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.
Author Page for Erik Loomis
Building upon yesterday’s discussion, Jaymi Heimbuch provides a really good roundup of the complexities of wild horses on the western range.
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.
I know that Robert Bray is a professional historian but the idea that Lincoln has useful lessons for President Obama as he enters his second term is 20 degrees of absurd.
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?
Is this really too much to ask?
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.
Am I the only one who thinks this grizzly bear chair presented to Andrew Johnson in 1865 really seals his image as a villain? Who can’t see him drunkenly spewing racist epithets while sitting here? Did he click his fingers against the grizzly bear claws while undermining black rights? The possibilities are endless.
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…..
So I am getting more than a bit sick and tired of poorly contextualized ruminations on the ruin landscape of Detroit. Some of this art and writing is interesting enough on its own. Marc Binelli’s piece for instance is alright and does sort of get at some of the deeper problems challenging Detroit. But looking at Detroit as the end of the world ignores the biggest reason why Detroit has reached this state. Deindustrialization of course plays a major role. But equally important, especially in Detroit, is continued residential segregation. If we isolate Detroit as the physical boundaries of that city alone, without paying much attention to the metro area, then we can create these apocalyptic constructions. But there is a tremendous amount of money in the suburbs around Detroit. What we are seeing is not the end of the world. It’s the logical consequence of white supremacy combined with corporate race-to-the-bottom policies.
Here’s another way to look at the problem:
This is a residential map of Detroit, with dots pointing to the racial makeup of neighborhoods. Guess which dots represent black and white? Bet you can’t tell!!! Yellow are Latinos. Not surprisingly, the boundary between black and white in the Detroit metro area corresponds closely to the Detroit city limits. We need to be talking about metro areas when thinking about cities, not just the central city isolated from the context of what is going on a mere few miles away.
In other words, anyone writing or filming anything about Detroit should be forced to read Thomas Sugrue’s The Origins of the Urban Crisis first. This John Patrick Leary essay in Guernica is also pretty fantastic.
The other day, Scott mentioned the absurd yet pervasive idea that Karl Rove is a political supergenius. Particularly bizarre to me is the idea that he played an important role in moving Texas from the Democrats to the Republicans. See this Washington Post piece:
Rove’s reputation for seeing the Next Big Thing in politics goes back to the late 1970s, when he arrived in Texas to set up a direct-mail operation. At the time, Republicans held only one statewide elected office; when he left in 2001, Republicans were in all 29 of them — and most of those officials had at one time or another been Rove’s clients.’
Yeah, wow, hard to see how Texas would have switched to the Republicans if it wasn’t for Rove’s direct-mail operation. Certainly the Republicans redefining themselves as the party of the white man after 1964 had nothing to do with it at all….
In short, since 1982, the number of hog farms in Iowa has declined rapidly while production has skyrocketed. This means more pigs concentrated into huge farms. Those megafarms not only force pigs to live terrible lives but are also massive environmental hazards in places people don’t want to work or live unless they lack the sense of smell. This has happened because the Big Four meatpackers have consolidated control of the hog markets and have forced small farmers out of business in the name of efficiency. One might think that the counties with megafarms would have benefited economically, but this isn’t true. Today, hog-centric counties in Iowa have slightly lower per capita income rates than non-hog counties, a quite different picture from 30 years ago. That’s partially because the corporations have pushed down real wages for meatpacking workers.
Our internalized rhetoric of market efficiency (which even most progressives subscribe to without thinking) means that we think that this consolidation (even with its unfortunate side effects) is obviously worth it because it means lower food prices. But Philpott shows that corporations have little incentive to pass on lower prices to consumers while they have tons of incentive to pass on costs when food prices go up. So essentially, consolidation in the Iowa hog industry has led to more money in the pockets of corporate shareholders at the cost of everyone else involved. Just like the rest of the American economy since the 1970s.
Josh Eidelson has an interesting interview with AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka about the aftermath of the election. Labor did pretty well in the election, outside of the failed Michigan referendum to enshrine collective bargaining rights in the state constitution. The question is whether it will mean anything in the long run. Will Obama take labor seriously in his second term? In my mind, there’s a difference between thinking about labor as a constituency and centering it in the administration. Will the Secretary of Labor be at the table for all discussions of economic issues, including taxes, debt ceilings, entitlements, and broad economic policy? Hilda Solis certainly was not brought into the inner sanctum of economic policy in Obama’s first term.
Of course, relying on politicians isn’t a winning strategy for organized labor. Organizing has to be the engine that drives a better future for American labor. This is still a contentious issue within the AFL-CIO, with some internationals doing a great job and others doing a terrible job.
On the other hand, as Eidelson points out, there’s a lot more Obama could do right now:
Meanwhile, there’s plenty the Obama administration could do – and so far hasn’t – without Congress. With an executive order, the president could change federal contracting to exclude more union-busting companies. With regulations, his Labor Department could restrict the use of dangerous equipment by teenagers working on factory farms, or extend basic overtime protections to domestic workers.
Trumka called for swift action on a long-delayed OSHA regulation regarding silica dust. Asked how quickly it should move, Trumka answered, “Last year.” As for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks currently underway, Trumka said, “They have to make sure they negotiate a deal that actually helps in-sourcing rather than promotes outsourcing. That’s a position that he stood for throughout this election, and I feel confident that he will follow through on that.”
Given the unlikelihood of Employee Free Choice Act passing, what labor needs to demand from Obama is real change on the executive level as laid out above. Everyone interested in labor will be watching to see if Obama pays labor off for its vital help in his reelection campaign.