High-Speed Rail

is dead:

Advocates have excoriated opponents to high speed rail, but have shown themselves largely utterly unserious about the enterprise as they have put no focus on overcoming major institutional barriers such as the steam road era thinking of the Federal Railroad Administration which is stuck in the 90s – the 1890s – or the mismanagement at Amtrak. Getting to an HSR system that works is going to involve major reform (or replacement) of those agencies since all proven, international HSR systems are illegal in the US under current rules. Witness here also the histrionics about a Republican proposal to privatize the Northeast Corridor rail operations rather than engage with it as a starting point. Even in Europe and Japan, many HSR operations are private, so there’s no reason they can’t be in the US too.

To be clear, though I myself have been ambivalent about the high speed rail enterprise, I do not consider myself anti-rail in the slightest. I agree that HSR could bring potentially significant benefits, particularly in the Northeast, although it’s a somewhat more speculative enterprise in most parts of the country. This is one on which reasonable people can disagree. But however one feels, getting to the benefits will require a properly designed and operated true high speed system, something few of the current proposals would provide.

It’s time to take a major gut check on high speed rail in America and rethink the direction. Clearly, with the budgetary and political situation, significant future HSR investments are unlikely. Even if some billions materialize, the experience of the stimulus suggests that they will be frittered away as salami slices sent hither and fro.

A better approach might be to take some time to think more clearly about what we want high speed rail to look like in America. It starts with learning from best – and worst – practices abroad, while noting the important differences versus the US. We need to put a proper regulatory regime in place and reform the FRA; to set up a framework for a successful privatization of any system, probably with operations contracted to an international operator with high speed experience; and to jettison any thought of Amtrak as the ultimate HSR system operator.

But all of that would defeat the true purpose of the system. And unfortunately, many of these programs will zombie on, especially in those states that can least afford them (like California) until the real economic tsunami hits. But I think I can already start to see the waters starting to recede…

Let Them Eat Birthday Cake

I guess the tax cheat at the Treasury forgot to check his boss’s schedule when he came up with his arbitrary debt-limit deadline:

President Obama returns to Chicago on Aug. 3 to mark his 50th birthday with fund-raisers at the Aragon Ballroom, with tickets ranging from $50 a person to $35,800 per couple, which includes VIP seating at a “Birthday Concert” where celebs will be performing and a dinner with the president.

The fundraiser at the Aragon, the historic ballroom in Uptown, will be one of the biggest third quarter events, expected to draw in national supporters. Obama’s 50th birthday is Aug. 4….

That won’t look good if a meltdown over debt has occurred, and the president is really putting the lie to the decades-old notion about a “Social Security Trust Fund” by not sending out checks. But this administration has never been noted for its political astuteness, except in the minds of its sycophants in the press.

I Do Not Think That Word Means

what you think it means:

Hoyer echoed Pelosi in saying Obama had tried to be flexible, but said there was “great difficulty” in trying to find a compromise.

“We had a pretty fulsome discussion on the specifics that the White House was prepared to agree to, or at least that they thought were options that were viable,” Hoyer said in an interview shortly after the meeting at the White House.

Emphasis mine.

From the dictionary:

ful·some
   [fool-suhm, fuhl-]
–adjective
1. offensive to good taste, especially as being excessive; overdone or gross: fulsome praise that embarrassed her deeply; fulsome décor.
2. disgusting; sickening; repulsive: a table heaped with fulsome mounds of greasy foods.
3. excessively or insincerely lavish: fulsome admiration

I can imagine either definitions (1) or (2) applying, but I don’t think that’s what he meant. I’m not sure if this is a Kinsleyan gaffe, because while he was telling the truth, he probably didn’t realize it.

Firefox Problems

So, I recently upgraded to Firefox 4 in Fedora Core 14. It’s not officially supported (it’s supposed to be part of Core 15), but it seemed to install all right from an rpm. The other day, after an unrelated reboot, it started acting strangely. It wouldn’t reload my tabs from the previous session (the “Restore” button did nothing but go gray when I hit it). Also, it’s no longer loading Firefox 4 when I click on the icon for it — it loads 3.6. I actually removed 3.6, and 4, and reinstalled 4, using yum (after renaming my old .mozilla folder). I didn’t reinstall 3.6. Yet when I run Firefox, it runs 3.6. Other symptoms — the Firefox tab in the task manager at the bottom of the screen has no Firefox icon (it’s just generic), the search function doesn’t work.

Does anyone have any idea what’s going on?

[Update a while later]

Per a suggestion in comments, I did find a Firefox 5 package for Fedora 14. It seems to be working all right so far, except I’ve probably lost all the open tabs I had (and there were many dozen). Though perhaps all of the open tabs were part of my problem…

Allowing Murder, To Disarm Us

It’s been pretty obvious that the primary purpose of “Fast and Furious” was to bolster the administration’s agenda for gun control, but Town Hall has the smoking email that proves it:

Once again, liberals and the Obama Administration are focused on guns rather than criminals and federal government incompetence. Operation Fast and Furious is looking more and more like a set up from the beginning to push Obama and Holder’s radical anti-Second Amendment agenda as they used law abiding gun shop owners to enable government officals to break the law, then turned around and blamed the very same gun shops for illegal gun trafficking, despite those shops being forced by ATF to help ATF agents carry out Operation Fast and Furious, and now, those shops are being punished through new Justice Department gun control measures. Obama and Holder both have long records of being outspoken opponents of gunrights and both support the reinstatement of the “assault” rifle ban, better described as a ban on semi-automatic rifles.

They’re not “liberals.” They’re criminals.

[Update a few minutes later]

Patrick Richardson has more.

[Mid-morning update]

Say it ain’t so: witness tampering at the Justice Department? This isn’t just worse than Iran-Contra — I suspect that it’s got the potential for another Watergate.

Except for the fact that the media don’t want it to be, of course.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!