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Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

This last week, I have been staring at The Transport Politic post, Republican Wave Could Spell Trouble for High-Speed Rail Projects from Coast to Coast.

Living in Ohio, that is doubly true: first, adding the impact of the recession on top of the impact of sixteen years of Kasich/Portman style policies is, ironically, the best opportunity for those who helped cause the mess to gain political power from it. Second, because of the blocking position of the Republican Majority in the State Senate in the last two years, the odds are stacked against the project: even as things stand now, we need to flip a Republican for the project to go ahead.

So, is there a Plan B?

National Plan A

Convince enough people to form a governing majority that investing in transport infrastructure to cope with the largest immediate risk that the economy faces in terms of oil price shocks, the largest medium term risk that the economy faces in terms of the threat of Peak Oil and the largest long term risk that the economy faces in terms of climate chaos.

Of course, the vested interest of the oil industry is to maximize all of those risks, so that rather than the country gaining independence from oil in advance of crisis, the country gains independence from oil as a result of a collapse in supply or an explosion in price ... either of which would have calamitous effects on employment and inflation both, but would be great for the profits of oil companies.

And they have been investing in their treasonous betrayal of our nation's economy in pursuit of individual corporate profit for decades now, and have the fruits of that investment to deploy now, when they need it most.

That is part, after all, of why we need a plan B in the first place.

National Plan B

But we need to have a Plan B anyway. We always need to have a Plan B.

Going ahead with a Plan A and no Plan B means that when we face a defeat, we are left flailing around and running around like chickens with our heads cut off ... "On Noes! zOMG! I can't believe this happened!"

Any progressive has to be able to believe that the fight can indeed be lost. After all, as Machiavelli said:

There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them. Thus it happens that whenever those who are hostile have the opportunity to attack they do it like partisans, whilst the others defend lukewarmly, in such wise that the prince is endangered along with them.

Is there any clearer description of the actions of the Republicans and Democrats in Congress in these last two years than Republicans attacking ferociously, like partisans, and Democrats defending lukewarmly?

Progressives are perennial underdogs because there are always entrenched vested interests whose interests are threatened by progress. The fact that it is oil companies who are enemies of humanity at this point in time is not a particular vice of oil companies, but rather a general fact of human society that any given establishment is built on the flows of benefit that go to a certain set of winners.

Evidently, in a two-party system, there will be powerful entrenched vested interests in opposition to progress in both parties, and so progressives, after determining that one party is implacably allied with the most determined enemies of humanity and traitors to US interests, face the depressing fact that the other party is chock full of interests barely better.

... oh, wait a minute, what that means is ... we have already passed the opportunity for Plan A, are on Plan B, and need a Plan C.

The Real Plan A

The Real Plan A is to build a progressive change coalition that is able to swing sufficient clout to push through the main points of its change agenda. That is how we have accomplished substantial positive change in our country when we have, in fact, managed to do so, from the Revolutionary War through the Civil War through the Progressives through the New Deal, that's how its worked whenever its worked.

October of an election year is not the time to be taking actions focused on Plan A. Plan A is something we can start in December of an Election Year, building toward the primary season in the sole party not implacably wed to the destruction of the US economy and the global human life support system, trying to do what the Tea Party did in the Republican Party, but as a force for good rather than as unwitting tools of the enemies of humanity.

Plan B would be to take stock of whatever our wins or losses are in terms of Plan A, and then work to keep our coalition members and potential working partners in positions from which they can effect change. Now we are in Plan B territory, and because of the nature of our Plan A activity from December 2008 to this summer, its an uphill struggle indeed.

Plan B is to try to block the Republicans from as many statehouses we can, hold as many progressive Senate committee chairmen as we can, which means holding Senate majority for the god damned spineless Democrats, keeping Nancy Pelosi as Speaker, and fighting individually to keep ensure that as many of the Democratic survivors as possible are from the progressive caucuses.

Plan C ... is Plan A

And then, if we lose, the Republicans take the Majority in the Senate, the theocrats and plutocrats divide the Senate chairmanships between themselves, Boehner of Orange comes back from hiking the Paper Trail (UTube) to find himself the Speaker ... what is Plan C?

Plan C is Plan A. Indeed, its Plan A win or lose, since the follow-up to Plan B is also Plan A.

The only way to fight an avalanche of corporate money is ongoing, year round, popular involvement by people acting as if they are the citizens, rather than the corporations.

For High Speed Rail and for Living Energy Independence in general, this is not a fight of the moment over an issue of the moment, this is one necessary, though far from sufficient, part of the survival of the US economy as a national economy. You don't stop fighting for the survival of the US economy as a national economy because of a set-back in one election.

Plan C in Ohio

For Ohio, we have been awarded $400m to build the starter line of the Triple C 110mph HSR corridor. Its the track and Express Stations for the 110mph corridor, with the signaling and crossings (and additional stations) to be added on an ongoing basis to raise the maximum speed from 79mph to 110mph.

And part of getting the approval of the operating funds through the Republican Ohio Senate was agreeing to a 5-2 vote in the governing board for the capital spending to go ahead. The Governor appoints one member, and the majority in each chamber appoints two, and the minority in each chamber appoints one, for seven total.

Even is Strickland wins in November, I'd be surprised if the narrow Democratic majority was not flipped back Republican, making four Republican and three Democratic members. If Strickland loses, it would be five Republican and two Democratic members. And both Kasich and Portman are running against taking $400m of Federal money because, after all, that is what brings in the money from the big money interests.

So, if we hand the $400m back (Kasich has tried to "lie without telling the lie" to people by saying that the money "should" be spent on roads instead, when we already got and are spending our road money, and this is dedicated HSR money), New York (say, Syracuse/Rochester/Buffalo/Toronto) or California or Florida or someone else will be getting to build an Emerging or Express HSR rail line with a no-match $400m and we in Ohio will be stuck back in limbo, with an economically sound line and no willingness to take our neck off the Peak Oil chopping block.

Well, I've already let the cat out of the bad on a big part of Plan C for that: a Steel Interstate program to build the nationwide capacity for 60mph and 100mph Electrified Rapid Freight Transport. Under the public/private partnership approach that I have already sketched, a 3 cent a gallon tariff on imported crude oil could get the system started, with user and access fees first refunding the original capital cost and then funding the expansion of the system.

At the local level, we need to advocate for the Ohio Hub, and turn it into a more broadly based movement demanding to take the neck of the Ohio Economy off of the Oil Price Shock chopping block where the Republican Party insists that we must remain. We need to see to it that any Kasich administration is a one-term loser. And we need to continue to work on dedicated transport corridors for common carrier transport, from rail through light rail through trolley buses to express busways for local buses.

And, after all, if Strickland pulls off an upset, and is able to push the Ohio Hub through a 3:4 governing board ... we still need to do all of those things. Whether we are looking for the follow-up to Plan B, or the Plan C to turn to when Plan B does not succeed ... we go back to Plan A. Its the same fight, whether we are first and ten on the opposition twenty, or first and twenty on our own ten.

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Burning the Midnight Oil ~ Forgotten Years

Originally posted to BruceMcF on Sun Sep 26, 2010 at 04:38 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  What a Crappy Point in Time for Ohio to Be So (9+ / 0-)


    (Semi OT Obligatory Ohio slow speed rail photo. I rode the visiting steam train yesterday.)

    Image Hosted by

    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 Sun Sep 26, 2010 at 04:59:13 PM PDT

  •  How about plan C? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bronte17, marykk, BruceMcF

    High speed rail from capital cities to major air hubs.  Illinois was able to pass the leg from East St. Louis to Chicago because it passed through Springfield Illinois.  Durbin lives in East St Louis so we had his approval, the Governor and many state reps work in Springfield yet live near Chicago so we had all their support.  

    The legs that go between states are going to be hard because you need both state legislatures and governors on board.

    Let Obama be Obama.

    by Yoshimi on Sun Sep 26, 2010 at 06:04:28 PM PDT

    •  Doesn't do much good for Ohio ... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bronte17, marykk

      ... the major air hubs require crossing one or more state borders.

      And, indeed, one of the two legs most likely to be postponed (both Governor and Senate front-runner adamantly opposed to taking no-match federal money because of an operating cost that is lower than the DOT spending on mowing) is entirely within one state.

      End 2010 with Lesbian Creative Works from ALC Publishing on your Holiday list.

      by BruceMcF on Sun Sep 26, 2010 at 06:15:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Foreign HSR News (6+ / 0-)

    While the US dithers, Switzerland is nearing breakthrough on the world longest rail tunnel, the Gotthard Base Tunnel.  Breakthrough is supposed to occur on Oct. 15.  The tunnel won't be in operation until 2017 though.  Both high-speed passenger trains (on a Zurich-Milan axis) and freight trains will use the tunnel.  All of this for the cost of a few months in Afghanistan.

    •  It is my impression (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      that other countries, with more challenging geography, seem to pay less per mile of HSR.

      I would be happy with useful LSR.  Amtrak is twice and expensive and slower to go from Boston to Philadelphia than flying.  Whatever the reason, this is bogus.

      •  Other countries certainly pay ... (0+ / 0-)

        ... substantially less for subways than we do in the US ... the cost of the Madrid subways is one example ... but there is no indication that either of the two Express HSR projects are going to be unusually expansive by international standards.

        End 2010 with Lesbian Creative Works from ALC Publishing on your Holiday list.

        by BruceMcF on Sun Sep 26, 2010 at 08:00:46 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Another reason the money would have been (0+ / 0-)

    better spent in one shot on subway and surface rail upgrades in major cities, where it would have actually been useful.

    •  Where do you get that? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      The money we are talking about would not have existed for "subway and surface rail upgrades in major cities". How do you add up 50 votes in the US Senate for $8b additional for "subway and surface rail upgrades in major cities" as part of the ARRA?

      Indeed, if Ohio loses it, some other HSR project gets it, and  a similar demonstration effect will occur somewhere else ... so sooner or later Ohio will come around. Not pursuing the opportunity when it presented itself because of an abstract preference for some other outcome would have been a massive mistake.

      This divide and conquer argument has been promoted by the oil lobby for years ~ they only, of course, support local rail when fighting HSR, then when local rail is proposed, they support Bus Rapid Transit, then when Bus Rapid Transit is proposed they finance objections to "losing lanes" to dedicated busways, and by that time they've killed investment in greater independence from oil.

      End 2010 with Lesbian Creative Works from ALC Publishing on your Holiday list.

      by BruceMcF on Sun Sep 26, 2010 at 07:10:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  HSR is a godsend to the oil companies (0+ / 0-)

        Since it generally discredits rail when it never gets built or comes in far over budget and isn't that compelling.  Rail that replaces cars has a good track record all over the place.  Rail that replaces planes not so much (Boston--NY excepted).

        •  You are caught in the either/or trap. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          If someone is caught in the either/or trap, and believes strongly in one side of the false choice, it is understandable that they would choose to make unsupportable attacks against what they see as a rival.

          However, intercity transport is not a rival with intra-city transport. The rival for spending on local rail transport is the massive subsidies for the use of cars for local transport. The rival for spending on HSR for intercity transport is spending a larger amount on expanding our outmoded interstate highway system.

          We can and do set up funding systems to turn them into artificial rivals for funds, but in this case, we did not do that. There was a substantial amount of money available to be spent on local subways and trains ... indeed, more total money was available to be spent on local rail transport than on HSR in the ARRA, when the freedom to spend the formula allocation funds are taken into account ... and most state departments of transport elected to spend them primarily on roadworks.

          End 2010 with Lesbian Creative Works from ALC Publishing on your Holiday list.

          by BruceMcF on Sun Sep 26, 2010 at 07:57:37 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  All forms of transportation (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          are subsidized.....all. Yes, even walking, if you ever use a sidewalk.

          Roads are subsidized: building, re-building, pothole patching, bridges, snow-plowing, patrolling, enforcement, emergency medical care, these are ALL paid for communally/ by government, who uses TAXES to do it.
          NO individual pays for all this. Not even the Lexi owners could afford it; or shall we NOT plow your cul-de-sac that leads to your McMansion in Pretentious Acres, so you can hire someone to do it for you, or do it yourself.

          Airlines are subsidized: runway construction, vacuuming the concourses, traffic control ("I'm sorry. I'm the air traffic controller for United here in Chicago. If you are a Delta flight with two minutes of fuel left, you'll have to call the Delta traffic controller. No, I don't have the frequency. Thank you for radioing United Air Control."), patching and plowing the runways, and all the roads that lead to and from the airport, parking.

          Ports are subsidized: channel markers, navigation aids, the Coast Guard, dredging operations to name a few.

          So also with needs to be subsidized just like every other form of transportation.

          (The only thing I can figure out to explain the root-and-branch hatred certain politicians have for rail other than legalized bribery from JB Hunt, BP Oil, Aspludh Asphalt, and US Air is there is a legacy from the RR monopolies of the 19th century. Pullman, Hill and the rest REALLY were robber-barons; they were oligopolists, bordering on monopolists, controlling the price of freight and passengers with an iron hand and with no little arrogance. Shippers and passengers had to pay because they really had no other choice.
              In the 1920s a new choice developed: automotive roads that could carry trucks and buses. In the 1940's came the mushrooming of airlines and air cargo. The newer industries both avoided most of the tactics of the robber barons and also ripped away much of their power and money, often with the gleeful help of many who had been smarting for years to strike back at the rail companies.)



          "God has given wine to gladden the hearts of people." Psalm 104:15

          by WineRev on Sun Sep 26, 2010 at 09:00:57 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  But the politicians who today ... (0+ / 0-)

            ... attack rail are the same ones who would have been on the payroll of the rail robber barons of the 19th century. Its just that passenger rail no longer makes someone a robber baron, so they have a different set of robber barons writing their "Pledges" and writing the laws that they introduce under their own name.

            The thing about rail is that under the massive subsidies given to the car transport system, on a growing scale since the 1930's, the places where passenger rail survived tended to be those places where population density was so high that a car-only system is or is close to unworkable.

            That means that "rail funding" has been an urban/rural divide issue.

            Unlike local rail, however, HSR offers benefits that cut across the stereotypical divide. So if its going to be stopped, it has to be stopped now, before there are sufficient examples to experience within the United States and people understand that the naysayers are blowing smoke.

            However, its not going to work. Despite the best efforts of the bought and paid for propaganda mills and astro-turf groups, we are going to see several 110mph corridors finished in the next few years, and likely one Express HSR finished before 2016. And once the benefits to suburban and rural residents become clear, the "red team vs blue team" habits of thought that the opponents have been exploiting will lose their grip.

            End 2010 with Lesbian Creative Works from ALC Publishing on your Holiday list.

            by BruceMcF on Sun Sep 26, 2010 at 10:23:14 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Agree wholeheartedly (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              Unlike local rail, however, HSR offers benefits that cut across the stereotypical divide. So if its going to be stopped, it has to be stopped now, before there are sufficient examples to experience within the United States and people understand that the naysayers are blowing smoke.

              I'm with you. Get some of these corridors up and running with clean, fast, reliable, comfortable connections and the change in outlook multiplies. We have a living example of this on a local rail level.

              Here in the Twin Cities (home a fabulous, 1000 mile light rail system in 1950; destroyed by 1955 by GM) we finally got a light rail line (about 8 miles) connecting downtown Minneapolis south/southeast to the airport and Mall of America. The Republican/Taxpayer's League/Troglodytes fought it every step: " a waste/ subsidized nonsense/ job killer/ lower property values along the line/ never come close to 8000 rides/day/ boondoggle".....the usual shrieking crapola. Opened in 2002, offering free rides the first couple days just to introduce themselves. Adults with children waited 30 minutes in crowds to try it out.

              Of course, the line is popular. I think the avg. ridership is 19000/day. Real estate agents are marketing condos as "right on the light rail line!" and selling properties so located AT A PREMIUM compared to those another 2 blocks away.

              So now we have added commuter rail coming in from the northern & northwestern suburbs and ex-urbs from Big Lake to downtown Mpls. (It was supposed to begin in St. Cloud but the wackos, led by state representative Michele Bachmann, cut it short and so won that round.) Work has started on a "Central Corridor" to connect downtown Mpls and St. Paul. A Southwest line is slated to open in 2015.

              All this because the first line finally ('ahem") got rolling. You are right. The same effect will take hold I think with HSR in various corridors. It can't come too soon.


              "God has given wine to gladden the hearts of people." Psalm 104:15

              by WineRev on Mon Sep 27, 2010 at 03:52:59 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

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