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Joe Boardman questions current Amtrak's managements motives


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#141 Devil's Advocate

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Posted 22 May 2018 - 11:46 AM

 

doesn't meet your bizarrely narrow expectations of acceptable criticism.


I'm not sure that "based in reality" is bizarrely narrow, but maybe I'm just crazy. Ironically, you're serving as a shining example of what I do have a problem with - criticizing people for positions that they haven't taken.

You only seem to accept criticism that can link to irrefutable first person evidence. Unfortunately that's not how the real world works. Opaque executives don't generally give much forewarning about future service restrictions/reductions or cost increases or loss of protections.  In many cases you have to read between the lines to see what's coming in time to react to it. Not that long ago there was genuine concern that the current SWC route was in danger and instead of waiting to see what happened people reached out to the various stakeholders and managed to protect the status quo. If they had waited for a formal notice of abandonment there may not have been enough time to save the entire route.

 

 

What exactly are you disputing - that Amtrak is substantially restricting private charter movements or that Richard Anderson personally supports these restrictions?


Neither. I'm disputing the claim that we know what Anderson's goal is, and that the end of all charters and PVs was a reasonable concern given that goal. I do agree that the current "suspension" of the Sunset East nearly 13 years later is an embarrassing fiction that needs to be rectified. I'm not sure that a one-off example from 13 years ago really supports you point, though.

 


The earliest posts generally come from the earliest bits of information. Back then it wasn't entirely clear what Amtrak intended and it was possible to interpret what had been said to mean that all third party movements might now be disqualified. From what I've read the vast majority of third party charters are indeed affected. Even those third party charters that will continue to run in the future are apparently allowed to do so only in the form of a per-instance waiver that further limits and complicates a convoluted process that was already extremely tedious and time consuming. From a practical standpoint this is a huge change.  But I guess so long as even one single charter is allowed to run somewhere on the network you've made your point about challenging anyone who dares to overstep or oversimplify.  Regarding the Sunset East the route still existing is the fiction while route's abandonment is the reality. Trying to bring back a route that exists in name only is far harder than protecting a route that still hosts actual trains today. Better to be ahead of the curve than chasing after it.


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#142 amtrakpass

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Posted 22 May 2018 - 12:31 PM

without getting into a disagreement I think it should be plain that part of the current Amtrak strategy is to not release clear information to the public on purpose. If you are going to cut something or not maintain stuff, it looks bad to spell that out in writing, so they keep it vague and close to the vest.That is why Boardman went public with his knowledge of the attempt to cut the Southwest Chief to alert the public. Even with the uproar, I am concerned that Amtraks primary means of reducing or eliminating interest in long distance trains has been to raise fares on average substantially which will be difficult for legislators and even advocates to understand and counter. I took the Southwest Chief from L.A. Chicago this year in March and fares for sleepers were astronomilicaly high and there was only 2 coaches and two sleepers available. And the trains were far from full.I could only conclude that the high prices and artificially short consists were designed to discourage ridership. Do you ever see a sale on sleeper fares or a last minute upgrade available to coach passengers made available at a discount to fill up the trains? I have traveled Amtrak extensively the last few years and while you still can find a occasional good deal the price buckets go way up long before the train sells out these days.Even with that ridership has been ok, but I fear that will change if prices continue to rise out of reach for many travelers
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#143 Thirdrail7

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Posted 22 May 2018 - 07:32 PM

 

 

doesn't meet your bizarrely narrow expectations of acceptable criticism.


I'm not sure that "based in reality" is bizarrely narrow, but maybe I'm just crazy. Ironically, you're serving as a shining example of what I do have a problem with - criticizing people for positions that they haven't taken.

You only seem to accept criticism that can link to irrefutable first person evidence. Unfortunately that's not how the real world works. Opaque executives don't generally give much forewarning about future service restrictions/reductions or cost increases or loss of protections.  In many cases you have to read between the lines to see what's coming in time to react to it. Not that long ago there was genuine concern that the current SWC route was in danger and instead of waiting to see what happened people reached out to the various stakeholders and managed to protect the status quo. If they had waited for a formal notice of abandonment there may not have been enough time to save the entire route.

 

 

What exactly are you disputing - that Amtrak is substantially restricting private charter movements or that Richard Anderson personally supports these restrictions?


Neither. I'm disputing the claim that we know what Anderson's goal is, and that the end of all charters and PVs was a reasonable concern given that goal. I do agree that the current "suspension" of the Sunset East nearly 13 years later is an embarrassing fiction that needs to be rectified. I'm not sure that a one-off example from 13 years ago really supports you point, though.

 


The earliest posts generally come from the earliest bits of information. Back then it wasn't entirely clear what Amtrak intended and it was possible to interpret what had been said to mean that all third party movements might now be disqualified. From what I've read the vast majority of third party charters are indeed affected. Even those third party charters that will continue to run in the future are apparently allowed to do so only in the form of a per-instance waiver that further limits and complicates a convoluted process that was already extremely tedious and time consuming. From a practical standpoint this is a huge change.  But I guess so long as even one single charter is allowed to run somewhere on the network you've made your point about challenging anyone who dares to overstep or oversimplify.  Regarding the Sunset East the route still existing is the fiction while route's abandonment is the reality. Trying to bring back a route that exists in name only is far harder than protecting a route that still hosts actual trains today. Better to be ahead of the curve than chasing after it.

 

 

Devil's Advocate,

 

I love your spirit and I totally agree with your bottom line: Better to be ahead of the curve than chasing after it.  I also completely agree that you often have to read between the lines to see what is coming so you have time to act. it is better to be proactive than reactive. However, I would caution you to not play into the hysteria that some people are painting.

 

Not everything is a plot. What can YOU honestly say about the private car or charter car plans? I suspect that you wouldn't since it is not your operation. Some people would love to say that there was a rallying call to action to attempt to force Amtrak to reassess its position and it worked.

 

The reality of the situation is most people didn't have a LICK of understanding of the plans for private cars or charters/special movements.. However, that didn't stop the posts or whining. What I find entertaining is the plan that was initially authorized and explained to the employees is pretty much EXACTLY what occurred. The problem is you're mostly hearing about the issue from disgruntled people who feel they are getting the short end of the stick instead hearing about it from a detailed, business point of view.

 

That being said, private cars are still operating. Charters, specials and extras are still operating. There have been restrictions but the per instance waivers were always be there and will be required to be there, particularly if you're operating over a host railroad. The main thing that has been eliminated is the "tripping over your feet, scorched earth policy of placating the whims of the private car owners that ultimately impact your main base."  If it is not out of the way and won't impact significantly impact your base operation, they're still running.

 

 

As I keep saying, a lot of the plans you are seeing PREDATE Richard Anderson. Assigned seating, the Acela overhaul, the coach overhaul (which was actually downgraded due to budget issues), the boxed lunches,  the restrictions on charters/private cars and and YES eliminating certain trains were all in various stages of planning and implementation by the time Mr. Anderson came around.  As the PTC mandate loomed,  I mentioned trains were in jeopardy quite some time ago since the hosts want the passenger operators to foot the bill for the upgrades. It is possible that some trains may be sacrificed for the greater good.

 

Can Mr. Anderson stop some of this stuff? Probably. Mr. Boardman did. However,the leadership has changed and Mr. Anderson has said he plans to follow PRIIA. Despite all of the talk, most people would be hard pressed to spell out exactly how  Mr. Anderson plans to achieve this goal.

 

We should remain cautious while remembering the story about the boy who cried wolf.


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#144 bretton88

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Posted 23 May 2018 - 07:12 PM

It is worth noting a lot of the pre Anderson management team is still in place, Anderson is not making/continuing these decisions in a vacuum.


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#145 zephyr17

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Posted 23 May 2018 - 07:34 PM

It is worth noting a lot of the pre Anderson management team is still in place, Anderson is not making/continuing these decisions in a vacuum.

Why do I not find that consoling?


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#146 Devil's Advocate

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Posted 23 May 2018 - 08:06 PM

The reality of the situation is most people didn't have a LICK of understanding of the plans for private cars or charters/special movements.. However, that didn't stop the posts or whining. What I find entertaining is the plan that was initially authorized and explained to the employees is pretty much EXACTLY what occurred. The problem is you're mostly hearing about the issue from disgruntled people who feel they are getting the short end of the stick instead hearing about it from a detailed, business point of view.


I'm not sure if you realize it or not but what you're describing here seems to have been a large part of the problem. Lack of timely communication and explanation lead to heightened concerns and confusion. When I was looking for verifiable specifics on my own it became clear that 99% of the available information was secondhand reporting by third parties. When people who need critical information are confronted with an information vacuum you can't blame them for succumbing to personal assumptions and group think. Regardless of how you feel about PV operators Amtrak is the entity making these changes and it's reasonable to hold the current CEO responsible for recognizing conflicts and managing concerns in a professional and productive manner.

 

We should remain cautious while remembering the story about the boy who cried wolf.


This seems to be a huge concern among a handful of very vocal members here on AU. Which begs the question, which previous Amtrak route/frequency/service/amenity has suffered from too much consumer activism voiced too early and/or too aggressively?  I cannot name even one single example and that makes it hard to explain all this nervous hand wringing.  We already live in a culture that is loath to support or reward consumer activism and instead of nurturing what little we do have we gleefully hammer anyone who makes a mistake or misstatement.  With supporters like this who needs enemies?


Edited by Devil's Advocate, 23 May 2018 - 08:21 PM.

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#147 Thirdrail7

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Posted 23 May 2018 - 09:29 PM

 


I'm not sure if you realize it or not but what you're describing here seems to have been a large part of the problem. Lack of timely communication and explanation lead to heightened concerns and confusion. When I was looking for verifiable specifics on my own it became clear that 99% of the available information was secondhand reporting by third parties. When people who need critical information are confronted with an information vacuum you can't blame them for succumbing to personal assumptions and group think. Regardless of how you feel about PV operators Amtrak is the entity making these changes and it's reasonable to hold the current CEO responsible for recognizing conflicts and managing concerns in a professional and productive manner.

I'm curious as to how you arrive at the conclusion that there was a lack of timely communication.  Someone basically posted an internal briefing regarding a policy change that wasn't officially approved or released.  When it WAS indeed ready, it was released with an explanation....to those affected.

 

Have you or the others attempted to charter a train? Do you own a private car?  If you did, you probably received the proper notification once everything was set up. A similar example exists with the .Chefs being removed off Capitol Limited thread.  Of course there wasn't "timely communication or explanation"  which can  lead to heightened concerns and confusion.  That is because this thread was formed while things were still being solidified and wasn't publicly released since there were a few plans under review. A 20 day, 154 post thread ensued prior to an official word being released.  That release was made roughly 45 days prior to the scheduled change.

 

While I can agree that Amtrak is often slow to post updates and release information, it certainly doesn't help when people are running with plans that aren't even finalized or confirmed.  It is hard to compete for the attention of those looking for instant answers and immediate comments.

 

 


 

We should remain cautious while remembering the story about the boy who cried wolf.


This seems to be a huge concern among a handful of very vocal members here on AU. Which begs the question, which previous Amtrak route/frequency/service/amenity has suffered from too much consumer activism voiced too early and/or too aggressively?  I cannot name even one single example and that makes it hard to explain all this nervous hand wringing.  We already live in a culture that is loath to support or reward consumer activism and instead of nurturing what little we do have we gleefully hammer anyone who makes a mistake or misstatement.  With supporters like this who needs enemies?

 

 

Let's see. I remember years when Amtrak, states and the NARP used to routinely appear in front of Congress and explain why Amtrak needs more money. Amtrak would receive its minuscule appropriation and limp through most of the year until it had to return and beg for more funds....or cut service. Eventually, Congress would get sick of seeing people from Amtrak in front of them. It was clearly an annoyance. As such, they started making more demands and basically refused to fund services and expansions. Routes were cut and service were cut even as the leaders and lobbyists appeared before Congress asking for funds or equipment. The lobbying, hand wringing and threats accomplished little.

 

Whether you agreed with or or not, The Boardman-Stadtler team took a different approach. Like it or not (and I didn't because I believe the infrastructure and training was sacrificed), they took whatever Congress gave them and never bothered them again for the fiscal year. Instead of carrying on as if another appropriation was forthcoming by threatening to cut service, they did their best to stay out of sight and out of mind.  Among other things, they cut, scrimped, altered service, raised prices to the point that I'm surprised people even ride the train and worked to find partners within the states to keep the train and infrastructure improvements rolling but largely stayed away from asking money from Congress prior to the next fiscal year. 

 

In my opinion, it worked. Cost recovery and ridership grew (so they say) and the fight to receive funding grew less dramatic even to the point that a damn near record amount of funding was proposed. A certain degree of credibility seems to have been restored.

 

The point I'm trying to make is if you keep sounding alarms about personal pet peeves,  when the system really needs help, it might not be forthcoming. The very nature of Amtrak's existence requires a steady vigilance and a steady focus...not a panic.  Even in the best of times, supporters should support. 


Edited by Thirdrail7, 23 May 2018 - 09:35 PM.

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#148 Devil's Advocate

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Posted 24 May 2018 - 12:03 AM

Have you or the others attempted to charter a train? Do you own a private car?


No, I don't charter trains with my own private cars. If Amtrak felt their ability to clear the record with charter operations, rail sector news media, and sympathetic politicians was being overwhelmed by a internal memo thread on a hobbyist forum then perhaps they need a new public relations team. A single candid phone call to a trusted industry journalist could have cleared everything up with minimal effort. In the future it would behoove Amtrak to be more careful with sending premature and easily leaked memos about undecided changes without having established a fallback plan in case the circle jerk happens to spin in the wrong direction.

 

 

 

We should remain cautious while remembering the story about the boy who cried wolf.


This seems to be a huge concern among a handful of very vocal members here on AU. Which begs the question, which previous Amtrak route/frequency/service/amenity has suffered from too much consumer activism voiced too early and/or too aggressively?

 


I remember years when Amtrak, states and the NARP used to routinely appear in front of Congress and explain why Amtrak needs more money. Amtrak would receive its minuscule appropriation and limp through most of the year until it had to return and beg for more funds....or cut service. Eventually, Congress would get sick of seeing people from Amtrak in front of them. It was clearly an annoyance. As such, they started making more demands and basically refused to fund services and expansions. Routes were cut and service were cut even as the leaders and lobbyists appeared before Congress asking for funds or equipment. The lobbying, hand wringing and threats accomplished little.

 


I didn't ask about industry leaders or lobbyists or executives. I asked about consumer activism. In other words grassroots initiatives. The thing about grassroots activism is that it is not born of a desire to engage in soul numbing bureaucracy but from an emotional need to fight against a fundamental imbalance of power. This type of activism is like a tiny sprout in a vast desert. If it's not nurtured and protected it quickly dies and drifts away never to be seen again. Guiding and educating those who are willing to act can be extremely helpful but endlessly faulting and criticizing every misstep and misstatement only serves to crush the sprout and salt the earth from where it came. That is the point I am trying to make.


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#149 DSS&A

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Posted 24 May 2018 - 07:48 AM

The Railway Age article has a lot of good information about the BAD things Anderson is doing to sabotage and kill long distance trains.

https://www.railwaya...ssenger-trains/

Edited by DSS&A, 24 May 2018 - 05:46 PM.


#150 jis

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Posted 24 May 2018 - 08:03 AM

Report from RPA (Jim Mathews) on Congressional Hearing on Amtrak including a first look at the 2019 THUD proposed numbers for Amtrak:

 

https://www.railpass...-right-answers/



#151 Trogdor

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Posted 24 May 2018 - 08:57 AM

Anderson KILLED local management of the Eagle and it has dropped from the No. 1 position in re enue to No. 14. The Railway Age article has a lot of good information about the BAD things Anderson is doing to sabotage and kill long distance trains.

https://www.railwaya...ssenger-trains/

 

When was the Texas Eagle #1 in revenue?

 

As for the link, I think this is merely another example of what I provided in response to DA's question a few days ago.


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#152 jis

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Posted 24 May 2018 - 09:08 AM

I also could not figure out what was the basis of that Texas Eagle claim. But then  again there have been many claims for which I cannot find much basis. So what's new? :unsure:



#153 cpotisch

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Posted 24 May 2018 - 10:24 AM

Yeah, isn't the Texas Eagle one of the least cared about or significant routes in the system? Since when was it anywhere near the top in revenue? And it's a short train that generally doesn't run full (at least from what I've seen), as well as having cheap fares, so how would it bring in so much revenue? Sorry DSS&A, you lost me. :wacko:


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#154 jis

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Posted 24 May 2018 - 10:40 AM

If Anderson really means that he will follow the law, it would seem that he'd have a lot of 'splaining to do if he breaks up the national network.
 
Look at these pieces of the law:

49 U.S. Code § 24701 - National rail passenger transportation system

Specially, look up the definition of national rail passenger transportation system

 

It will be time to take him to the courts if it comes to that.

 

No wonder no one will even mention the possibility in any official forum.



#155 bretton88

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Posted 24 May 2018 - 10:49 AM

Anderson KILLED local management of the Eagle and it has dropped from the No. 1 position in re enue to No. 14. The Railway Age article has a lot of good information about the BAD things Anderson is doing to sabotage and kill long distance trains.

https://www.railwaya...ssenger-trains/

TEMPO (the organization overseeing the Texas Eagle) is very much alive and well. I am not sure where that claim comes from. The more probable reason for the Eagle's decline is the UP's poor treatment of it instead. It has become highly unreliable.


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#156 DSS&A

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Posted 24 May 2018 - 12:21 PM

The Railway Age article has a lot of good information about the BAD things Anderson is doing to sabotage and kill long distance trains.

https://www.railwaya...ssenger-trains/[/quote]TEMPO (the organization overseeing the Texas Eagle) is very much alive and well. I am not sure where that claim comes from. The more probable reason for the Eagle's decline is the UP's poor treatment of it instead. It has become highly unreliable.[/quote]

I have edited and corrected my post above based on your posting. Thanks for the correct information.

Edited by DSS&A, 24 May 2018 - 05:47 PM.


#157 Trogdor

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Posted 24 May 2018 - 04:38 PM

Anderson KILLED local management of the Eagle and it has dropped from the No. 1 position in re enue to No. 14. The Railway Age article has a lot of good information about the BAD things Anderson is doing to sabotage and kill long distance trains.https://www.railwaya...ssenger-trains/

TEMPO (the organization overseeing the Texas Eagle) is very much alive and well. I am not sure where that claim comes from. The more probable reason for the Eagle's decline is the UP's poor treatment of it instead. It has become highly unreliable.

I have edited and corrected my post above based on your posting. Thanks for the correct information.

You still didn’t correct the false statement that the Texas Eagle was in first place in revenue, and further erroneously added that it was first in ridership as well, and that somehow this fall from grace occurred in three months.
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#158 TiBike

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Posted 24 May 2018 - 06:44 PM

Plenty of wiggle room. "Continuous" only applies to the NEC and there's no frequency requirement. There are also different ways of reading the definition. One might interpret it as locking in the long and short distance routes as they were in 2008. But another way to read it is simply as a permissive scoping statement, i.e. all those things may be part of the system, and not as a requirement.

 

Would you read it as requiring Amtrak to continue operating the Capitol Corridor if Caltrans pulled its funding? If not, then it isn't a hard lock in of routes – there's no difference in that regard between the short and long distance language.

 

To be sure, you'll find lawyers willing to argue either side of it in court. For a price.  ;)

 

 

 

If Anderson really means that he will follow the law, it would seem that he'd have a lot of 'splaining to do if he breaks up the national network.
 
Look at these pieces of the law:

49 U.S. Code § 24701 - National rail passenger transportation system

Specially, look up the definition of national rail passenger transportation system

 

It will be time to take him to the courts if it comes to that.

 

No wonder no one will even mention the possibility in any official forum.


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#159 jis

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Posted 25 May 2018 - 09:20 AM

Would you read it as requiring Amtrak to continue operating the Capitol Corridor if Caltrans pulled its funding? If not, then it isn't a hard lock in of routes – there's no difference in that regard between the short and long distance language.

Of course not. That is precluded by PRIIA 2008. That has absolutely nothing to do with how the clause about national LD service is interpreted, taking into account the legislative history in addition to the specific words of the clause. Also note that no one is pulling the funding for LD National Network. Indeed more funding has been appropriated than was authorized by the FAST Act, and same is the case for the proposed 2019 Appropriation from THUD.

To be sure, you'll find lawyers willing to argue either side of it in court. For a price.  ;)

I was merely sharing opinions shared with me by a few people who make it their profession to handle such legal cases in the federal court system. Ultimately the only way to resolve such an issue is to run it through the court system and that is what will happen if matters come to a head. The first issue will be whether there is enough in the language and legislative history to get an injunction, and many believe there is.



#160 TiBike

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Posted 25 May 2018 - 01:06 PM

That would be the same law that tasks the FRA with developing "objective methodologies for Amtrak to use in determining what intercity passenger routes and services it will provide, including the establishment of new routes, the elimination of existing routes, and the contraction or expansion of services or frequencies over such routes", and proposes as possible fixes for "the worst performing third of routes currently served by Amtrak" the elimination of those services (by withholding funds) and "the feasibility of restructuring service into connected corridor service". And makes allowances "for Amtrak employees who are adversely affected by the cessation of the operation of a long-distance route".

 

Like much (most, I'd say) federal legislation, the 2008 act is a dog's breakfast of mandates that congress gave to executive agencies, leaving them with the job of interpretation and implementation.

 

I don't make my living in the federal courts, but the way in which the federal courts review decisions made by executive agencies does have an impact on my business. What I've seen is that federal courts give agencies the maximum possible leeway, short of "arbitrary or capricious" behavior, so long as their actions are arguably within the scope of the law.

 

I have no doubt that lawyers and other "people who make it their profession" to practice or advocate within the Beltway believe they will prevail, whatever the situation or issue. Victory is much rarer.


Edited by TiBike, 25 May 2018 - 02:29 PM.

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