Boondoggle

The Choo Choo Lobby of railroad enthusiasts is driving California mostly to distraction.

The “Bullet Train” backed mostly by Gov. Jerry Brown, was predicted initially to cost $33 billion, is now estimated to cost $77 billion.

Both the LA Times and The NY Times have had articles in the last few days, and both articles stress the unpopularity of the Choo Choo Train, the slowest Bullet Train in the world when finished.

The California “Bullet Train” must be designed to travel between LA and San Francisco in 2 hours and 40 minutes to meet the standards of the Initiative that passed, and computer calculations say it does with 2 or 3 minutes to spare. As we who have designed computer projections know, few actual results match the projections. (Projections are particularly rosy when billions of dollars are at stake.)

The design calls for bursts of 220MPH and an average speed of 145MPH, neither of which appears possible, although the computer projections say the train can do that. If any more problems arise, and the variable in the computer projection changes, with only 2 minutes to spare currently, the projection may fall into the negative.

The concept initially viewed a partnership between state, federal and investor dollars. Federal dollars are unlikely from a Republican Congress and investor dollars are missing, so the state must go it alone.

Boondoggle!

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California Teachers Average $81,126

Richard Rider, my source for All Things California, reports that California K-12 teachers average annual pay is $81,126.

That is second only to New York, and I don’t regret a single penny but no one can call them underpaid.

It just seems that we are not getting our money’s worth sine our students rank 47th, according to the US Department of Education and have for more than a decade.

Russia’s Stranglehold On Europe

President Trump is absolutely right when he calls on Europe to end their dependence on Russian natural gas because it gives Russia huge political leverage. It really does, and Russia exploits that leverage to the maximum.

Commercial interests are building a new pipeline, Nord Stream 2 to Europe to expand that leverage. Europe, specifically the E. U. Nations, import 40% of their natural gas from Russia, and Germany imports more than 50%.

Europe can get really cold in the Winter and threats to throttle natural gas can get political attention, quickly.

The US is the world’s largest producer of natural gas, and has developed two ports for export of the gas in liquified form…one in Louisiana and one in Maryland. We will more than double our ports this year.

Unfortunately, we are not price competitive because Russia has long established pipelines and can sell for about half of our price, $4.5 to $5.5 per million BTU compared to $7 for US LNG. We can sell more easily to a power hungry China, at least until Europe builds more LNG receiving ports. Germany, recognizing its dependence on Russia, is building such a port to diversify.

The US is new to this game, only exporting natural gas since 2015. Qatar is Second tonRussia in exports.

The E.U. has agreed to import more US natural gas in the meeting this week between Juncker, Head of the E.U. and Trump, but actually it was just a Letter of Intent, not a contract.

Electronic Printer’s Ink

Without a doubt, the Press Gaggle is more and more immature in their shouting questions at the president, but since the president answers some questions, the rudeness continues.

But each the president seems to learn how to turn press competition into one cohesive unit…try to ban a CNN reporter. Obama learned by banning a FOX reporter, and Trump found out yesterday.

The new White House Communications Director, a former FOX executive, tried to dance around the case by saying the president never used the word “ban” but the dance won’t work. It is a semantic argument with people who make their living in words.

The old saw, “Never pick an argument with anyone who buys printer’s ink by the barrel,” is true in an era where there is an electronic equivalent.

Reporters have long memories.

“An innocent abroad”

The Editorial Board of the Wall Street Journal has analyzed the 400+ page document setting forth the proof used by the FBI to get a FISA Judge to authorize the wire tapping of an American citizen, Carter Page.

Their conclusion is that the FBI used a political document, the so-called Steele document, paid for by the Clinton political machine. Where the document refers to intelligence reports, it is that document, and where the intelligence agents, it refers to the author of that “dossier.”

The Editorial Board of the WSJ is a sober group, with good investigational resources. They should be applauded for taking a stand, and their position is a substantial influence.

Probably the best evidence that the FBI stumbled on this is that Carter Page walks the streets, UN-arrested and un-indicted. Apparently, there was no evidence unveiled that he was a Russian spy, just that he was as described, as described by the Editorial Board as “an innocent abroad.”

Russia Needs to Up Their Game

According to POLITICO,, the Affidavit submitted in the Maria Butina case states that Butina told her Russian handler in 2016 that’s Republicans were “for us” and that Democrats were “against us.”

Now, leaving aside the accuracy of the analysis, that the accused Russian spy had that perception is troubling enough. Butina, whose cover story was as a Graduate Student at American University, was being paid, according to the FBI, by a Russian billionaire but was being directed by the Russian government.

It is highly likely that Butina, like Russian spy Anna Chapman will be repatriated to Russia, where, like Anna Butina will be acknowledged as a spy and treated grandly.

Butina, despite using sex as a lure, is simply not as pretty as Anna was. Russia needs to up their game in spycraft.

Trump Thinks He Needs No Staff

So the president wants a do-over in the Fall.

Well, he could hardly do worse than his recent performance, but the question is: To what end?

Other than to get more publicity, which both Trump and Putin thrive on, there seems little point. If the two have already agreed upon anything, and they obviously have, is there something new to be discussed? In three months?

This past meeting was not staffed. Usually, the pre-meeting lasts months, and most meetings are pro forma with agreements already done. Only Putin, Trump and the translators know what, if anything came out of this meeting. The demand to interrogate the translators is unlikely to bear fruit because presidents can always just use secure phones if they wish.

Trump wants to be a one-man gang. He thinks his personality, and his mind are so superior that he doesn’t need his staff, or to listen to his advisors.

He is wrong!