After spending several post-college months riding trains around Europe, I took the train from New York to Washington, D.C. where I’d left my car with my sister. Compared to the silky ride of the Deutsche Bahn, this sucker was rocking, rumbling, and lurching all the way. Thought I was going to die.
The experience gave me a gut-level appreciation for well-maintained infrastructure and the unsung people who keep things working so smoothly one only notices when they don’t. “Hail the maintainers,” write Lee Vinsel and Andrew Russell for Aeon. “Innovation,” they believe, is overvalued:
David Neiwert is “celebrating” Confederate Heritage Month at Orcinus with posts on aspects of the War of Northern Aggression southern heritage buffs would prefer to forget (contra the lyrics to “Dixie”). His latest installment looks at “carpetbaggers” and “scalawags,” both Reconstruction-era pejoratives. The first for newcomers from outside the old Confederacy (many of those northern teachers offering literacy programs to freed slaves), and the second for southern whites who collaborated with the freed slaves in post-war governance. Being branded with either term was no mild smear. It essentially put a target on your back, according to Neiwert. (Scroll to the bottom of his page for links to earlier installments.)
At Buzzfeed, Adam Serwer debunks the history of an infamous tintype (above) now in the Library of Congress of two Confederate soldiers, one white man named Andrew Chandler and his black slave, Silas:
… an astonishing tintype of the two men, armed to the teeth in Confederate uniforms, taken in 1861. The image has helped bolster the claims of the community of amateur historians, hucksters, and Confederate sympathizers committed to defending the Confederacy from the charge of racism, who insist that thousands of black men fought and died for the rebel cause. “Ever since the SCV posthumously honored Silas,” Levin wrote in 2012, “accounts of black Confederate troops have surged in popularity.”
North Carolina continues to receive fallout and national opprobrium for its legislative freakout over transgender rights. Americans celebrate personal freedom and people going their own way, don’t we, unless it involves gender and sex? I have already written about how North Carolina’s HB2 is a Trojan Horse for a crackdown on workers’ rights. But some coffee urn jokes this week about bathrooms and people’s chosen “lifetyles” got under my skin.
Just as despite everyday observation, the Earth is not flat, neither are sex and gender binary. What laws like North Carolina’s HB2 demand is legally enforced conformity to a binary standard in a world built upon natural variance.
When I was a child, an aunt, uncle and cousins lived next door to a family of albinos. To a kid, they appeared pretty odd. Weird even. But after a few visits and a few neighborhood cookouts, they were just the O’Shaughnessys (not their real name). Both different and the same. They weren’t sequestered in a remote neighborhood of the city, told they had to use a special restroom, or treated as potential criminals. At least, not by us. And albinism is far rarer (1 in 20,000) than the kind of sex and sexual identity variances North Carolina just tried to make disappear through legislation. Disappearing what makes us uncomfortable has become a thing here. The legislature already decreed that the sea level is not rising.
Digby long ago dubbed it Cokie’s Law after newswoman/commentator Cokie Roberts: “It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not, it’s out there.” That’s all the justification the press needs to keep reporting a falsehood until “unsubstantiated gossip masquerading as news” becomes something “everyone knows.” But the press is late to the game. This has been the M.O. of the right regarding voting for decades.
Cokie’s Law is the essential justification for big gummint haters requiring voters to present state-issued identity cards before they can exercise formal power in this country. Because “everyone knows” voter fraud is a problem. It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not, it’s out there. I’ve been writing about this technique for some time:
As the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill makes its way through the Senate this week, Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) have been arguing for new rules that would limit cargo pilots’ flight time to nine hours between rests. We don’t want any accidents.
“Fatigue is a killer,” Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the pilot who executed the 2009 emergency airliner landing in the Hudson River, told a press conference. Then again, if you are a drone pilot in the business of deliberately killing people, working six or seven days a week, twelve hours a day is not a problem.
The drone program remains controversial and has its detractors and defenders. Al Jazeera English this week published the confessions of former Air Force drone technician, Cian Westmoreland. He and three other former operators last year called on the president to stop the program, calling the strategy “self-defeating,” one that propagates anti-US hatred. Not to mention his own nightmares:
Did North Carolina make any late-night comedy shows this week, or what?
Not all political deflections are bright and shiny. Hyperventilating over public aid to those at the bottom of the wealth curve is an oldie but goody. Is Wall Street defrauding the planet to the tune of trillions? Well, but LOOK! Over there. A poor person. Eating!
Properly incentivizing the poor is a perennial handwringer for Fox News and other watchdogs of personal morality on the right (who otherwise think the government should mind its own damned business). Nicholas Kristof, however, spares some column inches this morning on the incentives driving our beleaguered corporate persons at the top. He gets downright snarky about it:
A study to be released Thursday says that for each dollar America’s 50 biggest companies paid in federal taxes between 2008 and 2014, they received $27 back in federal loans, loan guarantees and bailouts.
Goodness! What will that do to their character? Won’t that sap their initiative?
The study in question comes from Oxfam. The group finds:
Critics now call the so-called “bathroom bill” aimed at his gay and transgender constituents a radical Trojan Horse for eliminating anti-discrimination protections in the workplace. Since McCrory signed the bill passed during a one-day, special session Republicans called in March, prominent businesses began boycotting the state, canceling expansions and conventions there, and national performers such as Bruce Springsteen began canceling concert dates. Projected job losses number well over 1,000. Revenue losses have not been calculated. It’s almost as if … they designed HB2 to fail.
The national and international backlash forced McCrory yesterday to sign an executive order aimed at quelling the controversy over the bill he signed just weeks ago: