Saturday, April 23, 2011

Coast-to-coast by Amtrak ... and Back!

I will be leaving around noon today for a three-week trip that will take me across the country and back again ... all by Amtrak. (Those of you who know about my love of train travel will not be surprised.)

A high point will be introducing an almost-nine-year-old granddaughter to her first overnight train ride ... aboard Amtrak's Coast Starlight, from Los Angeles to Seattle.

From there, I'll be traveling solo to Washington, DC, for an annual meeting of the National Association of Railroad Passengers. As an elected member of NARP's Council of Representatives, I'll be visiting a number of our representatives and senators banging the drum for more and better trains for the U.S.

After Washington, it's up to Boston to see several Red Sox games at venerable Fenway Park, then back to the West Coast, again by Amtrak: Boston to Chicago to Seattle to Los Angeles. I'll be joined on the Boston-LA portion of the trip by my brother-in-law who has heard me carry on so much over the years about both train travel and the Red Sox that he's decided to find out for himself what it's all about. By the time we get to LA, he will know for sure, one way or the other, if I'm really on to something, or am just a bit nuts.

I will do what I can to post here from time to time, but if you're interested in hearing more about all these train travels, stop in at my other blog where I'll be doing my best to provide regular posts as I go.

I'll be back home on Maui around the middle of May. Aloooo-ha!


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Hey! Who You Callin’ an Ideologue!

The other day I came across a post by a right-wing blogger in which he referred to me as “a liberal ideologue”. Whoa! That really gave me pause because I've always considered the term to be disparaging … meaning someone who is locked into a particular philosophy and pretty much unable or unwilling to find any merit in another point of view.

I readily admit to holding strong opinions, but part of what defines a liberal is the ability to consider and even adopt new ideas. Conservatives, on the other hand, are instinctively – or, if you will – ideologically resistant to change.

And therein lies the problem: we liberals have a much harder sell than do our conservative counterparts. Change is scary; sticking to the status quo is a lot safer and requires a lot less thought.

Take transit, for example. Yes, it’s a generalization, but for the most part liberals tend to support transit projects while conservatives are far more likely to oppose them.

In stating our case, liberals must start by acknowledging that a transit system is going to cost every taxpayer a few more dollars, whether they will ever ride the system or not. (In Honolulu that has meant an extra ½ percent added to the General Excise Tax). After that, we have to convince people that transit will keep automobile traffic at bearable levels, will reduce pollution, will help to contain urban sprawl, and will yield other societal benefits.

On the other hand, all the anti-transit people have to do is raise the decibel level and say “It’s too expensive” or “Nobody will ride it” or “It’s just another government boondoggle.” And that offers an easy way out for people already busy and stressed in their daily lives. They just hop on that bandwagon. No critical thinking required.

There are a lot of big problems out there. Choosing the right course for any of them takes work which leads to knowledge which leads to understanding … and sometimes that means changing one's mind.

Whatever the issue – transit or the debt or unemployment – we could do with a lot less ideology.

Come, let us reason together.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Conclusive Proof That Things Are All Screwed Up

Senator Bernie Sanders (Ind-VT) has come up with a list of the Top-10 Corporate Freeloaders. It's an eye-opener (click to enlarge):

If you have old eyeballs like mine and still can't read it, here are some of the low-lights:

* Exxon Mobile had a $19 billion profit in 2009, and got a $156 million tax rebate.

* Bank of America had a profit of $4.4 billion and got a rebate of $1.9 billion.

* General Electric has made $25 billion in profits over the past five years and during that time has sent one-fifth of its jobs overseas, thereby avoiding billions in U.S. taxes.

* Chevron made $10 billion in profit in 2009 and received a $19 million refund in 2010.

* Valero has $60 billion in sales, but got a $157 million refund.

If you can stomach it, there's more of the same on the list. Now add to that the news that one-half of all American families will pay no federal income tax this year.

With the giants of American business and half the general public freeloading, it's no wonder we're deep in debt. How is it possible that we have permitted this to happen?

And, when damn near everyone agrees that something must be done about the deficit, how is it possible that almost half the country supports the Congressional Republicans, who want more tax cuts for business and are fighting tooth and nail against allowing the Bush tax cut for the wealthiest Americans to lapse?

It's simply crazy!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Senator James Inhofe: Arrogant Dangerous Buffoon

Meet United States Senator James Inhofe, Republican from Oklahoma.

He supports Laurent Gbagbo the murderous tyrant of the Ivory Coast.

He denounces global warming as "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people".

And there's enough more to make your head spin. The list of Inhofe's bizarre and outrageous statements and positions and votes is seemingly without end.

Inhofe, age 76, is also a pilot and now we find out that last year he landed his plane on a closed runway, damn near killed a bunch of innocent people who were in the way, and then yelled at them and the airport people as though his carelessness and incompetence was their fault. Read about it here. It's beautiful, because it's got all the FAA documentation ... and more.

This guy is a joke and a clown. And he's dangerous on any number of levels. What the hell is wrong with the voters in Oklahoma??

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Look Out! They’re after National Public Radio again.

For years, the Republicans have targeted NPR, plus public television, and the National Endowment for the Arts as well. You really have to wonder what they’re thinking. Today, if you scan the radio dial looking for news and information, the “newscasts” are 60 seconds long … even from the major networks. How’s that for in-depth reporting!

By contrast, NPR offers news and information in real depth. How can that not be a benefit to society? NPR’s funding is a tiny fraction of a tiny fraction of the federal budget and what a void it would leave if the Republicans have their way.

I came across a quote from Winston Churchill a few days ago -- one I hadn’t heard before. It’s wonderfully appropriate.

During the dark, desperate early days of World War 2, when England was standing alone against the Nazis, it was suggested to Churchill that money being spent by the British government on the arts should be diverted to the war effort.

Churchill said, “Then what are we fighting for?”

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Mississippi Leads the Way …

... back to the Dark Ages. In a recent survey, a plurality of registered Republicans in Mississippi said they thought interracial marriages should be against the law.

Words fail me.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

This Would Have Been Awfully Funny 3 Weeks Ago.

And, I suppose, it's a mark of our indominatable human resiliance that we can still laugh at it.