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[Cross-posted at The Left Coaster.]

Glenzilla recently professed to being mystified at a cheap low trick often flicked at provocative writers, the charge of being "angry." If one obviated bedrock democracy principles like habeas corpus for nothing but ridiculous fear of course we should all be angry, but the primary thrust of the charge is to make the proponent of truth doubt their own motives and mental health.

You wake up every day, liberal (homosexual, feminist, whatever), look around you at the grand vistas of the greatest country the world has ever seen and yet only get hopping mad about it all the time?  What kind of glass-half-empty weirdo are you?  If you’re so negative about America when all it ever deserves is blind love and killing war, liberal, you really couldn’t be one of us real Americans, now could you?  

It’s easily possible to be virulently disgusted at dysfunctional regressive American politics yet still be a happy person in life, serene in patriotism and good deeds performed every day.  It won’t stop greedy authoritarian corporate racist thugs from trying to keep liberals quiet with any kind of weenie trick they can find, but that’s just the America we live in.

The President comically ran circles around our ridiculously chumpish opposition Republicans (only five months ago they were given up for dead, remember?), Ezra Klein has pronounced the end of the Democratic world as we know if healthcare isn’t passed, the Sunnis are making trouble in Iraq again, but for just one more day I want to stay focused on an aspect of the President’s State of the Union speech of last week, one more element deserves serious attention.

Yet another missing American societal element, anyway:  what as a people are we looking forward to? The end of wars (don’t I wish), the lowering of deficits? Notable goals, but even political geeks like me aren’t really moved by it. I mean what are we reaching for on a physical plane that previous generations on the country’s watch could only dream about?  Are we going to Mars, replacing all our elementary schools, or as part of converting to clean electricity building macro and micro rail networks?

I watched the speech and have listened to all the swirl of commentary ever since, there’s just nothing that beams out hope for the future, not in a clean exciting progressive way, all of our goals seem to be at stopping or fixing something.  All peoples need something fun and good to look forward to, being able to see a doctor when you’re sick doesn’t exactly cut it.

One of the greatest mysteries I still hold for the United States is the absence of commuter rail trains, it’s just incredible but driving around California one often sees Amtrak buses with glum passengers, one has to take a bus to get connected to trains, what a fucking infrastructural embarrassment, you know? 98% of rail industry  profits come from freight, how is it possible there is no viable commuter rail industry in America?  Where did that market go, some far far faraway galaxy of economics I don’t know about?

Many communities, the mighty San Jose included, are trying to implement "light rail" systems, they seem awfully heavy to me and sadly removed from the real light rail option still employed all over the world with vast success, narrow gauge trolleys.  Hell, the gauge doesn’t even have to be narrow, how come we can’t have a trolley system to supplement the light rail?

I know, we’ve dipped our toe in the water with fledgling high speed rail investments in Florida and California, and many big cities have excellent subway rail systems.  That isn’t anything close to the magical high speed system that could take one from New York to LA in eight hours in 100% clean and energy renewable trains without an atom of carbon dioxide, something we Americans could easily accomplish.

So easy, yet so impossible with spending freezes that so offensively exclude the Department of Defense, just too hard with a useless killing war to wage, fat too difficult with too much political capital spent on locking up innocent folks with no charges.  We get it.

Dream and hope and yearn we still will, of course.  I’m angry at what’s happened to the United States, of course, but most of my time is spent hoping and daydreaming, a world of everyone getting healthcare, no wars, real blue skies everywhere from zero pollution, awesome trains and charming trolleys in every city.  I’ll get angry every day for just the smallest chance of that for all of our people, god damn right.

Originally posted to paradox on Tue Feb 02, 2010 at 06:18 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  We Have Pretend-Trains People Pay to Ride (5+ / 0-)

    Here in Ohio there are several I think. We did our anniversary on the Cuyahoga Valley scenic, which runs along the once flaming river between the abandoned Rubber Capital of the World and near to the abandoned Leading Iron Ore Port of the world.

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
    The inset shows a steel wheel bearing inscribed with information that it had been made nearby in the US. Scientists do not yet know how to interpret such inscriptions.

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

    Here in the rust belt there are still quite a few tracks carrying a lot of freight. I'd think we might be able to get some new passenger rail started up in selected areas very cheaply, to feed into the forthcoming high speed trains.

    I'd much rather take a train than a plane any more.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Tue Feb 02, 2010 at 06:34:42 AM PST

  •  San Jose DOES have commuter rail (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dar Nirron

    Coming from two different ways---the Capitols run from Sacramento to San jose. The Caltrain runs from San Francisco to San Jose with plans to extend to Salinas
    And feeder buses are needed in whatever rail system exists--the tracks can't run evrywhere.

    "...That isn’t anything close to the magical high speed system that could take one from New York to LA in eight hours in 100% clean and energy renewable trains without an atom of carbon dioxide, something we Americans could easily accomplish...."

    I don't see that as easy (or cheap) to accomplish if its at all possible. That would be a major engineering feat that would take decades and trillions----thats TRILLIONS-- of dolllars

    Happy just to be alive

    by exlrrp on Tue Feb 02, 2010 at 06:40:03 AM PST

    •  Well (0+ / 0-)

      The $54 million spent on the wine train might have paid for some rail to be sent my way in West San Jose.

    •  Yes, please explain: (0+ / 0-)

      That isn’t anything close to the magical high speed system that could take one from New York to LA in eight hours in 100% clean and energy renewable trains without an atom of carbon dioxide, something we Americans could easily accomplish.

      How is this possible?  

      To say that my fate is not tied to your fate is like saying, "Your end of the boat is sinking."--Hugh Downs

      by Dar Nirron on Tue Feb 02, 2010 at 06:47:09 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The answer is easy; it isn't possible (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Dar Nirron

        with current technology. Even including only a small number of brief stops; LA to New York in 8 hours would require travel at over 350 MPH. While the French TGVs are capable of that speed they don't routinely operate anywhere near that fast.

        As for zero carbon dioxide, the use of  electric, as opposed to fossil-fuel gobbling diesel-electric,  locomotives is where we are headed.  However, only a small portion of the electrical grid is powered by solar, wind, hydro, geothermal or nuclear technology. Carbon dioxide emitting coal, natural gas, and oil burning plants will be around for a long time to come.

        However, I hate to be totally negative and who knows?? IF this country is around long enough NY to LA by train in 8 hours without carbon emissions might be feasible in a hundred years or so.

        The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation--HDT

        by cazcee on Tue Feb 02, 2010 at 07:08:17 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Errors (0+ / 0-)

          However, only a small portion of the electrical grid is powered by solar, wind, hydro, geothermal or nuclear technology. Carbon dioxide emitting coal, natural gas, and oil burning plants will be around for a long time to come.

          28% of our grid is powered by solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, or nuclear.  Add natural gas, which is very low carbon, high efficiency, clean burning, and abundant, and it's 49.2%.  

          On a per-kWh basis, wind and natural gas are the highest amount of new capacity addition to our grid.  On a percentage basis, the highest amount of new capacity addition is solar.  In the longer term, both geothermal and nuclear may or may not have a huge role.  The only renewable you listed that likely won't be expanding much is hydro.  Coal is starting its death spiral.  Meanwhile, however, oil keeps getting dirtier, as more and more of it is syncrude or hard to extract.

          Even including only a small number of brief stops; LA to New York in 8 hours would require travel at over 350 MPH. While the French TGVs are capable of that speed they don't routinely operate anywhere near that fast.

          And?  What makes you automatically assume that the French TGVs are somehow the pinnacle of rail technology, and 350mph average is something that will never happen (or, to quote your "might be", will take 100 years)?  They're not even maglev.

      •  Hmm (0+ / 0-)

        I thought he might have been talking about Supertrain, but it wasn't that fast.

        Ten hours is possible, if you tunnel through the Rockies.

  •  A note on trolleys: (0+ / 0-)

    I'm going to guess that rail-based systems have some sort of advantage over tires on pavement, but what about just starting with overhead electrification and running inflatable-tire-wheeled electric buses in a special lane? You need the electricity and the overhead wires, of course, but you don't need to dig up the pavements so much...

    I have to say, I love Boston's trolley system. It's not super-convenient for where I'm going (when I visit), but it's fun. And you don't get the typical petrochemical stench that you get from Diesel-powered buses.

    Take a moment each day to appreciate how amazing the mere fact of your existence is.

    by Shaviv on Tue Feb 02, 2010 at 07:26:10 AM PST

  •  I gotta give you credit (0+ / 0-)

    The thought of high-speed rail from New York to LA literally never even crossed my mind. If we can get it from LA to SF and Las Vegas, we'll be doing pretty good.

    There are some trolleys around. San Francisco, of course, has the cable cars, but also a trolley line on Market. Portland has a downtown trolley. San Pedro has a trolley. Downtown Los Angeles is talking about it, as are a bunch of other cities. They're not real great as far as transportation (point a to point b) but they do add a nice bit of ambiance to an urban area.

    Amtrak is a piece of shit, it's true, especially in California. The problem is that they don't own any railroad tracks. The tracks are owned by the freight lines and if there's a conflict, the freight takes precedence. That means delays for passenger trains.

  •  Take a look around... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    freesia

    Where did it all go?  It went into turning our portion of the continent, from sea to shining sea, into a wasteland of asphalt, strip malls and subdivisions.  May have seemed like a good idea 60 years ago, but not so much now, huh?  We were the proverbial teenager who gets his first paycheck and blows it all that weekend on sneakers and video games.

    I live light, and I once moved across country (NJ to Oregon) via Amtrak.  Also moved from Portland to Oakland, CA via Amtrak once, too.  Yeah, Amtrak's got quite a few problems these days.  I'd know, heh.

    I live in Portland, Oregon now, and will probably spend the rest of my life here.  Ironically enough, a current road work project up on NW 23rd Ave (where the Portland Streetcar currently runs) is tearing up the (buried) early 20th-century trolley tracks as part of its redesign.

    As you may have heard (heh), we're one of the "most admired" American cities for our regional transit system - Amtrak, light rail, streetcars downtown (which will soon be extended here onto the east side of the city), and a pretty decent bus system.  

    Three or four times a year, we have conferences here where mayors from all across America come to visit and study our system.  But the fact is that, frankly, even our system sucks by the standards of many European or Asian systems.  I don't own a car (by choice), and I rely on our transit system (TriMet) to get me around everywhere.  So I'm one who would know.  Fortunately, I live in a dense, walkable neighborhood on the inner east side of the city with pretty much all I need within a 20-minute walk or a 5-minute bus ride.  But I've previously lived in other neighborhoods of the city which were a nightmare, and basically impossible to get around in without a car.  And surely enough, these are the same exact neighborhoods where many people can't afford one.

    I wouldn't discount buses, though.  They can be a vital part of local systems, and provide a regional link into national high-speed rail systems to many highly populated places who will never see a line come through their own towns.  Bend, Oregon.  Oregon Coast towns.  Boise, Idaho.  Pendleton.  Baker City.  Ontario.  Ashland.  Medford.  Etc, etc.  And that's just Oregon.

    Have you read Waiting on a Train yet?  I have to get around to writing a review of it one of these years.

    Thanks for the diary.  There's simply nothing else I can think of at the moment that would improve American life more than building an at least halfway decent national passenger rail system.  

    Remember, we used to have one.  A hundred years ago...

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