"The San Diego Union-Tribune," ran a piece on the Bush administration’s plan to bankrupt the nation’s train system - Amtrak - out of existence.
It costs about $1.2 billion to run the system, approximately two weeks worth of funding in the Iraq war, but let’s not get into that; we’re talking about trains.
To the paper’s credit they let the writer, Neal Pierce, conduct a thorough ventilation of his spleen.
After discussing the importance of Amtrak to the nation’s economy and debunking the pie-in-the-sky predictions about private operators (?) rushing in to fill the void, he continues:
"The Bush crowd should buy a history book, and glance around the globe. A prime reason we abandoned the Articles of Confederation and formed a federal union was to develop as a nation, not warring camps."
Pierce points out that advanced nations are upgrading their systems with great leaps in technology and spending. Japan and Germany dedicate 20 percent of their transportation budgets to trains, compared with Amtrak’s request of 2 percent (denied).
The goal of (r)epublicans, who sleep often in the oil patch, is to keep people carbound forever even if it means driving humanity over a cliff with the last tank of gas.
"As oil prices soar," he properly points out, "doesn’t rail make more sense than ever?"
Sense? Who said anything about sense?
In early 2002 the scribe hit the rails from New York to Los Angeles. The train system is a little dowdy, the compartments a little too small for what they are presented to be, and the dining car needs updating. But those are budgetary questions.
For educational value and pleasure the journey dwarfed the airplane experience as we pushed up the Hudson River at dusk and thundered through snow blown Buffalo in the early morning hours, waking up to scenes of rural Ohio you just don’t get from a freeway.
In Chicago we stepped down, walked around the city and over the river, stopping for lunch with a friend before jumping the Southwest Chief for another night of unique romance. When eating the scribe and wife were surprised at having to share a table with strangers, but they made friends and thought it a nice change.
Next morning we awoke to a flat, frosted Colorado landscape and got off in Pueblo for a cigarette. By midday, the train was rolling through heroic New Mexico, its Indian villages, and the Rio Grande whooshing alongside.
It was quintessentially American, except for the fact that Americans don’t do it anymore; even seem repulsed by some of its communal requirements. That’s too bad.
"The Trib" also ran an article by former Missouri Senator and (r)epublican party member, John Danforth.
It represents a shocking admission by a (r)epublican paper and provides an idea of just how freaked out the party is at Bush’s handing over his administration to the Jesus freaks during the whole, godawful Terry Schiavo ordeal.
Danforth minces no words. Here is his first sentence: "By a series of recent initiatives, [r]epublicans have transformed our party into the political arm of conservative Christians."
Now we’re getting somewhere. Of course Danforth doesn’t hold elective office any more. He doesn’t have to worry about his opponent getting showered with money pulled from the pulpit in the name of Christian charity.
the scribe wants to know why unions must constantly defend the right to use their members' dues for politics, but churches get a free ride? I mean, he knows why, but it’s fun to ask.
But back to Danforth: He says the party abandoned its principals in l áffaire Schiavo. Getting Congress involved in the personal tragedy of a common family, giving a federal court power over state tribunals, he said, are "rightly attributed to the pressure of religious power blocks."
In Missouri, he said, (r)epublicans are trying to criminalize research with stem cells produced in a petri dish.
"It is not," he senatorially scowls, "evident to many of us that cells in a petri dish are equivalent to identifiable people suffering from terrible diseases. I am and have always been pro-life. But the only explanation for legislators comparing cells in a petri dish to babies in the womb is the extension of religious doctrine into statutory law."
Danforth says identifying a party with a religion is a bad idea. "While religions are free to advocate for their own sectarian causes, the work of government and those who engage in it is to hold together as one people a very diverse country."
Even the scary people are getting scared.