All Aboard! Trains Aren’t Planes!

Salena Zito has some thoughts about getting there by train. They’re good thoughts.

PITTSBURGH — For nearly a quarter of a century, Amtrak’s Capitol Limited route has taken me from my beloved hometown to Washington, D.C. Sometimes for fun, almost always for work, the experience is never the same.

And if you are a rail lover, it is always about the experience.

There is only one train that leaves the Pittsburgh station every day, and that is at 5:20 a.m. (which means your alarm goes off at 3:30 a.m.). Thanks to sharing the line with freight, that almost always means a 20- to 90-minute departure delay. Then there’s the nearly eight-hour trip, twice what it takes me to drive there. Flying would only take an hour.

So why ride the rails? For starters, there’s the joy of looking out your window to swaths of the countryside you’d never see if you were flying over them or cruising along the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

There are miles of old industrial sites in places like Braddock and McKeesport, Pennsylvania, some filled with ghosts of the past. If you are curious enough, you look up what they were as you pass them by and learn something new about the cities and towns that built this country, as well as the people who built it.

You also see a remarkable amount of them being reused or repurposed as new companies chase the ghosts away. Rebirth among the ashes is the story of America.

She’s right. My annual trip to Philadelphia was made by train for years before I gave up and started flying. Getting on the train at 1 am (if it was on time) and the overall 36 hours just got to be too much, especially since I too know about that 5:20 am stop of the Capitol Limited in Pittsburgh – I was getting off to catch the other train out of Pittsburgh, the Pennsylvanian. Why? Because Amtrak couldn’t be bothered to re-install a switch that would have allowed a New York Section on the Capitol, which those of us old enough would undoubtedly have called the Broadway Limited. Rail riders are a traditional lot about some things.

It also ended up costing more than flying first class, and so just not worth it, and the layover in Chicago isn’t what it used to be, as the city declines into anarchy. But I miss it, and the great thing is the beauty of Pennsylvania, never seen in the old days. Ms. Zito also has some complaints with changes at Amtrak, and she is right.

Last Monday, when I boarded the train for the first time this winter, I discovered the warm, buttery grits were no longer an option, replaced by a tub of yogurt and granola — in a box. Dinner now came in a box. So did lunch. Gone were the crisp white tablecloths, and gone were the people who always cheerfully made whatever meal you wanted.

My first reaction was: If I were to want to be treated the way I am on an airline, I would take one. I took to Twitter and Facebook to express my disappointment in my best mom tone.

A call to Amtrak at first met deflection. As is the norm with spokesmen these days, they declined to talk and tried to insist I put my questions in email.

The crisp, white tablecloths and the jobs have not returned. In fact, a month ago, employees held a small rally in D.C. to protest the dining service changes and the threat of outsourcing some 1,700 union food and beverage jobs.

Change is inevitable. Change is important. But it is often spurred by erroneous assumptions.

As Peggy Noonan commented on Twitter: “Amtrak’s new management thinks trains are planes. A lot of us are on the train because we don’t want to be on the plane.”

Notably, Amtrak’s new president, Richard Anderson, is the former chief executive of Delta Air Lines. There are a lot of things about rail service that can and should be modernized. But there are also some that shouldn’t.

Boy, are they both ever right. One of the only really good things about taking the train is the diner. The food quality has declined ever since Amtrak took over from the railroads. But that is even worse than the airlines feed you, at least in first class, and a lot of people in the diner are in the sleepers (the diner is included) and decent food (if not exactly the duck l’orange of the PRR) is expected. And as Ms. Zito notes, the people you meet. Over the years, I’ve met some fascinating people on the train, in the diner, and in the club car. That doesn’t happen when you fly.

And that’s important. I like trains, even for long distance, if time isn’t a factor, as she states usually you can drive quicker, and with flying, even going from Nebraska to Philadelphia via Dallas doesn’t even compare. For me, it’s a close enough call, that the demise of dining car service likely means I’ll not return. I cannot really justify tax money being used for them either.

They need to compete, they can’t compete (maybe barely with buses) on time. They need to give us something we want. They could reduce costs perhaps in the club cars, which are a bit of an overpriced joke but bring back the tablecloths and good food in the diner. In fact, instead of removing them, they should have improved them. That was one of the ways the railroads competed – the quality of food and service. The old song says, “Dinner in the diner, nothing could be finer”. No more. Here’s another airline executive, having killed the romance of flying, doing the same to our trains. Sad, and stupid.

I can overlook a fair amount, but if you drive passengers away, your subsidies are not going to be far behind. We don’t really need long-distance rail in America. We subsidize it because of history and memory, and to show off our country, but it’s better to show off the good stuff, not that we can do box lunches worse than anyone in the world.

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The Battle for Britain

LONDON, UK – CIRCA JUNE 2017: Statue of Boadicea Boudicca Queen of the Iceni who died AD 61 after leading her people against the Roman invaders (high dynamic range)

Some of you may wonder why we speak so much here about Brexit. After all, this is primarily an American blog. Well part of the reason is President Trump, for the moment he’s doing a superlative job for us, and so other than laughing at the deranged Progressives (yes, I repeat myself) there really isn’t too much to say. A nice change, isn’t it? Yes, there are things he could improve on, such as China, perhaps, but overall, there’s little to complain about.

Britain is a different case. After the people clearly stated that they wanted to preserve British sovereignty and leave the European Union, they have met a wall of resistance from their own government, including elected officials, the bureaucracy, and the rent-seeking corporatists.

It’s a battle for the Britain which led the world into ordered liberty, the land of Locke, of Burke, of Nelson and Wellington, and yes, of Churchill and Thatcher. It’s also an existential battle, one that must be won, or the British government will lose all legitimacy. As usual, Melanie Philips put the issues squarely and well here.

[…]Westminster is currently heaving with plots aimed at reversing the 2016 referendum result – while purporting to honor it. So MPs are coming up with demands to delay the legal date for the UK’s departure, demands for a second referendum, demands for “compromise” departure terms that are, in effect, forms of Remain.

This is all to break what is widely reported as the parliamentary “deadlock” over the issue. But there’s no deadlock. The legally binding default position is that if no deal with the EU is struck, Britain will leave on March 29 without a deal.

This is enshrined in an act of parliament passed last year. So the way forward is in fact very clear. The problem is that MPs who passed this act of parliament now want to dump it. They claim that leaving with no deal is out of the question because it would plunge Britain into chaos and ruin.

Britain has been subjected to a blizzard of scare stories about starving to death, running out of medicines or being unable to fly to Europe if it leaves with no deal.

These are ludicrous exaggerations. Much more to the point, the EU itself has far too much to lose from having no deal. But it will only do a deal on Britain’s terms if its own back is to the wall. In other words, leaving with no deal is essential to get the deal that Britain wants.

Yet instead of helping bring that about, Remainer MPs are spitting in the eye of democracy by seeking to reverse the referendum result, thus setting parliament against the people. Why?

At the core of much Remain thinking lies a profound indifference toward or even contempt for the very idea of a sovereign nation. For people who take pride in their cosmopolitanism and who regard national ties as a form of bigoted atavism, democracy can be endlessly reinvented in their own image.

Such Remainers thus grossly underrated the depth of feeling behind the vote for Brexit because they grossly underrate Britain itself.

Britain is a very special country; which is why it’s the one country to leave the EU. The countries of mainland Europe, with their long histories of mutual invasion, permeable borders, shifting national boundaries and attachments to democracy that are fitful and tenuous, have a shallow understanding of national identity.

By contrast, Britain is an island nation with an unequivocally distinct and separate identity. It hasn’t been invaded for 1,000 years and has consistently repelled attackers from across the seas.

This history has created its national character: independent of mind, stoic under pressure, opposed to extremism but ferocious in defense of its liberties and very, very averse to being bullied or told what to do.

This is why Britain was the cradle of political liberty. And this is why it voted to leave the EU – because despite the cultural demoralization of its post-war elites which took it into the European project in 1973, it still knows itself to be special.

There are three nations which have this view of themselves as being uniquely blessed: Britain, America and Israel. All have played an outsized role in bringing the benefits of civilization to the world.

Yes, all have had their faults. The British Empire had episodes of great cruelty; America had vicious racial prejudice; Israel’s political system is corrupt and dysfunctional.

All three countries, however, are beset from within by an intelligentsia determined to distort their nation’s history, exaggerate its failings and prove it was born in original sin.

A nation cannot be defended unless its people love and admire it, and unless it is led by men and women who acknowledge it for what it is rather than what they want it to be.

People look for leaders who will defend their way of life, promote the historic culture that binds their society together into a nation they can call their own, and take all necessary measures to keep it safe and inviolate.

The failure by the political establishment to deliver that led directly to the Brexit vote, the election of US President Donald Trump and, in Israel, to the destruction of the Left as a political force.

Read it all, and you will likely have more understanding of why so many Americans, here in a country created by British liberty, are so fierce in our support of our cousins. Once again, as in 1940 and in 1916, and in 1805 they fight a battle that we both have and will have to again fight. I think they’ll win, but if they don’t things will be very dark in Europe.

I’m reminded of this, by A. P. Herbert.

Boadicea from the Bridge looked down,
And saw the Yankee tanks invade the town.
Boadicea held her head more high
To hail the Sherman and the proud G.I.
‘Eyes right!’ she said. ‘Fine fellows though you are,
You’re not the first to drive an armoured car.
Halt, soldiers, halt! For here is one can tell
A tale of fighting chariots as well.
Look up, brave girls. In a.d. 61
I led the lads, and saw the Roman run.
God speed you too against an alien mob:
God bless you all for joining in the job.
By Grant! By Sherman!’ said the queen of queens.
I wish I’d had such men, and such machines.’

They passed. And Parliament, across the way,
Discussed the principle of equal pay

Sunday Funnies, Wall, Life, and Gillette

So, another week, how nice with the government shut down

Who might this be? *

And, of course

Genevieve Bujold

An Unalienable Right

Yesterday, more than a million Americans gathered to protest America’s violation of the very first right God gave us – the right to life. While there are marches across the country, the focus is always Washington, where the violation of the right was first condoned, and where it will be restored one day.

From The Catholic Herald.

‘This is a movement founded on love and grounded in the nobility and dignity of every human life,’ President Trump said

The March for Life again gathered myriad pro-life advocates to mark the anniversary of legalized abortion in America, and in a surprise appearance Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence introduced a pre-recorded message from President Donald Trump.

“This is a movement founded on love and grounded in the nobility and dignity of every human life,” President Trump said in a pre-recorded message to the massive January 18 rally, before the crowd began its march through the streets of Washington, D.C.

“When we look into the eyes of a newborn child we see the beauty of the human soul and the majesty of God’s creation, we know that every life has meaning and every life is worth protecting.”

“I will always protect the first right in the Declaration of Independence, the right to life,” he said.

Trump touted his administration’s new expansion of the Mexico City Policy, which restricts funds for international organizations that promote or perform abortions. He promoted his administration’s actions to protect religious freedom for medical professionals and religious charities, as well as support for adoption and foster care. Among new proposals are limits barring Title X funds for clinics that perform abortions; and making permanent the Hyde Amendment budget restrictions on abortion funding. […]

“Every child is a sacred gift from God,” he said. “Each person is unique from day one. That’s a very important phrase. Unique from day one. And so true… Together we will work to save the lives of unborn children.”

Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence appeared in person to introduce the president and to give their own remarks.

“We gather here because we stand for life,” the vice president said. “We gather here because we stand for compassion. We gather here because we believe as our founders did because we believe all of us, born and unborn, are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights and first among these rights is the right to life.”

Pence said that the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision “turned its back on that right,” but that decision gave birth to “a movement born by compassion and love a movement animated by faith and truth, a movement that’s been winning hearts and minds every day since.”

Because of those gathered here, he said, “we know in our hearts that life is winning once again.”

Pence praised and thanked pregnancy center volunteers, adoptive families, and “courageous men and women who step forward to serve in public office” in the U.S. capitol and state legislatures. He urged pro-life advocates to “stand strong” and give reasons for their hope “with gentleness and respect.”

“They will attack you, they will question your hearts to silence others but don’t listen to them. Listen to the truth,” he said. He told marchers that God will not forsake them and they do not stand alone.

“Know that you have an unwavering ally in this vice president and this family. And you have a champion in the President of the United States, President Donald Trump.”

He’s right, we are winning finally, a clear majority of Americans want abortion severely restricted or outlawed. It’s up to us to continue the fight, it’s far from over.

It is time, nay, it is well past time for America to again recognize abortion as what it is, infanticide, and treat it as it should be. We owe it to the Founders, and we owe it the over 60 million American dead from this abomination. We best respect their right by continuing the struggle to end abortion in the United States.

 

The Price of Freedom`

Ever have one of those days, where you just don’t have anything to say? A pain, aren’t they? I’m having one today, as always there are multitudes of things to write about, none of which appeal to me. It happens, especially when you write every day.

So, what to do. Well, how about this, Gavin Ashenden, the Queen’s former Confessor, wrote the other day about the price of freedom. It’s an excellent article which I agree with completely, and you may have missed. So here it is.

“I have nothing to offer you except ‘blood, toil, sweat and tears’ ” promised Winston Churchill when he stepped in as Prime minster in 1940. Churchill warned that retaining freedom would come at a high and sacrificial price. The people heard, agreed and paid it.

“Brexit would be bad for my diocese because it might temporarily turn Kent into a lorry park” threatened the Archbishop of Canterbury this month. He was urging people to give up their freedom and repudiate Brexit for the sake of convenience. Kent is a beautiful place. It was a very worthy convenience, but still a convenience. […]

What has surprised and shocked me on the other hand are the threats and fears a no deal outcome has had on people. When the Archbishop warned in his grim tones of the danger of his diocese being turned for a while into a lorry park I wanted to reply “but what price are you willing to pay for you and your church’s freedom”?

And there lies the weakness of democracy. At every election politicians bribe the people with the promise of further comforts and advantages if only they will vote for them; but it ought to be the other way round.

At times of election we ought to have politicians asking for our vote on the grounds that they are going to make life more difficult for us. More difficult because to achieve some valuable or noble goal.

It might be redistribution of income; it might be tightening our belts in the face of overspending. They could ask us to forego certain conveniences in order to protect the ecosystem.

And that’s where the weakness of democracy (the least worst system for government we have) lies. It an increasingly comfortable culture votes can only be bought for self-interest instead of won for virtue. […]

Do the ‘young’ know or remember anything of the BSE crisis in 1996, where responding to European demands we killed and incinerated a million healthy cattle, only to find they still refused to lift an export ban on beef? Even the Euro-friendly Government of the day suspected this had turned into a secret attempt to wage economic warfare against a trade competitor rather than putting health issues first.

(See Archbishop Cranmer’s excellent article :-

http://archbishopcranmer.com/brexit-beef-eu-faithful-bse-trusted-liberty/ )

Have they read anything at all of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago where the historical realities of an anti-democratic modern, brutal and murderous Left wing regime was allowed free rein?

Freedom to travel without inconvience is placed the top of their political bucket list, but what are they prepared to pay to retain their democracy and freedom of speech and movement?

There doesn’t seem to be much awareness that freedom comes with a price.

Freedom to vote and to practice democracy and freedom of speech have come at the price of imprisonment in some places and torture and death in others.

It will be a pity of the price of passing our own laws, choosing our own values, guarding our own freedoms come at the slight inconvenience of filling in forms, or paying £10 for a visa to visit another country, but maybe that is one of the choices we face; inconvenience or acccountability?

Do read it all at Freedom costs. Are we willing to pay the cost of being free?

It’s not a question only for the Brits, although Brexit makes it clearer there than elsewhere. It’s a question that all men and women have to answer for themselves. I fear that many Americans, like the Remoaner Brits, have forgotten that, and are willing to sell our glorious heritage for crap, and not much crap at that.

One hopes they wake up before it’s too late.

Washington has seen it all, and seen it off, before

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to members of the military at a rally at Al Asad Air Base in Iraq on Dec. 26, 2018.Andrew Harnik/AP

Back in 1973, Canadian journalist Gordon Sinclair had some things to say about America, as we plowed through the shambles left by Vietnam, Watergate, and general chaos. It started like this:

“This Canadian thinks it is time to speak up for
the Americans as the most generous and possibly the least
appreciated people on all the earth.

Germany, Japan and, to a lesser extent, Britain and
Italy were lifted out of the debris of war by the
Americans who poured in billions of dollars and
forgave other billions in debts. None of these
countries is today paying even the interest on its
remaining debts to the United States. […]

If you were a sentient American at the time, I suspect you remember it, it was republished in most American papers. It’s the only article I ever recall my Mom clipping from our local paper and giving to me. It mattered. You can read it here.

Now there is another. Conrad Black published an article in Canada’s National Post, that I think we Americans need to read, to remind ourselves who we really are. It’s entitled: America’s resurgence is reshaping the world. Here’s part of it.

Almost indiscernible in the endless tumult about President Donald Trump is the objective return of American might, right on our doorstep. A casual sampler of the Canadian, and even the American, media, might think that the United States was so far along in its decline that the entire process of government and normal public discourse had broken down in that country, and that the much-discussed process of national decline was accelerating in a climate of virtual chaos.

In fact, the economy of the United States is astoundingly strong: full employment, an expanding work force, negligible inflation and about three per cent economic growth. And it is a broad economic recovery, not based on service industries as in the United Kingdom (where London handles most of Europe’s financial industry, while most of British industry has fled), and not based largely on the fluctuating resources markets as has often been Canada’s experience. In the eight years of president Obama, the United States lost 219,000 manufacturing jobs; in the two years of Trump, the country has added 477,000 manufacturing jobs. This was not supposed to be possible, and this time, unlike in the great Reagan boom, it cannot be dismissed by the left (and it was false in the eighties) as a profusion of “hamburger flippers, dry cleaners and people delivering pizza,” (all necessary occupations).

He writes here of China and oil and he does so most aptly, and I think realistically, you really should read the entire article.

What were for centuries the Great Powers, and for nearly 50 years after the Second World War, the principal Western Allies and the Soviet Union, have been reconfigured. The Soviet Union has been sliced down to Russia with about 40 per cent of the former Soviet population, offering a pallid replication of Gaullist efforts to make France great again by being an annoying gadfly irritating the Americans around the world. Charles de Gaulle was a great statesman, who personified the historic cultural and political attainments of France in its most difficult and dishonoured times; Vladimir Putin is just another chief thug residing in the Kremlin.

Meanwhile, in Europe…

France has elected a complete outsider as president and the brave new regime has been humbled and defiled by the imperishable Paris mobs, the extras and stagehands at 10 abrupt and profound changes of governmental structure in 230 years, and of countless sporting efforts to get the regimes’ attention with riots and vandalism. The splendid boulevards of Paris have seen it all before many times. Mighty Germany, its governing coalition almost worn threadbare by the imprudent admission of a million desperate Middle Eastern and African refugees, has delivered itself over to energy dependence on the feeble gangster-state of Russia while cutting its NATO contribution to half of what it had promised and complaining of American lack of enthusiasm to continue carrying Germany on its crowded and under-appreciated shoulders. Italy is in more profound political shambles than ever; Spain is distracted by a separatist threat that the central government has bungled (it could have learned from Canada but didn’t).

Through it all, the United States, appearing to be disorderly, its establishment and media at war with the occupant of the White House, is demonstrating almost effortlessly how illusory is the idea that any other country or group of countries can challenge its pre-eminence among the world’s nations. Canadians may not like it; the world may try to pretend otherwise, but however the domestic political tides of America may flow, North Korea is on its best behaviour, the ayatollahs are quaking in their voluminous raiment, and all America’s trade partners, including Canada and China, are accepting what amounts to unilateral renegotiation by the U.S. No other country in the world has any appreciable influence at all more than a few hundred miles from its borders (an area that includes 95 per cent of the population of Canada).

And so, 45 years after Mr. Sinclair touched America’s heart at a tender moment, nothing much has changed, except a whole bunch of America’s opponents are laid low, and a new set are on their way to join them. The beat goes on in the Great Republic.

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