Young Lakota, which is airing on PBS and available to view online for the next few days, focuses on reproductive justice on the Pine Ridge Reservation, home to an estimated 30,000 Oglala Lakota. The documentary follows the political efforts of one-time President Cecilia Fire Thunder, and introduces us to Sunny Clifford, who returned to the rez to both understand her roots, and to make a difference. While the film does a good job at highlighting some of what’s at stake on Pine Ridge, it also misses the opportunity to recognize the institutional barriers created by the US federal government that create profound poverty on the reservation.
Pine Ridge exists within South Dakota, where in 2006, voters took to the polls to decide on a ballot measure aimed to ban any and all abortions, including terminations for pregnancies that were the result of rape or incest. In response, Oglala Lakota President Cecilia Fire Thunder suggested that her nation would open a women’s clinic on Pine Ridge. As is made clear in the film, Native nations hold tribal sovereignty, which trumps state law—so while it would be controversial to open a clinic that provides abortion, it would be perfectly legal to do so on Pine Ridge, regardless of South Dakota’s law.
What follows is an internal battle between Fire Thunder and Tribal Council members. This is one way Young Lakota thrives. It doesn’t collapse all Oglala Lakota people into one. Some stand with Fire Thunder, but others do not. At a time when there are few films about Natives and the challenges their nations face, filmmakers Marion Lipschutz and Rose Rosenblatt illustrate the agency with which the people highlighted in the film come to their own conclusions.
But perhaps most central to this film is the way it captures 21-year-old Sunny Clifford’s political awakening. Clifford is transformed by the battle on Pine Ridge, and is obviously inspired by Fire Thunder. While other young people are also featured in the film, Clifford’s story is the most compelling. She chooses a side in the abortion ban battle, and her decision to campaign against the proposition and for Fire Thunder are almost metaphors for her decision to campaign for own dignity—along with the dignity of her people.
The film opens by introducing us to Clifford, and almost immediately to her boyfriend, 18-year-old Rodney Spotted Elk. He’s shy and quiet, and we don’t know much about him—but the relationship ends after Spotted Elk becomes violent. We know he is a drinker, especially at night. It’s facts like these where the filmmakers fail to make connections to larger structural issues facing Pine Ridge.
Pine Ridge borders the tiny town of Whiteclay, Nebraska, population 14. What Whiteclay lacks in population however, it makes up for in liquor stores and alcohol sales—four outlets sell more than 4 million cans of beer there per year, almost exclusively to Oglala Lakota. Alcohol was long banned on Pine Ridge, but people knew they could cross the border to obtain it. The sales are lucrative for white-owned companies, and grew so out of control that the Oglala Lakota sued storeowners, along with corporations like Anheuser-Busch, Pabst, and Miller in 2012. But Oglala Sioux Tribe v. Jason Schwarting was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.
While the federal government holds obligations to the Oglala Lakota, it hasn’t stepped in to solve the problem of alcoholism—a problem that kills Natives on Pine Ridge, while making white corporations wealthy. The federal government also ignores the systemic issues that make Pine Ridge one of the most dangerous places to live—and to die—in the United States: average life expectancy for women in the US is 81, but it’s 52 on Pine Ridge; for men in the US it’s 76, but 48 on the reservation. The numbers are no better when it comes to unemployment, wealth, diabetes and infant mortality. While Spotted Elk’s violence towards Clifford is nowhere near excusable, Young Lakota glosses over his possible alcoholism as if it’s merely a personal issue, and not part of the structural reasons why Pine Ridge is the way it is.
Nevertheless Young Lakota is worth watching. It’s a rare glimpse into Pine Ridge that celebrates the resistance and complexity of the Oglala Lakota who live there—and remind us that people like Sunny Clifford are working to make meaningful change.
It’s a rough for too many families this Thanksgiving. With an unemployment rate of 7.3 percent, with nearly a million of discouraged no-longer-job-seekers, ashamed and invisible, not even showing up in that total; with an unemployment rate for black teenagers of 36 percent and, as The Nation’s George Zornick points out, the season of feasting a season of fasting for too many families on food stamps—cheer can be hard to find.
Keep our suffering neighbors in your thoughts as you celebrate. And for a possibly cheering contrast, consider a time when things were even worse: 1973, which I’ve researched for my upcoming book on the 1970s, when it was oh-so-much harder to head over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house because the Arab oil embargo quadrupled the price of a barrel of crude.
October was rung in with biblical prophecies from an assistant secretary of the interior. “With anything less than the best of luck,” Stephen Wakefield announced, “we shall probably face shortages of heating oil, propane, and diesel fuel this winter.… I am talking about men without jobs, homes without heat, children without schools.” In Los Angeles the Department of Water and Power predicted a 35 percent energy shortage by April. It came the day after the President’s Cost of Living Council set a new ceiling on the price of domestic crude; the major oil companies responded by raising the prices they charged their affiliate service stations by about a penny a gallon. In San Francisco 3,000 service stations shut down for three days in protest—street corners became ghost towns in the beautiful City by the Bay. And all this was before the Arab oil embargo.
That began October 17, after America decided to airlift weapons to Israel in its war with Egypt and Syria. A Watergate-scarred president went on TV and announced “a very stark fact: we are heading into the most acute energy shortage since World War II.” Americans, he said, would have to cut back: “less heat, less electricity, less gasoline”—almost stop being Americans at all. He called for shorter school and factory hours. And the cancellation of 10 percent of jet flights. The federal government would provide an example by setting thermostats to sixty-eight degrees or less, he said (“and that means in this room, too, as well as in every other room in the White House”); government vehicles would be limited to fifty miles an hour. He told governors to pass laws mandating fifty miles per hour for everyone, Congress to pass an emergency statute returning to year-round daylight savings time and to relax environmental regulations. Start carpooling, he recommended: “How many times have you gone along the highway,” he quizzed, “with only one individual in that car?”
Thousands, of course—for wasn’t zooming alone across endless vistas of highways supposed to be the most American pastime of all? Not any more, apparently. What he was describing, he allowed, sounded “like a way of life we left behind with Glenn Miller and the war of the forties.”
Honoring a non-binding presidential request, gas stations began closing down from 9 pm Saturday through midnight on Sundays. So people began “topping off”—filling their tanks every time they passed a gas station, leading to hours-long lines in which idling cars… just wasted more gas. Everyone wanted to get to a pump before the last drop was gone and one of the ubiquitous sorry, no gas signs was hoisted up. Then, they would have to return the next day—when prices were usually two-cents-a-gallon higher. Tempers flared, no architect having thought to design a corner gas station for the eventuality of dozens of angry motorists cutting fellow motorists off on street corners like it was the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Time called the energy crisis the “most serious economic threat to face the nation since the Depression.” Cities began reducing bus service. Schools in Massachusetts and Connecticut, states reliant on oil for heat, announced Christmas break for the entire months of December and January. At the New England School of Art, heated only to sixty-five degrees in the Boston chill, nude models were afforded the comfort of roasting in their own body heat in a clear plastic tent. In Rhode Island, a prize high school composition was customarily chosen to be signed by the governor as the official state Thanksgiving proclamation. The governor refused to sign this year’s winner, in which a 17-year-old wrote, “Thanksgiving seems to be pretended, a farce, little more than an outdated tradition no one has yet found time to discard.”
Time’s Thanksgiving cover had Archie Bunker in his trademark easy chair, stalactites of frost hanging from his cigar and winter cap—he couldn’t afford home heating oil. Plastic bags, made with petroleum, became prohibitively expensive; petrochemicals were also ingredients in many lifesaving drugs—so pharmaceutical executives projected a shortage. Twenty-five New Hampshire towns suspended police, fire protection, garbage pickups, road repair and school transportation.
The mayor of Rensselaer, Indiana, turned off the city’s 425 street lights, until a rash of burglaries forced him to turn them on again. In an interview he revealed his motives as less than Christian: “If everyone in the country would make this kind of effort, we could tell the Arabs to go to hell.” Unchristian motives were everywhere. A gas station owner stopped letting owners of big cars buy more than a dollar of gas at a time—“just enough to keep them off the road.” People started driving with a full can of gas in the trunk, which turned them into inadvertent firebombs. The Senate came within eight votes of passing a law rationing gasoline, and the White House ordered the Bureau of Engraving to prepare by printing over 10 billion ration coupons.
A coffee table book, They Could Not Trust the King, with text by William Shannon of the New York Times editorial board, went to press. It called Watergate “a complex and far-reaching political plan that could serve as dress rehearsal for an American fascist coup d’état.”
Then December, and the presidentially mandated closing of service stations from Saturday evening until Monday morning. A Hanford, California, gas station owner shot up six of the pumps of a rival who stayed open across the street. A Miami man yelled to a gas station attendant who wouldn’t sell to him on a Saturday night, “I am going to get some gas even if I have to kill somebody”—and then, waving a pistol, almost honored his pledge. Auto supply houses ran out of siphons, tools of the new street crime of choice—and locks for gas caps. More ambitious crooks started hijacking petroleum trucks. Brooklyn motorists filled up with “Gambinoil”—oil the Gambino stole from bulk plants in the area and sold to area dealers at 70 percent more than legitimate distributors.
A cheap paperback came out, Predictions for 1974, starring a panoply of psychics with names like “Countess Amy, the Gypsy Seeress,” and “Aquarius, Campus Clairvoyant.” It featured, alongside news-to-come about traffic accidents (“A submarine and a UFO will collide off the Aleutian Islands”), the occult (“reincarnation will be espoused by more and more young people as a valid explanation for the dislocations in modern society”), celebrities (“Dean Martin may have a health problem and definitely should be careful of his nose”), and celebrities and the occult (“A youthful female actress of sudden fame will publicly announce that she used witchcraft to obtain her current level of success and happiness”), prediction after prediction about how of the world would collapse. That was what the future looked like now. Deaths from record bitter cold. Deaths from a “nerve gas leak” off the coast of Florida. A 1929-style stock market collapse. A declaration of bankruptcy by New York City—“the first tangible sign of the collapse of our entire civilization.” Single people banned from buying big cars. Locusts and floods, “like the plagues of Egypt,” worldwide droughts, rising sea levels “inundating all coastal areas throughout the world.” Rationing of every staple, urban blackouts, riots, martial law. “Disaster will hit one of New York’s skyscraper landmark buildings." "Man is an endangered species,” as one soothsayer put it. It was a map of the dreads of a nation.
Good times. Let us cherish what we have, and what we have transcended before. Love, and let yourself be loved. Fight injustice, that our children might be blessed. Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers; you help make my life immeasurably meaningful and rich.
For families on food stamps, traditional Thanksgiving meals are out of the question.
When Congress moved to regulate most child labor in 1938, an exception was carved for the agriculture industry. Children as young as 12 are allowed to engage in dangerous farmwork, which has lead to dozens of deaths and serious injuries for America’s rural youth. Though the Obama administration’s Labor Department moved better regulate child farm labor, industry pressure forced officials to back down. Mariya Strauss published a deeply reported investigation into the matter for The Nation earlier this month.
Like most economic issues, the child farm labor regulation came down to a contest of money and influence in Washington. Children and their advocates have little political resources, while the big agriculture industry hires lobbyists, bundles donations to lawmakers and shapes media coverage through slick public relation campaigns.
A little-known fact about the annual presidential pardon of a Thanksgiving turkey is that the bird is provided by the industry trade association for turkey farms, including Cargill, Perdue Farms, Dakota Provisions and Willmar Poultry Company. The industry group, the National Turkey Federation, presented Obama with two white turkeys, Popcorn and Caramel. While the event certainly provided light-hearted publicity for the turkey industry, it’s worth taking a look at the National Turkey Federation’s agenda.
Lobbying reports show the group has contacted lawmakers over immigration legislation and rules concerning animal drug use. Perhaps more surprising, and counter to the National Turkey Federation’s family-friendly public image, is the work the group has done to orchestrate opposition to the Obama administration’s child farm labor regulations. The annual report from the group celebrates its role in blocking the rule (emphasis added):
Department of Labor (DOL) Withdraws Proposed Rule on Child Agriculture Workers: The DOL withdrew its proposed rule on Child Labor Regulations in reponse to thousands of comments filed by NTF, other agriculture groups, and farm families across the country. The proposed rule included provisions that defined “parental exeption,” which would have dramatically affected rural communties and family-owned farms.”
Notably, the turkey lobby helped kill the rule by fasely claiming that the labor restrictions would prevent children from working on their own family farms. The Department of Labor rules contained a family exemption.
The National Turkey Federation certainly has the money to make things happen. The group spends over $2.1 million a year, in addition to an affiliated political action committee that doles out over $200,000 to congressional candidates. The NRF also has three registered lobbyists.
Katrina vanden Heuvel writes about the pardoning of the Scottsboro boys. Eighty years too late.
The idea behind the deletion clue is simple: the solution is obtained from another word by the removal of a letter. For example:
EXIT Be without stamina, initially, and leave (4)
(EXIST minus S)
In this post, we will take a quick tour of the many ways deletions are used in cryptic clues.
The letter can be taken from the front:
ADDLE Puzzle: how a duck can walk without a head (5)
Or it can be taken from the back:
INDIC Almost accuse in connection with the subcontinent (5)
A letter can be removed simultaneously from the front and back:
LIMB Branch rises, naked (4)
Deletions can also be combined with almost any sort of cryptic clue. Here are some more intricate examples.
With a reversal:
STAMINA Brings to life, rising without energy or endurance (7)
CARDIGAN Horse I’d almost race backwards in a sweater (8)
With an anagram:
LUDICROUS Ridiculous, absurd, lacking one bit of intelligence! (9)
EXECS Excess nearly rumpled suits (5)
With a charade:
INCENTIVE Van Gogh, a little late: “I have a carrot” (9)
IMPRUDENT Careless urchin, unrefined and not without love (9)
With a container:
MEETS Runs across Mississippi, keeping feet uncovered (5)
BIPED Devil losing heart in bed with woman, perhaps (5)
And finally, here is an example of an unusual deletion clue:
WHERE A question that might be answered by decapitation (5)
Do you know any good deletions? Please share here, along with any quibbles, questions, kudos or complaints about the current puzzle or any previous puzzle. To comment (and see other readers’ comments), please click on this post’s title and scroll to the bottom of the resulting screen.
And here are three links:
• The current puzzle
• Our puzzle-solving guidelines
• A Nation puzzle solver’s blog where you can ask for and offer hints, and where every one of our clues is explained in detail.
Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water—or, in the case of the East China Sea, fly over the water—a new conflict is brewing in Asia that pits the United States against China. Vice President Joe Biden is packing his bags for a visit to the region, including China and Japan, but if he thought he’d be able to talk up the Transpacific Partnership, he’d better think again.
If this is part of the “pivot” to Asia, President Obama ought to pivot right back to the Middle East, where he is having some diplomatic successes. So far, in regard to the East China Sea dispute, U.S. policy is all about shows of force.
The problem started a few days ago, on November 23, when China’s Ministry of Defense announced the definition of what it calls an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over stretches of the sea between China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. It is not an exclusion zone or a no-fly zone, but the Chinese say that it requires aircraft passing through the area to identify themselves:
The ministry also issued the Aircraft Identification Rules for the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone, which states aircraft flying in the zone must abide by these rules and provide identification, including flight plans, radio contact, transponders and logos.
Underscoring that it means business, according to Xinhua the Defense Ministry added:
Aircraft flying in the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone should follow the instructions of the administrative organ of the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone or the unit authorized by the organ. China’s armed forces will adopt defensive emergency measures to respond to aircraft that do not cooperate in the identification or refuse to follow the instructions.
So, of course, the United States promptly said: “No way.” The Pentagon sent pair of B-52 bombers cruising through the new ADIZ, without identifying themselves. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said the flights were routine. But they were not routine at all, and China reacted as expected, though rather quietly. “We will make corresponding responses according to different situations and how big the threat is,” a Chinese defense official told the New York Times.
The Chinese action, which comes in the midst of a dispute between China and Japan over some islands in the East China Sea—over which Beijing and Tokyo have been rattling sabers lately—is small potatoes, but both the United States and Japan seem to be treating like it were a mini-crisis. Meanwhile, the right wing in the United States, the neoconservatives and hawks, are beating the war drums. One of the interchangeable scholars at the American Enterprise Institute, which drummed up the war in Iraq in 2003, Michael Auslin, wrote in Politico:
The Obama administration needs to make daily shows of force, flying fighters, more bombers, cargo and reconnaissance planes ostentatiously through the skies that China now claims. It should invite all nations in Asia to join with the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy in regular aerial transits, simply for the right of it. U.S. planes should be on alert to come to the aid of any planes, military or civilian, that are threatened by China. And President Barack Obama, or Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, should publicly urge all Asian nations to reject China’s demands and announce that any of them will be protected by U.S. fighter jets.
If the White House shrinks from taking these steps, the Chinese will have won a victory that will change the perception of the balance of power in Asia.
Good grief! Daily shows of force? And by the way, Michael Austin, the balance of power in Asia is already shifting, and not in the favor of the United States. There will be ebbs and flows, as China begins to assert itself politically and militarily, catching up to its economic self-assertion that has already had an enormous effect throughout the region. But the last thing the United States ought to do is try to contain China militarily. Indeed, China is not likely to try to enforce the ADIZ militarily. Instead, Beijing is just laying down markers, in the East China Sea, the South China Sea and elsewhere, letting other countries know that it’s not your uncle’s China anymore—especially if your uncle is Uncle Sam.
A helpful bulletin from the Foreign Policy Initiative, the neocon outfit founded by Bill Kristol and his comrades, tries to paint these events—along with the China-Japan dispute over the islands that Japan calls the Senkaku islands and China calls the Diaoyu islands—as some great test of America’s manhood, that is, as a “ critical test of U.S. credibility in the face of Beijing’s expansionist agenda throughout the East China Sea and the South China Sea.” But it’s way less than that, and hopefully Biden will keep his cool during talks in Tokyo and Beijing.
It is a complicated issue, and there is a lot of back story to it. Whether one wants to go back as far as Japan’s brutal, mass-murdering invasion of China in the 1930s, or not quite that far, there is more than meets the eye. As a reporter noted at today’s State Department briefing:
QUESTION: As we know that—from 1970s, we know that Japan has extended its Air Defense Identification Zone several times, and there is a report that Japan extends ADIZ into Taiwan space. Does the U.S. Government worry about this issue? Are you going to communicate it with Japan regarding this?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything more for you on that, unfortunately.
She will get right back to you on that.
Read more of Bob Dreyfuss's writing on U.S. and China's foreign policy debacle here.
Forget conservative fantasies of food stamp beneficiaries living high on the public dole and feasting on king crab legs—life on food stamps is anything but luxurious.
The average daily food stamp benefit is $4.44, which as you might imagine is almost unworkable. It’s very difficult for beneficiaries not to go over that amount each day, and data collected by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows that 90 percent of benefits are redeemed by the twenty-first day of each month. So the last week of the month is particularly rough for people who rely on food stamps:
That’s worth reflecting on during this Thanksgiving week—a holiday known almost exclusively for its food, and one that always falls during the last week of the month. Having anything resembling a proper Thanksgiving meal on $4.44 per person is already basically impossible, and most beneficiaries are over-budget by this point anyhow.
Remember, too, that on November 1 food stamp benefits were reduced thanks to indifference by both Democrats and Republicans towards the already paltry benefit amount. So this Thanksgiving is even tougher than years’ past, and the upcoming winter months will be as well. Nonprofits that serve the hungry are buckling under increased demand.
And a quick look at local news stories around the country shows it:
From Newton, Massachusetts:
The season of feasting has begun. But even as some pore through cookbooks in search of the perfect stuffing, nearly one in eight residents of Massachusetts worry that the food in the cupboard won’t last until the end of the month.
The problem is growing and it’s not just in the poorest urban neighborhoods. Hunger exists in every community, including Newton. According to Tracie Longman, the Newton Food Pantry regularly serves over 450 households in Newton, providing food to over 600 people a month. That represents an increase of approximately 25 percent over two years ago.
Local pantries and soup kitchens throughout New York were stretched thin even before a cut in federal food stamp benefits took effect Friday. Now, their managers don’t know how they’ll meet the increased demand.
“There’s never enough food,” said Jeanne Blum, executive director of the Westchester Coalition for the Hungry and Homeless. “There is an increased demand, definitely. The cuts are really devastating to families who are in need of food for their children.”
A hot meal. That’s what brings people in need to the Salvation Army Soup Kitchen in Watertown. What makes them stay is the conversation. “Being able to eat a meal with someone else, to be able to talk over a meal,” said Lt. Summer Hough of the Salvation Army.
But lately a rise in demand has made it tough for the soup kitchen to keep up. “Up until about three months ago, we were serving on average about 80 people in our soup kitchen and in the last couple months it’s actually gone up into the hundreds,” said Hough.
The pantry spends $4,000 to $5,000 each week to provide fresh produce, meat, dairy and bread for clients which is supplemented with staples. But there’s less than $20,000 currently in the food pantry account and Scarpaci fears that without major donation dollars coming in soon, the pantry will have to close for at least a few weeks when demand is at its peak.
“There have been times before where we’ve gotten low, but never this low,” says Scarpaci, who notes that a fundraising New Year’s Day polar bear plunge at Main Beach in East Hampton will bring in some money for the town’s four pantries, but not nearly enough.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients saw a 13.6 percent cut in benefits beginning the first of November. For a family of four, on what’s still largely called food stamps, the reduction adds up to $36 per month. And fewer federal dollars is starting to have an impact on area food banks. One organizer summed it up—demand the last few weeks is up and donations haven’t kept pace. Now the concern is whether this is a temporary blip as families adjust to the reductions or whether it’s the “new normal” that food pantries will have to meet in the future.
Many families still face unemployment or underemployment, said Bonnie Inman, executive director of Loudoun Interfaith Relief. Many people seeking help from the food pantry cited the federal government shutdown as an added financial stress, she said. “The demand for our services has really not decreased at all,” Inman said.
That’s just a sampling. And the worst part is the situation isn’t going to get any better—in fact, it’s about to get worse.
House Republicans passed a farm bill earlier this year that cut a nearly $40 billion from the program. Senate Democrats’ “better” plan is a cut of $4 billion. The real amount will no doubt be somewhere between those two numbers. Those bare cupboards this holiday season will almost certainly have even less next year.
On Black Friday, Walmart employees nationwide will be protesting the retail giants’ poor labor standards. Allison Kilkenny reports.
Journofolks are talking a lot about the Heritage Foundation these days. The narrative is that a once-august right-wing research shop has gone all hackish on us since being taken over by former Senator Jim DeMint and his fearsome 31-year-old deputy Michael Needham. “The Fall of the Heritage Foundation and the Death of Republican Ideas,” is how the The Atlantic’s Molly Ball tags it. In The New Republic, a profile of Needham, whom The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank labeled “The Shut-Down’s Enforcer-in-chief,” quotes Republican legislators lambasting him for “his ideological inflexibility and aggressive zero-sum tactics.” A bitter Senator Orrin Hatch is quoted in The New York Times: “Is Heritage going to go so political that it really doesn’t amount to anything anymore? I hope not.”
Of course, for a movement supposedly devoted to conserving the past, conservatives are oh-so-splendid at forgetting their own past. The notion of Hatch as the high-minded conservator of the scholarly temper would have been pretty laughable when he won his Senate seat in 1976 as the first major feather in the cap of the nascent New Right fundraising machine captained by Richard Viguerie. Back then, his campaign served as a pass-through for all sorts of Long Con hanky-panky. But never mind. The notion of Heritage’s fall from some noble intellectual golden age has been so ably debunked by historian Jason Stahl that I have little to add.
But not nothing to add. First, some more historical detail. I’ve written here before about the extraordinary events of 1974–75 in Kanawha County, West Virginia, when the school board encompassing the state’s biggest city, Charleston, voted to adopt textbooks Christian conservatives insisted endorsed miscegenation, “secular humanism,” and other assorted alleged sins, ended up dynamiting the school board building. But not before the brand-spanking-new Heritage Foundation rushed to aid the folks laying the dynamite.
In one of the first forays of this “scholarly” organization into national politics, Heritage sent sent two staffers to West Virginia. James McKenna, a lawyer who had won a string of cases defending the rights of parents to homeschool their children, came to defend the activists under indictment for violence. Connie Marshner was a young University of South Carolina graduate who had accepted a job in 1971 on Capitol Hill as a plain old secretary for Young Americans for Freedom, which was where she quietly transformed herself into an expert on Senator Walter Mondale’s bill to establish a national system of federal childcare centers—the “therapeutic state invading the home,” Marshner said. On her own, she started a letterhead organization to fight the bill. When Nixon vetoed it, calling it a threat to “the family in its rightful position as a keystone of our civilization,” she claimed victory, and was hired as Heritage’s first director of education. Soon she was soon hard at work finding “little clusters of Evangelical, fundamentalist Mom’s groups,” and transforming them into troops for the conservative movement army. She ended up writing a book called Blackboard Tyranny as her lasting contribution to the “parents rights” movement’s scholarly legacy. Based on the ideas of the Christian deconstructionist Rousas J. Rushdoony, the book argues that education professionals began their plot to replace Christianity with the “messianic” religion of secular humanism when they started teaching that education should indoctrinate children into democracy, and that parents’ right to oppose this “came from God by way of the natural law.” Scholarly!
The Heritage Foundation saw the Kanawha incident as an opportunity to build strategic capacity. “If you pick the right fight at the right time,” McKenna explained, “[y]ou can make your political points, you can help the people involved, and you can become a force in the political community.” Conservatives used to call people like this “outsider agitators.” On October 6, 1974, they were among the featured speakers at a rally before 8,000 textbook activists. One preacher cried, “If we don’t protect our children we’ll have to account for it on the day of judgement!” The next day this same preacher was among the twenty militants arrested at a garage for sabotaging school buses; the following day, two elementary schools were firebombed. Scholarly!
And now, some personal anecdotage. I’ve visited the Heritage three times for research purposes. My host was Lee Edwards, who in the service of the Heritage Foundation writes hagiographies of conservative institutions and luminaries; nice work if you can get it. Edwards is a friendly guy, generous with his time and recollections, but for all that, as a conservative-movement lifer, someone also implicated in the Long Con: in 1972 he was one of the principles in a hustle called “Friends of the FBI,” to which gullible folks at the grassroots funneled cash that mostly ended up going back to the hustlers; their front man, TV star Efram Zimbalist, withdrew from the project after saying its three founders, including Edwards, were guilty of “fraud and misrepresentation.”
Anyway, on one of these visits, the foundation was fulsomely hosting some Asian dictator, holding him up as a tribune of freedom. On another, one Heritage fellow, a superannuated former Reagan UN ambassador, told me stories about Barry Goldwater “chasing pussy.” On a third, Edwards led me to Edwin Meese’s office for an interview. We passed through a room dedicated to Amway, with a full complement of their products on display—some think tank! (Regular readers of this blog know what I think of Amway, a seriously scholarly outfit…). Once there, the former attorney general of the United States told me no one had ever complained about racism in the Oakland police when he was the Alameda County DA in the 1960s. I told him I knew of some fellows who would have disagreed. He looked at me like I was nuts.
Yes, it used to be a such high-minded, intellectually serious place. Nowadays: What hath Jim DeMint wrought?
Katrina vanden Heuvel on the irrelevanceof the Heritage Foundation.
It is no secret that Republicans in Washington and the conservative commentators who form their national echo chamber cut Barack Obama no slack—even when it comes to the issuance of Thanksgiving Proclamations.
No sooner had Obama issued this year’s proclamation than he was taking hits for “using the opportunity to bring out his favorite hobby horse, homosexuality.” The complaint was with the opening lines of the proclamation, in which Obama declares:
Thanksgiving offers each of us the chance to count our many blessings—the freedoms we enjoy, the time we spend with loved ones, the brave men and women who defend our Nation at home and abroad. This tradition reminds us that no matter what our background or beliefs, no matter who we are or who we love, at our core we are first and foremost Americans.
But, of course, there is always a complaint. The right’s stance with regard to the current president is one of perpetual offense, even when he is at his most mild. Indeed, by comparison with past presidents—especially Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who used Thanksgiving proclamations to chart and encourage the progress of the nation—the current president has been remarkably restrained in his remarks.
But that hasn’t earned Obama any sympathy from the conservative intelligentsia.
Last year, after the president was re-elected with a 5-million popular vote margin, an Electoral College supermajority and a higher percentage of the popular vote than John Kennedy in 1960, Richard Nixon in 1968, Jimmy Carter in 1976, Ronald Reagan in 1980, Bill Clinton in 1992 or 1996 or George Bush in 2000 or 2004, Obama put a modestly enlightened spin on his recognition of the 391st Thanksgiving.
His 2012 proclamation recalls that “the Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony…enjoyed the fruits of their labor with the Wampanoag tribe—a people who had shared vital knowledge of the land in the difficult months before” and notes “the contributions that generations of Native Americans have made to our country.” He even celebrates community organizers, whose “actions reflect our age-old belief that we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, and they affirm once more that we are a people who draw our deepest strength not from might or wealth, but from our bonds to each other.”
The president’s words did not sit well with our friends on the right.
Conservative commentators grumbled that Obama’s proclamations—not just his holiday statements but, presumably, his proclamations in general—were insufficiently religious in tone.
“Thanksgiving Dumbed Down,” growled the National Review headline.
“God is lucky to get a mention or two,” National Review editor Rich Lowry objected. “What God has lost in prominence in Obama’s statements has been gained by the American Indians, in a bow to multicultural pieties.” Oh those First Americans, always elbowing their way into our history!
Perhaps conservatives are worried that Obama’s modest “multicultural pieties” serve as a holiday manifestation of the demographic turning that handed the president an overwhelming mandate last year, and that provided the underpinning for breakthrough wins by Democrats in 2012 elections that saw the party’s candidates win the mayoralty of New York for the first time in twenty years and secure an apparent sweep of statewide offices in Virginia for the first time in decades.
While right-wing partisans may have reason to worry about their long-term political prospects, they needn’t worry about the president’s seasonal pronouncements. Obama is safely within the bounds of Thanksgiving promulgation. Indeed, it has been the better part of seventy years since a president made serious use of “multicultural pieties” in his Thanksgiving proclamations.
Americans have to look back to Franklin Delano Roosevelt for a thoroughly multicultural call to “let every man of every creed go to his own version of the Scriptures for a renewed and strengthening contact with those eternal truths and majestic principles which have inspired such measure of true greatness as this nation has achieved.”
FDR’s Thanksgiving proclamations were bold and politically adventurous statements. He constantly flavored his proclamations with advocacy for action and challenges to the economic and political elites with which the nation was wrestling during the Great Depression. “May we ask guidance in more surely learning the ancient truth that greed and selfishness and striving for undue riches can never bring lasting happiness or good to the individual or to his neighbors,” read Roosevelt’s first proclamation in 1933. A year later, he declared:
Our sense of social justice has deepened. We have been given vision to make new provisions for human welfare and happiness, and in a spirit of mutual helpfulness we have cooperated to translate vision into reality.
More greatly have we turned our hearts and minds to things spiritual. We can truly say, “What profiteth it a nation if it gain the whole world and lose its own soul.”
By 1935, as Roosevelt’s New Deal was fully engaging, he wrote: “We can well be grateful that more and more of our people understand and seek the greater good of the greater number. We can be grateful that selfish purpose of personal gain, at our neighbor’s loss, less strongly asserts itself.”
After his landslide re-election in 1936, FDR would encourage Americans “to fulfill our obligation to use our national heritage by common effort for the common good.” He found cause for thanksgiving in the fact of laws and labor organizing that guaranteed “the toiler in shop and mill receives a more just return for his labor.”
To a far greater extent than the presidents who succeeded him, including Obama, Roosevelt used his Thanksgiving proclamations to speak, in moral and spiritual terms, about the ills afflicting the republic—and about the radical remedies he had initiated in response to them.
“Our Nation has gone steadily forward in the application of democratic processes to economic and social problems,” wrote Roosevelt in 1939. “We have faced the specters of business depression, of unemployment, and of widespread agricultural distress, and our positive efforts to alleviate these conditions have met with heartening results. We have also been permitted to see the fruition of measures which we have undertaken in the realms of health, social welfare, and the conservation of resources.”
For Roosevelt, every opportunity to speak of a New Deal was taken. Every teachable moment was utilized. Thanksgiving proclamations were not merely pious repetitions of past histories. They were statements of principle, and celebrations of that deepening sense of social justice.
Obama’s critics are inclined, always, to find something unsettling in his official words and deeds. But by comparison with Roosevelt, the current president’s Thanksgiving proclamations are modest, in their moral messaging and in their “multicultural pieties.”
You’ve heard of Black Friday, but what about Black Thursday? A new infographic by Erin Zipper and Von Diaz at Colorlines shows that many big-box retailers are keeping their stores open on Thanksgiving this year, meaning their employees will be working longer hours over the holiday. As Diaz explains, “Those working on Thanksgiving are likely to be working part-time for low wages, and despite their low income, many are also the primary earners in their households.” All so that retailers can kick-start their holiday profits.
Check out Imara Jones’s piece at Colorlines for more on how the Black Friday phenomenon is a consequence of this year’s government shutdown, and read our own Gabriel Thompson on his brief and stressful experience in an e-commerce fulfillment warehouse.
OUR Walmart, the group behind last year’s Black Friday activism, has promised even more actions this year with 1,500 protests scheduled at stores all across the country. Walmart is clearly nervous ahead of this year’s plans because the company has asked judges in Maryland and Florida to bar protesters from entering stores on Black Friday.
“This is yet another move from Walmart to try to bend the law to its liking. Walmart has made it a practice to pursue over-the-top legal maneuvers to try to avoid hearing the real concerns of workers and community members,” said Derrick Plummer, spokesman for the organizer, Making Change at Walmart, in a statement.
OUR Walmart announced that Black Friday protests are scheduled in Los Angeles, the Bay Area, Miami, Chicago; Seattle, Washington (DC), Minneapolis and Sacramento, and the group calls it the “largest mobilization of working families in recent history.”
“Workers are calling for an end to illegal retaliation, and for Walmart to publicly commit to improving labor standards, such as providing workers with more full time work and $25,000 a year. As the country’s largest retailer and employer, Walmart makes more than $17 billion in profits, with the wealth of the Walton family totaling over $144.7 billion—equal to that of 42% of Americans,” the group said in a statement.
Anthony Goytia, a part-time worker who stocks shelves during the overnight shift, says he isn’t protesting because he hates Walmart. Al Jazeera America:
“I actually do like my job. It’s fast-paced, and time goes by quick,” he said. “But last year I made $12,000. I’m a husband. I have four kids. It’s not enough. I’m living in poverty.”
Goytia is a member of Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart), which is backed by the United Food and Commercial Workers union. He has taken part in several protests for better wages and working conditions at the store, including one in early November, when fifty-four people were arrested during protests at a new Walmart store in Los Angeles.
But worker actions against Walmart aren’t isolated to Black Friday. On Monday, Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) joined Walmart workers in Minnesota who walked off the job, and in Los Angeles, workers went on a two-day strike that culminated in the largest-ever act of civil disobedience against Walmart. Last week, workers in Seattle, Chicago, Ohio and Dallas joined them in walking off their jobs.
Additionally, Walmart workers at three Washington, DC, area stores went on strike Tuesday, calling on the company to end its illegal retaliation against workers, and calling for better wages and full-time work.
“I’m speaking out today because Walmart can afford to do better by its workers,” said striking worker Tiffany Beroid. “We want to work full time, and earn above the poverty level. And we are taking action today because Walmart needs to publicly commit to ending illegal retaliation against workers and better wages.”
In fact, the resistance against Walmart’s low wages never really went away. Workers have continually organized, fought for higher wages, and engaged in creative civil disobedience. For example, these workers led a flashmob back in September at a Raleigh, North Carolina Walmart store:
Since June, Walmart has illegally disciplined more than eighty workers, including firing twenty worker-leaders, and more than 100 Unfair Labor Practice charges have been filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against the company. Recently, the NLRB regional office announced it found merit to OUR Walmart’s charge, and found Walmart committed eleven violations of national labor law.
At a time when workers are struggling to survive on low wages, activists expressed outrage at the retirement pension of Walmart CEO Mike Duke, which at $113 million, is more than 6,200 times greater than the average worker’s pay.
“Walmart should be ashamed of the vast labor mismanagement under CEO Mike Duke. From the low wages at Walmart stores to dangerous working conditions in warehouses and the inexcusable safety conditions in factories in Bangladesh and other countries, as the world’s largest employer, Walmart can and should do better to create good jobs and safe working conditions,” Sarita Gupta, executive director of Jobs with Justice, said in a statement.
Following the announcement that Doug McMillon will succeed Duke as CEO, Beroid said the change of leadership is “a testament to the pressure the company is feeling that they’re changing leadership at this moment.”
“We’re happy to see Mr. McMillon acknowledge the hard work of associates in his statement this morning, and we hope that this appreciation translates into improving jobs for Walmart workers. Americans nationwide are looking to Walmart to improve jobs and strengthen our economy, and Mr. McMillon has an opportunity to be a leader in moving Walmart in the right direction, not just in offering more empty promises. We sincerely hope that Mr. McMillon will answer the country’s calls for Walmart to publicly commit to paying $25,000 a year, providing full-time work and ending its illegal retaliation against its own employees.”
I will be live-tweeting from Black Friday actions in New Jersey. Follow me on Twitter @allisonkilkenny.
Wages for Walmart workers are so low that one retail outlet in Ohio held a food drive for its own employees.