Daily Archives: July 6, 2012

$68 billion dollars, before it even breaks ground. With cost overruns, …

California Democrats, their state broke and headed for bankruptcy, vote to commence the high speed train to nowhere. Just as in Connecticut, the people get the legislature they deserve, but where to go?

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California lawmakers approved billions of dollars Friday in construction financing for the initial segment of the nation’s first dedicated high-speed rail line connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The move marked a major political victory for Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown and the Obama administration. Both have promoted bullet trains as job generators and clean transportation alternatives.

“No economy can grow faster than its transportation network allows,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement applauding the legislative vote. “With highways between California cities congested and airspace at a premium, Californians desperately need an alternative.”

The bill authorizes the state to begin selling $4.5 billion in voter-approved bonds that includes $2.6 billion to build an initial 130-mile stretch of the high-speed rail line in the Central Valley. That will allow the state to collect another $3.2 billion in federal funding that could have been rescinded if lawmakers failed to act Friday.

Members of the state Senate voted 21-16 along party lines after intense lobbying by Brown, Democratic leaders and labor groups. The bill, which passed the state Assembly on Thursday, now heads to Brown for his signature.

The first segment of the line will run from Madera to Bakersfield. The final cost of the completed project from Los Angeles to San Francisco would be $68 billion.

Madera is a town with a population of 61,000.

Landmarks include the notable and historic Madera water tower and the city’s fully operational drive-in movie theater.

Noteworthy persons born or raised in Madera include: NONE

Bakersfield is a desert city of 361,000 whose principle economic drivers are oil and agriculture. How either of these two industries will benefit from a high speed passenger train is unclear.

UPDATE: How much of a boondoggle have California Democrats just stuck on a state that already has a multi-billion-dollar budget shortfall? This much (and this is just for the first Madera-Bakersfield portion):

If California starts building a 130-mile segment of high-speed rail late this year as planned, it will enter into a risky race against a deadline set up under federal law.

The bullet train track through the Central Valley would cost $6 billion and have to be completed by September 2017, or else potentially lose some of its federal funding. It would mean spending as much as $3.5 million every calendar day, holidays and weekends included — the fastest rate of transportation construction known in U.S. history, according to industry and academic experts.

Over four years, the California High-Speed Rail Authority would need as many as 120 permits, mostly from a tangle of government regulatory agencies not known to rush their business. It would need to acquire about 1,100 parcels of land, many from powerful agriculture interests that have already threatened to sue. And it would need to assemble five teams of contractors with giant workforces positioned from Fresno to Bakersfield, moving millions of tons of gravel, steel rail and heavy equipment across the valley.

Even if the authority avoids any delays, its ability to complete the first construction section on time will require a breakneck pace of activity.

“It is a very aggressive plan,” said Manuel Garcia, associate director at the Construction Industry Institute affiliated with the University of Texas at Austin. “It does appear that it will be a challenge.”

If the rail authority runs into technical problems, legal disputes, permit delays or political roadblocks, it could end up building less track and potentially leave an uncompleted project, according to warnings contained in its own business plan. If the project blows past the federal deadline, for example, the flow of money could be stopped. And the scramble to meet that deadline could lead to construction problems and drive up costs.

Rail officials acknowledge that their plans are aggressive but describe them as not unprecedented, pointing to the fast construction pace of the new Bay Bridge in Oakland and the Alameda Corridor freight rail line in Los Angeles.

But state reports show the $6.5-billion Bay Bridge will have an average spending pace, or “burn rate,” of $1.8 million per day when it is completed in 2013, less than half what the rail authority is planning. The Alameda Corridor had a similar $1.8-million-per-day burn rate by its completion in April 2002, much less than planned for the bullet train even when adjusted for inflation.

The hurried project to improve I-15 in Salt Lake City before the 2002 Olympics, known in the construction industry as one of the fastest well-executed work packages, spent $1.6 million per day, according to John Njord, executive director of the Utah Department of Transportation.

“That was a burn rate like we have never seen before,” he said, which was on schedule only because of careful planning. The California effort would more than double that pace.

Outside experts say that only careful management like that in the Utah job can ensure that the Central Valley rail plan does not go haywire. The rail authority has just 37 employees and has been operating for months without a chief executive, a deputy chief executive or a chief financial officer. It also has no single executive overseeing construction, which outside consultants say is needed.

“You have 37 mere mortals who have never done anything like this before,” said Robert Bea, a member of the National Academy of Engineering, a retired UC Berkeley professor of civil engineering and director of the National Science Foundation’s project on California’s transportation infrastructure. “They need God, because he’s the only one who can handle this management challenge.”

A final environmental report on about half of the 130-mile project is uncompleted and months behind schedule, forcing the agency to start work initially on a 29-mile section from Madera to Fresno and hope that it can get the review problems with the rest of the line cleared up later this year.

UPATE II: This provision alone explains what’s wrong with modern public spending, politicians, and why this particular project is doomed before it even starts:

At least two companies that are on consortiums qualified to bid on the project are backing away, The Times has learned. The project is further complicated by tinkering designed to placate communities: Contractors must agree to set aside nearly one-third of their work for small businesses, for example, a far higher amount than in other projects.

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But who cares about poor people?

 

Warning: idiot behind the wheel

Genetically modified crops lift third world farmers out of poverty but the eco-terrorists have never cared about that. In fact, once indoctrinated and pre-set at the factory, their minds are sealed shut and they never have to worry about difficult subjects. Example of what these people ignore and remain adamantly ignorant about include: the despoiling of the Nigerian delta, the destruction of huge swaths of China by rare earth mining, used to power the Prius, the rise in electrical costs, the soaring cost of grain as food stock is now diverted to ethanol production, and on and on.

In a new report published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers at the Georg-August-University of Goettingen tracked the use of genetically modified cotton by smallholder farmers in India over the course of six years.

They found that farmers using the genetically enhanced Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) cotton increased their cotton yields by 24 percent and their overall profits by 50 percent. They also saw an 18 percent increase in household consumption (meaning small farmers spent about $321 more per year).

The study disputes a common argument that genetically modified crops will hurt small-scale farmers who eventually won’t be able to pay for the crops that were grown on their own land.

In fact, in 2011, 90 percent of Indian cotton fields, the majority of which are owned by small farmers, were growing Bt cotton.

According to the study, both government intervention in seed prices and increases in competition for the new technology help to boost the profit lines for these farmers. Both factors, therefore, must be encouraged in order for genetically mutated crops to make sense on a larger scale.

While the use of GMOs in agriculture remains a contentious issue — there are innumerable environmental, health and socio-economic issues — one thing is clear: genetically mutated crops can mean a brighter future for poor farmers across the world.

 

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41 Arcadia Road Old Greenwich sells

Setting the bar for future Collyers to come

$1.270 million. I believe this was Frank Halleck’s former house. Frank was the Old Greenwich equivalent of the Collyer brothers, filling his house floor to ceiling with newspapers, boxes and junk and piling the same sort of stuff in his backyard. Neighbors went to court and forced him to clean it up – the back yard, anyway – and when he finally passed onto that junkyard in the sky, the house was cleared and renovated. Nice back yard, once you could see it.

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It’s not quite a record, but this took a long time

 

Slow and steady wins the race!

17 Steeple Chase, a contemporary on that dead end waaaay up Bedford Road on the New York border, has an accepted offer after 1,272 days. Last asking price was $1.985 million, down from a hoped-for price of $2.550 back in 2008. The owners were obviously in no rush to move but they might still have done well to look at their own history in buying this place the last time it was offered for sale in 2005. Back then it started at $2.475 and these people bought it for $1.880 in 2006, after 594 days on the market. Location and style work against this house.

25 Cat Rock has an accepted offer too. Asking $2.195 and according to the MLS it’s been on the market for less than three weeks but as Dollar Bill’s hero used to say, “there you go again” – I wrote about it back in 2009 which, by my math, was more than three weeks ago.

But it’s in fact a very decent house – I saw it just the other day and thought it offered a good value.

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Community Organizer takes a break from begging (well, it’s doubtful he paid for his beer, but at least he’s not with Clooney)

And boy is Nanny Mike gonna be upset when he sees the size of this glass!

What jobs report?

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Middle class tax rate 75%?

Seems about right to me.

Fed. Income: 25%

Soc. Security: 15%

State Income: 5% (avg)

Health Insurance: 15%

Property tax: 15%

In fact, I think the author understates the tax rate by not including sales tax, gasoline tax, phone tax, occupational license fees and, undoubtedly, still more I’ve forgotten at the moment. Our taxation and spending structure is designed to keep the poor subservient and dependent, the middle class lower middle class with no opportunity to amass savings or capital and the rich happy. Fortunately for politicians, they’re part of the rich.

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Big sale, little sale and a puzzling one

 

55 Otter Rock

55 Otter Rock Drive, Belle Haven, asked $10.750, sold in 26 days for $10.5 million. Someone sure wanted to live in Belle Haven,

27 Byfield, 2 acres of swamp land (to be fair, only half looked soggy), with a tear-down house, sold for $1.280 million on a $1.495 asking price. I don’t get it.

79 Crawford Terrace I do get. One of those 60’s contemporaries below Havemeyer, decent street and at $749,000 I’m not surprised it has an accepted offer in just 9 days.

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The next time “concerned scientists” warn of the lastest danger, remember this

Particle accelerators will create black holes that will swallow the earth! Most scientists scoffed at the alarmists, but the world press gave ample space to the “respected scientists” who warned of the end of the world if the Swiss/French accelerator was started. It’s been four years now, the Higgs-boson particle has been discovered and somehow were all still here.

Global warming, genetically modified food, cellphone radiation, tight bluejeans; there’s always a doom constituency and there’s always a media assemblage ready to give their hysteria the sheen of respectability.

As an aside, this country’s own accelerator was shut down, its scientists fired, when last year the Department of Energy decided that it would no longer devote $25 million to its upkeep and shifted billions to Obama’s friend’s green energy projects, most of which are already bankrupt. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

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