Home News Biden Signs Legislation to Stave Off Rail Strike

Biden Signs Legislation to Stave Off Rail Strike

by Atlanta Business Journal

(Permanent Musical Accompaniment To The Last Post Of The Week From The Blog’s Favourite Living Canadian.)

The president chose the rock, leaving the railroad workers in the hard place. He really had no choice but to sign what the Senate sent him. No responsible president of either party could allow a rail strike at Christmas, and that’s not even taking into account the lingering economic effects of the pandemic. But it’s hard to argue with these guys. From ABC:

“It is extremely disappointing that 43 Senators voted to prioritize the corporate greed of rail carriers and CEOs over the needs and quality-of-life improvements that our members so desperately deserve,” said the SMART Transportation Division, or SMART-TD, which represents about 28,000 conductors, making it the nation’s largest rail union. The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees division of the Teamsters, or BMWED, which represents 12,000 members, sharply criticized the Senate vote. “It is shocking and appalling that any Member of Congress would cast a vote against any sort of provision that raises the standard of living for hard-working Americans,” a union statement said. “In fact, such a vote is nothing less than anti-American, an abdication of their oath of office and you are deemed, in my eyes, unworthy of holding office,” it added.

Seven paid sick days. That’s what the U.S. Senate couldn’t cough up for the people who work for the country’s railroads, at considerably more risk and for considerably less money than anyone in the U.S. Senate takes or earns. The Senate—especially Joe “Friend Of The Working Man” Manchin, who couldn’t cough up seven lousy sick days—hung the president out to dry on this one, not to mention all the actual rail workers. Marco Rubio voted for the seven sick days. So did Ted Cruz, for pity’s sake. But Joe Manchin couldn’t be bothered. He was too busy planning another TV interview about how the Democrats have lost touch with their blue-collar base, over whom he keeps a watchful eye by night from the aft deck of his yacht. (Please, Georgia, re-elect the reverend so this clown doesn’t have quite as much juice as he does.)

This situation is a result of the diminished power of organized labor, a reality that confronts the most labor-oriented president we’ve had in decades. It’s a long trail back to where that power once was, if it’s even possible to get there at all. The money-power has so locked itself in at this point that generations have grown up to believe that organized labor is somehow a detriment to the modern worker and not a benefit. The people doing the real work of organized labor these days are the people doing the hardest work for society in general: service workers, healthcare workers, and, yes, railroad workers.

In 1950, when facing a railroad strike, President Harry Truman, whom people adore as a workingman president because he swore a lot, put the railroads under the Army. (He was about to feed soldiers into the Korean meatgrinder.) Manchin would’ve voted for that.

Twain, not Shania.

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I can’t believe I almost missed it, but Mark Twain’s birthday passed this week. The Old Gentleman would have been 187 this year, and he still would have been raising all kinds of good hell when he looked around. If this blog has avatars, he’s certainly one of them, and his house in Connecticut is more than worth a stopover. Among other things, it has the most beautiful classic pool table I’ve ever seen.

Twain was avuncular, but not always. He was humorous, but not always genial. He wrote what he meant, and he meant what he said, and he diagnosed problems that plague us to this day.

In 1901, writing about our murderous intervention in the Philippines, he wrote:

There must be two Americas: one that sets the captive free, and one that takes a once-captive’s new freedom away from him, and picks a quarrel with him with nothing to found it on; then kills him to get his land. . . True, we have crushed a deceived and confiding people; we have turned against the weak and the friendless who trusted us; we have stamped out a just and intelligent and well-ordered republic; we have stabbed an ally in the back and slapped the face of a guest; we have bought a Shadow from an enemy that hadn’t it to sell; we have robbed a trusting friend of his land and his liberty; we have invited clean young men to shoulder a discredited musket and do bandit’s work under a flag which bandits have been accustomed to fear, not to follow; we have debauched America’s honor and blackened her face before the world. . . And as for a flag for the Philippine Province, it is easily managed. We can have a special one—our States do it: we can have just our usual flag, with the white stripes painted black and the stars replaced by the skull and cross-bones.

His always will be an honored place on the walls of this shebeen.

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: “Clarinet Marmalade” (Albert Burbank, Kid Orry et. al.): Yeah, I pretty much still love New Orleans.

Weekly Visit To The Pathé Archives: Here, from 1916, are Red Cross supplies trucked up to Halifax from Boston to help the survivors of the great explosion that killed almost 2,000 people 105 years ago next Tuesday. A munitions ship called the Mont Blanc collided with the SS Imo, a Norwegian freighter, in Halifax harbor. The former caught fire and exploded with the estimated force of 2.9 kilotons of TNT. Buildings for a half-mile radius were blown to smithereens. The Boston Committee On Public Safety sprang into action, along with the Boston Red Cross. In 1918, in gratitude for this aid, the citizens of Halifax sent Boston a Christmas tree. As it happens, the city lit up its official 2022 Christmas tree this week. It came from Halifax, as all of Boston’s official Christmas trees have done for decades. History is so cool.

I was always a Christine McVie partisan when it came to Fleetwood Mac, whom I followed since its Green Manalishi days. I liked the smoky tenor more than what Stevie Nicks was selling, although that was enjoyable, too. (Find the double album Fleetwood Mac In Chicago and be amazed at what they were like in the beginning as a straight blues outfit.)

RIP to the legendary Christine Perfect. Here she is on the one that kicked off the radio monster:

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Greg Sargent in the Washington Post has a damned shrewd preview of what’s ahead in the season of unproductivity in the new House of Representatives:

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) tipped his hand about GOP strategy in a way that passed largely unnoticed. In a letter dripping with a contrived, ominous tone, the man who hopes to be speaker instructed committee chair Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) to “preserve all records collected and transcripts of testimony taken,” suggesting Republicans intend to scrutinize those findings in the majority. The letter made news, even though the committee is already required by law to preserve all records and transcripts. The GOP majority will have access to all those records no matter what the committee publicly releases.

But buried in the letter is a cryptic reference with ugly implications for what’s to come. McCarthy wrote that Republicans want those materials preserved “with an eye toward encouraged enforcement of 18 USC 1001,” with no further comment. What does that mean? Well, that statute criminalizes lying to Congress. From that, I think, we can glean what might be one of the House GOP’s coming schemes: Dig through transcripts and other material to twist committee findings into “proof” that key elements of the anti-Trump testimony were deceptive, or even perjury.

That could function as a pretext to haul witnesses back for another grilling from Republicans. This would be deliberate spectacle: By publicly flogging witnesses who most damaged Trump, Republicans would provide grist for right-wing media to claim the most damning revelations had been decisively discredited, no matter what the facts show.

Oh, it’s going to be Christmas morning all year long for the likes of Sean Hannity and Byron York. Selective leaks, carefully barbered to resemble a facsimile of a mockery of the truth, will deluge certain precincts of the media, while the more respectable precincts can “cover the controversy” without mentioning that these people are all liars in the service of the biggest liar and crook of them all. The January 6 select committee has to get its findings—all of them—into the public sphere before Christmas, while it still can.

And Kevin McCarthy remains a spineless fool, in case you missed that part.

Hey, Smithsonian. Is it a good day for dinosaur news? It’s always a good day for dinosaur news!!!!

Through two centuries of discovery, no non-avian dinosaur was ever found with adaptations best suited to swimming and diving, even as other forms of reptiles made the transition from land to water. But now, at long last, paleontologists have found a swimming dinosaur. The newly named species, described Thursday in Communications Biology, was not a saurian giant. The small swimmer was only about a foot long and lived in prehistoric Mongolia about 71 million years ago. Despite being a cousin of sharp-toothed predators such as Velociraptor, the new dinosaur had a very different, streamlined look and long jaws fully of tiny teeth. Seoul National University paleontologist Sungjin Lee and colleagues have named the dinosaur Natovenator polydontus, the “many-toothed swimming hunter.”[…]“We think it looked like a Cretaceous cormorant,” Lee notes.

Oh, hell yes, it did.

More than that, Lee and co-authors note, the preserved ribs of Natovenator are oriented in a swept-back fashion similar to that of penguins and auks. The arrangement appears to be a form of skeletal streamlining that would have allowed Natovenator to swim more efficiently in Cretaceous lakes and streams. Such streamlining has not yet been seen in any other dinosaur species[…]How such dinosaurs actually swam, however, has yet to be fully uncovered. Though it looked like a cormorant, which swims with its feet, Lee and colleagues suggest that Natovenator swam with its forelimbs in a primitive version of what modern swimming birds like penguins do. The same motions birds use to fly are just as useful underwater.

And by the way, I call dibs on Swimming In Mongolia as the title of my memoir. It lived then and I am happy now.

I’ll be back on Monday to begin a week in which the Supreme Court will decide whether or not to revive the Articles of Confederation. It’s a big deal!

Be well and play nice, ya bastids. Stay above the snake-line, wear the damn masks, get the damn shots—especially the damn boosters—and spare a moment for the people of Ukraine. And Georgia, dammit, you know what to do.

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