07 Apr

High speed rail’s future may yet be in Texas

I have this strong suspicion that the first high speed rail demonstrator in the US will probably be in Texas given the troubles California is running into. Still, if it’s demonstrated in Texas, struggles into California, and the North East Corridor continues making improvements, we may yet see an idea who’s time is well over due. And having it work in Texas will take it back out of the culture war it somehow slipped into and back into ‘does it work for this leg’ sort of discussion that’s really more interesting.

“Dallas and Houston are the ideal distance for high-speed rail, about 230 miles apart. A one-way rail trip is expected to take less than 90 minutes.
Each metro area is an economic powerhouse. Dallas and Houston have fast-growing, young populations that are roughly the same size.

The cities are also separated by flat terrain, a better fit for the closed corridor and dedicated track necessary to reach speeds of 200 mph. No costly tunnels needed.”

(Via For high-speed rail’s future in Texas, the private sector dares to go where government won’t | Dallas Morning News.)

Oh, yeah, combine that with Texas showing some serious wind power inroads (over a third of the energy produced for a brief moment not too long ago), you have an interesting dichotomy happening there.

06 Jun

Texas man murders prostitute, acquitted

Link via Chuck Wendig. I don’t even. What the fuck kind of headspace do you have to grant this man his freedom?

“Attorneys for Gilbert say he paid the woman $150 to have sex – then she refused, balked at returning the money and said she had to give the cash to her driver. The defense said Gilbert’s actions were justified because he was trying to retrieve stolen property and the driver was part of the theft scheme.”

(Via Texas man acquitted in Craigslist escort death – KTBS.com.)

I just can’t stop thinking about this. That a couple hundred dollars is enough property that a legal system thinks it is worth a life boggles my mind.

The legal system down there, the governance, is fucked. That’s some medieval shit there.

16 May

America has lost interest in the Texas explosion

“Adair Grain told the Texas Department of Health Services in late February that its plant in West had the capacity to store 270 tons of ammonium nitrate, which is, according to Reuters, ‘1,350 times the amount … that would normally trigger safety oversight by’ the DHS. The plant had no sprinklers, no fire walls, and no deluge systems, according to the Associated Press. The insurance policy on the plant was only for $1m. Texas does not have liability insurance mandates for plants like the one in West in case people are injured or killed. It does, however, require those liability mandates for all kinds of businesses like those that rent out inflatable bounce houses for kids’ birthday parties and air-conditioner repair outfits.”

(Via Why has America lost interest in the West, Texas fertiliser explosion? | Jessica Luther | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk.)

But hey, the governor is still touring the country talking about how awesomely deregulated things are.

So that was basically a win for him, I take it.

10 May

After explosion, Texas still trumpets anti-regulation credentials

A proud moment for pro-business, anti-regulation thought (except not):

“Five days after an explosion at a fertilizer plant leveled a wide swath of this town, Gov. Rick Perry tried to woo Illinois business officials by trumpeting his state’s low taxes and limited regulations. Asked about the disaster, Mr. Perry responded that more government intervention and increased spending on safety inspections would not have prevented what has become one of the nation’s worst industrial accidents in decades.”

(Via After Explosion, Texas Remains Wary of Regulation – NYTimes.com.)

06 May

Texas plant that blew up carried a mere $1M policy

The Texas plant that blew up carried only a $1 million policy. Money quote:

“‘It’s rare for Texas to require insurance for any kind of hazardous activity,’ he said. ‘We have very little oversight of hazardous activities and even less regulation.'”

(Via Texas plant that blew up carried $1M policy | www.palmbeachpost.com.)

The Sacramento Bee, as a result, ran this cartoon that points out that this is a natural end result of an environment that privileges business and profits over regulation, oversight, and people’s lives:

NewImage

Fox News, the governor of Texas, and right wing sites have apparently gone nuts about this.

But seriously, this is the real price of lack of regulations. You see it in Victorian England, you see it in non-regulated areas of the world. Human life, blood, and health is the price give over to gain the low prices.

If you champion that businesses can self regulate, that profit is the most important thing above all else, then you cannot act shocked when people point out the blood price.

To be intellectually consistent, you have to accept that the above (both satire and consequences) are what happens in that environment, and have always happened.

But intellectual consistency is not exactly the hallmark of Rick Perry or Fox News.

Political cartoonists are cutting. It’s their job. Always has been.

Is in poor taste?

Maybe.

But then there are those of us who view the cost in tragedy to be in even poorer taste, and get mocked for being concerned about it in advance.

The same people who are just offended, offended, that that cartoon could exist are the same people who mock those who want regulation to prevent the explosion as people who will ‘cost businesses money.’

It was all fun before the explosion, but now we have to be very, very serious, and no one can question how this may have been prevented, but must quietly move on.

To keeping things exactly as they were.

Because, ultimately, that governor isn’t planing to change anything to prevent this from happening again. Nor will Fox News.

Because the blood price is small compared to the profits. It’s a simple spreadsheet, right? On one side, potential cost in life and the payouts to families. On the other, the millions saved each year by not doing things like being regulated or paying on policies for events like these.