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Rain Barrels

[ 77 ] June 15, 2015 |

rain-barrel

That collecting rainwater on your own property in barrels remains illegal in Colorado is a great entry point into the complex and extraordinarily contentious water politics of the West, where every drop can lead to a legal action.

Another Trip to the Appelbee’s Salad Bar

[ 47 ] June 15, 2015 |

David Brooks and facts — so often a distant relationship.

Of course, pointing this out presumably makes you guilty of “correct politicalness.” Brooks is also a fan of the defense that Ferguson hung such a maladroit label on:

I went through some of the other instances where he made declarations that appeared insupportable. He accused me of being “too pedantic,” of “taking all of this too literally,” of “taking a joke and distorting it.” “That’s totally unethical,” he said.

The King v. Burwell Waaaaaaaambulance

[ 57 ] June 15, 2015 |

Cute-Crying-Baby

Conservatives are whining about Obama offering criticisms of the argument that Spain was invaded by the Moops. And I guess if you were making that argument you wouldn’t want it subject to any scrutiny either:

And yet various conservatives who anxiously want the Supreme Court to willfully misread the law and cripple ObamaCare reacted hysterically. “[T]ypical Obama bullying of the Court,” huffed the legal scholar and blogger Glenn Reynolds. “[T]here’s nothing ‘moral’ about attempting to bully the Supreme Court by presenting a false choice between the rule of law and love for one’s neighbor,” thundered a Republican legal operative. Michael Cannon, one of the major drivers of the litigation, which claims the federal government does not have the right to provide subsidies to states that do not establish their own health care exchanges, asserted that it was “a speech designed to cow the Supreme Court justices into turning a blind eye to the law.”

[…]

But the quality of the arguments against Obama isn’t really the point. Claiming that Obama isn’t allowed to criticize the court is an attempt to control the politics should the court wreck the federally established exchanges. As Sen. John Thune’s infamous bellyflop on Twitter showed, Republicans will try to argue that if a conservative challenge to the ACA is accepted by a bare majority of GOP-appointed Supreme Court justices, and state and federal legislators refuse to do anything as millions of people lose their insurance, it’s Barack Obama’s fault.

If that argument sounds dumb, it’s because it is. So I really can’t blame the ACA’s opponents for their preemptive whining. Like every other aspect of this latest legal challenge, the argument is an almost comically transparent fraud. If I was trying to sell the idea that Congress set up a federal backstop that was designed to fail, and kept this a secret for reasons nobody has ever been able to explain, I might argue that disagreeing with me was inherently illegitimate too.

Does someone argue that Obama shouldn’t be allowed to argue that the Court shouldn’t have taken the case because of President, Senate Majority Leader, Speaker of the House, President, Secretary of Health and Human Services, and first overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft Jonathan Gruber? You’ll have to click to discover the surprising answer!

This Day in Labor History: June 15, 1990

[ 21 ] June 15, 2015 |

On June 15, 1990, 400 striking janitors in Los Angeles who had organized with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and were trying to secure a contract with International Service Systems (ISS), who had the contract to clean many of the city’s downtown office buildings, were beaten by police as they attempted to cross a street. Around 90 strikers were wounded and 38 were arrested. This event galvanized support for the janitors and is an important event both in the history of Latino labor in the United States and the growth of SEIU into arguably the most powerful union in the United States during the early 21st century.

In 1983, the average wage for a janitor in Los Angeles surpassed $7 an hour and included health insurance. By 1986, that had plummeted to $4.50 and insurance had disappeared. This happened through a phenomena we are familiar with today–instead of employing their own janitors, building owners began contracting the work out to an outside company that put enormous downward pressure on wages and working conditions. These companies largely hired undocumented workers, especially from Central America, that they could control and who had little power to resist. Once again, we see how contracting out work so often leads to downward pressure on wages and working conditions.

What was happening in Los Angeles ravaged SEIU locals around the country. After a 1985 lockout in Pittsburgh, the union looked for a new campaign to fight back. SEIU sought to reverse these losses in 1987 with the Justice for Janitors campaign. The plan, developed primarily by Stephen Lerner, targeted building owners rather than contractors as they held the real power and could roll the higher costs of treating workers decently into the contract as opposed to a contractor then losing out to a non-union agency if the campaign targeted them. The campaign had early successes in Denver and Atlanta before moving on to the tougher, larger cities of Los Angeles and Washington, DC.

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It was in Los Angeles that the movement achieved its greatest victories. Local 339 in that city became the center of the national campaign in 1990. Some of this came from the fact that the Central American workers who made up the local’s core already knew social struggle. These were refugees from the civil wars in Guatemala and El Salvador. They were, as a whole, less scared of civil disobedience than native-born workers, despite their undocumented legal status. They began following building owners to their nice restaurants and country club and heckling them, while using leaflets and demonstrations to get the buildings’ tenants to place pressure on the owners to settle the issue. This strategy also avoided the long and often futile process of going through a union election and dealing with the National Labor Relations Board. Given how long such a process takes and how that system has become co-opted by employers, it made sense to pressure employers to accept a union without an election. Effectively, the Justice for Janitors campaign borrowed many of the tactics of the civil rights movement to build public sympathy rather than the classic tactics of the labor movement.

Perhaps the most aggressive building owners and contractors were at Century City, a sizable office complex where International Service Systems had the contract. With the building owner and ISS unwilling to deal, the union led the janitors on a strike in May 1990. It was during these protests, on June 15, that the police attacked the janitors. They did so after shouting orders to disperse only in English with a group of workers who were largely monolingual in Spanish. As the office workers looked on in horror from the buildings, the police attacked the strikers for two hours. They used their riot batons to beat the workers at the front of the line, then engaged in a flanking action that trapped the strikers in a parking garage. When the workers tried to flee, they were arrested for failure to disperse. 90 workers were injured, 19 seriously. One suffered a fractured skull. One pregnant worker miscarried her baby.

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This was an overwhelming error for the police, building owners, and ISS. Public sympathy overwhelmingly supported the janitors after the violence. The mayor of Los Angeles had mostly stayed out of it until this point, but after the beatings, he spoke out for the union. It seemed to many that the police wanted to teach these immigrants a lesson for causing problems. SEIU sued the LAPD for civil rights violations, leading to a $2.35 million settlement in 1993. The building owner finally caved and placed pressure on the contractor to settle. This led to the establishment of a master contract in Los Angeles in 1991.

This of course did not transform the lives of janitors overnight. Other cities, especially Washington, saw even more intransigent resistance than Los Angeles. To coordinate these national campaigns, critics noted how SEIU leadership rode roughshod over locals who refused to follow the international’s strategy. They claimed the aggressive actions against these locals undermined union democracy, while the practice merging small locals into larger state and region wide locals that could have greater collective political power but which isolated the former officials of those locals who didn’t have the power to win office in the larger organizations. I have to admit that I don’t have all that much sympathy for those arguments, as the need to get lame locals to actually do something may supersede idealized union democracy and the benefits of concentrating worker power into large locals has real political advantages. I know many disagree with me on this point and I guess it depends on what one wants out of the labor movement.

The campaign was one of the greatest victories for organized labor in the era and announced SEIU’s arrival on the national labor scene. By 2000, the Justice for Janitors had organized janitors around the country with companies seeking to sign new contracts in order to stave off more trouble. By 2005, SEIU represented 70 percent of janitors in 23 of the nation’s 50 largest cities. For the 21st century, that’s impressive density, especially for private sector work.

The campaign is also notable for representing the new inclusion of Latinos in the labor movement. For most of organized labor’s history, unions had been hostile to immigration, feeling that the competition undermined their wages and ability to win contracts. Sometimes this could get quite ugly, such as the Chinese Workingmen’s Party role in the Chinese Exclusion Act and the American Federation of Labor’s active support of immigration restriction in the 1920s. But the decline of immigration helped undermine the labor movement as immigrants have consistently provided new ideas and propensity for direct action to the movement, often in opposition to the relatively conservative unionism of native-born Americans. SEIU’s open embrace of immigrants recognized that Latinos were likely to be very good unionists, in part because of traditions of social justice they experienced in their home nations. Ever since 1990, immigrants have played a larger role in the labor movement, especially with the last industrial-style unions seeking to hold on against the corporate onslaught against unions, such as SEIU and UNITE-HERE.

SEIU has named June 15 Justice for Janitors Day to commemorate the event.

This is the 146th post in this series. Previous posts are archived here.

Water and the 1 Percent

[ 124 ] June 14, 2015 |

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It is so hard being extremely wealthy in this communist nation:

Drought or no drought, Steve Yuhas resents the idea that it is somehow shameful to be a water hog. If you can pay for it, he argues, you should get your water.

People “should not be forced to live on property with brown lawns, golf on brown courses or apologize for wanting their gardens to be beautiful,” Yuhas fumed recently on social media. “We pay significant property taxes based on where we live,” he added in an interview. “And, no, we’re not all equal when it comes to water.”

Yuhas lives in the ultra-wealthy enclave of Rancho Santa Fe, a bucolic Southern California hamlet of ranches, gated communities and country clubs that guzzles five times more water per capita than the statewide average. In April, after Gov. Jerry Brown (D) called for a 25 percent reduction in water use, consumption in Rancho Santa Fe went up by 9 percent.

But a moment of truth is at hand for Yuhas and his neighbors, and all of California will be watching: On July 1, for the first time in its 92-year history, Rancho Santa Fe will be subject to water rationing.

Will these people be able to survive if they xeriscape their yards? Or instead should the state reduce the water use of the poor to 1 shower a week while the ultra-wealthy open fire extinguishers to run down the drain because they can?

A glimpse into my inbox — if I actually responded to lunatics, which I’m doing today because why not?

[ 29 ] June 14, 2015 |

“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial…”

[ 82 ] June 14, 2015 |

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I’m sure some of you have read Jennifer Gonnerman’s extraordinary story about Kalief Browder, who was arrested and on the most threadbare of evidence charged with a minor theft. He was held at Riker’s Island, sometimes in solitary confinement and sometimes subject to horrible abuse, for three years without trial.

There’s no way for this story to have a happy ending, but there could be better and worse ones. You’ve probably anticipated that Browder’s case falls into the latter category:

Last Monday, Prestia, who had filed a lawsuit on Browder’s behalf against the city, noticed that Browder had put up a couple of odd posts on Facebook. When Prestia sent him a text message, asking what was going on, Browder insisted he was O.K. “Are you sure everything is cool?” Prestia wrote. Browder replied: “Yea I’m alright thanks man.” The two spoke on Wednesday, and Browder did seem fine. On Saturday afternoon, Prestia got a call from Browder’s mother: he had committed suicide.

Almost everything wrong with American criminal justice in one story: ginning up baseless charges based on particularly unreliable eyewitness testimony; prisons being run as torture camps; not only denials of basic due process rights but a hopelessly clogged system that relies on the vast majority of the accused to waive their right to a public trial and has various means of punishing people who won’t play ball. And, remember, this is a story of New York City — this is not just a red state phenomenon by any means.

On the Decline of a Hero to Western Liberals

[ 158 ] June 14, 2015 |

It turns out that Aung San Suu Kyi is basically as bad as the Myanmar government on the issue of the Rohingya.

The Nobel Prize winner — and prospective presidential candidate — is seen around the world as a beacon of hope for Burma, but the Rohingya crisis has cast a dark shadow over her democratic credentials. As thousands of Rohingya flee to Burma’s democratic neighbors — Indonesia, Malaysia, and even earthquake-ravaged Nepal — the international community cannot ignore their persecution. They have suffered violent pogroms from Buddhist extremists. Their many successfully-run businesses have been burned. The government has barricaded them into concentration camps, where they are in dire need of food, water, and medical help. Aid groups that have been trying to help them face being banned from the country. Meanwhile, Aung San Suu Kyi’s response to this — the greatest human rights issue facing her country — is shocking.

In 2012, she said she “didn’t know” if the Rohingya could be citizens. In doing so she aligned herself with the government’s official policy that the Rohingya don’t exist. In fact, Burmese officials threatened to boycott the recent regional conference to address the migrant crisis if the other participants so much as used the word “Rohingya.” This is in spite of the fact that the Rohingya have lived in Burma for centuries — some scholars say they are indigenous people of the Rakhine state.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s more recent comments are no redeemer: “If I speak up for human rights, [the Rohingya] will only suffer. There will be more blood.” Why the evasiveness? Aung San Suu Kyi is courting the country’s Buddhist majority, among whom hatred for the Rohingya is rampant.

The real lesson here for western readers is that heroes don’t exist and that the entire idea of heroism should be eliminated. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be disappointed in her–we obviously should be sad that she is so indifferent to human rights violations against a minority–but it does mean that people exist in their place and time, have prejudices, and generally are flawed human beings. That Aung San Suu Kyi bravely stood up to the Myanmar military regime for so long in no way automatically means we should expect she cares about the rights of minorities, as we are discovering. The more interesting question is what it says about us that we would expect to her to hold our positions on this matter? Western liberals found her a useful way to project their values on idealized figure from the developing world, something far easier to do when the subject is under long-term house arrest by an awful regime. But that she would be more than willing to sacrifice minorities to win support from the majority population, is this surprising at all?

This doesn’t excuse her lack of interest in minority rights. I just don’t think it’s remotely surprising.

Labor Unity

[ 8 ] June 13, 2015 |

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Noam Scheiber’s dissection of how labor so successfully torpedoed the Trans Pacific Partnership in the House (thus far anyway, again I’m still suspicious this passes somehow) shows how labor can still win today. First, it is united and pushes very hard on erstwhile allies that are ready to abandon it. Second, it crafts alliances with other liberal groups, including environmentalists.

This time around, not only did the firefighters make a considerable investment — producing ads and paying to broadcast them in five congressional districts — but Mr. Schaitberger personally led the effort within the A.F.L-C.I.O. executive council to freeze all donations to members of Congress by the political action committees of the federation and affiliated unions until after the vote on trade promotion authority. (Mr. Schaitberger, who developed the motion, credits Mr. Trumka with helping create almost unanimous support for it.)

Mr. Schaitberger acknowledged some apprehension within the labor movement about denying money even to longtime congressional allies, but he argued that it had been the most effective way to persuade friendly members of Congress to pressure wavering Democratic lawmakers. “We wanted to encourage those members to use their influence, their passion for our position, to move some of their colleagues,” he said.

Even labor’s opponents marveled at the cohesion unions brought to the fight. John Murphy, senior vice president for international policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said he was mystified by the position of the Service Employees International Union, which represents two million workers.

“None of these workers are in any way negatively affected by competition with imports,” said Mr. Murphy. “Yet S.E.I.U. will be there, showing solidarity.”

The across-the-board mobilization by labor unions reflected two pivotal developments since the late 1990s. First was the dawning realization that even public sector workers who appear to be insulated from global competition could ultimately feel its dislocating effects. Mr. Schaitberger said the firefighters had learned all too well that deindustrialization leads to urban decay and declining property values, which can increase demand for public services while it drains cities of the revenue to pay for them.

More recently, the public sector unions, under increasing assault from Republicans in Congress and in several big states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana, found that the rapid decline of industrial unions had left them politically vulnerable as well.

It’s not like unity, solidarity with other unions in situations that don’t directly affect your members’ jobs, and alliance-building with other progressives is always that easy to replicate. But this is a clear way forward and I hope organized labor can build on it.

Texas: Our National Leader in Wind Energy

[ 37 ] June 13, 2015 |

US wind farm large

My former home of Georgetown, Texas is set to become the first city in the United States to be entirely powered by wind and solar energy. It’s remarkable how Texas has become the national leader on renewable energy. Of course, it’s not for some sort of political principle. Rather, Texas is gigantic with seemingly endless open, windy spaces in the western part of the state and the state has its own electricity grid to send that energy to the populated areas farther east. But Georgetown is a deeply Republican place. It’s not as crazy as, say, the Houston suburbs, but it’s quite conservative. Yet this is city that is pioneering the nation’s hopeful energy future.

Fox News covers “Game of Thrones”: People think the White Walkers are evil just because they’re white!

[ 30 ] June 13, 2015 |

This is easily the goofiest thing I’ve written in some time, and it may have been for an audience of one — i.e. people who watch as much Fox News as I do and obsess over Game of Thrones — but here you go:

On “Fox & Friends” this morning, co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck was outraged by those criticizing Stannis Baratheon’s decision to sacrifice his daughter, Agamemnon-and-Iphigenia-style, to the Lord of Light. “There’s only one true god and his name is R’hllor,” she said, adding that “it’s a leader’s job to make the difficult decisions, and he should be applauded for doing so.”

“Of course,” co-host Steve Doocy said, “the real issue here is the troops. If Stannis had cut and run, they would have starved, and now they at least have a chance to die brave deaths while laying siege to Winterfell.”

“Some people would rather the troops starve than die honorably,” Hasselbeck said. “If Stannis tried to return to Castle Black, Shireen still might have died, and even if she didn’t, Jon Snow just let a bunch of Wildlings across the border. It’s not like she would have been safe there!”

“I think we should talk about that,” co-host Brian Kilmeade said. “Who is Jon Snow to be offering all these Wildlings amnesty?”

“No one’s talking about the rate of Wildling-on-Wildling crime, either,” Doocy added. “It’s high — much higher than in the White Walker community.”

Kilmeade agreed, arguing that “some critics” are bashing the White Walkers just because they’re white. “We don’t really know anything about them,” he said, “but we do know that, unlike the Wildlings, they’re not using precious resources that could be going to the troops. I’m not saying we should start a #WhiteWalkersMatter campaign or anything, but I’m not saying we shouldn’t either.”

Read the rest over at Salon…

Craigslist post combines a number of LGM interests

[ 14 ] June 13, 2015 |

cc

Quantities are limited

I will do your divorce for Blackhawks SCF Game 6 Tix

If you’ve been waiting to pull the trigger on a divorce I’m happy to help you with the filing and make sure everything is on the up and up. All I ask in exchange is that we attend game 6 together to discuss the details. From there I will handle everything else.

Lower level seats are going for in excess of $2500 apiece. A messy divorce could cost you millions. This is an amazing chance at an excellent value.

Contact me via email and let me know where your seats are. I’d consider any other kind of legal work you need done.*

Dave

*Willing to discuss the Trans-Pacific Partnership for a small additional fee

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