Reader Mail

Heavy Loads

Freight connections, Iraq preparations and evasions, British refuelers, and much more.

8.16.02

Send to Kindle

GOING SO FAST
Re: Francis X. Rocca's Trains, Planes, and Zeppelins:

If I read one more nostalgic tome to American passenger trains, I'm going to vomit.

America, TODAY, in 2002, has the most incredible railroad system in the world. It carries billions of ton-miles of FREIGHT every year, 37% of the nation's total. America's four primary freight railroads -- Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe in the western states; CSX and Norfolk Southern in the East -- carry massive amounts of cargo with world-class efficiency. Nobody pays attention to this fact, however, because they are commercial carriers and have no sex appeal for Hollywood starlets or the New York media elite.

In what other nation do 15,000-ton (yes, their gross weight is fifteen-thousand TONS each) trains haul coal at 70 MPH from the Powder River Basin of Wyoming to power plants in Alabama, Florida, Ohio etc. on a "conveyor belt" of coal that runs day and night, 365 days a year? What other nation's railroads can deliver a BOXCAR from Los Angeles to Chicago on a passenger train schedule as BNSF does every day? What other country has produced the most powerful locomotives in the world from the Union Pacific "Big Boy" steamer of the 1930s to today's 6,000 horsepower super-efficient General Electric and General Motors mountain-conquering diesel-electric behemoths?

Europe's passenger railroads are little choo-choo trains in comparison.

And consider this: Our American freight railroads make profits, pay taxes, and do not depend on the government. Japan's "bullet trains," on the other hand, have wracked up more than ONE TRILLION DOLLARS in debt since their inception.

If Amtrak expands its schedule and its use of America's freight railroads' tracks, slowing down freight movements even more, as Amtrak does today, more trucks will take cargo business from the railroads. Consequently, any cut in automobile traffic will be made up by increased truck traffic on the highway.

Go ahead and propagate your pipe dreams about intercity passenger trains running high-speed on dedicated new supertracks. It will be a massive boondoggle. The environmentalists will fight it every step of the way. It will never happen. In the meantime, go check out America's freight railroads. They are the most awesome trains in the world today.
-- Steve Nikitas
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

Francis X. Rocca replies:: Mr. Nikitas is absolutely correct. In no other nation do trains regularly haul coal from Wyoming to Florida. Only in America. But I don't know where he got the idea that I support spending tax dollars to make U.S. passenger trains more like those in Europe -- since what I wrote says precisely the opposite.

FINALLY
Re: John Corry's Hawkish Nerve:

Mr. Corry: Isn't a bit presumptuous for you to think that anyone cares what an ex-New York Times so-called reporter thinks about our military strategy, or better yet, if you are nervous or not?

If we want to find out the truth, most of us go to the experts, not another civilian dove with an agenda. We can get this predictable nonsense from dozens of mediocre news stories on a daily basis.

You should leave important matters such as these to people with experience and stick to what you do best, whatever that may be.
-- Neil A. Runyon

I'm glad to see SOMEBODY in a conservative publication say what John Corry did.

Personally, I can't work up much enthusiasm for a war against Iraq. It seems the reasoning behind it is, "We want to fight somebody, so who can we fight next? Iraq, I guess." That's no way to decide on war.

If Iraq is developing nuclear capabilities (again), I think we should resort to limited strikes, like the Israelis' attack on the nuclear reactor. We don't have to always think in terms of all-out war.

Ultimately, if we want to fight Al Qaeda, the best way would be to support Israel to the hilt, a hundred times more than before -- that's the best way to spoil Bin Laden's beer.
-- Larry Eubank
Lgeub@cs.com

TALKING POINTS TALK
Re: Wlady Pleszczynski's Memo to Marshall:

The phrase became famous actually when Monica Lewinsky handed a "talking points memo," as the media constantly called it, to Linda Tripp. Speculation was that Bruce Lindsey wrote it, but Lewinsky claimed she wrote it herself and that was never disproved. It's a generic phrase anyway, so I think the whole thing is pretty silly really.
-- Terrence O'Donnell

Well, all this jabber about "Talking Points Memo" has done one thing I'm sure Joshua Marshall really wanted -- it got his name out there.

Until this so-called "issue," I've never heard of him or his blog site.
-- Greg Barnard
Franklin, TN

KANE AND ABLE
Re: Jed Babbin's Will Kane and Hamlet:

Europeans are sick and tired old men. These people, including the British, need to be ignored.

September 11th changed the dynamics of the Middle East and of our relationship with Israel. To win the war on terrorism, while simultaneously providing a military and diplomatic solution to the Middle East morass, Israel must become our primary military ally. America and Israel have identical enemies and it's past time the two countries took up arms together to topple our enemies. These people only understand and respect superior military might.

In a nutshell...no more pussyfooting and the avoidance of reality.

Air power and special ops forces from the two countries (plus our Marines) will do the job nicely.

Respectfully
-- Tom Spongberg
Alexandria, VA

Interesting proposal, Jed.

Bush to lead by addressing U.S. and U.K., but even if he does, there is no guarantee that the Left will be neutralized. If anything they are more contrary to the goals and ideas of our side (which as you know coincides with what is comparatively best for the U.S.) than they were in months leading to the Gulf War.

Even if Britain doesn't join in, the sorry state of Iraq will be even less of a match for our battle-hardened troops. (One positive dividend from Slick Willie's excellent military adventures has been the continued training and practice of our troops in warlike conditions.)

I say to President Bush: Lead by example. Go it alone if you have to, the American people are behind you and it will be worth it not just to be rid of Saddam, but to watch the Leftwing naysayers have to rewrite their history of opposition.

Sincerely,
-- Steve Sottolano

Jed Babbin replies: Leading by example is always a good idea, Mr. Sottolano, but when you're flying a fighter, if the fuel light goes on, you need a big drink pronto. Our guys can do it alone. But with the help of the Brits, the toll of American lives will be smaller, and the cost to the taxpayer will be less. Those are pretty good reasons to give the Brits the courtesy of a visit. I say, go to London, Mr. President. It's cool and delightful in September, much nicer than Washington. And some important business can be done there.

If Mr. Spongberg is looking for an argument, he's talking to the wrong guy. There's a report in Thursday's London Times that the Belgian army was marching in parades carrying -- as Captain Queeg would say, I kid you not -- toy guns. According to the Times, they are doing this because the Belgian Army UNION says it's a good idea, and that it's simpler for them to do so because they are not required to carry licenses for them. Think about that.

On the more serious side, the Brits are essential to what we are going to do. We simply don't have the capability to carry out the amount of in-flight refueling required for the air war without the Brit tanker fleet. All we need to do is give them a little attention and respect, and they'll be there. Without them, we won't fail, but we will not succeed nearly as easily. The increased cost will be measured in lives of aircrews and troops on the ground.

As to Israel, Mr. Spongberg is right as well. But the context of the issue is crucial to understand. The only reason we try to keep Israel out of the fight is to refrain from telling the Saudis, Egyptians and a couple of others to eat their oil. Our Middle East policy is based on maintaining the current "friendlies" in power, and not replacing their regimes. As for me, I believe we will have to take on the Saudis and others as well if we're going to defeat terror. Having the Israelis on our side at that stage will be natural, and important.

HIGH NOON
Re: Paul Kellogg's "No Absolution" letter in Reader Mail's Human Indignities:

I apologize for dragging out this tempest in a teapot. But I have been maligned with an accusation of inaccuracy in reading from one who so obviously suffers from that malady. What is it the Bible says about "motes" and "beams?" Here are the direct quotes:

Dave Shiflett writes:
"The fact is that any dope can wear a coat and tie. Most do, as have the most highly developed criminals in history, including Hitler and Himmler." [8/2/02]

Paul Kellogg writes:
"Your Dave Shiflett accuses Nazis of wearing coats and ties. Hmm." [8/8/02]

I write:
(Absolutely nothing about Nazis.) [8/12/02]

Paul Kellogg then falsely accuses me:
"BUT, Mr. Johnson should himself be more attentive to his reading. I opened my original letter by making plain that Mr. Shiflett accused Nazis of wearing coats and ties." [8/14/02]

So what's the discrepancy here? Simply this: Paul Kellogg has misread Dave's accusation, the very sin of which he accuses me.

Dave mentions Hitler and Himmler as being criminals without mentioning that they also happened to be Nazis. He didn't even use the term! They also happened to be white male Germans. So what? Not all white male German Nazis were criminals.

Paul Kellogg then pulls in Goering as an example of a homosexual and drug user who also happened to be a Nazi. I commented about that at the time. "Hermann Goering, Hitler's Reichsmarschall, a known drug addict and also a cross-dressing homosexual.[My comment: "Now that's certainly relevant! 8/12/02]." Unless I missed the point, we were talking about Criminality, not Sexual Orientation or Addiction.

It's pretty obvious to me that it's Paul Kellogg who's obsessed with Nazis, and perhaps also with cross-dressers, homosexuals, and drug addicts!

Aggrievedly,
-- Bob Johnson
Bedford, TX

BEYOND THE LAW
Re: The Prowler's Last Stop, Atlanta:

Wouldn't Jesse speaking in favor of a politician in a Church violate FEC rules? Just wondering.

Thanks,
-- Zach
http://zbarbera.blogspot.com

CIVIL WARS
Re: Bill Croke's An Open Letter to Californians:

When will they begin to see that we are not in fact blessed by their
presence?

Keep up the good work.
-- Michelle Dudley

THE LIMITS OF FRIENDSHIP
Re: Lawrence Henry's The Saudi Paradox:

Before Hitler rose to power in 1933, officers from Germany and the Soviet Union studied together too. And on June 22, 1941 . . .
-- Mike Slater

Like this Article

Print this Article

Print Article