"Audie is going to be joining us tomorrow. Don's going to be off. Poppy is going to be on assignment anchoring from Salt Lake City," Collins said.
"Iraq snapshot" (THE COMMON ILLS):
At nearly 9’oclock on the night of February 3rd, a Norfolk Southern freight train jumped the tracks as it was passing through the eastern Ohio town of East Palestine. More than 50 of the train’s 141 cars tumbled off the rails into a smoking jumble. Like most freight trains these days, it was hauling a load of toxic cargo. At least 20 of the derailed cars carried hazardous chemicals, five of them harboring highly poisonous vinyl chloride, a carcinogen used in the manufacture of plastics.
The train had left the St. Louis terminal yard earlier that day bound for Norfolk Southern’s Conway Yard in Pennsylvania, passing through cities, towns and fields, crossing creeks and rivers, rumbling by churches, schools and parks. The derailment was the fourteenth of the young year. Not bad by the standards of the US railroad industry, which has averaged 1700 derailments a year since 1977. But plenty bad enough for the 5,000 people of East Palestine and everyone living downstream or downwind from the crash site.
Two days after the wreck, the National Transportation Safety Board issued a preliminary report saying that the crash was likely caused by a mechanical issue involving the axel on one of the railcars, which had been seen throwing sparks for a least 20 miles before the train entered East Palestine. That may well have been an issue, but it was far from the only one.
For starters, despite carrying at least five toxic chemicals (vinyl chloride, ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, butyl acrylate, ethylhexyl acrylate, and isobutylene) the Norfolk Southern train was not classified as “highly hazardous.” In fact, the first responders to the crash had little idea what kind of chemicals they were dealing with, most of which weren’t included on the train’s manifest.
The train itself was not fitted with electronically-controlled pneumatic brakes, a feature which many railroad safety experts say may have prevented, or at the very least, lessened the severity of the derailment. In the grand scheme of things, these brakes are not that expensive and could surely be written off on the railroad company’s taxes, assuming they pay any. (Norfolk Southern just reported $4.8 billion in profits for 2022, a record year.) But the railroad industry had been griping about regulatory over-reach since the Obama administration made the brakes mandatory on any trains carrying hazardous materials. None of the companies complained more shrilly than Norfolk Southern. The company soon found a sympathetic ear in the Trump administration, which rescinded the regulation less than a year after taking office.
So, why hasn’t the Biden administration reinstated the regulation, as Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley has repeatedly urged? It’s been two years. According to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, his hands are tied. “We’re constrained by law on some areas of rail regulation,” Buttigieg tweeted this week. This is ludicrous. All that really constrained him was a 2015 law requiring a “cost-benefit analysis” of new regulations, the costs and benefits of which should be clear to everyone now.
But that was never the Biden administration’s intentions. As the Lever reported this week, Buttigieg’s department is currently working on a new rule that would further weaken train braking requirements. The responsibility for wreck is as much on Biden’s hands as Trump’s. The Department of Transportation’s crash statistics back this up. While derailments declined under Obama’s term, they’ve remained steady under Trump and Biden: 1204 in 2019, 1013 in 2020, 1020 in 2021 and 1044 in 2022. Both administrations weren’t just negligent. They were complicit. (The Biden Justice Department actually filed a brief siding with Norfolk Southern against a suit brought by a sick railroad worker. The case is now pending before the Supreme Court and could end up shielding the company from future litigation, including any claims brought by the victims of the East Palestine disaster.)
A leading campaigner for the preservation of Iraq's famed southern marshlands has been freed, two weeks after being kidnapped by unidentified gunmen, his family said on Thursday.
“Jassim Al Asadi has been freed from the clutches of his kidnappers,” his brother Nazem said.
Olayemi Olurin, the anchor of The Hill‘s daily news and opinion web series Rising, brilliantly handled two transphobic guests who repeatedly made excuses about why they should be allowed to deadname transgender actor Elliot Page without it being considered an offensive attack.
The discussion began by mentioning how right-wing commentators Jordan Peterson and Dave Rubin had received Twitter suspensions for aggressively deadnaming the actor. Their tweets violated the network’s policy specifically forbidding “misgendering or deadnaming” trans people as a form of hate speech or harassment.
Soave replied, “But to not even be allowed to acknowledge that you used to have a different name?”
Olurin then said, “What do you need to be able to acknowledge that for? What are you suffering? Where’s your harm? Where’s your compassion?”
Iversen said, “That person lived as a different person for a long time, decades. And so to say that suddenly we all have to pretend like those decades didn’t exist and that that person wasn’t that person for decades?”
Olurin asked, “Why are we pretending like that is what’s happening here?”
Iversen replied, “That is what’s happening!”
Olurin then explained, “It’s very simple. There exists a trans man now, Elliott Page. That is their name. That is the name they go by now. Their deadname is their deadname. They don’t go by that anymore. They find it dehumanizing or diminishing to their person to be called that. And that’s what it is. It’s not uncommon. People change their names all the time, and we use the different names that they go by. It happens.”
“Right,” Soave replied. “If somebody goes, ‘Well, who’s that?’ I’ll go, ‘Well, they used to be X.’ I would fill them in. But you can’t do that on social media because of this policy.”
Iversen asked, “Did you get banned from calling [the late musician] Prince ‘Prince’ when he changed his name to ‘Assemble’?”
Olurin answered, “It’s not the same. We are comparing apples and vegetables.”
When Iversen asked why it wasn’t the same, Olurin said, “Because it’s a trans person. The name, the deadname, reflects an identity, a person they do not recognize. They find it psychologically harmful to be seen that way. They have moved on.”
Iversen replied, “Well maybe Prince had moved on too. I mean, maybe he felt like being called ‘Prince’ too was dehumanizing.”
Visibly frustrated, Olurin waved her hands at the camera and said, “Go ahead. Go forth. Go forth smartly.”
Hedges continues: “It is not a rally to denounce the rights of the LGBTQ community, which have been attacked by at least one of the speakers. It is a rally to end permanent war.”
And then comes Hedges’ melodramatic punchline: “Should these right-wing participants organize around other issues, I will be on the other side of the barricades.”
Using the word “Should” implies that there is some question about the intentions and policies of Hedges’ right-wing allies. In fact, the rally is being used by the political right to advance its reactionary agenda, and Hedges, despite his apologies, is serving their interests.
Moreover, it is entirely unclear when and under what political circumstances Hedges will decide to end the amnesty, break with the fascists and move to “the other side of the barricades.” The amnesty has no apparent expiration date.
Hedges writes: “We will not topple corporate power and the war machine alone. There has to be a left-right coalition, which will include people whose opinions are not only unpalatable but even repugnant, or we will remain marginalized and ineffectual. This is a fact of political life.”
What Hedges is clearly advocating is not a short-term tactic (which would be bad enough) but a long-term strategic alliance with the fascists. He explicitly declares that it is not possible to “topple corporate power and the war machine” without a “left-right coalition.”
There is a history to the promotion of such reactionary alliances with the extreme right. The most notorious example was the German Stalinists’ promotion, in the years prior to Hitler’s accession to power, of a “Red-Brown” coalition against the Weimar regime.
And what does Hedges attempt to achieve by sharing a platform with the right wing? In pursuit of what bold action plan is Hedges justifying collaboration with these reactionary forces?
He quotes from an email he received from another disoriented liberal endorsing the rally: “Because we urgently need as many voices as possible, from a broad variety of perspectives, to speak out so we can be much more effective at pressuring Congress and the White House to move this conflict from the bloody battlefield to the negotiating table.”
As is always the case, the most grotesque opportunism is employed in the service of the most pathetic and cowardly reformism. The “toppling of corporate power” will be achieved by begging the White House to see the error of its ways.