Morning Links for October 30, 2014.

The South.

  1. Thanks to rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court, the death penalty is being rolled back considerably across the country, according to Matt Ford at The Atlantic. Nowhere is this more evident than Texas, which has executed fewer people this year than it has in the last two decades. While this is a good thing, Texas has still executed ten more people than any government populated by human beings should.
  2. Patrik Jonsson writes in The Christian Science Monitor about the struggles of the Democratic Party in the South, and how the “demography as destiny” argument constantly put forth by strategists is far from reality. The fact remains that you have to put forth policies and rhetoric that suggests you actually care about communities of color before they will consider voting for you. Running candidates that cannot even tell voters whether they supported President Obama in 2012 is not the best way to go about doing that, as small a step as that is.

Labor.

  1. In one more example of the heartless nature of unrestrained capitalism in the United States, Steven Greenhouse at The New York Times discusses fast food wages in Denmark, and how restaurateurs seemingly find a way to pay their workers enough to live on. Amazing to think about all the things the rest of the West can take for granted that workers in the world’s richest nation have to fight tooth-and-nail for.

America.

  1. Andrew Cuomo is taking his lumps today. Good.
  2. One of my friends once told me that every time Charles Barkley opens his mouth, he sets Black folks back 50 years. With comments like these, it is not hard to understand why.

Canada.

  1. Two great stories from Ricochet: the first dealing with the increasing circumscription of abortion in New Brunswick, and the second describing the need for dissenting voices in the wake of the Ottawa shooting. Amazing how much these stories sound like they could have been written in the United States; that should scare everyone living north of the border.
  2. All Fired Up In The Big Smoke has a postmortem on the Toronto elections, followed by a post outlining the hopes that the blog has for the next term of the city council, Mayor-elect John Tory, and the future of Toronto politics. The disappointment is palpable; yet another Tory (party, not individual) as Mayor and the return of Rob Ford to his old council seat would give any leftist or progressive heartburn. But, as the post notes, there was a very diverse group of candidates in the running, and maybe this marks the beginning of a new Toronto: one where its communities are not simply seen, but also heard as well.

The World.

  1. The race for leader of the Scottish Labour Party has begun in earnest, reports Libby Brooks in The Guardian. The leadership contest will feature a candidate from the right of the party (Jim Murphy, an MP thought to be favored by Ed Miliband), the center of the party (Sarah Boyack, former transport minister), and the left of the party (Neil Findlay, shadow health secretary and member of the Campaign for Socialism group). This is really a race for the soul of the Labour Party in Scotland, and the stakes could not be higher: if a candidate from the center or right wins, they would have to take on an ascendant Scottish National Party with a new leader and surging popularity. The next Holyrood election could decide whether Labour can make a comeback in Scottish politics, or whether the SNP will cement their domination for a generation. It is hard to see a Scottish Labour Party that is led by Blairites rising to the challenge.
  2. An American diplomat calls Benjamin Netanyahu a “chickenshit”. The rest of the world replies, “Duh.”

Morning Links for October 29, 2014.

The South Lawn now has a Twitter page! Check us out at @TheSouthLawn! And, as always, we can be found on our Facebook page.

The South.

  1. The Advocate features a post from Sarah Young (who also writes for this blog) and Michael Hansen on the ridiculous notion that the South is a “new frontier” for organizing around LGBTQ+ issues.
  2. The latest Texas Tribune/University of Texas Poll shows conditional support for both marriage equality and abortion. A plurality of Texans support marriage equality if there is also an option for civil unions in the poll, while Texans come out narrowly opposed in a Yes/No poll question on marriage equality. Likewise, Texans support abortion if there is medical reasoning behind it, but oppose it based on the personal choices of the woman. The abortion question makes sense, but I do not know that the marriage equality question does. While it shows that there is complexity to opinions on the issue, I do not know that civil unions are, at this point, a realistic policy option that is on the table when LGBTQ+ folks are getting married in Utah and North Carolina.
  3. In the city of New Braunfels, Texas, one city councilwoman is facing backlash over coming out as LGBTQ+. John Wright writes at The Texas Observer about the story of Aja Edwards, who became a target for harassment after she revealed that she was seeking to build a community to support LGBTQ+ youth. New Braunfels is described as a “tea party stronghold”, which is surprising; I only knew it as a water park stronghold.
  4. National Organization for Marriage and James O’Keefe. What could go wrong there?
  5. KnoxViews discusses Amendment 3, a proposal that would ban the Tennessee General Assembly from creating an income tax, and the reasons why it would be a disaster for the Volunteer State were it to pass. State governments in the South seem hellbent on doing all they can to prevent the necessary raising of tax revenue for education, transportation, social welfare, and the like. The only people who will suffer is the working class, who will not only lack the infrastructure needed to improve their lot, but will also bear the burden of ever higher tax inequalities as states look to their paychecks to balance state budgets. It is immoral and wrong.

Labor.

  1. While the Working Families Party betrayed its entire raison d’etre by endorsing Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) for re-election, it is good to know that there are unions that are still willing to stand up for the best interests of their members. Six teachers unions have endorsed Howie Hawkins, the Green Party’s candidate for Governor of New York, including the Buffalo Teachers Federation, reports Kevin Solari at In These Times. UPDATE: Methinks this might be good reason for teachers to endorse Hawkins-Jones in the general election. I mean, does anyone other than Republicans and empty-suit liberals really think this guy deserves four more years in Albany?

America.

  1. Alan Pyke writes about John Arnold, the hedge fund billionaire who is spending millions trying to shrink the pensions of public employees across America, at ThinkProgress. He found a willing partner in Gina Raimondo, the Democratic State Treasurer of Rhode Island. In case you are not up on the nitty-gritty of politics in America’s smallest state, Raimondo is likely to become Rhode Island’s next governor. Then again, considering that it was all Democrats who pushed Voter ID in Rhode Island, perhaps it is not too surprising that the state has one of the most conservative Democratic Party units in the nation.
  2. Laura Clawson blasts Gov. Scott Walker’s (R-WI) new ad on women’s pay at Daily Kos Labor. The ad, featuring Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, is a pretty shameful attempt to cover up the fact that Walker and his Republican Party allies in the Wisconsin State Assembly have worked to roll back equal pay protections since they came to power in 2010.

Canada.

  1. The always brilliant and incisive Allison Sparling writes on the Jian Ghomeshi controversy at her blog Always Something, as does Toula Dramanis for Ricochet. Ghomeshi, who hosted the popular show Q for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, was terminated from his employment at the CBC after allegations of sexual assault and abuse were made by no fewer than four of his former girlfriends. Ghomeshi has chalked this up to “jilted ex-lovers” and is suing the CBC for $50 million. I have to agree with the two aforementioned authors: the whole “they’re all just crazy” line is extremely disappointing coming from Ghomeshi, and people are using their fanhoods to guide them on the merits of this thing rather than just sitting back and waiting to see how it all shakes out. It is always interesting to see how people defend the powerful in moments like this; I just wish we did not have so many examples to choose from.
  2. The Ford era of Toronto politics is over….sorta. John Tory, former leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party and failed 2003 candidate for Mayor of Toronto, staged a successful comeback bid in his second try for the office. He secured just over 40 percent of the vote, besting City Councillor Doug Ford, who earned 34 percent of the vote, and Olivia Chow, former MP for Trinity-Spadina and widow of former New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton, who received 23 percent of the vote. Tory ran ahead in the wealthiest wards in Toronto, Ford ran ahead in the poorest wards, while Chow basically won the area in and around her parliamentary constituency in downtown Toronto. But while Doug Ford failed to create a family dynasty in the Mayor’s Office, there will still be a Ford in City Hall: outgoing Mayor Rob Ford handily outpaced his nearest rival by more than a 5-1 margin in returning to Etobicoke North’s Ward 2 council seat, which he held before becoming Mayor in 2010.

The World.

  1. Zambia now has the first white leader in its history, and the first white leader of an African nation since F.W. de Klerk stepped down following the end of apartheid, after Vice-President Guy Scott was appointed interim President following the death of President Michael Sata at 77, the BBC reports. However, he may not be eligible to run for the office at the next elections due to his not being born in Zambia and his parents being of Scottish descent (Zambian law requires that you be at least a third-generation Zambian to qualify for the office).
  2. Scotland should get veto power over any move by the Conservative Party to take the United Kingdom out of the European Union, says incoming First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in a report for The Guardian. The new leader of the Scottish National Party in Holyrood says that the party’s Westminster MPs will place in amendment on the schedule should anyone table a bill that would allow for a referendum on EU membership in 2017, as has been promised by Prime Minister David Cameron. Should be interesting to see how this will affect independence politics in Scotland, as a rejection of the EU in England would certainly give impetus to the feeling that Scotland might not be as Better Together as the Westminster Troika promised they would be.
  3. Jacobin Magazine features a great article on the ways that the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela has brought the poor out of the shadows and into political and administrative power. George Ciccariello-Maher’s discussion goes through a history of violent neoliberal suppression of working-class voices in the country, and discusses how the Chavez-Maduro era has worked to overturn the generations of dominance enjoyed by the white elite at the expense of all other Venezuelans. A fantastic read if you are interested in a discussion of Chavismo that is not mediated by multinational media conglomerates.

Know Your History: Lessons in organizing from the leftists and labor organizers of yore.

Ever heard of the Mississippi Freedom Labor Union? You could be forgiven for answering in the negative.

Ever heard of J.P. Mooney and his organizing exploits in Avondale, Alabama? Nope?

Did you know that the largest political rally ever held in Alabama was put on by the Communist Party during the Depression? Nah?

The South has earned its reputation as the region most hostile to leftism and union organizing in the United States. After all, Gov. Nikki Haley, who is cruising towards re-election in South Carolina, declared that any auto companies that had unionized workforces should refrain from relocating in South Carolina. In Tennessee, state legislators made plain their opposition to the United Auto Workers gaining a foothold in Chattanooga by stating that they would revoke any tax incentives that Volkswagen received in the event of a yes vote. Aside from those anecdotal examples, the South is home to some of the lowest unionization rates in the country — North Carolina’s union density, at only three percent of workers organized, is the lowest in the country. Arkansas is not far behind at 3.5 percent, nor is Mississippi and South Carolina at 3.7 percent. One does not think “citadel of unionism” when they think of Alabama, but at 10.7 percent, they far outpace any other state in the region for union density.

But there was a time when radical politics and organizing found its home in the rural South.

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Fight Or Die: Malala Yousafzai, socialism, and being an inspiration to us all.

Malala Yousafzai was already an inspiring figure to me for many reasons: her desire for equal education, her bravery in standing up and identifying herself in that classroom on October 9, 2012, knowing that she was likely to be shot and killed, and her perseverance in surviving and continuing to advocate for equality. Her desire to return to Pakistan and organize for women’s equality especially hits home for me. I live in west Alabama, was raised in Virginia, and trace my origins back to rural North Carolina. If you are a person that cares about justice, equality, and a society that sees no lepers, but rather simply children of God? You have either long since left the South or are champing at the bit to get out as soon as possible. Not many people stay behind and do change work here, and the fact that Malala would risk death to go back and finish the work she started has a special resonance with me.

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As The Sky Hook Turns: A Response To Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

(Today, we have a guest post from Robert Reece at The South Lawn. Robert is a PhD student in sociology at Duke University where he takes an intersectional critical race approach to research on the American South, black popular culture, gender/sex/sexuality, and digital technology. He is from Leland, MS, a small town in the heart of the Mississippi Delta, and obtained BA and MA degrees in sociology from The University of Mississippi.)

Last week, the former professional basketball player (6-time NBA champion and 6-time NBA MVP), activist, and filmmaker, wrote an article for Time entitled “The Coming Race War Won’t Be About Race,” where he argues, in true Marxist fashion, that race is not the real issue in Ferguson, or anywhere else for that matter. The real issue is class and how the poor are systematically disadvantaged by the wealthy elite, and race is just an ideological division perpetuated by the mainstream media to impede the organization of the 50 million impoverished Americans. He writes, “Ferguson is not just about systemic racism—it’s about class warfare and how America’s poor are held back…” Well, the truth is: it’s about both.

The tragic shooting of Mike Brown is certainly not limited to economically disadvantaged black communities, but the aftermath: the curfew, the police presence, the National Guard presence, almost certainly wouldn’t have manifested in a well-to-do community full of black decision makers. But it is equally, or less, likely to occur in a white community, even a poor white community. Only the confluence of poverty and racial otherness elicits such a violence police response to a violence police response. Eliminating either factor changes the game entirely. Neither can be subsumed by the other.
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Morning Links for August 22, 2014.

If you have not done so already, check out my debut at Jacobin Magazine: Love Me, Ferguson, I’m A Liberal.

The South.

  1. Fayetteville, Arkansas has approved a non-discrimination measure that encompasses LGBTQ people in the city, reports the Arkansas Times. The vote was 6-2. Interestingly enough, the vast majority of Fayetteville residents that spoke were in favor of the measure (49 of 73), while most of the people who were from out of town were against the measure. Too bad for Michelle Duggar that she can only vote in her home of Tontitown, relegating her bigotry in Fayetteville to weak robocalls only.
  2. Katherine Helms Cummings at Rural and Progressive issues a Call to Action urging readers to call the Georgia General Assembly, Gov. Nathan Deal, and the Department of Community Health and tell them to make insurance more affordable for the state’s schoolteachers. This is, honestly, extraordinarily sad to see: people who give our children knowledge and context to the world they live in being unable to afford quality medical care for themselves. What kind of country do we live in?
  3. NC Policy Watch reports on the rulemaking hearings for fracking in the state at their Progressive Pulse blog. New worries about the fracking fluid and waste water has environmental campaigners concerned that the regulations will not go far enough to protect the state’s water supply. If you want a great documentary on this topic, check out GasLand and GasLand 2.
  4. Lisa Starbuck reports at KnoxViews about the controversy underway with regards to charter schools in Nashville, and their ability to, under a new state law, go around the school board and appeal directly to the state in asking for funds in the event of a rejection of their application to operate. Republicans are so united in their zeal to destroy public education that they would violate a key principle of their party’s ideology (handing control over public policy and administration to local authorities) in order to fulfill the wishes of their donors. It would be hilarious if it was not so sad.

America.

  1. Polls show a broadening racial divide in America. This report has been brought to by Duh Magazine The New York Times.

The World.

  1. The Venezuelan government is considering the implementation of a fingerprinting system for shoppers at the nation’s supermarkets, NPR reports. This is to prevent the smuggling of food out of the country into Colombia, where the smugglers sell the food at profit. It is sad that this is something that has to be done, but then it is also sad that capital would rather see people starve than to make a little less money. Up against that, it is worth it.
  2. Russian aid convoys have entered the Ukraine without official permission in order to deliver goods to people in the east of the country, reports The Christian Science Monitor. This crisis feels like the Space Mountain ride at Disneyland: nothing but darkness, and you keep rising higher and higher and higher, expecting a great drop, and it just never comes; rather it lets you down easy and gradually. Somehow I have a feeling that that is the projected ending.
  3. Over 1 million people have signed the petition supporting the Scottish government’s efforts to win independence from the United Kingdom in a vote this September, reports The Guardian. First Minister Alex Salmond, of the pro-independence Scottish National Party, predicted when the petition was unveiled in 2012 that if 1 million Scottish citizens signed it before the independence vote, it would prove that Scotland would vote yes in the referendum. I urge a Yes vote because I think that the Scottish will elect more progressive and leftist governments than the rest of the United Kingdom, but I do not know that this petition is some harbinger for the future. We can only hope at this point.

Morning Links for August 21, 2014.

The South.

  1. Left In Alabama points out the not-so-hilarious irony in anti-choice protesters in Huntsville claiming that the abortion clinic there should be closed because it is a “disruption” to the community. Hmm. Wonder why that is?
  2. Max Brantley at the Arkansas Times reports on teacher dissatisfaction with the possible merger of the state employees’ retirement fund and that state teachers’ retirement fund. The combined entity would be worth over $20 billion and merging the two would be a highly complex and delicate affair. My thought is that such a merger would result in the beneficiaries of the two plans having to pay more into the system in order to cover the cost, but this is something that will be monitored by The South Lawn for further updates.
  3. The Florida Squeeze endorses an August 26th ballot measure for guaranteed paid sick leave in Orange County, which includes Orlando and its suburbs. So do we; Vote YES!
  4. Alexa Ura writes for The Texas Tribune about the challenges that recent immigrants face in getting signed up for health insurance due to glitches in the Affordable Care Act. There is no way you can tell me that a universal, single-payer system would not be more efficient than this. No way.

Labor.

  1. Joe Atkins writes for Facing South about the workers at Kellogg’s in Memphis, and how the company has treated them with contempt under the management of CEO John Bryant. This article demonstrates more than most why we need a strong National Labor Relations Board to mediate these kinds of conflict.
  2. Philip Sopher poses a question at The Atlantic: Is it time to go to a four-day workweek? I would say yes, but it worries me because, without resistance from the working class, capital will get its hours and profits out of working people. Would this mean longer work hours on the four-day workweek?

America.

  1. Eric Holder visited Ferguson, Missouri yesterday, and NPR reports on his meetings with community leaders, law enforcement, and the mother of Michael Brown, the teenager whose murder by the Ferguson Police sparked the uprising that we have seen over the last week and a half. Holder has his flaws, but I have always respected his frankness on issues revolving around race. He ain’t exactly gonna be calling for revolution in the streets, but hopefully he had some stronger words of encouragement for the people of Ferguson than his boss did.
  2. U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has promised more shutdowns if he ascends to the Majority Leader position in the Senate, The Christian Science Monitor reports. This is the choice that most Americans face at the ballot box: insanity on one side (GOP) and empty suit centrism on the other side (Democrats). It is a real shame.

The World.

  1. The United Kingdom has seen a 31 percent jump in purchases of social housing by tenants in the last year, according to The Guardian. The right-to-buy scheme was brought in during the Thatcher years, and it has been heavily promoted during the current Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition government. While this might seem like a good thing, right-to-buy schemes are disastrous for the social welfare system because the housing that is scooped up from the market is not so easily replaced. This means that low-income Britons will have fewer places with which to seek a home, and the issues meant to be addressed by social housing will continue to go unanswered by any meaningful response.
  2. Albert Reynolds, who served as Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of Ireland in the early 1990s, has died at 81. Reynolds’ Fianna Fail party won the 1992 Irish general election and then formed a coalition government with the Labour Party, making it the largest coalition government in the history of Irish Republic. Labour eventually left the coalition, but they were decimated in the 1997 elections, as people never forgot them going back on their word to never form a coalition with Fianna Fail. The Irish Times features a lengthy remembrance of Reynolds.