Kevin Drum - December 2011

The Semiotics of Emma Sullivan

| Thu Dec. 1, 2011 2:05 PM EST

I'm so late to this story that I might as well be blogging about the evils of the tin trust or something, but there's an aspect of the whole Emma Sullivan story that I don't get. Emma Sullivan, of course, is the Kansas teenager who went on a field trip to the state capitol, listened to some remarks from Governor Sam Brownback, and tweeted:

Just made mean comments at gov. brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot.

The governor's staff went ballistic, Sullivan's school principal demanded she apologize, the governor and the principal eventually backed down, Sullivan became an internet hero for a few minutes, and Ruth Marcus was appalled. "If you were my daughter," she wrote in the Washington Post, "you’d be writing that letter apologizing to Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback for the smartalecky, potty-mouthed tweet you wrote after meeting with him on a school field trip."

But forget all that for a moment. Forget the overreaction from the authorities, Sullivan's unlikely stardom, or Marcus's fainting couch performance. What I'm curious about is this: does anybody seriously have a problem with a teenager saying that somebody sucks? Or blows? That doesn't even qualify as crude language these days, let alone foul language, does it? It's just everyday teenager language. Am I mistaken to think that you could say something sucks in a high school classroom and not even get a titter, let alone a smackdown from most teachers? What am I missing here?

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Boeing Makes Peace With Its Unions

| Thu Dec. 1, 2011 12:58 PM EST

Republicans have been making hay for months over the NLRB's decision to consider a complaint from one of Boeing's unions about their decision to build the 787 Dreamliner in a shiny, new, non-union plant in South Carolina. The union believed this decision was made in retaliation for past strikes — something that would be illegal — and they believed this because Boeing CEO Jim Albaugh practically bragged about it in public interviews. Nonetheless, Republicans were apoplectic over the union's decision to challenge a move they believed was made illegally, and they were doubly apoplectic over the gall of the NLRB in allowing the challenge to go forward. Apparently they should have simply been told to pound sand instead of being given a hearing on the merits of the case. GOP leaders in the House introduced a bill in September to strip the NLRB of its authority in cases like this, and a few weeks later Rick Perry thundered that the NLRB had "undermined our free-market system." (In front of a South Carolina audience, of course.)

Yesterday, though, Boeing took away the GOP's lollipop:

The deal announced Wednesday between Chicago-based Boeing and the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers, if ratified by union members, would help pave the way for a planned jump in production by the aerospace giant. It would alleviate the threat of strikes that could derail ambitious sales plans for a retooled version of Boeing's best-selling 737 aircraft, its new 787 Dreamliner and other jets.

Under the deal, Boeing said it will build the 737 Max, the retooled version, at a union plant in Renton, Wash. Boeing previously had said that work could go to another state, sparking anger from labor leaders and intense lobbying by politicians in Washington and elsewhere. In exchange, union leaders said that if their members approve the new deal, they will drop their opposition to Boeing's use of a new, nonunion plant in South Carolina to assemble some Dreamliners.

Hey, collective bargaining! I guess it works after all.