OHIO VOTERS FIGHT BACK: The populist and progressive movements of a century ago ushered in a democracy agenda that included the popular election of senators, open primaries and votes for women. At the state level, they also led to the adoption of recalls, referendums and initiatives, tools for voters to hold officials accountable, not just on election day but throughout their terms.
The recall power was dusted off earlier this year in Wisconsin, as unions and their allies removed two Republican state senators who backed antilabor laws. On November 15 they will start petitioning for the recall of Governor Scott Walker. Meanwhile, in Ohio, a variation on the initiative power—which enables citizens to force a vote on whether a recently signed law will be implemented—gives voters a chance to veto Governor John Kasich’s assault on collective bargaining rights for teachers, police officers, firefighters, nurses and municipal employees. The vote is a crucial test of whether the austerity agenda being pushed by Republicans (and some Democrats) will succeed in rewriting labor law in a way that disempowers unions. The voter-initiated ballot measure, Issue 2, has prompted the most intense electoral fight of this fall’s off-year election season.
Corporate and conservative interests, freed up by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling and cheered on by Karl Rove, have flooded Ohio with money urging a “yes” vote to preserve Kasich’s law. A coalition of Kasich allies known as Building a Better Ohio is spearheading the effort, telling the Columbus Dispatch in July it planned to spend as much as $20 million to defend the law. Decried by the Cleveland Plain Dealer as “clumsy and disingenuous,” the antiunion campaign hit a peak of desperation in mid-October, when a Kasich-allied group falsely suggested in TV ads (which many stations have since pulled) that a woman praising firefighters for saving her great-granddaughter’s life favored the antilabor law. In fact, the woman, Marlene Quinn, had urged voters to reject Kasich’s law because it limits the ability of firefighters to negotiate about public-safety issues.
Polls suggest that despite such attempts to deceive them, most Ohioans object to Kasich’s approach. About 1.3 million people signed petitions demanding the statewide vote. The grassroots movement We Are Ohio, which has led the effort, has festooned the state with “No on 2” signs and is coordinating one of the most ambitious get-out-the-vote drives in state history. What started as a labor fight has become a measure of whether people power can offset big-dollar campaigning in the Citizens United era.
“The question comes down to whom do you trust?” says We Are Ohio spokeswoman Melissa Fazekas. “Real people who are our friends, family and neighbors, or deceptive and misleading ads funded by anonymous corporate donors?” The answer, on November 8, will be heard well beyond Ohio. A rejection of Kasich’s antilabor law will serve as a warning to politicians across the country that voters refuse to balance budgets on the backs of teachers and firefighters. JOHN NICHOLS
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REMEMBERING STEVE JOBS IN CHINA: Since October 6, on popular Chinese social media sites like Weibo (the Chinese equivalent of Twitter) and kaixin001.com (a Chinese version of Facebook), a grainy smartphone photo has been widely shared. It shows chrysanthemum bouquets leaning against a glass wall, propping up black- and-white photos of Steve Jobs. In front of the flowers sit a dozen scattered apples, all missing a bite. The accompanying text reads, “Shanghai. Nanjing Road. Countless Apples. Mourning a Genius.”
The shrine, set up outside an Apple store in Shanghai, is just one drop of an outpouring of grief rarely seen in China. Within the first two weeks after his death, 93 million postings appeared on Jobs’s tribute page on Weibo, the most on any single subject in the popular site’s two-year history. “Your products changed the world and your thinking influenced a generation,” one posting reads.
China is Apple’s fastest-growing market—and its second-largest behind the United States. Members of China’s rising middle class are hungry for Apple products, but the appetite is not without a price. Since 2009 numerous reports, such as “iSlave Behind the iPhone,” released by Hong Kong–based Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior, have exposed the harsh working and living conditions of those working for Apple’s Chinese suppliers. The most notorious among them is Foxconn, Apple’s largest contractor. In the first half of 2010, thirteen Foxconn workers threw themselves out of the company’s tall buildings in despair. Such tragedies have occurred as Chinese Apple fans flock to buy the newest iPhones and iPads. Those who make such trendy gadgets, meanwhile, would have to spend about four months’ salary to buy an iPhone.
While media and consumers continue to hail Jobs for his “vision,” they should not turn a blind eye to the real lives—not just the abstract branding concepts—that have paved the way for Apple’s success. JIN ZHAO
FUNDING A WAR IN HONDURAS: Since 2009, beneath the radar of the international media, the coup government ruling Honduras has been collaborating with wealthy landowners in a violent crackdown on small farmers struggling for land rights in the northeastern Aguán Valley. More than forty-six campesinos have been killed or disappeared. Human rights groups charge that many of the killings have been perpetrated by the private army of security guards employed by Miguel Facussé, a key supporter of the military coup that deposed democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya, and a biofuels magnate whose guards work closely with the Honduran military and police. Both forces receive generous funding from the United States to fight the “war on drugs” in the region.
New WikiLeaks cables reveal that the US embassy in Honduras—and therefore the State Department—has known since 2004 that Facussé is a cocaine importer, which means that US drug war funds and training are being used to support a known drug trafficker’s war against campesinos.
For more on these stunning revelations, read “WikiLeaks Honduras: US Linked to Brutal Businessman,” published at TheNation.com. DANA FRANK