It is common knowledge that railroads, traditionally and firmly, have set golden standards for a lack of openness, honesty and fair play. More than 100 years ago, O. Henry wrote about the "schemes of money-getting so fraudulent and high-financial that they wouldn't have been allowed in the bylaws of a railroad rebate systems."
Actually, on the surface there is nothing especially complicated about the high-speed rail plan. But this simplicity is deceptive. Quoting O. Henry once more, "It was beautiful and simple as all truly great swindles are."
The main idea is really primitive: to get access to taxpayers' money, and then to channel it into private pockets, having practically no responsibility for the results of the project. The trick is to do all this in open view, using as a cover noble phrases about technical progress, public needs and conveniently stretched laws and statistical data.
This is a real art: creating something like a concept of perfect crime, without any risk for personal freedom and finances. How much smarter it is than the unsophisticated Ponzi scheme of Bernie Madoff, who will never leave his prison cell.
To tell the truth, I have a suspicion that there is a bit more system to this madness. There is a possibility that the High-Speed Rail Authority purposely designed this totally crazy project as a backup that will allow them to claim innocence by reason of insanity in the case of its inevitable collapse. They have nothing to lose. For them the process of milking public funds is more important, not the achievement of some specific result.
Until they are paid, they will continue to fight to the very last moment, and to the very last penny. There is no room for compromise. The only way to finish this pseudo project is to cut their financing.
The question is, will we wait for the arrival of a new James Bond? Or maybe some of our elected legislators will finally admit to obvious facts and will have the courage to blow up this dark balloon that is hovering over our heads, diverting resources from real needs of California?
I hope that its empty shell and misleading logos will be soon washed away in the cold waters of the Pacific Ocean.
Mikhail A. Rakov lives on Alma Street in Menlo Park.
This story contains 503 words.
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