on: July 05, 2015, 12:07:19 AM
Started by ccp - Last post by Crafty_Dog
July 02, 2015
... with Jim Geraghty
It Takes a True Detective to Understand California’s High-Speed Rail Plans
Enjoy the Independence Day weekend, folks! NR offices are closed Friday, so this is the last Jolt of the week.
The best part of the new season of True Detective on HBO is that one of the major plot points is sleazy, mob-connected businessmen talking about federal funding for California’s high-speed rail project as a giant way to line their pockets.
Vince Vaughn plays a ruthless, ambitious mob-connected businessman who yearns to be a legitimate, respected mogul. In the opening episode, he’s at a giant party-unveiling for the project. One of his partners, a corrupt official in the fictional city of Vinci, California, just outside Los Angeles, hasn’t arrived on the meeting -- on account of his recent murder -- and Vaughn’s character sums up the pending deal for the guests:
Our city manager Ben Caspere was going to be here to explain this, but I suppose I can approximate the information.
So everybody knows Proposition 1 has passed.
And next year construction will start on a $68 billion high-speed rail up Central California.
An undeveloped valley adjacent to the rail and the coastal highway has been purchased by several holding companies anticipating a commercial development that will be in line for hundreds of millions in federal grants.
And the feds have guaranteed cost overages.
Have we seen ever seen a movie or television show bad guy whose plans involve a high-speed rail project before? Can you believe that HBO is portraying Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature legacy project in such a negative light?
Later, in a meeting with a more menacing, Eastern European gangster, Vaughn’s character declares,
[The city of] Vinci tapped fed money from the subway line, and the same thing will happen on a much, much bigger scale with the rail corridor. Owned by our holding companies.
In real life, the first segment of the initial rail line, running from Madera to Bakersfield, will cost $6 billion, consisting of $3.3 billion in federal funding and $2.6 billion in Proposition 1A bond proceeds. The California High-Speed Rail Authority declares, “Development of the [initial operating system] will be funded through government sources, while private-sector capital will fund future construction segments once the system is generating positive cash flow.”
In June 2013, the California High-Speed Rail Authority awarded the first contract -- nearly $1 billion. Construction began in the middle of last month.
Some California Republicans and a few Democrats are attempting to stop the project from going any further, arguing it has changed completely from its initial proposal and there’s no reason to expect anything other than more delays, cost overruns, and legal fights:
State Sen. Andy Vidak, R-Hanford, has introduced bipartisan legislation to allow California voters to reconsider the state's controversial high-speed rail project.
Vidak's measure would allow voters to weigh in on whether they want to continue funding the $68 billion project. It would also forbid any more spending on the project until a vote on June 6, 2016. The bill would redirect the unspent money toward road repair and construction.
Assemblyman Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield, is co-sponsoring the bill.
The California High-Speed Rail Authority's pursuit of eminent domain land takings on the proposed alignment through Kings County has generated strong opposition and lawsuits from local residents and county government.
The authority is trying to drum up interest from the private sector for the project, but has so far failed to get private investment to help make up a financing shortfall of tens of billions of dollars.
And Republicans in Congress are making an attempt as well:
Republican Rep. Jeff Denham, of Turlock, has tried twice before to defund high-speed rail with an amendment, but he's not giving up.
On Tuesday night Denham spoke on the floor of the House of Representatives and declared, “I'm here one more year offering an amendment to end this incredible waste of taxpayer dollars.”
Denham's amendment forces the California High Speed Rail Authority to prove it can independently match nearly $3 billion in federal funds -- or potentially lose that money.
On Wednesday Denham said he doesn't believe that California can afford it.
“We are $87 billion short,' Denham said. “The governor's not proposing $87 billion. The president's not proposing $87 billion. So, we're really leaving the state of California at risk.”
Records show the project has spent nearly $900 million so far.
The city in the show, Vinci, appears to be inspired by real-life Vernon, California:
Only 92 people live in Vernon. There are no parks, schools, libraries, health clinics or grocery stores. The only four restaurants close by 4 p.m. By sundown the 44,000 workers who commute here have all fled the stench.
Vernon’s leaders like it that way. California’s tiniest city, if you want to call it a city, is one of the nation’s most lasting and efficient political machines, run almost entirely for the benefit of a handful of rarely opposed, extremely well-paid politicians. Vernon should have been subsumed long ago into the surrounding city of L.A, but its independence is a strange and stark example of how a democracy can become a dynasty.
The bespectacled Leonis C. Malburg, 77, whose grandfather founded Vernon in 1905, has been mayor for 33 years. Bruce Malkenhorst, 71, was for 32 years the city administrator as well as clerk, finance director, treasurer, redevelopment agency secretary and chief executive of the utility Vernon Light & Power. The city was reportedly paying him $600,000 a year, more than twice what L.A.’s mayor earns, until he resigned all posts unexpectedly and without public announcement in 2005. By most accounts Malkenhorst still pulls the strings. His appointed successor is his 42-year-old son, Bruce Jr.
Theirs is a benign dictatorship. Who would run against them? Outsiders hoping to move into town are denied housing permits and Vernon’s 32 houses and apartments are owned by the city and leased to its employees for as little as $150 per month.
What’s more, there were no contested elections in Vernon from 1984 to 2006.
On the show, the sleazy mayor of Vinci has a picture of himself with President George W. Bush in the background. In real life Vernon, 69 percent of the city’s voters are registered Democrat, 28 percent Republican. And you probably saw this coming:
A slick two-minute advertisement promoting Vernon as a bastion of blue-collar employment will be shown in theaters in working-class neighborhoods with the opening of a new movie, “Battle: Los Angeles.” The commercial follows a $65,000-a-week television advertising campaign that began last week. The ads were produced by Chris Lehane, a notoriously tough operative who worked as a senior adviser to Al Gore, and who is at the center of this campaign.
The Important Policy Point Lost in the Trump Controversy
The boss writes a column in Politico with some important points about immigration:
Trump’s comments made it sound as though Mexico is sending us moral defectives. That’s not the larger problem (although gangs certainly exploit the border and there are criminals in any population). Immigrants are willing to work. Immigrant men aged 18-65 are in the labor force at a higher rate than native men.
It’s just that a lack of education is an anchor around even the hardest-working person in modern America. This is illustrated in an exhaustive report based on government data, by Steven Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies, which favors a lower level of immigration. I rely on it for the figures that follow.
Immigrants here from Mexico -- which has sent more immigrants than any other country for decades -- have the lowest levels of education. Nearly 60 percent of them haven’t graduated from high school. Only about 10 percent have some college and nearly 6 percent have a bachelor’s degree or higher.
By way of comparison, the situation of immigrants from Korea, for instance, is almost exactly reversed. More than 50 percent of them have a bachelor’s degree or higher, and less than 4 percent failed to earn a high school diploma.
This puts Mexican immigrants at an inherent disadvantage, and it shows. Nearly 35 percent of immigrants from Mexico and their U.S.-born children are in poverty; nearly 68 percent are in or near poverty. This is the highest level for immigrants from any country (the Philippines is the lowest, with 5.5 percent in poverty).
But it’s so much easier to debate whether Trump is a racist or not, or whether we like Trump or not.
Meet the Guy Running Greece Into the Ground
Man, Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is a bad guy:
Depositors were persuaded to keep their money in the banks by daily assurance for five months that a deal was imminent. In fact, for most of that time, no negotiations of any substance took place at all. Mr. Tsipras strung out the process with endless discussions over what the creditors should be called, where the talks should be held and who should talk to whom.
At the last minute, he submitted proposals that never stood any chance of being accepted, but which have allowed him to claim it was the creditors who were being unreasonable. Now with the bailout expired, the banks closed and the country in default, he has called a referendum asking voters to reject a deal that is no longer on the table.
Or . . . it’s possible he’s crazy:
Mr. Tsipras continues to insist that a “No” vote won’t lead to Grexit but will strengthen his hand with the creditors.
(“Grexit” is the cutesy term for Greece leaving the Euro.)
No policy maker anywhere else in the eurozone thinks this is true. The relationship between Mr. Tsipras and other eurozone leaders has broken down so irretrievably that it is hard to see how they can possibly agree on new loans for Greece while he remains in power. Instead, a “No” vote would force the European Central Bank swiftly to conclude that the Greek banking system, which relies heavily on government guarantees, was insolvent, perhaps as soon as Monday. The banks would be forced to close and couldn’t be reopened until they had been recapitalized, either via a bailing in of depositors, or using a newly-printed currency.
As bad as Tsipiras is, he reflects the thinking of a considerable number of Greeks. Don’t feel that bad for the Greek people; they made this bed.
Under the old rules, an unmarried daughter used to receive her dead father's pension…
In 2013, Greece's retirement age was raised by two years to 67. According to government data, however, the average Greek man retires at 63 and the average woman at 59.
And some police and military workers have retired as early as age 40 or 45, Tsoukas said.
There are also unique benefits for some workers. Female employees of state-owned banks with children under 18 could retire as early 43, he said.
The Greek state doesn’t have the money to finance the early retirements of that many people and pay unemployment benefits to 25 percent of the population.
ADDENDA: I had missed this earlier; a member of the richest one percent -- Beyonce -- pouring a $20,000 bottle of champagne into her hot tub.
It’s her money; she can do what she likes with it. But the next time some snotty liberal denounces American culture for empty materialism and “conspicuous consumption,” I hope they remember some of the president’s friends. You can hear it now, right? “Well, I meant that rich people ostentatiously showcasing their wealth is a problem when people that I don’t like do it.”
I’m scheduled to appear on MediaBuzz with Howard Kurtz this Sunday.
I’m told there’s been a nice little pop in sales for The Weed Agency since summer began. To everyone who’s been buying, thank you very much.
on: July 04, 2015, 08:15:17 AM
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by objectivist1
MUHAMMAD CARTOON IN THE NEW YORK TIMES? OF COURSE NOT.
by PAMELA GELLER 1 Jul 2015 - breitbart.com
Last Monday, the New York Times ran a lavish full-color image of a portrait of Pope Benedict XVI made out of condoms. If they thought twice about offending Roman Catholics’ religious sensibilities, they gave no public hint of doing so. And so my human rights organization, the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), decided to test their commitment to free speech by submitting an ad featuring a cartoon of Muhammad – the winning cartoon from our free speech event in Garland, Texas, which the Times had refused to run in their coverage of the jihad terror attack on our event.
Predictably, it rejected our ad as well. AFDI submitted the ad, featuring Bosch Fawstin’s cartoon of Muhammad exclaiming, “You can’t draw me!” and the cartoonist answering, “That’s why I draw you,” with the caption “Support Free Speech,” to run on Sunday, July 5, at the staggering cost of over $40,000.
Our ad is not obscene or offensive in any objective sense. It is a statement about how free people are not going to submit to violent intimidation and allow bloodthirsty thugs to curtail our freedoms.
But for the Sharia-compliant New York Times, even that was too far over the line. The Times’ John Shaw wrote me: “I have checked with our advertising acceptability department and this ad does not comply with our acceptability standards because it is offensive on religious grounds. We thank you again, but we will not be able to accept the ad.”
Offensive on what religious grounds? Sharia. For years now, the New York Times has adhered to and enforced the strict code of Islamic law. Bowed and cowed, the Times will not violate the vicious and archaic blasphemy laws under the sharia: it will not criticize, mock or otherwise mock Islam, no matter how high the death toll or how gruesome the jihad.
Back in 2012, the New York Times ran a full-page ad calling for Christians to leave the Catholic Church. When AFDI submitted a mirror image of that same ad, making the exactly the same declaration concerning Islam, the ad was rejected out of hand. We used the same language as the anti-Catholic ad. The only difference was that ours was true and what we described about the mistreatment of women and non-Muslims under Islamic law was true. The anti-Catholic ad, by contrast, was written by fallacious feminazis. Nonetheless, in a craven capitulation to Sharia blasphemy laws, the Times rejected my ad.
Bob Christie, Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications for the New York Times, called me to advise me that they would be accepting my ad, but considering the situation on the ground in Afghanistan, now would not be a good time, as they did not want to enflame an already hot situation. Christie said that the Times would be reconsidering it for publication in “a few months.”
During our conversation, I asked Christie, “If you feared the Catholics were going to attack the New York Times building, would you have run that ad?”
Christie responded, “I’m not here to discuss the anti-Catholic ad.”
I said, “But I am, it’s the exact same ad.”
He said, “No, it’s not.” I said, “I can’t believe you’re bowing to this Islamic barbarity and thuggery. I can’t believe this is the narrative. You’re not accepting my ad. You’re rejecting my ad. You can’t even say it.”
Christie then sent me a follow-up letter, claiming that the Times was going to “delay publication in light of recent events in Afghanistan, including the Quran burning and the alleged killings of Afghani [sic] civilians by a member of the U.S. military. It is our belief that fallout from running this ad now could put U.S. troops and/or civilians in the region in danger.”
The publication “delay” is, of course, still going on.
Not to be outdone, the Washington Post rejected the ad as well. Video here and here.
It was most disingenuous for the New York Times to refuse to run our counter-jihad ad based on their concern for U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Liars. The New York Times has done more to jeopardize the safety of our troops than any mainstream media outlet, with the possible exception of Newsweek. Was the Times concerned that they were putting our troops’ live in danger when they ran front page articles on Abu Ghraib every day for a month? Starting on May 1, 2004, the New York Times had a front page article on Abu Ghraib every day for 32 days.
Who leaked the NSA wiretaps under FISA, jeopardizing not just troops but American citizens, or the highly classified Pentagon order authorizing special ops to hunt for al-Qaida in the mountains of Pakistan?
The New York Times exposed SWIFT (which put military and civilians at great risk of jihad). SWIFT was a legal secret program that gave the government access to a massive database of international financial transactions, using “broad subpoenas to collect the financial records from an international system.” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said in 2006, “The president is concerned that, once again, the New York Times has chosen to expose a classified program that is protecting the American people.”
Despite the obvious hypocrisy of the Times, the mainstream media fell into line. It took a couple of days to get their arms around how to frame the Times’ self-enforcing of Shariah, but the Huffington Post and the left lemmings soon began to follow the Times’ line, claiming that running my ad would endanger lives.
Really? What nerve. What is lower than using our brave men and women to cover for the Times’ cowardice and anti-freedom editorial policies? That is so … left.
And now, with their running the Pope condom “art” but refusing to run my free speech statement, their cowardice and hypocrisy are fully exposed.