Friday, February 3, 2012


(h/t Katelyn)

The backlash against Komen continues (h/t Ale):
Definitely myths: 
1. Planned Parenthood mostly does abortions. In fact, only about three percent of services provided by PP are abortions. The vast majority of their efforts and funds go to well-woman care, care for women who are or want to be pregnant, STD tests, Pap tests, basic gynecology services, education, and, yeah, breast exams, among a bunch of other things. PP provides health care for millions of men and women who might not otherwise be able to afford it. The Komen funds paid for 170,000 breast cancer screenings and 6,400 mammogram referrals a year–that’s 170,000 women who might have breast cancer and not know about it until it’s too late.

2. There’s a link between abortion and breast cancer. This one’s been thrown out a lot recently–”Why would Komen give money to Planned Parenthood when there’s a proven connection between abortion and breast cancer?” Well, first of all, see #1. Second, that connection doesn’t exist. A National Cancer Institute workshop of more than 100 experts studying findings on cancer and pregnancy “concluded that having an abortion or miscarriage does not increase a woman’s subsequent risk of developing breast cancer.” (What is linked to breast cancer? Full-term pregnancy.) Says the American Cancer Society, “… [T]he public is not well-served by false alarms. At this time, the scientific evidence does not support the notion that abortion of any kind raises the risk of breast cancer or any other type of cancer.”

3. Planned Parenthood doesn’t provide mammograms. Planned Parenthood clinics don’t perform mammograms on site (and PP doesn’t claim otherwise). (My gynecologist doesn’t, either–mammograms are performed by radiologists, not gynecologists.) Instead, PP refers women to radiology offices for the procedure and then foots the bill themselves. If you got pissed off when you mom said she got you a massage for your birthday and then handed you a gift certificate and not an actual masseuse, this will bother you. Otherwise, you’re probably okay with it.

Probably a myth: 
Komen’s de-funding of Planned Parenthood isn’t politically motivated. Now, it would be irresponsible and potentially libelous to say that Komen’s newest excuse is utter and fetid bullshit. But I can point out that just days ago, the excuse was that PP is under investigation, and Komen’s new self-imposed policy is not to partner with organizations that are under investigation. Now it appears they totes forgot to mention that it’s also (or possibly instead; their stories are not entirely clear here) because their “new granting strategies and criteria”… do something, and something about impact, and never turning their backs on the women who need them the most, and nothing hinting at why PP no longer figures into all of that. Like I said, I can’t declare outright that Nancy Brinker is a filthy liar. I can, however, point out a couple of things that are

Not myths: 
1. Komen’s new senior vice president, Karen Handel, is openly and explicitly anti-Planned Parenthood. When she ran for governor of Georgia in 2010, her platform was de-funding Planned Parenthood.
First, let me be clear, since I am pro-life, I do not support the mission of Planned Parenthood. During my time as Chairman of Fultno County, there were federal and state pass-through grants that were awarded to Planned Parenthood for breast and cervical cancer screening, as well as a “Healthy Babies Initiative.” … Since grants like these are from the state I’ll eliminate them as your next Governor.

2. The brand-new “Komen doesn’t fund organizations that are under investigation” policy is… questionable. According to Komen board member John D. Raffaelli, the policy was put in place after the Congressional investigation started, basically to give Komen an excuse to stop funding them:
John D. Raffaelli, a Komen board member and Washington lobbyist, said Wednesday that the decision to cut off money to 17 of the 19 Planned Parenthood affiliates it had supported was made because of the fear that an investigation of Planned Parenthood by Representative Cliff Stearns, Republican of Florida, would damage Komen’s credibility with donors. 
… “People don’t understand that a Congressional investigation doesn’t necessarily mean a problem of substance,” Mr. Raffaelli said. “When people read about it in places like Texarkana, Tex., where I’m from, it sounds really bad.”
So the Komen board voted that all of its vendors and grantees must certify that they are not under investigation by federal, state, or local authorities. But for Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, being the target of partisan investigation is part of doing business. So Komen’s new rule effectively ended their longtime partnership and seemed to the health services provider an unacceptable betrayal of their common mission to save women’s lives. 
… When Komen’s board voted on the policy, several members asked who would be affected by the new policy. Elizabeth Thompson, Komen’s president, said, according to Mr. Raffaelli, “Planned Parenthood is the only one we know of. If we find others, those would be impacted, too.”
The Atlantic has more background on this one.

3. The congressional investigation that’s causing so much trouble was initiatives by an anti-choice organization. I’ll give you a moment to recover from your shock. Stearns’s investigation came at the urging of the group Americans United for Life via 30 pages of unsupported accusations guaranteed to keep investigators digging for a good, long time. This is despite the fact that under the Hyde Amendment, Planned Parenthood has to submit yearly audits anyway–which have never turned up any wrongdoing. Your tax dollars at work.
It's part of a anti-women's-health witch hunt, says Amanda Marcotte:
[A] supposedly anti-cancer charity just threw their lot in with people who believe that cancer shouldn't be prevented if it's linked to sexually transmitted diseases. Objectively pro-cancer, at least for women they deem slutty, i.e. about 95% of us.

Reading Tracy-Clark Flory's coverage of the story, I had a revelation. It came after reading this quote:
Cynthia A. Pearson, executive director of the National Women’s Health Network, doesn’t buy the foundation’s explanation, either. “That’s specious,” she said. Instead, Pearson says, “Komen’s chicken. Komen’s caving to pressure.” This is what antiabortion activists do so well: “They will target the providers and the people who relate to the providers,” she says. That’s because “they can’t make Planned Parenthood stop providing abortions” and “they can’t find any evidence that Planned Parenthood is inappropriately using federal funds.” 

That's when I realized that anti-choicers do this so well because the war on reproductive health care is basically a witchhunt, and the religious fundamentalists behind it are the modern day version of medieval paranoids of old who believed that women who didn't conform to their exacting standards were consorting with Satan. In fact, considering the span of time and cultural change, the fact that the argument hasn't changed at all---they really do believe pro-choice health care providers are consorting with Satan---is almost startling. It's like they lifted it directly from their medieval ancestors. Except, instead of condemning witches to the stake, they simply want to keep them from doing their jobs, and allowing the other witches, i.e. women whose sexual choices they disapprove of, suffer from various afflications ranging from forced childbirth to death from cervical cancer as a warning to others to stay away from the devil's playground of sexual pleasure. And like traditional witch hunters, they have lurid imaginations, and project all their strange fantasies onto their targets, which is why abortion providers or even just pro-choice clinics have been accused of everything from running sex trafficking rings to instigating genocide to putting fetuses in food. And that's on top of the lurid accusations flung at the kinds of women who might visit a Planned Parenthood, especially unmarried young women. Those women are accused of creating sex cults around Plan B, organizing orgies for the strange purpose of getting really colorful penises in the room, and of using abortion as "birth control", i.e. preferring the no-doubt unequalled pleasures of a good uterus scraping to boring old pill use. I've definitely seen some medieval-style flights of fancy aimed at me personally, including a blogger putitng up a picture of me in a red sweater to make insinuations about the kind of woman who wears red. No, I'm serious.

But the most salient feature of a witch hunt is that the witch hunters, in their paranoia, are always looking to expand the circle of "guilt". They imagine demons in every corner, and vast conspiracies promoting what they believe is evil that need to be rooted out. In medieval witch hunts, if someone who didn't like you remembered you buying a chicken from the accused witch, you better fall to your knees and start accusing the accused of putting a curse on your family, or you might be assumed to be guilty, too. That's basically what's going on here. Because of the witch hunt logic, it does seem to be that more and more of women's health care is being rolled up under the word "abortion", which is why anti-choicers blithely claims that's all Planned Parenthood does. You can point out repeatedly that 97% of its services are not abortion, but in their mind, that's like saying that the accused witch spent some of her time not doing witchcraft. In their minds, while she slept she was consorting with Satan, and time spent with her pet cat now is her consorting with a familiar. I can't tell you how many times I've been called a "baby killer". Even if you are stupid enough to believe that abortion is killing babies, that accusation doesn't make sense; I've never had nor performed an abortion. But that's the point. The word "abortion" for anti-choicers long ago ceased to mean "terminating a pregnancy". Now it's just a catch-all scare term to be flung around whenever you want to whip people into a frenzy of hatred over women's liberation, especially women's sexual liberation. Anyone who thinks breast cancer can be neatly cordoned off from this growing circle of hate for all things women's health care is fooling themselves. That's not how witch hunts work. The fear here is not about fetuses or babies per se, but a deep-set fear of female sexuality. Already anti-choicers have scooped breast cancer under the umbrella "abortion", claiming that abortion causes breast cancer. (It doesn't.) Komen would rather side with people who see breast cancer as god's judgment on you for having an abortion rather than side with people support comprehensive health care for women. That tells you all you need to know about their organization. I'm all for picking up your sneakers and taking up running as a hobby, but recommend now you do it for you, and not for the ever-elusive cure for cancer.
There's a good reason for the skepticism towards Komen:
Skeptical commentators are speculating that Komen bowed to political pressure. As conservatives increasingly targeted Planned Parenthood in recent months, various organizations explicitly upped the ante with Komen over their support of the non-profit. The Southern Baptists pulled their Pink Bible program, which produced a dollar for Komen with every Bible sold. Last April, Komen hired as vice president for public policy Karen Handel, a failed Republican candidate with a long online history of hostility to Planned Parenthood and contraception in general. And then it enacted its new rule.

The skepticism is further fueled by the weirdness of a rule letting any city council member or random state legislator decide to defund a Komen grantee just by starting an "investigation." The Department of HHS rejected Stearns' invitation to look into Planned Parenthood months ago, and, even if he were dead on, Stearns isn't suggesting there's something wrong with Planned Parenthood's cancer screening. What if the IRS was looking into a hospital's tax status? Or almost any member of the Arizona legislature was worrying that an in-state facility with Komen money was harboring illegal immigrants? Would Komen have to pull their funding too?

In a ghastly coincidence, the same day Komen pulled the money from Planned Parenthood because Stearns thought they were spending federal funds on abortions, the Journal of the America Medical Association published a damning study that almost half of women receiving second surgeries after lumpectomies didn't need the procedure. Painful, disfiguring, unnecessary surgery. At least three of the four sites studied in the JAMA report -- the University of Vermont, Kaiser Permanente Colorado, and the Marshfield Clinic -- has a relationship with the Komen Foundation. Kaiser Permanente is a "corporate campaign partner," the University of Vermont received a research grant, the Central Wisconsin Komen affiliate sponsors programs at the Marshfield Clinic. Maybe Komen should concentrate their granting criteria on whether the recipients are actually helping cancer patients.
Komen is definitely having a hard time justifying their actions. On the bright side, Planned Parenthood has already made up for the money they lost. Meanwhile, high-ranking Komen employees who are upset are resigning in protest. And on a related note: here's your anagram of the day. And in summary: let's stop beating around the bush — this decision was completely driven by the politics of the anti-women's health crowd and Komen gave in.

Romney's “the poor have it great and are living the high life, just like the rich” comment has drawn plenty of thoroughly-deserved mocking, but the real issue here is that he truly believes the safety net for the poor is sufficient:
The most obvious take-away is that the poor receive a near-middle class lifestyle off the generosity of the government, and don’t even have to pay or work for it. Here’s Bethany Mandel at Commentary: ”Compare this $28,000 [of means-tested programs] to what the average middle class American receives from the government in comparable subsidies, $0.”

Or as this Lucky Ducky cartoon put it:

Atrios is completely right that Romney “isn’t saying fuck the poor. He’s saying that the really poor actually have it really really good! The government basically gives them free cars and housing and medical care and food stamps they can use at the liquor store etc. The rest of you struggling to get by, you don’t get anything. In fact, the really poor (and we know who they are) are taking your hard earned money.” As Joshua Cohen tweeted, it’s a view where the poor aren’t people who happen to make a small income but instead a separate group that exists entirely outside the labor market.

It’s interesting that Mandel thinks Romney’s statements are a liability to him on the right: “To the right, it verifies that Romney is as liberal as they fear, complacent with the welfare state as it currently stands.”
And even more disturbingly, his budgetary priorities would cut even more holes in the safety net:
Though Gov Romney recognized that “…we have food stamps, we have Medicaid, we have housing vouchers…” he neglected to make the following four points:
1) his budget slashes, and I mean SLASHES, domestic spending outside of defense.

2) he’s endorsed Rep Paul Ryan’s budget (now the House Republican Budget) which gets two-thirds of its $4.5 trillion in cuts from low-income programs (and uses the cuts to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy).

3) the Gov’s own tax plan actually raises taxes on those in the bottom fifth of the income scale (by $160 per year; by getting rid of a refundable credit for poor kids and cutting the EITC relative to current policy)—while cutting taxes for the top 0.1% of households (avg inc: $8.3 million) by about $460K/year.

4) he’s said he wants to block grant these low income safety net programs–i.e., instead of the federal program, states run it based on an annual grant, a fixed amount that does not go up or down based on need–and that’s a great way to rip some big holes in the safety net.

On #1 and #2, see here. Remember those Ryan cuts I warned about above? Well, according to my CBPP colleagues Van de Water and Kogan:
Governor Romney’s budget proposals would require far deeper cuts in nondefense programs than the House-passed budget resolution authored by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan: $94 billion to $219 billion deeper in 2016 and $303 billion to $819 billion deeper in 2021.” 
Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) would face cumulative cuts of $946 billion through 2021. Repealing the coverage expansions of the 2010 health reform legislation, as Governor Romney has proposed, would achieve more than the necessary savings. But it would leave 34 million people uninsured who would have gained coverage under health reform.

Cuts in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program) would throw 10 million low-income people off the benefit rolls, cut benefits by thousands of dollars a year, or some combination of the two. 
On #4, if you want to see what block granting does to safety net programs, exhibit one is TANF. My colleagues Donna Pavetti and Liz Schott point out that the program has become much less elastic to the business cycle. In fact, its block grant has been frozen for 15 years!

The figure compares its responsiveness in the Great Recession to that of SNAP (formerly ‘food stamps’), a national program (not a block grant) which remains quite countercyclical. But if Mitt block grants it, that will change.

It’s one thing—and it’s a good thing—to recognize the importance of the safety net in the economic lives of the poorest among us. But it’s quite another indeed to go after it the way Gov Romney does in his budget endorsements and proposals.
As this story on NPR this morning noted, the number of vulnerable families relying on the safety net is quite high, and they would see the safety net destroyed, not repaired under a Romney presidency:
SHAPIRO: House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan has warned that the safety net is becoming a hammock, which lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency. But Romney supports Paul Ryan's budget plan. Poverty experts say that plan and the other policies Romney endorses do not repair the safety net at all despite Romney's claims. Beth Mattingly is director of research on vulnerable families at the University of New Hampshire's Carsey Institute.

BETH MATTINGLY: It appears, to me, by and large, that a lot of those proposals aim to weaken rather than strengthen the social safety net by providing less funding, by really trying to restrict eligibility, restrict access.

SHAPIRO: She also says the numbers Romney cites are way off. In his CNN interview, he said if you set aside the very rich and very poor...

ROMNEY: I'm concerned about the very heart of America, the 90, 95 percent of Americans who right are now struggling.

MATTINGLY: That is certainly not an accurate breakdown of those who are in poverty.

SHAPIRO: Mattingly says the federal government's definition of poverty includes about 15 percent of Americans. But when you look at those who depend on the social safety net, the numbers are far higher.

MATTINGLY: When you consider all of the non-cash safety net programs, as well as all of the work-related and whatnot expenses, it comes up to over a third.
Krugman cuts through the rhetoric and offers his comprehensive take(-down) on Romney's anti-poor plans:
First of all, just a few days ago, Mr. Romney was denying that the very programs he now says take care of the poor actually provide any significant help. On Jan. 22, he asserted that safety-net programs — yes, he specifically used that term — have “massive overhead,” and that because of the cost of a huge bureaucracy “very little of the money that’s actually needed by those that really need help, those that can’t care for themselves, actually reaches them.”

This claim, like much of what Mr. Romney says, was completely false: U.S. poverty programs have nothing like as much bureaucracy and overhead as, say, private health insurance companies. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has documented, between 90 percent and 99 percent of the dollars allocated to safety-net programs do, in fact, reach the beneficiaries. But the dishonesty of his initial claim aside, how could a candidate declare that safety-net programs do no good and declare only 10 days later that those programs take such good care of the poor that he feels no concern for their welfare?

Also, given this whopper about how safety-net programs actually work, how credible was Mr. Romney’s assertion, after expressing his lack of concern about the poor, that if the safety net needs a repair, “I’ll fix it”?

Now, the truth is that the safety net does need repair. It provides a lot of help to the poor, but not enough. Medicaid, for example, provides essential health care to millions of unlucky citizens, children especially, but many people still fall through the cracks: among Americans with annual incomes under $25,000, more than a quarter — 28.7 percent — don’t have any kind of health insurance. And, no, they can’t make up for that lack of coverage by going to emergency rooms.

Similarly, food aid programs help a lot, but one in six Americans living below the poverty line suffers from “low food security.” This is officially defined as involving situations in which “food intake was reduced at times during the year because [households] had insufficient money or other resources for food” — in other words, hunger.

So we do need to strengthen our safety net. Mr. Romney, however, wants to make the safety net weaker instead.

Specifically, the candidate has endorsed Representative Paul Ryan’s plan for drastic cuts in federal spending — with almost two-thirds of the proposed spending cuts coming at the expense of low-income Americans. To the extent that Mr. Romney has differentiated his position from the Ryan plan, it is in the direction of even harsher cuts for the poor; his Medicaid proposal appears to involve a 40 percent reduction in financing compared with current law.

So Mr. Romney’s position seems to be that we need not worry about the poor thanks to programs that he insists, falsely, don’t actually help the needy, and which he intends, in any case, to destroy.

Still, I believe Mr. Romney when he says he isn’t concerned about the poor. What I don’t believe is his assertion that he’s equally unconcerned about the rich, who are “doing fine.” After all, if that’s what he really feels, why does he propose showering them with money?

And we’re talking about a lot of money. According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, Mr. Romney’s tax plan would actually raise taxes on many lower-income Americans, while sharply cutting taxes at the top end. More than 80 percent of the tax cuts would go to people making more than $200,000 a year, almost half to those making more than $1 million a year, with the average member of the million-plus club getting a $145,000 tax break.

And these big tax breaks would create a big budget hole, increasing the deficit by $180 billion a year — and making those draconian cuts in safety-net programs necessary.

Which brings us back to Mr. Romney’s lack of concern. You can say this for the former Massachusetts governor and Bain Capital executive: He is opening up new frontiers in American politics. Even conservative politicians used to find it necessary to pretend that they cared about the poor. Remember “compassionate conservatism”? Mr. Romney has, however, done away with that pretense.

At this rate, we may soon have politicians who admit what has been obvious all along: that they don’t care about the middle class either, that they aren’t concerned about the lives of ordinary Americans, and never were.
As far as concern regarding the poor goes, Ta-Nehisi Coates makes a cogent point about how little the poor matter in American politics; the poor are the free-loaders, it's the hard-working middle class that matters:
I'm more interested in the deeper connotations that you hear both from Romney, most Republicans and most Democrats that somehow equates virtue, and I would argue even patriotism, with being "middle class."

I enjoyed the President's google hangout, the other day, but it was striking how hard he--and his interlocutors--stressed the fact that they were "playing by the rules," "hard-working." and "middle class." As someone with a parent, and siblings, and friends, who were raised in public housing or, at different points, on some sort of other government assistance, I find this framing interesting. My grandmother raised three daughters in Gilmore Homes. You would not have found (rest her soul) a more hard-working, playing by the rules person in any class. My grandmother was the American that so many hard-working/rules-playing citizens believe themselves to be.

But the implication of a middle-class patriotism holds that the poor do not work hard, and do not play by the rules. Their poverty is a moral stain. It's rather sad to see ostensible progressives reinforcing this message. Perhaps in the case of Obama it's matter of democracy and market. Perhaps he's talking to the people who are most likely to vote.

Still, for his next google hang-out, it really would be nice if he had someone from the projects or the impoverished regions of Appalachia who "worked hard," I understand that he has to go with the market. But it'd be nice to see him influencing as well as serving the market.

I'm sorry, but I don't have such expectations for Mitt Romney.
On second thought, the rich and poor are really just the same, right?:

A war on undocumented workers (And potentially union-organizing) at Pomona College:
The dining hall workers had been at Pomona College for years, some even decades. For a few, it was the only job they had held since moving to the United States.

Then late last year, administrators at the college delivered letters to dozens of the longtime employees asking them to show proof of legal residency, saying that an internal review had turned up problems in their files.

Seventeen workers could not produce documents showing that they were legally able to work in the United States. So on Dec. 2, they lost their jobs.

Now, the campus is deep into a consuming debate over what it means to be a college with liberal ideals, with some students, faculty and alumni accusing the administration and the board of directors of betraying the college’s ideals. The renewed discussion over immigration and low-wage workers has animated class discussions, late-night dorm conversations and furious back and forth on alumni e-mail lists. Some alumni are now refusing to donate to the college, while some students are considering discouraging prospective freshmen from enrolling.

For the last two years, many of the dining hall workers had been organizing to form a union, but the efforts stalled amid negotiations with the administration. Many on campus believe that the administration began looking into the employees’ work authorizations as a way to thwart the union effort, an accusation the college president, David W. Oxtoby, has repeatedly denied. But that has done little to quell questions and anger among the fired workers and many who support their efforts to unionize.

“We were here for a very long time and there was never a complaint,” said Christian Torres, 25, a cook who had worked at the college for six years. “But now all of the sudden we were suspect, and they didn’t want us to work here anymore.”

Mr. Torres, who still greets dozens of people on campus by first name, had been one of the primary leaders of the effort to create a union until he lost his job in December.

Dr. Oxtoby said the board of trustees received a “specific, credible complaint” from an employee in early 2011 about the college’s hiring policies and moved to investigate the accusations.


Dr. Oxtoby and the college’s trustees repeatedly said there was no choice but to fire the workers. In a letter from the law firm, lawyers for the college said the college would have left itself open to investigation and punishment from federal immigration authorities had it not fully examined the employment files.

Pomona is part of a consortium of seven colleges whose campuses intertwine here. In December, a day before the Pomona workers were fired, a human resources officer at Scripps College, another member of the consortium, called seven employees there asking them to complete a new work authorization form.

The next day, the Scripps president, Lori Bettison-Varga, sent an e-mail to students and the staff saying that “as soon as the calls came to the attention of the President’s Office, they were halted.” Further, she said that employment forms were stored off campus, and added, “There is no reason for any further questions or actions to be pursued.” A spokeswoman for the college said that the human resources official was not acting on any complaint.

That e-mail only prompted more anger and suspicion among those involved at Pomona, who argued that Scripps showed that the college could have taken less aggressive measures.

While the investigation of the workers’ immigration records has generated the most controversy, it was hardly the first time that students had vocally criticized the administration’s treatment of the people who served their food each day. Months before, students had complained that renewed enforcement of a rule barring dining hall employees from talking to students in the cafeteria during their breaks was a way to stop any union effort.
Speaking of anti-unionization battles, the public unions in Arizona that are about to get crushed by the lunatic Teabaggers who run this state were totally caught off-guard by the insane actions of the legislators here:
Union members were searching for a way out of the wilderness on Wednesday in Arizona as the Republican-controlled Senate moved ahead quickly on several bills that could devastate organized labor in the state.

The measures caught many union leaders by surprise, being introduced on Monday night and passed in committee less than 48 hours later.

At issue is a sweeping series of restrictions that would, among other things, ban unions that represent workers in state, county or city governments from engaging in any type of negotiations that affect the terms of their employment. That includes teachers, prison workers and the state’s powerful police and firefighters unions. The move would take away much of the power those unions have and turn them into something more akin to trade groups.

In interviews with TPM throughout the day, union leaders seemed to still be catching their collective breath. With their Democratic allies outnumbered 21-9 in the Senate, the unions appeared to have no clear or coordinated strategy about how they were going to fight the measures, which will need to pass at least one more committee before going to a full vote of the Senate and then moving on to the House.

“The whole thing is a surprise,” said Pete Gorraiz, president of the United Phoenix Fire Fighters Association. “It steamrolled right through.”


Meanwhile, Brian Livingston, the head of the Arizona Police Association, said he hoped there still might be a way to convince Republicans in the Senate to vote against the package. He said his group, which is the largest police union in the state, was already talking to a number of senators from both sides of the aisle to figure out if a compromise could be reached.

“There are a lot of discussions going on right now,” Livingston said. “We are hoping now because the bills were passed by committee that we can get that dialogue to take place.”

Livingston said he thought the senators had been fed “misinformation” by the Goldwater Institute, a conservative think tank in Phoenix that helped write the bills.

A member of the institute told TPM on Tuesday that his organization believes the state could eventually save $550 million a year by stripping away collective bargaining and other union practices. He also said what happened last year in Wisconsin was “moderate” compared to Arizona’s bills.

But Livingston said the lawmakers needed to be reminded of the facts on the ground, like the dangers of police work and the reality that unions in Arizona aren’t as powerful as many of their critics make them out to be.

Still, Livingston didn’t know what exactly his organization would do if the bills become law.

“It would cause utter chaos,” he said. “You will see a devastating effect to employee morale. You will see, I believe, a hampering of the good services that our services provide to the public as we know it.”
Meanwhile, Indiana's new-found status as a “right-to-work” state lets it join a race-to-the-bottom:
While conservatives will cheer Indiana’s action, you can expect the most common reaction on the Right to stray from the traditional line that other states should emulate it. Despite the renewed popularity of states’ rights rhetoric, anti-labor ideologues have recently begun demanding a national “right-to-work” law, as was reflected when Rick Santorum got beaten up by his rivals in a SC candidates’ debate for having voted against such a measure.

“States’ rights,” of course, is not the only conservative principle anti-labor zealots are willing to sacrifice in the pursuit of greater workplace power for “job-creators;” the very essence of right-to-work laws, federal or state, is to outlaw freedom of contract, since employers and unions are prohibited from signing agreements that require payment of dues in exchange for legally required collective bargaining representation.

Most supporters of “right-to-work” laws don’t even both to get into their pros and cons, just taking it for granted that unions are a bad thing and that workers struggling under their yoke would give anything to regain the right to flex their muscles in individual negotiations with their employers (joke!).

But as someone who grew up in the right-to-work Deep South, I can assure Indianans that from a psychological point of view they are about to enter a brave new world where an ever-neurotic desire to keep corporations happy always seems to trump any consideration of fair play or workers’ rights. Welcome to the Old South, Hoosiers! Misery loves company.

Indeed, it may be true that the beef industry has gotten better over the course of the past few decades, but the environmental and ethical problems still remain when it comes to factory-farmed meat — and after all, efficiency in this context often means treating animals even more poorly than before:
[A] study wants to rectify beef's image as an environmental miscreant. It says modern beef production is a lot kinder to the environment than it was 30 years ago.

Jude Capper, an assistant professor of dairy science at Washington State University who did the study, found that cattlemen used 33 percent less land, 12 percent less water, 19 percent less feed and 9 percent less fossil fuel energy in 2007 to produce the same amount of beef as they did in 1977. How? Mainly by getting more meat out of fewer cows.

"[The industry] knows far better how to care for, feed and manage cattle," Capper tells The Salt. Her study, which appeared in the Journal of Animal Science, was produced at the request of—and with some funding from—the industry.

Environmentalists agree that beef production is a lot more efficient than it used to be. But there are still problems, according to Chuck Benbrook, chief scientist at The Organic Center.

Consider the typical beef cow's diet. Corn, the food of choice at industrial feedlots to fatten cattle for slaughter, is a cheap and calorie-dense food source. But cows are designed mainly to digest grass, and a grain-heavy diet can over time irritate the digestive tract, which can require antibiotics as treatment. Benbrook says the huge quantity of antibiotics now being pumped into beef cattle for this and other health problems is bad for humans.

Capper's study also doesn't address the "downstream" effects of concentrated operations and their waste, environmentalists say. As feedlots get bigger, so do manure piles, says Doug Gurian-Sherman, senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

"Think of a sponge," Gurian-Sherman tells The Salt. "You sprinkle a little water on it and the sponge will absorb it. If you put too much on it, it goes through. Feedlots often put way too much manure on nearby crops—more than can be absorbed—and it goes through into the groundwater or runs into streams."

Capper responds that it's that impossible to measure the effects of cattle manure on groundwater. But she says farms release less nitrogen and phosphorus, two nutrients in waste that can pollute waterways, than before.

Water is another point of contention. Gurian-Sherman says he's concerned that the industry has relocated to regions where water is scarce. "Feedlots have moved somewhat from California and Eastern states towards the drier parts of the great plains [which] exacerbates water issues [in those areas]," he says.

Beef still doesn't stack up that well against other meats, in terms of the resources that go into it. "Beef production is an inefficient way to produce food," says Gurian-Sherman. He says it takes more than twice the grain to produce a pound of beef as is required to produce a pound of chicken.

The biggest challenges towards reaching sustainability? A Momentum special issue asks 20 experts for their solutions. In one of the interviews worth reading (in addition to the Gleick interview I highlighted recently), urban sustainability expert Alex Steffen argues for a more holistic, integrated approach to zoning decisions:
So you're arguing not for shutting down public hearing process, but for letting cities decide on projects by whole classes of projects rather than individual cases?
Yes, exactly. You don’t get the pace of change that’s needed out of case-by-case evaluations. If you're willing to make tough choices right up front, we know it’s possible to do a lot of this stuff without taking away anything that people love about their cities. In fact, we can add value to people's neighborhoods.

There’s a great plan for the city of Melbourne, which they presented at TEDx Sydney. The city’s growing quickly, needs to add a million people over the next decade or two, but they don’t want that to be sprawl. So they took a digital map of the city and blocked off everything that’s currently single family residences, everything that’s a historical building, everything that’s green space, working industrial land, and other things people are vociferous about valuing. That left a fairly small percentage of land. But they showed that if they concentrated density in those corridors, they could add a million people without expanding the city at all, and it would add all these benefits, like better public transit and such. You can dramatically increase the density of places without taking away things people want—and actually adding things they want but couldn’t afford today—because the average suburb isn’t dense enough to financially support a tram or the like. But if you add a dense core that can support that, suddenly even the people around it, in their single-family homes, get the benefit, too. I call that “tent-pole density,” where extremely high density in a small area brings up the average for a whole neighborhood, even when the rest of the neighborhood doesn't change. I think it’s a really important concept, one that most people don't get.

We’ve run out of time for incremental approaches. For carbon-neutral cities, there are things worth talking about in how our consumption patterns can change—sharing goods, etc.—but those are a fraction of the impacts of transportation and building energy use. If we need to choose priority actions, the most important things are to densify, provide transit, and green the buildings.

The Pro-Pollution caucus isn't giving up on Keystone.

Nor are they giving up on Drill Everywhere, All The Time, Damn the Consequences.

And while they're at it, why not also just propose the worst transportation bill ever? No really, it's a godawful, no-good, terrible bill — one with particular antipathy towards transit. Truly “the worst,” to be precise.

Oh, how lovely: the reality-denying pro-climate change morons are at it again, now running a harassment and intimidation campaign against Michael Mann. Even Revkin believes the campaign is some truly despicable shit. Meanwhile, “Willard” Mittens Romney, formerly a moderate, is now buying into the looniest of the climate change denial conspiracy theories.

Is there actually an on-going jellyfish invasion?

More federal land opens up for wind power.

The Sierra Club and the millions it took from the natural gas industry.

Is sugar killing you? A group of UCSF scientists are calling for sugar to be regulating in a manner akin to alcohol (paywalled). (Gary Taubes had a long profile of Laudig in the NYTimes Sunday Magazine last April that covers much of this, too.)

Increasing teacher salaries is apparently a Biblical sin.

Having female role models improves female adolescents’ attainment (paywalled).

Affirmative action is good for women, and not bad for everyone else (paywalled).

Success in the movement for open-access and against opponents like Elsevier?

Where are the jobs at in this post-recession world?

AllMusic takes a look at 1986. (Bonus: some Spotify playlists included.)

Check out the new video from The Magnetic Fields.

As I've already noted, Leonard Cohen's new album is brilliant. And if you want to get into more Cohen, this primer from the A/V Club is a good place to start. (h/t/ Wifey)

No comments:

Post a Comment