Wednesday, June 16, 2010

It's deja vu, all over again

Former Yankees manager Yogi Berra is well known for fracturing the English language, and the quote above is one of his originals.

A recent story in The New York Times brought that quote to mind again, but this time it relates to Chinese workers.

The world's first transcontinental railroad was built between 1863 and 1869 to join the east and west halves of the United States. Begun just preceding the American Civil War, it is considered one of the greatest American technological feats of the 19th century, surpassing both the building of the Erie Canal in the 1820s and the later crossing of the Isthmus of Panama by the Panama Railroad in 1855. Known as the "Pacific Railroad" when it opened, it served as a vital link for trade, commerce, and travel and opened up vast regions of the North American heartland for settlement. Shipping and commerce could thrive away from navigable watercourses for the first time since the beginning of the nation.

Work on the East Coast portion of the transcontinental railroad was done primarily by veterans of the Civil War, but most of the construction in the west was done by Chinese immigrants, who were originally brought in to provide labor during the California Gold Rush in the late 1840’s.

Not long after the completion of the Transcendental Railroad, a variety of forces came together to exclude Chinese workers altogether. The Chinese Exclusion Act passed in 1882, and was not repealed until 1943, a year after the internment of Japanese Americans occurred in California.

It's a well known fact that history often repeats itself, and the American railroad and the Chinese now have a new connection.
This time, however, it's a LOT different than the old one.

The Chinese government recently signed a contract with the State of California to build high speed rail lines in the state. The Chinese bullet trains are capable of speeds up to 215 miles per hour, and are touted as being environmentally friendly. The California rail authority plans to spend $43 billion to build a 465-mile route from San Francisco to Los Angeles and on to Anaheim that is supposed to open in 2020, and a significant portion of the funding for the project will come from China. The authority was awarded $2.25 billion in January of 2010 in federal economic stimulus money to work on the project.

With apologies to Johnny Cash, the Orange COUNTY Special could be right around the corner, and it came about because of a connection that started 150 years ago.

Déjà vu, all over again.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

thoughts on D-Day - volume 2

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. The world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.

This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”

President Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1953

On June 6, 1944, General Dwight Eisenhower was the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces during the invasion of Normandy. During the course of Operation Overlord, 5000 vessels transported 156,000 troops across the English Channel. By nightfall of June 6, 9000 Allied troops were either dead or wounded, but well over 100,000 made it safely to shore, and changed the tide of the war against the Nazis.

Dwight Eisenhower and the rest of “the greatest generation” did what was necessary to win WWII, but lessons learned from WWI, and the sheer effort and expense that was used in WWII, caused the world after 1945 to be a vastly different place.

Rather than using the punitive reparations that were imposed after WWI, the Allies rebuilt the lands of their former enemies, and Japan, Italy, and Germany have been our allies for more than 50 years.

There are always going to be people that disagree with us, and today’s enemies are much more elusive that they were in the past, but they can still be defeated as long as we continue to use non-traditional forms of combat.

Our 2010 Defense Budget is somewhere between $880 billion and $1.0 trillion. If you break that down into smaller components, it works out to a MINIMUM of $73 billion per month, $18 billion per week, $2.6 billion for day, $109 million per hour, $1.8 million per minute, or $30,000 per second.

Although those are definitely big numbers, they don’t tell the whole story, since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are funded by supplementary funding that is outside of the Defense Budget. Over a five year period, they averaged slightly more than $160 billion per year.

The 2010 U.S. Expenditure Budget is $3.522 trillion, although projected receipts are a lot less, at $2.381 trillion. Regardless of how you do the math, roughly HALF of YOUR tax dollars are being spent on the defense budget, and I (for one) don’t think it’s money that is being well spent.

I recently finished reading Greg Mortenson’s “Stones Into Schools” , and just started reading his first book, “Three Cups of Tea” this week.

For a grand total of $340, a child in Pakistan or Afghanistan can obtain four years of a high school education, and $50,000 can buy a school, and pay for a teacher’s salary for 4 years.

Either one of those options can help us achieve peace a lot more effectively than ONE $5,000,000 drone, and we’re using a LOT of them in Afghanistan right now.

To be perfectly honest, none of us can REALLY control how our tax dollars are being spent in Washington, but we CAN make some personal contributions that will TRULY make a difference in the world today.

If you’d like to make a PERSONAL contribution to world peace, all you need to do is click on the link below:

Central Asia Institute.

I lived halfway around the world for a year, and it was a wonderful experience. Apart from the fact that I lost 15 pounds (it’s hard to find good pizza in China) it also opened my eyes to the fact that people in other countries really aren’t much different than the rest of us.

It’s extremely unlikely that we’ll ever witness another event like D-Day, but it’s not impossible to imagine that the events of 9/11/2001 could reoccur. To prevent that from happening, all we need to do is remember the words of Mother Theresa, who said, “ If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other”…

even if some of us live in Afghanistan.