Sideways Protectionism

Apparently, legislators in California can't get away with just passing a law that says something like "no damn foreigners can build trains for us."  So they repackage their protectionism by finding a way to disguise it, in this case with a truly screwball piece of fiddling-while-Rome-burns legislation:

A bill authored by Assemblymember Bob Blumenfield (D "“ San Fernando Valley) requiring companies seeking contracts to build California's High Speed Rail system to disclose their involvement in deportations to concentration camps during World War II gained final approval from the state legislature today. AB 619, the Holocaust Survivor Responsibility Act, passed the Assembly on a vote of 50 "“ 7 and was sent to the governor, who will have until September 30 to act on it.AB 619 would require companies seeking to be awarded high speed rail contracts to publicly disclose whether they had a direct role in transporting persons to concentration camps, and provide a description of any remedial action or restitution they have made to survivors, or families of victims. The bill requires the High Speed Rail Authority to include a company's disclosure as part of the contract award process.

Apparently they have in mind specifically the SNCF, the French national railroad.  Its loony enough to blame current corporate management and ownership for something the entity did three generations ago, but the supposed crimes of the SNCF occurred when France was occupied by the Nazis.   Its like criticizing the actions of a hostage.  And even if there were some willing collaborationists, they almost certainly were punished by the French after liberation, and besides the US Army Air Force did its level best to bomb the SNCF's infrastructure back into the stone age, so I am certainly willing to call it quits.


  1. SB7:

    I think the second sad thing about this is that corporations in France routinely hang around long enough to be wrongly held responsible for things done generations ago. If SNCF was exposed to the stern judgement of creative destruction we wouldn't be having this conversation.

  2. Bill:

    Just curious; how were the Japanese-Americans transported inland in 1942?

  3. Fred from Canuckistan:

    "when France was occupied by the Nazis. "

    Vichy France gleefully hunted down Jews & transported them. Petain et al were nasty bad dudes.

    But I concur it is a stuck on stupid law in a stuck on stupid state.

    They just can't dig their own economic grave fast enough.

  4. caseyboy:

    I'm dumbfounded.

  5. Pat Moffitt:

    The law did not go sufficiently far-- it should have prevented all companies and governments from building subsidized high speed rail.

  6. Sean:

    Me thinks you doth complain too much. If California is really good at one thing, its throwing legal road blocks into the path of progress, any progress good or bad. I know you feel these high speed rail line are a boondogle (and I think your right) so you ought to be championing more this nonsense. Perhaps it will delay progress long enough that the funds will expire and it will never get built. In California, its probably a better tactic than an honest economic analysis.

  7. MJ:

    When I first read this post I figured Blumenfield was going after Siemens. Boy, was I wrong.

  8. me:

    @MJ: same here!

    Here's another aspect of the most American kind of regulation. I quote it because it's a pet peeve of mine - I love swimming, I miss being able to swim in public waters if I deem it safe.

  9. Joseph Hertzlinger:

    Does transporting Japanese-Americans to American concentration camps count?

  10. Matthew Brown:

    I am curious why the bill specifies only the years 1942-1944 as counting -- the Germans were killing Jews before 1942, although it intensified at that point.

    Yes, Vichy France collaborated, but with the German sword at its throat. Although anti-Semitism wasn't exactly rare in France before that point, there's no reason to believe that any program of killing Jews would have taken hold in France except at Germany's bidding.

    Count me disgusted that the California Assembly has time to do this while the budget is still unresolved, too. Do the Assembly members still get paid if they don't sign a budget? I believe they should not, and should have all state-paid privileges revoked as well, which there are bound to be quite a few.

  11. Pat:

    Seriously? Nah. Can't be serious. California has way too many problems to be dealing with something this inane, don't they?

  12. mark:

    The only North American source of trains is Bombardier, which is of course Canadian. Don't see how that improves the domestic content of the "great high speed railway" voted on in CA.


    the same thing happened when the la subway was being planned, the only company willing to bid for the subway cars was sumitomo of japan.

    halfway thru production of the subway car contract the la city council realized it was a japanese company, ie, non-american! [maybe the name should have been a clue... ;-]

    they threw a major hissy fit and cancelled the contract incurring huge cancellation fees, then began looking for an american coach maker. naturally, there were none left since the pullman coach people went out of business in the late '50's...

    bombardier in canada was booked up and not available, plus they were canadien as well...

    so the la city council went crawling back to the japanese to beg for subway cars. sumitomo charged them a large fortune to restart production of the original contract and added even more punitive cancellation terms in case the la city council tried to stick it to them once again!

  14. Smarty:

    Mark, you doorknob you, how about Motivepower, Progress Rail, National Railway, EMD, GE, Brookville, RJ Corman....

  15. JTW:

    you're right the law is idiotic and you shouldn't hold the current company responsible for things their predecessors did 60+ years ago.
    BUT you're wrong in thinking the majority of French (or indeed Europeans in general) didn't willingly cooperate with the Germans in deporting Jews and other "undesirables".
    Not only were most no doubt unaware of what would happen with the people (officially it was a "relocation program", its public face), but the idea that all of Europe except a small group of collaborators actively opposed the German occupation is incorrect.
    The majority of people just went on with life as they had before, doing their jobs under new leadership. Of course some did so because they were afraid of what would happen to them if they didn't, but most couldn't care less.
    The war didn't hit them directly, the main thing that changed was the uniform of the soldiers in the street and the penalties for breaking the law.

    The myth of a mass civilian uprising against the German occupation of Europe is just that, a myth.
    Current estimates put the French resistance movement at a few thousand people at most for example, out of a population of millions, and most of those were already borderline revolutionaries from the French communist party before the war.
    Same is true for the other countries under German occupation.