Search Results

HOW WILL THE DNC-MSM BE ABLE TO EVEN FUNCTION? Amtrak Suspends Acela Nonstop Service Between DC, New York Due To Reducing Demand Amid Coronavirus Outbreak.

Related: An Insta-reader sends a link to this:


THIS IS WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS: Millennials make Amtrak nix overly cozy dining cars on Penn Station trains.

Starting Oct. 1, the financially strapped rail carrier will eliminate freshly made hot meals on three routes as it does away with the trains’ kitchens and revamps their classic table-sharing dining cars to cut costs — and because young people want more personal space, Amtrak officials say.

“Some people, especially our new millennial customers, don’t like it so much,” said Peter Wilander, Amtrak’s head of customer experience, to the Washington Post of the dining cars’ current cozy layout.

“They want more privacy. They don’t want to feel uncomfortable sitting next to people.”

Among the routes trading their on-board kitchens and white-linen table cloths for a more “contemporary” experience will be the Cardinal (New York-Chicago), Crescent (New York-New Orleans) and Silver Meteor (New York-Miami).

The change will also impact the Silver Star, another New York-to-Miami service, starting next year, officials said.

Meanwhile, sleeping-car customers will receive a “flexible dining service” where pre-made options can be delivered to their room.

Instead of a juicy steak dinner or savory French toast, they will now choose from pre-packaged meals such as an Asian noodle bowl, chicken fettuccine or a buffet-style breakfast with hard-boiled eggs and muffins.

“We continue to evolve our onboard accommodations and dining experience to meet the needs of today’s customers,” Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson said in a statement.

The changes are expected to save about $2 million a year, officials said.

Which, as the article alludes above, is the real reason for the change, sucking up to millennials notwithstanding.

WAITAMINNIT, WAITAMINNIT, WHAT? The New York Post reports that “The New Boss” is complaining about the cost of croissants at LaGuardia Airport. Forget the cost of croissants, what the hell is she doing at an airport? Why isn’t she taking Amtrak? After all, in demanding the cessation of air travel she said:

“We’re like, ‘The world is going to end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change,’ and, like, this is the war; this is our World War II.”

Would that make her a Vidkun Quisling or a Pierre Laval?

AIN’T NO PARTY LIKE A DONNER PARTY: Amtrak Train with 183 People On Board Has Been Stranded in Oregon Snow for 36 Hours.

THE GREEN NEW DEAL — IT WAS FUN WHILE IT LASTED: Aaaaand AOC’s “Green New Deal” FAQ Page Got Taken Down.

AOC’s Green New Deal is even better than we thought.

And by better, I mean LAUGHABLY TERRIBLE.

For one, it’s ACTUALLY funny. I mean like LOL-at-you-not-with-you funny. She talks about cow farts.

She also wants to provide for people who are “unwilling” to work. Because you know. Sometimes work just sucks and you shouldn’t have to work if you don’t WANNA.

AAANYWAY. We’re all equally amused and horrified right now. …but it looks like the Dems might be horrified, too.

The FAQ page got pulled.

At least for now:

But it really was fun while it lasted; at the Federalist, David Harsanyi rounds up “The 10 Most Insane Requirements Of The Green New Deal.” Here are just a few “highlights:”

Ban cars. To be fair, under the GND, everyone will need to retrofit their cars with Flintstones-style foot holes or pedals for cycling. The authors state that the GND would like to replace every “combustion-engine vehicle” — trucks, airplanes, boats, and 99 percent of cars — within ten years. Charging stations for electric vehicles will be built “everywhere,” though how power plants will provide the energy needed to charge them is a mystery.

Gut and rebuild every building in America. Markey and Cortez want to “retrofit every building in America” with “state of the art energy efficiency.” I repeat, “every building in America.” That includes every home, factory, and apartment building, which will all need, for starters, to have their entire working heating and cooling systems ripped out and replaced with…well, with whatever technology Democrats are going invent in their committee hearings, I guess.

● Eliminate air travel. GND calls for building out “highspeed rail at a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary.” Good luck Hawaii! California’s high-speed boondoggle is already in $100 billion dollars of debt, and looks to be one of the state’s biggest fiscal disasters ever. Amtrak runs billions of dollars in the red (though, as we’ll see, trains will also be phased out). Imagine growing that business model out to every state in America?

Speaking of Hawaii, that last item was too much for America’s tireless foe of the Knights of Columbus, Sen. Mazie Hirono:

As Twitchy told you earlier, Nancy Pelosi kicked a liberal hornet’s nest when she mocked Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal as “the green dream or whatever they call it.” But we’ve got good news for her: It looks like she won’t have to shoulder all the backlash herself.

Because Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono doesn’t seem super-impressed by the Green New Deal, either:

That’s a polite way of saying, “No way in hell would I be caught dead endorsing this stupid proposal now.”

In 2013, Hirono issued a statement on her Website with all the usual leftie green platitudes: “Hirono warned that climate change is already having a significant impact on Hawaii and without coordinated government action will greatly harm the state’s well-being in the future during a hearing held by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee…‘Climate change is the great challenge of our time.’”

But she’s not quite ready to ban the 767, wreck her state’s tourism industry, and let her constituents wait for a high speed transpacific rail tunnel to be dug, just yet.

As Robert Conquest’s First Law of Politics states, “Everyone is conservative about what he [or she] knows best.”

So why did AOC (temporarily?) 404 her “Green New Deal” faqs page? There are a combination of possible reasons. Perhaps she needs to study first if the moon landings were real or not:

Additionally, AOC’s 404 may be driven by a fit of pique — as The Hill noted today, “Pelosi names Dems to new climate panel — but not AOC.”

Why the snub? At Hot Air, Allahpundit kicks around some ideas and writes:

I prefer the second theory, though, not because it’s more plausible but because it’s more Machiavellian. In this theory, Pelosi does have the power to block AOC and her co-sponsors from going public, or at least from going public with the particular document they published — but she chooses to stand aside. She reads the part about “unwilling to work,” feels her eyes rolling nearly out of her head, but lets it proceed because she knows the only way the party’s going to be able to rein in Ocasio-Cortez is by letting her embarrass herself publicly for awhile. Pelosi might even relish having a far-left foil for the party’s eventual nominee next year: When Joe Biden or Kamala Harris or whoever is inevitably asked whether we need “economic security” for people “unwilling to work,” they can smirk and reply, “Er, no,” and then cite that fact as evidence of how moderate they are. That’s tricky business for a Democratic candidate since it risks alienating progressives by creating distance from AOC but it’s basic good politics in a general election.

Or it may be that some hoary old reruns are simply too old even for Pelosi. As Jonah Goldberg writes, “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortex & William James — Statism and One-Nation Politics Are Linked:”

Some might object that the U.S. effort to rev up domestic industrial capacity to produce more guns, tanks, and ships in the late 1930s and early 1940s, as impressive as it was, didn’t leave behind a lot of off-the-shelf blueprints for how we might eradicate the fossil-fuel industry in just over a decade. But that’s a discussion for another day. The true significance of her argument is how perfectly it conforms to the central organizing principle of American liberalism, going back a century.

As I have argued at length elsewhere, such as in my book Liberal Fascism, ever since the philosopher William James gave his lecture “The Moral Equivalent of War” in 1906, the agenda of 20th-century liberalism has been an exercise in trying to decouple the benefits of war from the bloody bits.

And then free ride off the moral equivalence of those who actually fought and died. 2006 was arguably the peak of Al Gore’s influence as “The Goracle.” Gore transitioned from his ‘80s persona as a Reagan-esque Blue Dog Democrat to “Ozone Man,” as George H.W. Bush dubbed him, via a 1989 New York Times editorial headlined, “An Ecological Kristallnacht. Listen.” As Julia Goren wrote in a 2006 Christian Science Monitor article, “It’s a peculiar thing that as the threat of global terrorism reaches a crescendo, so apparently does the threat of global warming – at least that’s what some would have us believe…Freud called it displacement.”

TO BE FAIR, THEY’VE FORGOTTEN A LOT OF STUFF: Salena Zito: Amtrak forgot trains aren’t planes.

What happens inside the train matters as well. One of the true charming parts of the ride is the dining car experience. It isn’t just the warm, buttery grits and the crisp bacon. It is the people you meet because of the communal dining.

It was there on the Friday before former President Barack Obama’s first inauguration that I met African-Americans traveling from as far as California by train to attend his inauguration. From veterans of the civil rights movement to young people caught up in his aspirational rhetoric, we were all sitting, conversing, sharing stories, and experiences.

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.

Why make riding the train pleasant?

NO WAY TO RUN A RAILROAD: Senate approves $2.5 billion for passenger rail, including a requirement that any Amtrak station serving more than just 25 passengers a day be fully staffed. Even British Rail didn’t have that level of waste in the 1970s!

For the record, President Trump asked for the Amtrak budget to be slashed in half.

BROWN’S BILLION-DOLLAR BOONDOGGLE: Slow Death of the Train to Nowhere.

John Fund:

In 2011, the new GOP governors of Florida, Ohio, and Wisconsin turned down federal money for trains. Wisconsin’s Scott Walker told me: “Washington may help pay for building it, but we’d be stuck paying the operating costs of a boondoggle.”

But California’s transportation planners, who never encountered a boondoggle they couldn’t embrace, pressed on despite mounting costs and construction delays. In 2015, desperate to beat a deadline that would have meant the end of federal funding, they began construction on a 119-mile segment of track in the state’s sparsely settled Central Valley. Fewer than 3 percent of the train’s potential riders live along that portion of the route, but backers believed that if they built the Central Valley segment, the sunken costs would convince state legislators to find money for the remaining segments.

That is increasingly unlikely. In January, the California High Speed Rail Authority released its new business plan. Assemblyman Jim Patterson, a train critic who represents Fresno, promptly labeled it a “going-out-of-business plan.”

According to the Authority’s own numbers, the train’s costs have soared to a likely $77 billion — more than double the original cost estimate of $32 billion. If anything goes wrong, the tab for the project could hit $98 billion, or 50 times the current annual appropriation for the nationwide Amtrak system. As for delays, the Authority conceded that rail service on the portion of the route from Bakersfield to San Jose probably won’t begin until 2029, a full nine years after the entire system was supposed to be complete.

As for the “high speed” aspect of the train, the Authority now admits that the two-hour-and-40-minute travel time that helped sell the initial bonding of the train in 2008 will now slip to, at best, three hours and 30 minutes. Travel time on some runs will be up to five hours.

The question Californians need to ask is: Where did the money go?

LIZ PEEK: Trump is ramping up for a 2020 run (but Democrats STILL don’t get it).

Someday, Trump watchers are going to figure out what makes this man tick. Here’s a little secret: President Trump likes to win. Bowing out after only one term would look like losing. He won’t do it.

But there are some who apparently didn’t see it coming. Michael Wolff, who got a lot of notice for his gossipy and error-laden book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” has suggested the president probably wouldn’t run again.

According to Wolff, who pretends to have an inside track, President Trump doesn’t like his job. Wolff told an Australian Broadcasting Service interviewer earlier this year: “In the end, I think that the real truth is he does not want to be the president – the president of the United States.”

Turns out Wolff’s “track” is a lot like Amtrak’s – unreliable.

The official announcement usually comes years later than Trump’s did, but every President’s reelection thoughts begin shortly after they remove their hand from the Bible — if not sooner.

HOW INVITING A TARGET FOR TERRORISTS IS 200 CONGRESSMEN ON ONE TRAIN? That’s a question a few folks are starting to ask in the wake of Wednesday’s Amtrak train collision with a garbage truck at a rural Virginia crossing. The train carried an estimated 200 Members of Congress, aides and family members. One strategically placed Improvised Explosive Device (IED) could have killed how many, 50, 100, more lawmakers? LifeZette’s Jim Stinson talks to Sebastian Gorka and others saying wait a minute.

MICHAEL LEDEEN: Many Unanswered Questions about Amtrak Crash.

QUESTION ASKED REGARDING YESTERDAY’S WASHINGTON STATE AMTRAK CRASH: “How is it that a train was going 80 miles an hour around a curve where the speed limit was 30?”

LIZ SHELD’S MORNING BRIEF: Amtrak Crash, Tax Reform, RUSSIA Update and Much, Much More.

HMM: Object on tracks may be cause of deadly Amtrak derailment. “A preliminary investigation suggests maintenance problems are unlikely to blame because the incident took place on brand-new tracks, the official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.”


Shot: New Jersey Transit Train Derails at Penn Station in New York.

—The New York Times tonight. The train reportedly had almost 200 people onboard, with no serious injuries claimed.

Chaser: “It’s obvious why Team de Blasio didn’t want you to see the numbers: They show 3,892 people living on the streets, up 40 percent from last year and the highest rate since 2005….the homeless shelter population is also at a high under de Blasio, having crossed the 60,000 mark last October.”

—The New York Post, yesterday.

Hangover: De Blasio Makes Sudden Trip to Trump Protests at G-20 Summit.

—The New York Times today.

It’s the banned-in-New York supersized economy version of Victor Davis Hanson’s Bloomberg syndrome:

Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg used to offer all sorts of cosmic advice on the evils of smoking and the dangers of fatty foods and sugary soft drinks. Bloomberg also frequently pontificated on abortion and global warming, earning him a progressive audience that transcended the boroughs of New York.

But in the near-record December 2010 blizzard, Bloomberg proved utterly incompetent in the elemental tasks for which he was elected: ensuring that New Yorkers were not trapped in their homes by snowdrifts in their streets that went unplowed for days.

The Bloomberg syndrome is a characteristic of contemporary government officials. When they are unwilling or unable to address pre-modern problems in their jurisdictions — crime, crumbling infrastructure, inadequate transportation — they compensate by posing as philosopher kings who cheaply lecture on existential challenges over which they have no control.

Meanwhile on the west coast, “Schwarzenegger’s successor, Jerry Brown, warned of climate change and permanent drought and did not authorize the construction of a single reservoir. Now, California is experiencing near-record rain and snowfall. Had the state simply completed its half-century-old water master plan, dozens of new reservoirs would now be storing the runoff, ensuring that the state could be drought-proof for years…Governors who cannot build a reservoir have little business fantasizing about 200-mph super trains.”

Amtrak’s Acela trains can at least get over 130 mph on the Northeast Corridor — if only they had a functioning train station in Manhattan for them to pull into.

And note this item in the Times’ report today:

He has vowed that the city will resist efforts to deport more immigrants, and he has said the city will push ahead with a commitment to meet or exceed the goals of the Paris climate accord, which Mr. Trump plans to set aside.

But Mr. de Blasio appears to again be feeling the need to travel.

Recently he met with the mayor of Seattle, and in June he flew to Miami where he spoke about health care and climate change at a meeting of the United States Conference of Mayors.

What’s the carbon footprint on all that air travel for de Blasio and his entourage?


The delays at Penn Station will have domino effects that impact the overburdened subway, regional transit and more.

Cuomo asked Trump to lend his support to getting Amtrak — a quasi-federal entity — to turn over control of Penn Station to a private terminal operator.

He also requested federal funding for the state’s planned construction of a new entrance to Penn Station from the Farley Post Office. Cuomo wrote that money is also needed for a “long term resolution for Penn Station,” as well as investment in alternative modes of transportation.

Just as a reminder, that “planned construction of a new entrance to Penn Station from the Farley Post Office,” aka Moynihan Station, has been discussed since the early 1990s, when Pat Moynihan first championed the idea. In 1999, Chuck Schumer “sponsored and passed legislation formally naming the yet-to-be-constructed facility ‘Moynihan Station’ in his honor,” according to Wikipedia. I wrote up the concept for Tech Central Station in 2005. If it ever actually gets built, it would take a fair amount of pressure off of Penn Station – but in Cuomo and de Blasio’s New York, construction moves at a snail’s place.

EVERGREEN HEADLINE: New York’s Penn Station Could Get Worse Before It Gets Better.

So how is the adjacent Moynihan Station financial sinkhole project coming along to reduce the strain? I first wrote about it 12 years ago.

UPDATE: Snake Plissken had it easy — he didn’t have to deal with Penn Station.


As Zito accurately writes, first class in an Amtrak Acela Express on the Northeast Corridor is “a jarring anthropological experience — that is, if you bother to look up from your digital device. Not because it is too fast, or the curves are too sharp; the jarring effect comes from the visual decay of our country swooshing right before your eyes.”

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE (FROM GLENN): In the comments: “President Trump may not be able to fix the carnage. But he was elected because he is the only politician in America willing to admit the carnage is happening.”

SNOWFALLS ARE NOW JUST A THING OF THE PAST: Amtrak Train Blasts Waiting New York Commuters With Massive Blast of Global Warming (Video).

Huh – just three years ago, the New York Times was asking in headlines if we were seeing “The End of Snow?”  As always, Betteridge’s law of headlines (“Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no”) is not just a good idea — it’s the law.

(Classical reference in headline.)

SNOWFALLS ARE NOW JUST A THING OF THE PAST: Amtrak train freed after being stuck almost 13 hours in 25-foot ND snowbank.

Found via Maggie’s Farm, video of how global warming is removed from Donner Pass by the Union Pacific Railroad:

(Classical reference in headline.)

HOW A TRAIN TICKET could have saved the Clinton campaign. “Hillary Clinton ignored her husband’s advice and thus neglected the Rust Belt when campaigning. The Rust Belt ultimately rejected her. These rural voters — who heavily supported Barack Obama on the prospect of hope and change — voted for Trump in what they may believe to be their own economic self-interest. . . . The Capitol Limited is a 780-mile Amtrak route from the nation’s capital to Chicago. It traces several hundred miles of flyover country, a slow burn through the Rust Belt and the remnants of a 20th-century economic boom. Politicians en route to Chicago clearly prefer the two-hour flight to an 18-hour train ride. But if Clinton or any other Democratic leader had simply boarded the train, they might have seen first hand what this stretch of land has become over the last 40 years. . . . This is where Americans used to make things, the backbone of a rich and great economy. In these towns there are no “up-and-coming” neighborhoods, no HGTV fixer uppers, no grand plans to push capital back into desperate communities. From the train window, all one sees are the skeletons of something once great, something gutted in favor of cheap Chinese imports and trade deals that underestimated the economic impact on middle America.”

AMTRAK TRAIN STRIKES BACKHOE ON TRACKS NEAR PHILADELPHIA, DERAILS WITH 340-PLUS ON BOARD. “Two people are confirmed dead after an accident involving an Amtrak train in Chester, Delaware County,” WPVI, the local ABC affiliate adds. “Amtrak has suspended all service on the Northeast Corridor service including between Philadelphia and New York City.”

FLY THE FRIENDLY SKIES OF NORTH KOREA! Five Things to Look Out for When You Fly With Air Koryo, the World’s Worst Airline.

Speaking of socialist mass transportation, the photo of the “famous ‘mystery-meat’ burger” Air Koryo serves looks a lot like the microwaved burger I used to get on Northeast Corridor Amtrak jaunts in the ‘80s and early ‘90s. Just looking at it brings back the memories of its soggy consistency and lack of flavor.

VICTOR DAVIS HANSON: There is no California.

Driving across California is like going from Mississippi to Massachusetts without ever crossing a state line.

Consider the disconnects: California’s combined income and sales taxes are among the nation’s highest, but the state’s deficit is still about $16 billion. It’s estimated that more than 2,000 upper-income Californians are leaving per week to flee high taxes and costly regulations, yet California wants to raise taxes even higher; its business climate already ranks near the bottom of most surveys. Its teachers are among the highest paid on average in the nation, but its public school students consistently test near the bottom of the nation in both math and science.

The state’s public employees enjoy some of the nation’s most generous pensions and benefits, but California’s retirement systems are underfunded by about $300 billion. The state’s gas taxes — at over 49 cents per gallon — are among the highest in the nation, but its once unmatched freeways, like 101 and 99, for long stretches have degenerated into potholed, clogged nightmares unchanged since the early 1960s.

The state wishes to borrow billions of dollars to develop high-speed rail, beginning with a little-traveled link between Fresno and Corcoran — a corridor already served by money-losing Amtrak. Apparently, coastal residents like the idea of European high-speed rail — as long as noisy and dirty construction does not begin in their backyards.

Read the whole thing.

SLATE RIPS INTO BERNIE SANDERS ON GUNS: Bernie Sanders, Gun Nut: He supported the most reprehensible pro-gun legislation in recent memory. Thing is, he actually sounds fairly sensible:

Sanders, an economic populist and middle-class pugilist, doesn’t talk much about guns on the campaign trail. But his voting record paints the picture of a legislator who is both skeptical of gun control and invested in the interests of gun owners—and manufacturers. In 1993, then-Rep. Sanders voted against the Brady Act, which mandated federal background checks for gun purchasers and restricted felons’ access to firearms. As a senator, Sanders supported bills to allow firearms in checked bags on Amtrak trains and block funding to any foreign aid organization that registered or taxed Americans’ guns. Sanders is dubious that gun control could help prevent gun violence, telling one interviewer after Sandy Hook that “if you passed the strongest gun control legislation tomorrow, I don’t think it will have a profound effect on the tragedies we have seen.”

Of course, for gun controllers, sensible is reprehensible.

MEH. IT’S A SUBSIDY TO RICH COASTAL BLUE-STATE TYPES, AND A JOBS PROGRAM FOR DEMOCRAT-VOTING UNION TYPES: Dems slam GOP over Amtrak cuts. End the subsidy and sell it off. If anyone will buy it.

CUE THE PROGRESSIVE AUTOMATIC RESPONSE:  U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) has used the recent Amtrak derailment as an opening to demand an increase in federal funding.

“We should not, the Congress should not put Amtrak in the position of choosing between positive train control and fixing crumbling bridges,” Casey told host Bob Schieffer on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

“We have to do both,” he said.

“And we’ve got to make sure they have the resources to do that,” he said. “We don’t know the connection between funding and this incident, but regardless, Amtrak needs more funding.”

How about just making sure engineers don’t drive the trains at dangerous speeds? But that wouldn’t grow the federal government, so it’s not an attractive option for progressive/liberal federal politicians.

YEAH, THE MORE WE KNOW THE LAMER THE EFFORTS TO BLAME THIS ACCIDENT ON MEAN OLE BUDGET CUTS OOK: Amtrak speed control system installed but wasn’t turned on.

ANDREW MOSEMAN: Everything You Need To Know About The Amtrak Derailment in Philadelphia.

HAPPENS ALL THE TIME IN PROGRESSIVE-LAND:  When ideology trumps facts.  The Amtrak crash is the latest example.  As Rahm Emanuel once said, never waste a crisis.

IT’S BASICALLY ETHANOL FOR THE BOS-WASH CORRIDOR: Amtrak Doesn’t Need More Taxpayer Cash, It Needs To Be Given Away. “While first responders were still trying to get crash victims off the smoking trains, partisans took to Twitter to explain why all this had happened: those awful Republicans were starving Amtrak of cash. . . . Amtrak lost nearly $1.3 billion in 2013. Since its creation, Amtrak has racked up over $31 billion in accumulated losses. And every penny of those losses has been covered by federal taxpayers. Amtrak has a lot of problems. A lack of taxpayer generosity is not one of them, not even close. . . . Given that the bulk of its rail traffic occurs in the well-heeled Northeast corridor, the company primarily serves as a means of transferring wealth from middle America to D.C., New York, and Boston. In its current form, Amtrak is less a for-profit passenger rail corporation and more a union jobs program (its ridiculous labor contracts are a major reason why the company is perpetually swimming in red ink). Despite all the disingenuous chatter about a lack of infrastructure funding for Amtrak, the company’s salary costs absolutely dwarf its infrastructure depreciation expenses. In 2013, for example, Amtrak spent $2.1 billion on salaries, while it recorded $687 million in annual depreciation costs. Amtrak’s pension losses alone in 2013 totaled $425 million.”

DEMS WHO WERE ALREADY ROLLING OUT THE “INFRASTRUCTURE” SHIBBOLETH WILL HAVE TO LOOK ELSEWHERE: Report: Derailed Amtrak train was traveling at more than 100 mph. In a 50 mph zone.

YES, WELL, NOBODY WANTS MEASLES: As Measles Cases Spread in U.S., So Does Anxiety. “The measles outbreak tied to Disneyland continued to spread anxiety Friday as two new cases emerged overnight in Marin County in California — along with at least one in Nebraska — while Arizona officials warned that at least 1,000 people may have been exposed to the virus through seven others in that state.”

Related: Health officials: N.Y. Amtrak passenger had measles. Plus: Measles at Bard triggers effort to isolate disease.

AMTRAK, and the resurgence of the non-delegation doctrine.

SPYING: Amtrak employee sold customer data to DEA for two decades; Hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent to circumvent official channels. “A total of over $854,460 changed hands over the last 20 years, despite the fact that information relevant to the DEA’s work could have been obtained from Amtrak for free.”

SHELDON COOPER IS EXCITED: Amtrak’s New 8600-Horsepower Locomotive Reports to Work Tomorrow.

MEGAN MCARDLE: Tweeting My Way Out Of Amtrak Hell.

UGH: 3 Amtrak Trains With Hundreds of Passengers Stranded Since Monday.

Laurette Mosley of California says she has been stuck for more than 14 hours on one of the trains. Mosley was en route to Chicago to attend her mother’s funeral.

“The conditions is cold, we’re wearing coats. And my husband is a diabetic. He hasn’t had any food all day,” Mosley told ABC News by cellphone. “The bathrooms are flooded. The sinks are full with water and the toilets are flooded.”

Double ugh.


Many of the problems with air travel can be directly attributed to the TSA. The whole time-wasting, privacy-invading aspect of all of it is bad on its face, but there are indirect harms, as well. The whole reason you have to get to the airport 90 minutes to two hours before boarding is that you don’t know how long it’s going to take to get through security. If you knew it would take 10 minutes — or, better yet, zero minutes — you could get there 15 to 20 minutes before boarding and be fine.

The just-in-time arrival point is really key. On Friday, I had the pleasure of flying on Cape Air from Lebanon, N.H., to White Plains, N.Y. Cape Air is a commuter airline, and as this flight was on a plane with a total of eight passengers (plus the pilot), and disembarked outside the secure or “sterile” zone of the White Plains airport, it was exempt from TSA passenger screening requirements as laid out in §1544.101 of title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations. The flight was at 11 a.m., and boarded at 10:50, so I got to the airport around 10:30. I could have gotten there at 10:45, and it would’ve been totally fine. I just walked up to the airline counter, gave my name, got my ticket and walked into the aircraft. Because the plane was so small, you have less control over your carry-ons than you might usually, as the crew has to carefully place luggage so as to not put the plane off balance. But you also are spared baggage claim upon arrival, as the plane is unloaded for you right on the tarmac. It felt basically like riding Amtrak, or Bolt Bus. You just show up, show a ticket, and get on. No muss, no fuss.

That’s how flying used to be. Meanwhile, here’s my call to abolish the TSA.

UPDATE: Reader Ed Clark writes:

If the description is true, maybe there is a market for “micro” airlines. Small flights, nationwide, outside the TSA.
Motto: “Pay little more but be treated with respect”.

It could work. I wrote about something similar here.

JIM EPSTEIN: Amtrak Is a Tax-Sucking Behemoth That Deserves to Die. I do enjoy the Acela Club Car, though. Of course, it’s so pleasant because it’s heavily subsidized.

THE EASE OF EAVESDROPPING: “It’s astonishingly easy to become an Acela spy—even if you don’t really want to be a part of other riders’ business—as I have learned from years of experience.”

TRIAGE: Amtrak Chose Not To Deluge Penn Station During Hurricane Sandy. “While Hurricane Sandy raged over the New York metropolitan area, the underground infrastructure of the city began to flood. Now Amtrak is revealing that they could have let Penn Station flood instead of the East River tunnels, using a long-forgotten barrier designed to protect the city during World War II. . . . A former employee told WNYC that the barrier was created to protect the transportation system from attack and other explosions during the Second World War, but it was apparently never used. The barrier worked by cutting off the mouth of the tunnel, but a lake would have been created right at the entrance to Penn Station and could have filled the entire thing. . . . To try to rehabilitate all that would have been an enormous task, even bigger than the cleanup we currently face. As it stands, the Montague Tunnel, which carries the subway system’s R train under the East River, was completely flooded, and now faces a 14-month long shutdown and repair. Cutting one subway line in half is one thing. Cutting Amtrak in half, at least in the Northeast, is another.”

NEW YORK SUN: Sequester Joe Biden. “Vice President Biden’s hotel bill in Paris — the Drudge Report headlines it at $585,000.50 for a night at the Intercontinental, not including the ride in from the airport — is prompting the to wonder why Amtrak’s most famous passenger failed to stay at the sprawling palace that serves as the residence of the American ambassador in the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. A good question, to which we’d add our own: What was Mr. Biden, whose only constitutional duty is to serve in the Senate as its president, doing in Paris in the first place?”

Good question.

ANOTHER REASON TO KILL AMTRAK? “I believe you can make an argument that the Acela has actually helped birth the stranglehold the finance industry has over federal fiscal and monetary policies, and thus has hurt America. . . . The geographic proximity of New York to Washington, with quick trips back and forth on the Acela, facilitates this. Clearly, you could get back and forth on the shuttle without it, but given the Acela’s popularity, it does seem to have some big benefits in shrinking the distance between New York and DC. I’d argue this has been unhealthy for America. If true high speed rail ever came to the NYC-DC corridor, who knows what might happen?”

IN THE LAND OF HOPEY-CHANGEY: Empire of the In-Between. “As anyone who rides Amtrak between New York and Washington knows, the trip can be a dissonant experience. Inside the train, it’s all tidy and digital, everybody absorbed in laptops and iPhones, while outside the windows an entirely different world glides by. Traveling south is like moving through a curated exhibit of urban and industrial decay. There’s Newark and Trenton and the heroic wreckage in parts of Philadelphia, block after block of hulking edifices covered in graffiti, the boarded-up ghost neighborhoods of Baltimore made familiar by ‘The Wire’ — all on the line that connects America’s financial center and its booming capital city.” Kinda like the Hunger Games. Plus: “In the case of those areas surrounding the capital, wealth has gravitated to the exact spot where government regulation is created. Why? Because many businesses discovered that renegotiating the terms between government and the private sector can be extraordinarily lucrative. A few remarkable books by professors at N.Y.U.’s Stern School of Business argue that a primary source of profit for Wall Street over the past 15 to 20 years could be what I call the Acela Strategy: making money by exploiting regulation rather than by creating more effective ways to finance the rest of the economy.”

UPDATE: A critique from Andrew Hofer:

First of all, it is ridiculous to make judgements about policy and country by looking out the window of a passing train. I lived in Japan for a while in 1983-1984 and the train views were awful. Next to the tracks is not prime real estate anywhere.

Furthermore, as someone who started his career as a lender in the mid-Atlantic, I suggest another reason for the burnout of the Amtrak Corridor – environmental overzealousness. This was prime manufacturing territory in the past, but the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (and the EPA) have made it ridiculously difficult to buy, improve and operate manufacturing facilities there. I had a client in NJ years ago who figured out how to HALVE their VOC emissions through dynamic temperature control in their stack. This required putting *trace* amounts of inert gas (N2O) up the stack for measurement purposes. They showed it off to NJDEP and what happened? They were fined heavily for the N2O installation and told to install a much more expensive stack that left more VOCs in their emissions than their current system. They aren’t there anymore, of course. Also, the amount of property liability anybody takes in NJ to buy an old manufacturing plant in NJ (and elsewhere in the country) is prohibitive. So they sit abandoned. Environmental is only one form of regulation that effectively taxes small business around here. Everyone likes to blame labor costs, but that is only a small part of the reason nobody makes stuff in the Mid-Atlantic anymore.

Then there is urban policy. After all, even non-manufacturing inner city areas experience this kind of blight. Trenton is, of course, the worst. The city was left to the government and organized crime for decades.

To the extent there is a difference. . . .

ANOTHER UPDATE: Prof. Stephen Clark writes:

You’ve noted the fact that Romney drew fewer votes than McCain and now have noted that TV ratings were down from ’08. Just as people have given up the search for a paying job, I wonder how many have simply given up on the system. Read this piece by Brendan O’Neill and the piece by Kotkin to which he refers. Many people may simply no longer wish to take part in a game which they feel is rigged against them, and I’m inclined to that point of view myself frankly. Of course that brings to mind the Heinlein quote, “Of course the game is rigged. Don’t let that stop you–if you don’t play, you can’t win.”

However, the system we currently have is deeply immoral. In the vain pursuit of creating a heaven-on-earth today, all parties, and the electorate generally, collaborate in the enslavement – and the word is appropriate – of generations too young to vote and those not yet born. The trillions of dollars of unfunded liabilities that we have created will fall on precisely these generations without their consent. They have been disenfranchised and are being fitted with chains that will bind as surely as those applied to generations stolen from Africa centuries ago. This mocks the sacrifice made in blood and treasure of current and past generations who thought they were striving for something far different. When I wrote last evening suggesting that Obama and Reid’s bluff be called in the standoff over the looming fiscal cliff, it was with this in mind.

Given the general goodness of the man that his biography portrays, I thought that Romney could have been the man to make precisely this case. It is a case that resonates with history of his party and it is a stark and fitting indictment of our society.

True enough, but that doesn’t let us off the hook in terms of trying to make it better.


In a rational world, Paul Ryan should have a fairly easy time in the upcoming debate against Vice President Joe Biden. Ryan is a man who has mastered the intricacies of legislation and the federal budget while Biden has shown scant interest in anything in his senatorial career other than the AMTRAK schedule from Washington, DC to Delaware.

Unfortunately, we don’t live in a rational world. We live in one where Barack Obama is president AND Joe Biden is vice president. To win a debate against Joe Biden one must be prepared to engage with a man who has hardly more than a nodding acquaintance with the truth.

Read the whole thing, to get a sense of Biden’s remarkably tenuous relationship with reality as the rest of us understand it.

MAYBE THEY COULD LEARN A LESSON FROM, SAY, CHICK-FIL-A: Amtrak Dining Cars Losing Money On $10 Hamburgers. “Only a government subsidized operation could sell hamburgers for $10 each and lose money. People who use Amtrak know that the food is overpriced and not very good. But, hey, it’s a captive dining audience, right? The dining car should be a way for Amtrak to recoup some of its losses from running its expensive trains. Instead, the food system is so badly managed that somehow it also loses a lot of money, apparently because of theft, bad management, high labor costs, and other problems.”

VICTOR DAVIS HANSON: The Upending of Conventional Wisdom.

If the United States utilizes its resources, then its present pathologies — massive budget and trade deficits, mounting debt, strategic vulnerability — will start to subside. These new breakthroughs in petroleum engineering are largely American phenomena, reminding us that there is still something exceptional in the American experience that periodically offers the world cutting-edge technologies and protocols — such as those pioneered by Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Starbucks, and Walmart.

In comparison, China is not only resource-poor but politically impoverished. For decades we were told that Chinese totalitarianism, when mixed with laissez-faire capitalism, led to sparkling airports and bullet trains, while a litigious and indulgent America settled for a run-down LAX and creaking Amtrak relics. But the truth is that the Los Angeles airport will probably look modern sooner than the Chinese will hold open elections amid a transparent society — given that free markets did not make China democratic, only more contradictory.

Even more surreal, tiny oil-poor Israel, thanks to vast new offshore finds, has been reinvented as a potential energy giant in the Middle East. Such petrodollars will change Israel as they did the Persian Gulf countries, but with one major difference. Unlike Dubai or Kuwait, Israel is democratic, economically diverse, socially stable, and technologically sophisticated, suggesting the sudden windfall will not warp Israel in the manner it has traditional Arab autocracies, but will instead become a force multiplier of an already dynamic society. Will Europe still snub Israel when it has as much oil, gas, and money as an OPEC member in the Persian Gulf?

The bigger question is whether Israel will snub Europe.

HOW GOVERNMENT WORKS: “Amtrak is sending emails to inform customers that they will get a discount on their train tickets if they donate money to organizations that will then lobby for more Amtrak subsidies.” More from Gary Leff. “Whatever you think of government funding for train travel in the United States, is it problematic that a government corporation will give people discounts if they pay to join an organization that will lobby the government for more subsidies? Put another way, Americans who pay to support more subsidies get charged less to travel on subsidized trains than those who oppose the subsidies.”

WEATHER DELAYS AREN’T JUST FOR AIRLINES: Midwest flooding causes rail delays, added expense. “Disruption caused by Midwest flooding has inundated Amtrak with delays and extra expense this summer while dampening the spirits of passengers traveling popular routes.”


Recent estimates of the direct cost of flying Air Force One range from about $60,000 per hour on the low side to $181,000 per hour on the high side. None of these figures include the extensive advance planning and immense support services needed to coordinate activity on the ground, both in the United States and overseas. The presidential salary of $400,000 per year would be wiped out many times over if he had to pay, say, 10 percent of the jet’s direct costs.

Just think of the number of college scholarships and food inspection programs this nation could fund if it had the moral courage to make the president fly first-class commercial on international long hauls, take Amtrak for shorter trips, and use Skype for critical one-on-one negotiations. If the president could make this sacrifice for the nation, why can’t spoiled bank executives and industrial tycoons adopt similar cost saving measures?

My sage proposal shows how easy it is to don the mantle of a populist reformer. And how unwise. The thoughtful reader should not take long to see that it is every bit as foolish to condemn those corporate jet owners for their supposed over-indulgences as it is to condemn the president for his.

Read the whole thing. Related item here, with amusing Photoshop.

JAMES TARANTO: The ‘Jim Crow’ Lie: How could asking for ID be discriminatory only when it comes to voting?

Today railroads and hotels, along with almost all providers of public accommodations in almost all circumstances, are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race. So what happens when you ride on Amtrak, the government-subsidized railroad? You hear an announcement over the PA system advising you to be prepared to show your identification if the conductor asks to see it.

Likewise, these days there is a good chance you will be asked for identification when you check into a hotel. You need ID to board an airplane or to drive a car. Recently we visited a doctor whose office is in a hospital. Just to enter the premises, we needed to present ID to a security guard.

If black people have trouble producing identification, how come nobody ever claims that these requirements are discriminatory?

Another important aspect of civil rights is equal employment opportunity. Under the 1986 immigration law, when you are hired for a job, you are required to provide your employer with documents proving both your identity and your citizenship or legal residency. How come nobody ever claims these requirements discriminate against blacks?

Because ACORN isn’t involved in faking things up there.


When the Founding Father of Amtrak calls it a ‘massive failure’ and states that the politicians involved are getting more benefits from it than the passengers and taxpayers, you would hope that someone in the Federal government would respond.

Washington did respond. Their answer to Amtrak’s problems?  Spend more money.

Read the whole thing.™

RELATED: At Reason, Nick Gillespie quips, “Sen. Charles Schumer Proposes to Expand Amtrak’s Already Amazingly Effective ‘No-Ride List’ to Even More People.”

GEORGE WILL: TRAIN MANIA. “Generations hence, when the river of time has worn this presidency’s importance to a small, smooth pebble in the stream of history, people will still marvel that its defining trait was a mania for high-speed rail projects. This disorder illuminates the progressive mind. . . . To progressives, the best thing about railroads is that people riding them are not in automobiles, which are subversive of the deference on which progressivism depends. Automobiles go hither and yon, wherever and whenever the driver desires, without timetables. Automobiles encourage people to think they—unsupervised, untutored, and unscripted—are masters of their fates. The automobile encourages people in delusions of adequacy, which make them resistant to government by experts who know what choices people should make.”

Plus this: “The average intercity auto trip today uses less energy per passenger mile than the average Amtrak train.”

UPDATE: A Devo reference:

I know I let you tell me what to do/
you were confident you knew best/
now things aren’t working
like you want them to/
your confidence is what i detest

Devo references are usually apt.

IOWAHAWK: Biden Vows To Jump Grand Canyon By Amtrak.

CIVIL RIGHTS PROGRESS: Amtrak lifts ban on guns. “The rule was not based on any facts or any reality and was frankly punitive toward sportsmen, hunters and gun owners.”

AN INTERNET ACTIVIST’S war against police brutality. “Miller was one of the only ones to initially report on an absurd case in which a photographer was arrested for taking photographs of Amtrak trains — for an Amtrak photograph contest. As one can probably guess, many of Miller’s blog posts are based on similarly bizarre Kafkaesque situations. After he highlighted the story, the photographer in question appeared on the Colbert Report and the charges were swiftly dropped. Newspaper editors have repeatedly claimed that the loss of editorial jobs will lead to a less watchful press, one in which government institutions will be able to get away with more unscrupulous activities with little independent oversight. But Miller arguably highlights more police abuse than a single reporter would have even in the heyday of newspapers.”

Plus this: “Now that video can go on the internet, they know they can be embarrassed, but they end up embarrassing themselves more and going after the photographer and acting like a total ass. Just ignore the guy and do your job.”

CIVIL RIGHTS PROGRESS? Republican senator’s plan to let guns on Amtrak moves closer to reality.

TIME TO Set Amtrak Free?

NYC AVIATION: Obama and Biden to Celebrate Earth Day by Tying Up New York Air Traffic.

On a day when many Americans will be reflecting upon how they can reduce their impact on the environment, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will board separate jets in Washington on Earth Day morning to fly 250 miles up the east coast to New York, where they will land at separate airports to attend separate events within a few miles of each other.

The parallel visits of Air Force One (a 747/VC-25 aircraft) and Air Force Two (a 757/C-32A aircraft) will delay dozens, if not hundreds of commercial flights at Kennedy and LaGuardia and other nearby airports as no-fly zones are implemented. Jets will be forced to circle and burn more fuel as they wait for the VIPs to come and go. Their security contingents consisting of dozens of cars, SUVs and helicopters will burn even more. Throw in thousands of commuters’ cars and delivery trucks sitting idle in traffic as law enforcement closes large swaths of the city and you have yourself a very Earth-unfriendly day. . . .

Thursday’s dual jaunt seems especially egregious considering the frivolous nature of Biden’s visit, in particular: He’ll be yukking it up with Whoopi and Barbara as a guest on The View. Not sure what he’ll be talking about, but you can be certain that whatever he has to say could be done just as effectively using a video camera and satellite hookup from the White House.

Carbon-footprint worries, like taxes, are for the little people.

UPDATE: Reader Tom Parker writes: “Not to mention delaying thousands of passengers trying to get home from the volcano delays.” More unintended consequences.

And reader David Winslow writes: “If they’re both needing to go (certainly a questionable proposition) we should consider the additional pollution emitted by separate aircraft as more than worth the risk, considering the fear that the words ‘President Pelosi’ should inspire in us all.” True, but does Biden really need to go anywhere?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader T.C. Lynch writes: “Whatever happened to ‘Amtrak Joe’? Acela don’t cut it on a VP’s salary?”


BEHIND CLOSED DOORS: More on the Inspector-General scandals.

Ironically, as Byron York of the Washington Examiner has reported, publicity about scandals at AmeriCorps — especially the taxpayer money misspent by a charity founded by former NBA star Kevin Johnson, an Obama ally who is now the Democratic mayor of Sacramento — was exactly what the administration had hoped to squelch by firing Walpin.

That move has clearly backfired. In addition to the discovery process of a federal lawsuit and the Lieberman-Collins investigation, Walpin’s case is also the subject of a separate inquiry by Sen. Chuck Grassley — the Iowa Republican regarded as the Senate’s patron saint of IGs — as well as an FBI investigation into allegations that someone in Sacramento deleted e-mails relevant to Walpin’s investigation of Johnson’s St. HOPE charity.

Beyond that, Walpin’s dismissal was the first of three similar cases of pressure against IGs, along with the termination of ITC inspector general Judith Gwynne’s contract and the sudden retirement of the Amtrak IG Fred Wiederhold.

Those familiar with the investigations caution against “playing connect-the-dots” with these three distinct cases. However, some informed Republican sources are beginning to call attention to other evidence of a concerted effort to blindfold, muzzle or neuter watchdogs — especially those who dare to growl at Democrats.

Stay tuned.

MORE ON the Amtrak Inspector General scandal.

WHO RAILROADED the Amtrak Inspector General.

MORE ON WALPINGATE: AmeriCorps feared bad press if IG investigation continued.

Meanwhile, some questions about Amtrak’s Inspector General. Is there some sort of pattern here?

TOM VANDERBILT on a technology that’s gotten worse since the 1920s. “I have recently been poring over a number of prewar train timetables—not surprisingly, available on eBay. They are fascinating, filled with evocations of that fabled “golden era” of train travel. “You travel with friends on The Milwaukee Road,” reads an ad in one, showing an avuncular conductor genially conversing with a jaunty, smartly dressed couple, the man on the verge of lighting a pipe. . . . But the most striking aspect of these antiquated documents is found in the tiny agate columns of arrivals and destinations. It is here that one sees the wheels of progress actually running backward. The aforementioned Montreal Limited, for example, circa 1942, would pull out of New York’s Grand Central Station at 11:15 p.m., arriving at Montreal’s (now defunct) Windsor Station at 8:25 a.m., a little more than nine hours later. To make that journey today, from New York’s Penn Station on the Adirondack, requires a nearly 12-hour ride. The trip from Chicago to Minneapolis via the Olympian Hiawatha in the 1950s took about four and a half hours; today, via Amtrak’s Empire Builder, the journey is more than eight hours. Going from Brattleboro, Vt., to New York City on the Boston and Maine Railroad’s Washingtonian took less than five hours in 1938; today, Amtrak’s Vermonter (the only option) takes six hours—if it’s on time, which it isn’t, nearly 75 percent of the time. . . . Obama’s bold vision obscures a simple fact: 220 mph would be phenomenal, but we would also do well to simply get trains back up to the speeds they traveled at during the Harding administration.”

YOUR HOMELAND SECURITY DOLLARS AT WORK: “Photographer Duane Kerzic was standing on the public platform in New York’s Penn Station, taking pictures of trains in hopes of winning the annual photo contest that Amtrak had been running since 2003. Amtrak police arrested him for refusing to delete the photos when asked, though they later charged him with trespassing.” They had no legal right to ask him to delete the photos. He should sue. I also think — as I’ve said before — that we need federal civil rights legislation to protect photographers’ rights. There are too many situations like this, where idiot security officers violate the law. And homeland security is still a joke.

SO, WALKING AROUND NEW YORK THIS WEEKEND IT DIDN’T LOOK LIKE A RECESSION: Lots of people walking around, buying stuff; lots of people lined up at theaters, lots of traffic. But various folks we talked to said that it’s slower this year than last, and that although people are buying, they arent’ buying as much. They’re certainly traveling on Amtrak, though — the trains were packed.


TRYING TO BRING BACK RAILROADS, but is this really true?

“Nobody in the world makes money hauling passengers,” he said. “There are no passenger train operations in the world that sustain themselves with the money they get selling tickets.”

Though many observers deride Amtrak’s financial record, it is actually one of the most successful rail systems in the world, recouping 75 percent to 80 percent of its operating expenses through revenues, Claussen said. Remaining expenses, as with most all rail systems, have to be subsidized.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Various readers note some profitable rail systems (mostly commuter rail) in Japan. They have World War II to thank for that, apparently.

MEGAN MCARDLE: “McCain wants to shut down Amtrak. Liberals are predictibly (and understandably) outraged. I’m not sure, however, that this is such a terrible idea, even environmentally. The lines that actually run at a profit–those in the Virginia-Massachussetts corridor–would still be profitable, and presumably operated by some private company. The other lines are a mixed bag, environmentally; it isn’t really good for the environment to run trains at low capacity. And the federal government, because of the EIS process, other procedural barriers, and a great deal of logrolling, has so far not succeeded in making sensible upgrades to the system. The Acela was announced in 1994, actually went live six years later despite the really rather minor infrastructure improvements required, and at lavish expense now gets passengers to Boston one half-hour quicker in slightly comfier seats.”

We took the Acela from New York to Boston a few years ago; First Class was as cheap as flying on the shuttle, and much, much nicer. But we were the only ones in First Class for much of the trip.

THE WAR ON PHOTOGRAPHY: Bruce Schneier addresses a subject I’ve covered before — the harassment of people for taking pictures:

Since 9/11, there has been an increasing war on photography. Photographers have been harrassed, questioned, detained, arrested or worse, and declared to be unwelcome. We’ve been repeatedly told to watch out for photographers, especially suspicious ones. Clearly any terrorist is going to first photograph his target, so vigilance is required.

Except that it’s nonsense. The 9/11 terrorists didn’t photograph anything. Nor did the London transport bombers, the Madrid subway bombers, or the liquid bombers arrested in 2006. . . .

Given that real terrorists, and even wannabe terrorists, don’t seem to photograph anything, why is it such pervasive conventional wisdom that terrorists photograph their targets? Why are our fears so great that we have no choice but to be suspicious of any photographer?

Because it’s a movie-plot threat.

Read the whole thing. I’ve got some related thoughts on the subject here. And Schneier is absolutely right about this: “If you’re harassed, it’s almost certainly a law enforcement official, public or private, acting way beyond his authority. There’s nothing in any post-9/11 law that restricts your right to photograph.” Both overreaching security folks and grandstanding civil-liberties activists tend to blame the Patriot Act even when it doesn’t apply, and for the same reasons: It’s complex, poorly understood, and scary.

UPDATE: Check out this amusing video. Via Scott Kelby, who comments: “Fox 5 did a live interview at Union Station with Amtrak’s Chief Spokesman who is talking about how it’s not necessary to have a permit to shoot in Union Station, and while they’re talking, a security guard comes up and makes them stop taping, and says ‘No photographs!’ Priceless!”

Somebody needs to start suing these people. And publishing the names of the security guards. With their photos! I’d say that we also need legislation protecting people’s right to photograph in public places, but it’s not as if the actual law matters here. Maybe something awarding attorneys’ fees so that the trial lawyers will send roaming teams of photographers out to test security guards’ knowledge. . . .

MORE: Bill Hobbs fearlessly fights for freedom by flouting flagrantly foolish photography folderol.


A spokesman for disgraced Democratic fundraiser Norman Hsu (shoo) says Hsu may have mistakenly boarded the wrong train after missing a court date in California, ending up in Colorado. . . . His spokesman Jason Booth says Hsu was “sick and confused” and may have thought he was boarding a Bay Area Rapid Transit train when he instead caught an Amtrak train to Colorado.

Do BART trains have sleeping compartments?


Fugitive political fundraiser Norman Hsu was behaving erratically as he fled the Bay Area on Amtrak’s California Zephyr, at one point stripping off his shirt and shoes, before paramedics were called to take him off the train in western Colorado, passengers said Friday.

Hsu, 56, on the run for the second time from a 1992 grand theft conviction in San Mateo County, was arrested Thursday after the paramedics took him to a hospital from the train station in Grand Junction, Colo. A spokesman at St. Mary’s Hospital said Friday night that Hsu was in fair condition but would not say what was wrong with him.

It would be troubling if he were to die and leave so many questions unanswered.


Norman Hsu’s quickly jump-started life on the lam came to a screeching stop less than 48 hours after it began when he got sick on Amtrak’s California Zephyr train and was nabbed after being rushed to a Colorado hospital, according to the FBI.

The prolific Democratic fundraiser and fugitive was busted at 6 p.m. PDT by FBI agents from the Denver office, according to Special Agent Joseph M. Schadler in the FBI’s San Francisco office. . . . Hsu had fled the law for the second time by skipping out on a Wednesday court date – and $2 million bail – in Redwood City.

It’ll be interesting to see what comes of this. Meanwhile, some further thoughts at Wizbang: “Norman Hsu has a great deal of questions to answer. And we need those answers. . . . Of all these, I think the source of his money is the most important. Every single investigation into his business history ends up blank — ‘there’s no there there,’ as Gertrude Stein once said about Oakland. He apparently had no visible means of possessing that much money, and I — and anyone who cares the least about our electoral process — ought to know who was trying to inject that much cash into certain candidates — and, by extension, what they sought to gain by it.”

And some big-picture thoughts here: “I think the Hsu case is bigger than Vick and Craig combined. It has a creepy, tip-of-the-iceberg feel to it. . . . Yes, there will be more Hsus to tap.”

ON THE ACELA to NYC, and for the moment at least the wireless is working. I’m pretty sure that the economics don’t work, but you can’t fault Amtrak on the service. As I’ve noticed before, the folks who work on these trains take pride in what they do, and they do a good job. The Acela comparison makes flying seem even more like taking the bus than it already does. Plus there’s the absence of the intrusive yet ineffective airport security experience.

JEFF GOLDSTEIN DECONSTRUCTS a story on the anti-war protests by Jennifer Kerr of the AP. “Perhaps it’s too much to ask that our media simply report on the story without taking sides.”

UPDATE: Read the comments, which note some changes in the article, perhaps in response to criticism.

ANOTHER UPDATE: More criticism for Kerr here, with the suggestion that she save her prose stylings for an opinion piece, rather than reporting. Though the difference gets harder to discern . . . .

MORE: More Kerr-analysis here.

MORE STILL: Read this, from a Marine in Iraq, though it’s not specifically about Kerr.

And there’s this. Heh.


Had there been a futures market on buses in New Orleans, the value of the buses would have skyrocketed as Katrina approached, signaling their increased utility in the emergency. But even without such an overt market signal, any private owner of the vehicles would have exhausted all opportunities to save his or her property. Nobody who owned such a potentially valuable product would have done what New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin did: let it all go to waste on the assumption that drivers would be impossible to find. Greyhound, after all, did not leave hundreds of its buses to be destroyed. And, of course, this very fact caused Nagin to scream for “every doggone Greyhound bus line in the country” to come to the aid of his city. And it should go without saying that no private employer would long tolerate a workforce that, in Sen. Mary Landrieu’s memorable description of New Orleans public sector workers, has trouble coming to work even on sunny days.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Reader Ross Booher notes this from CNN:

In the aftermath, the questions grew sharper: Why did aerial shots of the flooded city show hundreds of school and city buses window-deep in water? Why hadn’t anyone used those buses to move people out? Did Amtrak really offer residents seats on trains the company moved out of harm’s way? And if so, who refused that offer and why?

Of course, Booher adds:

CNN does not connect the dots by noting that if the City had evacuated citizens using the buses, trains, etc. as set forth in the City’s Disaster Plan, there would have been no need to rescue those same people from roof tops, the Superdome, the Convention Center, overpasses, etc. The city’s failure started a cascading effect.

Yes. And although it wasn’t at fault in the pre-storm failures, I think that the collapse of the NOPD’s radio system played a substantial role in the unrest after the flooding began.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Harry Shearer emails:

Sunday’s lonnnnnng Washington Post piece on Katrina makes it clear, as I suggested to you last week, that, by the time Nagin declared his evac order (and even Haley Barbour warned of “Hurricane fatigue” from previous evacuations), getting people on those buses and SAFELY out of town was a very chancy proposition. Every plan published indicates that it would take up to 72 hours to fully evacuate New Orleans, and 72 hours in advance Katrina was not posing the lethal threat it turned out to be….

“Fully evacuate?” Yes. As Brendan Loy noted, even 48 hours is really too late — though Nagin waited much later than that. (I’ve seen people doing math to the effect that you could have gotten everyone out in 24 hours, but I doubt that New Orleans could have mustered the necessary degree of organization for that.) But certainly a lot of people could have been evacuated who weren’t, and that would have improved conditions for the rest, and reduced the burden on relief services. And if Nagin had gotten the buses out, they would have been available for further evacuations after the storm had passed, instead of him having to call for Greyhounds.

This is, of course, all water over the dam in the most literal sense, but given all the finger-pointing going on, it’s hard to ignore this issue. Had more people been evacuated, as they should have been, before the storm hit, conditions in the city would have been better, and relief services less stressed, afterward.

MORE: Reader Michael Pate emails:

Your post may not have been 72 hours ahead but it was 60. Brendan Loy has been posting for hours Apparently, the Bush Administration had been talking to the Governor all that afternoon. If the plan had been implemented, and they had run slightly behind, a lot fewer than 100,000+ would have been in the city.

I guess public officials should read more blogs. Or at least pay attention to the stuff Brendan Loy was paying attention to.

Various readers, by the way, want to know if it’s “that” Harry Shearer. Yes.


Nagin did not tell everyone to leave immediately, because the regional plan called for the suburbs to empty out first, but he did urge residents in particularly low-lying areas to “start moving — right now, as a matter of fact.” He said the Superdome would be open as a shelter of last resort, but essentially he told tourists stranded in the Big Easy that they were out of luck.

“The only thing I can say to them is I hope they have a hotel room, and it’s a least on the third floor and up,” Nagin said. “Unfortunately, unless they can rent a car to get out of town, which I doubt they can at this point, they’re probably in the position of riding the storm out.”

In fact, while the last regularly scheduled train out of town had left a few hours earlier, Amtrak had decided to run a “dead-head” train that evening to move equipment out of the city. It was headed for high ground in Macomb, Miss., and it had room for several hundred passengers. “We offered the city the opportunity to take evacuees out of harm’s way,” said Amtrak spokesman Cliff Black. “The city declined.”

So the ghost train left New Orleans at 8:30 p.m., with no passengers on board.

Jeez. (Via Brendan Loy, who has much more.)

MORE CRUSHING OF DISSENT: “An Amtrak conductor has been suspended without pay for telling his train passengers that they should vote against Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. . . . Farr told The Associated Press that he used the train’s public address system to tell passengers they would be delayed because of Kerry’s train and then quipped that they should vote accordingly in November.”

It’s surely John Ashcroft’s fault, somehow.

ONE SUSPECTS THAT MOST BIG MEDIA OUTLETS, already none-too-eager to cover the Sandy Berger Trousergate fiasco, will use the release of the 9/11 Commission report as an excuse to ignore it.

If I were Karl Rove, I’d encourage Republicans to counter this by prefacing all comments on the report with something like this: “In light of the ongoing criminal investigation involving charges that former Kerry foreign policy adviser Sandy Berger stole top secret documents from Commission files, we can’t be sure that the Commission had all the facts at its disposal, but. . . ”

But I’m not Karl Rove.

UPDATE: Rove may want to follow my advice, though. Reader Robert Jacoby emails:

Here are the top stories on my (customized) yahoo news page, all AP stories:

1) 9/11 Panel Suggests Intelligence Overhaul
2) Video Shows 9/11 Hijackers’ Security Check
3) U.S. Reports 94 Cases of Prisoner Abuse
4) House Takes Up Gay Marriage Issue Again
5) Marines Kill 25 Insurgents in Ramadi
6) Threatening Note Found on Amtrak Train

7) ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ Making GOP Nervous

I’ll spare you the rest of the headlines. Not one of the 20 stories on that page says anything about Berger. Now it makes sense for most of the stories to be there, but why the Michael Moore story and not the Berger story? That has much deeper implications that a movie. I get similar results for my customized Netscape page, including the Moore story. Not only are the news outlets ignoring Bergergate, they are in its place pushing anti-Bush stories.

I guess Evan Thomas was right.

UPDATE: Daniel Drezner says that my advice to Karl Rove is terrible. Good thing I’m not Karl Rove!

JACK NEELY has an interesting story about ex V-Roy Scott Miller’s Amtrak-based multicity musical tour.

And, in a bonus for journalistic trivia buffs, a chance meeting reveals the fate and whereabouts of Wes Yoder, the New York Times stringer involved in the Rick Bragg scandal last year.


BIG SANDY, Texas – In a terror scene reminiscent of Sept. 11, an armed man threatening to kill Americans aboard an Amtrak train had to be subdued by passengers.

“All Americans will die!” suspect Gerardo Bedia was quoted as shouting, along with a host of obscenities before being overpowered by fellow travelers Sunday.

According to Big Sandy police, the man spoke English, Spanish and “some kind of Middle Eastern language.”

Chief Ronnie Norman said the weapon – a black, all-plastic polymer folding knife – is typically used to defeat metal detectors, the Longview News-Journal reported.

“It could have been a lot worse,” Norman told the paper. “The passengers did a fantastic job of restraining him.”

Henry Hanks wonders why this story isn’t getting more attention. Beats me — I just looked for the would-be killer’s name on the AP search engine and found nothing.

UPDATE: Here’s another report, courtesy of reader Chris Lawrence.


As he was putting his camera away, Maginnis found himself confronted by a Denver police officer who demanded that he hand over his film and camera. When he refused to give up his Nikon F2, the officer pushed him to the ground and arrested him.

After being brought to the District 1 police station on Decatur Street, Maginnis was made to wait alone in an interrogation room. Two hours later, a Secret Service agent arrived, who identified himself as Special Agent “Willse.”

The agent told Maginnis that his “suspicious activities” made him a threat to national security, and that he would be charged as a terrorist under the USA-PATRIOT act. The Secret Service agent tried to make Maginnis admit that he was taking the photographs to analyze weaknesses in the Vice President’s security entourage and “cause terror and mayhem.”

When Maginnis refused to admit to being any sort of terrorist, the Secret Service agent called him a “raghead collaborator” and a “dirty pinko faggot.”

I find this story rather hard to believe — though sadly not impossible. I wonder, though, if 2600 isn’t making too much of the Patriot Act angle. Here’s an InstaPundit item from August of 2001:

LOOSE THREADS IN THE SOCIAL FABRIC: Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn tells the story of a man who photographed some Amtrak cops in Chicago roughing up a drunk. The cops seized his camera and exposed the film. (He has witnesses). Zorn admits that this is a fairly minor civil rights violation, but he’s right to say that things like this are important: “This claim shouldn’t clog our courts. But it’s worth noting because it describes one of those frequent little abuses that corrode respect for authority, breed mistrust and set even good people against those who ought to be their natural allies. The police may have gotten the film. But do they get the picture?”

The police took advantage of the fact that they were armed to intimidate this guy into surrendering his property. If you or I did the same thing, we’d be treated as criminals. Instead, the victim is being treated as a nuisance and a whiner. My advice: help him get some real revenge — write your Congressperson and suggest they abolish Amtrak!

It’s not unreasonable to question people who are taking pictures in a way that looks suspicious. The “confiscate the camera” impulse, however, is right out, though it’s been a common one with law enforcement since long before 9/11. If this guy’s story is true, he should sue and make a stink. He has just as much right to take pictures in a public place as someone working for The Rocky Mountain News.

And if Dick Cheney can’t stay in a hotel without infringing the rights of people for blocks around, then he shouldn’t stay in a hotel. He should stay on military bases, or stay home.

UPDATE: Via the World Wide Rant I find this report by Rob Carr of a somewhat similar experience, though only somewhat.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Wilde thinks this is probably a hoax.