A Challenge to the Christian Evangelicals

I read recently that most Christian Evangelicals are still fully supporting President Trump because he has made good on his promise to curb abortions.  But consider this:  I too am anti-abortion but I long ago recognized this as a moral issue, not a legal one, which each person must make for herself.  Please note that I put “herself” because it is not a decision any man ever has to make.  And so, even as much as I despise abortion, I believe in pro-choice.

What further galls me about what this administration has done is to sow the seeds of discord by singling out Planned Parenthood as just a bunch of abortion clinics.  The truth of the matter is, the Planned Parenthood clinics provide all manner of women’s health and the vast majority of their time is spent educating women on issues of health to include why it may be good to not terminate a pregnancy.  But the disinformation the Trump administration has proffered has made Planned Parenthood seem like something it is not.  Jesus believed in choice so why don’t you?

President Trump may just be the most immoral man ever to sit in the office of the President.  How can you look away from these things?  How can you ignore the teachings of the New Testament?

Let me refer you to Matthew 25:31-46.  Do not these verses count in your world, particularly when they are entitled “The Last Judgment”?

“I was hungry and you gave me no food.”  The reduction in support given to those organizations who help feed the homeless and hungry.

“I was away from home and you gave me no welcome . . . ”  Immigrants at our borders fleeing persecution and death are being denied entry or those who get to apply for asylum are made to wait so long that they are killed, raped or kidnapped.

And if you fully read that portion of Matthew and relate it to the world around you, how much of it are you not doing?  Are  you making excuses for your inability to keep the instructions of Jesus or are you finding ways to help?

Jesus said that if you find a man who is impoverished you should give him half of what you own.  I do not suggest that to be a reasonable demand but do you give to those non-religious organizations whose goal is to help as many of those in need as possible such as homeless shelters, battered women’s shelters, food pantries and the like?

Anyone can say “I believe” but the true believer does and says nothing.  Jesus also said something along those lines.

I am not suggesting that you support some Democrat but I am suggesting that you not support Trump who by his daily actions invalidates all Jesus has ever preached.  Support someone who meets the challenges Jesus gave us.

Commander-in-Chief & The Military

Our Constitutions provides that a civil be in charge of the military.  And Washington decided he needed a group of men to advise him on the various operations of government thereby creating the President’s Cabinet.  One of those posts was the Secretary of War, today’s Secretary of Defense.  Washington’s experience as a general in the Revolution taught him that he needed trusted advisors who were not military, Alexander Hamilton was his most trusted advisor during that period.  In his cabinet he named Henry Knox to that post.  Knox had thought in 1775 that he was the best candidate for the post Washington ultimate got.

During his presidency, the solvency of the nation was in the forefront of our country’s leaders and this was challenged in 1812 when the U.S. once again went to war with England.

At the beginning of World War 2 it became evident that this country, fighting a war on two fronts, needed a group of men who would be in charge of their service’s generals and admirals, and one who would lead over these men.  The Joint Chief’s of Staff was formed for the Army and Navy.  It was later expanded to include the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines and most recently added the National Guard.  Their is also the chair and vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs.  The men and women who occupy these seats are considered the finest each service has to offer and one of their duties is to advise the President

All presidents since 1949 have used this group extensively in planning matters of national defense and policy.  But when President Trump took office he had declared he knew more than all the generals, his words, not mine.  And this coming from a man who avoided doing service.

It would be reasonable to expect that after 3 years of serving as Commander-in-Chief he would have learned something about military procedures, policies and discipline.  He has not and that was shown when he pardoned the Navy Seal who was rightfully having his trident removed from him.

Presidential oversight is absolutely necessary but Presidential interference in the military justice system serves only to undermine those generals and admirals who have been charged to keep good order within their services.

This offense in itself is just further proof the President Trump is unfit for the office in which he sits.

Massachusetts Critical Congestion Problem — Part 2

Whenever the idea of upgrading and expanding public transportation is Boston comes up, the state legislature balks because of the seemingly high cost. But what does it really cost? Boston has five major arteries feeding into it. On an annual basis, it cost roughly $50,000 to maintain each of these roads. And when it comes to resurfacing or rebuilding, the cost zooms to $1.5 to $2 million per mile! And there are other costs associated with these roads as well. And when you consider how far people are willing to commute, you must go at least 50 miles out from Boston’s center. A bit of simple math shows how costs quickly zoom into the 100s of millions of dollars. This does not take into account the intangibles such as how likely a company is to move into the Boston area considering the constant congestion of its highways.
The MBTA recently announced it is consider running electric trains on its Providence to Boston route to see how well they work. I find this curious because the Massachusetts Department of Transportation need only confer with the New York area rail providers to see how well they work. If the Massachusetts legislature had a lick of sense, it would provide the Mass DOT with the funding to simply go out and purchase new electrified coaches and put them into service.
The upside of the electric railcar is that it can be used in a fashion similar to rapid transit, short distance routes with a high frequency of service. An example of a route which begs this kind of service is the Fairmont Line. This route run entirely within the city of Boston but constantly struggles for ridership. Were this route electrified with trains running every 10 to 15 minutes is would become extremely attractive.
Other routes which would become more attractive from frequently running trains are the Framingham to Boston, Waltham to Boston (with the addition of more stations, ie. Beaver Brook, Fresh Pond), Woburn (Anderson) to Boston, Reading to Boston, and Beverly to Boston.
Each of these routes, except the Beverly line, intersects with the interstate highway system. At present, there are no stations at these intersections. But by addling large parking garages with highway exits will certain draw a healthy percentage of present commuters to the trains. If a commuter knows that on these lines, he is never more than 15 or 20 minutes from a train, it is obviously attractive.
The conventional trains that would continue to use these lines from the stations further out would benefit from being able to run express during rush hours. That means people commuting in on these trains from places such as Rockport, Haverhill, Concord/Fitchburg and other destinations would see their travel time reduced. Additionally, the sensation that the train runs slowly because it stops at every station would also be alleviated.
The MBTA and Mass DOT would do well, regardless of how it proceeds, to take a careful look at parking availability at each of its stations. Any station which is, or has the potential, to be heavily used, should have a minimum of 1000 parking spaces. Reading is an excellent example of a station desperately in need of expanded parking as does Wakefield on that route. Reading has a total of 71 parking spaces and Wakefield 116. In each case the availability of land is at a premium but midway between these stations runs I-95/128 where there are large swarths of land which could be used with the addition of a station plus a large parking garage.
There are three routes which are begging for expansion which can be accomplished for relatively modest sums of money. The Haverhill route can be moved northward to a point named Rosemont just south of the New Hampshire state line and on Route 125, an extremely heavily traveled road. In the process it passes beneath I-495 affording a 2nd station. The next is the Lowell line being extended to a point just south on Nashua in Tyngsboro. Right now the traffic of Route 3 has no convenient station. The first mall in Nashua has a parking lot which extends into Massachusetts and has an excellent exit from Route 3 less than a mile away. And finally, extending the Framingham/Worcester line to Springfield seems like a no brainer. The track is already up to passenger standards and there is an active rail passenger station in Springfield. This route would also service Ludlow, Palmer, Brookfield and Spenser.
These solutions will cost in the multiple of billions of dollars but here is one additional thought to make that seem less imposing. The average length of an automobile is just under 20 feet while the average length of a rail car is over 60 feet. Most automobiles carry a single person while a railcar can accommodate upwards of 100 people per car. If these rail cars are only used at 50% of their capacity they are still taking about 150 automobiles off the road per rail car used.

Time to Change or Eliminate the Electoral College

The Electoral College is an anachronism which dearly needs to be eliminated. The Electoral College was created to give more power to the smaller less populous states in our nation’s early years. It was a concession given because a state such as Delaware feared that a larger state such as Pennsylvania might take advantage of its size and essential rule over the smaller state. But it was still a compromise to bring peace and agreement to the then Federalist form of government. You must remember that we started at 13 individual republics who via the Constitution were united in to a singular republic with a strong central government but still allowing states certain powers of anonymity.
But as we have grown to 50 states and nearly 300 million people, the original algorithm to provide equality is now having the opposite effect. The reason is simple: state political parties pick their electors but the prevailing party always ends up with all the electors. For example, Massachusetts has 9 U.S. Representatives and 2 U.S. Senators giving it 11 electors. As Massachusetts is a strongly blue state, the entire representation will be Democrat and the electors will vote accordingly. But Massachusetts has a rather conservation portion of the state, Western Massachusetts. It is not difficult to have that political district vote Republican but their votes will count for nothing.
Texas is a good example of the opposite situation. Texas could easily vote 55% to 45% favoring the Republican candidate. Texas has a population of about 28 million people. That means the 12 million people who voted Democratic will have not voice in the presidential outcome. The same is true of California which typically votes Democrat but which has very large portions of the state which vote Republican.
The point is, if you are going to keep the Electoral College then it must be modified to accommodate that portion of a state’s population which does not vote with the majority political party. By attaching electors who represent the majority view of their political district, the Electoral College will become much more effective and fair.
The other thing to do is to eliminate the electoral college completely and have Presidents elected directly by the people which ultimately is the most fair solution. The impact of this with regard to previous elections is that at least 5 people who held the office of President but lost the popular vote would not have made it into office. To allow the minority vote to have purchase over the majority is an injustice and certainly something which keeps so many people away from the polls as they believe that their vote really does not count, and sadly, that may be the exact case.

Massachusetts Critical Congestion Problem — Part 1

Today’s traffic debacle in Boston was started some 30 years ago when the state finalized plans and got funding for “The Big Dig.” From its inception, this project was rife with corruption, cost overruns and extremely bad engineering. Bad engineering? Yes! Some genius thought that running 4 lanes of traffic from the south into 3 lanes was an okay thing. But the fact is, it created what is referred to as a “choke point.” That is, the volume of traffic exceeds the ability of the roadway at that point to effectively handle it. And so, the people coming in from the South Shore have reaped absolutely no benefit from the “Big Pig,” which we are still paying for. Additionally, these genius engineers, and the politicians who backed and/or pressured them, decided in their infinite wisdom to also create and east/west choke point. Traffic moving out toward the airport and into East Boston is confined to two lanes. As anyone who has tried to leave the airport at rush hour knows, you are in for a long wait.
Unfortunately, there is no way to fix either of these two situations with roads. The answer lies in rail transportation, both rapid transit and commuter rail. But before I get to that, let us understand that the rush hour, from all directions, begins and 6AM and continues until well after 9AM and in the afternoon it is even longer. Why? Even though people cannot stand driving into Boston, their perception of the available public transportation is that it is poor in quality, inconvenient, and in some places, not available.
I think it fair that if you were to stick a pin in Boston and then used a protractor with a 50-mile spread applied, you would take in the majority of where people are coming from. But there are exceptions even to this! York Maine is 65 miles distant. Concord NH is 68 miles distant. And Springfield MA is 91 miles! People are living that far afield to escape the high price of living in Greater Boston. But when it comes time to travel from these more distant points, the only option is the automobile which, as you get closer to Boston, is cumulative so that by the time you reach Saugus on Route 1, or Dedham on I-93, you are in a traffic jam.
The State of Massachusetts has thrown large sums of money at commuter rail, which was needed, but has only addressed the easiest of solutions when it came to expanding the commuter rail system. But in expanding the commuter rail system, it has not addressed the need for substantial parking at certain stations. And the insult is that they charge for parking. For example, Bradford, which has 300 parking spaces, charges $8 a day for parking or $51 for a monthly pass. That is on top of the $318 monthly rail pass. Right there you have priced many individuals out of taking the train. The fact is, a large portion of our population simply cannot afford the outlay of $318 at one time. And while we are on the Haverhill line, the MBTA was supposed to extend it to Rosemont, a station in very close proximity to I-495. That would be a perfect location to pick off at least some of the Boston-bound commuters.
It gets worse when you consider what is available from the North Shore. With a single line running to Beverly and then splitting off to Rockport and Newburyport that simply does not fill the needs of those populations. This was made worse but the fact that the MBTA allowed a line to go for lack of imagination. At one time there was a line which crossed Route 1 very near to the present intersection of I-95 and Route 1. It is at this point all Boston bound commuters leave the Interstate only to be met with an almost continuous traffic jam into Boston. A little forward thinking and some light rail could offer these commuters an alternative to Boston. This rail line, resurrected, would bring people to the Orange Line at Sullivan Square.
New Hampshire has been unwilling to allow expansion of the MBTA Commuter Rail System into its state where an extremely large portion of the population in the southern portion of the state commutes to Boston. The MBTA could easily have extended its Lowell line to Tyngsboro which sits just south of Nashua NH. No reason has ever been given to why this has not been done. It would certainly give a large population an option it does not have. I say it does not have that event though Lowell may appear to be on the way to Boston, access to the railroad station there is not easy, not convenient.
I could go on, but I think the point has been made.
The word “convenience” is key to improving how the MBTA deals with ridership in the future. The first thing it needs to do is greatly increase the frequency of trains to the cities and towns which sit within Route 128. The heavily populated corridor of Reading to Boston sees just six trains during the 6AM to 9AM rush hour. This is hardly convenient. When the Boston & Maine Railroad ran the commuter rail from Reading (1963), it offered 18 trains during that same time period! And here is what it used.

I picked this picture because it is the equipment the Boston and Maine Railroad used, Budd Self-Propelled railcars. These two cars are still in service in Canada and they are both former B&M coaches! I am not suggesting the we beat the bushes and rehabilitate these aging vehicles but that we buy new ones. Vehicles made by a Canadian company, Bombardier. One of their vehicles is shown below.

budd car

This particular vehicle is bound for Germany where, as in everywhere in Europe, such vehicles are in wide-spread use. And so, such vehicle is available and would be perfect for short-distance commutes. These trains are cheaper to run and much more passenger friendly.

The second part of running such trains is that standard commuter rail trains from the more distant portions of the system would be able to run express from 10 to 15 miles inward and outward. That at least makes such trains appear to be more convenient.
In addition to these things the MBTA needs to restructure its commuter rail fees. The Red Line fare from Boston to Braintree is $2.25. The commuter rail fee is $6.75! This makes absolutely no sense. Anyone who might like to get on the commuter rail at Braintree to avoid the multitude of stops on the Red Line are dissuaded by the high price of such a trip.
The answer to Boston’s ever-increasing congestion is a vastly expanded commuter rail and rapid transit system. It is expensive and requires both innovation and imagination. Imagination costs nothing and innovation is an everyday thing at schools like MIT which would gladly take state monies to help resolve these problems. The time to fix these problems was 30 years ago. It did not happen so it must happen now.

America: Then, Now, in the Future

I look at America today and I am saddened. I am also torn because I am a conservative Democrat who shares a lot of Republican views but is more in line with Democrats. But what does it matter when this men and women whom we have elected are in the business of getting re-elected and kowtowing to their PACs. I really liked Bernie Sanders because he took no PAC money but felt Hillary was the better candidate. Bernie is close to be a socialist which my conservative side cannot tolerate except in a few small doses.
I think back to the 1960s and 70s when men with vision had the commitment to follow through on ideas that help all Americans and not just the well-monied and the well-placed. John F. Kennedy was a very flawed man, but he promised us early in his presidency that he would put an American on the moon, something most people of the day could not happen. And even though he was killed in 1963, President Johnson took the lead and in 1969 it happened. And Richard Nixon, probably one of the most flawed presidents ever, understood the mood of Americans with regard to Vietnam and quickly made a plan to remove American soldiers. That happened in 1975.

In 1973 the U.S. Supreme Court had the courage to rule in favor of Roe v. Wade in a 7 – 2 vote. Up until that time people were put in jail just for speaking out about contraception. All the justices on that court were brought on the philosophy of the sanctity of life. Six of those justices were nominated by Eisenhower and Nixon. But they did not allow their political beliefs to interfere with their interpretation of the Constitution relative to the case at hand. That took a lot of courage in those days.

President Lyndon Johnson, a conservative Texas Democrat, spearheaded the Civil Rights Act of 1965. Had Johnson been a little younger and lived to see the 1980s, he would likely have changed parties as did most southern Democrats of the 1960s. But both parties seemed to recognize the wrong that was being dealt to people of color.

All the good that that generation of Republicans and Democrats did is under siege by today’s Republican party for reasons I cannot understand and believe are based in ignorance and pettiness by the divisive minds of a few men who have abandoned the ideal of working for the greater good in favor of working the agenda of a well-monied powerful few.

But I do still believe in the basic goodness of the overwhelming majority of Americans. When disasters befall us, these Americans are not checking party affiliation before they give aid. They just do it because it is the right thing to do.

The Right Thing to Do. Americans support or don’t support things politicians want based on the information given them. But today’s politicians are wont for giving their constituency all the relevant facts regarding a particular issue and instead feed the only those facts which support their agenda. This applies equally to both parties.

It is time for those members of Congress who are in the 70s and 80s to retire and give way the a new generation of politicians. People in their 70s and 80s are not nearly so concerned with the future, in spite of what they may say, as are people in their 30s and 40s. And it is that group who must be given the reins of government if America is to move forward in the best interest of all Americans.

The Crisis Called Trump

Donald Trump loves to announce himself as one of the greatest presidents ever. The reality is, I believe history will portray him as one of the worst ever. He will join Warren Harding, probably the most corrupt, Andrew Johnson, probably the most ineffective, and Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan and a few others who are at the bottom. We all know that Andrew Johnson was brought before the senate for removal and was saved by a single vote. Warren Harding was so corrupt that he faced the possibility of being charge with a federal crime and was facing removal by his own party had he not suddenly died.
Donald Trump is probably one of the most divisive presidents ever. Even before he was elected, he was using an “us against them” strategy which he has continued, if changed in flavor, during his presidency. But he has done so at his own peril and has either fired or had quit more of his senior staff than any president in history during his first two years. And swirling around all that is his likely collusion with the Russian government prior to the election which, if proven, would put him directly in the cross-hairs of the, as the Constitution names it, most “high crimes” of probably any president; something approaching treason.

One of the things you find inquiries, such as what are going on now with the FBI investigation, is that there is ultimately a degree of truth with the focus of the investigation. For example, the Clinton-Lewinsky affair and investigation. Clinton steadfastly denied any wrong doing but when the Starr investigation was completed it was clear that Pres. Clinton was guilty of “abuse of power.” That very same abuse of power is happening today although in a form yet to be spelled out.
The recent NY York Times anonymous Op-Ed article illustrates an administration in crisis. People have wasted their time arguing over whether the article should have been printed, it should have, or that the writer should have identified himself, irrelevant. Instead, discussion should center around how much truth is contained in the article. The writer presents a very reasonable description of what dedicated, and highly intelligent people will do to prevent a president from erring so egregiously as to cause serious damage to the country.

What Trump has failed to realize, and I doubt will ever, is that his job is to do the will of the people, and not whatever suits him from one moment to the next as he has done. In truth, all politically elected and appointed official, from the president on down, are public employees who, when they take their oath of office promise to uphold the Constitution of the United States. And it is quite clear in the Constitution that all public employees hold office only in the interest of the American public.
Trump is acting like he is starring in a t.v. show where he can yell “you’re fired!” and it becomes true. Government simply does not, and cannot, work that way. He constantly tramples the First Amendment by exclaiming that people who hold opposing views should be silenced. He has made ludicrous statements like he knows more than his generals! Only a fool makes such a claim.

I fully expect the Democrats to retake both the senate and house during the next elections. I expect there will be enough energy among party leaders to start impeachment hearings.

The people of the United States deserve far better leadership than they now have. It is time for my generation, the baby boomers, to step aside and allow the next two generations to take over. We did good work in the 70s and 80s but our time is past. It is time that those 40 years of age and younger take over and definite their future for in truth, the future of the baby boomers is far shorter than theirs and they deserve the reins of power.