All You Have To Do Is Ask

Jun 29th, 2011 | Posted by

Kathy Hamilton, a prominent Peninsula NIMBY, has a new post up at the Examiner attacking yours truly over a recent post in which I congratulated Caltrain, the California High Speed Rail Authority, and the US Department of Transportation for working together to bring funding for positive train control to the Peninsula.

Of course, that funding is for the much-maligned CBOSS form of PTC, which raised a lot of ire, and for good reason.

Instead of actually trying to engage me in a dialogue about the post – and several other issues – Hamilton went straight for the innuendo-laden attack. This was entirely unnecessary, but for reasons known only to herself, that’s the path she chose. Here are some excerpts:

First, for those of you who haven’t read the California High-Speed Rail Blog, let me tell you about it. It’s run by Robert Cruickshank. The site is affectionately known as Robert’s blog, not because he’s anybody’s best friend but because no one can spell or pronounce his last name.

Really? You’re going to open with that? Wow.

Cruickshank is actually a pretty easy name to pronounce. All you have to do is ask. She has my contact info – we actually had a very brief email conversation over the weekend – so there’s no excuse for her to wonder idly.

Further, all she has to do is ask about any of the other issues she raises:

Many have suspected this blog site, www.cahsrblog.com whose logo looks amazingly like the California High Speed Rail logo, might be funded by the High Speed Rail organization but proof positive has not surfaced.

Again, if she was so damn curious all she has to do is just ask me. I am in no way, shape, or form affiliated with the California High Speed Rail Authority. They haven’t given me a dime in funding. Nobody has. I pay this site’s hosting fees, which are minimal, out of my own pocket. If anyone ever wants to donate anything I ask that they fund the cause by giving to Californians For High Speed Rail. I serve on the board of that organization and was until January of this year its Chairman. They’re not funded by the Authority either.

“Proof positive has not surfaced…” that’s such a sleazy line. It’s the equivalent of “have you stopped beating your wife?” It presumes guilt and that the “proof” is out there waiting to be discovered, along with Atlantis and the contents of Al Capone’s vault.

Regardless of where Robert’s motivation comes from, he’s no doubt a good friend of the Authority since he gets scoop on the project early.

The Authority is full of very good people, but I don’t actually have very much interaction with them, and never really have. I’ve always thought of that as something of a weakness. I never did go out of my way to cultivate sources inside the Authority, have met its staff on a couple of occasions, exchange the occasional email, but that’s about it. Not out of any desire to keep my distance, or out of any dislike, but more out of my own inherent laziness. I’ve often felt I should actually be doing more to build relationships there, not less.

The overwhelming majority of what I write about here is based on publicly available info, and that is deliberate. I do that because I want to be able to have my writing be accessible to the broadest possible audience. I’m not a reporter or an investigator, I am an activist and an advocate. This blog exists to support and promote the HSR project, because when I started back in March 2008, barely anyone else was doing so.

That’s all prelude for Hamilton’s true purpose, which is to attack me for supposedly cheerleading the unpopular CBOSS:

The comments on the blog were very negative such as this one: “I’m sorry Robert but I have to strongly disagree with this. As we have stated multiple times why develop another custom system after custom system after custom system? Anyone who wants to save money would use an off the shelf system. Why spend $300 million on a new signal system vs. spending it on something more useful. It makes no sense to R&D your own signal system when there is a good standard out there.”

Another: “ Robert, your posts are becoming a little too, how should I say this. HSR cheerleader (y) if that’s a word. We all know this is bad news for HSR on the peninsula.”

Virtually all the other bloggers–including ardent supporters of high-speed rail-agreed that funding CBOSS is a bad idea.

Again, all Hamilton had to do is ask. I thought it was good news that the Authority helped bring funding to the Peninsula for PTC, but I have always been concerned about CBOSS and have agreed with many of the criticisms about it.

I’m not sure I agree that it is a portent of doom, as Hamilton seems to believe. But I also think that Clem Tillier’s criticisms of CBOSS are good ones and should be taken very seriously. If Hamilton thought I was cheerleading CBOSS – when nothing in my post from a few days ago indicated I had actually been making comments on the type of PTC that had been chosen – once again she could have just asked me.

Ultimately, the solution to the CBOSS issue isn’t to blow up the HSR project but to instead find ways to actually get Caltrain to think more sensibly about their long-term planning, and that involves supporting better cooperation between all parties with an interest in the Peninsula rail corridor. My post was designed to promote better cooperation, and the issues with CBOSS simply illustrate that need more clearly.

Instead what we have are a bunch of people fighting with each other, some of whom want all trains to go away, some of whom think the status quo is just fine (it isn’t) and some of whom recognize the need for rail to be improved and better integrated with the communities.

What do I think of Kathy Hamilton’s role in that situation? All she has to do is ask.

  1. Rose
    Jun 29th, 2011 at 13:16
    #1

    Wow. Just wow.

  2. MGimbel
    Jun 29th, 2011 at 13:32
    #2

    That’s modern-day journalism for you: claiming a connection or idea and offering zero evidence to support your point.

    Hey Kathy, if you read this, please comment on why you believe this blog is funded by the CAHSR Authority simply because their logos look similar. Also, where’s your proof? If you don’t have any, journalism is clearly not your cup of tea.

  3. Jon
    Jun 29th, 2011 at 14:11
    #3

    Why is a blog posting and the comments underneath it considered to be in anyway news? A discussion of the merits and demerits of CBOSS would be welcome, but just repeating verbatim what blog commenters are saying is lazy, lazy journalism. The only thing the reporter has added to the discussion is some factually incorrect smears and unfounded speculation.

    Hey, I can I have a job with the Examiner? I know how to use Google too!

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Exactly. I should find some time to write something more in-depth about CBOSS, although Clem owns that issue so well that I don’t really know what I would be able to add that is of use. But there’s nothing to stop Kathy Hamilton from doing it either.

    Then again, she is a strong opponent of HSR, so her goal is to make it and its supporters look bad. Which as we know she failed to do.

  4. Jon
    Jun 29th, 2011 at 14:17
    #4

    Also worth noting that, like Robert’s blog, most people on here refer to Clem’s blog as “Clem’s blog”. Presumably because “Tiller” is so damn hard to spell or pronounce.

    Jon Reply:

    “Tillier”, even. *facepalm*

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    I was a Tiller.

  5. wu ming
    Jun 29th, 2011 at 15:01
    #5

    for the record, i will vouch for being a friend of robert, and can even spell his last name. so there’s one.

    VBobier Reply:

    Roberts last name hard to pronounce? ROFLMAO… She needs to try something shorter, His is easy, Mine is harder. It’s: Bobier

    Clem Reply:

    Not hard for a French speaker. Do you pronounce it Bob-ye?

    VBobier Reply:

    Nope, Bo-bi-ay, At least that’s what My Dad told Me, He found a different way to pronounce it in France He said as He’d been there during WWII with the US Army’s 368th Medical(Records I gather, for both allied and pow patients, He’d been recommended for 2 commendations for His paperwork), but He never told Me how it was pronounced over there, the 368th stuff I discovered after Mom died and left Me His uncensored letters to Her from WWII Europe, He had worked for a Newspaper so He cleared what He wrote 1st, He served from 1942 as a volunteer who was never a draftee in N.Africa, Sicily, Anzio(near Rome Italy, He was in the Hospital being shelled by the Herman Goring Division of the Waffen SS), Northern France, Paris, then finally Occupied Germany up until 1946, When He was sent home. Yes I’m of French Descent, I can trace My ancestry back to 1770 Ireland, My family had left France on or after 1690 as the family was given shelter from Catholic persecution by the then King of England(William III I think), Oh and I’m part English w/two coats of arms from My Moms side of the family(Coan and Spafford), Maybe that’s why I get dry humor. Oh and My family came to the USA in 1850, One of My relatives was a contemporary of Major General George Armstrong Custer and I have a old B&W picture from back then of Pearl in His Major Generals uniform complete w/a sabre. But thats all I know of Him, His nickname and that He was in the Union Army from 1860-1865.

    VBobier Reply:

    Pearl is My family relative and the B&W picture is of Pearl, Not Custer.

  6. Paulus Magnus
    Jun 29th, 2011 at 15:10
    #6

    Obviously BBC America needs to buy out one of the other major channels and show more documentaries (including some about the British railways) so we can alleviate this pronunciation problem.

    To be fair on asking about financial support, if you had something to hide, such as the implied astroturfing, would you honestly admit to it?

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    Indeed. Amtrak should hire this guy and ridership would double in a week:

    http://www.guerilla-films.com/man-in-seat-61.html

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    Let me just say, having run in some (not all) of the same circle as Robert he’s not astroturf.

    What gives it away is: a) he drops profanity in his post from time to time b) the message he is sending is not the company line from any one entity (yes the Democratic Party itself isn’t smart enough to do what Robert has done) c) he doesn’t delete comments to my knowledge, ever d) he posts too frequently and e) he’s too young. Guys in his generation create blogs on a lark. Astrotufing builds blogs like it’s a grade separation.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Oh, I wasn’t accusing him of being astroturf. Just noting that were he so, as the article implied, he would hardly admit it, so asking him would be rather pointless.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Its actually not pointless for an advocate to get Astroturf groups on the record denying that, since the denial can be contrasted with the reality if you can follow the money.

    With respect to this post, the point is to stress the difference between the “Examiner” blog posting and reporting. A reporter would ask in any event, to get the position of the subject on the record.

  7. Derek
    Jun 29th, 2011 at 15:19
    #7

    The article is difficult to read. It’s full of typos and littered with URLs in the text.

  8. Walter
    Jun 29th, 2011 at 17:26
    #8

    Hamilton’s article is a disaster. Even the parts Robert didn’t mention were facepalm-worthy.

    Clem got a pretty nice introduction, though. Many have suspected his blog site, whose layout is in a format similar to the Examiner (only easier to read and without covering 2/3 of it with ads), might be funding the journalistic embarrassment of San Francisco to promote his content but proof positive has not surfaced.

  9. Spokker
    Jun 29th, 2011 at 17:26
    #9

    The Examiner that Kathy “writes for” is not actually a real news site. No one hired her in the traditional way. She just signed up and started writing. You supposedly get cash based on how many people read your articles, so Robert is definitely giving her what she wants by linking to her. It’s annoying that these Examiner articles pop up when you’re looking for any kind of news on Google News.

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    Seriously. David Brock needs to get off his butt and go after Anschutz and the “Examiner” as if its the viral mutation (which it is) of Faux News. At least Murdoch hires real journalists, however biased they might be.

    John Burrows Reply:

    I checked out Kathy’s 10 articles before this last one. For the 10 articles she had a total of 5 comments, including 3 by Ted Crocker. I agree that by attacking Robert, she was trolling for hits on her website (Did I say that right?)—And unfortunately she probably got what she wanted. Come to think of it I just hit on her site about 15 times.

  10. Arthur Dent
    Jun 29th, 2011 at 17:30
    #10

    You’d think it was a slow news day with a post like this. How about covering Portugal’s decision to stop their HSR project? The treasurer was interviewed recently on his concerns with the project – how about commenting on his remarks? Those are newsworthy discussions.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    There was a post about this on CAHSR Blog about 10 days ago.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    As Alon said, I wrote about the sad situation in Portugal last week (Lisboa will resemble Athens soon in terms of anti-austerity protests). As to Bill Lockyer, he’s the subject of tomorrow’s post.

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    I’m wondering why the radio silence on the Amtrak crash or other developments like that. I know you are the high speed …rail….blog, but it’s part of the same story.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    There is nothing really to say until the NTSB reports.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    Sure, a fully-grade-separated system like CAHSR will be immune to this sort of accident, but everybody already knows that…. what could he write that isn’t common knowledge…?

  11. James
    Jun 29th, 2011 at 18:07
    #11

    Off topic…

    http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-06-urban-rail-carbon-monoxide-air.html

    Urban rail reduces carbon monoxide air pollution
    June 29, 2011
    The opening of a major urban rail system in Taiwan caused a meaningful reduction in air pollution, according to a forthcoming study by two professors at the University of California, Merced.

  12. peninsula
    Jun 29th, 2011 at 21:01
    #12

    from npr…

    “Professor ZHAO JIAN (School of Economics and Management, Jiaotong University): I think the debt crisis of Ministry of Railways is very serious in China. It’s more serious than the subprime crisis in America.

    LIM: Railway expert Zhao Jian at Beijing Jiaotong University. He gives the example of one particular line, from Zhengzhou to Xi’an. Built to run 160 pairs of trains a day, it currently only operates 12 pairs.

    Prof. JIAN: Operating a railway is similar to operating a restaurant. It’s just that restaurant has about 160 floors. But at present, only 12 floors are in operation. The others are empty. So this kind of restaurant will face very big problem of a debt crisis.”

    swing hanger Reply:

    Yes, the Chinese system is overbuilt- just look at the massive stations with 3x (at least) the number of tracks that are necessary and that make Diridon Intergalactic look like a bus stop- truly an example of command economy showboating and “concrete over electronics”. However, can people (on both sides of the political spectrum) just stop making comparisons with California? It’s apples and oranges. China is China. Let’s look at systems (Europe/Japan) that actually have to face realistic economic conditions, and in some cases, have shareholders to please.

    wu ming Reply:

    building critical infrastructure is not like running a restaurant. neoliberalism is not solely a euro-american delusion, sadly.

    when peak oil drives the price of jet fuel through the roof, china’s going to be glad it has an overbuilt transport capacity. now they just need to build out urban commuter rail connecting to it outside of the big eastern cities, and devote the rest of its efforts to building massive renewable energy power infrastructure so they can stop burning all that goddamn coal, before the eastern seaboard sinks under the waves.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    Yeah, it seems like they absolutely need to at least plan for future expansion, and of course, it’s going to be a lot cheaper and less disruptive overall to just build everything at once…

    BruceMcF Reply:

    They first and foremost had to avoid growth dipping below 8% after the Panic of 2008, and for them, the overspending and poor build quality that goes with a rush job served a more urgent political objective.

    Anybody who looks at the 30 years since 1980 and thinks that California is engaged in a rush job needs to stop eating those bath salts.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I think the preferred method is snorting them. Whatever.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    There you go, the newspaper article I read said “ingest”, but didn’t include a quickstart guide.

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    The problem isn’t neoliberalism… to paraphrase Carl Sagan, “we are a society that is dependent on debt, yet most have no understanding of debt”.

    Most of the deals that are falling apart internationally have a stench that can be traced back to some real smart guys at 85 Broad Street.

    The only reason more shoes continue to drop is that we seemingly don’t have anyone willing to go down there, slap the cuffs on someone, get an indictment, threaten one with Pound-Me-In-the-Ass-Prison (PMIAP) and then have him or her act like a songbird and rat out the rest of them.

    Who knew Enron would someday look like a terrorist tribunal by comparison to the law enforcement side of this financial mess.

  13. Frank
    Jun 29th, 2011 at 21:13
    #13

    Another Gem from the rabid anti-high-speed rail crowd. It actually makes me happy to see articles and posts like this. It says that these people are on the ropes. Just like the earlier post about the manufactured Culture War aspect of the “debate” the critics are now just throwing out B.S. and hoping it sticks.

  14. dave
    Jun 30th, 2011 at 01:14
    #14

    Haha, she used my comment (second) and she loaded it into her “gun” to shoot Robert with her article. That’s funny because I thought that we had learned to agree to disagree at times. It’s totally healthy because no matter what was said I still support HSR 100%. So pretty much it comes down to her taking advantage of comments in that post to get you when she thinks you’ve slipped and are down on the ground, she runs up with a kick and misses because the article was horrible. Too horrible I had to skim it, not worth my time.

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    You ought to let her (and her bosses) know she misquoted you.

    dave Reply:

    I don’t see her stuff as anything serious. Don’t feel it’s even worth the effort.

  15. TomW
    Jun 30th, 2011 at 06:25
    #15

    The annoying thing was that if you take her acrtole, remove all the stuff relating to the blog (and summarising the quoted comments), you have a half-decent article.

    Also, what’s the point in having comments if everyone just agrees with you? There’s been a lot of good debate here, which has sometimes changed by viewpoint. Otherwise, I’d just write a bot which posts adoring comments….

  16. Jon
    Jun 30th, 2011 at 10:01
    #16

    Off topic- this is why we need grade separation. http://www.sfexaminer.com/local/2011/06/caltrain-drivers-know-collisions-are-certainty-they-still-leave-mark

    Caltrain drivers know collisions are certainty, but they still leave mark

    When Sean Morgan attended Caltrain’s orientation for new engineers, he was warned that his train would eventually kill someone.

    “They said, ‘This will occur,’” Morgan said. “It wasn’t a matter of if; it was a matter of when.”

    Morgan, who has collided with two people in 18 years and only knows one engineer who hasn’t hit someone, said the Peninsula is notorious because of the many places where cars, bikes and pedestrians interact with trains. More people are hit by trains on the Peninsula than almost anywhere else in California.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    I heard an interview of a retired SNCF driver who once killed a woman. 20 years after the accident he still has nightmares. The woman was standing in the middle of the track, facing the train. He knew he was going to kill her. In spite of months of therapy the image and sound still haunt him.

    dave Reply:

    This is a normal downside of any train engineer anywhere. But I guess especially on Caltrains ROW. It’s common and happens everyday somewhere.

  17. Paulus Magnus
    Jun 30th, 2011 at 11:30
    #17

    Off topic: I did up a look through of various toll roads throughout the country (not all of them obviously), and they tend not to make a profit (some of the long established ones that I didn’t cover such as the NJ Turnpike quite probably do make a profit however). Might be useful for countering those who claim HSR has to cover its capital costs (the post links back to another which has the appropriate data for HSR).

    Do the toll roads make a profit?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    There is always the Delaware Turnpike. 4 bucks to go a few miles…..

  18. MattK
    Jul 2nd, 2011 at 17:01
    #18

    OK Robert, I have a question.

    What do you know about Tim Buresh, the new regional director for CHSRA in Southern California? I’ve been following the progress of MTA’s efforts to build a Westside extension of the Subway to Century City down here. Apparently, the Beverly Hills United School District and some members of the Beverly Hills City Council are vehemently opposed to the MTA tunneling under part of Beverly Hills High School as part of one of the MTA’s proposed alignments to a central station at Constellation Blvd @ Avenue of the Stars. The BHUSD has pulled up to $400,000 from a previous voter-passed school construction bond to pay the downtown law firm Best Best & Krieger and Century City public affairs firm Sitrick & Company to challenge the forthcoming subway extension EIR on the grounds that tunneling under the school is unsafe and prevents the school from future expansion plans. In addition, I’ve learned that Tim Buresh has been retained by BHUSD as part of a “panel of experts” to help denigrate the MTA plan. I should mention that he also used to work for Tutor Saliba, the construction firm that, until recently, was involved in a lawsuit with the MTA since 1995 over shoddy construction and cost overruns.

    Since Tim Buresh will be representing the CHRSA down here in Los Angeles, do you feel that this situation presents a conflict of interest for him? After all, the MTA now owns Union Station and I have a feeling that they’re going to start making things for Mr. Buresh and the CHRSA difficult if he doesn’t back off from his meddling on the subway tunnel alignment. Thoughts?

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    That’s an interesting question. The BHUSD claims are completely absurd and the judge should laugh them out of court for it. That being said, is it appropriate for Buresh to hold the regional director position while also serving as a paid expert to bash a crucial rail connection to the HSR project?

    Perhaps not. That’s as far as I’ll go right now without knowing more information.

  19. jonathan
    Jul 3rd, 2011 at 13:14
    #19

    So if all we have to do is ask, let’s drop the ad-hominem, and stick with the facts.

    Robert, you wrote in your June 2rd blog-post on CBOSS:

    Everyone on the Peninsula needs to unite behind this

    Do you still stand by that statement, or not?

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Everyone on the Peninsula needs to unite behind the concept of improving all rail service on the corridor, including HSR, including positive train control. The details can be discussed, and if CBOSS isn’t the right answer, let’s unite behind something that is.

  20. Jesse D.
    Jul 3rd, 2011 at 17:11
    #20

    “Crookshank”, right?

    I actually would find it harder to SPELL rather than PRONOUNCE your name. But your cause is crystal clear. Good show!

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