Thursday, August 15, 2013

Last Call For Hyped Error Loop

The cursory math on Elon Musk's overhyped Hyperloop project doesn't even begin to add up. Whatever Nathan Stark fantasies the guy is entertaining, he needs to go back to the drawing board.
Musk's proposal won't actually get riders to the downtowns of Los Angeles or San Francisco. It can only carry around 10% of the capacity of the California High-Speed Rail. Additionally, it will bypass other population centers, like Bakersfield, Fresno, and San Jose.
Building a truly workable Hyperloop, if it's feasible at all, will be significantly more expensive than Musk claims. It might even be more expensive than the California HSR project. And Musk's proposal leaves a lot of questions unanswered.
How did he come to his construction cost estimate in the first place? Musk argues that the Hyperloop is cheaper than HSR because it's elevated, saving on the cost of building at grade and reducing local opposition. But bridges are far more expensive than building tracks at grade. And just because the footprint is limited to a big pylon every 100 feet doesn't mean that the environmental impact analysis process will be any easier or that the public will be any more receptive.
Other issues, like seismic stability, are simply glossed over. He claims that by elevating the Hyperloop tracks, they will be more stable than ground-running HSR. Clearly he's unfamiliar with the Cypress Street Viaduct. That's one reason that the California High-Speed Rail Authority insists on crossing all faults at grade.
Musk also claims that his giant steel tube will be okay with the only expansion joints at the Los Angeles and San Francisco ends. They'll just be really big. That's a significant engineering issue that cannot simply be ignored, at least not if Musk is in any way serious about this proposal.

He's not. If he was, he would have immediately thought of the most obvious cost overrun source: the cost of the land to build the tube pylons on.

Consider some of the major factors for why California’s $68 billion high-speed rail system has gone over budget. In many cases, local communities have demanded extra viaducts and tunnels added to the project that weren’t strictly necessary. Other towns, meanwhile, have insisted they not be bypassed even in cases where it would be cheaper to do so. Would the Hyperloop be immune from these sorts of political pressures and tweaks?
What’s more, California’s high-speed rail project has had to grapple with the high costs of acquiring more than 1,100 parcels of land, often from farmers resistant to sell. The Hyperloop would try to minimize this problem by propping the whole system up on pylons, shrinking its footprint, but it can’t escape the land problem entirely. As Alexis Madrigal points out, Musk’s proposal seems to assume it’s possible to buy up tens of thousands of acres in California for a mere $1 billion. That’s awfully optimistic.

I hear Hyperloop, I think "Springfield monorail".

Huckleberry Hounded From The Right

Mitch The Turtle isn't the only Republican senator facing a primary challenge from the Tea Party.  In South Carolina, Lindsey Graham officially has a third challenger, State Sen. Lee Bright of Spartanburg, breathing down his neck, and Bright opened up with a nasty broadside to enter the race Tuesday.

The Johnny Volcano and Huckleberry Hound show went on the road to Egypt earlier this month (and that really didn't go very well) to assess the situation on the ground, and that's gotten Bright up in arms:

“During the (congressional) recess, when I would hope that he would be around folks in South Carolina, getting their feelings on so many issues that affect their lives, he has instead chosen to take his time to be a community organizer for the Muslim Brotherhood and that concerns me,” Bright told supporters in a conference call. “He needs to spend more time listening to what the brothers in South Carolina have to say.”

Ouch.  A hint delivered by squeaky toy mallet to the back of the head, no less.  Graham has his hands full anyway with two other challengers in his clown car, Talibangelical and perennial also-ran Richard Cash and Nancy Mace, the first female graduate of the Citadel, both of whom make Graham look like Al Franken by comparison.  Sadly, Lee Bright may be the real threat to Graham and an even worse Senator than any of the others involved in this mess.

Lindsey may be South Carolina's huckleberry, but for how long?

Turtling Up On Obamacare

Mitch McConnell is in an ugly spot.  On the right is fire-breathing Tea Party businessman Matt Bevin, who's apparently running for Mitch's Senate seat on a platform of "Well I would have shut down the government by now."  On the left, Alison Lundergan Grimes is waxing the turtle and happily taking over as the pragmatic, dynamic young centrist.

And Mitch?  Well, this turtle is stuck in the middle of the highway.

A government shutdown would not prevent the Affordable Care Act from being funded, Kentucky's senior senator said Tuesday.

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has refused to publicly take a side as some members of his party lobby for shutting down the federal government.

"The problem is the bill that would shut down the government wouldn't shut down Obamacare," McConnell said. "Most of it is permanent law and not affected by that. It also wouldn't stop the taxes. Taxes that are going in on medical devices, taxes that are going in on health insurance premiums."

McConnell, who is also the GOP leader in the Senate, spoke to a group of healthcare workers Tuesday at Baptist Health Corbin, a hospital in southern Kentucky.

During the meeting, McConnell told audience members, "I'm for stopping Obamacare, but shutting down the government will not stop Obamacare."

Oh, but it gets worse for Mitch.

But McConnell admitted there are parts of the ACA he supports.

"There are a handful of things in the 2,700-page bill that probably are okay," McConnell said. "But that doesn't warrant a 2,700-page takeover of all American healthcare."

I'm betting Team Bevin will have a field day with that one.  Again, the school of thought is that Tea Party pressure from Bevin will make a shutdown significantly more likely, as Bevin's main criticism is that in the end, McConnell always folds to the hated Kenyan anti-colonial baby-eating Obama.

Mitch didn't do himself any favors against Bevin Tuesday. Bevin's reaction:  Mitch doesn't have the balls to defund Obamacare.

Bevin's right.

Or is he?


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