All posts by John Buterbaugh

Luke 21:25-26 Doesn’t Prophesy 2017

Hurricanes. Floods. Wildfires. Earthquakes. The potential eruption of Yellowstone. Threats of nuclear war. Mass shootings. If you’re feeling anxiety or even fear about the world ending soon, you’re not alone. There are several theories as to what is going on right now from both the scientific perspective and the religious perspective.

One such theory is that Luke 21:25-26 prophesies that the solar eclipse on August 21st would be a sign of what happened on the 25th and 26th — Hurricane Harvey. Essentially, this would usher in the Great Tribulation, a brief period of horrible events on a global scale. Let’s take a look at the actual text itself:

25 And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; 26 men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

Some Evangelical Christians believe that the “sun” and “moon” refer to solar eclipse by the moon and the “sea and the waves roaring” referring to the hurricanes. And well, the phrase “on the earth distress of the nations, with perplexity…” seems to capture people’s thoughts and feelings during 2017 aptly.

The thing is that this analysis takes these lines out of context. In Luke 21, the resurrected Jesus and his disciples first discuss the temple:

Then, as some spoke of the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and donations, He said, “These things which you see—the days will come in which not one stone shall be left upon another that shall not be thrown down.”

Jesus continues, foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem:

20 “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near … 32 “Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place.

Modern scholars conclude that the event Jesus predicts is the Siege of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. This was a period of tribulation lasting seven years, the most extreme being in the middle; 1.1 million Jews were killed. In this siege, Roman soldiers reclaimed Judea which previously broke away from the empire. They also destroyed the Second Temple of Jerusalem and replaced it with a temple dedicated to the Roman god Jupiter. Scholars also argue that “generation” in the Jewish sense meant 40 years, not the modern meaning of 20 years. If you back-date 40 years from 70 A.D., you end up at 30 A.D., the approximate year Jesus was crucified. Essentially, Jesus said that everything would go down before his disciples died.

Before you think this is a profound prophesy, consider the date when the Gospels were written. Scholars believe the Gospel of Mark was written around 70 A.D. and that the Gospels of Luke and Matthew were written after 80 A.D. It is very possible that early Christians inserted a prophecy about the temple to further establish Jesus as a prophet. Either way, it wasn’t like they were going to get caught; information did not move around as quickly.

Either way, let’s look at the science. You may find solace in the data. While 2017 saw 317 deaths from hurricanes, 2005 saw 3,960 deaths. While 2017 saw 590 deaths from earthquakes, 2004 saw 298,101 deaths. While 2017 saw 50,283 wildfires up to October 6th, 46,618 earthquakes occurred in 2016 during the same period, only a 7.8% increase. The U.S.G.S. has deemed the chance of a Yellowstone super-eruption “exceedingly low.” And of course, if Trump feels like pressing the button (which he fortunately has not done yet), his Cabinet can invoke the 25th Amendment and revoke his presidential power on account of mental instability. There’s also mutually assured destruction — it makes no sense to use nuclear weapons against someone if retaliation is inevitable. Finally, even Republicans are open to a ban on bump-stock devices that give semi-automatic firearms machine gun capabilities, something that could prevent a future Vegas shooting. Overall, 2017 isn’t all bad. However, “mean world syndrome,” or the mass media-influenced belief in a world that is more dangerous than it actually is, is.

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Concerning NFL Players Kneeling En Masse During the National Anthem

I certainly understand both perspectives on this issue — first that people have a constitutional right to protest injustice and second that doing so during the national anthem is disrespectful to those who defended that right. I personally find kneeling during the national anthem to be disrespectful. I always put my hand on my heart during the anthem. I have personally shed tears during the beautiful patriotic concerts on PBS. We all can be offended by the words or deeds of others, but I also believe that government intervention in this matter is a huge overreach. I see the kneeling as similar to Muhammad Ali refusing to fight for freedom in Vietnam when that freedom was not fully guaranteed to him or people of his skin color. The kneeling in the NFL is not just Colin Kaepernick; it is league-wide. That’s because it was never about Colin Kaepernick; it was about injustice against an entire group of people. It was about exposing the great hypocrisy in the “land of the free” — that people of color are disproportionately incarcerated or die in police shootings unavenged.
People have a lot to say on what people did wrong in this whole situation — left or right. However, instead of pointing out what people did wrong, why don’t we discuss what we all can do right? Why don’t we try to resolve concerns that individuals have and empower them in a healthy and productive way? Why don’t we look beyond what people do and look at why they do it? There is a reason that many resort to extreme statements or deeds. No one listens to quiet. No one cares about quiet. After all, “it’s the squeaky wheel that gets the grease.” Even if they are met with MASSIVE backlash, the loud ones get the platform they were seeking all along. People are talking about racial justice because there are people out there standing up for it.
The problem is much more than the NFL. The problem is much more than kneeling during the national anthem. It’s that we often are fearful about our future, and we feel that no one is doing anything about it. Others have been listening to respond, not to understand why we feel a certain way. How can we expect to change someone’s mindset if we do not listen first? How can we expect those with opposing views to trust us if we pontificate through a screen, frame them in absolutes, and avoid engaging them in person with maturity and sincerity?
I believe it comes down to how caring and proactive we are. Sometimes we are kind, and sometimes we are vicious. Sometimes we act to ensure that things don’t get worse, and sometimes we wait until things hit rock bottom before we do anything. But we’re all human. Our free will means we will make mistakes, but it also means we have opportunities to do better. We can hold people accountable for what they do, but I think we all have an opportunity to teach others what they can do better. We should never rationalize negative behaviors, but we should understand their causes. If we work to empathize with each other, we can drive away a great deal of the fear and the hate that plagues this great nation.
What do you think?

Second U.S. Civil War Unlikely

There will not be a second civil war. Sure, racial and ideological tensions are escalating. However, I find it highly unlikely that a civil war on the level of the one in 1860s will occur.

First off, the Civil War of the 1860s had very well-defined cultural regions that were highly polarized. In the election of 1860, most Southern slave states so strongly opposed the Republican’s antislavery stance that they excluded its candidate Abraham Lincoln from the ballot. Needless to say, when Lincoln ended up winning, these states seceded from the Union and formed the Confederacy.

Today, the South is still largely conservative, but it’s not a monolith. There are pockets of liberalism forming what is the New South. Northern Virginia today would shun its Confederate battle flag. A lesbian couple can comfortably hold hands in Asheville, North Carolina. Modern professionals dominate the Research Triangle of central North Carolina. Northerners un-ironically enjoy Atlanta. Southern Florida is not even remotely “Southern.” It’s more likely you’ll hear New York accents than a Southern drawl. Miami is a hub for Spanish-speaking immigrants. Austin, Texas, is one of the hippest cities in America. Oxford, Mississippi, is a hub for poets and authors. Nashville, Tennessee, is one of the few places you can spot an African-American man wearing a Tupac shirt and a cowboy hat. Meanwhile, there are several counties in Pennsylvania that voted as strongly for Trump as those in Alabama. And Kid Rock is from Michigan.

In reality, division in America doesn’t simply come down to regional differences but rather differences in population density, income, and education. Democrats can pull a lot of votes in cities, even in much of the South. Republicans rely on rural voters who oppose much of the change occurring in cities. With the election of Trump, differences between white-collar and blue-collar Americans has become a part of the national conversation. In many cases, these groups segregate themselves geographically. Cities and suburbs attract professionals, while rural areas and small towns attract working-class Americans.

As far as racial differences, wealthier white families often send their children to private schools while lower-income African-American families remain in public schools. Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is notorious for having a mostly white private school system and a mostly black public school system. It’s not the only place that’s like that. Even in Northern cities, segregation is rampant in Milwaukee, Detroit, and Cleveland. However, for some reason, that’s not good enough for white separatists who promote even further separation of the races. The point is that segregation isn’t regional, it’s local. That complicates the possibility of a civil war between regions.

Next, soldiers stationed at any military base in the United States originate from several regions, not just the base’s region thereof. In other words, soldiers stationed at Fort Drum, New York, will not just be from the North but also from the South. Soldiers stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, will come from not only North Carolina but also from the North. If any soldiers stationed at a base started an insurrection, there would be loyalist troops there to respond promptly.

In the near term, a war between the U.S. government and a Southern separatist government is next to impossible. Unlike in 1860, Southern politicians won’t support secession when they support the current president (Donald Trump). Liberal voters elsewhere won’t rise up against the U.S. government in military fashion. Their opposition toward gun use means they would be thwarted easily, and the government could simply throw them in prison for disturbing the peace.

Even if opposing ideological groups became militant, those groups would be formed locally as opposed to regionally due to high ideological diversity within one state and even one metropolitan area. There may be self-declared militias that attack their opponents, but you won’t see separatist tanks rolling through city streets. Politicians themselves won’t commit individual acts of violence, but their tolerance of oppression can further divide our country. America will not plunge into a second civil war, but we need to condemn hatred, fight systematic oppression, and understand why people support a position that opposes ours. If we don’t do this, there will continue to be more instances that make us say, “I don’t want to live in America anymore.”

Voter Fraud: The Facts

By executive order, President Donald Trump launched the Pence-Kobach Commission to identify and combat potential voter fraud.

The Commission requested access to voter lists, addresses, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, political party registration, felony status, military status, prior states of residence, and a list of elections in which a voter previously participated.

Despite 1.8 million registered voters being deceased, the Commission did not request the death certificates thereof.

If the Commission wants lists of registered voters, many states already offer them publicly.

However, the Commission requested access to Social Security numbers and political party registration.

In most states, releasing this information is illegal.

As such, at least 41 states have declared they will not share private voter information even if the Commission requested it.

Additionally, the Republican Secretary of State of Louisiana said that Donald Trump is trying to politicize voting fraud with the Commission.

The Republican Secretary of State of Mississippi shared the sentiment, saying, “They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico.”

Kris Kobach runs the Commission, and the spokeswoman for his office of Secretary of State of Kansas said they would only provide public information.

In effect, Kobach did not even comply with his own request.

In reality, voter fraud is extremely uncommon. If you would like more information on voter fraud, please click here.

Tuesday Talks: Tuition-Free College and Education in General

JOHN BUTERBAUGH:
The main argument Governor Cuomo makes for tuition-free college is that it prepares the workforce of the state for the future. It is quite clear that automation and outsourcing has put pressure on American workers to seek employment outside of manufacturing. More and more jobs will require college degrees. However, what this bill doesn’t do is combat rising student loan interest rates that can keep students in debt for decades. Sure, it helps prevent debt. Yet for many New Yorkers, this bill comes far too late. College graduates who are in debt now will still be unable to renegotiate their student loan interest rates. College students will continue to have to pay for room and board which is becoming more expensive.

This bill also doesn’t seem to acknowledge a very large group of people – blue-collar workers. The state government and society often claim that college is the way to go. It often seems it is the only way to go. However, for many workers, college is irrelevant and a waste of time. It doesn’t achieve their goals. This comes at a time when many trades cannot be outsourced. You can’t, for example, send a bridge to China for a worker there to weld it. It’s impractical. Welding is an insanely high-demand job. We place a lot of emphasis on education, but where is the leadership for training people for these jobs?

Governor Cuomo realizes that his plan doesn’t help a lot of people. He even calls his plan a “fight for the middle class.” It doesn’t provide free tuition to wealthier families who should be able to foot the bill themselves. But, what about the working poor? What about concerns about dwindling social mobility in our post-industrial economy? What about the fact that there continue to be people who work long hours every week and still cannot make ends meet? My qualms over this bill are not related to the residency requirement after receiving the tuition scholarship. This requirement is pragmatic in that it aims to make a return on its investment through taxation of graduates’ income. Plus, 80% of graduates in New York state stay anyway. My real issue with this bill is that it does not address key concerns facing working-class New Yorkers. They will also be paying the taxes that support the ability of young middle-class Americans to remain in the middle class.

My hope is that this bill, despite its imperfections, shines a lot on our true intentions when it comes to bettering our society. My hope is that low-income high school students will have more of a reason to graduate high school so that they can go to community college or a four-year program. Many students give up because high school diplomas aren’t good enough for most jobs, and they couldn’t afford college anyway. However, we can’t always predict future decisions. Humans are irrational beings after all. Despite all this, I support this bill because it is leadership in the right direction. It understands that education is not an entitlement program but rather an empowerment program. We invest in students so that they have the skills and power to improve our society. I pray that this actually happens, and if the program fails to deliver improved outcomes, we must be mature enough and courageous enough to demand some changes.

PATRICK WOOD:  Well said, John. The bill isn’t perfect, and leaves a lot of issues unaddressed, but before delving into that, I think it’s important to celebrate this monumental step forward. After many of our peer nations offered free 4-year university for citizens (and in the case of Germany, even non-citizens), the USA finally has a state that has gotten its priorities straight and offered the same. Hopefully this gives credence to a movement and the momentum of the free college movement spreads. I absolutely agree that we are continuing to overlook the great value of vocational schools.

Unfortunately, most bachelors degrees are worth less than they used to be in terms of relative earning potential and the proportion of graduates who find work in their fields quickly. Those who know they don’t want to pursue a STEM field or a graduate program may actually be in a better position having taken a couple years to learn a trade than the person who spent four years getting a bachelor’s degree. There will always be a need for mechanics, beauticians, plumbers, electricians, and other specialized services – it’s a wrongheaded approach to push high school graduates away from these careers.

JOHN: I think one possibility is that it might open up unintended consequences. If a lot of students go for the scholarship, it might make the value of their degree lower than before. This is because job markets are competitive in that you must be “more qualified” than another person. Social sciences have a lot of students, but you need even more education to stand out because an undergraduate degree is simply not enough in most cases. For a political science major, you might need to get a law degree. Most psychology students will need postgraduate education, maybe for research, therapy, or a school psychologist.

We know automation is happening and we know outsourcing is happening. I definitely believe that we should promote professions or vocations that are the least prone to those happening. We need to prepare students for a world that has less routine skills and more critical thinking and creativity. Instead, in many cases, we are teaching students to simply accept information and not challenge it. This is setting them up for failure. If not failure, we set them up for a career where they only have to accept orders. In many cases, this is law enforcement and the military.

PATRICK: I don’t see NY state providing free higher education as a bad thing, even though it certainly puts a vocational schools and a private colleges in a worse position. Teaching students to accept information and not challenge it is more a problem related to current campus political atmosphere and less inherent in the concept of university.
If these are the only jobs, the government will have a lot more motivation to conduct military operations where we don’t need to be.
JOHN: What I’m talking about isn’t necessarily college’s fault. I’m discussing education before that. In many cases, schools are run like businesses where we value productivity far more than creativity. Why? The students aren’t going into fields like manufacturing where they do something repetitive. “Do your work” is the mantra far more than “Oh, that’s unusual and interesting. Tell me more about that.”
PATRICK: I agree. I think students feel very constrained in how far they can push boundaries in expressing themselves. Both just in expressing opinions and in their formal work.
JOHN: I’m not encouraging disrupting class. The students have to remain on topic. What I am saying, however, is students should have an opportunity to look at an issue in new ways.
PATRICK: I think my issue here is that students are typically afraid to go against the grain. They think they’ll it’ll be a stain on their record and rightly or wrongly often believe that more creative and unique thinking isn’t “what the professor is looking for.”
A friend of mine at law school told me on the day of the final “just quote the damn professor in your essay and you’ll get an A.” Whether that’s the truth of not, it’s the prevailing belief.
JOHN: I think a lot of it comes down to how we assess student learning. It’s far easier and more objective to grade a student using a Scantron. It’s far more difficult to grade a student on creativity or critical thinking through essays or projects. I also don’t believe everything needs to require novelty in thought. Sometimes common sense suffices. I think the common sense perspective should remain a part of the discussion to keep people grounded. I also believe people should seek out new information and new ideas.
I think in scientific research, for example, it helps to take risks. You are required to find something new. If you just memorize a textbook, you’re not really contributing much to the field.
PATRICK: I think introductory level classes should be structured to develop basic understanding of underlying principles and common sense, trying to stick to objectivity
JOHN: But absolutely you need a scientific foundation
PATRICK: And upper-level classes are for seeking something new and really branching out.
JOHN: You have to be able to connect new information to old information.
PATRICK: Exactly!
JOHN: I think there are simply excellent, excellent universities with a lot of talented faculty members and students. I think America has some of the best-performing students in the world. But we also have a lot of low-performing students who are impoverished and might act out because they don’t feel school can do anything for them.
It’s very difficult, and I work with these students personally, to teach them positive behavior. In many cases, teachers will outline expectations and then the students go home to a difficult home life that unteaches them everything school did about behavior.
It feels like a battle honestly. What can we do?

PATRICK: I’m not a great person to ask, but I think part of the value of school is keeping kids safe while they are attending.

JOHN: What do you mean by safe?
PATRICK: Mostly physical safety but perhaps also refuge from a difficult home life
Even if, as you say, a lot of what is taught in school is unlearned.
JOHN: A lot of students take pride in demonstrating challenging behavior because they see it as power. And a lot of students don’t want to come off as vulnerable, they act tough. Or they are so used to conflict and drama that peace and quiet is boring; so, they engage in drama to keep themselves entertained. It’s a big deal when kids get into a fight because it’s exciting.
PATRICK: Fair point but I think the fights and conflicts are perhaps better had within the confines of the school building instead of the home or the street. There are more adult figures who care about the safety of the students there.
JOHN: I haven’t seen as many physical fights, but students often battle teachers to refuse work or deny that they were talking when the teacher was trying to do a lesson. I will say the students are much better behaved 1 on 1 because they aren’t trying to perform. What I mean is a lot of students act bad because it makes them cool to their friends. So, they’ll talk back to the teacher or even curse at them. Then there’s the times the teacher talks to the student, and the student doesn’t even respond to the teacher and continues talking to their friends.
PATRICK: Right. Better to look “hard” than like a suck up to the teacher.
JOHN: I don’t need students to suck up to me or another teacher. I just want the students to focus on learning.
PATRICK: That can be perceived as sucking up or worse. You certainly face a real challenge.
JOHN: A lot of the students come to school and want to learn and get good grades, but then you have a handful of kids who don’t care about that. They end up disrupting and distracting other students. Just a handful of students in a class can make a big difference in the classroom environment.
PATRICK: It will be interesting to see how New York’s private colleges respond to SUNY tuition becoming free. They will most likely have to up their scholarship offers considerably to keep enrollment numbers up, we’ll see how they respond to this narrowing of their income stream.
JOHN: They definitely don’t like the bill because it will hurt their enrollment, but they might end up having to reduce their tuitions to compete.
PATRICK: We’ll soon found out just how heavy that blow is, and what they plan to do to compensate.
JOHN: They might want to boost their postgraduate programs because the Excelsior Scholarship doesn’t apply to postgraduate studies. I think a shift is very likely.
PATRICK: Their hand will be forced.
JOHN: Postgraduate tuition is higher than undergraduate tuition anyway. Prospective jobs requiring postgraduate coursework are generally higher-paying and more competitive.

New York’s Tuition-Free College Plan

Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed tuition-free college in a rally beside progressive populist Bernie Sanders last January. This month, the New York Assembly and Senate overwhelmingly approved the plan as part of the budget and Cuomo is expected to sign it into law. Bill A03009 aims to prepare New York’s workforce for the future through higher education. The plan is to provide free tuition to eligible applicants at one of its many public universities and community colleges.

The Excelsior Scholarship provides certain students with an award that covers the cost of their tuition at a public university or community college. This program will receive $87 million in state funding.

To be eligible for the Excelsior Scholarship, applicants must…

  • Be a resident of New York State at the time of application
  • Have an adjusted gross income of less than $100,000 for the 2017-2018 school year, less than $110,000 for the 2018-2019 school year, and less than $125,000 for the 2019-2010 school year.
    • This means you and your parents (or if you’re married, you and your spouse) must make less than the numbers provided to be eligible for the scholarship.
  • Not already have a Bachelor’s degree if they seek a Bachelor’s degree or not have an Associate’s Degree if they seek an Associate’s degree
  • Not already have a scholarship that pays for their full cost of attendance
  • Enroll at least 12 credits a semester and completes at least 30 combined credits a year
  • Attain the grade-point average needed to successfully complete your coursework
  • Complete a two-year, four-year, or five-year program within two, four, or five years, respectively. Allowable interruptions to this requirement are the death of a family member, medical leave, military service, and parental leave.
  • Live in New York state and not be employed in another state for as long as you received the scholarship. For example, if you received an award for a four-year program, you must remain in New York state for four years. Exceptions to this rule are completing undergraduate coursework and attending graduate school. If the applicant violates this rule, you must the scholarship becomes a loan the applicant must repay.
  • Apply for the scholarship before the deadline the college president sets. The college president can also decide which students will receive the scholarship if funding is insufficient. Priority goes to current students of the college.

The Enhanced Tuition Awards provide certain students with a scholarship that covers the cost of their tuition at a four-year private, not-for-profit college. This program will receive $19 million in funding. The sum of these awards, student TAP funds, and institutional scholarships would be equal to $6,000.

To be eligible for this program, you must meet the same requirements as those above for the Excelsior Scholarship. However, fewer students can take advantage of these awards as the state only allocates $19 million to this program.

Greater Scheme will discuss the potential consequences of this bill in a separate article.

1/23/2017 Composite News

Attendance at the Trump inauguration ceremony was much smaller than that of Obama, who had an estimated 1.8 million in attendance (Source). The White House Press Secretary told reporters that the media reports on the true attendance numbers were false (Source).

inauguration-crowd-photos

Photo – Reuters. Left is Trump’s attendance. Right is Obama’s attendance.

On his first “real day in office,” President Trump signed an executive order taking the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). He also signed orders imposing a “federal hiring freeze” and a directive to prevent American NGOs from using federal funds for abortions abroad (Source). Many populists within both the Republican Party and Democratic Party agree with Trump’s opposition to TPP. Trump also plans to renegotiate NAFTA and meet with foreign leaders (Source).

On January 21, 2017, millions of women participated in the Women’s March and sister marches in hundreds of cities around the world (Source). Trump has stirred strong discontent due to controversial comments about women. Before Trump’s inauguration of January 20, anti-Trump riots broke out in Washington, D.C. Protesters broke windows of such establishments as Bank of America (Source). Vandalism of cars and businesses as well as property damage have been reported in the nation’s capital as well (Source).

Can We Handle the Truth?

 

By John Buterbaugh

An agenda is something that poisons the truth, and in many ways we can’t handle the truth. We accept the lie that makes us more comfortable and is consistent with our prior beliefs. If we are willing to accept cognitive dissonance, we will have to refer to a variety of sources and develop a composite that may constitute the truth. The problem is there’s a paradox — there is so much information that we end up being less informed. It is very easy to find information, and yet we don’t always have the time or skills to critically analyze it. We can only spend so much of our attention to it. Most of our attention is spent on what lies within our horizon because it is more tangible and it is more relevant to our everyday survival. This continuous experience contributes to common sense.

However, certain malevolent influences warp our sense of common courtesy and practicality. I believe this comes back to the conclusions on cultural discrepancies in antisocial behaviors. We also resort to trusting our basic instincts, which are often animalistic, because we want to avoid processing the dauntingly large body of information in the world. This seems to relate to Donald Trump’s tendency to avoid in-depth analysis in favor of his instinct. To many people, Trump’s view of the world liberates them from this existential crisis of Too Much Information (TMI) and a restoration of a simpler era. This time was comfortable and easy to understand.

There are different customs in the East than there are in the West. There are different views in urban areas than there are in rural areas. Through experiences in varied contexts and not simply research, you may attain a greater understanding of the truth.

 

The Need for Speed: Are Faster Trains the Solution?

Pictured: Amtrak train on the Acela Express service, which runs from Boston to Washington.

By John Buterbaugh

I was riding around in my parent’s car and somehow the topic of Richard Hanna, a former Republican congressman from the Utica area, came up. My dad’s support for him has grown as he has flown with him on a plane. He’s learned he is a common-sense guy who makes enough money not to owe anyone favors. He thinks he should run for Governor of New York. However, he said the only downside of him would be that he wouldn’t support funding high-speed rail construction in New York state (even though the federal government would provide most of the funding, if at all). My dad thinks this would be a cool idea, and I agree. We disagreed on how feasible it is.

Supporting high-speed rail will be met with a lot of popular opposition. First, it’s not a sexy idea — people find social justice or terrorism far more interesting. Second, people will complain that billions of their tax dollars will be wasted on a system that people won’t even use and will take too long to build. Third, people like the independence of driving around a car because they don’t have to stop for anybody and they can go exactly where they want. They don’t see the need for trains. That’s how most commuters in upstate New York and most of America like to travel. There is one thing most commuters don’t like — they generally don’t like driving to New York City and having to pay a premium for parking. It’s a pain. People in Long Island think you’re crazy if you drive into the city. The Long Island Railroad is the busiest commuter railroad in North America in large part because of its convenience.

If high-speed rail is going to happen, New York City will have to be a part of the equation. I don’t know what the number of people who would start using a train would be if it were high-speed. If high-speed rail is to work, it would have to connect the Megalopolis that is Boston through New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore to Washington. These cities have enough commuters to support this system — businesspeople and government workers can travel a lot. It would make airfare cheaper between these cities due to the increased transportation competition.

But I don’t know if high-speed rail is the answer. Is our goal to get people to places faster to show we can improve our infrastructure or discourage traffic, sprawl, and parking annoyances? If it’s the former, maybe we need high-speed rail. We put a man on the moon after all. We can put pieces of metal on the ground that makes trains go faster.

However, if it’s the latter, maybe we just need to make riding a train more pleasurable and give people more reasons to ride. Perhaps free Wi-Fi would do that. Maybe having a free movie would be nice. Maybe if the trains arrived on time. If people started enjoying trains more and had some entertainment to pass the time, we might not even need high-speed rail. It would be a lot less expensive, and we could accomplish the same goal.