April 2, 1853 An Act of the New York State Legislature approves the merger creating the New York Central Railroad.

Find out more about the original New York Central Railroad

The railroad was created in 1853 by the merger of ten other railroads, spearheaded by Albany industrialist and Mohawk Valley Railroad owner Erastus Corning:
Albany & Schenectady Railroad
Mohawk Valley Railroad
Schenectady & Troy Railroad
Syracuse & Utica Direct Railroad
Rochester & Syracuse Railroad
Buffalo & Rochester Railroad
Rochester, Lockport & Niagara Falls Railroad
Rochester & Lake Ontario Railroad
Buffalo & Niagara Falls Railroad
Buffalo & Lockport Railroad



Can Black Voters Disobey the Democratic Party?

About fifteen years ago, I spoke with a young African American woman who was a Congressional aide on Capitol Hill. As we spoke, I extolled the virtues of the Democratic Party’s relationship with black leaders and the African American community. I pointed to the vibrant Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) as evidence of the empowerment of African American leadership in America. But she had a funny look on her face that gave me pause.

In a moment she said, “You know, Capitol Hill is the greatest plantation of all. The hours we work, the wages we get, what is expected of us, the whole system – it’s crazy.”

Every presidential election, African American voters turn out in numbers above ninety percent to vote for the Democratic candidate, like clockwork. The reason for that was succinctly summed up by the father of former Republican congressman J.C. Watts Jr., J.C. (Buddy) Watts Sr., who said simply, “A black person voting for a Republican is like a chicken voting for Colonel Sanders.”

But what is expected of the Black community, which really has nowhere else to go politically? A number of things are expected – foremost, allegiance to Democratic Party bosses.

The plantation analogy was a sharp-edged reminder of the Democratic Party’s not very distant post-Civil War past. Up until the 1960s, the Democratic Party did more to prevent African American empowerment than to facilitate it.

Southern Democrats, also known for generations as Dixiecrats, were often sons and daughters of the Confederacy. As Lincoln was a Republican, Southern whites fled from anything Republican and into the ranks of a very welcoming Democratic Party for a hundred years.

It was not until Richard Nixon reached out to the Dixiecrats in 1968 and made them welcome in the Republican Party that a Republican could get elected dogcatcher south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Nixon’s timing was no coincidence. In the 1960s, African American activists had begun to pressure the Democratic Party to accept change and adopt civil rights as a part of the national platform, alienating the old Jim Crow wing of the Democratic Party. Nixon saw that and capitalized on it with what came to be known as his Southern Strategy.

From the African American perspective, black Americans, and Southern blacks in particular, were tired of the rampant discrimination, segregation, and violence against blacks that persisted in the South. They wanted an end to systemic injustice, and they saw voting rights as key to effecting those changes.

There was a resolve on the part of black leaders that if meaningful change in terms of civil rights were to take place, African American leaders would have to challenge the Democratic Party power structure head-on. They did.

In August of 1964, the Democratic Convention was held in Atlantic City, New Jersey. It was also “Freedom Summer.” President Lyndon B. Johnson was nominated Democratic candidate for president, Senator Hubert H. Humphrey of Minnesota for Vice President. But history little notes the historic presence and actions of the all-black Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP).

The MFDP challenged the all-white Mississippi delegation as not having been chosen in accordance with Democratic Party rules. Quite true, as no black was allowed to participate in the process. MFDP activists mounted a protest on the floor of the convention, demanding a voice. A deal was struck. Johnson would choose 68 MFDP members as “at large delegates.” Two would have voting rights. The groundwork was laid for constructive black political opposition to the Democratic Party power structure. Change, real change, was now possible.

Change is again in the air this election cycle. Again the Democratic Party is resisting that change. Again it will take courage and action to achieve meaningful change.

Voters, black and white alike, are faced with a stark choice – the same choice, incidentally, they were faced with in 2008. Does our country urgently need change? In 2008 the voters, black and white alike, said yes. So far in 2016, the tide for change seems even stronger.

The Democratic Party bosses, however, are sending a clear signal who they want to be nominated for president in 2016, and it’s not the candidate of change.

Time to obey or time to challenge?


By Marc Ash, Reader Supported News

Highlighting Western Victims While Ignoring Victims of Western Violence

American cable news has broadcast non-stop coverage of the horrific attack in Brussels. Viewers repeatedly heard from witnesses and from the wounded. Video was shown in a loop of the terror and panic when the bombs exploded. Networks dispatched their TV stars to Brussels, where they remain. NPR profiled the lives of several of the airport victims. CNN showed a moving interview with a wounded, bandage-wrapped Mormon American teenager speaking from his Belgium hospital bed.

(photo: CNN)

All of that is how it should be: That’s news. And it’s important to understand on a visceral level the human cost from this type of violence. But that’s also the same reason it’s so unjustifiable, and so propagandistic, that this type of coverage is accorded only to Western victims of violence, but almost never to the non-Western victims of the West’s own violence.

A little more than a week ago, as Mohammed Ali Kalfood reported in The Intercept, “Fighter jets from a Saudi-led [U.S. and U.K.-supported] coalition bombed a market in Mastaba, in Yemen’s northern province of Hajjah. The latest count indicates that about 120 people were killed, including more than 20 children, and 80 were wounded in the strikes.” Kalfood interviewed 21-year-old Yemeni Khaled Hassan Mohammadi, who said, “We saw airstrikes on a market last Ramadan, not far from here, but this attack was the deadliest.” Over the past several years, the U.S. has launched hideous civilian-slaughtering strikes in Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, Libya, and Iraq. Last July, The Intercept published a photo essay by Alex Potter of Yemeni victims of one of 2015’s deadliest Saudi-led, U.S.- and U.K.-armed strikes.

You’ll almost never hear any of those victims’ names on CNN, NPR, or most other large U.S. media outlets. No famous American TV correspondents will be sent to the places where those people have their lives ended by the bombs of the U.S. and its allies. At most, you’ll hear small, clinical news stories briefly and coldly describing what happened — usually accompanied by a justifying claim from U.S. officials, uncritically conveyed, about why the bombing was noble — but, even in those rare cases where such attacks are covered at all, everything will be avoided that would cause you to have any visceral or emotional connection to the victims. You’ll never know anything about them — not even their names, let alone hear about their extinguished life aspirations or hear from their grieving survivors — and will therefore have no ability to feel anything for them. As a result, their existence will barely register.

That’s by design. It’s because U.S. media outlets love to dramatize and endlessly highlight Western victims of violence, while rendering almost completely invisible the victims of their own side’s violence.

Perhaps you think there are good — or at least understandable — reasons to explain this discrepancy in coverage. Maybe you believe humans naturally pay more attention to, and empathize more with, the suffering of those they regard as more similar to them. Or you may want to argue that victims in cities commonly visited by American elites (Paris, Brussels, London, Madrid) are somehow more newsworthy than those in places rarely visited (Mastaba, in Yemen’s northern province of Hajjah). Or perhaps you’re sympathetic to the claim that it’s easier for CNN or NBC News to send on-air correspondents to glittery Western European capitals than to Waziristan or Kunduz. Undoubtedly, many believe that the West’s violence is morally superior because it only kills civilians by accident and not on purpose.

But regardless of the rationale for this media discrepancy, the distortive impact is the same: By endlessly focusing on and dramatizing Western victims of violence while ignoring the victims of the West’s own violence, the impression is continually bolstered that only They, but not We, engage in violence that kills innocent people. We are always the victims and never the perpetrators (and thus Good and Blameless); They are only the perpetrators and never the victims (and thus Villainous and Culpable). In April 2003, Ashleigh Banfield, then a rising war-correspondent star at MSNBC, returned from Iraq, gave a speech critiquing the one-sided, embedded U.S. media coverage of the war, and was shortly thereafter demoted and then fired. This is part of what she said:

That said, what didn’t you see? You didn’t see where those bullets landed. You didn’t see what happened when the mortar landed. A puff of smoke is not what a mortar looks like when it explodes, believe me. There are horrors that were completely left out of this war. … It was a glorious, wonderful picture that had a lot of people watching and a lot of advertisers excited about cable news. But it wasn’t journalism, because I’m not so sure that we in America are hesitant to do this again, to fight another war, because it looked like a glorious and courageous and so successful, terrific endeavor, and we got rid of horrible leader: We got rid of a dictator, we got rid of a monster, but we didn’t see what it took to do that. …

I think there were a lot of dissenting voices before this war about the horrors of war, but I’m very concerned about this three-week TV show and how it may have changed people’s opinions. It was very sanitized. … War is ugly and it’s dangerous, and in this world, the way we are discussed on the Arab street, it feeds and fuels their hatred and their desire to kill themselves to take out Americans.

In other words, the death, carnage, and destruction the U.S. invasion was causing was generating huge amounts of anti-American hatred and a desire to bring violence to Americans, even if meant sacrificing lives to accomplish that. But the U.S. media never showed any of that, so Americans had no idea it existed, and were thus incapable of understanding why people were eager to do violence to Americans. They therefore assumed that it must be because they are primitive or inherently hateful or driven by some inscrutable religious fervor.

That’s because the U.S. media, by showing only one side of the conflict, by presenting only the nationalistic viewpoint, propagandized — deceived — American viewers by making them more ignorant rather than more enlightened. As a result, when the trains of London and Madrid were attacked in 2004 and 2005 as retaliation for those countries’ participation in the invasion of Iraq, that causal connection (which even British intelligence acknowledged) was virtually never discussed because Western media outlets ensured it was unknown. The same was true of attempted attacks on the U.S.: in Times Square, the New York City subway system, an airliner over Detroit, all motivated by rage over Western violence. In the absence of any media discussion of those victims and motives, these attacks were was simply denounced as senseless, indiscriminate slaughter without any cause, and people were thus deprived of the ability to understand why they happened.

That’s exactly what’s happening still. Because I was traveling in the U.S. this week, I was subjected to literally dozens of hours of cable and network news coverage of the Brussels attacks. The most minute angles of the attack were dissected. But there was not one moment devoted to the question of why Belgium — and the U.S., France, and Russia before it — were targeted by ISIS (as opposed to a whole slew of non-Muslim, democratic countries around the world that ISIS doesn’t target), even though ISIS explicitly stated the reason and it is, in any event, self-evident: because those countries have been bombing ISIS in Syria and Iraq and these bombings were intended as retaliation and vengeance. Nor was there any discussion of why ISIS seems to have little trouble attracting support among some in Western countries: As even a Rumsfeld-commissioned study found in 2004, it is in large part because of widespread anger among Muslims over ongoing Western violence and interference in that part of the world.

The point, as always, isn’t justification: It is always morally unjustified to deliberately target civilians with violence (see the update here on that point). Nor does it prove that the bombing of ISIS in Iraq and Syria is unjustified or should cease. The point, instead, is that the war framework in which much of this violence takes place — one side that declares itself at war and uses violence as part of that war is inevitably attacked by the other side that it targets — is completely suppressed by one-sided media coverage that prefers a self-flattering, tribalistic cartoon narrative.

The ultimate media taboo is self-examination: the question of whether there are actions we take that exacerbate the problem we say we are trying to resolve. Such a process would not dilute the evil of ISIS’s civilian-targeting violence, but it would enable a more honest and complete understanding of the role Western governments’ policies play and the inevitable costs they entail. Perhaps those costs are worth enduring, but that question can only be rationally answered if the costs are openly discussed.

But whatever else is true, if we are constantly bombarded with images and stories and dramatic narratives highlighting our own side’s victims, while the victims of our side’s violence are rendered invisible, it’s only natural that large numbers of us will conclude that only They, but not We, are committing civilian-killing violence. That’s a really pleasing thing to believe, no matter how false it is. Having media outlets perpetrate self-pleasing and tribal-affirming — but utterly false — narratives is the very definition of propaganda. And that’s what largely drives Western media coverage of these terrorist attacks every time they occur in the West.

Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept

7 (Really Hard) Interview Questions You Must Answer Properly

Getting the interview is hard enough. Don’t blow your chances by saying the wrong thing.

Interviewing isn’t easy. The employer is the customer and you’re the business-of-one trying to prove you’re the best service provider for their job. Studies show it costs a company as much as 130-140 percent of your salary to hire you. That includes things like benefits, taxes, training, etc. The stress of choosing the right candidate worries hiring managers. The result is a series of intense interview questions designed to let them “kick the tires and look under hood” before they invest.

Behavioral questions = Let them inside your head.

Hiring managers often use behavioral questions in an interview in an attempt to have you reveal your true professional self. These are open-ended questions designed to make you give longer answers. Your answers will demonstrate your personality, aptitude, and experience level. These three things matter greatly to employers who choose a candidate based on his or her ability to fit in with the company’s culture. Here are seven intense interview questions you should always be ready to answer.

1. What’s wrong with your past/current employer? This question seeks to understand what’s driving you to leave your previous job. Happy employees don’t go on interviews for new jobs. The hiring manager is trying to see if you have unrealistic expectations of employers.

2. Tell me about the worst manager you ever had? Again, seeking to understand your expectations, the hiring manager wants to know what kind of management style you don’t work well with–especially if it’s a style the hiring company currently uses.

3. What’s the worst job you ever had? A hiring manager needs to know what type of work disengages you. He or she also wants to understand what (if any) attempts you made to fix the problem. When unhappy, are you proactive and try to fix your situation, or do you sit around and get disgruntled?

4. Why are you better than anyone else for this job? A test to see if you can balance confidence with humility, this question is designed to see if you have a grasp on reality and can articulate how you are different from the competition without resorting to “throw them under the bus” tactics.

5. Why were you fired? For those that have been involuntarily terminated, you need to be able to objectively share what happened and be accountable for your actions. If you resort to blaming and explaining your way out of any wrongdoing, you’ll be dismissed as in denial.

6. What are your weaknesses? Nobody’s perfect. If you can’t discuss your areas in need of improvement, then you aren’t self-aware enough to grow on the job. In fact, if you can’t explain how you are already trying to minimize these weaknesses, then you are showing a lack of understanding about the need to always be improving as a professional.

7. Tell me about a time when you had to work with a difficult person? This question gets to the core of what you’re like to work with. The hiring manager needs to know what type of co-worker you struggle to collaborate with and whether you know how to find a way to work together successfully with that type. You will be paid to do a job, and that means getting along with all types of people, even ones who don’t work like you do.

Tip: Hiring managers hear what they see.

One of the biggest reasons a hiring manager asks intense interview questions is not to evaluate your answers, but to evaluate your non-verbal communication skills, i.e., your body language, facial expressions, hand gestures, eye contact, etc. Hiring managers can tell when someone is acting nervous or untruthful. That’s why everyone should work on their interview answers as much as they can before they go to the interview. It will help you relax and communicate with more confidence.

A final thought.

The questions above are designed to help the hiring manager understand how you have interpreted past professional experiences and whether or not you’ve used what you’ve learned to become a stronger professional. What you say and how you say it tells a hiring manager a lot about your anxieties and frustrations as they relate to work. If you aren’t careful, you will provide an answer that can get you disqualified. The best way to avoid making a mistake is to invest time in preparing for interviews. Employers don’t want to hire high-maintenance employees. Show any sign that you might be difficult to work with and they’ll pass on hiring you.

What The L.A. Times Missed In Their Story About Declining Metro Ridership

The Los Angeles Times‘ front page Wednesday declared, provocatively, that despite the billions of dollars invested into Southern California mass-transit, fewer people are using the system than were in the 1980s.

The piece touched off a firestorm of conjecture asking why this might be the case, and whether or not we should continue collectively pouring billions into a transit system people seem to be leaving. This is not a new issue. L.A. Weekly covered the issue briefly last October, with similar conclusions as the L.A. Times piece yesterday.

But the Times’ piece did spur advocates of Los Angeles’ transit ecosystem to rise to the defense of public transit, explain why there might be a decline and point out faults with the Times’ reporting.

What the Times Missed

Ethan Elkind, a faculty member at UCLA Law School and author of the seminal transit history of Los Angeles Railtown, argues that the Times’ reporting amounts to climate-change deniers who pick an artificially warm year in the 1990s as evidence of the phenomena’s absence. By picking a year in the mid-80s as a high-water mark, the Times headline could alternatively have read “Metro Ridership up nearly 30% in past 20 years.”

Elkind continues, arguing that the Times; claim that “billions have been spent” misses the point:

In addition, the article is a bit unfair to Metro in citing the billions of dollars that have been invested in rail during this period of declining ridership. Sure, since 2006 the region has been spending a lot of money on rail, but those investments have not yet resulted in actual, open rail lines. Since that year, only the East Side Gold Line and half of the Expo Line (to Culver City) have opened.

Projects funded by these “billions” that have not opened yet include the Expo Line extension to Santa Monica, the Gold Line extension to Azuza, the Purple Line extension to Westwood, the Downtown L.A. Regional Connector (connecting the Expo/Blue Lines to the Gold Line), and the Crenshaw Line which bridges the gap between the Expo Line and LAX.

Steve Hymon, editor of Metro’s blog entitled The Source, made the case that decreased transit ridership is an indication that, more so than ever before, we need to be investing in a robust transportation system that isn’t car-centered.

Hymon takes serious issue with a quote from the Times’ piece from James Moore, a USC professor who was quoted as saying “it’s the dream of every bus rider to own a car. And as soon as they can afford one, that’s the first purchase they’ll make.”

For Hymon, and undoubtedly several others, this signals nostalgia for a bygone era when cars ruled supreme. Cars still lord over Los Angeles, but saying everyone on the bus dreams of purchasing a car and parking on the 10 Freeway for an hour-and-a-half each day is, shall we say, unwise.

Hymon hammers his point home, underscoring how dangerous Moore’s claim is. “You think traffic stinks now?” he writes. “How do you think traffic would be with even a small fraction of Metro’s 453 million boardings behind the wheel of a car on your local freeway/arterial/residential street? 😩”

The dream of Angelenos has nothing to do with cars or buses, bikes or trains. Angelenos, just like people in other cities, dream of being able to get from point A to point B with minimal inconvenience. Whether this is in a buses with their own dedicated lanes, or in computer controlled cars smart enough to make traffic a thing of the past, we aren’t picky. Pledging allegiance to cars or transit as superior naively ignores that the future will depend on both.

So why the recent decrease?

L.A.’s transit history is complicated and contradictory. Ridership peaked in the mid-1980s when the then-Rapid Transit District Agency operated a network exclusively composed of buses. A decade of price increases and service cuts caused a decline in ridership until 1996, when the Bus Riders Union successfully litigated Metro in a civil rights lawsuit. A federal court decreed the agency halt fare increases and dramatically increase bus service.

As the Times points out, transit ridership following the court decision increased until it began falling again in the mid-2010s. This new decline can at once be explained by Metro’s recent fare increases, service cuts to several heavily-used bus lines, an improving economy, cheaper gasoline, and ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft.

Yet these explanations fall short of describing any substantive trend away from transit ridership. Each one on its own undoubtedly has some effect on the overall numbers, but to make a significant dent in 500 million annual boardings demands a better explanation. The decline is somewhat of a paradox since Los Angeles’ interior is increasingly better connected by transit than ever before.

Could gentrification be to blame?

One condition that the Times didn’t particularly pay attention to is the demographics of most transit riders themselves. There is no data readily available on this issue, but it might be worth investigating how rising rent prices affect transportation habits.

The average household income of a typical L.A. bus rider is less than $17,000 annually, according to a 2014 survey by Metro. People who live in households making less than $17,000 annually don’t take Uber. They ride transit because it is the only option they can afford. Given that income inequality is increasing in Los Angeles, it’s not likely that the working class suddenly became affluent and can now afford to drive instead of taking the bus.

Could gentrification be the culprit? Over the past few decades, working class families have been getting priced out of neighborhoods like Silver Lake, Hollywood, Venice, Palms, East Hollywood, University Park, North Hollywood and Highland Park. Taking public transportation to work within Los Angeles proper might be doable from these neighborhoods, and owning a car seems like a luxury. But as this class get priced out to far-flung parts of the city, like Pacoima, or suburbs like Cudahy, public transportation becomes increasingly impractical. A worker not only won’t want to sit on a bus for four hours a day, it might be impossible if they need to get to a second or third job to pay the bills. The car, while previously an expensive luxury, has become a necessity in this case.

The pace of gentrification shows no signs of stopping. Los Angeles needs more housing and most of the housing being built is hardly accessible to the demographics who ride transit; much of this housing actually often displaces them.

More research is needed on this issue. Without serious attention to who actually rides transit—and for what reason—the city’s push for building dense housing and making public transportation service more regular may not solve L.A.’s impending gridlock.

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