Another school shooting. Children were murdered. Lives were upended forever. "Thoughts and prayers" were mumbled from afar. Americans with differing political views lobbed haymakers at one another. We've read this story before, and we know it probably won't be the last one like it.

  • By MARC A. THIESSEN

The indictment issued last week by special counsel Robert Mueller shows a conspiracy of stunning sophistication by Kremlin-connected Russians, posing as American citizens or using stolen U.S. identities, to influence the 2016 presidential election.

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  • BY JOE MATHEWS

If California’s train deniers are right—that no one ever rides trains here, that Californians prefer to drive or fly, and that high-speed rail is a boondoggle that won’t attract riders—then how do you explain my wife’s public humiliation?

Recently, our family was on Amtrak from San Diego to L.A., when an announcement came over the sound system: “Mrs. Mathews, we have two of your children here in the café car. Mrs. Mathews, you should never let your children walk unaccompanied on an Amtrak train.”

Mrs. Mathews, upset at the scolding, looked for someone to blame: me.

Her accusation was based on an overly limited reading of the facts. True, I had been in charge of our two older children when they went to the café car. But she missed the larger context, which both absolves me and debunks the idea that Californians are train-phobic.

The Pacific Surfliner that day was mobbed: with every seat taken and passengers standing in the aisles and stairwells. So when I took those two hungry boys in the direction of the café car, the crowds were so thick I couldn’t squeeze through. The boys, now nine and seven, are very skinny and insisted on continuing on, despite my pleas, beginning a memorable adventure.

Our story may be singular, but the situation is not. Crammed Amtrak trains are commonplace in California. California is now home to three of the busiest intercity train lines outside the Northeast Corridor of the United States. The Pacific Surfliner has three million riders annually on trains from San Luis Obispo to San Diego, America’s second busiest passenger rail corridor.

Two others are in the top ten: Capitol Corridor, from San Jose to Sacramento, has 1.6 million yearly riders, and the San Joaquins, serving Central Valley cities that train deniers claim have no taste for rail, tops 1.1 million annually.

All told, Amtrak carries 12 million riders in California each year. Amtrak would like to accommodate more of us, but service is limited by the lack of tracks and the fact that Amtrak must share tracks with commuter rail and freight. Amtrak even publishes guidance on its website on how to avoid overcrowding. Among the advice issued on the Pacific Surfliner: avoid riding on Fridays and Sundays, when trains are especially crowded.

The sardine-like state of Amtrak California suggests that, contrary to claims of train deniers, high-speed rail would be popular. Studies in other countries suggest high-speed rail draws people from driving and flying, and inspires people to take trips they otherwise wouldn’t. And why not, given California’s scenery? Take the Capitol Corridor across the Delta, or peer up to the Sierra from the San Joaquins. Over the holidays, I was on a Pacific Surfliner along the Ventura County coast as the sun set over the Channel Islands. Even the off-shore oil platforms looked beautiful.

Amtrak is not perfect; the cars could be cleaner, the trains faster, the Wi-Fi more reliable, and then there are those crowds. But that argues for more rail infrastructure, not less.

After being shamed, Mrs. Mathews ordered me to retrieve her children from the café car. But I couldn’t reach it through it all the passengers in the aisles and stairwells. I found a conductor, but he couldn’t get through the crowds either. He had me wait until the next stop, where I could get off the train and re-board directly into the café car.

I asked the conductor how often the train was this crowded; he said this was standard for evening trains on weekends. And on late summer weekends when the horses race at Del Mar, things are even more jammed, he said.

The next station was only 10 minutes away, but then the train stopped because we were approaching a stretch of single track, where we waited for two trains to pass before us. After all that, it was a half-hour before we got to the station and I could get to the boys, who I found covered in chocolate chip cookie crumbs. From there, with a conductor’s assistance, we got back off the train again and sprinted up to board at the car where my wife and their little brother were. It took us five minutes to navigate the 40 feet to their seats.

Don’t let the train deniers win. More train service—including high-speed rail—can’t get here fast enough.

Joe Mathews writes the Connecting California column for Zócalo Public Square.

 

  • By Al Williams

Chevron has operated in Monterey County for over 70 years, and in Fresno and Kern counties for over 100 years. For our Chevron family and yours, we spend considerable time and effort conducting our operations in a safe and environmentally sensitive manner that meets or exceeds regulatory req…

Kern High School District trustee Mike Williams wishes to have state legislators reverse a bill that revoked the carrying of firearms by school superintendents who have CCW permits. He now also wishes to arm teachers.

  • By MICHAEL GERSON

Billy Graham was easily the most influential evangelical Christian of the 20th century -- a man at home in the historical company of George Whitefield and John Wesley.

The Florida school shooting could have been prevented if just some of the many people who knew of the shooter’s mental condition would have taken the situation seriously. Several school shootings have occurred prior to this, but common sense lessons on how to prevent more tragedies have been…

  • BY RICH LOWRY

If only Joe McCarthy had lived to see this moment, when it is suddenly in vogue to attribute large-scale events in American politics to the hand of Russia and to inveigh against domestic subversion.

U.S. citizens need to take a moment for self-examination. We were manipulated to elect a president out of fear. Fear of socialism, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. We elected a self-serving opportunist who has no moral values, or political experience. I did not vote for Hillary Clinton; I…

  • BY BOB FRANKEN

Mark the date on your calendar: March 24. It's a Saturday. It'll be a test for the up-and-coming generation. For that matter, it will be a test for the United States of America and a system of government that gets many failing grades because it has corruption baked in.

Every bishop, chaplain, monsignor, pastor, preacher, rabbi, and vicar, every sermonizer of every religious belief known to man, has to wish their devotees would follow their teachings and discipline as adamantly, loyally and blindly as Americans follow the doctrine of the NRA.

Tehachapi mountain man Norm Haughness, featured several times in Community Voices, is an obvious Donald Trump hater. But his Jan. 16 article went too far when he called Trump's base "ignorant racists."

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s accomplishment cannot fail to impress. He nailed the Russian interference: Facts, names, dates, places, documents.

We at last have someplace to put the blame for the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Do we point to the liberal gun laws of Florida which allowed a possibly mentally deranged 19-year-old to buy guns? Under California gun laws he would have never been approved. Do we put the b…

Now that Robert Mueller’s investigations have resulted in 18 indictments and three guilty pleas regarding Russian tampering in the 2016 elections, the president can no longer call the Russian effort a “hoax,” “fake news,” or a made up story by the Democrats. It wasn’t some 400-pound hacker s…

I believe plenty of Americans, strongly encouraged by the GOP and championed by Donald Trump, are either ignorant or unappreciative of the fact that the core issue behind rampant gun violence and reoccurring mass shootings is money. If it were not for the money, we could have a dialogue abou…

There is something we can do about gun violence without waiting for the federal government to do it for us. I don't recall ever reading mention of these facts about the steps that Connecticut's state government took to make needed changes there after the massacre at Sandy Hook in 2013. It's …

The United States has a higher prevalence and lower treatment rate of serious mental illness than a number of other developed countries, an indication that we are not doing nearly enough for that segment of our population. What does this reflect about our society?

I have been sitting and starring at my computer screen for two days wanting to say something about the school shooting tragedy in Florida, but, as a grandmother of six, I just could not find the words. Then I read the letters in Monday's paper and really got mad. The letter-writer ("We have …

It is clearly time for the Veterans Administration to act; veterans need a new or newly renovated outpatient clinic in Bakersfield. Local veterans have waited through the last three presidential administrations for a new clinic. Several plans to build a new facility have made their way throu…

  • By Froma Harrop

Our generally strong economy has yet to cast its blessings on American farm country. Incomes there are headed for their lowest level since 2006. And farmers are going deep into debt to keep their heads above water.

  • The Washington Post

In the coastal village of Inn Din, located in northern Rakhine state in Myanmar, also known as Burma, two groups long coexisted, Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims. The villagers fished in the Bay of Bengal and raised rice in paddies. But what happened at Inn Din on Sept. 2marked a turning point…

When a student, as troubled as this Florida shooter is, is expelled, the person should be compelled by law to have mandatory therapy. I don't mean an anger management course. I mean one-on-one daily therapy with a qualified psychologist paid for by the county or state. Ideally, the student s…

Once again – a school shooting. We will hold vigils, fly the flag at half-mast, light candles, and release balloons. The country will feel sympathy and shock, those closest to the victims will feel indescribable emptiness and grief that will last a lifetime. And yet nothing will change.

Another school shooting and, as usual, people want to blame the gun, the president and the NRA. Yes, this is a tragedy and, yes, something must be done to curb and stop this violence. Everyone agree?

If you need an AR-15 assault rifle for self-defense, I strongly suggest you move. I think young adults and kids (and some adults) are fixated with these guns because many weapons like them are used in computer shooting simulator games.

  • By Christine M. Flowers

In the mid-1960s, I knew an elderly Greek fellow who tended to fig trees in front of his home at the end of our block. My recollections of our neighbor are hazy, but the thing that sticks with me is how gentle he was.

  • By Dana Milbank

In a Republican presidential debate in the fall of 2015, moderator John Harwood of CNBC asked Donald Trump about some of his more outlandish claims, such as making another country pay for a border wall and enacting huge tax cuts that wouldn't increase the deficit.

  • By Richard Berman

For months, sexual harassment allegations followed the spotlight. From Hollywood celebrities to media moguls and retired athletes, the #MeToo movement discredited countless public figures who abused their power at the expense of young women.

Actions speak louder than words. Majority leader and District 23 Congressman Kevin McCarthy voted February 2017, House Vote 77, to repeal to the gun regulation restricting access for mentally ill people to have availability to acquire weapons and ammunition. In addition, he has received $42,…

  • By Dan Walters

When Gov. Jerry Brown was promoting Proposition 57 to voters in 2016, he characterized it as a common sense criminal law reform that would give nonviolent felons a better chance at rehabilitation by allowing them to earn earlier releases on parole.

I recently volunteered for a local fundraiser. The nonprofit’s mission is an important service to not only the clients it directly serves but helps to make Bakersfield a stronger community for us all. And even though I enjoyed helping out and met some very nice women, the experience turned o…

  • The Washington Post

Watching relieved parents reunite with their children in the immediate aftermath of Wednesday's mass shooting at a South Florida high school, it was impossible not to think about the others — the less fortunate ones. The parents frantically calling their children's cellphones, hearing their …

Kudos to The Californian for featuring a gay couple among their Valentine sweetheart profiles ("Love, Bakersfield style: Local couples share their stories," Feb. 11). A true Valentine nurtures and supports year in and year out.

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It was some time ago — several massacres ago — that I had a letter published in The Californian that read: "How many more will have to die before we trash the Second Amendment?" I would like to repeat. Because it's the Second Amendment that invites the use of the word "control" which in turn…

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