• comment on a post A wish to be railroaded over 2 years ago

    I agree with you but also empathize. I know your route. 

    Back in the 90s, cash-starved Amtrak decided it could no longer afford to maintain the double track right of way between New Haven and Springfield. So they ripped out one side and added a few sidings to allow trains to pass each other, occasionally.

    It took four months to dramatically reduce the capacity of that line by much more than the 50 percent reduction in track. Scheduling a single track is magnitudes more difficult than double. Imagine the loss from the old rail corridors with quaduple track.

    So now, we are beginning the process of double-tracking that same route and it will take four years. It is harder to build than to destroy.

    You mention Asia and Europe, true enough, But it's not just the big, rich countries. Spain of the wide gauge is well advanced with an extensive standard gauge AVE system, a true high speed 203mph system. Hourly from Madrid to Barcelona and many other points. You can take a train from London to Barcelona or Madrid with only a train change in Paris. The Spanish (aside from gauge-changing Talgos) are nearly (about 10 miles) done with high speed track to the French border and have an agreement with the French for completion on that side. Eight hours by rail, London to Paris or much less is possible.

    Argentina and Russia of all people are going high speed rail. 

    Germany has very good trains, but compared to France fewer true high speed corridors due to mountains and, given higher population density,  debates over stops (which slow). The TGVs which enter Germany must slow. The Siemens trains which cross into France reach their full potential on French high speed track. Metro North has trouble dealing with dual voltages, German cross border trains can deal with six voltages from low voltage to 25-30 KV.

    An example of the difference is the Reduction of the Frankfurt-Paris rail time from 6 hours 15, to 3 hours 50. That time will be reduced again when it is high speed track and power all the way.

    Metz in Lorraine, which I have reason to visit, was 2:45 from Paris; it is now 1:25 for right at 200 miles. The odd note there is that all but 55 minutes of that is devoted to accelerating and slowing in this direct non-stop train. And TGV can be run at slower speeds over conventional or improved track until it's upgraded.

    I use Metz, because it's an example of high speed rail's importance to business development. At 5:30 hours, the trip took too much time for a day business trip and make frequent trips difficut. Flying was little better given airport delays, security and travel to airports. It's almost commutable now, in fact, the trip time is considerably less than that of many NYC rail commuters.

    The truth is that what we've done in the last few decades was to dehub our great regional cities from their. With many air hubs, business in secondary regional centers (or remote ones) saw new opportunities. The reality of air travel is on us, fewer hubs, more connections and expensive service subject to security interupts.

    Automobile traffic worked to cheapen family travel and it was perhaps as fast as old rail, but we're in a different era in which Europe is much more integrated (Euro and language aside) and becoming more so through transit and population concentrations.

    Gov. Scott Walker was one of the foolish governors who turned back federal high speed rail money to have his state discover the result would be much more costly and from state coffers. He wasn't alone. But few areas could benefit more from high speed rail connections that the "rust belt" states. It would restore cohesion to one of the most productive regions in the country and tie togther the better interests of many cities. Higher speed commuter/regional rail would benefit everyone. In France, perhaps the most complete system to date, regional rail is planning to reopen stations closed for many decades, serving either shorter trip or feeder travel. 

    New England is another strong case, but at least the area has considerable support for rail. There's no really good reason we can't have 2 hours between Boston and NYC, less between NYC and Washington and as probably little more than three hours for Bos-Wash direct. Major improvements in adjoining freight-only lines would lower the cost of doing business and open the NE market to double stacks almost anywhere.

    High speed rail is not easy, especially in a country that has largely abdicated any technology. The conflicts in California over HSR are probably inevitable, but are primarily a product of politics. We should consider doing what the Russians have done which is to hire a company such as Siemens to design, build and maintain (for a fixed period) a full line system. 

    The cars, locomotives, etc. could all be built here and we could begin recovering the expertise we need in high speed rail technology. We've never managed to successfully adopt a European high speed system because we place so many obstacles. 

    Lastly, the French, with a relatively low population density, have built completely new rights of way for high speed at a relatively low average cost of under 13 million Euros a mile. Some more recent trackage has been considerably higher, but primarily due to very difficult terrain. Without freight, high speed track can be built more cheaply.


  • comment on a post Election Prediction Thread over 5 years ago

    Obama 433
    McCain 105

    Other 1%

    Sen 11 seats gain
    House  32 gain

    Total turnout 147 million
    Obama 83.79 million
    McCain 61.74 million
    others 1.47 million

    The Senate additions would require the full tsumi effect and coatails, otherwise 8

  • comment on a post DSCC Goes On The Air Against Coleman over 5 years ago

    Whichever way this one goes (and Franken is clearly the better) there are a lot of signs of weakness in unexpected places. Give us a few more votes and we could take the electoral votes in Mississippi and a Senate seat.

    I've not seen a lot of reaction to McCain's claim that Pallin can handle the job, because as Cindy Lou says, she's up there with Alaska which is close to Russia.

    The remarks from Republican Dick Lugar regarding Obama's choice of Biden seemed to express genuine respect for both.

    It starts to make sense in this LATimes blog at the end of August. http://tinyurl.com/6398w4

    Lugar recruited Obama for the FornRealations Committee, traveled with him and help start the friendship with Biden. It's hard to imagine Lugar actually campaigning for either of them, but it's  a dilemma for him in that he has clearly warm feelings about the Democratic Ticket. Even if Pallin survives the current storm (which is almost as good as her withdrawal), there's simply no way that she can hold her own with either Biden or Obama.

    And Lugar is testimony to Obama' hard work and interest, including putting his feet down in the most troubled areas of the old Soviet Union and not making a big deal about it. Not a lot of polling in Indiana, but Obama is in a much stronger position that outsiders think.

    To bring this back to Franken, he's someone who's also done the hotspots with the military and not for grandstanding as an expert. He deserves as much help as we can give him. Minnesota deserves better than Coleman.

  • george Seldes was the pioneering journalist

  • comment on a post Associated Press in Full Spin Mode Over Fournier over 5 years ago

    Okay, the talking points suck. But the introduction to would be users is pretty judgmental.

    But in a very old fashioned way, I deeply resent the judgmental approach that the PR firm -- and AP -- took toward critics of Fournier.

    "As many of you know, some political groups and left-leaning blogs have aligned to organize a newspaper letter-writing campaign against AP Washington Bureau Chief Ron Fournier."

    I am an old fashioned centrist who's never been comfortable with the growing acceptance of "left wing"  as it applies to people who are generally socially advanced in their politics and pragmatic in their approach to fiscal and foreign affairs. In the latter a care to human rights and civil rights.

    In my era, left-wing was usually allied with pinko or commie. Which in a day when the most effective enemies of communist expansionism were the liberals. I am old enough that I remember when the Liberal school of economics was the core of free markets, instead of the corporate and crony capitalism as we now see. If there is anything worse than the Welfare Capitalism of Bismarck (which was tried in limited ways in the U.S.)  the Repugnant Party has found it.

    And if there is any group that never lost ground from the Depression on it was the American right wing which has hidden its sordid past. Right wing publishers would say, as pioneering journalist George wrote, "You can't print that."

    The AP has always been captive to its "members" and it's history is usually tarted up for modern consumption. But in the Civil Rights Era of the 60s, more than a few stories were spiked at Publisher demands. In the earlier years of the century, one lynching after another went uncovered and unreported.

    The only defense a good reporter has is that of facts. It does not need a PR agency to handle fairly written news stories. It is, itself, its own PR.

    If the AP just stuck to the facts in the case, they would be better off. Instead, they turn to a PR firm to write their talking points just as if they were that witless bimbo at the White House.

    Their PR firm's tactic is clearly to smear and tarnish anyone who questions the AP's work. In the increasingly concentrated and dying media fighting the AP over getting "good fair copy" is paramount.

  • comment on a post McCain First over 5 years ago

    A prediction.

    Palin will discover that Trig needs far more attention than she anticipated, so therefore she is having to withdraw as a candidate. McCain accepts reluctantly, saying he has supported her one thousand percent.

    She thanks McCain for his support and understanding. Then she goes back to Alaska, the land of no state taxes. But by golly, she cut them anyway, from nothing all the way down to nothing. After she finishes her term, the Alaska Railroad will name her as director of commuter rail services between Wasilla and Girdwood.

    McCain then plays wheel of fortune and selects the first one of the Veep candidates who'll take the thing on.

  • So that would be the reason you feel compelled to post the same item in so many places.

    Obama spoke a record audience, outdrawing the Olympics on their biggest right.

    But you're right to some extent. I thought McCain would select one of the seven dwarfs. Instead we get. Instead he reached down into the ranks of the the most socialist state in this great country. Alaska which takes most of its economy from the great states that make this country an economic powerhouse, hobbled as it is by the reactionary republicans

    Self-reliant Alaska? If it weren't for selling our oil, to foreign countries too often, people in Alaska might have to join the rest of us in paying state taxes. Instead Mis Sarah comes begging for her federal dole that makes up 40 percent of Alaska economy.

    We buid their roads, keep their railroad (given by us) from going bankrupt and there are all these programs that require community matches. Except in Alaska, that's usually a federal grant used to match another grant.

    What does Alaska have to say, other than sending us the most corruption congressional delegation?

    The Alaska State government itself has in an audit said the most programs in Alaska are funded almost entirely on how much money they can get for Uncle Sam. That reaches to the point that  a bridge that should cost $50,000 ends up costs $10 million, one the Alaskan state of graft and payoffs is done with it.

  • Given that the religious right doesn't particularly like here. she needs to be kept on the defensive about what she doesn't know.

    Jerry Ford's moment on whether Poland was in the Soviet sphere was one of the foreign affairs gaffs that helped to sink him against Jimmy Carter. He had made the mistake of trusting Henry Kissinger -- and not staying plugged into the loop enough to explain what his administration had done.

    There's no certainty that a question will be tossed at her that will expose the depth of the air between her ears.

    It's a disgrace that McCain treated seriuos women in such a cavalier way. It sounds way too much like another version of the classic McCain boozing and womanizing; tossing out the woman and the empty bottle at the end of the day.

    We underestimate the level of expertise and gravitas that attaches to someone who wonks himself (herself) out to prepare for a run at the White House. Either Hillary or Obama would have been fine with foreign affairs.

    Condi Rice didn't know what to do with all of her academic credentials and political experience. She's been a dismal failure as both an NSC advisor and Secretary of State.

    Character is in many ways at the bottom of this. It's shows a lack of character to select someone like this -- and a lack of character for her to jump at a job without ever having worked a day to get the job.

    This is like hiring a kindergarten teacher to do brain surgery because she's got a nice smile.  

  • comment on a post Sarah Palin's Resume over 5 years ago

    Look, based on what she's said, she's a total ignoramus. No one can put Obama into the same league. As the governor of Arkansas Clinton had no reasons to have qualifications for foreign affairs -- except that he did. He was deeply involved with the international community, not lease Pamela Harriman, who sponsored a salon on that.

    It's a mistake to underestimate Obama's qualifications on this. His European trip was more than a rock star trip. His speech in German and his brief stop in France acted to reassure two allies and at the same time to resolve a budding disagreement over the Mediterranean Union. He gave Sarkozy some underpinnings for its presidency of the EC, which it heads through January 1, but the priorities are set by France. It's a unique opportunity.

    He also, in his speeches and privately, reinforced existing policy about a stronger Nato, but also asking them to live up to their promises.

    You underestimate the advantage of his history of living in other countries. Where's her interest in international affairs?

    Let's ask her a few simple questions?

    How does she feel about Poland's membership in the Warsaw Alliance?

    What was the Sudenten and what was the majority language

    Turkmenistan is in the (what) basin?

    What language do they speak in Iran?

    What what pipeline is involved in the Georgia controversy. Where does it start and end?

    Could you discuss the Kurdish issues in the middle east?

    Which countries have borders with Turkey and briefly explain the foreign policies issues it has had with those neighbors.

    Who in 1914 governed the present countries of Israel, Jordan, Iraq and Iran.

    Who is the head of state in Britain.

    Angela Merkel is from ?

    Could you describe who Kemal Attaturk was, what he is most noted for? Would you also describe current affairs that are affected by anything he did.

    Where is Bangladesk and what language do they speak?

    What is the capital of Nepal?

    Do you have any idea what is the largest state in India.

    Could you give us the current name of Ceylon and discuss the name and nature of its insurgency?

    Could you talk about the ethnic issues of the Hutu and Tutu?

    What is the colonial history of the congos.

    What is the large island east of Africa.

    What was the 50 Destroyers deal? What did it mean to the US and could you talk about any continuing provision in effect today.

    What was the German Empire's entrepot in China.  Name a connection now known in almost every city in the US.

    Could you talk a little about the head of government in Venezuela -- and the nature of the oil. Compare with Light Crude.

    Name the top 5 exporters of oil to the United States.

    Name the primary exporter to the United States of Natural Gas.

    What country outside of the Americans has the largest known Natural Gas supplies and what, if anything, is being done with it.

    What does the Kenai plant do and where do its exports go.Why.

    If drilling oil lowers prices, why are Alaskan prices so high that you felt you needed to give Alaskans. Doesn't having a  huge oil surplus have an effect of keeping prices down. If it doesn't Work in Alaska, why would it work anywhere else.

    Should the states affected be able to have a major voice in offshore drilling.

    Who's gotten rich from the Alaskan oil fields.

    We've seen this woman's resume. She ain't got executive experience. An excess of that is not necessarily a good thing. Eisenhower was better than the average president (and general) because he had been required to achieve concensus in organizations that worked from the top down. Running the U.S. is not a job for CEO. Government, at its best, is not a top down override on everything, but it requires being involved on many levels.

    If you have not had contact with the foreign policy issues, you will spend the next three years trying to figure out where the countries are. It is not a perky face and cheap populism that will ger this country though. And you can't ask for a country briefing that could take hours when the Russians are invading a country you've never heard about.


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