In some parts of rural Maine, there were dozens, dozens of black people who came in and voted on Election Day. Everybody has a right to vote, but nobody in town knows anyone who’s black. How did that happen? I don’t know. We’re going to find out….
I’m not politically correct and maybe I shouldn’t have said these voters were black, but anyone who suggests I have a bias toward any race or group, frankly, that’s sleazy.
As a Democrat, let me say how much I love this version of the Republican Party. Can I suggest a prominent speaking role for Webster at the 2016 Republican National Convention?
Luck further had it that Morgan’s father was a private investigator, and she asked him to do some PI-level background research on both Yessin and Salgado. The dirt he turned up on Salgado was a mother lode. Jose had been convicted of running guns. Lots of guns, the sort that could arm a drug gang. We could never have made up something like this guy’s arrest record. So that was the sort of operation Brent Yessin ran, infiltrating unions with convicted gunrunners. Here were all our fresh-out-of-college idealistic twentysomething organizers, plus nurses themselves who had become our organizers, illegally banned from a hospital where they admitted a convicted gunrunner, who had clearly been brought in to scare the workers. Blowing this jerk out of the water was going to be a pleasure.
We called the national communications team in DC to get advice on how best to break this news. My mistake: I forgot this would trigger a review by the SEIU legal department, which told us that we couldn’t use the information because we couldn’t say where we had obtained it. I was mentally kicking myself: I should have known better than to call D.C. Now that they had discussed it with me, I would be directly disobeying legal counsel if I broke the story. I could have acted first and talked to our lawyers second. I already had a reputation among them for this sort of thing, and I readily admit it was well founded. Lawyers, not surprisingly, get very caught up in the law. But the laws regulating unions in the country are pathetic, and the amount of attention that unions pay to them is one reason (among many) that the labor movement in this country is dying. It was legalized to death.
Don’t get me wrong here. The SEIU does have some excellent lawyers who are devoted to the labor movement. If some day I actually wind up in legal trouble I would be delighted to have a lawyer as good as them. The problem is that lawyers wake up each day and think about how labor leaders can get their work done inside a legal framework that is deadly to unions. I woke up every day and thought about how to disrupt that system. I respected and appreciated them—I just didn’t listen to them as often as they wanted.
Knowing when to listen to lawyers and when to ignore them is a key for an organizer. My own rule of thumb is this: If something I want to do might get me in trouble, I do it; if it might get the workers or staff in trouble, I don’t. Really good labor lawyers help people like me with militant impulses understand when to cut the crap. The very best also know that sometimes, ignoring them is part of the organizer’s job. When an action needs to be taken right away or the union will lose, you take it and resolve the legal issue later. We were fighting a decertification effort with enormous stakes. If we lost, UHS could kick the legs out from under a plan that had taken thousands of hours to assemble. If we won, we could create unprecedented standards for workers and patients in a right-to-work state, and a presidential swing state to boot. What drives me absolutely crazy is how so often over the recent history of the movement, labor leaders have followed the letter of the law when confronting the boss while throwing the book out the window when confronting each other.
For the first time, the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) explicitly described family planning as a “universal human right.” In its annual report, the organization said that improved access to contraception and other methods of family planning could greatly improve the lives of women around the world:
“Family planning has a positive multiplier effect on development,” Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director of the fund, said in a written statement. “Not only does the ability for a couple to choose when and how many children to have help lift nations out of poverty, but it is also one of the most effective means of empowering women. Women who use contraception are generally healthier, better educated, more empowered in their households and communities and more economically productive. Women’s increased labor-force participation boosts nations’ economies.”
The report effectively declares that legal, cultural and financial barriers to accessing contraception and other family planning measures are an infringement of women’s rights.
A cup of morning coffee could be much harder to find, and much more expensive, before the century is out thanks to climate change and the possible extinction of wild Arabica beans.
That’s the warning behind a new study by U.K. and Ethiopian researchers who say the beans that go into 70 per cent of the world’s coffee could be wiped out by 2080.
Researchers at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew and the Environment and Coffee Forest Forum in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia looked at how climate change might make some land unsuitable for Arabica plants, which are highly vulnerable to temperature change and other dangers including pests and disease.
They came up with a best-case scenario that predicts a 38 per cent reduction in land capable of yielding Arabica by 2080. The worst-case scenario puts the loss at between 90 per cent and 100 per cent.
There is a “high risk of extinction” says the study, which was published this week in the academic journal Plos One.
I personally think coffee is disgusting. But an old organizing mantra is that you have to meet people where they are at. And a lot of you really like coffee. Coffee is a very sensitive plant. I’ve seen hillsides in Central America where coffee will grow on part of it but not the other part. It needs a very particular climate. That could get much, much harder to find.
This month’s Sidney Award went to Jina Moore for her excellent article on poverty in modern America. Asking what is poverty, Moore notes that no one can agree on it. But a really good definition of poverty is lack of access to a healthy variety of food. Variety matters here–in the United States choice is so ingrained in our culture that without it, you are almost automatically defined as poor. Eating canned peas 20 straight days is not only monotonous and dispiriting, but also a mark of class. Really good piece.
For as legitimate as the reasons to want to control their population, I have to say that I saw a herd of wild horses running through the badlands of North Dakota when I was 11 years ago and that sight is burned into my brain to the present. It was amazingly cool.
Luke Russert, who replaces John Podhoretz as the most unqualified beneficiary of nepotism in American life today, actually told Nancy Pelosi in a press conference that she was too old for her job. Watch Pelosi beat him down.
In other news, I am really glad Pelosi decided to serve another term as Minority Leader. She was a great Speaker and is a true champion for progressive causes. Plus Steny Hoyer would be a huge step down.
UPDATE [SL]: It seems worth noting here that Hoyer is a year older than Pelosi. This has to be the phoniest use of age as a pretext for other motives (in this case, egregious sexism) since FDR’s court-packing plan.
Ezra asks a question I think of a lot of Democrats are asking now and were asking in early 2009–Does Barack Obama want Mitch McConnell to be Majority Leader? Obama has always had a political blind spot when it comes to cabinet appointments. He has tended toward well-known political leaders for important positions, even if that means pulling them out of their states where they could extend the Democratic advantage and do more good. Janet Napolitano and Kathleen Sebelius were major political leaders in difficult states for Democrats. It’s completely unclear whether their ability as administrators in a cabinet position proved to me more valuable than running for the Senate in their respective states, but I am doubtful. Democrats managed to hold onto Hillary Clinton’s and Ken Salazar’s seats in the Senate, but with the latter it was only because the Tea Party took over the Colorado Republican Party and ran an insane person.
And now Obama is doing it again by floating John Kerry’s name out for Secretary of Defense or Secretary of State. The upshot of this is that Scott Brown will probably return to the Senate. With 2014 looking like a tough year for Democrats in the Senate (hard races to win combined with expected lower turnout among Democratic base voters), why make it easier for Republicans to control the Senate?
I’m a bit more understanding of why you would do this for John Kerry than I would be for others. He is an old liberal lion who was the presidential candidate in 2004. If he wants the job that bad, maybe he has the right to demand it. Certainly he’s well-qualified. But he can probably do more good in his existing role in the Senate than in the Cabinet.
Can we do 2 things? First, let’s look at Lincoln in his actual context and not as popular writers wish he was. Second, can we quit pretending that presidential administrations of 150 years ago have anything useful to say about 2012?
The legacy of wild horses in the West is somewhat complicated. They are iconic, evoking images of a lost, wild and romantic West. On the other hand, they can be pretty damaging to fragile dry-land vegetation and cause a good bit of erosion. On the third hand (since this is extra-limbed creature day at LGM), they are related to a long-lost indigenous species of horse that populated the West until the Pleistocene era.
Even if you think wild horses aren’t a great thing, it’s hard to understand a “long-time advocate of horse slaughter” who is buying horses from the Bureau of Land Management and shipping them to Mexico for slaughter. Talk about a dirty (and illegal) way to make money.
Exhibit A: The rise of 8-legged frogs. These happen at the end of a long ecological chain that begins with farm runoff from our heavily fertilized agricultural landscapes.
Exhibit B: Farm towns in California that can’t drink the water because of agricultural run-off. Not surprisingly, these towns are poor and populated mostly by Latino farmworkers. Typically, those who have the least power and money are disproportionately affected by environmental problems. This story of environmental injustice means that already impoverished schools have to spend precious resources on bottled water instead of playgrounds or teachers or laptops. But hey, I’m sure if we just busted teacher unions that these schools would perform better…..