We should invest in high speed rail
With the recent controversy over United Airlines violently pulling a seated passenger off a flight, it is good to reflect on air travel in general. Passengers are expected to arrive at the terminal two hours before their scheduled flight, then endure security lines, taking your shoes off and pat downs.
A much better alternative is high speed rail. When traveling in other countries I really came to appreciate high speed rail. Most city train stations are easily reachable by taxi or metro. As an example, you can travel from Beijing to Shanghai, a distance of 819 miles in 4 hours and 55 minutes. For comparison, New York to Chicago is 714 miles and a quick google search shows that the fastest train takes 17 hours 40 minutes.
This country is way behind Europe, Japan and China with high speed rail. High speed rail is a viable option to flying. If you include the time it takes to travel from downtown to and from the airport and the required two hour early arrival time, the train is faster. The journey is more pleasant, the seats are comfortable, there is more leg room, you can get up and visit the dining car or roam around. No one gets bumped and physically hauled out of their seat. This country should be investing in high speed rail. Let’s get some competition to airlines, create plenty of construction jobs, railroad employee jobs and increase the ease of travel.
What foreign policy?
President Trump has recently been making headlines in the realm of foreign policy. In the last two weeks he has bombed Syria, released our military’s largest non-nuclear bomb, and sent United States battleships to hover off the coast of North Korea. That is a lot of action for a man whose grasp of international relations is minimal and who responds to world events based on what most captures his imagination rather than a considered, thought out comprehensive policy.
The bombing in Syria is a good example. After months of advocating for a hands-off approach to the Syrian issue, Trump decided to unleash 59 missiles in retaliation for Assad’s use of sarin gas against his own people. What accounts for Trump’s turnaround? The babies, “the beautiful babies.”
“Beautiful babies” is not a foreign policy. Thousands of Syrians, not just babies, could have been saved had the President allowed Syrian refugees to seek haven in our country. Even when confronted with powerful disturbing images of the threats Syrians face at the hands of Assad, he is not moved to change his refugee policy. Instead of allowing Syrian refugees to seek safe haven in our country, the President opted to authorize a military strike while entertaining a foreign leader at his resort/home.
Is it too much to ask that our President at least be near the Situation Room while conducting a military strike? It is difficult to imagine that he understood the consequence of his reversal on his Syrian policy when we learn, by his own description, that he was eating chocolate cake at his resort/home at Mar-a-Largo. To say the least, it does not promote the image of a Commander in Chief who takes seriously the use of weapons.
There is a difference in demonstrating quiet confidence in American military strength and looking as if you hadn’t a care in the world. On the stump, candidate Trump thundered and warned of a dangerous world. Now that he’s in charge, he seems significantly less concerned and engaged, unless, of course, he’s seen some pictures of “beautiful babies.” What is the message?
Deidre J. Byrne
Faso’s riffs risk
It’s all too common to have to closely scrutinize a politician’s verbiage to ascertain if they’ve actually stating a definite position, following the trail of their words as it winds ‘round the question you’ve asked. Such was the case with John Faso at his Tele-Town Hall last Thursday night.
There were several such journeys that night, some highlighted the disparity between his words and his actions on the floor of Congress. But the exchange that stood out so strikingly to me was when he was asked a straight forward question in regard to his oft stated support for crucial non-abortion activities of Planned Parenthood: “Would you vote NO on any legislation that included defunding Planned Parenthood?” He responded by commenting that all services that are legitimately covered by Medicaid should be paid. Then he slid into pontification on his proposed amendment to the now abandoned AHCA that allowed some upstate NYS counties to be exempted from State imposed Medicaid reimbursement requirements. This, he said, would relieve taxpayer burdens.
To his wayward response: Saying that some portion of responsibility for State expenses would be lifted from some portion of the populace does not mean those expenses magically disappear. It requires either those expenses be met by some other means and, since no additional Federal funds were provided by his amendment, those means would be other State taxes…or services supported by those unfunded expenses be eliminated (in this case medical services). If he is claiming a real net cutback in total taxpayer burden, it would entail a cutback in Medicaid services…just what the “Freedom Caucus” wants.
To the original question: He did not say he would refuse to vote to defund Planned Parenthood. Thus by his logic and actions he is OK with cutting services provided by both Planned Parenthood and Medicaid. Though I guess its tough to come right out and say how far your policies would cut critical medical services when you’re in a room with people who depend on those services. No wonder he doesn’t like Town Hall meetings. It’s easier in the rarified air of the House floor to simply “go along” with a bill like the AHCA that does such cutting.
Faso’s constituents deserve clear, decisive statements of support for Planned Parenthood and Medicaid, not to mention Medicare and Social Security (which the “Freedom Caucus” will also be going after soon). They are all at risk without strong clear support.
Resolution gaining support
I want to thank my fellow Saugerties Legislator Dean Fabiano for being a strong supporter and advocate for Resolution 177: Opposing a Full Repeal of the Affordable Care Act Without a Comparable and Immediate Replacement as it is a resolution that I authored. And although it is well known that the three Saugerties-based Legislators have a very strong working relationship (despite all three of us being registered to differing political parties), I did not put any pressure on my two fellow Saugerties Legislators to vote yes on it.
In March after the (temporary) unveiling of the American Care Act, I made some amendments to my original version of this resolution in order to make the resolution in step with present-time legislative initiatives in Washington D.C. Once it became apparent that I did not have the votes that I needed in order for my resolution to pass (with these amendments intact), I decided to withdraw the resolution, as I do not believe in putting up authored resolutions that do not have the requisite votes that are needed in order to pass.
After the American Health Care Act was withdrawn in the U.S. House of Representatives, I once again revised my resolution on health care and resubmitted it. When my resolution was defeated by a 1-2 vote in the Health Care Committee, I successfully executed a petition to discharge and hoped that I would garner 12 votes during the monthly meeting on April 18.
When I saw Legislator Fabiano around Saugerties, he asked me how I made out with my revised resolution and for me to describe the details to him. After I did, Legislator Fabiano informed me that he would stand behind my ideas and vote yes on it. After I expressed my appreciation for his support, I contacted Legislator Wawro, and I was able to secure her support too.
During the Democratic and Republican Caucuses on April 11, word came back to me that Legislator Fabiano made a very impassioned speech to his fellow Republican caucus members about supporting my resolution, and that Legislator Fabiano’s speech was so heartfelt and genuine, that it led to the entire Republican caucus voting in support of my resolution! The passage of my resolution is emblematic of bipartisanship at its best, and it is a victory for policy wonks! My resolution illuminates the things that should remain intact within our healthcare laws, and it makes some solid suggestions on how our healthcare system can be improved upon. Despite these positive aspects that have been implemented, if we do not get skyrocketing healthcare costs under control it will be hard to improve upon a healthcare system that is ranked 37th in the world.
Ulster County Legislature
We, the People are at a crucial moment in time, along with our fellow human beings around the world, as well as all other species. However, I’m not talking about Climate Change in this letter, but instead about the power of love. From what I’ve seen this week, I believe that it starts from the ground up.
How often do you beat up your dogs or cats? I’m guessing that a huge percentage of us say never. That’s because we have them for their healing love.
This week Anderson Cooper had the family of the man who was murdered and then posted his murder on Facebook, with pride. To quote from the murdered man’s daughter in his family interview, she said: “The thing that I would take away the most from my father is he taught us about God: ‘How to fear God: How to love God: and how to forgive. Each one of us forgives the killer — The murderer. Dad would have said ‘Tonya, forgive him, because, they know not what they do.’ Most other religions, as well as just plain ‘beliefs’ also promote love over hate.”
When walking in Woodstock at the Woman’s March in Jan. 2017, I experienced a huge amount of love that has stayed with me ever since. Then, when I watched the recent march on Tax Day, I saw hardly any violence.
According to the Guardian, the only violent march on that day was at Berkeley, where 13 arrests were made of Trump supporters who used fireworks and pepper spray. The Guardian said that a peaceful mood reigned at marches in more than 100 other cities.
I think we’re onto something. It’s spring now. Let’s get out to the events in our area and do what we can to remind our representatives that their job is to represent We, the People, and not the billionaires, (while hoping to join them).