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December 11, 2023


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I'm not convinced that Trump will win next year. He carries a barge-load of baggage. I think people are waking up to his malfeasance and incompetence.

Fred and Donald Trump are what the USA is about to day. Fuck anybody you can.
I call them criminals.
I fail to feel sorry for the dumb ignorant followers of Trump. May he fuck them like anyone he decides to eventually turn on.
The only reason Trump might fail is he will cause his own failure and in reality he is a coward.

Trump might also fail because folks don't want to see him in office. It's easy to become defeatist. As Rebecca Solnit wrote in the Guardian a few months ago, "If you announce that the outcome has already been decided and we’ve already lost, you strip away the motivation to participate – and of course if we do nothing we settle for the worst outcome. It often seems that people are searching harder for evidence we’re defeated than that we can win. Warnings are a valuable thing, given with the sense that there’s something we can do to prevent the anticipated outcome; prophesies assume the future is settled and there’s nothing we can do. But the defeatists often describe a present they assert are locking in the worst outcomes" https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/jul/26/we-cant-afford-to-be-climate-doomers . The article was about climate change defeatism, but the arguments hold for the current political situation.

Trump is afraid of his own shadow. Take away Secret Service protection and he'd turn into a fresh cowpie in a nano-second.

I was born NEGATIVE.
Unable to escape.
For you no military youngsters
with shit for heel spurs
Thats A-Negative
goes on your Dog tags

If Trump wins, surely Biden, Harris, and the painted-themselves-into-an-incredibly-foolish-corner Democratic Party must share more than a tad of the blame with the preening pseudo intelligentsia above-it-alls and the vapid do-stuff-for-me-I-can’t-be-bothereds.

Regarding passenger rail, the over-arching issue is modern passenger rail and modern freight rail are incompatible on the same tracks—period. Passenger rail depends on timely service at all times, freight rail doesn't.

As messy and expensive as it has become, the High Speed Rail (HSR) project between Los Angeles and San Francisco is the correct way to build fast passenger rail. Once it's built and running future generations will ask why it wasn't done sooner. They'll look back at all the nay-sayers and ask "What was the problem?"

A similar HSR project between Phoenix and Los Angeles would be far better than passenger trains on freight rail tracks. Also, HSR between Phoenix and Las Vegas would be far better than building out I-11.


@IAED, I too share your enthusiasm for high-speed rail, even if it has to be designed to American characteristics (i.e., badly).

Read Alon Levy's Pedestrian Observations on the grim situation we are in. It's highly technical but yet still easy to follow along if you don't get bored.

The thrust of the problem is that if you had to ask, "Why are American infrastructure projects so bad?", Levy reframes it as another question: Why are bad projects so American?

In the U.S., it's an ecosystem of bad products, bad processes, bad politics and bad culture mutually reinforcing one another to produce doomed outcomes.

Basically, the only way America could ever have, say, a passenger rail network marginally better than Amtrak is to basically let another nation with good train service "colonize" the U.S. railroad space and do not allow Americans to design, engineer, manage, build, maintain or even work on skilled jobs.

The U.S. stopped innovation in railroading back during the Theodore Roosevelt administration. The predicament is that any and all improvements -- from rolling stock to engineering to staffing and scheduling --- necessarily have to be imported. Yet Americans are the least capable culturally of being open to importing things and ideas, and Washington will ensure that Americans will never be exposed to importing things and ideas.

For one thing, Buy America rules will undermine high-speed rail before tracks are even laid. European, Japanese and Chinese (China's CRRC has become the world's largest manufacturer of rolling stock, both for mainline railroads and urban transit) manufacturers have the capacity and labor to produce finished vehicles and ship them to the U.S. However, the U.S. will require at least 60% of assembly to be within the U.S., so we add the costs of an assembly plant on top of the vehicles. Or, a lot of redundant work gets done at both the overseas plant and the U.S. plant, with two factories doing the job of one. There's also the problem of the U.S. assembly plant having zero export potential, so policymakers will try hard to keep factory workers busy.

As for the operation of the line, we also have what Alon Levy notes is the extraction coalition. Local constituents see any change to the status quo as an affront, and NIMBYs and progressive activists are two sides of the same coin. NIMBYs see trains as a threat to property values and comfort; progressives view development as parasitic and see wealth is only possible by being built on the backs of the disadvantaged (i.e., the gentrification bugaboo). If they can't stop a project outright, they'll impose onerous conditions that undermine the success of high-speed rail. NIMBYs get diversions, restrictions on frequency and span of service, slow zones, etc. Progressives get what Matt Yglesias derides as "everything bagel" policies -- DEI policies in hiring, project labor agreements that lead to overstaffing, impractical environmental designs (LEED standards, no parking at stations that have huge drive-up demand, etc.) and the like.

Tangentally related to what I posted above, economist Noah Smith on his Noahpinion Substack wrote a post on why Japan would be ideal for chipmakers to operate fabrication plants.


There's an infamous case of Taiwanese chipmaker TSMC and its fab in Arizona, touched upon in the newsletter. TSMC chose Arizona to avoid unions, yet even in a right-to-shirk state could not really get around them.

TSMC did also rankle Arizona by importing Taiwanese to do the work in Arizona, with the CEO saying the local workforce was not a good fit.

Same issues would crop up with a high-speed rail buildout. A high-cost, low-quality plant with local workers or a colonized plan with local ill will. That is the American way.

We haven't had to outsource our highly efficient, world class war machine.

Nor, until recently, parts of our space program.

Certainly if we can continue to build weapons that are the envy of the world, we can build nice, fast, choo-choos.

I think the real problem is how we choose to use our massive wealth and our limitless brain power.

Perhaps, if we started to de-emphasize blowing stuff up and killing people just a little bit, we could start focusing more on transportation, housing, education, healthcare, and feeding people.

I know it's a radical idea, but these are radical times.

Read Catlin Johnstones baby killing robot blog

Rogue mentioned third-party candidates without specifying RFKjr, probably the most significant third-party candidate since Perot, and probably ahead of Perot in name ID. He has the potential to significantly impact the race. Question is: which party would he impact more? Who stands to gain or lose?

The US !

@B. Franklin, what you've said is not a new idea and it's been done before.

In the 1970s, the military-industrial complex was marshaled to create urban transit vehicles. One notorious example was Boeing Vertol, its helicopter division, which built the Standard Light Rail Vehicle. Only San Francisco and Boston ended up buying them.

Wikipedia gives a lengthy treatment of these vehicles, but you might want to just skip to the Problems subheading.


Another defense contractor that built transit vehicles was Rohr. It built the first-generation vehicles for BART and the Washington DC Metro.

I don't remember saying that the defense contractors should build other things.

What I said was that we should reallocate some of the tremendous amount of money we spend on defense to more people friendly projects.

And our "limitless brain power" encompasses all of the population, not just Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, and the rest of the MIC.

(Anyway, 50 years is a long time. The guys who screwed up in the 70's, if indeed they did screw up, are probably all long gone.)

If you're saying that there aren't any American engineers, designers, and manufacturers that can build reliable high-speed rail lines...well, I disagree.

I’ll have to respectfully disagree with the preposterous claim above that “Yet Americans are the least capable culturally of being open to importing things and ideas, and Washington will ensure that Americans will never be exposed to importing things and ideas.”

An obvious example: Americans have adapted quite well to imported vehicles for many years, going back to the Sixties and the wide popularity of Volkswagen cars and Honda motorcycles. In fact, American enthusiasm for imported vehicles caused major shakeups for American automakers and Detroit unions despite some government efforts, and continues to be enormous.

As for ideas and culture, Americans have long proven quite capable of embracing foreign ideas like democracy itself, or of sometimes fooling themselves with imported garbage like communism and radical racist Islam, and have embraced cultural phenomena ranging from The Beatles and Godzilla to Dali and animé.

I get that some folks love to make themselves feel like they’re smarter than the average bear, but sweeping generalizations about the inabilities of vast populations in educationally and economically advanced nations with roots around the globe rarely withstand even mild scrutiny.

Merry Christmas everyone! And if for some reason that greeting offends you, a very special Merry Christmas to you!

And a Happy Holidays to you!

And here comes Reality Street to ruin Christmas for everyone.

I don't enjoy doing this, much in the same way General Sherman didn't enjoy reducing Georgia and everyone in it to fit into an ashtray during his march to the sea, I do this because it's necessary.

This is directed specifically at Reality Street, and let his sad husk serve as a scarecrow to others to never allow themselves to be as fragile and inadequate as Reality Street.

Reality Street, you are really triggered by brains. It's your whole damn theme ever since you've show up 'round here. You reek of envy.

No one, ever, should apologize for knowledge. Or curiosity. Or imagination. We in America have it too easy. We have fewer barriers to the pursuit of knowledge. We celebrate curiosity and imagination in the way that many governments and cultures actively suppress and repress them.

Yet, particularly in the fields of knowledge, America is greater than the sum of its parts; in other words, Americans.

America is a place of knowledge, imagination and curiosity -- it creates the context for them to flourish, especially relative to cultures that are inimical to those values.

Yet when it comes to the exercise and expression of brains, the gap between America's aspirations and the reality of Americans to do so is big enough to fit multiple Grand Canyons.

America's history is pocked with blocked opportunities, of deserving people being denied for being born the wrong race, sex, religion and nationality. So let's not deny that. America's history is also pocked with hangers-on, bandwagon-jumpers, failsons/daughters, hustlers and hucksters who confuse or actively deny that luck is ability or virtue.

I'm also going to be discourteous and not couch my comments in phantom pronouns (e.g., "I get that some folks love to make themselves"). I'll flat out say, Reality Street, you find yourself in the company of the hangers-on, bandwagoneers, failchildren and tricksters and are the end product of the coincidence of time, place and parenting.

I'm guessing your defense of a formless definition of Americans was a runner-up in a Rotary Club scholarship competition speech, right, Reality Street?

Americans embracing import cars gives credit to Americans being consumers. That's setting the bar low. You deny credit to the Japanese, Korean and European engineers, executives and floor workers who studied the deficiencies of American-built cars and improved upon them in price and benefits.

The Detroit carmakers saw imports eating their lunch in the market, and were forced to adapt to their techniques. However, many car buyers still are haunted by bad experiences with Ford, GM and Chrysler and perception still lags reality. American cars have dramatically improved in reliability, workmanship and fuel efficiency over the past three decades.

Same goes for American consumers taking credit for culture by virtue of consumption alone. That's erasing the contributions of their creators. For cultural products with an American genesis, acknowledge that most were and are created by American outgroups. Blacks created most musical innovations, most of the beloved Christmas music we've sung over the past month were written by Jews, and immigrants throughout our history have shown Americans there is more to food than beef, Wonder Bread and salt.

Also, conflating democracy with foreignness (Realty Street, December 24, 2023 at 6:18 PM: "embracing foreign ideas like democracy itself") is fascist. You did tip your hand.

You gonna be this guy? https://thenib.com/fault-right/

I know all this. It doesn't make me a genius or give me any claim to advanced intelligence. It does, I am sad to report, make you a dipshit.

Somehow I feel greatly un-scorched, B Nuts, and I’m LMFAO that your fragile ego was triggered enough by a rather mild critique of your typical overblown self-congratulatory blather to have your Christmas ruined and that you found it necessary to author such a lengthy, angry, and vapid screed that ultimately says nothing much but does confirm my observations.

Your imagined audience of tremendously impressed inferiors simply doesn’t include me.

And since you’ve chosen to reduce this discussion to name-calling, I’ll go ahead and state the obvious: you’re a pretentious fucking clown and you’re fooling yourself with insufferable pseudo-intellectual babble.

I do agree that your reports are sad.

Reality Street: Cool rejoinder. Still inadequate.

B Nuts, I suspect that you are intimately familiar with inadequacy and try desperately to cover it up with delusions of superiority, which is why you go bat shit whenever any element of your grandiose pronouncements is ever even questioned, let alone shredded without much effort.

@B. Franklin, I'm not saying that Americans, as a people, are incapable of producing high-speed rail from drawing board to a steel-on-steel product that can transport passengers.

It's not a genetic argument about Americans as a people. It's an ecological argument about the systems in place in America that compel Americans to make bad decisions.

The practical consequence of your question of, "What I said was that we should reallocate some of the tremendous amount of money we spend on defense to more people friendly projects," is the debacle of the Boeing SLRV until the end of time.

That is what we did in the 1970s -- marshal the MIC to make civilian projects. If you peel the layers of the onion to see all the missteps that were made in the Boeing SLRV, it has nothing to do with the mental defect of the politicians, engineers, workers or the transit systems themselves.

It has a lot to do with the processes that lead to bad outcomes, and the absence of domain knowledge of each person involved in the chain of production and consumption.

The engineers don't have the domain knowledge of politics behind budgeting and decision-making. In most cases, engineers don't have the domain knowledge of user experience of transit riders or of the frontline workers who drive or maintain the vehicles in the real world (in the Boeing SLRV example, the vehicle had to be designed with tapered corners to navigate the narrow curves of Boston tracks but made the front doors impossible to open in San Francisco's Market Street subway). Politicians lack engineering expertise and user experience, and their decision-making conceit makes others adapt to their policies, no matter how unworkable.

Operations-workers and riders are filled with user experience, and in an ideal world all products are tailored to their expectations. They however lack the political acumen or have the theoretical foundations underlying actions. Engineers are not only taught the practical tools of their profession, like the relevant maths and sciences, but most also know the history and the abstract concepts behind all of the work that they do.

No consumer should have a fully formed theory of electricity in order to plug in an appliance. But an electrical engineer must know how to make that appliance as well as how to make it safe for the user and the property it will be housed in.

We've strayed so far from the high-speed rail discussion, but to bring that train back to the station: Why would America embark upon a high-speed rail system and create it ex nihilo? Think about it. Right now, we could point to other nations who have HSR. They have engineers and planners who we can pay for expertise. They have heavy manufacturing of rolling stock, implicitly because these nations seek to export their vehicles.

Germany has Siemens. France has Alstom (now owner of Bombardier). Spain has Talgo and CAF. Switzerland has Stadler. Japan has Hitachi, Kawasaki, Toshiba, Nippon Sharyo and Kinki Sharyo. China has CRRC (the controversy is that many of the competitors listed here accuse CRRC of intellectual property theft of their trains). South Korea has Hyundai.

With 10 global manufacturers in a tight, specialized market, how is a U.S. company expected to make a foothold with a U.S. designed and made train set?

The answer is: We cannot. The U.S. has to emulate the process of how imported cars came to be built in the U.S., and that takes generations. First we must import. Second we must train maintenance and sales workers. Third, the foreign firms must establish relationships with American suppliers. A transplanted American factory is the fourth step. A fifth step, which is very rare, is for workers from the fourth step to spin off and establish their own firms and secure sales.

B Nuts: “The U.S. has to emulate the process of how imported cars came to be built in the U.S.”

Now you’re literally repeating my argument after failing at attempting to oppose it.

This, after proclaiming that “Yet Americans are the least capable culturally of being open to importing things and ideas, and Washington will ensure that Americans will never be exposed to importing things and ideas.”

You’re so utterly full of shit that you’re drowning yourself.

It sure is fun to watch!

Reality Street, I am not repeating your argument and I concede nothing.

The process of how imported cars are built in the U.S. is a statement of historical fact. The who, what, where and when are not in dispute.

All carmakers followed a similar process over a course of decades, because it had been a proven business concept.

You didn't advance any novel argument or contribute any knowledge or observation that wasn't already out in the world.

In my comment to B. Franklin, I pointed out about 10 or so non-American builders of high-speed rail rolling stock. Why would America need to design a train set from the ground up when we could look at a train that runs, go to the company that made it and say, build us that?

Other nations also have the planning and engineering know-how to design systems, networks and operations and maintenance processes. They can tell us what they've learned and problems they've encountered while building out their networks.

Americans would have to learn from them, because railroading innovation and improvement has come from Europe and Japan since World War I!

Have American engineers apprentice with their counterparts abroad. Have frontline workers spend a year or two working on equipment as drivers or maintenance crews. Have union stewards note the paradox of how well-compensated the workers are while at the same time how lean the operations are. (It's a marvel at how fast a single German or Japanese cleaner crew can turn around a train and have it go back in service within a terminal.)

Americans don't have to create this knowledge and culture from scratch. It is out there, and we have to absorb it. It would take at least 25-30 years before Americans would have a train assembly plant that would warrant a market case for it, rather than a policy sop because Buy America laws force a plant to be built in the U.S.

This is to say, I have tremendous appreciation and respect for our Amtrak employees. They labor under harsh conditions, have to use decrepit equipment with threadbare resources, and manage to chug along and still end up being on a passenger basis the sixth or seventh busiest airline in the U.S. despite not flying aircraft. This is because Amtrak trains are vital transportation for rural and small-town communities.

Um, okay, at least you didn’t once again bust out some silly long-winded shit about morality and pudding.

You obviously have programmed yourself to extrapolate wildly and never give an inch, but it was never my intent to advance a “novel” theory as you blindly insist. Indeed, the obvious intent was to demonstrate that “The who, what, where and when are not in dispute” with regard to American acceptance of various foreign influences, thus demolishing your preposterous and sweeping assertions otherwise.

At least you have managed to now tone down your overly defensive vitriol, for which I congratulate you. Meds on schedule, are they?

At any rate, we’re actually not far apart at all on the underlying assertion that the US needs improved rail service and innovation. Anyone who’s traveled much by train in, say, Spain can’t help but notice how advanced their rail system is in comparison.

I’m glad you have the sense to indirectly concede that Americans are not all as uniformly stupid and narrow-minded as you sometimes (perhaps unwittingly) make them out to be.

Humans are the gods most evil invention.

Some humans.

Others are a close approximation of the divine.

The vast majority are just, well, human.

Good to see the comment section is still alive here!

Jon Stephenson,

How about commenting instead of riding the bench?

No like splinters.
Wax the the See Saw.

Bobson Dugnutt — Thanks for your discourse on HSR. I think that we in the U.S. should take advantage of foreign expertise to get it going more quickly. American exceptionalism isn't what it used to be (if it ever was).

@iaed, you should read the posts on pedestrianobservations.com . You will learn a lot about high-speed rail throughout the world, and practical problems for the U.S.

Bobson D. — Thanks for the link to pedestrian observations. Alon Levy comes across as very sensible.

Regarding Rogue's 3rd topic item, I'm not so sure Trump is going to gain a lot of traction following his dismal performance in Iowa. Basically, 49% of Iowa Republicans told him to take a hike. That's not an encouraging message.

Maybe there is hope for democracy?

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