U.S. should take care of domestic needs first 

Two short news items recently caught my eye: “Japan plans to build world’s fastest train” and “Rail Europe service to offer direct train to Alpine nations.” They are doing this while our country fumbles along and does nothing. Even in California, where there seems to be the will to build high-speed rail, they can’t even decide what route it should take or how to build it.

No one has ever said it would be inexpensive, but if this country were not so involved fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we might be able to afford a modern rail infrastructure and many other needs at home. Let’s take care of things at home first. With these wars we are at least obligated morally to help those countries rebuild when the wars end, if they ever do, but in the meantime the U.S. falls apart due to neglect.

Irving Q. Waldorf, San Francisco

Fear of unions rules state

California taxpayers shouldn’t fall for the false “choice” presented by the Democratic legislators and the governor. They propose monumental cuts to K-12 education, seniors, etc., unless Californians tax themselves during this unrelenting recession. This is Fearmongering 101.

The 900-pound gorilla in the room remains Democrats’ fear of upsetting labor unions by enacting any pension/benefit reform.

Vallejo went bankrupt due to escalating unfunded union retirement obligations. Cities are spending 62-75 percent of every dollar on labor/pension/health care costs — the ratio Vallejo hit before bankruptcy.

California’s unfunded pension liability is $525 billion, and required a $5.5 billion payment in 2011 budget — akin to a minimum monthly payment on interest only. California’s nonpartisan legislative analyst called this pension liability “unsustainable.”

Basic services are cut to pay unfunded pension liabilities — taxing yourself to cover this mess is ludicrous.

Mike Brown, Burlingame

Is Egypt really ‘free’ yet?

Newspaper headlines say “Egypt is free.” The departure of Mubarak just means the end of his regime. Freedom and democracy do not necessarily follow. We thought that Iran was free after the departure of the Shah. It wasn’t, and a more repressive regime took over.

Cuba is not free, nor is Venezuela. Overthrowing a dictator does not necessarily bring freedom. More often than not, another even more repressive dictator takes over. Cuba, Venezuela and Iran are excellent examples. The only country in the Middle East that has freedom and self-rule is Israel. Sadly, declaring freedom at this time seems

Keith C. De Filippis, San Jose

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