there's no way the state will ever have enough money to build it.

Brown's administration so far has been forced to focus on the state's budget. The governor knows that even the budget deal he made with the legislature is very shakey, since it depends on increased revenues for the rest of this year to pencil out---and he already knows that the hoped-for tax revenue hasn't been coming in fast enough to make the deal work.

Which is why he will be forced to pull the plug on the project.

At 12:11 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Later: Wrong! The governor, alas, is doubling down on this stupid project.


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