MSNBC-style media on the bandwagon for bullet-train farce

MSNBC-style media on the bandwagon for bullet-train farce

April 8, 2013

By Chris Reed

phpThumb_generated_thumbnailWhen a friend urged me to check out the edition of “Dan Rather Reports” on high-speed rail in the U.S. that aired last month on Mark Cuban’s AXS.TV, I figured it would be good for a few laughs, but that at least the former CBS anchor would note the volume of intense bipartisan disdain for the California project and offer up some honest context. This is what the Washington Post and New York Times have done.

But no. The AXS coverage confirms that the bullet train is now in the pantheon of things that the MSNBC left considers inviolate as a matter of religious conviction. And so Rather’s report depicts opposition to the California bullet train as a function of partisanship, not a reaction to its near-infinite problems driven by the honesty of watchdogs, lawmakers of both parties, and beat reporters around California:

“RATHER (Voiceover): You’d think that it would be easy to build a high-speed rail project in a place like the Golden State. But even here in California the dreams for high-speed rail are hanging by a thread — with fierce opposition — environmental, legal, and most importantly political.”

That is mind-boggling. The cost, the logistics and local opposition are far more relevant than political considerations in California. To define the problems as “most importantly political” is to define them as being about something other than legit concerns.

There’s more:

“RATHER (Voiceover): The most vocal opposition would come from where construction was set to begin — California’s lush Central Valley.”

Central Valley objections featured, Silicon Valley objections ignored

Once again, not even close to true. The most vocal opposition came from the rich and powerful residents of the Silicon Valley — which is why Gov. Jerry Brown and President Obama went along with shifting the first segment to the Central Valley. This is not a small point. It allows the piece to depict concerns as being parochial and petty and (this is implicit) driven by dumb farmers and their narrow self-interest. It allows Rather to ignore the fact that the area with the richest concentration of rich liberals outside of Manhattan thinks the bullet train is crazy and destructive — because they’ve actually bothered to consider the real-world consequences:

Finally, when Rather did “60 Minutes” pieces, you could always tell his personal view by whom he gave the longest soundbite to. Some things never change. And so the longest soundbite goes to a Central Valley tomato farmer, Brad Johns, who can’t wait to be bought out and relocated away from the bullet train:

“I think the high-speed rail is being very American. I think our government is trying the best it can to get folks back to work and when the private citizens quit buying then it has been proven in every economy around the world that the government steps up and starts building infrastructure projects and that starts the bucks rolling and people start getting paychecks instead of unemployment checks. It cuts our dependency on foreign oil. It will clean up the air. It will take cars off the road. It will cut down traffic deaths. You could go as far as to say it’s a public safety issue on top of everything else. I think this is a huge blessing for the state of California.”

In a 6,000-plus word transcript of the AXS report, not once does Rather acknowledge any of the many lies told to state voters in 2008 to get their support, except for the ridiculously low cost estimate. Not once does he acknowledge that voters only gave the project narrow approval after being promised it wouldn’t need future government subsidies. Not once does he mention that promised private investment has never been forthcoming.

The new ‘federal government as cornerstone’ narrative

Instead, he uses the new mantra of the bullet-train cultists: Projects of this size have never been built without the federal government’s vast support, ergo, the federal government owes us this vast support.

FF20120229-Escape-Artists-by-Noam-ScheiberBut that’s not what state voters were told in 2008. Nor was it an assurance that the federal government gave voters in 2008. It was only after Ezekiel Emanuel, the oncologist brother of incoming President Obama’s chief of staff, trumpeted bullet trains did they become a priority of the federal government.

Isn’t that an interesting angle to pursue? But of course. Yet except for a passing mention in a well-reviewed book by The New Republic’s Noam Scheiber called “The Escape Artists” and subsequent coverage by Reason’s Peter Suderman and by me, no one in the mainstream media has mentioned this.

Why? I have no idea. As I mentioned above, the N.Y. Times and Washington Post have done some strong reporting on the bullet train.

And in general, that holds for big projects of other sorts. For example, after some initial hesitation, Solyndra and its fellow follies are being pretty well-covered.

So why not share the bullet train’s amazing creation story? In terms of the federal money that’s going to be wasted, it remains “Solyndra Times Seven” — at least.




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  1. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 8 April, 2013, 08:18

    Who would ever want to go to expensive, dirty and whacked San Francisco?

    Reply this comment
  2. It's a Vision
    It's a Vision 8 April, 2013, 13:15

    Who are all these national liberal elites pontificating on the California bullet train? They know virtually nothing about it. Meanwhile the local people in the Central valley and the Peninsula who know A LOT about it are ignored or mocked.

    Reply this comment

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