new forum , Railroad economics and politics ????

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conrail_engineer

Post by conrail_engineer »

Otto Vondrak wrote:Do you folks understand why I am so cautious? It seems that no discussion of politics can take place without kicking and screaming about something. Ever watch those Sunday morning panel discussion shows?

I'm still not quite convinced. But I'm not the only one you have to win over here...
Mr. Vondrak:

A rational-discussion forum involving politics IS possible; provided the ground rules are laid out in advance and then enforced. I help moderate just such a site, a politically-based news site.

We have a rule there: Attack the MESSAGE, and NEVER the messenger. Those who engage in personal attacks are sent packing.

It may or may not be worth the headaches to the administrators...that is something that must be considered. It goes without saying, I'm somewhat interested in the topic, as I am in politics and economics in general.

I leave it to the more involved membership to petition one way or another. But, if there's interest, and there's an understanding of groundrules, it can work and it can energize participants.

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Otto Vondrak
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Post by Otto Vondrak »

Mr. Vondrak was my dad, I'm just Otto. And as far as this idea for a new forum goes, I'm just not entirely convinced (notice I haven't said, "No."). Let's see what Mike Roque has to say on the issue when he gets a chance to review this thread. We'll certainly consider any and all proposals.

-otto-
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henry6

I DO HOPE

Post by henry6 »

I do hope this forum is considered here. There are a lot of discussions on several forums where discussion gets away from the topic or tends to be a sidebar to the topic but which would fit better if a poltical forum were available. Many important and informative discussions would be continued rather than turned off is such a forum existed. New topics would be created here and many from other forums could be moved to this site. BUT AGAIN, CLEAR GUIDLINES MUST BE SET AND THE FORUM TIGHTLY MONITORED.

I would volunteer to help moderate. I do think three (or any odd number) Moderators are in order and two of the three have to agree in order for anything to be changed, alterd, deleted, or any discplinary action like suspension or expulsion is enatcted. Just one of several guidlines I would suggest.

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Otto Vondrak
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Post by Otto Vondrak »

What do you all think potential topics might be?

-otto-
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henry6

ANYTHING.

Post by henry6 »

Anything. Especially if it doesn't fit the forum it is in. You know I am talking mainly about the Amtrak forum which most often edges into philosophical and political discussions rather than paint schemes, locomitive horsepower, late trains, and photo sites. And it is a shame that a lot of the discussions get turned off because they in fact are off topic. And I believe there are times when some of the state and regional discussions might end up here; even the line specific topics might come over when politics or broad operating philosophies are brought up. Social history would probably be the most common discussion, but other things could also be brought in from other forums and topics. It might even be a place one could insert a topic which might be moved elsewhere by the moderators. How about a two to three month trial period? But take as much time as needed in choosing moderators and formulating the rules and the disciplines.

David Benton
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Post by David Benton »

potential topics?
Well there was the report in trains newservice about the huge increase in traffic from ports awhile back . i would have liked to discuss that but where to put it ?. http://www.trains.com/trn/default.aspx?c=a&id=1905
Then theres open access , or its variants . Carbon taxes ,greenhouse warming . We discuss them those afair bit in the worldwide forum without getting nasty .
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Otto Vondrak
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Post by Otto Vondrak »

The following is not meant to mock anyone's position, but to clarify my point. It is proposed to discuss politics that affect the railroads. What about the weather? Weather affects railroad operations, should we also have a weather discussion forum as well?

-otto-
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henry6

NO, NOT HERE

Post by henry6 »

No, not here. Weather can be discussed under operations and on any forum where pertinent and applicable. It is more real and has scientific applicators and applications beyond philososphical differences.

Suggestion: why appoint a committee of 3-5 to brainstorm together and give you an outline, or concise rules amd guidelines. But only allow those you choose to have input and write up the draft and submit it to the powers that be. Choose one leader and two or four others. Or lead it yourself and choose two or four to help you.

David Benton
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Post by David Benton »

While the weather does affect rail , it generally is only discussed during a disaster . which would have an economic impact on the railroad .
so that would be discussable , but only as it directly relates to railroads .
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conrail_engineer

Post by conrail_engineer »

Otto Vondrak wrote:The following is not meant to mock anyone's position, but to clarify my point. It is proposed to discuss politics that affect the railroads. What about the weather? Weather affects railroad operations, should we also have a weather discussion forum as well?

-otto-
But, politics affect the railroad - and its future - even more than the weather might.

The rail industry is in a crossroads. At a time when the nation is just crying out for energy-efficient transport, the rail industry's retracting to a niche mode, bulk commodities for those industries and individual plants that are convenient to serve and can tolerate erratic service.

Why doesn't the rail industry become more competitive? Why does it not aggressively go out and try to beat the relatively inefficeint trucking industry?

Because to do so would require both new ways of doing business, and aggressive fresh minds who can think outside the box.

Why does THAT not happen? The answer is found in the industry itself. Consider this: A bright young man (or woman) graduates from a top business school. He has prospects...he can go to work for Microsoft. He can go to work for General Motors. He can go to work with Sony Pictures, or a thousand other industries and fields.

Is he going to want to go to work in a place where he's given a green eyeshade and a desk in a corner somewhere, where every time he voices an idea, the answer is "SHADDAP!!?

No, he is not. So what the industry gets...is the second tier. The young people who went to school on atheletic scholorships but weren't good enough for the pros.

At the heart of this inert culture is the heavily-regulated nature of the field.

Apocriphal: I have never verified this...but a few months after the Conrail breakup, there was word that UPS, a prominent rail shipper, had bought a big chunk of Norfolk Southern stock. We, on the CSX side, joked about it, how the NS guys could start wearing shorts and the improvement in painting black locomotives UPS brown.

But, you know? Nothing further came of it. No tightening of the relationship. In fact, UPS continues to be a prominent CSX shipper.

What happened? I can guess. I'll bet the UPS top honchos went back-channel to the FRA and other regulatory agencies, and posed the question: "How can we run the railroad as we run our delivery service, tight, controlled, customer-oriented?"

The answer, I'd wager, came back: You can't. After which, UPS, owner of truck fleets and even aircraft, gave up on running a railroad.

Were the industry deregulated...it would be messy. It would be, initially, hard on us on the ground. But what would come of the mess would be an industry capable of thinking on its feet, without being hidebound by government regulations.

You see my point, Otto? Politics as they are are intractably wedded to the rail industry, for better or worse.

CNJ

Post by CNJ »

Do we have any more input on this proposed forum?

Are we at an impass, or has this proposal been shelved?

JoeG

Post by JoeG »

I hope it hasn't been dropped. A couple of us have volunteered to moderate it. But, I think Otto and Mike are leery.

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Otto Vondrak
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Post by Otto Vondrak »

I'm not convinced its a good idea, but I'm waiting for input from Mike.

-otto-
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henry6

I AM ALSO WAITING

Post by henry6 »

I am also waiting with baited breath!!! All right, bad breath. But I am waiting and looking forward to the forum.

walt
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Post by walt »

IF discussions can be confined to issues, and IF members can disagree without being disagreeable, and if the natural tendancy for "political Stereotyping" ( ie all conservatives believe . . . . or all liberals believe . . . ) can be avoided, this could be a very informative and enlightening board. After all, NO discussion of economics can exist without some reference to political decisions which affect and are affected by enconomic concerns. And any discussion about the future of railroads, individually or collectively, will, out of necessity, involve politics. What MUST be avoided is partisan political discussions. While one's liberal or conservative thinking will inevitably come to light, if we don't attach the stereotypical party lables to those views, we can avoid some of the very real pitfalls which concern Otto and the other administrators.
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