Patterico's Pontifications


More Aggravating News from the California High-Speed Rail Authority

Filed under: General — JVW @ 7:02 pm

[guest post by JVW]

Well, it’s been almost a year (fifty weeks to be exact) since I last updated everyone on the epic failure that is California’s High-Speed Rail Authority’s project to build a rail line between San Diego and Sacramento — er, make that Anaheim to San Francisco — er, make that Bakersfield to Merced. And to save everyone the suspense, I am not going to be delivering positive news. Two weeks ago a contractor on the project wrote a blistering 36-page letter to the HSRA’s head of contracting, pointing out that HSRA still has yet to provide right-of-way documents on over 500 parcels of privately-held land in the Fresno area which are needed for the route, and the contractor, the Tutor Perini Corporation of Sylmar, cannot continue its work until they are provided. As a consequence it appears highly unlikely that HSRA will meet a key 2022 deadline necessary to unlock further federal funds. The contractor also pointed out that turnover in the HSRA and ongoing negotiations with utility companies and freight railroad carriers will inevitably slow down progress on the line.

This naturally was too much for Brian Kelly, the CEO and Head Cheerleader of HSRA, who sniffed that the folks at Tutor Perini were simply trying to blame others for their own delays. But the accusation that HSRA has failed to clear rights on the entire proposed train route didn’t just emerge in recent weeks; we were covering this ongoing failure fifteen months ago. Mr. Kelly (total compensation for 2019: $542,199.27) and members of his staff concocted a rather lame defense which they managed to get some small news outlets, desperate for content, to run:

The California High-Speed Rail Authority’s yearly economic impact analysis underscores the growing value of California’s investment in high-speed rail amid the economic uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since 2006, the Authority has created between 54,300 and 60,400 job years of employment throughout California and invested more than $7.2 billion in planning and construction of the nation’s first high-speed rail system. Approximately 97% of the expenditures are to contractors, consultants and small businesses in California.

“The economic impact of high-speed rail in the Central Valley cannot be overstated,” said Authority Chief Executive Officer Brian Kelly. “Our progress on the construction and planning of clean, fast, reliable electrified high-speed rail continues to provide work and opportunities, despite the pandemic-related challenges of the last 10 months.”

Contra Mr. Kelly, HSRA was not sold to us as a jobs programs for the manufacturing and construction industries (but, like all progressive initiatives, it was a given that the project would entail lots and lots of nicely-paid state bureaucratic positions), it was actually supposed to build a super-fast choo-choo train that would be accessible to about 90% of the population of the Golden State. Since that goal now appears more and more to be a pipe dream, the final few remaining advocates of the project have only the taxpayer-funded employment opportunities to hang their hats on. Of course that same financial sum pissed away by HSRA could have gone to a whole lot of other initiatives which might have even produced something tangible, or perhaps it could have even been left in the pocket of the taxpayers who would have surely put it to far more efficient use. The Los Angeles News Group editorial board gets this, once again calling for the project’s termination:

Now that the Legislature is back in session and the governor’s budget proposal has been unveiled, it’s a good time to ask why the state of California is still proceeding with the doomed boondoggle known as high-speed rail.

[. . .]

The bullet train project is providing generous salaries to bureaucrats, big contracts to consultants and construction companies, and jobs for some construction workers. The one thing it’s in no danger of providing is transportation.

Meanwhile, the money is running out. Federal grants are in jeopardy because of the project’s continuing delays. It’s possible that the incoming Biden administration will be more patient with California than the outgoing Trump administration has been. Trump terminated a $929-million grant and threatened to claw back funds already spent. The federal funds are the subject of a legal dispute.

[. . .]

Voters agreed to the project on the promise that it would be a high-speed train between Los Angeles and San Francisco, built without a tax increase and run without a public subsidy. What they got instead was a high-cost jobs program that specializes in self-congratulation.

It’s time to end this spectacle of wasteful government spending. Cancel the bullet train.

Alas, the LANG editorial board is probably correct that the Biden Administration will be much more forgiving. They could push back the 2022 deadline that looms over the project and they could even reinstate the $929 million grant that the Trump Administration cancelled. One reason the Democrat-dominated state legislature and privileged progressive governor haven’t yet slammed shut the lid on the coffin is undoubtedly because they are wondering if Uncle Sucker might throw them a gold-plated lifeline. There is no shortage of gullible Democrats in Washington who just love these sort of projects, including those in the White House. So, like so many grand initiatives in California, from building a centralized data system to the unproductive stem-cell boondoggle that is the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine to the woeful results of taxpayer-sponsored public housing programs, the HSRA is likely to chug along — wait, that’s exactly the wrong metaphor to use — stand in place for several more years, barring a Congress that comes to its senses and puts an end to this ridiculous project. Given the dysfunction in Washington these days, I’m sure Mr. Kelly’s nice sinecure is secure for some time to come.


Republican Group Works To Hold Accountable Party Members Who Bought (And Sold) The Big Lie

Filed under: General — Dana @ 10:13 am

[guest post by Dana]

In a topper to this week’s posts looking at the dismal status of today’s Republican party, the Republican Accountability Project remains committed to the GOP. Members are working to restore the party’s reputation and credibility by lending support to Republicans who voted to impeach Trump and to hold accountable elected officials who bought (and sold) the Big Lie:

It is because of this lie—the lie that the election was stolen and fraudulent—that a pro-Trump mob sacked the Capitol and beat police officers attempting to protect the elected officials inside, leaving five people dead and many more injured. Even after the attack, 147 Republicans still voted against certifying the election results. Even today, GOP Senators like Rand Paul will not say that the election was fair and that President Joe Biden was the clear winner.

We cannot allow this lie to persist. It erodes Americans’ faith in the integrity of our electoral system. It creates more opportunity for violence from radical actors who have been told by elected officials that the election was stolen from them. And it threatens the very democracy we all cherish.

We will also defend those who are willing to defend our democracy. When President Trump was impeached by the House, 10 Republicans joined their Democratic colleagues and voted in favor, and five Republican Senators voted to proceed with Trump’s trial in the Senate. We believe that these Senators will do the right thing and vote to convict and disqualify Trump. Many of these principled, courageous Republicans are already facing primary challenges from the Trump wing of the party. We have their backs.

Republicans would like to simply move on. But without accountability there is no clear path forward. That is why we’ve launched the Republican Accountability Project.

With that goal in mind, here is the group’s just-released ad:

And while Rep. Matt Gaetz was in Wyoming trolling Rep. Elizabeth Cheney, fellow Trump-cronies who also pushed the Big Lie were targeted by the the group with billboards demanding their resignations:


Other lawmakers targeted by the campaign include House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who this week has been criticized by Republicans and Democrats alike for a series of controversies, including past comments calling for violence against Democratic politicians.

The Republican Accountability Project is also going up on the air in each of their targets’ congressional districts and states with television ads tying the lawmakers’ rhetoric with the actions of the pro-Trump rioters behind the breach at the Capitol.

Those ads will air during Fox News’s “Fox & Friends” and “Hannity,” two favorite news programs of conservatives, the group said.

“These representatives and senators helped incite the attack on the Capitol by spreading lies about the election,” said Sarah Longwell, the executive director of the Republican Accountability Project. “They have proved that they are unfit to hold office. They should be nowhere near power.”

If the combined efforts of the Republican Accountability Project and newly-elected members, who stood by their convictions and voted their conscience despite the political risk, can make inroads into a now Trump-dominated GOP, the Republican party may actually locate its missing soul*. Thus, sane members of the party who refuse to be bound to Trump and readily acknowledged the legitimate win of Joe Biden, need not be compelled to form a new political party of their own.

(*h/t Appalled)


Poll: Most Republicans Want to See a New Trump Party

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:29 am

This is going to be a sort of twin post to what Dana is publishing this morning, about the Republican party. The hyper-Trumpy American Greatness reports:

A majority of GOP voters support former President Trump forming a new party, according to a Rasmussen Reports survey.

Breitbart reported a telephone and online survey taken January 21 and 24, 2021, asked 1,000 likely U.S. voters, “Former President Trump has suggested he may start a third party. Is this a good idea or a bad idea?”

“While a plurality of likely voters, or 45 percent, believe it is a bad idea, a majority of GOP voters, or 53 percent, consider it a good idea, as do 41 percent of those surveyed overall. The survey coincides with rumors of the former president considering forging a new political party outside of the current Republican Party — a rumor which Republican National Committee (RNC) chair Ronna McDaniel has vehemently denied,” Breitbart reported.

There already are two parties. The schism was there in 2008; you were either capable of hoping the new president succeeded or you hoped he failed. Trump has made the schism more and more clear over time. Either you voted Trump in the primaries or you voted for someone else. Either you supported impeachment (the first time) or you didn’t. Either you thought the election had been stolen or you didn’t. Either you support disqualifying Trump or you don’t. Now, either you want to join a new Trump party or you don’t.

This became even more clear to me yesterday watching Matt Gaetz’s speech to a cheering Wyoming crowd.

It was all about how awful Liz Cheney is. The focus wasn’t even primarily on her vote on the second impeachment. If any theme came up again and again, it was that Cheney is for wars and Gaetz isn’t. But what was crystal clear is that Gaetz hates Liz Cheney with the fire of a thousand Fox News camera lights. It sounded like a stump speech by someone running against her in a general election — not even a primary, where punches can sometimes be pulled or common ground sought, but a nasty, personal general election.

These people are not from the same party.

As the poll shows, increasingly there is no room for a Liz Cheney or an Adam Kinzinger or a Justin Amash in the Republican party. Part of me wants to stand in the well of the Senate and address the GOP members and say: fellas. He lost. Maybe you shouldn’t tie your party to him like this.

But the effect of their rhetoric — their steadfast refusal to admit that Trump lost — is that most GOP voters still believe Trump won. Meaning they are going to continue to cling to the loser, and he will continue to be a wedge issue, for as long as they continue to maintain the fiction.

Trump doesn’t need to form a new party. Through the force of the continuing “stolen election” lie, he has only strengthened his hold on this party. If anyone has to form a new party, it’s the people no longer welcome in the old one.

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