In the weeks since my last submission, our “Tweeter-in-chief” has forced some of the more rational folks in the administration to resign and replaced them with more toadies and yes-men with little or no expertise in the areas where they will now be the leaders. The stock market took a nose dive but has since recovered somewhat.
On top of that, President Trump has done as promised and shut down portions of the government, putting some 800,000 civil servants either on furlough or being forced to work without pay. More than half are deemed essential and are working. Now, to be sure, those affected will eventually receive their pay retroactively, but that doesn’t pay this month’s bills for any of them. I think that it's unfair that those who are deemed essential and are hard at work will just get their back pay while those on furlough are getting an additional paid vacation, all at the expense of the taxpayers. The shutdown was done simply because Congress — wisely in my opinion — failed to give in on his demand for more than $5 billion for his pet project, the Mexican border wall that, by the way, he said during the campaign the Mexicans were supposed to pay for. As I have stated before, security on our southern border needs improvement, but the wall is unnecessary, unwanted by a majority of Americans, and way too expensive for the mostly questionable benefits.
Why not put that $5 billion into the infrastructure projects that he promised would be a priority? How many bridges could be repaired, or how many aging water and sewer systems could be improved with that kind of positive investment? Maybe if some of that money went to those failing systems in Baltimore there wouldn’t be raw sewage flowing into the harbor and eventually into the bay.
Another area where Mr. Trump has proven definitively that he is absolutely clueless is international relations, especially when it comes to our military presence in the world's hot spots. He wants to remove all of our troops from Syria, saying that ISIS is now defeated. That is erroneous according to our military leaders, commanders on the ground, and multinational intelligence reports. The removal of our troops, who support a Kurdish faction of Syrians, would leave a vacuum that would quickly be filled by the Turks, who wish to eradicate the Kurds, and could allow ISIS to regain strength. At this point I'm not sure that the Turks aren't ISIS supporters. Additionally, the U.S. vacating the area would allow the Russians and the corrupt and despotic Syrian government to control the country.
In Afghanistan, Trump wants to pull a large portion of our troops from there as well. Military leaders are of the opinion that such a move would allow al Qaeda to strengthen and possibly take control of the Afghan government. Would another 9/11 be possible from that group?
On the domestic front, the administration has miscalculated the benefits of an improved pneumatic braking system for trains that carry volatile liquids like crude oil, liquefied natural gas, liquid propane gas, and other highly flammable and explosive chemicals.
The Trump administration scrapped the rule requiring these brakes, which was included in a package of rail safety measures in 2015 under President Barack Obama, according to the Associated Press.
Electronic pneumatic brakes work on all cars simultaneously, unlikely existing braking systems where brakes are applied from the rear forward in succession. This allows the train to stop in a shorter distance and can prevent derailments which can, and have, caused catastrophic explosions.
One such derailment in Canada nearly wiped a whole town off the map with many killed. What would happen if such a thing happened in Baltimore’s Howard Street Tunnel? Remember when a derailment and fire closed down freight rail traffic as well as surface traffic for an extended period and necessitated the cancellation of some events downtown? If there had been an explosion, portions of the city would have been destroyed with the loss of many lives. Why wait for a catastrophe before requiring this technology?
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On a more personal level, I hope that everyone had a joyous Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, or what ever holiday you celebrate at this time of year and I wish for all a very happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year.