Should the US invest in bullet trains?
Regarding the April 13 editorial, "A ticket to US bullet trains": This editorial points out only two of the necessary criteria for a successful US bullet train: requiring separation of cargo and freight rail lines, and focusing the $8 billion in stimulus money on a few (or even just one) project. There are other, equally important requirements, such as the elimination of grade crossings (which has proven marvelously successful, and safe, in Japan's system) and the need to spend as much up front as possible in order to reduce operation and maintenance costs to affordable levels.
If we try to build high-speed rail systems on the cheap, we are going to have very expensive failures.
This is an example of what some of us fear most from the Obama administration – a know-it-all government spending untold billions to impose its vision on a recalcitrant country.
Bullet trains work well in densely populated Europe and Japan, but make no sense in the US outside the Boston-New York-Washington corridor. Elsewhere, on short hauls, getting to and from the stations will eliminate any time advantage of even the fastest train. On long hauls, people will prefer to fly.
There is no shame in buying from Europe or Japan to meet our limited need for fast trains. We have plenty of more worthwhile projects to spend our billions on.
Spending over $45 billion dollars for bullet trains running north to south in California seems pretty extreme. Even though it will help travelers save time and cut carbon emissions, investing that much money into transportation is a waste. Some of that money should go toward the economy and other important problems. Should America be spending this much money on just transportation?
Los Altos, Calif.
More guns will cause, not prevent, crime
In regard to the April 13 article, "Armed America: Behind a broadening run on guns": It seems to me that civilians who buy more guns out of fear of a rise in crime are contributing to a self-fulfilling prophecy. Sometimes a spark is enough to set a whole society ablaze.
Some might think it is a good investment, but in the long run a saturated gun market must end in gun fire.
Erni van Wingerden
Should gay marriage be decided on in the courts or by vote?
Regarding the April 10 Opinion piece, "The injustice of Iowa's ruling on gay marriage": May I be, perhaps, the first to write and congratulate Matthew J. Franck on his lucid commentary decrying the decision of the Iowa Supreme Court? This was a victory for homosexuals, but a defeat for democracy. It was not the people of Iowa but seven people, however learned, who decided to overturn the social norms of millennia.
Times and views do change. It took a constitutional amendment to change the status of black people and another to change the status of women. If proponents of gay marriage believed in democracy, they would follow the same route. Using the institution of our courts to procure back-door changes to the fundamental relationships of our society is, as Prof. Franck points out, pure tyranny.
Matthew J. Franck seems to hope his repeated pleas of "morals" and "tradition" will overshadow facts – for he does not supply any of those.
I'm tired of hearing "centuries of tradition" cited in defense of marriage inequality. The purpose, meaning, and tradition of marriage has evolved with humanity over the centuries. At this time, in this country, marriage is a vow of lifelong commitment between loving, consenting adults, but two centuries ago it was an arrangement between parents for the financial well-being of the family. That was quite a radical change in the definition of a marriage, and only one of many.
I'm tired of hearing "morals" cited in defense of marriage inequality. How is it moral to deny a set of basic human rights to a group with whom you disagree? Ideals based solely on specific religious texts or stereotypes are dangerous when applied with the force of law.
I'm tired of hearing "family" cited in defense of marriage inequality. Here are some facts about American families: Not all married heterosexuals have children. Not all children are raised by two parents. Not all heterosexual couples with children are married. It is love that makes a family, and love that nurtures children as they grow.
Most of all, I'm tired of hearing people cry tyranny and injustice, discrimination even, because a minority is finally being granted a right the majority has long enjoyed. Equal rights do not equal tyranny, and those who claim otherwise should feel deep shame for demanding the right to discriminate and oppress at the ballot box.
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