GOP critic calls Joe Biden’s $53 billion high-speed rail plan ‘insanity’

GOP critic calls Joe Biden’s $53 billion high-speed rail plan ‘insanity’

By Daniel B. Wood                    Daniel B. WoodTue Feb 8, 8:39 pm ET

Los Angeles – Vice President Joe Biden Tuesday proposed that the US government infuse $53 billion into a national high-speed rail network. The announcement was met immediately by deep skepticism from two House Republicans that could be crucial to the plan’s success, raising questions about whether it can clear Capitol Hill.

House Transportation Committee Chair Rep. John Mica (R) of Florida said previous administration grants to high-speed rail projects were a failure, producing “snail speed trains to nowhere.” He called Amtrak a “Soviet-style train system” and said it “hijacked” nearly all the administration’s rail projects.

Meanwhile, Railroads Subcommittee Chair Rep. Bill Shuster (R) of Pennsylvania said Mr. Biden’s plan was “insanity,” adding: “Rail projects that are not economically sound will not ‘win the future’ ” – coopting the slogan President Obama coined in his State of the Union address.

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With Republicans controlling the House and dedicating themselves to deep budget cuts, any new spending proposed by the White House will face stiff scrutiny. But Congressman Shuster offers some hope of compromise. On Jan. 28 in Hartford, Conn., he proclaimed his support for expanding high-speed rail in the Northeast, backing a network that could stretch from Montreal to Washington, D.C.

“This is the most congested region in the country. High-speed rail here could be profitable,” he said.

Biden’s planAccording to the plan laid out Tuesday by Biden, the first step of the six-year plan would be to invest $8 billion to develop or improve three types of interconnected corridors:

Core express corridors would form the backbone of the national high-speed rail system, with electrified trains traveling on dedicated tracks at speeds of 125 to 250 m.p.h or higher.

Regional corridors would lay the foundation for future high-speed service, with trains traveling between 90 to 125 m.p.h.

Emerging corridors would provide travelers with access to the larger national high-speed network and travel at as much as 90 m.p.h.

To backers, the benefits of the plan are twofold. First, it would give a much-needed boost to America’s spending on infrastructure. And second, it would provide jobs for the economic recovery.

“If you look at the last 100 years, it has been large public-works projects which have pulled our nation out of every recession,” says Barry LePatner, author of “Too Big to Fall: America’s Failing Infrastructure and the Way Forward.”

Mr. LePatner notes that the building of the Erie Canal opened the Northeast in 1819, the transcontinental railroad connected the populated East to the developing West, and the interstate highway system built under Eisenhower “all opened up vast reservoirs of trade and economic investment.â€

He suggests that studies show $1 billion spent on infrastructure remediation produces between 18,000 and 34,000 jobs. “Twenty-five to 35 percent of that then comes back in taxes, and the other multiplies in geometric ratios as spending on food, clothing, shelter, and other goods,â€

Big projects, big delaysBut building high-speed rail is no easy process, says Leslie McCarthy, a high-speed rail expert at Villanova University’s College of Engineering. “Whether or not a bill would or should pass is the easiest part of all this,” she says. “The bigger part of the question is purchasing the land, getting right of ways, zoning issues, environmental impact assessments, laying dedicated tracks in a reasonable amount of time.”

She says the typical US highway project can be held up anywhere from three to five years at the low end to 12 to 20 years at the high end. “Legislators and the public aren’t aware of the number of federal, state, and local laws that agencies have to comply with that can’t be gotten around,” she adds.

In fact, the very thing that makes the Northeast so attractive for high-speed rail – its population density – could also make it the most difficult place to build. “There is so much population in the Northeast corridor that I don’t know if there is even enough room for the dedicated tracks needed for high-speed rail,” says Professor McCarthy. “And if the distances you are going are not sufficient to make efficient use of the high speeds, what’s the point?”

Wise investment or money pit?Critics agree. Only two rail corridors in the world – France’s Paris to Lyon line and Japan’s Tokyo to Osaka line – cover their costs, says Ken Button, director of the Center for Transportation Policy at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.

“Both of these are the perfect distance for high-speed rail, connect cities over flat terrain with huge populations that have great public transportation to get riders to the railway,” he says, dismissing French claims that other lines make money. He says they calculate costs in ways which ignore capital costs.

To supporters of high-speed rail expansion, however, US transportation must move beyond its reliance on oil. High-speed rail is the only form of intercity transportation that has a 45-year record of moving people without oil, says Anthony Perl, professor of political science at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada, and a fellow at the Post Carbon Institute.

“That’s why 30 countries around the world have done this and the US and Canada are just laggards,” he says. “If people want to get where they are going between cities they are going to need high-speed rail because flying and driving will only become more and more costly.”

NETANYAHU WARNS OF “A NEW CALIPHATE”


NETANYAHU WARNS OF “A NEW CALIPHATE”
By Joel C. Rosenberg


(Washington, D.C., February 9, 2011) — Israeli Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered an important address to a policy
conference in Jerusalem on Monday of some 400 European lawmakers and
dignitaries, organized by the European Friends of Israel. During the address,
which I encourage you to read in its entirety, Netanyahu warned of several
serious threats to world peace and Western civilization:

1. The
expressed ambition of Shia and Sunni Radical Muslims to build a Islamic kingdom
or “caliphate” that will encompass the Middle East and North Africa, and then
Europe, and then North America, and then the entire world. Netanyahu did not say
the caliphate would be achieved, but he rightly warned that this is what the
Radicals want to achieve.

2. The rise of an Iranian regime with nuclear
weapons and ballistic missiles that can not only reach Israel but more and more
of Europe.

3. An Egypt that doesn’t develop into a peaceful, moderate,
secular democracy with a prominent role for the military to provide stability
and security but into one of two other scenarios: A) one in which “the Islamists
exploit the[ir] influence to gradually take the country into a reverse
direction, not towards modernity and reform but backward; or B) one in which
“Egypt would go the way of Iran, where calls for progress would be silenced by a
dark and violent repression that subjugates its own people and threatens
everyone else.”

Netanyahu did not say these threats would inevitably
come to pass. To the contrary, he stated clearly, “The good news is that nothing
is inevitable. We have the power to protect our common civilization, to roll
back the forces of radicalism and to advance a secure peace. One of the keys to
defeating this fanaticism is to be able to distinguish friends from enemies.”

Well put, Mr. Prime Minister. Let us pray more people have ears to hear,
eyes to see and hearts to understand.

>> I’ve posted key excerpts
from the speech on the blog, along with a link to the full text. We’ve also
posted links to several interviews I have done in recent days on the Egypt
Crisis, including those with Glenn Beck, CBN, Janet Parshall, and Fox News,
along with links to the latest headlines from Egypt and the epicenter. Just go
http://flashtrafficblog.wordpress.com/. Thanks.

(Photo: PM Netanyahu
addressing the European Friends of Israel conference in Jerusalem.)

Obama’s Foxy Evasions

Obama’s Foxy Evasions

By Jan
LaRue

 

Bill O’Reilly’s interview of President Obama on Fox News just prior to the
Super Bowl confirmed that he remains a self-absorbed leftist.
Now that he’s ardently denied moving to the political center, maybe pundits
and Republicans like Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) will finally get
it
, unless they naïvely believe he’s been there all along.
Obama’s responses qualified for more penalty flags than were thrown during
the game.  His reaction to the crisis in Egypt is similar to his comment about
the Super Bowl.  He refused to “pick sides.”  The transcript is available online.
Obama revealed his alarming apathy about the Muslim Brotherhood seizing
power in the aftermath of the Egyptian crisis.  While Obama easily faulted “the
judge in Florida” who declared “ObamaCare” unconstitutional, he couldn’t manage
to criticize the Brotherhood despite its commitment
to a worldwide caliphate imposing Shariah Law and Jihad on all nations.
Its “spiritual leader,” Imam Yusuf al-Qaradawi, hosts a daily TV show
viewed by 40 million Muslims.  He defends
Hitler, suicide bombings, killing Jews, and Muslims employing nuclear weapons
“to terrorize.”  Despite all the evidence of the Muslim Brotherhood’s
radicalism, Obama created a false dilemma by contrasting the Brotherhood with
the “suppressed Egyptian people” under the current regime of President Hosni
Mubarak.
O’REILLY: The Muslim Brotherhood, a great concern to a lot of people. Are
they a threat to the USA?

OBAMA: I think that the Muslim Brotherhood is
one faction in Egypt. They don’t have majority support in Egypt. They are

O’REILLY: Are they a threat?

OBAMA: But they are well-organized
and there are strains of their ideology that are anti-U.S. There’s no doubt
about it. But here’s the thing that we have to understand. There are a whole
bunch of secular folks in Egypt, there are a whole bunch of educators and civil
society in Egypt that wants to come to the fore as well. And it’s important for
us not to say that our only two options are either the Muslim Brotherhood or a
suppressed Egyptian people.

O’REILLY: But you don’t want the Muslim
Brotherhood ….

OBAMA: What I want is a representative government in
Egypt. And I have confidence that if Egypt moves in an orderly transition
process, that we will have a government in Egypt that we can work with together
as a partner.

When asked what is the “absolute worst part of being president,” Obama’s
self-absorption was evident:
O’REILLY: Okay. Worst part of this job? What’s the worst, absolute worst
part of being president of the United States?

OBAMA: Worst part of the
job is, first of all, I’ve got a jacket on Super Bowl Sunday.

O’REILLY:
That’s true.

OBAMA: If I wasn’t president, that would not be
happening.

O’REILLY: I have a tie. You don’t have a tie.

OBAMA:
The biggest problem for me is being in the bubble. It’s very hard to escape. You
know, you can’t go to the corner ….

O’REILLY: Everybody watching every
move you make.

OBAMA: Every move you make. And you – over time, you know,
what happens is you feel like – that you’re not able to just have a spontaneous
conversation with folks.

O’REILLY: Yes.

OBAMA: And that’s a loss. That’s a big loss.
Most presidents say that sending America’s soldiers into harm’s way is the
worst part of being president, not the loss of their personal comfort zone.
In his book, An American Life, President Reagan recounts
telling a group of children: “As I’ve said, the hardest part of the job was
having to send young men and women into situations of danger and then having to
tell the families of some why they weren’t coming back.”
Every president has experienced the discomfort of “being in the bubble.”
For Obama, it’s all about him.
Obama didn’t deny that he’s a “big government liberal.”  But he flatly
denied that he’s “a man who wants to redistribute wealth,” claiming that he
“lowered taxes over the last two years.”  O’Reilly let that pass and didn’t
remind Obama of the 2001 interview
in which he championed redistribution of wealth and criticized the Supreme Court
for failing to do so.
Recall Obama telling “Joe the Plumber” in 2008 that it’s good “to spread
the wealth around”:
JOE WURZELBACHER, PLUMBER: Your new tax plan is going tax me more, isn’t
it?
OBAMA: It’s not that I want to punish your success; I just want to make
sure that everybody who is behind you that they’ve got a chance to success, too.
I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for
everybody.
Obama said he’s “the same guy” he’s always been.
Both the Muslim Brotherhood and the Big Government guys are counting on
it.
Jan LaRue is senior legal analyst with the American Civil
Rights Union.

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Obama gutted funding for Egypt human rights activists

Obama gutted funding for Egypt human rights activists

Ed Lasky

 

President Obama has all but ignored human rights in
developing his foreign policy. He stood down when Iranians were protesting
against the regime that oppresses them. He has shafted
the Tibetans
when it comes to standing with them against their Chinese
overlords. He has ignored Russian depredations against its neighbors.
Recently, it has come to light that he slashed funding for Egyptian human
rights groups that could have empowered democracy activists.
From the Los
Angeles Times:

Early in Obama’s presidency, officials cut in half funding to promote
democracy in Egypt. They also agreed to restrict certain grants only to
organizations licensed by President Hosni Mubarak’s authoritarian regime,
reversing a Bush administration policy of funding groups at odds with the
government.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, at a March 2009 meeting with
Mubarak at an Egyptian resort on the Red Sea, seemed to downplay a State
Department report documenting torture, rape and political detentions in
Egypt.
“We issue these reports on every country,” Clinton told a television
interviewer. “And so we hope that it will be taken in the spirit in which it is
offered, that we all have room for improvement.”
Egyptian dissidents were distressed by the administration’s message.
“All this sent a signal that was very damaging,” said Stephen McInerney,
executive director of the Project on Middle East Democracy, a Washington
advocacy group.

These are people who could have been our friends and allies and might have
played a role in forming the next Egyptian government. Now the field is much
more open for extremist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood to take control.
This would give rise to a radical regime in a vital part of the world.
Why did “President Spendthrift” find this one budget item to cut? Perhaps his
lobbyist pals played a role.
From Business
Week:

Until a popular revolt put his control of Egypt in jeopardy, President Hosni
Mubarak had kept a tight grip on power and billions of dollars in U.S. aid
flowing with few strings attached, in part by retaining three of Washington’s
most high-powered lobbyists.
Since Egypt hired the lobbyists in 2007, Congress softened a condition on the
foreign aid, added in 2005 over Mubarak’s objections, that barred his government
from choosing which pro-democracy groups should receive $20 million of Egypt’s
$1.8 billion in U.S. aid. That restriction became harder to enforce in 2009 when
Congress barred all foreign governments from determining who could get such
grants. U.S. pro-democracy programs in Egypt ultimately had little effect, a
2009 Agency for International Development audit concluded, because of a “lack of
cooperation” by the Egyptian government.
The three lobbyists are Tony Podesta, who has close ties to the Obama
Administration, former Republican representative Bob Livingston, and former
Democratic representative Toby Moffett. The three formed a joint venture, PLM
Group, to represent Egypt in Washington, according to foreign-agent records at
the Justice Dept. They were paid $1.1 million a year, says a person familiar
with the company.

The kingpin of this trio would be Tony Podesta who has built a powerhouse
lobbyist firm in Washington. His brother is John Podesta who  heads the Center
for American Progress – a think tank and activist group with very close ties to
the White House. John Podesta headed the transition team for President-elect
Obama and his Center for American Progress is not only Obama’s “Idea factory”
but also has placed many of its employees into key positions of power in the
administration (Van Jones was one of them until he was “resigned” in the wake of
controversies regarding his views. He found a comfortable sinecure back at the
Center).
Obama has made a mockery of his no lobbyist pledge through various loopholes
(one of my favorites was having White House officials meet lobbyists at the Caribous
Coffee
close to the White House so their names do not show up on the White
House logs).
The Podesta brothers (John and Tony) are frequent guests in
the Obama White House.
Did a few million dollars of lucre flowing to Obama’s lobbyist friends gut
the pro-democracy movement in Egypt and leave a vacuum for the radical group the
Muslim Brotherhood to fill? Egypt might soon be ruled by a very anti-American
regime in a very key part of the world (The Suez Canal is only one reason we
need friends over there; a radicalized Egypt can spread terror throughout the
world and extremist Muslims have been killing Coptic Christians throughout
Egypt).
Has an ally been lost because of the machinations of lobbyists and their
friend in the Oval Office?
Who sold out Egypt? Who sold out America?

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Ready or not, here comes high speed rail

Ready or not, here comes high speed rail

Rick
Moran

 

Definition of a boondoggle: A government program with no
chance of succeeding but where huge amounts of money are spent
anyway.

Definition of insanity: (See “boondoggle”).

Wall
Street Journal:

Vice President Joe Biden unveiled a $53 billion plan
Tuesday to upgrade and build intercity passenger-rail networks.

Mr. Biden, along with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, announced the
plan at Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station. The six-year program is designed to
give 80% of Americans access to passenger-rail service within 25 years-a goal
President Barack Obama set in his State of the Union Address-and to create jobs.

“In a global economy, we can’t forget that infrastructure is also
the veins and the arteries of commerce,” Mr. Biden said. He frequently travels
between his home state of Delaware and Washington on Amtrak trains.

The administration has already devoted $10.5 billion to passenger-rail
programs, with the bulk of the funds going toward California and Florida
high-speed rail projects that are currently in the planning stage.
Under the new plan, the administration would provide $8 billion for
passenger-rail projects in this year’s budget, set to be released next
week.
The plan faces hurdles, including how future funding will be paid for and
whether it can gain enough support in Congress. Republicans have criticized rail
projects as wasteful spending and have called for canceling rail construction as
part of a broader plan to reduce the deficit.
Let me state this as delicately as possible; Americans hate taking long
trips on trains. They have made their feelings known on this issue by ignoring
AMTRAK like it had the plague. A recent
study
showed that 41 of 44 AMTRAK routes lose money with the worst
performance being the route between LA and New Orleans. Each ticket on that
route receives a subsidy of $467.
It doesn’t matter how fast you make them, how many amenities you add, how
many slick commercials you run, or how many Vice Presidents shill for the
boondoggle; Americans won’t make train travel profitable.
A look at who gets most of that $53 billion will tell you why it is being
proposed; unions and subsidized freight companies who want the government to pay
for the upgrade in infrastructure. It’s the same old Washington racket gussied
up with “future” rhetoric.
Spare us the BS and just kill the thing.
James Courcelles adds:

This high tech White House is the first
to tweet and text.  Wow.

Look around your house or office:  The Xbox Live
game from Microsoft offers the chance to play a live video game, on demand,
against another player across town or around the world.  The  iPad II from Apple
will offer on demand, 2-way, high-def, completely mobile, face-to-face human
communications with a forward facing camera.  The umi telepresence from Cisco
offers similar instant communications into the corporate boardroom, classroom or
home office.

The Democrats just don’t get the message.

The authors
of the “shovel-ready stimulus” that admittedly didn’t work, have left us
standing at the station.  In the last two days, NY and Philadelphia hosted four
Democrats giving press conferences on new “job-creating and ambitious” projects
that lead us into the 21st century.

The Democrats sent the VP and
Transportation Secretary to an Amtrak station in Philadelphia while 2 US
Senators held forth in NY.  Democrats in NJ and NY eagerly pledged up to $10
billion to revive a Hudson River rail tunnel project which republican governor
Christie recently canceled because borrowing the $3-5 billion in costs could not
be justified.

VP Biden echoed the President from his State of the Union
address: “a 6-year, $53 billion high-speed intercity passenger rail plan is an
enormous step toward…essential high-speed rail projects. It clearly
demonstrates the Obama Administration’s commitment to putting this program on
the fast track to success…we do big things in America…we can’t compete in
the next century without this transportation project.”

We have teenagers in Cairo tweeting the world, begging for support from
the free world.  Our children have playdates with kids half way around the world
in places they will never visit.
While our leaders in DC are eager to borrow tens of billions of dollars to
“win the future,” leaving the rest of us waiting for the train.
James Courcelles, an independent writer, who can be reached
at
JamesCourcelles@yahoo.com

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