Wednesday, March 2, 2011

George Will: Insane In The Train [Updated Once]

[Update: Better blogs than this one have chimed in.]
Conservative columnist George Will has stumbled upon the newest nefarious liberal plot to run your life and strip you of your freedom: trains. No, really. Check it out.
High Speed to Insolvency
This embodies a new pet peeve of mine. At the Federal level, insolvency is a non-issue. So, he's managed to be wrong, or at best misleading, before the essay has even begun.
Why liberals love trains.
Liberals love trains because we all have a secret gay crush on Thomas the Tank Engine. Betcha even George didn't realize this is part of the homosexual agenda.

Generations hence,

Two words in, and I already want to punch him in the throat. "Hence?"

when the river of time has worn this presidency’s importance to a small, smooth pebble in the stream of history, 
And when Will's career as a "writer" is as important as a kidney stone passed in a stream of piss...
people will still marvel that its defining trait was a mania for high-speed rail projects. 
Not the health care law, not the end of DADT, not the fact that a black man was elected President, no, clearly Obama will be remembered as "the choo-choo guy." I will put on my George Will Prognostication Helmet and say that people will also marvel that Will got paid to write this garbage.
This disorder illuminates the progressive mind.
Hey, fucker, Liberal Brain Illumination Disorder is no laughing matter. I have to wear a baseball cap in public, lest my Disorder blind some unsuspecting bystander.
Remarkably widespread derision 
Oh George, "remarkably widespread" does not mean "existing beyond my fevered imagination." Note the lack of citation to even one other "derider" of this plan. And no, anyone who is part of the Professional Right doesn't count.
has greeted the Obama administration’s damn-the-arithmetic-full-speed-ahead proposal to spend $53 billion more (after the $8 billion in stimulus money and $2.4 billion in enticements to 23 states) in the next six years pursuant to the president’s loopy goal of giving “80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail.” 
I am not sure what "arithmetic" Will is referring to. Math is hard. But really, as Federal spending in unconstrained by revenue or borrowing, there is no arithmetic involved. Except maybe in calculating the benefits in terms of jobs and increased productivity from infrastructure development. And what, pray tell, is "loopy" about high-speed rail? Oh, I guess it is because the Europeans (and Chinese, and Japanese, and...) are doing it, it must be bad. Kinda like the "loopy" idea of ensuring basic access to health care. Now, if Obama were truly loopy, he'd have made the announcement about the Great Train Robbery in an engineer's cap from the back of the Carney's train on Sunset Boulevard. And that still wouldn't be as lame as Dubya's flight-suit stunt announcing the end of major combat operations in Iraq.
“Access” and “high-speed” to be defined later.
Access probably means "the ability to use" and "high-speed" probably means something like "fast." Look, high-speed rail already exists in many countries. It isn't as if Obama is proposing something totally new here. Will just needs to be as dickish as possible, because that's what he does. 
Criticism of this optional and irrational spending—meaning: borrowing —during a deficit crisis has been withering. 
It s irrational because Will says it is. And of course it is optional. We have the option of doing smart things like building up our country and planning for the future. But Will is a Conservative, and the future is a scary, dark place to him. I mean, it isn't like we ever had rail expansion in the past which led to massive economic growth.
Only an administration blinkered by ideology would persist.
Or, an administration with a vision for the future, one unconstrained by the feeble whining of an elitist douche bag like George Will. And only a reader blinkered by masochism would still be reading this fact-free, ideologically-motivated claptrap.
Florida’s new Republican governor, Rick Scott, has joined Ohio’s (John Kasich) and Wisconsin’s (Scott Walker) in rejecting federal incentives—more than $2 billion in Florida’s case—to begin a high-speed rail project. 
Because what do revenue and job hungry states need with Federal dollars? And we all know that everything Scott Walker does is genius and in the best interest of the Koch family state of Wisconsin.
Florida’s 84-mile line, which would have run parallel to Interstate 4, would have connected Tampa and Orlando. One preposterous projection was that it would attract 3 million passengers a year—almost as many as ride Amtrak’s Acela in the densely populated Boston–New York–Washington corridor.
And people in Florida would have had jobs building and maintaining and running it. Note that Will picks one projection (which, as there is no citation, may have originated in his colon) with which to somehow prove his point. Which is that sometimes, estimates are wrong. Except Will's. He's always right. Also note that Amtrak sucks, and hopefully, the high-speed rail won't. Lastly, why would anyone ride to Orlando? It isn't like there are any major tourist attractions there or anything.
The three governors want to spare their states from paying the much larger sums likely to be required for construction-cost overruns and operating subsidies when ridership projections prove to be delusional. 
Again, no citation to actual estimates. They also want to spare their states from things like organized labor, public schools, and puppies. I might be making the puppies thing up. Looks like Will's style of "say whatever I want because my readership won't ever, ever check any of this" is rubbing off on me.
Kasich and Walker, who were elected promising to stop the nonsense, asked Washington for permission to use the high-speed-rail money for more pressing transportation needs than a train running along Interstate 71 between Cleveland and Cincinnati, or a train parallel to Interstate 94 between Milwaukee and Madison.
Oh, you liberals and your wild fantasies about modernizing our infrastructure and reducing our use of automobiles. Such nonsense!
Washington, disdaining the decisions of Ohio and Wisconsin voters, replied that it will find states that will waste the money.
Disdaining the voters in local elections is one of the central purposes of the Federal system. And if the voters elected Walker and Kaisch to not take funds, how is not giving them the funds disdain? My head hurts.
California will. 
You bet your lily-white permanently-clenched ass we will! Thanks, idiot voters of Ohio and Wisconsin!
Although prostrate from its own profligacy, it will sink tens of billions of its own taxpayers’ money in the 616-mile San Francisco–to–San Diego line. 
Um, we voted for that, you jackass. And California's budget problems arise from the real estate crash (which right-wing ideology was instrumental in creating), as well as Prop 13 and the ability of the radical right-wing contingent in Sacramento to stop any tax increases. Personally, I can't WAIT to use the train. 
Supposedly 39 million people will eagerly pay much more than an airfare in order to travel slower. 
I couldn't find any estimate of the cost of a ticket, and of course Will doesn't have a source. And not dealing with the airports is plenty worth it, to me. Considering California has 30 million people now, and that the ridership estimates probably count each trip, 39 million trips doesn't sounds that unrealistic to me. But what do I know about it? No more, or less, than Will.
Between 2008 and 2009, the projected cost increased from $33 billion to $42.6 billion.
So? And why? I suppose he's trying to suggest that the cost will keep growing. Maybe. But since Will hasn't bothered to discuss any of the benefits, I can't say how much is too much. And neither can Will. But he does. Because fact-free ideologically-motivated garbage is his stock-in-trade. And notice how Conservatives always harp on the costs of things they don't like. I wonder if Will was concerned about the costs of any of Dubya's boondoggles? 
Randal O’Toole of the Cato Institute notes that high-speed rail connects big-city downtowns, where only 7 percent of Americans work and 1 percent live. “The average intercity auto trip today uses less energy per passenger mile than the average Amtrak train.” And high speed will not displace enough cars to measurably reduce congestion. 
The Cato Institute is a propaganda organization. They exist to provide liars like Will "factoids" they can use to support their bullshit editorials. Cato is a vital part of the circle of crap. Think of them as the cow's rectum of the poop cycle.
The Washington Post says China’s fast trains are priced beyond ordinary workers’ budgets, and that France, like Japan, has only one profitable line.
Chinese workers' budgets are a terrible, awful, abysmally bad basis for comparison. They get paid FAR less than American workers. But with Will's right-wing allies in charge, the days of the American worker being paid bupkis are at hand.And what difference does it make if it is profitable? BART isn't profitable, but I'm darn glad is exists.
So why is America’s “win the future” administration so fixated on railroads, a technology that was the future two centuries ago?
If I have to spell out why a conservative mocking someone for pining for the days of old is fucking hilarious, you are beyond help. And it isn't like Obama is proposing we go with steam trains through the Western Territories, requiring that we clear out the bison and the injuns. Can Will really have so little imagination? He really can't see that high-speed rail might just be a thing of the future. Oh, wait, the dark, scary future again. Never mind. But wait, Will's actual answer is a beautiful mix of stupid, paranoid, and crazy. Be prepared.
Because progressivism’s aim is the modification of (other people’s) behavior.
Building trains is a nefarious liberal plot to control your MIND! Seriously. This is some bull shit right here. First of all, the hypocrisy is staggering. Conservatism wants to control your behavior in many ways. And there isn't one "progressive" aim. That's the main thing that is so frustrating about being a liberal. We all think (mostly), and actually have opinions that aren't spoon fed to us. It is the very individualism and rationality that makes liberalism what it is that makes it impossible to effectively march in lock-step and come to any kind of effective consensus. But Will thinks the Left is about some unified plot to force you to eat kale and hug dolphins.
Forever seeking Archimedean levers for prying the world in directions they prefer,
Yes, this is called trying to influence people. Everyone does it. I guess because the Left doesn't do it with bombs and bullets, it's wrong. Again, this is some kind of projection he's got going on. I think if we took off his glasses, his eyes would beam "Atlas Shrugged" on to the wall. Speaking of which, I note the delicious irony of a right-winger bashing trains. If you don't know what I'm getting at, see here. I also note that calling the lever "Archimedian" is stupid. Archimedes didn't invent the lever, he explained the principle behind it. It's like saying "Newtoninan gravity." It's just superfluous verbiage intend more to impress than enlighten or inform.
progressives say they embrace high-speed rail for many reasons—to improve the climate, increase competitiveness, enhance national security, reduce congestion, and rationalize land use.
No, progressives actually embrace high-speed rail for these reasons. See, unlike folks such as Will, we can actually be honesty about what we want (instead of "saying" we want things for certain reasons, which implies the stated reasons are insincere), because we're not trying to dupe rubes into voting against their own interests on every fucking topic in the universe.
The length of the list of reasons, and the flimsiness of each, points to this conclusion: the real reason for progressives’ passion for trains is their goal of diminishing Americans’ individualism in order to make them more amenable to collectivism.
Right, because if you have a number of reasons to support something, that makes you more likely to be lying about why you support it. WTF? Once again, Will makes a conclusory statement about "flimsy" reasons, without addressing the merits of any of them. He's such an incredibly dishonest hack. And this dickhead is considered a conservative intellectual. Jeebus help us. By the way, the real reason we have a passion for trains, other than the aforementioned gay crush on Thomas the Tank Engine, is so we can use the trains to transport rounded-up conservatives to FEMA concentration camps. Because Liberals are just like Nazis.
To progressives, the best thing about railroads is that people riding them are not in automobiles,
Exactly. Because if we made trains to carry people who are in cars, that would be loopy!
which are subversive of the deference on which progressivism depends.
Cars are a right-wing plot to destroy the Left? Will's fevered imagination about the nefarious collectivism embodied in trains is a sight to behold. Is he off his meds again?
Automobiles go hither and yon, wherever and whenever the driver desires, without timetables.
Except in traffic. I have a new bumper sticker idea: "Piss off a liberal: drive a car."
Automobiles encourage people to think they—unsupervised, untutored, and unscripted—are masters of their fates.
WTF is he talking about with the "unsupervised, untutored, and unscripted" line? I assure you, law enforcement is supervising me when I drive, at least part of the time. We all have to have a license to drive, and the government certainly controls that. I was tutored to drive (by a guy who thought black people should go back to Africa, by the way). And how much "unscripted" driving do people do? Practically ALL my driving is "scripted" to get me to wherever the fuck I am going. Plus, no one is saying you won't be able to drive. It is about having the option not to. As far as being masters of their fate, automobiles also encourage people to think they can zip around in 2,000 pounds of steel and not get hurt. If anything embodies all that is wrong with the human race, it is the way some people drive. By the way, all these arguments can be used against plane travel as well. Except that for some unknowable reason, Will thinks planes are not part of the liberal conspiracy to run your life, even though they share most of the problems associated with trains.
The automobile encourages people in delusions of adequacy,
Speaking of adequacy, I note that some automobiles encourage some men to think that their dicks are not small. I wonder what kind of truck or sports car George drives?
which make them resistant to government by experts who know what choices people should make.
So Will thinks cars are like a vaccine against infection by technocrats? I love my freedommobile. I think I'm going to go drive past a government building and give it the finger.
Time was, the progressive cry was “Workers of the world unite!” or “Power to the people!” Now it is less resonant: “All aboard!”
Trains, the official mode of transportation of the Communist Party.

Paul Krugman, from whose blog I found the Will article, chimes in.

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