Brian Sonenstein's blog

DON'T Vote for Pedro (Espada Jr.)

Does anyone actually understand what's been going on in Albany over the past few weeks?

We sure as heck don't, but the Manhattan Young Dems seem to think it has something to do with that Napoleon Dynamite movie or whatever. Kids these days.

Your Daily News Round-up! (Global Drama Edition)

  • Patrick Martin of the Globe & Mail speculates as to whether the introduction of state-sponsored violence against peaceful protesters in Iran will cause support for the opposition (both foreign and domestic) to "peter out." On the other hand, Martin also wonders whether or not we are seeing the calm before the storm, as was the case during the early stages of the Islamic Revolution, which appeared defeated at first but gained momentum after a couple of years. However, one thing is unfortunately for certain: if the current regime succeeds in quelling these resounding voices, post-election Iran will be a terribly, terrifyingly different place.
  • Governor Mark Sanford (R-SC) tearfully admitted to having an affair yesterday after mysteriously disappearing from his post over Father's Day weekend, to "recharge"--in Argentina, even after his wife and four kids had known about the affair for over five months. Christine Pelosi pretty much summed it up in yesterday's Huffington Post, writing: "How many more Sanfords until the GOP decides to drop the hopelessly hypocritical opposition to privacy rights and marriage equality?" If you really enjoyed that uncomfortable moment, Politico's Daniel Libit put together a compilation of all the recent uncomfortable moments we've come to love over the past couple years.
  • Environmental groups are working against strengthening provisions to the Climate Change Bill in hopes that leaving it alone will make it 'more passable.'
  • North Korea threatens a nuclear "fire shower" for the United States in response to strengthened sanctions supported by the Obama Administration. CBS News notes increasing amounts of editorials imposing histrionics that seem to be inciting revenge rhetoric for the US' involvement in the Korean War (which took place almost 60 years ago) as justification for its aggression.
  • Obama praises Cuban dissidents for their pro-democracy activities and demands the release of all political prisoners. (SIDE NOTE: I just finished reading an incredible book by Armando Valladares, who spent over twenty years as a political prisoner in Castro's gulags-- HIGHLY recommended.)

Re-Thinking the War on Drugs

Think federal spending is mismanaged or out of control?

Here’s your chance to back worthwhile spending reforms!

Congress has begun debating the allocation of funds for foreign policy initiatives, and the quagmire that is our “war on drugs” is on the table. Our representatives must decide whether or not we will continue the status-quo, throwing money at violent state militias and relatively inefficient pesticides (through defunct and misguided programs like Plan Colombia & Plan Mexico) to fight the booming drug trade, which decimates populations here and abroad with more than just the burden of drug abuse--or to reform our approach and address the true evils at work, namely the oppressive social, political and economic conditions that waste our tax dollars and force people into the trade.

From (thanks Rachel!):

The White House’s new drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, has indicated that he’d like to stop using the “war on drugs” phrase to describe the Obama Administration’s counternarcotics strategy. Yet, the Administration’s proposed budgets for Colombia and Mexico show that changes in terminology have not meant changes in policy (see below). Now it’s on us to push Congress beyond words, to make 2010 the year we stop funneling billions in military aid to Colombia and Mexico.

You have a unique opportunity to do just that. From June 23 to July 3, your Congressional representative will be back in district offices near you—a prime chance to present in person the change you’d like to see. Please consider setting up a meeting with your representative or their local staff. Doing so isn’t hard. Just call the office nearest you and say you would like a meeting with your representative during the week of June 23 to discuss aid to Colombia and Mexico. (For further instructions, see below). We’ve prepared a list of talking points to inform your visit and a packet of recommended policy changes to leave behind with the staff. According to Congressional staffers, such in-person meetings have by far the most chance at influencing your representative’s positions—please schedule your meeting today.

If our Senators are really worried about misusing taxpayer dollars, then it's our job to make sure they carry that concern across all issues. Follow the link to get involved!

Smoke & Mirrors

One of our spies snuck into a meeting of the evil right-wing organization HAARM (Healthy Americans Against Reforming Medicine) last week and uncovered a nasty plot to undermine our efforts toward healthcare reform. Watch, and prepare to be shocked, disgusted and amused.

Looking to freak yourself out even MORE? Check these out:

The Yuengling Catastrophe, and What to Drink in the Meantime

Mike Elk over at AlterNet posted an article that broke our hearts yesterday about how Yuengling (which, ironically, I had always perceived to be the “working class beer”) recently busted their union in a big, illegal way. But, as Elk expertly perceives, the blame should not fall solely upon the brewery (follow the link; it’s a great article):

Quickly I found my outrage shifting from beyond Yuengling to the lack of U.S. labor law protecting workers from such abusive, unfair practices [...] While threatening to close a plant if a union wins such an election is highly illegal, the Yuengling Company has been able to get away with due to the weakness of U.S. labor law. According to a study recently released by Kate Bronfenbrenner of Cornell University, employers threaten to close facilities in 57% of union elections if workers choose a union, despite the fact that this threat is carried out only 2% of the time. This is because under U.S. labor law the penalty for threatening to close plants or firing workers during a union election is that the boss merely has to post a piece of paper saying they broke the law.

The Employee Free Choice Act, which has a tumultuous history in our legislature, would most likely eliminate a lot of the threats that dissolve unions like the one at at the Yuengling Company, by bringing stronger penalties to employers who don’t follow the rules. By neutralizing the employer’s ability to threaten and therefore sway union elections, it is likely that more laborers would join unions knowing that their jobs would not be in jeopardy.

And, as Dr. Gordon Lafer pointed out in his 2008 speech to Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions, the idea that a ‘secret ballot’ would signify more democratic union elections is a myth if not a pure fallacy, since employers would continue to enjoy unparalleled access to voter rolls that they could use to intimidate a worker’s choice in the booth. In the words of Alexander Hamilton (which Dr. Lafer employs) “power over a man’s purse is power over his will.”

We here at Living Liberally thought we could maybe help our fellow pining liberals find a new brew to sip that would satiate their progressive thirsts. Here are some brews we’ve noted for their green & sustainable practices, but to be honest, we’re not so sure about how they fare in terms of labor standards.

Know any good progressive brews? Got any background on these or any others you think we should know about? Let us know in the comments section.

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