Out of Africa

Obama’s trip to the East African countries of Ethiopia and Kenya has brought attention to what is otherwise a neglected relationship.

As President Obama pulls out of the Middle East, and begins focusing on other areas for foreign policy, it is becoming more clear that he does not only foresee a pivot to Asia, but also a pivot elsewhere. Indeed, one of the criticisms in Africa of the United States is a lack of presence. India and China, and especially the latter, have a huge presence in Africa. U.S. exports to Africa did increase however from $25 billion to $35 billion in 2009 and 2013, respectively, but a $10 billion increase over an entire continent is minuscule in comparison to the active engagement other major world powers have.

On addition, he may have further damaged relations with the governments of those countries, although improving the relations with the people. This is so because of the angle he took towards gay rights and the democratic process in states where there is a struggle of subsistence. By all means, human rights should be supported in Africa, but on the other hand, in the face of a lack of shelter and nutrition, gay rights, paraphrasing Kenyatta, is not a third world problem. Nevertheless, criticising third-world governments for human rights violations is a bold step the president has taken. Although it may make little sense now, it could lead to pressure from the people to have the government change things, rather than the world looking at the problems there and thinking, “It’s Africa.”

If the U.S. wants change its foreign policy objectives, it should start with a more promising future for a continent with a large capacity for promise and hope.

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Shadow over Solar

Recently a study done by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has concluded solar energy has the best potential for meeting the worlds long-time energy needs, while also reducing greenhouse gases. Clean energy has been a largely debated topic in past years, and we have seen some significant steps taken to increase its appeal to the greater public. However, we still see a lack from both the state and federal government in promoting the transition to clean energy. In some states throughout the United States, we actually see our representatives supporting the monopolies of “dirty energy”.

Currently in Florida there is a property tax added to those who choose to make the switch to clean energy, which in turn makes solar energy uncompetitive to the energy companies. The average American might not give to much care in how they are provided energy, as long as they have it. This could because many either don’t know the negative effects their daily emissions have (which is not much, but when you have millions of households the negative effects can add up quickly), or they just don’t care. Solar energy can actually be cost-effective as well as eliminate a significant percentage of green house emissions, if we support and work towards making this transition happen. Not only will we be able to rely on ourselves for energy, rather than the energy companies that hold monopolies, but also be able to sale any extra solar energy generated to their neighbors or local businesses.

Much of what we see when cities or states are beginning to make this clean transition are Energy companies attempting to hinder this transition because it will negatively effect future profits. Many of these companies, such as Florida Power and Light, do as much as they can to insure the consumer has little to no choice in their source of energy, with no regard to the impact it has on the environment as long as a profit is being made.

People are the catalyst towards change and reformation and it is time we take a more direct role in insuring our needs and wants come first.

Culture of Greed and Corruption pt.2

Way too much of our money we spend around the world goes to funding either corruption or terrorism. Africa for example, has had hundreds of billions of dollars poured into various nations. Billions of those dollars have gone into the pockets of corrupt officials and even warlords. We need to have both more control and influence over how our money is spent in other countries. If these counties don’t accept these terms, we simply don’t donate the money. This is to insure that the money our country has given is spent productively. This is because this is billions and even trillions of dollars (over a period of years) that could have been spent domestically to better improve the lives of American citizens. Why should our money fund people’s corruption when it can be spent domestically to improve the lives of US citizens?

Every year the government gives billions of dollars of taxpayer money to businesses who then attempt to invest taxpayer money to increase profit, rather than investing taxpayers dollars in such a way that the people see a return on their investment. Our money is often misused and we rarely see significant return in our investment. Businesses that receive taxpayer money will often still spend millions on advertisement, and other non-essential expenditures, a year. Rather business should be investing taxpayer money to provide a better quality of service and product. Everything can be improved or “upgraded” year to year. There is no reason to stick with a defective or an okay product because it is making money, but instead invest money into improving said products.

If a businesses decision or action negatively effects the lives of others, the person(s) behind decision need to take responsibly for their action/decision; in the form of compensation and or face prosecution. Today many businesses go through with decisions where they have been advised it is a possibility (sometimes great) that the lives of others will be affected negatively. If there is evidence that shows said person(s) were aware of the problem, they should be held accountable to insure/discourage others from making the similar decisions in the future. Businesses should be allowed to pursue profit, just not at the expense of others. There needs to be more transparency in businesses that are involved in and effect a large number of lives. They have a responsibility to insure their success does not come at the heinous expense of others.

Citizens and politicians often like to try and justify policies based off their religious ideology. Sometimes the policy can be harmless, other times it can be discriminatory. Individuals who have hoarded wealth have committed one of the greatest sins of all, greed. Why should we allow these individuals who make decisions, knowing they could potentially (or even know the consequences ahead and not caring) harm the lives of millions. When these individuals make the decisions in pursuit of profit, whilst not taking into account the impact their decisions will have, they should face criminal charges. When the actions of an individual have that much influence, the public has a right to be able to insure they are not abusing it.

The society we live in now differs greatly than previous generations societies. Before the late 20th century, many people were able to work and afford to pay their expenses and still save money. Today however a large majority of people are living paycheck to paycheck and their kids are inheriting that same lifestyle. It’s not that people are lazy and don’t want to save money, but because the price of living and goods have exponentially increased. The average American citizen is in debt. At the start of their adult life, if someone wants to get an education it is often going to force them in debt. Many then struggle to transition into life after college because of the stress of finding a job that is going to put a roof over their head and food on the table. The person is then often stuck in a job they do not enjoy since they become so reliant on it as a source of money. If their employer is engaging in immoral or even illegal activities the employee will often not risk reporting the action out of fear they will lose their job and then their (most times only) source of income. We have allowed business to corrupt the average citizen and essentially become a slave to the society they are forced to live in. Some people are even told this flat out from the start that they don’t matter, and there are countless others who can easily replace them. Business has pitted us against each one another and made the average American expendable.

Deal or No Deal?

Today, a verdict was reached on the Iran Nuclear Deal, but this rather raises a question, not of whether Iran will abide by the deal, but whether the U.S. will.

According to an article published in Politico this morning, Obama will need to rally at least 34 Senators in the Republican-majority Senate in order to get Congressional approval. Lindsey Graham released a statement declaring the Nuclear Deal “… a possible death sentence for Israel,” and Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said it was a “Historical Mistake.” But are these really, well-founded fears about an Iran that sought nuclear weapons under a different government, or is this because of a legitimate loop-hole in the treaty?

The answer is largely mistrust of Iran, and the emphasis over some entirely speculative, irrelevant loopholes in the treaty that do not explicitly pertain to nuclear weapons:

Firstly, this is not an agreement founded on trust, and Iran will not reap the benefits of the deal immediately. There are measures taken to ensure that the sanctions can be readily placed back on Iran should their compliance with the deal falter. Given that the sanctions has made it difficult for Iran to function economically, they have a high incentive to comply with the deal word for word. Furthermore, the deal is founded above all on verification and gradual procedure, as exemplified in Article 10 of The Preamble and General Provisions:

“The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will be requested to monitor and verify the voluntary nuclear-related measures… The IAEA will be requested to provide regular updates to the Board of Governors, and… to the UN Security Council.”

Secondly, and according to The Centre for Strategic & International Studies, the likelihood that the treaty has over Iran not acquiring nuclear weapons is considered likely. This is for three main logistical reasons in Iran’s weapons-grade plutonium pathway towards a bomb. Plutonium is a bi-product of nuclear fission from Uranium, which was underway in the past from the Arak heavy water reactor. Now, under the treaty, the Arak heavy-water reactor is put out of use in that regard. This was the only heavy-water reactor in Iran, which differentiates from the light-water reactor in Bushehr, because the latter does not use weapons-grade enriched Uranium. In other words, the existence of the light-water reactor should not be used as an argument as it contributes to a peaceful nuclear energy programme. On addition to the threat arising from heavy-water reactors, which can be used to produce weapons-grade plutonium, the deal ensures that there is no building of such reactors for 15 years. It should also be stated that the grant for inspection of facilities to the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) is indefinite in the deal. Lastly, the amount of enriched uranium in Iran will be reduced by 98%, while keeping enrichment to 3.67%, the maximum required for nuclear energy, but not enough for the purposes of nuclear weapons.

On the possible loopholes, this mainly concerns the ambiguity of access to military sites, which does not happen automatically with ‘The Additional Protocol’. There is also some vagueness, according to the Centre for Strategic & International Studies, in regards to the extent of which Iran is limited in the agreement towards Research and Development of centrifuges, as well as other types of enrichment.

In summary, the Iran Nuclear Deal does provide for a logistical framework in which Iran’s nuclear capabilities are significantly reduced for the foreseeable future. On the other hand, the agreement is not perfect, but few things are as such in negotiations. It is more important to establish this comprehensive deal, as it will lay the bedrock for future negotiations regarding Iran’s nuclear energy policy.

The Mexican Connection

There has been a lot of attention given in recent weeks to Trump’s comment about Mexicans in the United States. Despite this, other Republicans have largely refrained from talking down this comment, Boehner and McConnell remaining neutral in most respects.

Surely, Donald Trump gets much attention for his boisterous attitude and reflection-less comments, which poses a threat to the Republican party’s bid for president. But it also poses a threat to something else, namely tolerance. The escape of ‘El Chapo’ from jail in Mexico coincided with his visit to Phoenix, a state, like many other along the border with Mexico, that can boast a sizeable Latino population. Trump said specifically, “The silent majority is back, and we’re going to take the country back!” while in response to ‘El Chapo’, he tweeted, “I told you so!”

This could just be considered bigotry, but on the other hand, this isn’t only a “Trumpist” point of view. Ann Coulter recently published a book titled ¡Adios, America! that advocates the view that illegal immigrants are turning the United States into a Third World country. She cites statistics from Bear Sterns based on remittances back to Mexico, calculating a total of 20 million Mexicans, assumed illegal, in the United States. This contrasts with a think-tank in Washington, the Pew Research Centre, which counts – based on government information – that there are 6.5 million illegal Mexican nationals in the United States, out of a total of 11 million illegal immigrants in total, down from the apex of 7 million Mexicans in 2007. For all sake and purposes, it is more reliable to view the Pew Research Centre’s numbers as accurate. Ann Coulter in fact exaggerated Bear Sterns number to an approximate figure of 30 million, probably for the purpose of fear-mongering, but also for the probable purposes of being able to manipulate numbers and statistics for the purposes of argument.

On the subject of “The Mexican Connection” between recent comments and the concept of Mexicans as criminals (recently highlighted by El Chapo’s escape), it could be instead worthy to highlight the more important issues of mass incarceration, inner-city poverty, and America’s war on drugs. In the poorest neighbourhoods of the United States there is a blend of ethnic minorities with some White Americans, and these areas stay poor owing to the fact of lack of investment in urban communities. Riots in Baltimore were partly because of this, since CVS wouldn’t hire the local population, and this is more endemic of the entire country. If anything, it can be fairly stated universally that poverty breeds more poverty, and often criminal activity with it. This encourages an environment in which people seek out alternative methods of acquiring money, namely that of drug trafficking and selling. In the United States, drug laws are extremely harsh for minor offences, and Latinos and African Americans end up in jail for long periods of time as a result. This at one time deprives the sons of father’s – who go to jail trying to make a living – of a father figure, and at another time it fuels the stereotype loudly proclaimed by Trump and Coulter.

The unfortunate conclusion in all of this is that the difficult issues are overlooked, while bigotry prevails in the face of an America that isn’t being taken away from “us”, but is rather changing its face, as it has done continually throughout history, as was the case with Irish Americans in the 18th century, Italian Americans in the 19th, African American civil rights in the 20th, and now, Latinos in the 21st.

Further Reading:

http://www.pewhispanic.org/2011/02/01/unauthorized-immigrant-population-brnational-and-state-trends-2010/

People First, Money Second pt.2

This country was founded on the ideas of freedom, and regrettably as our nation has developed, business has slowly been diminishing those rights and freedoms. Autonomy is the right every person in this world should have. If an action you or anyone else does will affect anyone negatively and is not beneficial to the overall interests of the people, said action should not be tolerated or depending on the situation, criminalized. Neither government nor business should be allowed to impede on the autonomy of any person. In the coming years businesses so called “autonomy” should be impeded upon, however this will be in the interests of the people as it will force business to evolve to a higher morale standard. When your actions and decisions affect the lives of millions, so called business “autonomy” needs to be impeded upon to insure those lives are not affected negatively. Many of those who run big business have gotten to where they are today partaking in immoral activities and often continue to operate in such a way that it hurts the lives of others and stalls the development of many industries. This is all done in the interest of profit.

Ultimately what does this all come down to? The goal is to start the power shift back to the people and far away from corporate influence. This can be done by at the very least providing housing assistance, if not providing rent for every American that needs it. With a roof over the head of every citizen and better security, we could all start putting our time and effort working towards improving our daily lives and infrastructure in our nation; instead of worrying about if we are going to have a place to sleep next month or food on the table tomorrow. In a society where a mother, father, and even children are working just to provide the essentials of living a stable lifestyle, welfare should be a right to every American citizen. One should be able to pursue their own interests in life outside of the one the majority of American citizens are living now, making just enough money to survive.

The US government should work towards providing its citizens with housing and at the very least 1 meal a day for the people. Doing this, will take care of the main concern of the hundreds of millions Americans living today, having a safe place to sleep at night and food on the table. This should take away one of the main reasons why people commit crimes and are struggling to advance their life, allowing them to pursue their personal interests. Can you honestly say the majority of crimes committed by people are because they enjoy it? No, it is because they feel they are left with no other option and need some sort of source of money, which in this case is provided by crime. Many of the rich are able to succeed because they are able to take larger risks in life and business. They do this because they know that if it fails they will still have a home and are able to provide for themselves. However, the average person will often fear change, and risk, because they are afraid of how it will affect their life. People fear they will be kicked out on the streets and forced into survival mode where their safety is their main concern, pushing them to make decisions, or do something that could harm others, they normally wouldn’t do and even regret doing after the fact. The average citizen knows very little about politics. This is because their focus is on the problems they are currently facing. The average citizen does not have the time to put their thoughts and energy towards better improving the political system we constantly disagree with. If the average American is no longer in constant worry about how to provide themselves with a stable lifestyle, we can start improving the problems of our nation as a whole.

People’s perception of life is the driving force behind their decision-making and actions. If someone feels that money is important they will pursue a life that will benefit them financially whereas someone else may focus on family or other interests.

If someone wants to spend all day home playing video games or browsing the Internet, let them. They won’t however be living in an extravagant or lavish lifestyle, but one nonetheless that will discourage them to commit crimes out of desperation to provide for themselves and or family. A mother and father can now take turns working and staying home raising their kids. That person who wants to write a book, or pursue other interests, can now make enough money then stay home to focus their time on their hobby/project. There is currently a stigma associated with those who work retail, fast food, and other job markets that are constantly rehiring individuals. In a society where one can live a stable lifestyle without working, the stigma of working such a job should go away; as the person working at a McDonalds could be working there to save enough money to finally travel to Europe.

A society that provides the essentials to life (housing, food) would create a competitive market for companies. Many people perceive the people they work with and the strangers they pass everyday as someone they are competing with. Instead of people competing with one another for jobs, companies would be competing with each other to hire employees who now are not desperate for a job and have more influence on their rights as employees.

Culture of Greed and Corruption

Corporations have played a major role in the corruption of our nation. Money is thrown at politicians and other organizations in order to buy their support in corporate interests of profit (Citizens United Case). If the ’60s and ’70s wasn’t a clear enough example of corporate influence in not just domestic politics but international as well, I don’t know what is (the control oil corporations had over oil in the Middle East and using this control to influence domestic politics, foreign affairs, and even other countries domestic systems). We need to insure corporations are paying and reporting the right amount of taxes, in order to combat the illegal actions that corporations get away with everyday. We also need to insure the use of corporate money and the politicians they “support” are not detrimental to anyone in their pursuit of profit. If a politician uses his position to advance the interests of any corporation at the expense of the people, he/she and the people involved should face criminal charges. The government works for the people, not the other way around, and it’s time we were allowed to insure the job gets done properly. The well being and opinions of American citizens should be the driving force in politics, not money.

Congress has on multiple occasions been asked by the military to not pass legislature that will increase spending on new equipment while they struggle to maintain the obscene amount of weaponry they already possess. However, politicians continue to pass legislation that increases spending. This should be a clear example of the amount of influence and negative impact of certain lobbying groups and corporations. Congress usually ends up spending hundreds of millions, sometimes billions of dollars on new equipment. This money isn’t going directly to the military but the corporations that are manufacturing the weaponry and influencing the political process.

Money driven people have gained power through hoarding of wealth and using fear to maintain influence. Today business affects the lives of a large number of people from around the world. Powerful individuals have been able to influence politics towards their advantage. These individuals are the problem and common enemy of the world’s people. The people on the Middle East have this hate towards America. Where did this start? It started when oil companies were able to persuade western countries to assert their dominance and maintain influence in the region. This has created much of the unrest in the country and it’s all justified by “energy security”. The largest and most influential lobbyist groups in the United States include energy corporations and defense contractors. It is because of groups like these that the American people struggle to have their voices and ideas heard.

Institutions meant to enforce fines on companies that partake in unscrupulous activities need to do a better job at identifying these actions. Why should we the people be nickeled and dimed for our money (especially when to a lot people a couple of hundred dollars is rent money) when businesses get away with a number of illegal actions everyday. Fining big business would bring more income to the U.S. Government and combat corruption. Corporate actions also often affect thousands if not millions of people compared to the person speeding on a highway when no one is around and is only going to affect himself, or in the worst scenario another few people.

Recently, GM was allowed to a tax deduction for a $400 million settlement that went to pay victims and families effective by their defective product. Why should GM be getting tax breaks for people’s deaths and misery? Most fines and settlements that corporations pay to settle cases are mostly tax deductible. This is both immoral and money that could be going to improve the standard of living of the people who’s lives they effect everyday. American citizens struggle every year to pay taxes and rarely see a significant return in their investment (peoples taxes are an investment not a pool of income) and companies are being allowed to save money from problems that come from their lack of providing a safe and quality service. What also is happening here is instead of GM paying taxes in the settlement money, the recipients will have to pay an income tax on the money they receive. This should go without saying is very wrong and an abuse of the law. “We have complied with all applicable tax laws and disclosure requiem to in connection with the compensation program”. If our system allows this to be legal, what other actions can be deemed legal by the law? Some thing needs to be changed to insure actions such as these are not legal and accepted in society.

The obvious answer is to insure that American firms use their tax breaks to invest more into ongoing projects that provide a return to the people, rather than allow this money to go into the accounts of corporate leaders.  American universities and companies have become the envy of the world. Why? Because it is Capitalism at its best and worst – unrestrained and out of control. American capitalism has evolved into making the most profit and providing limited return to the people who make it such a success.  Profits are increased surely, but on the other hand, American firms have enough wealth in assets to be able to afford higher pay for workers, among several other labour benefits that are in line with the rest of the industrialized world. At what point do we stop using profit to simply generate more profit, and stop neglecting the workers, who contribute much more to the fruits of American industry.

Got Plutonium?

Cooperation with Iran, despite whatever arguments against, is a priority for the United States in a globalising world, where regional powers will come out of “The Great Divergence” with the West and assume their natural positions.

Suffocating Iran is not the solution to the United States’ problems in the Middle East, nor is doing so economically in the hope of a regime change. If anything, since the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the main problem straining U.S.-Iranian ties has been the lack of consideration for Iranian sovereignty. Considering that the Nuclear Deals involve a clause called the ‘Additional Protocol’, which indefinitely requires open inspections of declared and suspect facilities, the Iranian Nuclear Deal can be considered a mutually respectful attempt to have a regional power modernise itself through alternative energy sources. It is true, that Iran is suffering under sanctions, and this is one of the main things keeping them at the negotiating table in Vienna. But having a responsible, respected regional power that complies to international standards is surely to benefit not only to the United States, the region, but also the world.

Not to mention, two-thirds of Iranians today were born after the Revolution, and in spite of censorship there is always a way in which Iranians make contact over social media platforms. It would be foolhardy to treat Iran as the Iran of the past. In the words of Steve Coll, the elite in Iran exists through a hostile extremism towards the U.S. and Israel, but the population is extremely friendly, at least towards Americans. The main issue impeding the Nuclear Deal on the U.S. side is obviously the Republicans, but in Iran it is in part a hardline revolutionist faction that, according to Robin Wright, fears that a rapprochement with the U.S. will lead to a similar situation as that with the disintegration of the Soviet Union from Glasnost and Perestroika in the late 1980s.

However, Steve Coll has posited the idea that the problem with this U.S. strategy is that the Shias (the majority in Iran) are a minority to the Sunni majority in the Middle East. Therefore, as a partner, they would arguably not be able to fix many of the issues in the Sunni world, where – surely enough – all the problems are currently. On the other hand, one stable government in the region is a precious thing in a region rocked by war, revolutions, and failed states.

Another issue fronted by some, like Ray Takeyh, is that “A hegemonic Iran may yet be the most consequential legacy of a nuclear accord.” This is surely to occur eventually however, since Iran has a natural hegemony in the Middle East. This partly owes to the fact that Iran has a population of 78 million, roughly equal to Egypt (currently in a transitional regime phase), and Turkey (avoiding squabbles in the region).

The main point to take from these nuclear deals is that dialogue is more important than monologue, and the arguments against the Iranian nuclear deal are about the particulars of the dialogue, which would be a problem in the event of taking advantage of either side, but to what extent is this threshold crossed? Charles Krauthammer said it is to be the worst agreement in U.S. diplomatic history, because it favours Iran more than the U.S., but how exactly is it supposed to favour the U.S.? Uranium for Oil? This deal is supposed to favour Iran, it is supposed to favour the 78 million humans in Iran, and it is supposed to bring them back into the fold.

In and Out

The United States of America’s prison system has evolved into a horrific mess. The prison environment is one that cuts corners and funding of programs in order to make the most amount of profit. In industries likes these, rather than providing a service that barley passes acceptable standards, we should be seeing industries exceeding it; especially when it is taxpayers footing the bill. The american people need to start seeing a greater return in their investment, because that is what their taxes are, not a tool of manipulation for individuals to use to fund or receive support from one another.

The prison system is in desperate need of reform. Rehabilitation of prisoners is very low in percentage. How can we expect rehabilitation when the mindset of the majority of inmates is “how am I going to survive today and tomorrow?” Change is not needed in the eyes of those in power, as they are often unaware of the atrocities that occur daily in thousands of prisons and jails everyday. In some cases those in charge do not care as they are making a profit off the incarceration of citizens. Abusive guards as well as criminal organizations (recruitment often occurs as people feel this is necessary if they want to survive, criminals also able to run their organizations due to bad prison policies or corrupt guards, etc.) are rampant in many prisons.

The first priority of a prison is to provide a safe and stable environment for those incarcerated. An environment which will allow the prisoner to truly become rehabilitated. Many times those who go into prison for non-violent crimes, will be released into the world a violent criminal. A prisoners time in prison should be one that allows them to change their outlook on life; one where they have time to think and reflect on their past actions, not just waiting for the days to past until their sentence is up. What is the point of a prison sentence if the guilty go in, serve their time, and come out the exact, if not worse, person then when they went in.

The whole premise behind the establishment of a prison system is rehabilitation. When the rate of those in prison is continuously increasing every year, one must start to question the current system in place.

American Rail is Off Track

Amtrak began operations in 1971, but for some reason, and behind most other industrialised countries, it appears largely on the whole to have stayed put. But this is only the most recent example everyday Americans have to point out their country’s deteriorating infrastructure. Indeed, the recent derailing of an Amtrak train in Philadelphia brought attention to this particular example of an ageing, if not an absent, American infrastructure.

All over the United States there is a lack of investment in infrastructure, to the extent that the O’Hare, LaGuardia, and DFW airports are beginning to look like Cold War relics. The same can basically be said of American rail. People generally attribute this to government neglect, and they are not wrong in thinking so, but another problem is the conception in politics that the federal government should not fund such programs. This is ridiculous since government exists, essentially, to provide a service otherwise unavailable through individual action. The easy solution is for government to become more involved and invest more money in our infrastructure, which would end an era wherein taking a trip from Dallas to Houston offers only the alternatives of driving and taking a plane, the first of which makes distances in the U.S. seem larger than they actually are, and the latter of which is not always accessible to everyday Americans.

Nearly everywhere else in the developed world, high-speed rail is bringing cities and metropolises together. Whether it is the Ruhr region in Germany, or the recently announced Chinese project to integrate Beijing with Tianjin. The fact of the matter is that this sort of integration is not happening in the United States. Hypothetically, Boston-New York-Philadelphia-Washington D.C. could be the metropolitan area on the East Coast, ever more integrated with high-speed rail. This would be bringing our country, and our people, closer together and more in contact with one another, rather than distant and isolationist in our own metropolitan areas. The arguments to not have this type of investments in our country is simply unconvincing. The simple reality is that infrastructure provides for the backbone of our country, and lays down the foundation for a healthy economy. Furthermore, it brings people, and our union, ever closer.