The Secret Worldwide Transit Cabal
Monday, October 13, 2003
WILL CINCINNATI RAIL HATERS GO "UP THE RIVER?"
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"Truth passes through three phases: 1) It is ridiculed. 2) It is violently opposed. 3) It is accepted as self-evident." Albert Schopenhouer. In the United States, rail is currently passing through Phase Two.
From the Cabalmaster:
The Secret Worldwide Transit Cabal is obliged to admonish rail critics as follows:
IT’S OK TO SHOUT,
IT’S OK TO POUT, (but)
YOU’D BETTER NOT LIE,
WE’RE TELLING YOU WHY . . .
‘cause if you do . . . and you get caught . . .
. . . UP THE RIVER,
OH, UP THE RIVER,
OH UP THE RIVER YOU’LL GO, OH, OH!
UP THE RIVER,
OH, UP THE RIVER,
OH, UP THE O-HI-O!
Now that we’ve finished our obligatory (and weak) attempt at comedy (it did “bring down the house” at Line’s End™, the (very) secret (very) hidden retreat of The Secret Worldwide Transit Cabal) . . . we feel obliged to insert a disclaimer. We are, after all, a TRANSIT cabal . . . NOT a RAIL cabal . . . contrary to the pernicious propaganda purveyed in perpetuity by certain SAP™s.
We tend to support rail transit because it can provide high-quality transit alternatives to private autos. However, whatever the benefits of rail might be, it costs big bucks to build. Therefore, it’s perfectly legitimate to ask whether costs are justified by benefits. Honest inquiry . . . honest research . . . honest debate. The key word here is “honest.” However, there are individuals who 1.) don’t like the idea of rail transit, for reasons of self-interest or ideology, and 2.) are willing to resort to all sorts of distortion and deception.
A bit of background: Voters in Cincinnati, OH, and Hamilton County considered a light-rail financing proposal, “Issue 7,” on November 5, 2002. This was to provide the local share of a $2.6 billion transit program. It attracted a “yes” vote of only 31 percent.
As the campaign wound up, LRT supporters filed a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission (OEC) against the opposition group Alternatives to Light Rail Transit (ALRT), in the person of its leader, Stephan Louis, see www.enquirer.com/editions/2003/02/10/loc_bronson10.html.
The point of contention: a cable-TV ad, paid for opponents, stating that "The Federal Transit Administration rates it one of the worst plans in the country.''
''. . . one of the worst plans in the country . . . ''
The point we’re gonna develop below may seem arcane, but it’s not. Many if not most states have laws against making false statements during an election campaign. In practice, “false statements” includes situations where words, spoken or printed, are substantially altered.
FTA rates transit projects on a scale of “Highly recommended, Recommended, and Not Recommended.” This is not at all the same thing as “Good, Bad, and Worst.” For one thing, FTA evaluation criteria include the local funding share, and the availability of funding to pay this. In theory, a city could appropriate 100 percent of the estimated cost of a transit project, deposit the money in trust, then apply for federal funding as a way of boosting the project’s FTA rating.
So, even though the Cincinnati project was one of four rated “Not Recommended,” it’s also true that the cable-TV ad deviated substantially from the wording of the FTA report.
Hence the finding of probable cause by the OEC that light-rail opponents made false statements in the commercial.
WE READ THE NEWS THAT DAY, OH BOY! (With apologies to John, Paul, George and Ringo).
. . . and, to paraphrase actor George C. Scott in the flick Patton (Amazon DVD store, in character: WE LOVE IT; HOW WE LOVE IT SO!
OK, now that we’re finished with the tomfoolery: Despite pre-election polls indicating that “Issue 7” would win, and the huge gap between campaign budgets (supporters raised $750,000; opponents raised just $10,000), the measure lost by a whopping 69 percent. That, to us, suggests that misleading commercials by opponents had little to do with the outcome. Resistance to new taxes, and what might be called the “first-time” effect, probably played a much larger role.
(The “first time” effect refers to a statement, by one consultant during the early 1990s, that rail-financing proposals always get rejected the “first time” around. We Opinionated Ones were skeptical – the record up to that time suggested that if you DIDN’T win the first time around, the project was dead for years, if not decades, thereafter. Since then, events have proven that the consultant was correct: If at first, you won’t succeed, so try, try again . . . and you eventually will. We’ll bet that drives Wendell, Randal, “Railroading America” and so forth up the proverbial tree.)
We’re not sure how this story ended, or if it has in fact ended. The OEC website is located at www.state.oh.us/elc, but we could find nothing related to this matter. The maximum possible penalty would be criminal prosecution and a $10,000 fine, but reprimands are more common, according to the newspaper article cited above.
Rather than leaving you hanging, we thought we’d offer a bit of advice to the opposition::
--Suppose you’re an anti-rail die-hard, and you can’t stand the thought of voters approving light rail for your town. So, during the election campaign, you buy TV ads and declare:
“THIS IDEA IS yadda, yadda, yadda.”
(Say whatever you want; just make sure it’s not provably false.)
--But you realize that your word alone probably won’t sway many voters. So you try this on for size:
“WENDELL COX SAYS THIS IDEA IS yadda, yadda, yadda.”
(He probably did say it . . . after all, he’s Wendell . . . but you’d better make sure that you quoted him directly.)
--The response was still not what you wanted, so you try something along these lines:
“WENDELL COX, A NOTED PHYSICIAN AND SURGEON, SAYS THIS IDEA IS yadda, yadda, yadda.”
(Now you’re on thin ice -- perilously thin. Whatever else Wendell may be, he’s not a “physician and surgeon.” IF the “physician and surgeon” statement is in any way related to the “yadda, yadda, yadda,” get ready for a run-in with your state’s version of OEC.)
In case we haven’t made the point yet . . . let’s use another example, at the expense of that hapless SAP™ laureate, Dennis “Ozone” Polhill:
“THERE’S A GUY OUT IN COLORADO WHO SAYS THAT LIGHT RAIL MOTORS EMIT OZONE!” (Is RTD Passing Gas? May 29, 2002).
(If you try this during an election campaign, you’re in big trouble, bub! As we’ve explained before, light rail motors do NOT emit ozone because they CAN’T – they have no brushes (they run off of a.c., not d.c.) and are sealed airtight.)
In other words, Dennis “Ozone” Polhill’s ozone fantasy is an example of an argument that has been rendered useless – except to the most reckless of anti-rail fanatics – during an election campaign. We here at The Secret Worldwide Transit Cabal, whose mission is to “monkeywrench” the “anti-transit forces,” would like to assure you that other anti-rail arguments have been rendered worthless, and the list is growing!
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