The Poison Pen of Right-Wing Newspapers: Half-Truths and No Truths

For a guy who is unquestionably one of the drabbest humans to ever populate the planet, Democratic Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid can sure stir up a lot of scheisse. And right there to help out is the ‘elite’ news media. This time it’s the print variety. There are a lot of ways to distort or editorialize a news story other than the editorial page and that includes locally run Associated Press stories, sometimes written hundreds or thousands of miles distant. I recently read an example in my South Carolina ‘Deep South’ paper trying to dredge up ancient history to sully Reid’s reputation.

It was an AP story about a proposal for bullet trains to run from Victorville, California to Las Vegas. It’s a private project, with one company, DesertXpress dumping in $1.6 billion of its own dough. However, DesertXpress may want to borrow an additional $4.9 billion from the U.S. government. The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 established the loan program. There appears to be $35 billion in its coffers with an additional $8 billion apparently lying around from the 2009 Stimulus plan. If the loan goes through, it will be, by far, the largest the program has ever made.

To lay hands on the $4.9 billion, DesertXpress will have to go through the Federal Railroad Administration. The company may borrow all or nothing; they may borrow a fraction of that amount or they may just go for a government guarantee. If borrowed, the money must be paid back with interest. If the loan defaults, Uncle Sam is in the bullet train business.

My local story on the subject was headlined “Feds might loan Reid-linked firm $4.9 billion to build bullet train.” Even AP story headlines are written by local editors. The first paragraph of the story told of a company ‘linked’ to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. There was no mention or explanation of that ‘link’ in the entirety of the remaining story. The paper had left out the AP ‘link’ explanation so you could think the worst.

I’ll get to that ‘link’ in a moment. But first a little more about the project. DesertXpress has proposed operating the high-speed train route for years now. It initially  broached the idea to investors and the government around 2006 when the first environmental study for the project was launched. You want to build a high-speed train route along with two trains, double tracks and a couple of stations?  Be forewarned.

I just read a 69-page government report outlining the fed bureaucratic steps that must be followed. The Department of Transportation is the big daddy overseer. You get to interact with seven different federal agencies and that’s before you get into the specifics of wanting to borrow taxpayer money. We haven’t even touched on state and local hoops.

Environmentally, the train would supposedly take 2 ½ million cars off the highway annually. That’s less pollution and fuel and more safety. All very good things. The trip would take about 90 minutes, 50 bucks each way. Two different trains with slightly different technologies would be utilized. One would hit speeds of about 125 mph and carry 478 passengers, the other, 150 mph and a maximum of 675 folks traveling by rail alongside Interstate 15.

Now to the Reid ‘link’. There is one, but, in my opinion, it’s ancient history, tenuous and innocent with no money in Reid’s pocket.

Majority Leader Reid first favored a company named the American Magline Group. You think the DesertXpress trains are fast? Try Magnetic Levitation or maglev technology. In Shanghai, they’re got a train (or missile) that streaks along at speeds as high as 268 mph. What fun! I loved riding the French high-speed Train a’ Grande Vitesse when I would visit, but with a top speed of 175 mph it was a Model-T compared to the meglevs. But to make up for lower kph numbers TGV’s do have the occasional on-board concertina entertainment.

The exciting Magline Group proposal was an early favorite to win the day for the California/Las Vegas run. In mid-2009, Reid switched over to DesertXpress. The project consultant for DesertXpress was Sig Rogich, a republican who held a fundraiser for Reid during his contentious re-election contest against Tea Party-backed Sharron Angle. The classic tit for tat. There was also another Reid campaign contributor on board with DesertXpress. Case closed. Political favoritism.

Not so fast. Consider Reid’s advocacy for Magline Group over the years. His support continued well into the 2009 campaign season. That would certainly have been counter to Rogich’s interests. When it became clear that Magline was carrying too much baggage aboard their fantasy train, Reid switched to the company that could carry off the project. It’s that simple.

Magline had been trying unsuccessfully to get off the ground for three decades. There was a question of whether the company could even come up with a relatively benign $40 plus million in matching funds with the fed for initial EPA studies and an engineering cost analysis. The proposed Magline route of Anaheim to Vegas was considered impractical due to the potentially problematic crossing of the Cajon Pass. And with or without Reid in their corner, they’re still welcome to apply for the federal bucks. In summation, Magline couldn’t meet certain project standards and it’s unanimously agreed that DesertXpress is the only company that could. In conclusion, if there was any Reid mischief, don’t you think the Tea Party would have dug it up over these nearly 3 years?

You want a ‘link’?  How about Dick Cheney seamlessly moving from a five-year stint as CEO of Halliburton into the Vice-Presidency in the Bush White House? One Cheney perk was limitless power to push America into a devastatingly ill-advised, preemptive war with Iraq. For Halliburton and Cheney that perk was a windfall of gargantuan proportions. Halliburton subsidiary, KBR had sucked up $17.2 billion in taxpayer money by mid-2008 and the war still had years to go. Halliburton was once awarded a $7.2 billion contract when it was the only company allowed to bid. All told Halliburton/KBR had to have hauled in hundreds of BILLIONS. And they’re still hanging around.

For Cheney’s part, his sweet Halliburton quid pro quo parting gift most likely makes up the major portion of his roughly $100 million net worth. And I’m sure he’s still raking in dirty money for his sleazy efforts.

Unless he’s had a change of heart!





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