Ex-Friend: Assange Out to Settle Score with Hillary

Ex-Friend: Assange Out to Settle Score with Hillary–  |   Sunday, 23 Oct 2016 —39Hj.,b43

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is out to settle a score with Hillary Clinton according to a former colleague of his.

Buzzfeed News special correspondent James Ball, who worked for Assange for three months in 2011, wrote on Sunday that Assange dislikes “taking advice, anyone else having a power base, and being challenged – especially by women” and that anti-Clinton leaks are getting bigger play because of comments she made in 2010 condemning the release of classified documents by the organization.

“Assange would not, in my view, ever knowingly be a willing tool of the Russian state: if Putin came and gave him a set of orders, they’d be ignored,” wrote Ball. “But if an anonymous or pseudonymous group comes offering anti-Clinton leaks, they’d have found a host happy not to ask too many awkward questions: he’s set up almost perfectly to post them, and push for them to have the biggest impact they can.”

Clinton said in 2010 that the release of documents puts “people’s lives in danger, threatens our national security, and undermines our efforts to work with other countries to solve shared problems,” adding that the exposure of those confidential communications was an attack on the international community.

In March of this year and, during the Justice Department’s investigation into Clinton’s handling of classified information, WikiLeaks published 30,322 emails sent to and from Clinton’s private email server while she was secretary of state, making all documents easily available in a searchable format. FBI Director James Comey eventually recommended no criminal charges for Clinton but called her “extremely careless” and questioned her judgment in her handling of the information.
WikiLeaks on Oct. 22 also released additional e-mails from the account of Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta.

Ball wrote that the approach by Assange, who is currently inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, “has taken WikiLeaks from the most powerful and connected force of a new journalistic era to a back-bedroom operation run at the tolerance (or otherwise) of Ecuador’s government. This is his shot at reclaiming the world stage, and settling a score with Hillary Clinton as he does so.”
source- WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. (AP)–By Solange Reyner , james ball, buzzfeed

 

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10 More Things We’ve Learned From Wikileaks

10 More Things We’ve Learned From Wikileaks-47HJ.,B43

With the presidential election right around the corner, still more emails are being released by Wikileaks. These new batches of emails provide a continuing look into what goes on behind the scenes in the democratic campaign, and are a sobering look at the real story behind the media crusade. 10Laura Graham Laura Graham was deputy director of White House scheduling during Bill Clinton’s time in office, a job that required her to interview with John Podesta. She’s also become the Clinton’s chief of staff and the chief of operations for the Clinton Foundation, meaning that she is in the center of everything that is going on in the Clinton camp. Doug Band, who has been at the heart of newly-exposed.

10 Laura Graham— The leaked emails suggest that not all is rosy behind the scenes at the Clinton Foundation. On December 8, 2011, Band sent an email warning about the state of Graham’s mental health. Not only did he tell other Clinton supporters that he had just talked Graham out of driving her car off a Staten Island dock and ultimately committing suicide in the water, he gave a reason, too. He writes, “She called to tell me the stress of all this office crap with wjc and cvc as well as that of her family had driven her to the edge and she couldn’t take it any more.” The email goes on to say that Chelsea would undoubtedly not care, and be more worried about what the press was saying about her in recent articles.

9 The Hillary Victory Fund—Back in July of 2016, Wikileaks released some emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee that seemed to prove just how hand-in-hand officials and their fundraisers went. Those emails led to the resignation of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the party chairwoman, and put the spotlight directly on just what kind of things donations to the party could get you. Those included everything from a more prominent position at public events to VIP packages, luxury hotel rooms, and access to various Democratic officials.

More recently released emails from this latest batch of leaks shows that the trading of fundraising dollars for favors continues with the Hillary Victory Fund. Among the most damning evidence is an email from Minh Nguyen to John Podesta, in which he talks about “trying to land the campaign a big fat whale that can give between $100,000 to maybe $1 million”. That donation hinged on one thing: “If their ego can be reassured that they won’t be treated “just like any other donor.””

The email also says, in two different places, “I’m 100% sure this is out of protocol.” and “If it’s 100% unappropriate I understand”. Accusations of bending the rules about campaign funding have plagued the committee for months, and these emails (sent in December of 2015), suggest that the accusations weren’t unfounded.

8 Bending DNC Fundraising Rules—In addition to trading donations for political favors, the Hillary Victory Fund has been associated with a practice that has been allowing for the bending and breaking of committee fundraising caps. Bloomberg took a closer look at what was going on behind the transfer of funds between the HVF and the DNC, and used the donations of S. Donald Sussman as an example.

Sussman first gave the HVF $343,400, an oddly specific sum that will definitely come into play. The HVF then transferred $33,400 to the DNC, which is the max donation he would be allowed to give for the election. The HVF then transferred $10,000 from his donation, bundled in a larger transfer of $179,000, to the Democratic Party of South Carolina. The same day – April 25 – the South Carolina Democrats funneled that same amount into the DNC. Since state parties transferring money to federal ones don’t have to disclose where all the money came from, it’s a work-around that allows more money than is legally allowed to be donated into a campaign from a single source. Election laws limit personal donations but not state, putting the Wikileaks emails in a whole new light.

7 Receiving Town Hall Questions—When the above-mentioned Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned amid scandal, the position was taken over by Donna Brazile. According to the Wikileaks emails, Brazile sent Jennifer Palmieri an email on March 12, 2016, that began, “Here’s one that worries me about HRC”, and continued with a run-down of a series of statistics and a question on whether or not “Ohio and the 30 other states” should get rid of the death penalty. The email was titled, “From time to time, I get the questions in advance”.

The next day, Clinton was at a town hall in Ohio when she was presented with the same question – almost verbatim – from undecided voter Ricky Jackson, who had been wrongly convicted, sentenced to death, and eventually exonerated.

Brazile later said that she certainly had not shared the questions, and that she didn’t even know what was going to be asked. A similar position was held by TV One’s Roland Martin, who claimed first that not even his own executive producer knew what the questions were going to be, before saying (a few hours later) that he had sent the questions to CNN through that producer and his crew.

Brazile has also been implicated in the election rigging scandal recently uncovered by Project Veritas. More damning evidence on that front is due to be released on Monday.

6  Pulling Strings for Special Cancer Treatments—Back in 2008, Nancy Pelosi made headlines after pulling some strings to help Fred Baron receive an experimental cancer treatment in spite of being denied by the drug’s manufacturer. The drug, Tysabri, was made by Biogen, Inc., and had been approved for use in the treatment of Crohn’s disease and multiple sclerosis. It was being tested for use in treating bone marrow cancer, but Biogen refused to try it in Baron in case ill effects gave the drug a black mark that ultimately resulted in it being denied to other patients. Pelosi pulled strings, the drug was given, and it didn’t work.

The Dallas Morning News later ran a story about just how those strings got pulled. Baron was well-known to the DNC, as both a party fundraiser and as one of the key players in the John Edwards scandal that saw money funneled into an account to keep his mistress quiet. The DNC was not the only one coming to Baron’s aid, either, and buried in the Wikileaks emails is a conversation with John Podesta that talks about the board members of Biogen, a plea from Baron’s wife, and a reminder of the money that Baron had donated to the Mayo Clinic. Lisa Baron’s original email was also included, where she threatened to “take out full pg add in boston globe to ceo and board members” if they wouldn’t prescribe the drug.

Bill Clinton and other DNC party members went to bat for Baron in order to get the drug released. Lisa Baron was quoted as saying, “It’s not fair that other people can’t pick up the phone and make the government give them a drug.”

5 Radical Solutions—In March of 2016, Neera Tanden, Jake Sullivan and John Podesta were exchanging a series of emails that seems to hint about much, much bigger things that they were all aware of. They were talking about some ideas with the ultimate goal of trying to decide what was going to be put forward as official positions for Clinton’s campaign, and one reads, “Strengthen bribery laws to ensure that politicians don’ change legislation for political donations.”

It sounds like a favorable stance to adopt, and it’s the second suggestion in the list. Farther on in the email, it reads, “The second idea is a favorite of mine, as you know, but REALLY dicey territory for HRC, right?” Other suggestions include things like disclosing the donors who contributed to election commercials, and full, transparent reporting when it comes to government contracts, and limiting the money contributed to campaigns by lobbyists.

The only real response is “We will mull. I can see this either way.”

4 The Trans-Pacific Partnership—On October 8, 2015, Clinton was quoted as saying, “As of today, I am not in favor of what I have learned about it.” At the time, that was a bit confusing, as while she was secretary of state, she sang the praises of the plan. Her stance as a part of the government was to call the plan all sorts of things, from “gold standard” to “groundbreaking”, and she even went as far as trying to get more nations on board with the plan.

That was after Wikileaks first got involved with the plan, releasing drafts of the free-trade agreement that, at the time in 2013, included 12 different countries. Now, Wikileaks has released emails that date from the same time as Clinton’s flip to suggesting that the trade agreement had some serious concerns that needed to be addressed before she would endorse it. Speechwriters debated on how to present her current position without undermining her previous comments, bringing up things like poor working conditions in some of the nations the agreement would be with, as well as environmental and public health concerns.

Going over drafts of speeches and comments, speech writers clearly had their hands full making it clear that she opposed the plan while adding in positivity, compliments and focus. Joel Benenson wrote, “But the reality is HRC is more pro trade than anti and trying to turn her into something she is not could reinforce our negative around authenticity.”

3 Email Deletion—The issue of whether or not Clinton deleted a whole bunch of emails that were stored on a private email server has been one of the sticking points of the campaign. The issue has been at the heart of countless debate and online discussion, and buried in the Wikileaks emails is one that shows a step-by-step, internal discussion on just what went into the process of sorting through emails and deciding which ones to give the order to delete.

In the emails, it was mentioned that a complete vetting process was undertaken to save the work-related emails that had been turned over to the government. There are also a list of “possible questions” and the answers that were approved for those questions, including one about whether or not the entire server was completely wiped of all emails afterward. The official answer is, “I asked that they be deleted, how that happened was up to the company that managed the server. And they are cooperating fully with anyone that has questions.”

Rumor has it that Wikileaks has all of the deleted emails and will be releasing them closer to the election.

2 Pay-to-Play in Morocco—Accusations of accepting campaign donations in exchange for favors has dogged the campaign from the beginning, and the day after Clinton dodged the question in the last presidential debate, emails were released that suggested that is exactly what was happening on a massive scale. The country in question is Morocco, and the donation in question was a $12 million commitment from the nation’s King Mohammed VI.

News outlets originally reported that the Clinton campaign had accepted $1 million for a phosphate company owned by the Moroccan government, and also noted that it was highly unlikely that she would be heading to Morocco for an event that was scheduled for the month after her campaign kicked off in earnest. And, according to the recently leaked emails, that was a huge problem.

Huma Abedin wrote, “Just to give you some context, the condition upon which the Moroccans agreed to host the meeting was her participation. […] The King has personally committed approx $12 million both for the endowment and to support the meeting.”

1 The Million-Dollar Birthday Present—And speaking of donations for favors, there is also the decidedly massive $1 million “birthday present” that Qatar wanted to give Bill Clinton. According to the leaked emails, the topic was brought up in a 2012 meeting between the Clinton camp and ambassadors from Rwanda, Malawi, Brazil, Peru, and Qatar. The email in question contained talking points for each interaction, and at the top of the list was a request from Qatar.

It read, “Would like to see WJC “for five minutes” in NYC, to present $1 million check that Qatar promised for WJC’s birthday in 2011.”

It was followed by a note saying that Qatar was more than open to hearing their suggestions on what investments they should make in Haiti, and it also noted that they’re happy to consider any suggestions that the Clintons made.

source–politics, wikileaks, listverse sun, debra kelly

 

 

Predictions of the Hillary Clinton Presidency??

Predictions of the Hillary Clinton Presidency??—47Hj.,b43

The transformation of the United States from a democratic republic to a socialist oligarchy is well under way and will continue apace in the next four years.  The America we grew up in during the sixties and seventies is gone.  Guess it depends on your perspective.

The following predictions are not in any particular order.

  1. Hilary Clinton will win in an electoral landslide, although the voter turn-out will be low.  Credit for the victory will go in large part to the turn out of the black vote and minorities mobilized by the Democratic machine.  Trump’s gaffs will keep many away from the polls.
  2. The Black Lives Matter movement will fade away.  Like the One Percent / anti wall street sit-ins when Romney was running, it will be recognized by some that the BLM movement was nothing more than a creation of the Democratic machine, with support from George Soros and others, to mobilize a segment of the population to get them to the polls.
  3. The Democrats will most likely take control of the Senate, although they may not have the 60 votes needed to pass everything they want.
  4. During the Obama administration, when the Democrats had less the sixty senators, they changed the 60 vote rule on certain key issues.  They may expand this “nuclear option” to give them even greater control of the Senate.
  5. The Republicans will hopefully keep control of the House, but that is in doubt.
  6. Following Obama’s precedent, Hillary Clinton will implement a host of executive orders to circumvent Congress.  Like Obama, hers will be an “imperial presidency” where Congress will be relegated to little more than a whipping child being blamed for all the ills of the country, unless the Democrats take control, in which case changes will be made legislatively to reduce the chances of a judicial rebuke.
  7. Hillary Clinton will appoint one or two Supreme Court justices.  The Supreme Court will take a sharp turn to the left locking in a liberal agenda that will continue for the rest of our lifetimes.  The decisions will so alter the plain language of the Constitution, that many observers will acknowledge that it a document of historical interest with no real significance in the coming administration.
  8. The Second Amendment will be effectively repealed by the Supreme Court.  It will be determined that the right to bear arms is limited to the military (“A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a Free State . . .” to reference the language in the Second Amendment).
  9. After the Supreme Court does the foregoing, laws will be passed both by states and the federal government outlawing ownership of certain types of guns, likely starting with military style AR-15 and similar weapons.  Owners will be required to turn them in or face stiff consequences.  Additional restrictions will be added over time.  Semi-automatic hand weapons will be next, and so on.  By taking away guns gradually over time the resistance from gun owners will be kept under control.  Ownership of certain guns used for hunting will be permitted, but the guns and the owners will have to be registered with the government.
  10. The incidence of violent crime with guns will not be affected by the gun bans.
  11. Although Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons was delayed by Obama’s massive cash payments to Iran until after he left office, Iran will likely acquire such a weapon during Clinton’s administration, sparking further unrest in that region and an arms race with Saudi Arabia and others.
  12. Israel will cease to exist during our lifetimes.  Clinton will continue the pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel policies pursued by Obama.  Ironically, the Jewish minority in this country will continue to vote overwhelmingly Democrat.
  13. The US military will continue its decline, unabated.  Fewer carrier fleets be on active duty due to budget cuts. The standing army will be cut further to the lowest levels in nearly a century. Obama’s purge of the top leadership in our military will be continued, leaving only “yes” men loyal to Clinton’s political agenda.  Russia and China will be emboldened by these cuts and continue their aggressive policies
  14. The Baltic States and Ukraine will, once again, become subjects of Russia either directly or indirectly.  The Chinese will continue to militarize the South China Sea, using the recently created islands as military outposts for intimidating the surrounding countries including Vietnam and the Philippines.  The US will do nothing significant to stop this action.  China will become recognized as the dominant power in the south Pacific.
  15. The few remaining insurance companies still affiliated with Obama Care will pull out.  The Democrats will finally realize their dream:  nationalized, government controlled health care.  Consequences will include:
  16. A continuing decline in the quality of health care started by Obama Care
  17. Continuing and dramatic increases in costs
  18. Government access to your most private information through centralized medical record keeping
  19. Restrictions on health care.  For example, cancer treatment will not be permitted if the patient is over a certain age, details of which will be determined by government bureaucrats (previously described as ‘death panels.’)
  20. Long waiting lists for non-emergent care, such as knee or hip joint replacements
  21. Massive numbers of Muslims and other non-Christian, non-white, immigrants will be brought into the country.  Clinton will quietly advance her open borders policies.  Obama’s closest advisor is Valerie Jarrett, who was born and grew up in Iran.  Hillary Clinton’s closest advisor is Huma Abedin, who grew up in Saudi Arabia and served as an assistant editor of the Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs from 1996 to 2008.  The media will never connect the background of these advisors with these policies.
  22. Sharia Law will flourish in Muslim enclaves in this country.  Law enforcement will stand by and not interfere with what occurs in those enclaves, following the French example.  This situation will grow gradually over time and will affect our children much more than us.
  23. During the Obama administration, white Christians moved from the majority to the minority in the US.  This trend will continue, the Clinton administration recognizing that the strength of the Democrats comes from government dependent minorities.  Clinton’s abandonment of white Christian working class voters, manifested in the election campaign, will continue.
  24. The Guantanamo Bay detention center be shut down, and Hillary will return the US Naval base on the east end to Cuba in an act of “reconciliation” with the Communist dictatorship, further diminishing American influence in our hemisphere.
  25. Russia will increase its military presence in Cuba, perhaps taking over the former US Naval Base at Guantanamo.
  26. Several countries in the south Pacific will pivot towards China since the lack of support from the US will be apparent.  The Philippines, a historical ally of the US, will be among the first.
  27. Taxes will increase dramatically, and the increase won’t be limited to “the rich.”  Not only income taxes, but numerous less visible taxes will also be raised to conceal their effect on the middle class, following the pattern established by Obama.
  28. The dramatic increase in government regulation in our daily lives will only continue to increase.  Small business growth will continue to diminish and many small businesses will shut down because of the burdens imposed.
  29. The economy will continue to grow at the lowest pace in decades due to the tax burden and over regulation.
  30. Efforts to nationalize the local police forces, already started by Obama in specific locations (such as Ferguson, Missouri) will continue, further expanding the Federal Government’s control over the states and localities.  Executive orders will be used to further expand federal control over local police forces.
  31. Federal government control of elementary and high school agendas will be increased.  Charter Schools may disaapear.  Obama’s efforts to shut down private colleges outside of direct government control will continue under the HRC presidency.  Increased federal funding for government colleges will provide the basis for increased control over state colleges.
  32. There will be direct assault on fracking, since carbon based fuel sources will remain a target of the Clinton administration, just as coal was a target of the Obama administration.  Onerous federal regulations will be imposed by the EPA, outside of congressional control, sharply curtailing oil production by fracking, assuring American dependence of foreign oil.
  33. During the Obama administration, the power generating capacity of the country has decreased due to the war on coal.  Although the power generating capacity has been able to keep up thus far, rolling brown outs and blackouts will begin to occur as demand surpasses supply.  When this happens the majority of Americans will fail to see the connection between Obama and Clinton’s war on coal and oil as a factor.
  34. The national debt, which doubled during the Obama administration, will continue to grow, unabated.  The stage for a major economic collapse will be set.  Whether the collapse will occur during Clinton’s administration remains to be seen.
  35. Expect military adventures by Clinton, despite her comments to the contrary.  They will be meager and poorly conceived, much like the air campaign on Libya which opened the door for ISIS.  Or the cruise missile attacks by Bill Clinton on the eve of the impeachment vote.  The possibility of a major conflagration is, however, growing given the increased global instability created by America’s withdrawal from the world stage, started by Obama and likely to be continued by Clinton.  There are three forces for war:  the growing militarization of China, Russia and Muslim radicalism.
  36. Crony capitalism will remain a hallmark of the Clinton administration.  Certain business leaders will have favored status and their businesses will thrive, such as the Wall Street banks and General Electric.  Special favor will be given to “green” industries.  The Clinton administration will continue to insert itself into many aspects of business, interfering with the free market system to the detriment of the American people.
  37. President Hillary Clinton’s administration will take vindictive action against Donald Trump.  It may be an aggressive IRS assault, quietly prohibiting the use of Trump properties for government business, criminal charges based on his university or charitable organizations, or something else.  What specific reprisals will be taken is hard to predict.
  38. There will be significant scandals.  They will involve events occurring both before and after she becomes president.  How much we learn about those scandals will depend on whether the House remains in Republican control.

SOURCE- MARK BISHOP,

What is BleachBit? Little-known tool at center of Clinton email controversy

What is BleachBit? Little-known tool at center of Clinton email controversy

August 26, 2016: 47hj.,b43

The latest focus point in Hillary Clinton’s long email controversy may be a little-known tool for freeing up computer storage space.

Trey Gowdy, a Republican congressman from South Carolina, looked to reignite criticism about Clinton’s handling of emails on a private server by saying her team used a software tool called BleachBit to have messages “deleted where even God can’t read them.”

“You don’t use BleachBit for yoga emails or for bridesmaids emails,” Gowdy said in an interview on Fox News Thursday. “When you are using BleachBit, it is something you really do not want the world to see.”

Clinton has said about 30,000 deleted emails were personal in nature.

However, BleachBit may not be quite as sinister as Gowdy makes it out to be. It’s one of many services you can download online to free up space on your computer by removing old unused files and clearing out internet history and cookies.

An advanced version of the service also offers an option for “shredding files to prevent recovery.”  “If you’re a business user looking for a truly free system cleaner, one interesting option is open-source, cross-platform BleachBit,” PCWorld wrote in a 2013 product review.

Related: Hillary Clinton slams Trump for ties to ‘alt-right’ media

Jonathan Zdziarski, a computer security expert, characterized BleachBit as a fairly “amateur” tool that doesn’t raise any red flags.  “It looks like the type of tool someone would run who’s conscious of cleaning old crud off their system,” Zdziarski said. “Someone trying to cover their tracks would likely pay for and use a much more expensive, specialized data destruction tool.”

Andrew Ziem, the developer behind BleachBit, wrote in a blog post that the service “has not been served a warrant or subpoena in relation to the investigation.”

“BleachBit is free of charge to use in any environment whether it is personal, commercial, educational, and government, and the cleaning process is not reversible,” Ziem said in the post on BleachBit’s website.  That said, Ziem also noted that BleachBit’s web traffic “spiked” after Gowdy’s comments.  The Clinton campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

SOURCE- by Seth Fiegerman  , CNN, JONATHAN ZDZIARSKI, ANDEW ZIEM.

‘Take the Money!!’ and other highlights from the Podesta email leak-

‘Take the Money!!’ and other highlights from the Podesta email leak–47hj.,b43

Throughout the Democratic primary, Hillary Clinton’s campaign presented her as a crusading reformer who would take on powerful corporate interests and curb the role of big money in American politics.

But the recent WikiLeaks dump of campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails offers revealing snapshots that tell a somewhat different story. Top aides plot to “scare our people into giving bigger sums.” They debate whether to take cash from registered foreign agents: “Take the money!!” one senior campaign official advises. A top corporate lobbyist, pressed to “hit up” his clients for Clinton campaign coffers, asks for high-level help to advance one of those client’s interests. And there are new details about the overseas cash that rolled into the Clinton Foundation — including a $12 million commitment from the king of Morocco that Hillary Clinton personally helped facilitate.

The Clinton campaign has refused to confirm the authenticity of the emails, which the U.S. intelligence community has said were leaked as the result of a Russian cyberattack.

Here are six revealing highlights from the Podesta emails that provide a window into how the Clinton campaign operated when it thought (wrongly, as it turned out) nobody was looking.

_____1. “Use this to scare our people into giving bigger sums.

On May 3, 2015, Hillary Clinton got alarmed. She had just read a New York Times story about how the Federal Election Commission was deadlocked cracking down on “election abuse.” Outside super-PACs were being bankrolled by “billionaire donors,” the Times reported. Prospective rivals, like Jeb Bush, were “skirting” finance laws by “raising millions.”

That morning, Clinton forwarded the story to Podesta. “In light of this predictable statement of the obvious, what do you suggest we do?” she wrote. His response: The Clinton campaign should get cracking and ramp up its own outside super-PAC operation. Among “the things we have to do,” he wrote, is “Get Priorities functional.” That’s a reference to Priorities USA Action, the pro-Clinton super-PAC that would soon start collecting seven-figure donations from Democratic-leaning billionaires. (Such super-PACs are supposed to be independent of official campaign committees; the Podesta email shows just how much those lines have blurred.)

And, Podesta recommended, the Clinton campaign should put the Times story to good use. “Use this to scare our people into giving bigger sums,” he writes. And, bring in some big guns. “We may need to get WJC [William Jefferson Clinton] into the mix sooner. We should also ask BHO [President Obama] to do more in light of this, although they are kind of prissy about how they approach this.”

2. “Take the money!!

In April 2015, the Clinton campaign was debating a sensitive issue: Should it take cash from “bundlers” (high-dollar fundraisers) who were registered agents for foreign governments and corporations?

President Obama’s campaign had banned donations from all registered lobbyists. The Clinton campaign had lifted those restrictions but was unsure what to do about a particular subset: lobbyists for foreign interests. One campaign official, Karuna Seshasai, wanted a firm policy to reject such cash. But finance director Dennis Cheng noted that would cut off “people we are close with like Tony Podesta” [John Podesta’s brother, whose foreign clients included the governments of India, Cyprus, Albania, and Azerbaijan] and the law firm of DLA Piper [one of whose lobbyists, Clinton fundraiser John Merrigan, represented the United Arab Emirates, Dubai and Turkey.]

“I do want to push back a bit (it’s my job!),” Cheng wrote in one email. “I feel like we are leaving a good amount of money on the table (both for primary and general, and then DNC and state parties)… and how do we explain to people we’ll take money from a corporate lobbyist but not them; that the [Clinton] Foundation takes $ from foreign govts but we now we won’t.”

Campaign lawyer Marc Elias weighed in: “I lean away from a bright line rule here,” he wrote, proposing that “just as we vet lobbyists case by case, I would do the same with FARA” [Foreign Agent Registration Act lobbyists]. He adds: “A total ban feels arbitrary and will engender the same eye-rolling and ill will that it did for Obama.”

The final word in this email thread came from Clinton campaign communications director Jennifer Palmieri (a veteran of the Obama White House.) On April 17, 2015, under the subject “Re: Foreign registered agents,” she wrote campaign manager Robby Mook: “Take the money!!

  1. They want me to hit up my clients”– Besides representing multiple foreign governments, Clinton fundraiser Tony Podesta, brother of her campaign manager, also lobbies for a bevy of major corporate interests, including big banks (Wells Fargo), defense contractors (Lockheed Martin), oil companies (BP) and pharmaceutical firms (Merck). On Nov. 13, 2015, John Podesta emailed Tony Podesta an invite for a “Hillary Victory Fund” dinner (with “ a memorable performance by Sting”). The cost: $33,400 per person, $66,800 per couple and $100,000 to be event chair.

“Have you been hit up for this yet?” John Podesta asked his lobbyist brother.

“No first I’ve heard,” Tony replied by email the next day. “They seem weird They want me to hit up by clients Cause I’m a lobbyist– not this.” He then adds “Did you see my email re Dennis and Puerto Rico?”

That was a reference to some help Tony wanted from John on behalf of one of his clients, the governor of Puerto Rico, then facing a financial crisis due to a $72 billion debt load. To fend off its hedge fund creditors, Puerto Rico was seeking bankruptcy protection from Congress and the Obama administration. When John asked him to resend the request, Tony obliged the next day. “Puerto Rico—-we need something in omnibus or we default,” he wrote. “Will u email/call Dennis asking him to see Gov and me.”

“Yes,” John replied the next day.

It’s unclear from the email who “Dennis” is — or whether the meeting Tony Podesta was seeking ever took place. (Juan Hernandez, executive director of the Washington office of Puerto Rico, said that commonwealth governor Alejandro Padilla did have meetings at the White House on the debt crisis, but said he did not know if that included Obama’s chief of staff, Denis McDonough). Still, the email shows the mutually beneficial bond — familial and otherwise — between the Clinton campaign and one of Washington’s most influential lobbyists.

  1. ‘Five minutes’ … to present a $1 million check.”– There have been few issues dicier for the Clinton campaign than the huge foreign donations that poured into the Clinton Foundation. In one April 16, 2012, email, a Clinton Foundation official circulates another email reporting that the ambassador of the Persian Gulf monarchy of Qatar “would like to see WJC [William Jefferson Clinton] ‘for five minutes’ in NYC to present a $1 million check that Qatar promised for WJC’s birthday in 2011.”

That hefty donation cast a new light on a previously reported Aug. 17, 2014, Hillary Clinton email to John Podesta laying out her strategy to combat the Islamic State terror group. In that missive, she noted that the same Qatari government (which two years earlier had given the big check to the family foundation) was covertly funding the terrorist group, which she refers to as ISIL (also known as ISIS). “We need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region,” she wrote.

  1. She created this mess and she knows it.“– As the Clinton campaign was about to get off the ground in 2015, it was facing an awkward scheduling problem: Hillary Clinton was slated to fly off to Marrakech, Morocco, for a gala meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative. The optics would soon get even worse that spring, when Politico revealed that the meeting was being bankrolled with “at least $1 million” from OCP, a controversial Moroccan phosphate firm.

It turns out that Politico had only one piece of the story. As early as January, while the campaign was still in its “testing the waters” phase, aides were fretting about the Morocco trip, which was scheduled to take place after Clinton would officially declare her candidacy in April. It turns out the Clinton Global Initiative, an arm of her family Foundation, apparently didn’t even want to have a meeting in Morocco, but Hillary Clinton did — and there was a lot more than $1 million at stake. “This was HRC’s idea,” aide Huma Abedin wrote John Podesta and campaign manager Robby Mook on Jan. 18, 2015, adding that “our office approached the Moroccans and they 100 percent believe they are doing this at her request. The King has personally committed approx $12 million both for the endowment and to support the meeting.”

Abedin added: “It will break a lot of china to back out now when we had so many opportunities to do it in the past few months. She created this mess and she knows it.”

In the end, Hillary Clinton did back out of the May trip to Morocco after officially declaring her candidacy on April 12. Bill Clinton went instead. But the Abedin emails shed new light on the role that Clinton herself played in arranging foreign funding for the Clinton Foundation.

6. “Almost no one knows better [than] me that her instincts can be terrible.

In the fall of 2015, as Clinton was taking fire over her private email server, her top aides were increasingly nervous. It looked to many as if Vice President Joe Biden was about to jump into the race. “Biden will get in,” John Podesta predicted to longtime Clinton adviser Neera Tanden. “We are still way more likely than not to win nomination. We’ve taken on a lot of water that won’t be easy to pump out of the boat. Most of that has to do with terrible decisions made pre-campaign, but a lot has to do with her instincts. She’s nervous so prepping more and performing better. Got to do something to pump up excitement but not certain how to do that.”

Tanden wrote back, offering some reassurance. “You know I’m not a sycophant to you by any means. But the thing that makes me most confident she will prevail is that you are there. Almost no one knows better [than] me that her instincts can be terrible. She does have to give time to allow new things to take hold.”

 

source-Michael Isikoff,Chief Investigative Correspondent–, NYT, KARUNA SESHASAI, TONY PODESTA, JOHN MERRIGAN,FARA, MARC ELIAS, juan hernandez,  alejandro padilla, denis mcdonough, NEERA TANDEN, R0BBY MOOK,

Bullet train to nowhere–the ultimate California boondoggle– PART 2 OF 2

Bullet train to nowhere–the ultimate California boondoggle–

PART 2 OF 2

Amtrak’s Acela passenger trains, plying the Atlantic coast from Boston to Washington, have top speeds of only 150 miles per hour.  As early as 1996 the California legislature, impressed like Brown by the fact that electric-powered rail systems in Europe could compete with plane and auto travel for distances between 200 and 500 miles, created a nine-member. virtually autonomous High Speed Rail Authority to develop and implement such a system for California.

The idea was to move commuters, vacationers, and business travelers out of their automobiles  and onto trains. In 2004 the Democratic-dominated legislature approved the referendum that was to appear before the State’s voters in 2008 as Proposition 1A.

Prop lA also required the line to include stops in the economically ailing San Joaquin Valley, necessitating a major inland detour that seemed to be aimed mostly at attracting the support of San Joaquin Valley legislators. For example, it included a stop in Merced, about 34 miles north of Madera, that isn’t even part of a Los Angeles-San Francisco route but could use an economic boost (it’s No. 5 on the 24/7 Wall Street list, with unemployment of 11.9 percent). The ballot measure stated that the bullet train would eventually stretch 800 miles, when a second phase extended it to San Diego and Sacramento. Those features turned the train from simply an ultra-fast connector between major population centers along the coast into a presumed economic jump-starter for inland California communities (proponents predicted more than 600,000 construction-related and other jobs). In a further effort to make the bond issue appetizing to voters, the ballot measure allocated nearly $1 billion of the proceeds to funding conventional urban and commuter rail projects.

Proposition 1A made certain promises of nearly magical specificity: that the trains would operate at speeds of at least 200 miles an hour; that the maximum travel time between Los Angeles’s downtown Union Station and the Transbay Transit Center in San Francisco would be exactly two hours and 40 minutes; that trains would be running in either direction every five minutes; that state taxpayers would be on the hook only to repay principal and interest on the bonds; that no proceeds would be spent until federal and private investment had kicked in: and that the entire operating costs of the train would be paid for via passenger fares (then estimated to be about $50 a person, a bargain for the Los Angeles-San Francisco run). )

In 2008 the CHSRA had estimated that the total cost to and build the entire high-speed rail system would amount to about $33 billion. Proponents were already counting on federal subsidies and private investment to cover the shortfall between the bond proceeds and the total estimated construction costs.

They [hadn’t] even sold the bonds yet, complained Jon Coupal president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association California organization that opposed Proposition lA from the beginning. “But the legislature [had] already approved $1.1 billion in spending for bookend projects in L.A. and San Francisco that aren’t even high-speed rail but are basically fixed rail at the local level.”

To placate them while retaining the shorter southerly approach, the legislature eliminated a station proposed for Los Banos, a San Joaquin Valley town that sits adjacent to several state and federal wildlife refuges. But the peninsula is also the home of Silicon Valley and its wealthy towns that house tech billionaires and their well-compensated employees. They dreaded the bullet train for reasons similar to those of the San Joaquin Valley farmers: They didn’t want 200-mile-an-hour trains running high above grade and, shielded for miles by nearly impenetrable barriers, hurtling through their tree-shaded suburbs at five-minute intervals, lowering their multimillion-dollar property values.

A number of environmental groups, filed the first of dozens of lawsuits lodged against the CHSRA over the past eight years. Their argument was that the authority had failed to comply with provisions of California’s Environmental Quality Act. Those lawsuits were initially quite successful, at least in delaying-construction.           Issued rulings in 2009 and 2011 that forced the authority to write extensive revisions to its plans to minimize environmental damage.

In early 2013, however, Kenny dismissed the suits, ruling that the state had finally complied with environmental imperatives—and dashing the peninsula localities’ hope that a court order would force the tracks to take the Altamont route. Meanwhile, in its 2012 business plan, the CHSRA had announced that it would scrap the idea of building an elevated rail-bed along the peninsula and would instead use a “blended service” system in which the high-speed trains would share tracks from San Jose to San Francisco with the existing Caltrans trains, which run at grade. The blended system would slow the bullet trains down to 125 miles an hour, raising the travel time from Los Angeles to San Francisco to more than 3 hours, which competes unfavorably with flying (even after factoring in airport hassles). But it would save California a lot of money. The estimated cost of the rail line had by then soared from the initial $33 billion  to $98 billion. The blended strategy was expected to lower those costs  hours to a more palatable $68 billion.

At public meetings earlier this year, peninsula residents complained that the current plan to run the CHSRA’s contemplated 20 bullet trains per hour at grade would entail shutting down some of the 42 grade” crossing along  the Caltrain commuter line that give care trucks, buses, bicycles. and pedestrians convenient routes across the tracks.

Kings County Board of Supervisors, which  had initially faced the prospect of the bullet train line’s smashing through the center of Hanford’s historic downtown, filed the most contentious and longest-running of the anti-CHSRA lawsuits. (San Joaquin Valley farmers, farm bureaus, a churches, businesses, irrigation districts, and localities from Madera to Bakersfield have lodged court proceedings to block the tracks, and while some of those cases have settled, others are still ongoing.

Fukuda’s discovery of the actual proposed route came as a complete surprise. “They never knocked on our doors and introduced themselves,” he said. “We would never have known that we lived in the actual route of the train. The amount of anxiety that they’ve created in people’s lives is incredible.” The city of Hanford, he explained, had once enthusiastically supported a high speed station—until it discovered that the authority planned to split its downtown in half.

“This is a heavy dairy area, and it’s the only rendering plant around it serves about 600 dairies south of Fresno. Then they were supposed to move it, but to this day it’s still in the alignment. They have no idea what it takes to run a dairy farm.”

The Tos-Fukuda lawsuit was ultimately unsuccessful, but it did succeed in tying up the bulk of the $9.95 billion bond issue in Judge Kenny’s courtroom for more than four years while lawyers wrangled over the suit’s main contention: that the CHSRA was violating the terms of the 2008 referendum. In November 2013, Kenny ruled that Proposition lA required the authority to identify all of its financing sources for completing the initial operating segment of the train—something the CHSRA, which had (and still has) little money on hand besides about $3.3 billion in federal funding , could not do.

This past March, Kenny definitively declined to halt le train’s construction, rejecting opponents argument that, owing to the slower speeds necessitated by track-blending, it could never deliver on several of Proposition lA’s specific promises, such as topping out total travel time between Los Angeles and San Francisco at two hours and 40 minutes.

Kenny’s ruling highlighted what might be the CHSRA’s biggest problem of all: a lack of construction money. Efforts to gin up private investment and federal subsidies that would trigger bond drawdowns have proved problematic. In 2010 California secured a $2.5 billion grant under the American Recovery  Reinvestment Act, aka the 2009 stimulus pushed into place by newly elected President Obama as a way to end the recession by channeling federal dollars into so-called shovel-ready infrastructure projects. Obama, like Jerry Brown, has been an enthusiastic bullet-train booster. During his first term he frequently referred to a coast-to-coast network of high-speed trains that would rival the interstate highway system in scope. His 2009 stimulus package had included $8 billion in construction funds to jump-Start high-speed rail projects across the country. Turned down the Stimulus money, worried about anemic passenger numbers and the soaring costs their taxpayers might face once the federal construction funds ran out. Those rejections turned out to be a windfall of sorts for California, which managed to snag an additional $1 billion from the Obama administration that other states didn’t want, bringing the total up to the $3.5 billion that the state was expected to spend or forfeit by 2017.

Not only does Proposition lA expressly forbid the use of state tax revenues to fund high-speed construction  but the deficit-plagued state is already shouldering $400 billion in debt, largely in unfunded pension liabilities. fn 2014 the Democratic-controlled California legislature, looking for ways to pay for the train, agreed to set aside 25 percent of “cap and trade” revenues—proceeds from a 2006 state law designed to curb greenhouse-gas emissions—to help fund high-speed rail.

The cap and trade deal, set to expire in 2020, was supposed to generate about $500 million a year in state funding for the train—until cap and trade auctions in May and August, expected to provide some $255 million, collapsed yielding only $4.6 million. During the summer of 2015 the CHSRA put out feelers to potential private-sector investors. None expressed any interest in underwriting the construction without a state guarantee of expected operating revenues—impossible under the language of Proposition lA.

The plan had been that by 2022 the train would start accepting passengers for a 300-mile leg that would run south from Merced to Burbank in Los Angeles’s San Fernando Valley.  To reach Burbank, however, would require tunneling through two east-west mountain ranges, the Tehachapi and the San Gabriel, that separate the San Joaquin Valley from the vast alluvial plain of coastal Southern California. The contemplated 36 miles of tunnels to be blasted through the two fault-pocked and potentially earthquake-prone ranges would be a geology-defying accomplishment.

Three of the proposed routes, which would link the desert city of Palmdale to Burbank, involved tunneling through the federally owned Angeles National Forest, which environmentalists complained would disrupt water tables and wells, threatening wildlife.

Parsons Brinckerhoff, the New York-based main manager for the project, had predicted in 2013 that  the total would rise at least 5 percent above the projected $68 billion—a prediction that didn’t  make its way into the rail authority’s 2014 business plan. (Parsons presided over the “Big Dig,” a tunnel through downtown Boston whose cost zoomed from a $2.8 billion estimate in 1982 to $14.6 billion by die time it was completed in 2007.)  The starting date for the first operational leg of the train wouldn’t be 2022 but 2025. The first main phase of the train—from Anaheim to San Francisco—wouldn’t be completed until 2029, more than 10 years later than contemplated in the text of Proposition IA.

A review ot the business plan by the California Legislative Analyst’s Office pointed out that nearly every single aspect of the proposed funding arrangements for the train was dicey—including the funding for the initial 130-mile segment where work is ongoing. For example, the CHSRA seemed to be counting on the legislature’s continuing to funnel cap and trade proceeds in its direction through 2050, some 30 years beyond the expiration of its current cap and trade arrangement—and that’s without even anticipating cap and trade auction failures like this past May’s. The  office also noted that the CHSRA had no concrete idea how it was going to pay for some $43.5 billion out of the total construction costs, which it would need to find by 2018 when the stimulus money dries up.

The Obama administration in May gave the CHSRA something of a break, handing the agency four extra years— up to 2021—to spend its existing federal stimulus grants. Technically, the 2017 deadline remains in place, and had the administration decided to enforce it, the state of California, which has spent only about $1 billion in grant funds  so far because of delays, might have had to forfeit most of the rest.

But thanks to some interpretive jiggery-pokery by the Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration, California will no longer be required to submit invoices for work actually performed in order to receive the federal funds, as most grant recipients are required to do. The May reprieve essentially hands over all the grant proceeds to California in advance, allowing the state .to spend them in a far more leisurely fashion.

Earlier the Obama administration had absolved California from another stimulus-grant requirement- having to supply matching funds on a dollar-for-dollar basis in order to qualify for the federal monies. That would have obliged the state to put up more than $3 billion, which, what with its bond funding tied up at the time and no hope of dipping into state tax revenues, would have been nearly impossible.

The latest change in the grant terms in May—essentially turning the grant into an open-ended cash advance with no federal monitoring of how it is to be spent—enraged congressional Republicans. The rail subcommittee chairman, called this a “blank check” representing a “clear conflict of interest” on the part of train-booster Obama. “Not only do they lack a business plan. but they continue to waste taxpayer dollars without being held accountable.

Times’s Vartabedian, having filed a freedom-of-information request, revealed that the CHSRA had apparently scrubbed from its website a pessimistic assessment by the Spanish rail-construction contractor Ferrovial that the train would never be able to operate without the taxpayer subsidies that Proposition lA specifically forbids. The Spanish firm had noted in its bid that of 111 high-speed lines that it had looked at around the world, only 3 were financially viable without government aid.

August, that the relocation of a section of Highway 99 inning through Fresno that is crucial to the construction of the San Joaquin Valley segment is running six months behind schedule and 15 percent over budget. The CHSRA ho is trying to persuade the state legislature to give Caltrans a $35 million increase over the $226 million it had granted the agency for the relocation in 2013.

We’re destroying agriculture in the Central Valley,” he said. “But over those 130 miles of track, we’re taking maybe 4,500 acres out of 6.5 million , High-speed rail isn’t a threat to agriculture.’

source–weekly std, charlotte allen, chsra, jon coupal, howard jarvis taxpayers assos., michael kenny, elizabeth alexis, aaron fukuda, citizens for high speed rail accountability, diana gomez, joel fajardo, patty lopez, ralph vartabedian, parsons brinckerhoff, the hill, dan richard,

Bullet train to nowhere–the ultimate California boondoggle

Bullet train to nowhere–the ultimate California boondoggle–4.8.46h., b12-1

PART 1 OF 2

The controversial high-speed rail system that is supposed to connect California’s two largest cities, Los Angeles and San Francisc0. via trains running 200 miles an hour. Around the time that the State’s voters approved the train in a 2008 referendum authorizing a $9.95 billion bond issue to help pay for it, its supporters had promised a completion date of 2018 for this “Phase 1” of a Still more ambitious high-speed rail network that would eventually hurtle Californians all the way from the state capitol, Sacramento, 95 miles northeast of San Francisco, to San Diego, near the Mexican border.

What I was to see consisted of a 1,600-foot viaduct spanning the  Fresno River on the rural outskirts of Madera, a rundown city of 63,000 in the heart of the state’s agriculturally rich but economically parched San Joaquin Valley—a landscape that is geographically, topographically, demographically. and culturally far away from the bustle of the two coastal metropolises that the train was supposed to be designed to serve.  The Fresno River viaduct is part of an initial 130 mile stretch of track through the valley that would allow passengers to travel from Madera, 164 miles southeast of San Francisco, to Bakersfield, 110 miles northeast of Los Angeles. Well, actually not quite all the way to Bakersfield, California’s ninth-largest city with a population of 364.000. but to the edge of an almond orchard on the fringes of Shafter, a sleepy farm town of 17,000 some 19 miles to the north. That was because the California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) the autonomous state agency in charge of planning and building the train. didn’t have quite the money in its budget to take the train to downtown Bakersfield, and passengers bound for that city would presumably have to board a low speed connector bus to actually arrive there

The estimated date for completing this initial stretch was September 2017, the deadline for spending $3.5 billion in “stimulus” money from the Obama administration. Actually linking San Francisco and Los Angeles with a southerly terminus in Anaheim  on a total of 520 miles of track had been pushed out to the year 2022. Critics have dubbed the high-speed rail project the ‘train to nowhere,” and it was easy to see why.

53 percent of them approved the idea when it was on the state ballot in the November 2008 election.

Thanks to this near-universal hostility, the CHSRA has so far succeeded in acquiring only 60 percent of the 1,300 parcels of land that it needs just to run those 130 miles of track from Madera to Shafter. Meanwhile, polls conducted from 2013 to 2016 have consistency shown that at least 52 percent of Californians want the state to ditch the high-speed rail project entirely and use the 2008 bond  for something else, possibly for water storage or for beefing up conventional rail and public-transportation systems in the traffic clogged Los Angeles and Bay Area “bookends” of the projected bullet-train system.

Agriculture uses 40 percent of California’s water, so the drenching rains I encountered were welcome as a general proposition in the San Joaquin Valley, the southern half of California’s 450-mile-long Central Valley, a 60,000-square-mile plain running between the coastal mountain ranges to the west and the Sierra Nevada to the east. But alongside the still mostly unbuilt rail viaduct, at this point just a handful of massive 25-foot concrete columns plus steel rebar cages, the pelting rain meant construction-site mud and plenty of it. Indeed, owing to the rain, work had already halted for the day when I arrived in a CHSRA-rented Jeep Grand Cherokee, accompanied by Toni Tinoco, public: information officer for the authority’s regional office in Fresno, and Michael Leongson one  of the five staff engineers assigned to this  part the project (the actual general contractor is Tutor Perini a Southern California entity that specializes in large-scale infrastructure). A lone hard-hatted workman sloshed through the ankle-deep mud to ask us what we were doing there, and Tinoco and Leongson duly pulled out their state ID badges. The workman advised us not even to try to get out of the Cherokee and into die sludge, so we drove a little farther up a slight incline behind the machinery where we could see the stout gray columns, flared at their rectilinear tops like the pillars of ancient Egyptian temples and displaying their own brand of engineering elegance, marching from the horizon down a grassy, empty landscape dotted here and there with eucalyptus trees to the river’s western embankment, and then beyond the river on the other side where the rail-bed would taper off to grade.

“The pedestals of those columns are 80 feet deep and 10 feet in diameter,” Leongson said. “They’ll support the deck for the train.” He explained that the viaduct was part of an elevation six or seven miles long that would enable he bullet train to swing high over not just the Fresno River but California Route 145, which runs through the heart of the San Joaquin Valley. The 29-mile stretch from Madera to downtown Fresno to which Leongson was assigned was the very first phase of the high-speed rail’s construction, with two more phases contracted out to other private construction entities that would connect Fresno to that almond orchard near Bakersfield at the valley’s southeast end?”

“We broke ground in January 2015, and we’re 50 percent complete,” he said. The bullet train’s planned rail-bed for the valley roughly parallels two conventional diesel-powered freight lines.

Construction had begun only in June 2015, two years behind schedule and six months after a showy ground-breaking ceremony in Fresno in January 2015, presided over by the train’s biggest booster, maverick Democratic governor Brown Jr.  Concrete-pouring for the viaduct’s “deck”—the rail-bed itself—began in March this year.

Second project relatively minor in scope: demolishing an automobile overpass in downtown Fresno known as the Tuolumne Street Bridge. It allowed Union Pacific freight trains to run through the city cen¬ ter without disrupting street traffic but wasn’t high enough to accommodate a bullet train and its electrical superstructure. Replacing that bridge with a taller one is supposed to take “under a year,” Leongson said. Construction has also I recently begun on two other viaducts that will span two rivers south of Fresno.

It is undoubtedly unfair to perceive as metaphors the rain, the mud, the never-used equipment, and the solo unfinished viaduct over an isolated rural river in an agricultural valley more than a hundred miles from the heavily trafficked coastal corridor that connects Los Angeles and San Francisco.  The out-of-the way location of this first segment of construction was, by all accounts, the product of a political decision while the train was on the  drawing board during the 1990s, one that weighed the flat terrain plus a much touted economic boon to the jobs-starved valley, along with the fact that the valley is one of California’s less-populated areas, with relatively few NIMBY-minded residents expected to complain about blocked off streets and superfast trains whooshing through their neighborhoods at all hours of the day and night. The valley’s total population is only about 4 million, compared with 7 million for the San Francisco Bay Area and 19 million for greater Los Angeles. Many coastal Californians have never set foot in the valley, partly because its basin shape makes it the air-pollution capital of the state during the smoggy summer.

With the highest rates of unemployment in December 2015 were in the valley—including Madera (No. 12), Bakersfield (10), and Fresno (9)—all with jobless  rates in the double digits, compared with an overall U.S. unemployment rate of 4.9 percent.

Downtown Business Hub Fresno C A” in what looked like bitter irony: Practically the only operating “business” in evidence was a mega-church occupying a former movie theater and opera latte shop that closed in early afternoon—although across the street construction workers were busily building a condo complex that looked geared to New Urbanism dreams surrounding the high-speed rail station slated to be built nearby.

‘Every consultant and every engineering firm got hired, including Republicans. In the city of Fresno they like it, because they want the grade separation, and the property owners son are now 90-10 percent in favor. And why not? They all got together on those relocation fees—they’re really overpriced—and checks were written everywhere.” (CHSRA officials counter that the authority aims to pay fair compensation to all displaced owners.

It was on the farms and in the smaller town outside of  Fresno that nearly unanimous opposition to the bullet train appeared, along with widespread complaints that CHSRA’s compensation offers are far from adequate, reflecting what many residents regard as city-slicker disdain for agriculture and a lack of understanding of the value of agricultural land and the way it is used.

The Sacramento Valley, yield around 300 different  crops, about a quarter of the fruits  and vegetables grown in the United States. There was widespread suspicion among valley residents that one of the ultimate goals in routing the bullet train through there was to develop the vast fields into low-cost commuter subdivisions for Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Sacramento, essentially terminating the valley’s agricultural viability.

Hanford’s downtown already houses an Amtrak passenger station and a Union Pacific freight line along whose ties the engine horns moan day and night. The country roads were sprinkled with handmade protest billboards: “Dams Not Trains.”

One of the things that infuriated him most, he said, was the rail authority’s assumption that farmland is essentially empty land, and that 100-foot-wide diagonal corridor through the farms of the western valley would be minimally disruptive.

And so will the projected bullet train, which roughly parallels the BNSF and Union Pacific tracks. But  the towns, cities, and farms in the valley are laid out more or less on a strict north-south-east-west compass grid that dates to the 19th century, as if one were in Kansas.

Tos drove me to the 160 acres of almond trees, bare-branched in early January. where the CHSRA plans to plant a four-leaf-clover overpass. He pointed out a sprinkler-irrigation system running through the rows of trees that would be destroyed (along with a pump-driven well) because “they’re going through the fields diagonally. Almond  trees don’t bear fruit  about four years after they are planted, and they stop producing and must be replaced after a maximum of 25 years. Adjacent to his almond orchard Tos pointed to a neighbor’s cherry orchard. “A full one-fourth of this will be blocked,” he said. “There will be no access by road” to that part of the orchard because the bullet-train’s projected route would seal off part of the existing road-grid.

Tos said that he and other valley farmers have long urged the CHSRA to move the planned bullet-train line some 30 miles to the west of Hanford to run alongside Interstate 5, whose landscape is genuinely barren, whose local economy is pretty much restricted to cattle-ranching, and whose population is relatively tiny, owing to a general lack of water.

CHSRA officials counter that Interstate 5 runs parallel to the San Andreas Fault, the mother of nearly all California earthquakes, and thus isn’t a suitable location for a high-speed train. And of course Interstate 5 is a full  50 miles west of Fresno and its hopes for a train-centric urban renewal.

The gist of our conversation pointed to reasons why the rail authority has had such trouble persuading rural property owners in the valley to agree to turn over their property voluntarily and  why so many of those owners believe that the authority has no understanding of —and may even have contempt for— how people in rural California actually live.

The CHSRA’s on-the-spot appraisal of their existing house was only .$300,000, plus relocation costs up to a total of $490,000. “They told us, Your house isn’t worth it,'” Gomez said.

Gomez added. the CHSRA had brought up, on at least two occasions the topic of a Resolution of  Necessity—an official declaration that is a prelude to an eminent-domain lawsuit in which she and her husband would have to hire lawyers and a judge would decide the value of their home, possibly at far less than it would be sold by arms-length negotiation. “That’s just flat-out bullying,” Gomez said.

The general resentment of the bullet train in the valley was so intense that I wondered to CHSRA spokesman Toni Tinoco if there were any farmers who actually supported the train’s encroachment upon their properties.

Nearly every almond eaten in the United States comes from the valley, and Asian demand has turned those tasty nuts into California’s most remunerative agricultural export.

The authority also planned to remove and store his displaced topsoil during the construction process and replace any damaged parts of his irrigation system. To Johns, the bullet train represented a welcome chance for rural dwellers to sample city life without spending hours on the road. “This is a great thing,” he said. “I can go up to San Francisco in an hour and 15 minutes and see my boy up there.”

The year 2008, when California’s voters approved Proposition 1 A, was more of a culmination than a starting point.

source–weekly std, charlotte allen, chsra, jon coupal, howard jarvis taxpayers assos., michael kenny, elizabeth alexis, aaron fukuda, citizens for high speed rail accountability, diana gomez, joel fajardo, patty lopez, ralph vartabedian, parsons brinckerhoff, the hill, dan richard,