Monday, February 28, 2011




HIGH-SPEED RAIL: Bullet-train boosters fret as conservative tide swamps projects

When Florida Gov. Rick Scott put the final nail in his state’s high-speed rail project yesterday, he cited an economic burden to state taxpayers, a threat of construction cost overruns and a lack of ridership.

But to Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), the Republican governor’s decision had nothing to do with economics.

“The governor put his own rigid ideology ahead of the best interests of Florida’s businesses, workers and families,” Castor said last week, when Scott announced his intention to return the money. “Turning down these jobs and investment dollars does nothing to reduce the nation’s deficit.”

Castor is among a large number of bullet-train boosters who lament that their projects have become partisan footballs. Scott is the third Republican governor — behind Wisconsin’s Scott Walker and Ohio’s John Kasich — to reject federal high-speed rail funds and join Capitol Hill Republicans in opposition to one of President Obama’s marquee initiatives.

“You tell me, what kind of businessperson would turn down 90 to 100 percent of funding for a project?” said Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.), who derided the notion that Scott, a former health care executive, is casting himself as a businessman who’s above political maneuvering.

Meanwhile, House Republicans targeted high-speed rail in the budget debate last week, voting to slash all $5 billion in Department of Transportation funding for the program.

Freshman Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) went further, proposing an amendment to bar federal high-speed rail funding from going to his home state. When he withdrew the amendment, he vowed he would “provide aggressive oversight” of the California project.

Mary Ellen Curto, executive director of the American High Speed Rail Alliance, a nonprofit advocacy group, said she had seen a shift in the discussion of rail since the Republican landslide of last November’s elections. Rail, she said, is caught in the Republican push to curb government spending.

“When I’m on the Hill, I can’t even talk about infrastructure as an investment rather than an expense,” Curto said. “There’s almost no plane where you can talk in business-type metrics. … There’s just such an emotional level around the $1.3 trillion [federal budget] deficit.”

Although there has traditionally been bipartisan support for infrastructure spending as a job-creation tool, the right has been slamming some of the administration’s latest public works proposals. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) has emerged as a conservative leader on infrastructure ever since he canceled a planned transit tunnel backed by $3 billion in federal guarantees last November.

Speaking at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington last week, Christie dismissed Obama’s goals of building high-speed rail, enhancing wireless Internet and putting a million electric vehicles on the road as “the candy of American politics.”

“Those are not the big things,” Christie said. “Because let me guarantee you something, if we don’t fix the real big things, there are going to be no electric cars on the road. There is going to be no high-speed Internet access, or if there is, you’re not going to be able to afford to get on it.”

‘Extreme faction’?

Andy Kunz, president of the U.S. High Speed Rail Association, a trade group, said opponents of bullet-train projects are not merely partisan. They are “extreme,” he said.

“We don’t see this as a Republican anti-rail thing,” Kunz said. “It’s an extreme faction. There are a lot of Republicans that do support it.”

House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) is on record supporting a rail network and was even caught on camera telling Obama after the State of the Union in January that he could be the “best cheerleader” for rail. But Mica doesn’t agree with the way the administration has distributed its rail grants, and has said that he would rather see projects built up in the Northeast Corridor.

Other House Republicans — notably, Mark Kirk of Illinois and Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania — have supported rail, and Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia has promoted a project for his state.

Kunz argues that opposing rail projects for budget purposes won’t help the economy now and won’t help get cars off the road and lessen U.S. dependence on oil.

“If you really look at the economics and get past their hyper-conservative rhetoric, we have to spend money right now to save the country,” Kunz said. “The country is sinking like the Titanic mainly because of high oil prices, and to cut spending on major technologies like high-speed rail that would reduce the nation’s oil dependency doesn’t help anything.”

Scott said he was concerned that cost overruns would cost Florida taxpayers $3 billion, a number also cited in a study by the libertarian Reason Foundation. But Scott rejected a plan yesterday that would have turned over the state’s sponsorship to a coalition of local groups (E&ENews PM, Feb. 24).

Given the difficulty of wooing Scott and other Republicans to support rail projects, Curto said her group is now aiming to rally public support.

“We can’t keep going with a two-year cycle of a mandate and an anti-mandate,” Curto said. “We’re going to attempt to get out to the population at large. If people are behind this, they need to get up and stop this nonsense.”

Sunday, February 27, 2011


By Marilyn M. Barnewall
February 27, 2011

Everyone is suddenly talking about it. Thomas Sowell wrote an article, Bill O’Reilly talked about it on “The Factor,” the Washington Post wrote about it, Fox News got it wrong… everyone is talking about President Obama’s high-speed rail program and the Governors who are rejecting it.

I enjoyed being ahead of a large number of journalistic notables when I began writing about high-speed rail (HSR) over a year ago. What little-known journalist wouldn’t enjoy beating the big guys? But what’s more significant to me is the lack of factual data being published on this subject today – and the lack of journalists who see why HSR is so important to the Democrats/liberals. HSR and the jobs it promises will serve as one of the 2012 campaign issues. It’s so obvious it almost takes my breath away.

Most of the good and famous journalists and editorialists writing about high-speed rail appear innocent of any clear definition of the subject – including O’Reilly. That’s politically correct for what I would otherwise say: “They don’t know what they’re talking about!”

High-speed rail – or Bullet Trains like they have in France, Germany, Japan, China, the United Kingdom, et al – go from 150 to 222 miles per hour (mph). Rapid rail moves at from 75 to 150 mph and light rail is used to provide transportation between the hearts of our cities to suburbia at speeds of less than 75 mph.

In other words, when Joe Biden talks about riding high-speed rail trains from Delaware to Washington, D.C. frequently (and loving it), he’s talking about riding Amtrak’s Acela train. It averages about 70 mph and hits a top speed of 150 mph.

What does that tell you about Vice President Biden’s mode of transportation? And, what does it tell you about the Vice President’s knowledge of high-speed rail? Look at the definitions above. He’s using rapid rail and calling it high-speed rail – but doesn’t know enough about the subject to differentiate between the two. Or, perhaps he does and his political reasons outweigh his ability to be truthful about it.

This also tells you that Amtrak must have no idea of what high-speed rail is – they have no experience with real, live, high-speed rail – or they would quietly correct Vice President Biden to prevent him from looking foolish to those who know better. The same is true of President Obama and his “know nothing about high-speed rail” Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood. Yet, according to Biden, Amtrak (which has no experience with HSR) is serving as the Vice President’s source of expertise to build Bullet Trains in America. If a little old lady living on the side of a hill in Western Colorado can find these things out, you’d think the highly paid research staffs of major news outlets could! They must not be looking very hard!

This is a case of liberals convincing people that they will create jobs on the one hand, while knowing that there is no money in the other hand to build HSR – so the jobs will never materialize. It provides insight into what Democrat Campaign 2012 will be based on: Republicans (who refuse to irresponsibly further bankrupt the nation by accepting funds to build rapid rail systems liberals call high-speed) will be positioned as anti-job creation. Was the money there to create the jobs in the first place? No, but to liberals that doesn’t matter. Promises and intentions are what count.

We have four very courageous Governors taking flak right now because despite what they knew would be nasty publicity intended to stir the insecurities of the masses into hateful opposition to their necessary actions they did the right thing, anyway.

We are so anxious to criticize (it appears) when politicians do wrong. We sit down immediately and write letters of complaint. Have you sat down, however, and written a letter to any of the four Governors who are willing to risk their political popularity to do the right thing? If not, please do. If you want politicians to do the right thing, support them when they do. It doesn’t matter that they aren’t the Governors of your state. What matters is that they are doing the right thing for America! They are behaving morally and responsibly.

What we are seeing in Madison, WI, is a mini-debut of what is to come. In Madison, we have teachers whose salaries (including benefits) average $89,000 to $100,000 a year for working about nine months annually. Wisconsin is one of the most highly taxed states in the nation. In return, they get teachers whose efforts result in placing Wisconsin 44th in the nation in education.

What was it Jesus called the moneychangers on the steps of the Temple? “Oh, ye hypocrites!”

Wisconsin’s Governor, Scott Walker, deserves a medal for the businesslike way in which he is handling bad examples for children in the form of teachers who get their phony “I’m sick” letters signed by lying physicians on street corners. He also has legislators too cowardly to report for duty, fight their fight, and accept the will of the people who put Republicans in office last election. The really sick thing about all of this is that two years ago, then Democrat Governor Jim Doyle told Wisconsin public employee union members that thousands of them would have to be terminated because of budget shortfalls. There was absolutely no response. No protests, no doctors on corners handing out sick leave slips (who should lose their licenses to practice medicine), and no union objections. “Oh, ye hypocrites!”

And yet, they continue to protest. Ohio Governor John Kasich is facing similar problems with budget shortfalls in that Great State. He rejected federal funds to build a rail system in Ohio that has nothing to do with HSR. The feds wanted to pour dollars into Ohio to provide a rail system that would take longer to get from Cincinnati to Cleveland via Columbus than the rail system that was in place 50 years ago. Kasich analyzed the long-term costs to Ohio taxpayers and rejected the offer. Will Governor Kasich have the required starch in his shorts to stand as solidly against union demands as Governor Walker has so far exhibited? It’s the core problem, after all. Kasich positions himself as being pro-union because he lives in a highly unionized state. So does Governor Walker!

As for Governor Scott in Florida, his state was singled out at Obama’s 2010 State of the Union address as receiving funds to build HSR between Tampa and Orlando (85 miles apart). As I pointed out in a HSR article after that speech a year ago, HSR Bullet Trains are designed for long distances, not short hops. A Bullet Train would hardly get up to speed before having to slow to stop in 85 miles. That was, from its inception, a rapid rail project for which taxpayers would be charged high-speed rail prices. A boondoggle!

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie stopped one of the most taxpayer unfriendly and costly projects in the country when he ceased the building of a HSR tunnel between New York City and New Jersey. Like Governor Kasich, he evaluated the long-term and ongoing tax costs to his state and his people and said “no.” He, too, takes a lot of mainstream media heat over this wise decision.

As I have said numerous times, government’s HSR program is a boondoggle! It has been all along. Until the demonstrations in Wisconsin came up, I failed to see the reason. Now, it’s pretty clear.

Here’s how liberal minds function. Liberals take one of their greatest weaknesses – in this case the inability to create new jobs because they don’t understand how capitalism works – and put their opponents in the position of rejecting costly programs that create new jobs – at least, in theory. That way, their opponents cannot use their weakness against them. If a Republican candidate for office says anything about the Democrat inability to create jobs, all of the high-speed rail jobs that would have been created had Republicans not rejected the federal dollars for the program will be thrown in their face. That’s how liberals think. It doesn’t matter to liberals that no money was available to fund the high-speed rail programs and the jobs would have never been created. What matters is that they had the intention of providing jobs. How do we fight that kind of intellectual dishonesty? The way the governors of four states are doing it: Head-on.

Save me from liberal intentions! Please! For readers – particularly Tea Party leaders – who will have candidates in the 2012 elections, prepare to deal with this issue because it is the main course on liberal campaign tables. Too, we might want to keep in mind the fact that governors who accept these funds are making it impossible for State government to function independently of Washington. It’s a rather scurrilous way for the feds to stave off declarations of State Sovereignty, isn’t it?

One of the oldest HSR projects in the country was that of California. Again, it was a case of “promises, promises!” No funds were forthcoming and Governor Schwarzenneger went to Shanghai last September to beg for money from China.

Here are the names and addresses of the four Governors who are doing the right thing for their states and our Great Nation. If you’ve got any citizen starch in your Fruit of the Looms, drop them a line and say, “Thanks; we needed that and appreciate your courage!”

Office of Governor Chris Christie
PO Box 001
Trenton, NJ 08625

Office of Governor John Kasich
Riffe Center, 30th Floor
77 South High Street
Columbus, Oh 43215-6117

Office of Governor Rick Scott
The Capitol
400 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001

Office of Governor Scott Walker
115 East Capitol
Madison WI 53702

Note: Additional information on high-speed rail.

© 2011 Marilyn M. Barnewall - All Rights Reserved


Marilyn MacGruder Barnewall began her career in 1956 as a journalist with the Wyoming Eagle in Cheyenne. During her 20 years (plus) as a banker and bank consultant, she wrote extensively for The American Banker, Bank Marketing Magazine, Trust Marketing Magazine, was U.S. Consulting Editor for Private Banker International (London/Dublin), and other major banking industry publications. She has written seven non-fiction books about banking and taught private banking at Colorado University for the American Bankers Association. She has authored seven banking books, one dog book, and two works of fiction (about banking, of course). She has served on numerous Boards in her community.

Barnewall is the former editor of The National Peace Officers Magazine and as a journalist has written guest editorials for the Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News and Newsweek, among others. On the Internet, she has written for News With Views, World Net Daily, Canada Free Press, Christian Business Daily, Business Reform, and others. She has been quoted in Time, Forbes, Wall Street Journal and other national and international publications. She can be found in Who's Who in America (2005-10), Who's Who of American Women (2006-10), Who's Who in Finance and Business (2006-10), and Who's Who in the World (2008).

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Letter Supporting Governors Who Reject Government Paid High-Speed Rail

If we went our elected officials to act in the public's better interest, it might be a good idea to thank them when they do!

Office of Governor Chris Christie
PO Box 001
Trenton, NJ 08625

Phone: 609-292-6000

Office of Governor John Kasich
Riffe Center, 30th Floor
77 South High Street
Columbus, Oh 43215-6117

Phone: (614) 466-3555

Office of Governor Rick Scott
The Capitol
400 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001

Phone: (850) 488-7146

Office of Governor Scott Walker
115 East Capitol
Madison WI 53702

(608) 266-1212

Dear Governor (Last Name):

Thank you for the courage you have shown by rejecting federal funds designed to put the State of _______ (Ohio or Florida or Wisconsin or New Jersey) in continual debt to the federal government. Though you will hear very little from the mainstream media about the courage you are showing by rejecting funds from our bankrupt federal government, you have not only done the right thing for your State, you have done the right thing for a Sovereign America.

High-speed rail needs to be a national system and, in the spirit of free enterprise and American entrepreneurism, it needs to be implemented by private investors.

A private investor by the name of Ambassador Lee Emil Wanta has for many years been offering to build a national high-speed rail system for the American people with no tax dollars involved. There will be no burden on our children and grandchildren and America will be able to update her transportation/rail system so as to be competitive with Japan, Great Britain, France, China and other Great Nations of the world. Regardless of the number of times President Obama discounts American exceptionalism, this is still the Greatest Nation on the face of the earth. I thank you for actions you take on our behalf. We’re all in this together, Americans standing side by side.

Again, thank you for your courageous decisions and please support Ambassador Lee Emil Wanta’s project to build our high-speed rail system at no cost to American taxpayers. As Governor Scott so eloquently said, the high-speed rail program proposed by the federal government is a “boondoggle.” It is the Democrat Party in action… promising jobs that will never exist because, like California’s program, it will never be funded – but it gives them a wonderful way to attack Republicans for opposing job creation, doesn’t it?

California’s program was one of the first, one of the largest high-speed rail programs. If the federal government has the money to fund high-speed rail in Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin and New Jersey, why was Governor Arnold Schwarzenneger in Shanghai (according to a Reuters article) begging the Chinese to fund that State’s high-speed rail system? Why was he also asking them to help build it?

All that must be done for Ambassador Wanta to implement high-speed rail is for the Federal Reserve to release to him funds that were wire transferred via CHIPS by the People’s Bank of China to the Bank of America in Richmond, Virginia in 2006. The funds were diverted by the Federal Reserve and have been withheld from Ambassador Wanta since that time – even though he was acting in accordance with a Federal District Court Judge’s Decision (Judge Gerald Bruce Lee, April 15, 2003, Alexandria, VA).


Sunday, February 6, 2011


By Marilyn M. Barnewall
February 6, 2011

No one seemed to notice it but me. Maybe I’m getting old. Or, maybe the media is.

Charles Krauthammer – who never misses anything – missed it.

Brit Hume of Fox News missed it.

Sean Hannity of Fox News missed it.

Shepard Smith missed it, too. So did Juan Williams.

Michelle Bachman missed it – but she came closer to actually giving it than the person charged with the responsibility.

Congressman Paul Ryan from Janesville, Wisconsin, missed it, too.

And, Barack Hussein Obama certainly missed it.

What did I get that everyone else seemed to miss?

I missed input from President Barack Obama on the State of the Union in his State of the Union address. Maybe I’m still groggy from anesthesia.

Instead of discussing the dangers posed by America’s debt, or possible solutions for the mortgage foreclosure frauds running rampant throughout our court system (please note my non-use of the words “system of justice”), or the war in Afghanistan – or the state of anything – the President filled the airwaves with words like “I’ve ordered … I’m willing … I am prepared … I will veto … I know … I urge … I’m proposing … I disagree … I would” and a lot of other words were placed after the pronoun “I.”

Good grief! Is Washington totally bereft of decent speech writers? Does anyone in this White House understand good communications? Based on performance to date, a very good case can be made that no one in White House communications – including the Press Secretary – has any insight into what constitutes effective communications.

When planning a speech, what is the primary objective?

Gee, knowing the topic one is expected to speak about used to be at the top of my priority list. When someone requested me to give a speech, it was because they had a topic they wanted explained to an audience. They invited me because I was qualified to give that explanation. The media seemed to be looking for a well-delivered speech designed to motivate people. Bill O’Reilly certainly was looking for that.

Maybe someone needs to remind the media that a President’s State of the Union address is supposed to be about the State of the Union – and it’s on how well that topic is covered their speech reviews should focus.

It is called “State of the Union” for a reason. It is on this night the President of the United States is supposed to tell the citizens of this country the problems faced by the nation and the impact the problems had on the Union during the past year.

Let’s see how gently this can be put. The subject of a sentence defines what the person who says or writes the sentence considers the most important part of the sentence. When the word “I” is the subject of so many sentences, the speaker obviously considers “I” the most important. If he didn’t, the word “I” would not be the subject of so many sentences.
The President’s sense of self importance rather than compassion and respect for the people of the United States came through loud and clear. The media didn’t catch that, either.

But Obama is supposed to look, and sound, like a leader. How can he do that without making the word “I” the subject of his sentences? By making “the people” the subject of his sentences and expressing his leadership as a part of the sentence sub-structure. He says “The people want” rather than “I want.” He says “The people deserve” rather than “I urge…” and completes the sentence by saying “…and as their President, I intend to support them by doing the following things.” Such a sentence makes “The people” the subject – the most important element of what’s being said – not the President. Take a look at the text of this speech and count the number of times the word “I” is used!

This is called “Communication 101.” This administration needs someone who passed the course – and took at least one semester in sales and another in marketing – to help write this man’s speeches. President Obama sounds like a narcissist of the first order (and may be – but the job of his “people” is to keep him from sounding like one).

Obama began the “meaningful” part of his speech by saying: “At stake right now is not who wins the next election -- after all, we just had an election. At stake is whether new jobs and industries take root in this country, or somewhere else. It's whether the hard work and industry of our people is rewarded. It's whether we sustain the leadership that has made America not just a place on a map, but the light to the world.”

If we are a light to the world, why has Obama found it necessary to apologize for America whenever he steps onto foreign soil?

He referred to jobs numerous times in his speech. Creating jobs is a hot button issue with the American people – and with unemployment over 9 percent (and most of us believe it’s far higher than that), it should be. He should have provided statistical data on this subject and given his projections for improving it. The truth is, liberal democrats don’t have a clue about how to create jobs because to do so requires government to get out of the way and let independent businesses (not multi-nationals whose loyalties lie with providing jobs to the least expensive labor pool in the world) grow and hire people.

“These steps we've taken over the last two years may have broken the back of this recession…”

Yes. He had the – nerve – to say that. He didn’t even flinch when he said it. Broken the back of this recession? What gall! It will make all of the people who have been illegally foreclosed against and all of those who are still unemployed hopeful, I suppose, to know President Obama has “broken the back of the recession.”

The only thing worse than Barack Obama’s failure to understand how to define and give a speech that explains the State of the Union is the media’s inability to perceive and report the failure.

For example, he could have told us:

1. “I have issued 733 waivers for Obama Care…” (more than 500 granted in December – but that wasn’t made public until the day after his State of the Union “address,” a/k/a his opening 2012 campaign speech). “The waivers exempt recipients from the increased costs of health insurance” (which means the rest of us will pay higher insurance premiums so those with waivers can be exempted from the higher costs). Nothing new there… a vigorous redistribution of wealth continues.

2. Those who are receiving waivers for enforced Obama health care mostly include unions, businesses, cities that support him politically (like Detroit – where unemployment exceeds 25 percent), states that have either proven to be loyal or which he needs for reelection – Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, and Tennessee. Democrat Senators Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana have already received payment for the Obama Care support of their votes.

3. The new Republican Governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, rejected President Obama’s offer of funds for a high-speed rail line between Madison and Milwaukee. Why? First, because what is planned isn’t high-speed rail. It’s rapid transit. Second, because Governors in other states have discovered the offers are designed to gain voter support by promising (rather than providing) jobs. Otherwise, why was former Governor Arnold Schwarzenneger in Shanghai a couple of months before the New Year asking the Chinese for funding and assistance in building California’s high-speed rail project? Why did Governors in Florida, New Jersey, and Ohio also reject or suddenly question the offer of federal funds to build high-speed rail? (Maybe because there are no federal funds?) After President Obama’s 2010 State of the Union speech, I wrote about the high-speed rail boondoggle and I wrote about it again last fall. In spite of union activist interruptions at his Inauguration, Governor Walker said “We’re going to focus on things we can afford.” He promptly rejected the phony financing backed by collateral consisting of worthless mortgage-backed derivatives. Good grief! Even Bill O’Reilly did a 15 minute segment last week on why high-speed rail needs to be done by private investors!

4. Remember the 2009 and 2010 State of the Union addresses given by President Obama? In both years, he recommended government spending be frozen for a period of three years. The Democrats controlled both the Senate and the House during those two years. It’s funny how Harry and Nancy just ignored the President. This year, though, he said “I want to freeze spending for five years.” Of course, since he gave his 2009 and 2010 speeches, the budget Obama now wants to freeze is 84 percent larger – and growing every day. Since the Republicans want to take a hatchet to spending, the budget will not be frozen, it will be cut.

We, the People, deserve to know what’s going on with regard to the BP oil spill – what is the status of offshore drilling? In what prison cell is Secretary of the Interior Salazar languishing because his lax offshore drilling policies (which have never been called before Committee) caused broad-based human suffering? Too, we deserve to know the status of the Afghanistan conflict. As of the date of the State of the Union speech, 27 American servicemen had been killed during 2011.

There are many things we deserve to know, but there are few that will be willingly revealed. If I ever hear the word “transparency” associated with this man’s name again, I will barf. He can’t even be transparent in a State of the Union speech where he’s supposed to be transparent.

As an aside: Thanks to so many of you who took the time to write and wish me well during my recent surgical “experience.” Your prayers were the greatest gift you could have given and were most gratefully accepted. God bless all of you. To answer the question many of my readers are asking, Flight of the Black Swan is completed and will soon be published in final format. At the moment, a pre-publication version has been printed. For those of you who use Kindle to read e-books, it is available at

© 2011 Marilyn M. Barnewall - All Rights Reserved
Marilyn MacGruder Barnewall began her career in 1956 as a journalist with the Wyoming Eagle in Cheyenne. During her 20 years (plus) as a banker and bank consultant, she wrote extensively for The American Banker, Bank Marketing Magazine, Trust Marketing Magazine, was U.S. Consulting Editor for Private Banker International (London/Dublin), and other major banking industry publications. She has written seven non-fiction books about banking and taught private banking at Colorado University for the American Bankers Association. She has authored seven banking books, one dog book, and one work of fiction (about banking, of course). She has served on numerous Boards in her community.

Barnewall is the former editor of The National Peace Officer Magazine and as a journalist has written guest editorials for the Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News and Newsweek, among others. On the Internet, she has written for News With Views, World Net Daily, Canada Free Press, Christian Business Daily, Business Reform, and others. She has been quoted in Time, Forbes, Wall Street Journal and other national and international publications. She can be found in Who's Who in America (2005-10), Who's Who of American Women (2006-10), Who's Who in Finance and Business (2006-10), and Who's Who in the World (2008).

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Governor/Governor-Elect Letter from Ambassador Lee Wanta

10 November, 2010

Dear Governor and/or Governor-Elect,
National Governor’s Association, et al ….

The many thoughtful comments made by Governors and Governors-elect recently about High Speed Rail [HSR] Programs are appreciated. It is always a pleasure to discuss innovation and progress with people of foresight and logic. The fact that so many Governors and Governors- elect around the United States are coming to the realization that the promises of an American High Speed Rail System can be best done nationally utilizing private, not government, funds is heartening.

Perhaps the reason the Obama - Biden Administration approached the implementation of High Speed Rail – promising HSR (150-230 mph) when, in reality, they planned to build rapid transit rail (100-150 mph) – is because the Federal Government knows each State needs to solve transportation problems that high-speed rail doesn’t solve. What the federal government failed to see is that local rapid transit systems need to be owned and controlled by State Government, not the Federal Government. Too, HSR systems are more costly and need to be privately funded with no taxpayer grants or subsidies – particularly at this moment in America’s economic history.

There is no doubt in my mind that each State Government needs to implement a rapid transit system that is coordinated into the AmeriRail High Speed Rail Transportation Program. Upon the Economic Receipt of my personal/repatriation funds, I am willing to enter into a planning process with each State Governor through whose State AmeriRail travels to discuss temporarily providing funds to build a rapid transit system designed to solve your most pressing transportation problems.

It is clear that the Economic Recovery/Crisis is creating financial difficulties that make it impossible for State Governments to do much more than provide basic necessities to the American Populace. I believe State Legislatures across the country need to better define “necessary” and become more prudent in their spending. I also believe the jobs that can be created by building both HSR and rapid transit systems at the same time will solve much of the economic instability. People are not going to borrow and spend until they feel confident about jobs, salaries and full employee benefits. Before the jobs and housing situations can be solved, lost confidence in government must be restored.

The suggestions for what needs to be done in your State must come from you. You know your State. You know your State's needs. What we are probably talking about is a loan to your State from AmeriRail [upon my personal Economic Receipt] for limited rapid rail links and attachments to the AmeriRail system. We are also talking about all proceeds from the rapid rail system being used to repay any loan made by AmeriRail for rapid transit … and we are talking about AmeriRail maintaining control of cost factors involving rapid transit until any loans for the system are repaid. Beyond cost factors, the State would be in control of managing the system until repayment is completed.

My objective with the funds being unlawfully withheld from me since May of 2006 has always been to do what best serves the needs of America. As the Federal Government has become more and more bloated and unable to implement meaningful Economic Recovery, it has become clear to me that problems will need to be solved with sovereign states, not a bureaucracy run amok.

If you are interested in discussing these and other creative ideas with me, I will expect to hear from you.


Lee E Wanta

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Proposed AmeriRail High-Speed Rail Map

Republicans Embrace Obama Rail Initiative

By Michael O'Brien - 01/29/11 02:00 PM ET

Key Republicans are embracing a major spending initiative outlined in President Obama's State of the Union address.

Two top members of the House Transportation Committee said they will push the president's initiative seeking to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail over te course of the next 25 years.

"I believe it's good for America to develop a high-speed rail corridor in the Northeast corridor," Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), the chairman of the railroad subcommittee, said according to the Connecticut Post. "It's a place we have to start, we have to accomplish it, because then I believe all of America, in the various corridors around the country, will want high-speed rail if they see success here."

Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), the chairman of the whole committee, also said Friday he was "pleased that President Obama has helped to launch a system for improved passenger rail service for our nation."

The pair warned Obama to seek more private investments in the project, and encouraged the administration to be more focused in where it will deploy high-speed rail service.

Still, the pair's support could enable cooperation between the Republican House and the Obama administration on one of the president's major initiatives.

"Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail," Obama said in his address. "This could allow you to go places in half the time it takes to travel by car."

High-Speed Rail off the Tracks

January 27, 2011
by: Luke Gelber

Wastewatcher, January, 2011

When stumping for Rep. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.) in October 2010, Vice President Joe Biden made a telling statement regarding the government’s role in investments. He credited the government with “every single great idea that has marked the 21st century, the 20th century and the 19th century,” adding that “in the middle of the Civil War you had a guy named Lincoln paying people $16,000 for every 40 miles of track they laid across the continental United States. … No private enterprise would have done that for another 35 years.”

Ignoring the insult to all non-government workers of the past three centuries, one may presume that the government has a similar explanation for its own, more modern focus on railways. The President’s stimulus package contained $8 billion for high-speed rail (HSR) projects, including $2.3 billion for a line linking San Francisco to Los Angeles and $1.25 billion for a line extending from Tampa Bay to Orlando. In October 2010, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood announced an additional $2.4 billion for HSR projects across the country. Almost $2 billion of that amount was redirected from projects in Wisconsin and Ohio when local officials refused to accept the money due to costs to the states that they could not afford. In his January 25, 2010 State of the Union address, President Obama promised 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail in 25 years.

The Federal Railroad Administration claims that HSR will “serve as a catalyst to promote economic expansion (including new manufacturing jobs), create new choices for travelers in addition to flying or driving, reduce national dependence on oil, and foster livable urban and rural communities.” These justifications, taken at face value, do nothing to explain why billions of taxpayer dollars are necessary. Federal funding of HSR projects forces taxpayers across the country to foot the bill for someone else’s enormously expensive product.

HSR projects do not constitute a public good as defined by economists. Their delivery by the private sector is not prevented by threats of free ridership or other market failures. Those who benefit pay, the same way as passengers on airplanes or in taxis. Instead, the problem with HSR is the inherent ultra-high cost, ranging anywhere from $22 million to $132 million per mile, according to a Government Accountability Office report. California originally estimated that its HSR project would cost roughly $45 billion, but a 2008 study by the Reason Foundation, Citizens Against Government Waste, and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Foundation called that number low by as much as $26 billion. Even California’s “official” estimates have been rising, prompting State Sen. Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale) to renege on his previous support.

Even on the environmental front, experts are far from a consensus on whether HSR makes sense. Many estimates of reduced emissions and congestion on highways rely on very high ridership rates, which are far from certain. Further, approximations of cost on light rail projects in Arizona, Oregon, and Virginia have proven consistently low. As Warren Meyer observed in Forbes on September 22, 2010, Phoenix could have purchased a Toyota Prius for each daily rider of its light rail system and still had a billion dollars to spare. California, showing typical thrift, spent $250 million on HSR before it laid a single mile of track.

No doubt it would be lovely to have mass transit “whisking through towns at speeds over 100 miles an hour,” as President Obama said. High-speed rail lines are incredible feats of engineering that make for glorious photography and impressive ribbon-cutting ceremonies. As a result, federal spending on HSR enjoys bipartisan favor. But to support federally-subsidized high-speed rail is to suffer from a politician’s typical lack of vision. It is to fawn and obsess over what is tangible, obvious, and shiny while ignoring the massive opportunity costs of such politically-advantageous projects. Money spent on high-speed rail could have gone toward paying down the national debt, education, poverty relief, law enforcement, or, best of all, the individual free spending choices of taxpayers.

Indeed, Vice President Biden would do well to brush up on his history. While the federally-subsidized Union Pacific Overland Route was America’s first transcontinental rail line, it went bankrupt by 1897. Each of its competitors that received land grants and subsidies failed similarly. Only the Great Northern, financed privately by individuals trading peacefully and voluntarily, managed to escape conservatorship. The United States should heed this lesson and pull any federal funding for high-speed rail.

High-Speed Rail: Waste of Taxpayer Money

By Michael Barone
January 20, 2011 6:35 am
The Washington Examiner

Where can the new Congress start cutting spending? Here’s one obvious answer: high-speed rail. The Obama administration is sending billions of stimulus dollars around the country for rail projects that make no sense and that, if they are ever built, will be a drag on taxpayers indefinitely.

When incoming Govs. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and John Kasich of Ohio cancelled high-speed rail projects, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood refused to let them spend the dollars on other forms of transportation and sent the funds instead to California and other states.

Walker argued that Wisconsin didn’t need $810 billion for a 78-mile line between Madison and Milwaukee because there’s already a transportation artery — Interstate 94 — that enables people to get from one city to the other in a little more than an hour (I once drove that route to have dinner in Milwaukee).

Kasich’s rationale? “They tried to give us $400 million to build a high-speed train that goes 39 miles an hour.” Train boosters countered that its top speed was 79 miles per hour — about the same as many drivers on Interstate 71.

High-speed rail may sound like a good idea. It works, and reportedly even makes a profit, in Japan and France. If they can do it, why can’t we?

A look at some proposed projects gives the answer. Take the $2.7 billion, 84-mile line connecting Orlando and Tampa that incoming Florida Gov. Rick Scott is mulling over.

It would connect two highly decentralized metro areas that are already connected by Interstate 4. Urban scholar Wendell Cox, writing for the Reason Foundation, found that just about any door-to-door trip between the two metro areas would actually take longer by train than by auto — and would cost more. Why would any business traveler take the train?

As for tourists headed for Orlando’s theme parks, there is already a convenient rental car operation, with some of the nation’s lowest rates, at the Orlando airport. Why would parents get on a train, pay a separate fare for each kid and then rent a car at the station when you could more easily get one at the airport?

As Cox points out, cost estimates for the Florida train seem underestimated and the ridership estimates seem wildly inflated. If he’s even partially right, Florida taxpayers will be paying billions for this white elephant over the years.

Other projects seem just as iffy. California is spending $4.3 billion on a 65-mile stretch of track between Corcoran and Borden in the Central Valley, which is supposed to be part of an 800-mile network connecting San Diego and Sacramento. Its projected cost was $32 billion in 2008 and $42 billion in 2009, suggesting a certain lack of precision.

Or consider the $1.1 billion track improvement on the Chicago-St. Louis line in Illinois. It would reduce travel time between the cities by 48 minutes, but the trip would still take over four and a half hours at an average speed of 62 miles per hour.

None of these high-speed projects are really high-speed. Japan has bullet trains that average 171 miles per hour, France’s TGV averages 149 miles per hour. At such speeds you can travel faster door-to-door by train than by plane over distances up to 500 miles.

In contrast, Amtrak’s Acela from Baltimore to Washington averages 84 miles per hour and the Orlando-Tampa train would average 101 miles per hour. That makes the train uncompetitive with planes on trips more than 300 miles.

Now take a look at your map and see how many major metro areas with densely concentrated central business districts and large numbers of business travelers are within 300 miles of each other.

The answer is not very many outside of the Northeast Corridor between Washington and Boston. Our geography is different from France’s or Japan’s.

Moreover, to achieve the speed of French and Japanese high-speed rail, you need dedicated track so you don’t have to slow down for freight trains. To get dedicated track, you need a central government that is willing and able to ignore environmental protests and not-in-my-backyard activists. Japan and France have such governments. We don’t.

So we are spending billions on high-speed rail that isn’t really high speed, that will serve largely affluent business travelers and that will need taxpayer subsidies forever. This should be a no-brainer for a Congress bent on cutting spending.

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (, is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.