Country to go broke on social benefit costs

OK, everybody likes "free stuff." Nevertheless, adults don't let children eat candy all day because they want to, and you cannot spend money that you do not have because we want to either.

Those receiving benefits point to everyone else and say, "take more from them" (the 1 percent being the target de jure). The reality is that even if we were to tax "them" 100 percent, it wouldn't cover the flood of spending from government. You see, there is no desire among those getting benefits to stop the Spending Express Train. To do so is un-American and the wrong thing to do even when logic and common sense say otherwise. Ostriches say economic collapse will never happen here (think Argentina, Greece). Actually, it can and will happen just as speeding trains at the end of the line crash. Both parties are equally to blame, and it is going to take gutsy leadership that is willing to make tough, unpopular decisions to alter the train's course if we want to create jobs and increase our standard of living. President Kennedy said, "ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country." Anybody remember this?

Charlie Brenner

Alamo

Filibuster rules column didn't make sense

Like many Americans, I am not a fan of either Congressional Republicans or Democrats right now.

I usually like and think of E.J. Dionne Jr.'s columns as well reasoned and well supported whether I agree with his opinions or not. Dionne's column on the change of Senate filibuster rules ranged across different issues and didn't connect the dots very well for me.

One important fact was omitted: "A May report from the Congressional Research Service said Mr. Obama won Senate approval for 30 of his 42 federal court nominations, compared with Mr. Bush's record of 35 approvals from 52 nominations." ("Democrats Rein In Senate Filibusters," Wall Street Journal, Nov. 21).

That means President Obama's federal court nominations had a 71 percent success rate as of May versus 67 percent for President Bush's. That is pretty close, and President Obama's are doing better. I fail to see the problem the change in filibuster rules is supposed to fix. I also worry that Republicans will turn the tables if they regain the majority, which could well happen, given that so many states are rather solidly red states these days. That will not help civility and discourse in the Senate any more than the Democrats' recent actions to change the rules.

Brooke King

Alamo

Helping poor feels good on Thanksgiving

It's been my good fortune to be able to volunteer at Glide Memorial Church on Thanksgiving for the last nine years. My shift starts at 5:30 a.m. and ends at 10 a.m. I have made a few friends over the years, the down-and-out, the wizened and just plain out-of-luck good people. When my shift ends I walk the Tenderloin, maneuvering past moving sleeping bags, store fronts with foul smells, out-of-sorts human beings who don't find much to give thanks for. It is just a few short blocks to Union Square; I stand on the corner and take in the holiday cheer of the day. I ponder the vicissitudes of life, but reach no conclusion.

My trek home for dinner with family and relatives will have much more meaning, with laughter and joy around the dinner table, but my thoughts will return to the early morning hours in the basement of a church on Ellis street in San Francisco, where I made eye contact with a man in shabby clothing, disheveled hair, missing teeth and a gleam in his eye, as he said to me, "sure would like to thank you, sir." How did I get so lucky?

Bill Chestnut

San Ramon

Smarter plan for high-speed rail construction

"I've been working on the railroad, retired with 30 years.

High-speed rail could be successful, though not as yours appears.

'Blended rail' is not the answer: its perils rule that out.

Better, safer go to Oakland on Amtrak's East Bay Route.

From the south to San Jose, much later all the way to a bay rail hub beneath BART's line.

San Francisco, hey, take BART across the Bay. Much better is this route of mine!"

The judge was right. We voted in 2008 for "safe, reliable high-speed rail," but "blended rail" is neither safe nor reliable. It would have been much better, shorter, faster, safer and cheaper along Interstate 5 from Los Angeles to Pacheco Pass; and the Amtrak route from San Jose north. The first high-speed rail could be just to San Jose, with cross-platform transfers to Caltrain and Capitol Corridor.

Robert S. Allen

Livermore BART Director, District 5, 1974-1988 retired, Standard Pacific (now Union Pacific) Western Division, Engineering/Operations

Expansion of airport will lead to greater noise

The Livermore City Council has approved the latest much-ballyhooed Livermore airport expansion that will enrich Livermore coffers at the expense of the peace and quiet of Tri-Valley neighborhoods. The Livermore Public Works Director claims that the service facility, upscale restaurant and mini-mall won't attract new traffic to the airport? The only thing they forgot (maybe) was a shuttle to the outlet mall.

The council heard from sincere pilots how the expansion will make their very difficult lives so much nicer, but you can bet that none of them has a home under the Livermore takeoff flight lanes. These are the same airborne cowboys who love to show off in sweeping low-altitude full-power turns with their propellers set to maximum-racket pitch. The Rutans and twin-engines are the worst, but even smaller planes can force you to suspend a conversation with a neighbor until, like flatulence, they have passed.

The Livermore Airport has a long history of aggressive expansion, and this latest decision is just further growth of a Tri-Valley earsore.

Mike Moran

Pleasanton

U.S. Rep. Miller is out of touch on Obamacare

Congressman George Miller continues to praise the disastrous Obamacare legislation. Apparently, the small business exchanges being delayed for a year, following the employer mandate being delayed a year, hasn't convinced him this is NOT "ready for prime time."

Rep. Miller also must not have noticed the various House Democrats (such as Rep. Elijah Cummings and Rep. William Clay) who are publicly distancing themselves from Obamacare, no doubt fearing the electorate is wising up and will send them packing in the next election. No doubt the 16 Democratic senators who recently went to the White House to demand action on Obamacare somehow escaped his attention as well.

The press tells us that about one million Californians have had their health care insurance (which they presumably liked) canceled due to new requirements imposed by Obamacare. Since there are 53 California Congressional districts, almost 19,000 people in Miller's district must be very upset with this Democratic legislation, yet he seems not to notice.

I wonder why Medicaid wasn't simply expanded to accommodate those who couldn't afford a policy, or who have "pre-existing conditions?" Why create more bureaucracy and inconvenience the 85 percent of people who were happy with what they had?

Great going, Congressman Miller!

Mike Heller

Danville