Letters | September 24, 2010 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - September 24, 2010


Rail 'Authority' isn't


High-speed rail transport is an extremely technical subject. It requires knowledge and expertise in many fields, including geology, seismology, soil mechanics, civil engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, aerodynamics and quantitative demographics.

The countries with the largest installed base and most expertise in high-speed rail are China, France, Germany and Japan. Of these, China has become the world leader in a remarkably short time, passing all other countries in installed mileage and lines under construction. On July 1 the Chinese High Speed Rail Ministry launched its latest high-speed rail service between Shanghai and Nanjing. The line includes 21 stations serving eight cities, and is designed for running at up to 217 mph.

China now has 4,300 miles of routes suitable for operation at 124 mph and above, of which almost 1250 are suitable for 217 mph.

In addition, China has budgeted 800 billion yuan ($120 billion) to lay more than 3,728 miles of new high-speed tracks across the country by 2012, which will bring the total length of Chinese high-speed railways to 8,090 miles.

Along with all the other countries listed above, China has recognized that decisions about high-speed rail require a high level of specialized qualifications. As a result, every member of China's High Speed Rail Directorate has, in addition to their other capabilities, an engineering or scientific degree in a field pertinent to high-speed. The results speak for themselves.

In California, decisions are made by the High Speed Rail Authority. The California High Speed Rail "Authority" is not an authority, in any sense of the word. Despite the posted political resumes of its board members, much of which are inflated persiflage, here are the facts:

1) Not one of the nine board members of the authority has ever worked for or professionally managed a railroad.

2) Not one of the board members has a single engineering or scientific degree in any field relevant to high speed rail transport. In addition to their lack of credentials, their meandering indecision, blundering overstatements, and subsequent retractions corroborate that they are not qualified to oversee this highly technical enterprise that, if built, will affect the lives and property of millions of Californians

3) The authority is a sham, a political construct appointed by an administration that has brought the economy of the hitherto most prosperous of the United States to a condition of financial, educational and industrial crisis.

The voters of California get what they deserve. They should start to take back their franchise by demanding the dissolution of this facade and its replacement with a committee that is both qualified and competent to deal with the complex issues at hand.

Morton Grosser

Lemon Street

Menlo Park

AP classes 'rat race'


Congratulations to the Weekly, the City Council, and the school board for focusing our community's attention on the issues so wisely covered in two recent issues.

I am especially pleased by comments focusing on issues of the "culture" of our community. As another "veteran" PAUSD teacher (42 years) and a long-time supporter of Adolescent Counseling Services, I have shared these concerns.

When I was instructional supervisor of Paly's social studies department, for every parent who came to me concerned about stress there were two who pushed for more AP offerings, especially when U.S. News ranked Gunn higher because more APs were offered there.

Palo Alto parents value excellence and competitive college-admission opportunities for kids. This will not change, though it merits careful attention by each family. At an alumni meeting at Stanford , I learned that Stanford had added a position, "Dean of Freshmen," primarily to deal with increased numbers of entering students who were burned out in the process of gaining admission to Stanford.. Yet there is no indication that Stanford or other "elite" colleges have de-emphasized AP expectations.

It would be interesting to see data on graduate-school admissions and scholarly achievement of students who had graduated from colleges and universities that had not emphasized "weighted" GPAs from high school as criteria on which to base projections of academic potential.

The AP "rat race" noted by a former colleague is not the only way to ensure a successful professional future. If parents and students gain this perspective the "culture" might be more balanced.

Suzan B. Stewart

Middlefield Road

Palo Alto

Spiritual life


Thank you for publishing the full letter from the Gunn High School teacher with ideas on how to prevent teen suicides.

Unfortunately, despite many good suggestions, the teacher seemed to have left out a few important details: the great divorce between the soul and body, the sacred and the secular, the spiritual and the physical and its impact on children; the role of disintegrating religious and family security; and the utilitarian view of life and personhood we have developed (if it is not useful and not a source of happiness, we kill it).

I wish that coverage was given to these items and more like them.

Dominick Peloso

Concord Drive

Menlo Park

Forming a group


In a recent guest opinion (see "Californians Must Save Themselves," Sept. 10), I commented on "California Crackup" (UC Press), a new book by Joe Mathews and Mark Paul that offers Californians a clear story of how we got into the mess we're in, and how we might get out of it.

I invite people to join me in forming a local group that might link up with others around the state to make the book's ideas real. Other people/groups are out there.

Early this year the Bay Area Council made a strong push for a constitutional convention. They or another group may make another effort sometime soon, and we could possibly aid it. If interested, contact me at sdcarlson1218@sbcglobal.net.

Scott Carlson

Lincoln Avenue

Palo Alto


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