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Henry Wallace and Third Party Campaigns on the Left

[ 153 ] October 7, 2016 |


Over the last few months, I’ve been reading a good bit about Henry Wallace and the mid-century left for a potential project. And while I now don’t think Wallace is so important in this project as I originally thought, reading all of this literature has been interesting, especially in the context of this year. A few perhaps slightly random thoughts.

1) Henry Wallace is a really interesting guy. A pure rural American dreamer with often very good ideas about both agriculture and the organization of society. He could play politics enough during the FDR years to save himself, which he would struggle with later. His fall from being named VP in 1940 to being a pariah in 1948 seems remarkable but it really isn’t. Wallace was only VP because Roosevelt absolutely demanded it. The rank and file political machine of the party hated him with a great passion. Roosevelt was in a weaker position within the party in 1944 and somewhat unceremoniously dumped Wallace for Harry Truman. Moreover, Wallace was also motivated by ideas and solid principles. When that became peace with the Soviets, he wasn’t going to change. He was not a man to shift with the times. Wallace was also undermined by his own intellectual interests, including following weird religious charlatans who he let influence American policy, which came back to bite him later.

2) The left was a more complex place in the mid-1940s, largely because it was much larger and more organized than today. Generally speaking, there were two groups. First were left-liberals in the Wallace or Rexford Guy Tugwell mode. Second, there were the Communists. Internally within Wallace’s campaign, this became the main battleground. The thing about the Communists is that they were in fact taking orders from Moscow. That was the big historiographical insight during that brief period where the Soviet archives were opened after 1991. Despite New Left historians denying that CPUSA was at Moscow’s beck and call, they totally were. The ideological inflexibility this created really dragged Wallace down. It also, along with the constantly shifting positions because of following Moscow’s guidelines, made the Communist Party a uniquely terrible organization for the United States. It wasn’t just conservatives that got frustrated with and then swore off the Communists. It was other non-communist lefties. They were almost impossible to work with. And they were effectively running the Wallace campaign, using him for their own aims. Wallace, believing the Soviets were a rightful ally, refused to see this until reflecting after his humiliating defeat.

3) In a related matter, we on the labor-left often bemoan the CIO kicking out the communists in the late 40s. There is much to this–the communists were great organizers after all and they dealt with racism more effectively than other CIO unions. But looking back, the decision to get rid of them seems almost inevitable. First, John L. Lewis was using the communists from the moment he invited them to help with industrial organizing. He was fine with them if he had them under his control. But he was fundamentally anti-communist. Second, after Lewis left, Phil Murray was a classic Catholic unionist in that he had no tolerance for communists at all because of the influence of the Catholic Church. Third, we forget how much many of the rank and file, even in the communist-led unions, hated the communists. Some of this was for religious reasons, but some of it was because of communist tactics and the same constantly shifting but always rigid ideological positions that drove the rest of the left crazy. Some rank and file members were writing the government, begging for investigations to drive the communists out of their own unions. Combine all of this was the conservative backlash after 1946, and I don’t really know what choice the CIO had. Keeping the communists in the CIO and refusing to go along with Taft-Hartley almost certainly would have led to the crushing of the CIO, not a long-term leftist movement. None of this is to excuse the behavior of a lot of people in this whole situation and certainly not to excuse the anti-communist foreign policy of the AFL-CIA years. But I just don’t know what other realistic alternative there was out there.

4) The left’s infatuation with third party movements to get back at perfidious Democrats did not start with Ralph Nader. One can trace this perhaps back to the anti-slavery parties of the 1840s and through the Populists and LaFollette in 1924. But probably the real root is 1948. And like in 2000 or 2016, it simply made no sense on the face of it. The left did genuinely feel that Truman had betrayed them through his foreign policy. But did it make more sense to see Dewey elected (or even Taft, which was possible when this movement started)? Reading about the reaction of the liberal left to Truman pulling out the win, the response is a lot like a lot of Nader voters felt in 2000 for the 3 seconds that it seemed Gore had won–relief. But if there was no real chance of winning, and in this case as in 2000 there was not, then why engage in the third party campaign in the first place? To show up those evil moderate sellout Democrats? When has that ever moved the Democratic Party to the left? It has not. And of course once Wallace lost, the party completely crumbled, as every third party has done in the U.S. after it fails.

5) The one thing that the Wallace campaign does deserve credit for is for his southern tour where he directly confronted racism. For the 30s and most of the 40s, liberalism was in part built on accepting the oppression of African-Americans in the South. Wallace simply would not allow that. His tour of the South, at very real threat to his body and the bodies of his supporters, did genuinely help to make fighting segregation and lynching a central part of mid-century liberalism. No longer could liberals or the left broadly construed accept the worst aspects of racism as a given.

The extent to which any of this is relevant understanding contemporary politics is I suppose up in the air. But I find some of this useful for contextualizing the trajectory of left and electoral politics.


The Lesser Evil Argument Works Because It Can Always Get Worse and It Will With the Greater Evil

[ 227 ] October 6, 2016 |


Annabel Park was a big Bernie supporter. Deeply angry with the DNC and Hillary Clinton, she flirted with third partyism. But she has realized just how horrible Trump would be and wrote this op-ed urging Bernie supporters to get behind her. It’s an excellent piece to share with those who are still refusing to vote for the shebeast $hillery!

After that, I started talking to friends of mine who, like me, had poured so much into supporting Bernie, and found the idea of voting for Clinton after the intense, bitter primary hard to stomach. Many of the Bernie supporters I spoke to think the United States can’t get much worse, but I know firsthand that it can. Until I was 10 years old, I lived in South Korea while it was ruled by dictator Park Chung-hee, who came into power through a military coup d’état. I remember the curfews, the constant fear of authority figures, the pressure to conform and the fear of speaking up. I have seen how quickly citizens can lose civil liberties and rights, how quickly we can get to the point we’re afraid to meet in public places to protest.

Like dictators and authoritarians of the past, Trump has a playbook for power that includes targeting journalists and activists, branding dissidents as enemies to foster a culture of conformity, fostering a culture of violence and bullying against minorities, controlling women through sexual humiliation and by taking away reproductive rights, and blocking a democratic path to regime change by undermining our voting rights.

These tactics have clearly made a cultural impact in America even though Trump the candidate has yet to gain institutional power. Violent hate crimes against Muslim Americans are escalating, and teachers are reporting that there’s more bullying in schools. If Trump comes to power and has even more authority and legitimacy, circumstances could feasibly worsen. People’s willingness to gamble the outcome of this election puts the most vulnerable members of our society in harm’s way.

As president, Trump and his brand of extremism would have more than a cultural outlet. Through their appointees, presidents have power in our everyday lives. Cabinet appointments and department hires run powerful federal agencies including the Department of Justice, Homeland Security, Department of Defense, State Department, Department of Interior and more. Trump and his campaign have mentioned these right-wing extremists as potential appointees: Rudy Giuliani, Joe Arpaio, Sarah Palin, Ben Carson, Chris Christie and Forrest Lucas, oil executive and animal rights opponent for Department of Interior. Perhaps scariest of all, Myron Ebell, a leading climate-change denier, is expected to head Trump’s EPA. Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, is a fundamentalist Christian who pushed extreme anti-LGBT and anti-reproductive rights legislation as governor. With an administration like this, dissidents like Sanders supporters would have little hope of exerting any kind of influence.

There’s a good reason why lesser evil voting is a compelling and almost unanswerable argument. It’s that the greater evil is going to be far, far worse. Someone whose family has lived under a dictatorship has a much better chance of understanding that than a white middle-class American college student. But if they want radical change in the United States and Trump gets elected, they will understand it pretty damn fast. Maybe there’s nothing we can do to convince these lefties voting for Johnson or Stein to vote for Hillary, but we do have to try. And Park’s piece is a really good way to try.

When College Campuses Hated Unions: Then and Now

[ 17 ] October 6, 2016 |


One of the least told stories in American labor histories is the relationship between college campuses and labor unions. Today, college and university administrators are among the greatest unionbusters in the nation. We saw Long Island University’s attempt to destroy their faculty union a couple of weeks ago. Right now, the 14-school Pennsylvania public regional system is forcing their faculty close to a strike deadline over the same issues of undermining the basic rights of faculty. Private universities have gone to the mat to ensure that graduate students don’t unionize. Unionized food and cleaning workers are fired and the operations outsourced to Aramark and Sodexo.

Not much has changed over the years. A century ago, college students were unionbusting shock troops, frequently used as scabs. Not only at Harvard, but definitely at Harvard.

Consider Harvard’s relations with the mills to the north, in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Much of the Lowell family’s wealth had derived from the mills. Those who labored there, mostly immigrants, many of them women and children, worked horrible hours, with poor ventilation, frequent industrial accidents, respiratory ailments and little prospect of promotion.

Harvard’s Lowell had his own solution to the problem: He offered his students (Harvard was then all boys) relief from the upcoming mid-year exams if they would saddle up, arm themselves and guard the capitalists’ property. And this they did, forming a militia – Calvary Troop B — whose intent was to harass the workers and break the strike.

Such an expression of anti-labor sentiments was hardly unique on the Harvard campus. In August, 1919, when the Boston Police went out on strike, Lowell again called on some 200 Harvard students to pick up the duties of the police. That same year a number of Harvard students acted as strike breakers in the Boston Telephone Operators strike. The notion that strikers had legitimate grievances was alien to much of Harvard’s governing body, not to mention many of its students.

Worse was yet to come. The week before Christmas, in 1929, as the Great Depression took hold of the country, the “scrubwomen” who worked as maids cleaning up Harvard’s Widener Library asked that the university pay what the state said was due them – 37 cents — or two extra pennies — an hour. Many of these women – mostly Irish immigrants — were in their fifties and sixties, had been in Harvard’s employ for decades, and, as widows or spinsters, were their own sole source of income. They had waxed the floors of the libraries, tidied up the shelves, cleaned up after students, and polished the brass.

But rather than grant them two pennies extra an hour in compliance with the Massachusetts Minimum Wage Commission, President Lowell fired them the week before Christmas without notice, and without payment to see them over the holidays. They were now destitute, some finding themselves out on the street.

For college students, beating up strikers was fun. I mostly know of this from the University of Washington, which has a similar history of empowering students to commit violence against strikers in the early 20th century.

And for Harvard this history remains relevant as it has forced its food service workers onto the picket lines. But hey, at least poor Harvard can still call on the Boston Globe to produce hackish pro-1% arguments.

The fact that Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust is a historian of the Civil War who is currently oppressing her own workers, many of whom are African-American, is to her eternal shame.

In Conclusion, Both Parties Are the Same

[ 94 ] October 6, 2016 |


As the world’s smartest and most politically brilliant person, Dr. Jill Stein, M.D., repeatedly shows, both parties are the same. Especially on labor law.

The Obama administration, in its latest effort to update workplace policies it says have lagged far behind the realities of Americans’ lives, will require federal government contractors to provide paid sick leave to their workers.

The rule, which was issued on Thursday and which the Labor Department estimates will directly affect more than 1.1 million people once fully in effect, enables workers to accrue up to seven days of paid sick leave a year.

“This is really part of a broader conversation across America about what a 21st-century social compact should look like,” Thomas E. Perez, the labor secretary, said in an interview. “Back in the day, when Beaver Cleaver got sick and June Cleaver was home, who takes off to stay with the Beav was a nonissue. In today’s world of dual-career couples in the work force, our public policy has not caught up.”

The move serves as a coda to the administration’s ongoing efforts to enhance rights and protections for workers, including making millions more eligible for overtime pay and expanding workers’ rights to sue over pay discrimination.

In recent years, more than 20 cities and states around the country have passed laws mandating paid sick leave, which voters generally support, polls show. New York City passed its own such law in 2013 and expanded it the next year. Republican-leaning Arizona appears on the verge of enacting such a measure by a ballot initiative this fall.

But legislation that would mandate paid sick leave nationwide, notably the so-called Healthy Families Act, has stalled in Congress for years, prompting the administration to seek alternative ways of achieving the policy’s goals.

The rule, which does not need additional approval, requires that workers in assignments related to many federal contracts receive one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours they work, for up to 56 hours of leave a year. Workers will be able to use the days to receive medical attention, care for a relative or deal with complications arising from domestic violence or sexual assault. The rule affects only contracts solicited by the government beginning on Jan. 1, 2017.

Recent data suggest that more than 35 percent of private-sector workers do not have access to paid sick leave.

Jill Stein is the only progressive hope against this bipartisan war on American workers!

Davis ’24!

[ 15 ] October 6, 2016 |


I still maintain the greatest mistake The Atlantic ever made was not going hardcore for John Davis in 1924.

It Is So Hard Being a Billionaire Baseball Team Owner

[ 87 ] October 5, 2016 |


Well, this truly justifies the impoverishment of minor league baseball players.

Yes, clearly the horror of paperwork, something billionaires could not possibly afford to pay $50,000 a year to a secretary to take care of, is a great reason to make your employees’ lives terrible.

How Supply Chains Shelter Corporations from Responsibility

[ 16 ] October 5, 2016 |


This story on cobalt miners for your phones is deeply disturbing.

The Post traced this cobalt pipeline and, for the first time, showed how cobalt mined in these harsh conditions ends up in popular consumer products. It moves from small-scale Congolese mines to a single Chinese company — Congo DongFang International Mining, part of one of the world’s biggest cobalt producers, Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt — that for years has supplied some of the world’s largest battery makers. They, in turn, have produced the batteries found inside products such as Apple’s iPhones — a finding that calls into question corporate assertions that they are capable of monitoring their supply chains for human rights abuses or child labor.

Apple, in response to questions from The Post, acknowledged that this cobalt has made its way into its batteries. The Cupertino, Calif.-based tech giant said that an estimated 20 percent of the cobalt it uses comes from Huayou Cobalt. Paula Pyers, a senior director at Apple in charge of supply-chain social responsibility, said the company plans to increase scrutiny of how all its cobalt is obtained. Pyers also said Apple is committed to working with Huayou Cobalt to clean up the supply chain and to addressing the underlying issues, such as extreme poverty, that result in harsh work conditions and child labor.

Another Huayou customer, LG Chem, one of the world’s leading battery makers, told The Post it stopped buying Congo-sourced minerals late last year. Samsung SDI, another large battery maker, said that it is conducting an internal investigation but that “to the best of our knowledge,” while the company does use cobalt mined in Congo, it does not come from Huayou.

Few companies regularly track where their cobalt comes from. Following the path from mine to finished product is difficult but possible, The Post discovered. Armed guards block access to many of Congo’s mines. The cobalt then passes through several companies and travels thousands of miles.

Yet 60 percent of the world’s cobalt originates in Congo — a chaotic country rife with corruption and a long history of foreign exploitation of its natural resources. A century ago, companies plundered Congo’s rubber sap and elephant tusks while the country was a Belgian colony. Today, more than five decades after Congo gained its independence, it is minerals that attract foreign companies.

This is just what is basically the abstract of a long report. The whole thing goes deep into the massive exploitation in the rare earth industry. Just a bit from the details:

The diggers are desperate, said Papy Nsenga, a digger and president of a fledgling diggers union.

Pay is based on what they find. No minerals, no money. And the money is meager — the equivalent of $2 to $3 on a good day, Nsenga said.

“We shouldn’t have to live like this,” he said.

And when accidents occur, diggers are on their own.

Last year, after one digger’s leg was crushed and another suffered a head wound in a mine collapse, Nsenga was left to raise the hundreds of dollars for treatment from other diggers. The companies that buy the minerals rarely help, Nsenga and other diggers said.

Deaths happen with regularity, too, diggers said. But only mass casualties seem to filter out to the scant local media, such as the U.N.-funded Radio Okapi. Thirteen cobalt miners were killed in September 2015 when a dirt tunnel collapsed in Mabaya, near the Zambia border. Two years ago, 16 diggers were killed by landslides in Kawama, followed months later by the deaths of 15 diggers in an underground fire in Kolwezi.

In Kolwezi, a provincial mine inspector frustrated by a recent run of accidents agreed to talk to The Post on the condition that he not be identified, because he was not permitted to talk to the media.

He met the journalists in a minibus — jumping in, closing the door and taking a seat in the middle, far from the tinted windows so no one on the street could see him.

That morning, he said, he had helped rescue four artisanal miners nearly overcome by fumes from an underground fire in Kolwezi. The day before, two men had died in a mining tunnel collapse, he said.

He said he had personally pulled 36 bodies from local artisanal mines in the past several years. The Post was not able to independently verify his claims, but they echoed stories from diggers about the frequency of mining accidents.

The inspector blamed companies such as Congo DongFang that buy the artisanal cobalt and ship it overseas.

“They don’t care,” he said. “To them, if you bring them minerals and you’re sick or hurt, they don’t care.”

I’m going to repeat what I’ve said many times: If you want to end these horrors, you hold the companies at the top of the supply chain legally responsible for those supply chains. Let’s say we did that? Would those companies abandon the Congo because of this? No, because they can’t. Two things would happen. One, they would make it in the interests of the Chinese company managing this to make sure basic human dignity is upheld in the mines. Or two, the companies themselves could pool together and start their own investment in the mines to ensure they complied with the law. In this case, there wouldn’t be anything particularly competitive about the issue as they all need the same minerals.

The Post report is correct: There is no reason to think that Apple and the other tech companies will monitor their own supply chains. Whenever corporations can avoid any costs, they will do so. Monitoring these mines to make sure Congolese miners don’t die is an avoidable cost. They will never do it effectively unless we as consumers make them do it. As I call for in Out of Sight, we must fight for what I name a Corporate Accountability Act that ensures essential human rights for workers no matter where they labor if they are working for an American company or in a supply chain for an American economy. This is the ONLY WAY we stop this. In this case, there is only one answer. It’s legal responsibility. If we don’t believe in this, then we also hold personal responsibility for dead Congolese miners.

Trump’s Lies about Trade

[ 197 ] October 5, 2016 |


It’s a weird time for me. Out of Sight is a book of desperate outrage about capital mobility and how it has both destroyed the American working class and exploited people overseas. Of course Donald Trump is claiming he cares about NAFTA and trade. He doesn’t. There’s no evidence in his career that he cares at all about these issues. But he’s realized that it is a good piece of symbolism for the white nationalism he does care about and he’s realized that voters care about it. So he is demagoguing the issue. I am giving a couple of talks this semester about Out of Sight. I simply cannot let anyone come out of these talks and think “I am going to vote for Donald Trump.” I see no other way to deal with this that what I prefer to avoid in both teaching and public lectures–talking directly about who to vote for in an election. I gave a talk last week at Mansfield University in Pennsylvania. And I included a new slide in the Powerpoint that was a picture of Trump (the one in this post) with my caption of saying this is not how to solve these problems. And some students walked out at that point. But I don’t really care. Because what else am I supposed to do?

Anyway, it’s always useful to remember that Donald Trump is lying when he says he cares about trade and American workers. He’s always been as happy to exploit labor as any capitalist.

“What he says really appeals to our members,” said Jim Johnston, President of USW Local 1219, which represents workers at U.S. Steel’s Edgar Thomson Works. “But what he does is the total opposite.”

Along with other union officials at a Tuesday news conference outside the Braddock mill, Mr. Johnston noted a Newsweek report, which found that in two of Mr. Trump’s recent building projects he “opted to purchase his steel and aluminum from Chinese manufacturers rather than United States corporations based in states like Pennsylvania.”

“[H]e is not someone who ever attempted to lead by example,” concluded the magazine.

“Donald Trump pretends to be in the corner of steelworkers when the facts — as always with Donald Trump — show otherwise,” said Braddock Mayor John Fetterman, a Democrat.

In a statement, Trump campaign senior policy adviser Curtis Ellis called the Newsweek story “false on its face. … The Trump Organization does not purchase steel — it works with contractors to build buildings. Those contractors follow the market, a market that the Chinese have exploited with subsidies, dumping and other predatory trade practices.”

“America’s steelworkers know that Hillary’s support of NAFTA and China’s entry into the WTO are responsible for job losses and devastation in their industry,” said the statement, referring to a 1990s trade deal and China’s entry into the global trade regime. “Mr. Trump’s comprehensive plan to cut taxes, reduce regulation, unleash our energy sector, and eliminate the trade deficit will bring good, high-paying manufacturing jobs back to the U.S.”

Among other things Trump is lying about, it’s that the one industry capital mobility, NAFTA, and Chinese entry into the WTO did not kill it was the steel industry. That was done in by a combination of the U.S. government wanting to boost the economy of its Asian allies, the lack of investment in new factories by the American steel companies, and other American businesses looking for new steel supplies because of the constant labor strife in the industry. But the truth doesn’t really matter in an election. Trump’s message is powerful. Five decades of American policymakers not really caring what happens to those who lose their jobs due to capital mobility creates a lot of people willing to believe anything that helps them understand their loss of social status and economic mobility. Trump and his lies about trade provides some of that.

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 51

[ 51 ] October 4, 2016 |

This is the grave of Al Smith.


A lifelong resident of Manhattan, Al Smith was born in 1873. From a poor Irish Catholic family, Smith dropped out of school at age 14 to work in a fish market. He became involved in local politics and was a young star in the Tammany machine. He managed to avoid the corruption endemic to Gilded Age machine politics and combined with his excellent speaking style and connections to the immigrant community, he rose quickly. He was elected to the New York state assembly in 1904, where he served until 1915. Among his work there was allying with Frances Perkins to get building and safety reforms passed after the Triangle Fire. He left the assembly in 1915 to become sheriff of New York County and then became governor in 1919. He did not win reelection in 1920 but campaigning openly on the repeal of prohibition, won in 1922, 1924, and 1926. He mentored people ranging from Frances Perkins to Robert Moses in his administration. He was a relative racial progressive for a Democrat of the time and spoke out against lynching. He was also close to another young New York Democrat named Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Smith had run for president in 1924, but the party split between him and the prohibitionist William McAdoo. John Davis was the compromise candidate to get blown out by Calvin Coolidge. Smith managed to win the nomination in 1928, but was overwhelmed by a combination of anti-Catholicism and economic prosperity. Even with bad economic times, the deep anti-Catholicism of much of the Protestant population, especially in the Democratic southern base, probably would have doomed him. Hoover won 5 southern states that fall, something unprecedented for post-Reconstruction Republican candidates.

Roosevelt took over the governorship of New York from Smith, but this created a rivalry between the two once allies. They both wanted to be the Democratic nominee in 1932. Still, Smith worked to elect FDR after the latter won the nomination. Unfortunately, the New Deal made Smith apoplectic. At the core of Democratic Party ideology going back to the days of Jackson and Van Buren was a rugged individualism. The idea of big social programs like Social Security and laws like the National Labor Relations Act was hated by a lot of Democratic elites, and not only southerners like John Nance Garner. Smith turned on Roosevelt with embittered hatred. He voted for Alf Landon in 1936 and Wendell Willkie in 1940. Smith believed in cooperation with business and saw FDR as producing class warfare. Effectively, Smith became a man the times passed by. He died in 1944, at the age of 70.

Al Smith is buried in Calvary Cemetery, Queens, New York.

Yet Another Reason to Oppose the TPP

[ 48 ] October 4, 2016 |


Good lord, will the horrors of the Trans Pacific Partnership never cease?

By dramatically reconfiguring supply chains in food and processed food, the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) could see significant price falls, including more than 12% on ketchup imported from Chile to north American markets, according to a new UNCTAD study of the trade deal’s agricultural dimension. The study also said it would be complicated to assess the overall impact of the deal.

My god people. Will someone step up and stop this gooey surge engulfing the Pacific world?

Our Allies in Global Trade

[ 12 ] October 4, 2016 |


Sure the Department of Labor has placed the Vietnamese textile industry on its list of those industries using child and forced labor. But why let that stop us from implementing the Trans Pacific Partnership! Meanwhile, the U.S. will do absolutely nothing to actually stop this from happening. And let’s be clear–it very well could. The new law closing the Smoot-Hawley Tariff slave labor loophole is just one of many examples of how the U.S. govenrment actually does control the conditions of labor overseas for products imported into the United States. It could do a lot to ensure that kids aren’t making our clothes, including punishing American companies who are relying on this labor. But they don’t do that. Instead, they press through trade agreements that could allow Nike to sue Vietnam for lost profits if that country banned child labor. Free trade is everyone’s friend!

Gary Johnson, War on Drugs Hypocrite

[ 79 ] October 4, 2016 |


Gary Johnson may talk about how much he loves to smoke marijuana, and there’s no doubt that’s true. But that hardly means Johnson is in any way progressive in the War on Drugs, unless you consider a racialized exception for white people to smoke pot progressive. Because that’s about where Johnson has always been. I lived in New Mexico for the last two years of the Johnson administration. To say the least, he is the dumbest man I have ever seen in such an office, and that includes George W. Bush. But on the point, he’s always been horrible on prison issues. This post links to an Albuquerque Journal article from 1999:

‘Johnson acknowledged that some of his recent statements, including his belief that people shouldn’t be jailed for using drugs, appear to contradict his otherwise hardline stance on crime. During his 1998 re-election campaign, Johnson aired a tough-sounding television commercial in which he said if you commit a crime in New Mexico, you’re going to serve “every lousy second” of your prison sentence. “When I made that commercial, I’m thinking about the guy who’s got his gun out,” Johnson said. “I was never thinking about the guy who did heroin and that’s all he did. I wasn’t thinking about Robert Downey Jr.,” Johnson said, referring to the actor recently sent to prison on drug charges. [Italics mine—M.A.] Johnson said he would veto bills that required additional state spending for new drug-treatment programs because it could result in tax increases. Despite his belief that people should not be sent to jail for using drugs, Johnson said he does not intend to issue any blanket pardons for those serving time in New Mexico jails on drug charges.’

The scary guys. Not the rich heroin addicts. The scary guys.

Moreover, Gary Johnson himself instigated a prison riot by blaming inmates for the problems at a private prison run by his Wackenhut friends in Hobbs. He basically dared the inmates to riot. They did.

New Mexico State legislators in and near Hobbs, N.M., indicated that a statement made last week by Gov. Gary Johnson likely pushed inmates to the point of riot Tuesday night in Santa Rosa.

“I can’t believe it didn’t happen the next night,” state Sen. Billy McKibben, R-Hobbs, said. “I think what we’re seeing here is a direct result of irresponsible management.”

Johnson, a Republican, told reporters at a press conference last week he may be forced to remove state inmates from private Wackenhut Corrections Corp. prisons in Hobbs and Santa Rosa if the violence continues at current pace.

The governor made a similar remark Wednesday, The Associated Press reported.

But state Corrections Secretary Rob Perry placed responsibility on the inmates involved.

“I think it’s time all of us … start holding these inmates accountable for this violence,” Perry told The Associated Press. “Because a little man from the moon isn’t coming down and killing other inmates and killing correctional officers. This is inmate conduct. It’s criminal conduct and it’s violent conduct.”

Officials have long said that inmates tend to prefer state facilities over private ones because of the extras offered at state penitentiaries.

Perry also said the political fight over prisons has probably increased tensions behind bars.

“There’s clearly a motive out there for these inmates who don’t want to be at these facilities because they don’t have the niceties that they’ve been accustomed to,” he told The AP. “And it’s a challenge on their part to capitalize on the attention that has been drawn to this issue.”

But New Mexico state Rep. Stevan Pearce, R-Hobbs, on Wednesday agreed with McKibben.

“For (Johnson) to make the public statement like that, it’s like waving a red flag in front of the system,” Pearce said. “I think it put pressure on a system that already is dealing with problems.

“I think it’s, ‘Hey, all we’ve got to do is cause one more disturbance and we get a new cell.’ ”

McKibben added that Johnson who did push for private prisons during his last term hasn’t been vocal on the issue recently until last week.

“That’s the first time we’ve heard anything from him on the prison situation,” he said. “It was almost a veiled invitation (for violence).”

Pearce and McKibben said the corrections department is partly to blame, as well, and McKibben, the state’s senior-most senator, called for legislative action.

“We’ve got a disaster on our hands here, and all (Johnson) can say is ‘The inmates are responsible,’ ” McKibben said. “It’s disgusting.

Wackenhut itself was responsible for the riot because of the horrible conditions in the prison. But then that’s the model that Gary Johnson wanted when he became a bought man of the prison industry in the first place.

Wackenhut faced withering criticism immediately following the riot. Corrections Secretary Perry and Public Safety Dept. Secretary Darren White accused the company of waiting at least an hour before informing state officials of the riot and Garcia’s death. They also said Wackenhut failed to notify the State Police and misled a state trooper who contacted the prison while the uprising was in progress, which led to a delay in sending response teams to the facility.

White called for an investigation into whether Wackenhut was criminally negligent in delaying reports of the riot. “I can tell you from my own standpoint I want to determine if the recent actions indicate a pattern and practice by Wackenhut which places public relations over public safety,” said White. “If we determine that this reluctance to notify law enforcement was part of a corporate policy, then someone could be exposed to criminal charges.” White warned that he could go “to the top of the corporate ladder.” He noted there had been a four-hour delay before Wackenhut reported the August 22 beating death of Orlando Gabaldon.

State lawmakers also condemned the company, questioning whether inadequate employee training and under-staffing had contributed to the riot. In state facilities the staff-to-prisoner ratio is 1:3, while at the Wackenhut prisons the ratio is 1:5. Also, it was later determined that Garcia, the slain prison guard, who had been on the job less than six months, was not fully certified as required under Wackenhut’s contract.

“All I can say is that we are really in an emergency situation and that the profit motive behind-privatization has surfaced and we are feeling its effect,” stated New Mexico House Speaker Raymond Sanchez. Wackenhut’s stock dropped $3.00 a share — 16 percent -the day after the August 31 riot.

A closed legislative hearing concerning the riot was held the same day as Wackenhut’s press conference. Dept. of Public Safety Secretary White departed early, saying Senate President Pro Tem Manny Aragon, who chaired the hearing, had a “blatant conflict of interest” because he is a paid consultant for Wackenhut. “It’s as ridiculous as the State Dept. holding a briefing on the Gulf War and having the Iraqis at the table,” White said of Aragon’s participation in the hearing.

Sen. Aragon, who strongly opposed prison privatization before being hired by Wackenhut in 1998, denied a conflict of interest, though he declined to say how much he was paid by the company and state disclosure laws do not require him to do so. Attorney General Patricia Madrid rejected a request by the chairman of the state Republican Party to investigate Aragon’s close relationship with Wackenhut.

Besides hiring Sen. Aragon as a consultant, Wackenhut employs former New Mexico corrections secretary Eloy Mondragon as warden of the Santa Rosa prison. Also, Wackenhut and corporate officers have donated $9,000 to Gov. Johnson’s election campaign and $5,000 to the state Republican Party. Four months before the Santa Rosa uprising, in April 1999, Gov. Johnson vetoed legislation that would have increased the state’s control over private prisons.

Gary Johnson, the clear progressive choice!

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