Saturday, December 10, 2011

Inside the progressive bubble

Tim Redmond revisits the high-speed rail issue on the Guardian's political blog. Apparently even he suspected that the column on his road trip to LA didn't do the subject justice. As I pointed out, that column was completely fact-free. The latest attempt has facts, but they are completely irrelevant, as he fails to come to grips with the specifics of this project. Instead he compares the cost of California's high-speed rail project to BART, the Golden Gate Bridge, the California Aqueduct, etc. He seems to think that all that's required to make meaningful comparisons is to change the old numbers into 2011 dollars.

Redmond provides a link to an article by Robert Cruickshank, who does a pro-HSR blog, where his latest post tries to explain away the recent Field Poll showing that public opinion has turned decisively against the project.

There are other, better sources by people who have been focusing on this project for several years. The best, most thorough analysis of every phase of the project is done by the Community Coalition on High-Speed Rail. Mark Powell is excellent on Against California High Speed Rail. Martin Engel looks at the literature on the subject regularly at High-Speed Train Talk.

The official California High-Speed Rail website isn't particularly useful, except for providing the project's documents, like the latest business plan.

Redmond's approach to the high-speed rail issue is characterisitic of the Bay Guardian and the city's left in general: a massive intellectual failure on a number of important city issues. When I started this blog seven years ago, I was surprised at the shoddy, poorly-informed performance of the progressives who were still opposing the parking garage then being built underneath the Concourse in Golden Gate Park. It soon became apparent that that slipshod approach was typical of how they dealt with other important issues: homelessness, planning, development, traffic, the Bicycle Plan, etc.

On issue after issue, progressives failed to their homework. Important documents went unread and unanalyzed; progs proceeded as if they were automatically in the right and had no need to engage with the facts. The Guardian never did any in-depth analysis of Mayor Newsom's Care Not Cash or his subsequent initiatives on homelessness. Same thing on the Bicycle Plan. Steve Jones, a dedicated cyclist, wrote clearly on the subject, but he never took a close look at the EIR on the Plan. The Market/Octavia Plan and UC's hijacking of the old extension site on Haight Street for a massive housing development were mostly ignored, with an occasional item fostering the illusion that those projects were about affordable housing.

The failure of the city's left over the last ten years can't all be blamed on the Guardian, but they were/are the left's main source of information and ideas in San Francisco. Fog City, Beyond Chron and other more or less progressive online publications haven't been any better.

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