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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Non-Partisan Analyst Exposes California High Speed Train’s Flawed Finances

     As often happens when pipe-dreams collide with reality, the California High Speed Train project has just experienced its second major set-back in just the last month. After cost projections for the train-to-nowhere were doubled just a few weeks ago, a new report from the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office found that the high-speed rail plan “does not comply with key provisions of a ballot measure that voters approved,” according to the Los Angeles Times. The audit found that high speed rail officials must “must complete an environmental review and identify a corridor, a usable segment, all sources of committed funds and a schedule for the receipt of financing,” before any of the $9 billion that voters approved in 2008 can be requested, the Times reported.

Of course, none of these major failures were among the selling points when this boondoggle was pitched to voters three years ago. Similarly, no such prognostications of rapidly inflating costs and rapidly deflating benefits are being pitched with a similar ballot box boondoggle, the so-called California Cancer Research Act. This project, funded by a nearly $1 billion annual tax hike, duplicates existing programs, but still adds a brand new $16 million bureaucracy to California’s already bloated public sector. What’s worse is that this project’s spending continues year after year, regardless of whether the state can afford it or not.

     At a time when California is facing record level deficits, doubling down on the out-of-control spending that drove the state into the ground is surely not the way to go. Like working families across the nation, California bureaucrats should learn to live within their means.

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Botched Paramilitary Police Raids: An Epidemic of "Isolated Incidents"

"If a widespread pattern of [knock-and-announce] violations were shown . . . there would be reason for grave concern." —Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, in Hudson v. Michigan, June 15, 2006. An interactive map of botched SWAT and paramilitary police raids, released in conjunction with the Cato policy paper "Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids," by Radley Balko. What does this map mean? How to use this map View Original Map and Database

Key

Death of an innocent. Death or injury of a police officer. Death of a nonviolent offender.
Raid on an innocent suspect. Other examples of paramilitary police excess. Unnecessary raids on doctors and sick people.
The proliferation of SWAT teams, police militarization, and the Drug War have given rise to a dramatic increase in the number of "no-knock" or "quick-knock" raids on suspected drug offenders. Because these raids are often conducted based on tips from notoriously unreliable confidential informants, police sometimes conduct SWAT-style raids on the wrong home, or on the homes of nonviolent, misdemeanor drug users. Such highly-volatile, overly confrontational tactics are bad enough when no one is hurt -- it's difficult to imagine the terror an innocent suspect or family faces when a SWAT team mistakenly breaks down their door in the middle of the night. But even more disturbing are the number of times such "wrong door" raids unnecessarily lead to the injury or death of suspects, bystanders, and police officers. Defenders of SWAT teams and paramilitary tactics say such incidents are isolated and rare. The map above aims to refute that notion.

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