Posts Tagged ‘Plutocratic Valet’

High Speed Rail Versus High Idiocy

March 1, 2011

NO GOD BUT DEATH, AND REGRESSION IS ITS PROPHET.

Will Is Less Important Than Intelligence.

***

George Will, a very well known salaried propagandist of the established American plutocratic order, condemns trains (“Why Liberals Love Trains, Feb 27, 2011). Never mind that most trade in the USA is carried by profitable trains, and that roads get more than 100 billion dollars of subsidies a year. I must admit that only private jets should get government subsidies, in a well designed plutocracy. Whines Will:

“So why is America’s “win the future” administration so fixated on railroads, a technology that was the future two centuries ago? Because progressivism’s aim is the modification of (other people’s) behavior.
Forever seeking Archimedean levers for prying the world in directions they prefer, progressives say they embrace high-speed rail for many reasons—to improve the climate, increase competitiveness, enhance national security, reduce congestion, and rationalize land use. The length of the list of reasons, and the flimsiness of each, points to this conclusion: the real reason for progressives’ passion for trains is their goal of diminishing Americans’ individualism in order to make them more amenable to collectivism.”

Will’s editorial is full of idiocies, and outright lies. For example he claims that only one high speed train lines is profitable in France. That is false. The Paris-Lyon-Marseilles, and Paris-London, and Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam lines are highly profitable. So are well less known lines as Paris-Geneva, etc.

The lines are so profitable that air service between some cities, such as between Paris and Brussels has disappeared. The same phenomenon is observed in other European countries. On Madrid–Sevilla, high speed rail has reduced air travel from 40% to 10%. Air service has also disappeared between some German cities, due to high speed trains, and the Deutsche Bundesbahn high speed trains operate on TGV Est with SNCF… because high speed rail is so profitable. Studies have shown it is more competitive than air on train travel times of less than 5 hours (that’s 1,000 miles at 300 km/h).

Willful idiocy has no limits: in France, high speed rail is expanding from self financing, without subsidy. The national railway, SNCF, is profitable (see note). Besides, although officially France has less than 2,000 kilometers of high speed rail, that is defined there as 300 km/h. If one includes lines at or above 200 km/h there are much more.

Trains are a lot more empowering and individualistic than planes, as anybody who has travelled by both will recognize — and planes, not cars, are the main alternative to high-speed rail. Besides, what is empowering at driving a car? One becomes a slave to the art of avoiding accidents and respecting all laws and regulations.

But of course when the American elite travels by plane, it is driven to said plane by private limousine, and does not have to suffer the indignities the commoners are submitted to, from barked orders to pat-downs. Then air traffic control, a government subsidy, gives private jets priority over the commons, and they pay just a fraction of the cost of a jumbo jet, although they are as big a problem. Verily, Pluto is supposed to be invisible, and so are the reasons of the plutocrats.

Will is a clever man, indeed. He goes where the money is, and serves who Adam Smith called “the masters of mankind” (and smith said that generations before Karl Marx, since he died in 1790). Clever Will is, but not moral. Clever like a power hungry monkey, who wants the banana all to itself, even when he is already stuffed, rather than sharing it, like a man of brains and taste. Morality is the highest intelligence, but will does not know that.

Or then it is this morality of the elite, that Smith or Sade had condemned in the 18C. Adam Smith put it pretty well in his essays on the “Moral sentiment”, 250 years ago: “All for ourselves, and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind.”

American individualism, like American exceptionalism, or Hitler’s celebrated attachment to the right of minorities in the name of human rights (one of Hitler’s main electoral platform points, believe it, or not!) are much exaggerated notions. If the American elite is that individualistic, how come most of them think all the same?
By the way, there is a lot of high tech in very high speed trains, especially on steel wheels. Says Krugman: “And there’s the bit about rail as an antiquated technology; try saying that after riding the Shanghai Maglev.”

Maglev has no advantage over steel wheels, but a lot of disadvantages. Maglev uses a lot of light but flammable materials, such as magnesium, little protection against shocks, and extravagantly high magnetic fields. There have been very deadly or spectacular accidents with the two maglev lines (one of them experimental, in Germany; the technology is German; the Germans prefer to use standard high speed rail, with a highest speed of normal trains in normal operations being 400 km/h = 250 mph).

Whereas steel wheels can go wherever there are rails, not so with maglev.
The maglev speed record is just three miles per hour above the (French) high speed, steel wheels, record of 575 kilometers per hour (= 357 mph). At these speeds non trivial shock waves and resonance problems have to be solved. Pantographs maintain contact through electronic piloting.

High Speed Trains are so fast, normal signaling cannot be read. So the trains are robotized: they brake automatically if signaling is not obeyed.

By the way, (the ancestor of) Al Qaeda attacked the French High speed train, when it was going at 300km/h. The bomb shattered a cab, but the train stopped OK, and the fatalities were only caused by the bomb itself. The train did not crash into the ground, for the good reason that trains are already on the ground, a reason that even will may understand.  In 30 years of operation, the French never had a fatality directly caused by high speed train operations. (The Alstom trains are designed to not go on the side, even if they leave the tracks, but to dissipate energy through benign snaking, while staying upright).

At high speed conventional braking is ineffective, and the trains brake electromagnetically, sending back energy where it came from. Electric trains consume a fraction of the energy of any other transportation system, and emits ridiculously small amounts of CO2, relatively speaking, again. A high speed line such as the Tokaido Shinkansen line in Japan carries about 5 times as many passengers per hour per meter of width relative to a road (even when the traffic is maximized on the road; so the land usage of rail is much greater).

An intermediate technology exists, capable of 250 km/h on conventional railroad lines, where the trains lean in the turns (Russia bought it from the French Alstom, which bought it from Italy). The big advantage is not having to build dedicated very high speed lines.

Some will object that train lines work best between concentrated cities, as in Europe. But the USA, like everybody else, has concentrated cities; most of the world population live in cities. Moreover cities have to be encouraged, as their presence relieve the rest of the planet of the human footprint. High Speed Rail is a big advantage for cities, thus for ecology.

The ecological and efficiency advantage becomes crushing when one considers that plane travel is heavily subsidized. It is not just that the plane makers are subsidized, as the WTO found with Boeing and Airbus. The expensive fuel planes are using is subsidized: namely, jet fuel is not taxed, worldwide and the US Army, often seconded by Britain, France and other NATO heroes, insure that miscreants are terrorized into submission (please notice the double meaning…), and keep on sending their oil over.

Oil from fossil fuels, is the most energy intensive fuel, per mass, short of Plutonium, available today. We do not have a substitute we can industrially produce, yet (fuel from GMO algae is an obvious future candidate). Liquid hydrogen has twice the energy per mass… but a serious hydrogen plane has not flown yet, in part because how to store the hydrogen efficiently enough is unsolved. 

It is entirely possible that we will basically run out of oil before planes can be switched to more advanced ways to lift them. So we are stuck, for long range transportation with making big fires with fossil fuel. Just in that regard, it is a matter of strategic and economic precaution to build up a modern electric train network. Such a network makes transportation much cheaper, so it allows to redirect resources away from wasteful economic activities.

The fossil fuel conspiracy has mesmerized greedy little ones such as Will to hate trains. Precisely because trains lead where the fossils don’t want to go.

Notice the attack of Will against “progress”. This is one of the main point of American plutocratic propaganda: progress itself is the problem. Progress is regressive, say the Neo Conservatives, and they congratulate themselves about how profound they are: nobody can understand how they think. And they chuckle, lost in self satisfaction.

Why is progress regression for the masters? Because progress came with laws against slavery, murder and torture all of which handicap the truly wealthy. What’s the point of being that wealthy, if one cannot enjoy all the fruits Pluto provides with? Could not we return to the Middle Ages, get some relief from all this progress? In the Middle Ages, henchmen such as Will could have more fun with the commoners.

But there is more. Ultimately extreme personal wealth, plutocracy, rests on military force, which rests on lack of progress. Savages need savagery to justify their own existence. Progress contradicts savagery itself. Hence the importance of regressive propagandists such as Will, or O’Reilly, as they attack the “progressives” non stop.

At this point, American technological superiority is pretty much reduced to superior people killing technology. Which is indeed by far the best in the world. No wonder neoconservatives are against progress. More than 50% of the weapons sold, worldwide, are American made. An American president said: “The business of America is business“. How quaint. Nowadays, it sometimes rather seem that the business of America has become death.

The regressives detest High Speed Rail, because it’s all about progress. Shall we instead see how far we can regress? Shall we make the infliction of death, or the preparation of the infliction of death, the only business worth having? Have the masters found a maxim even more vile than the one Adam Smith condemned so long ago?

No God but death, and regression is its prophet?

***
https://patriceayme.wordpress.com/

***

More passages from Will, high on delusion: “Generations hence, when the river of time has worn this presidency’s importance to a small, smooth pebble in the stream of history, people will still marvel that its defining trait was a mania for high-speed rail projects. This disorder illuminates the progressive mind…. The automobile encourages people in delusions of adequacy, which make them resistant to government by experts who know what choices people should make.

Time was, the progressive cry was “Workers of the world unite!” or “Power to the people!” Now it is less resonant: “All aboard!”

(Notice Will’s contempt for commoners: he speaks of delusions of adequacy”, even among those who drive!)

*

Note on SNCF profitability: some of SNCF debt was transferred to RFF (which owns the railroad lines, as forced by the EU; thus Deutsche Bundesbahn operates all the way to Paris, on RFF lines).


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