Patterico's Pontifications


Keeping You Updated on the Bullet Train to Nowhere

Filed under: General — JVW @ 2:16 pm

[guest post by JVW]

It’s my curse in life to wander the state as a crusty old man, inveighing against the disastrous California High-Speed Rail Authority’s plans to build “bullet trains” up and down the state. You can read my past lamentations here, here, and here, and the boss has chimed in a couple of times to register his displeasure with the project here and here.

So naturally you have figured out that I am setting you up for yet more aggravating news about this boondoggle of boondoggles, and you, dear reader, have surmised correctly. News came yesterday that the costs of the project have risen by an additional $1 billion while we dither on whether or not we want to fund the damn thing or finally put it out of its misery. If you want to find the silver lining in things, the $1 billion increase for this past year is only half of the increase estimate from last year, so perhaps we’re making progress!

In any case, the total price tag of this fiasco is now estimated at $80.3 billion, up from $77 billion back in 2018 which was up from $64 billion two years earlier. Just as a fun reminder, when my foolish fellow Californians (all you guys excluded, of course) voted for this cockamamie idea back in 2008, the project cost was set at under $34 billion, and the San Francisco-Anaheim portion of the line was scheduled to open up for service this year. Now the rail authority is reckoning we’ll be riding from the Golden Gate Bridge to Disneyland by 2033, even as they admit the Silicon Valley to Central Valley portion — which is supposed to be the proof of concept testing — won’t be fully operational until 2031, an 18-month delay from the last estimate.

I would guess that if there were a secret ballot vote taken that the California Legislature would probably vote to ditch this monstrosity, but it is beloved by the twee progressive urbanites (or at least the ones who don’t live near the rail lines), the government employee unions, the railroad construction industry and its unionized workers, and central planners everywhere. Accordingly, though legislative leaders on the Democrat side go through the pro forma motions of expressing “disappointment” and “concern” about the missed deadlines and soaring budget, they refuse to pull the plug on the project and put us all out of our misery. Republican legislators, to their credit, appear to be united in their desire to kill the project, even the Central Valley legislators whose districts are supposedly benefiting from the work on the rail line.

Today’s California, with that “we can do it if you give us lots and lots of time and tons and tons of money” spirit.


John Kelly Unloads on Trump

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:52 am

John Kelly is speaking out about Donald Trump. I can’t know Kelly’s motivations, but anyone who cares about the military can contrast Trump’s threats to Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who testified against Trump in the impeachment proceedings, to Trump’s pardon of scumbag war criminals, and conclude something is very wrong.

Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general, said that Vindman is blameless and was simply following the training he’d received as a soldier; migrants are “overwhelmingly good people” and “not all rapists”; and Trump’s decision to condition military aid to Ukraine on an investigation into his political rival Joe Biden upended long-standing U.S. policy.

Vindman was rightly disturbed by Trump’s phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in July, Kelly suggested: Having seen something “questionable,” Vindman properly notified his superiors, Kelly said. Vindman, who specialized in Ukraine policy at the National Security Council at the time, was among multiple U.S. officials who listened in on the call. When subpoenaed by Congress in the House impeachment hearings, Vindman complied and told the truth, Kelly said.

“He did exactly what we teach them to do from cradle to grave,” Kelly told the audience at the Mayo Performing Arts Center. “He went and told his boss what he just heard.”

. . . .

When Vindman heard the president tell Zelensky he wanted to see the Biden family investigated, that was tantamount to hearing “an illegal order,” Kelly said. “We teach them, ‘Don’t follow an illegal order. And if you’re ever given one, you’ll raise it to whoever gives it to you that this is an illegal order, and then tell your boss.’”

(Kelly doesn’t say this, but there’s a very good argument that Trump’s threats to discipline Vindman further violate the Military Whistleblower Protection Act of 1988, which protects military members from retaliation or threatened retaliation (as Trump has clearly done) for various contacts with members of Congress, explicitly including testimony.)

Contrast the treatment of Vindman with that of lowlife cretin Eddie Gallagher:

Responding to questions from the audience, Kelly faulted Trump for intervening in the case of Eddie Gallagher, a Navy SEAL who was convicted last year of posing with the corpse of an Islamic State fighter. Trump reversed a Navy decision to oust Gallagher, in a chain of events that led to the resignation of Navy Secretary Richard Spencer.

“The idea that the commander in chief intervened there, in my opinion, was exactly the wrong thing to do,” Kelly said. “Had I been there, I think I could have prevented it.”

The audience applauded.

When a woman in the crowd said that Trump had “elevated” Gallagher, Kelly looked out at the crowd.

“Yep,” he said.

Trump is inevitably going to tell us today, or soon, how awful Kelly always was. In preparation, here is a stroll down Twitter memory lane for some more contemporaneous (but pre-criticism of Trump) opinions from Trump about Kelly:

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