Fox LA Calls for Putting the “Breaks” On HSR Project

Nov 28th, 2012 | Posted by

With such brilliantly spelled headlines like this, how could I possibly disagree?

“Put The Breaks On High-Speed Rail Project”:

We recently reviewed some court documents that revealed top managers of California’s high-speed rail project were concerned about project delays.

Delays that could threaten federal funding of the project and put taxpayers at risk for having to pay the money back.

Well I certainly hope they were concerned. Top managers need to be thinking about those possibilities and finding ways to avoid them. Wouldn’t you rather have managers obsessing over worst-case scenarios instead of blissfully skipping ahead without regard to the consequences?

One manager feared construction might not truly begin until 2014, putting it about a year and a half behind schedule.

Here’s what he said:

“If it appears the construction timing cannot be met because of delays, it risks the entire funding.”

That is a factual statement. Again, this is a sign of confidence in the project that they’re thinking about these situations. But to Fox LA, it’s a sign of OMG DOOM:

When Fox asked the rail authority to explain that 2014 date, we were told we were wrong. But that same day, they filed an amendment to their declaration, now stating that:

“… Construction will not begin earlier than July of 2013.”

Bottom line: they shaved off six months by changing the wording and crossing out 2014.

So what are they hiding?

Huh? This huge scandal that Fox LA claims to have unearthed is rooted in an unexplained fear that possibly maybe if all goes to hell the start date could be in 2014. The Authority also decided to move construction to July 2013. Fox sees these as related, but they’re actually not. The July 2013 date is actually driven by a desire to minimize risks and lower costs:

Jeff Morales, chief executive of the authority, said the revised schedule would have the track completed by December 2017 rather than a year earlier as set under the agency’s contracting documents. The new timetable will allow contractors to use less overtime and other practices that were expected under the accelerated plan in place earlier, Morales said.

“We are going to get lower bids, save some money and still meet all of our deadlines,” he said. “It is a good business move.”

Did Fox LA do any research or investigation at all before putting up this silly op-ed? Because it seems like they spent about as much time on research as they did on copy-editing the headline.

The irony is that Morales’ announcement should have made HSR critics happy. They’re not rushing the timeline and they’re going to save money. The fact that HSR critics are using that announcement as a basis for further attacks shows that they’re not really “critics” but “opponents.”

I’m sure they’ll get around to fixing the headline. (And when they do I might be forced to agree with them, since a bullet train without brakes is a pretty dangerous thing.) But the op-ed itself remains a deeply flawed product of a willful misunderstanding of the high speed rail project. Californians have repeatedly shown their support of this project. It’s time to get going rather than waste time with endless criticisms.

  1. VBobier
    Nov 28th, 2012 at 23:16

    FAUX LA can drop dead, as what they want will simply not happen…

  2. Andy M
    Nov 29th, 2012 at 04:28

    Before the election I had some understanding (not the same as sympathy) for Fox’s drivel. But now they’re just playing the bad loser with their endless moaning.

    Alan Reply:

    The funny thing is, there’s been talk in the broadcast and cable industries that Fox was secretly hoping for an Obama reelection. Same with clowns like Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. Their ratings are better with a Democratic administration than they are with republicans in charge.

  3. D. P. Lubic
    Nov 29th, 2012 at 04:48

    I continue to be amazed and disgusted at the incompetence I see from the political right, and it’s not just bad spelling here and elsewhere, and it’s not like I’m searching for it either. It’s things like that unfortunate remark about 47% of our fellow citizens. I know some of them who are businesses owners–I see their tax returns as an auditor. I can personally tell you they aren’t freeloading bums; I would bet any one of them has worked more in one day than Romney has in his entire life. It’s things like “legitimate rape” and thinking a woman’s body can stop a pregnancy under those circumstances (and I speak this as a member of the pro-life crowd). It’s things like the president of Goldman-Sachs claiming Social Security pays people to retire for 30 years after working for 25 (some government employees are able to retire on their pensions in such a situation, but they don’t collect Social Security until later–and it’s more than likely those employees later took another job and paid into Social Security until they reached retirement age.)

    Seriously, how do these nitwits get into the top positions they occupy? It’s expected to see Congressmen make such fools of themselves, but quite disturbing to see the presidents of these big corporations being so ignorant–and then having that matched with being arrogant.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Seriously, how do these nitwits get into the top positions they occupy?

    Many of them picked the right womb. Many others happened to be in the right place at the right time.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Yep. A third way: some of them defrauded their way into the job. (Particularly common among the sorts who loot their companies, load them up with debt, send the jobs to China, make the companies declare bankruptcy, and sit back laughing with the billions of dollars they stole.)

    Part of the required fraud in order to get into the CEO or hedge-fund-manager position is “fitting in” to the social class, which means parroting whatever ridiculous stupidity is in vogue among the group.

    Also, read _Theory of the Leisure Class_ by Veblen. The “business elite” — the leisure class — self-selects for ignorance, because they look down not merely on actually doing work, but they also look down on actually understanding the nature of the work which they are profiting from. In the US it has reached a very rarefied level, where they now look down even on the work of accountants and lawyers (contract drafting is for the little people). As you can imagine, this is a social process which preferentially selects for people who are both very stupid and very nasty.

    BMF from San Diego Reply:

    Concur in spades.

    VBobier Reply:

    Ditto that.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Some additional thoughts on the past election and related things. . .

    I am becoming personally convinced that a big corporate executive is NOT a person you want elected as the president of the United States. Even if that person were knowledgeable about government–and there is plenty to suggest these guys aren’t–a big thing would be that the environment of a political presidency and a corporate presidency are totally different animals, because the organizations are also different.

    Two big differences that come to mind are accounting and control.

    The accounting is different in that there can be a big chunk of government spending that is really off-limits; it’s called statutory spending or non-discretionary spending, and is dictated by law. Social Security is the biggest single example; its moneys are (at least in theory) to be spent for that and nothing else. The Social Security trust fund can loan out the money, but it has to be paid back; it can’t make an outright grant or give assistance to another agency. (By the way, I saw a comment somewhere else that the majorityl of our government debt is to the Social Security Administration; if that’s true, the debt isn’t that big a deal. It simply means we get to pay ourselves later, as Sidney Greentreet’s Signor Ferrari in “Casablanca” must do for a big supply of cigarettes he owes to Humphrey Bogart’s Rick Blaine after he buys Rick’s place.)

    Another difference is in actual governance. In a corporation, the president is in many ways a dictator. This isn’t meant to have the negative connotation that word often carries; rather it simply means the corporate president can wield considerable power and authority within the corporation without having to ask permission from other people. His own board of directors, for instance, may meet only once per year, and will often be supportive of the president in his actions. In contrast, an American president has to deal with a “board of directors” that consists of 535 members of Congress, which is in session for much of the year, will have some members that will be intractably opposed to the president, and all of whom will have opinions, ideas, and notions of their own, and all of whom will want to have a finger in the pie at some point. That requires a lot more in the way of diplomacy than most corporate executives have to use, and it doesn’t even begin to touch the “real” diplomacy of dealing with other heads of state!

    In short, a political presidency may require a totally different skill set than that of the corporate presidency.

    Hmmm, considering the child-like bickering we see in Congress so much of the time, maybe the feminists are right in that we need a mommy for president. . .

  4. Jo
    Nov 29th, 2012 at 05:37

    As the election proved, fox has no credibility.

  5. Peter
    Nov 29th, 2012 at 06:17

    California lawmakers prescribe more transparency and independence for megaprojects

    Elizabeth Alexis returns as an “expert” on what is true “independent” peer review. Supposedly paying people makes them no longer “independent”.

    joe Reply:

    “Once reviewers are paid, they are part of the team,” Alexis said. “They are paid consultants. They are valuable. But it is not true peer review.”

    The clarity of her utter ridiculousness perspective should be welcomed.

    Recall CARRD hand picked critics of HSR and I don’t think these experts were paid by CARRD so they were “independent” except they were hand picked by CARRD to speculate on the project. Amazingly, these independent experts findings were not consistent with the HSR peer review.

    Experts’ potential financial or business ties to the state must be disclosed, their independence more thoroughly evaluated and their work more transparently reported to the public, said Senate Transportation and Housing Committee Chairman Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, at the conclusion of a three-hour oversight hearing Wednesday.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    thought CARRD was just a bunch of concerned soccer moms that got together over a coffee klatsch and were tirelessly working as volunteers.

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    …concerned soccer moms…

    Sexist much? If CAARD were a group of men, I doubt you’d be identifying them based on their fatherhood.

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    Oops, *CARRD. I always do that…

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I didn’t call them that, they called themselves that.

    joe Reply:

    CARRD did explain their org was run from kitchen tables and they are parents. I don’t get what’s offensive about “soccer” Mom or Dad. I’m a Soccer Parent.

    synonymouse Reply:

    You really think CAARD has any effective clout up against the likes of PB and Tutor-Saliba?

    swing hanger Reply:

    Sounds like the start of a pitch line for an “Erin Bronkovich” type movie- complete with secret funding by a paper towel magnate:)

  6. trentbridge
    Nov 29th, 2012 at 09:08

    Talk about beating a dead horse. Democratic Governor – check. Democratic Legislature in California (with super majority) check. Democratic President check. Bond funding okayed check. Legal battles – winning! Democratic US Senate check. Prop 30 passed – check.

    The only thing truly without brakes is the Republicans in the House shouting “No increase in tax rates” as they plunge ( happy as clams) over the fiscal cliff.

    VBobier Reply:

    Agreed on all counts, as Yer firing on all cylinders.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Actually, the Republicans are deathly afraid to cross the “fiscal cliff”, because it means the following:
    1 – capital gains taxes on billionaires go up from the current 15% to 20% (should be higher, but this is the unfortunate result of the 1997 tax cuts)
    2 – dividend taxes on billionaires go up from the current 15% to 39.6%
    3 – taxes on the salaries and bonuses of billionaires go up from the current 35% to 39.6%
    (Both of these should be higher, but you can blame the Reagan tax cuts in these cases)

    The Republicans have made it *very* clear that they will sacrifice everyone else, including people with incomes of $250,000-$500,000 / year, (not to mention the entire economy), in order to protect Low Taxes For Billionaires. They are deathly afraid of an increase in the tax rate for billionaires.

    However, we need to allow the taxes on billionaires to go back up. The billionaires who want low taxes use their money to buy Congressmen, which is fundamentally wrong and evil, and has been corrupting our entire political system.

    And once we’ve walked over the “fiscal cliff” and taxes on billionaires have *already* gone up, then the Republicans have no bargaining chips and will start to cry uncle.

  7. J. Wong
    Nov 29th, 2012 at 09:51

    Note: The Fox broadcast network of which the station Fox LA (also owned by Fox in this case) is part is not the same as the cable news channel Fox although both are part of the Fox Entertainment conglomerate, which is owned (controlled) by Rupert Murdoch.

    Alan Reply:

    Technically speaking, you’re correct. In practical terms, and in terms of what the viewing public sees, being technically correct doesn’t matter. The Fox-owned broadcast stations are just as badly infected by the Murdoch point of view as the cable operation. As a practical matter, the public sees the same Fox logo and branding on both broadcast and cable, the content is the same GOP infomercial, and the operations are controlled by the same ownership and corporate management.

    The Fox broadcast operations are not going to break step and somehow take a position contrary to the corporate spin of the cable channel. Just not gonna happen.

    Peter Reply:

    More proof that Fox News is nothing more than “entertainment news”:

    nick uk Reply:

    but it isnt even entertaining unless you enjoy seeing grown adults make fools out of themselves – so i guess its just another reality show (or actually a non reality show – they still think mitt won !)

  8. Reedman
    Nov 29th, 2012 at 10:05

    Fixed timelines can keep projects from going over budget. Slipping the date out a year will cost the taxpayer more.

  9. morris brown
    Nov 29th, 2012 at 13:21

    Especially for Joe, who commented a while back to me:

    Jon Reply:
    November 27th, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    No, Shuster might replace Mica as chair of the Transportation Committee.

    So Joe and others, now turn your attention to:

    It’s Official: Bill Shuster Named Transportation Committee Chair

    joe Reply:

    You grasp at straws.

    Watch this video. It explains how Bills become laws and amazingly the US Senate has a role.

    Shuster can huff and puff at Senate Leader Harry Reid. He’s gonna kill Reid’s plans for HSR in the West and move the CA HSR funds to NE – single handed.

    The House cannot refuse to reconcile their bill with the Senate bill that will be pro HSR and risk bring the entire US transportation bill to a grinding halt just to stop HSR in California.

    It’s an argument about WHERE to build HSR, not IF. Where.

  10. morris brown
    Nov 29th, 2012 at 13:27

    Just to remind those reading, Shuster’s view of the CA HSR project.

    Shuster believes high-speed rail should be limited to the Northeast Corridor, which he says is the only place in the country with the appropriate conditions for it. He says high-speed rail is a “terrible idea” in California, even calling it a form of blackmail since the state will then be on the hook to finish the project. He’s called for taking the federal money allocated to California HSR and giving it to the NEC. For the rest of the country, he says “frequency and reliability” are what matters for increasing ridership – not 150 mile speeds.

    Mike Reply:

    With respect to HSR, it really doesn’t matter WHICH republican chairs T&I Committee, Mica or Shuster or anyone else. HSR is going nowhere in the House as long as the Reps maintain control. And it REALLY doesn’t matter what Shuster thinks should be done with federal dollars that have already been awarded to California HSR. That horse has left the barn.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Actually, there are enough Republicans who *like* getting passenger railroad money for their districts that I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if we got a slightly better than nothing result. I wouldn’t expect significant additional money for HSR, but we might get dribbles.

    joe Reply:

    We might get more than dribbles given the Staunchest opponents think HSR rocks – just only in their awesome part of the NE USA.

    That’s opposition and those bozo’s need to be reelected. Now any bill has to get Senate approval so how will CA-HSR opponents pass a “fuck-off-california-HSR” and keep money for their districts given the Dem controlled *upper* chamber called the US Senate and an obviously pissed off Harry Reid?

    Nathanael Reply:

    There’s enough Republicans who are against spending money on anything which doesn’t benefit their cronies, and who are willing to tank the US economy in hissy fits, that I think it will be hard to get more than dribbles for ANYTHING, rail or otherwise. :-(

    Nathanael Reply:

    However, previously appropriated money is safe.

    Jonathan Reply:

    You forgot funding weapons programs that the DOD didn’t even ask for!!

    nick uk Reply:

    funny that the only place he believes that hsr is appropriate is the area he lives in ! if he wants hsr in the nec why doesnt he lobby for that as a separate issue and not try to turn it into another north east versus california debate. is all sounds like sour grapes that california was chosen over the nec. i would have thought that the best hope of providing true hsr in the nec and other areas would be to get california hsr up and running asap!

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    “frequency and reliability”? Perhaps he’ll tell UP to let Amtrak run a daily “Sunset” at no extra cost.

  11. Robert
    Nov 29th, 2012 at 13:44

    ” He’s called for taking the federal money allocated to California…”

    If a useless politician calls for something that he has no actual control over, why is anyone even paying attention? Whats he going to do, single handedly take over control of the government?

    Please see trentbridge’s point above. Beat the dead horse all you want, ground is breaking next year.

  12. nick uk
    Nov 29th, 2012 at 14:09

    actually it is outrageous that someone can be appoined as chair of a committee when that person i.e. shuster has already indicated bias that will affect any opinions or judgements he may make. sounds like he has been specifically appointed as he is anti hsr and anti obama

    Peter Reply:

    Aren’t all Republicans “anti hsr and anti obama” these days?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Mostly because people who live in places where HSR makes sense aren’t Real Americans ™.

    Jonathan Reply:

    You think so? How about a chair of the House Science Committee who is a climate-change denier?
    How about two of them in a row?

    nick uk Reply:

    we have that here in the uk – the climate change minister doesnt believe in climate change and the environment minister and energy minister dont believe in their roles either ! might be an idea to replace the people and the roles with just one and save a whole lot of hot air into the bargain. and the (now resigned) chief whip thought we were all plebs (ie dead common !) and that the police on downing st were there to open gates for him and (allegedly) swore when they wouldnt ! the joys of right wing tory government !

    at least we have record investment in the railways including long overdue widespread electrification. i suspect that this is down to the coalition govt liberal partners. however ticket prices are going up 6% to pay for this investment. also whilst electrification is costly to implement although beneficial to the environment (lower carbon energy is also on the agenda), it also has significant long term savings through efficiency gains. more work is needed to get more freight electrified. wonder if it will ever catch on in the usa again for passenger let alone freight traffic.

    swing hanger Reply:

    widespread railway electrification in the USA: when hell freezes over, then they will issue a request for an EIR lol.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Yeah, the ECML should have been electrified right after the WCML. But the ECML didn’t have bloody awful terrain like Shap &c, to deal with. I could say more, and about HS2 also, but it’s a bit OT.

    Andy M Reply:

    Had Beeching had his way there would have been only one main line into Scotland. The ECML would have been cut north of Newcastle. This shows the level to which Beeching believed overall rail usage would recede in an automobile society.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The Republican Party has officially rejected reality here in the US. It’s hard to even explain how bad it is to people from Europe or the UK, there’s just no comparison. Doctrinaire statements denying reality are *required* to remain a member in good standing of the Republican Party.

    Oh, on second thought I have a comparison. It’s like the ideological conformity — must promote nonsense and group loyalty comes before reality — required by the Roman Catholic Church of its officials under the Nazi child-pimping Pope Ratzinger. The Republicans are prone to disgusting sexual abuse scandals, too, and prone to coverups of them.

    VBobier Reply:

    That’s cause all notable Republicans want to be Frank Burns…

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I dunno if they cover them up very well. Ask Senator Craig or Senator Vitter.

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