“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'” — Isaac Asimov
The American public is feeling warmly toward labor unions again, after souring on them badly during the start of the Great Recession.
A new Gallup poll finds support for unions is about as high as it’s been in 50 years, but while that is surely welcome news for labor leaders, that favorable opinion hasn’t necessarily translated into any expansion in their ranks.
It can be remarkably difficult to form a labor union in the United States, particularly in places like the Republican-led states that have sought to restrict collective bargaining rights with “right to work” laws in recent years; corporations are also inherently hostile toward them. And a new economy veering toward monopoly and individual contracting has helped stifle labor growth.
Still, politically, labor has clout and goodwill in an era defined by income inequality. The leading Democratic presidential candidates — Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and former Vice President Joe Biden — foreground the value of work and workers in their messages.
In doing so, they are picking up on something real: The public’s approval of labor unions had fallen below 50 percent in 2009, but Gallup has found it now sits at a healthy 64 percent following the worst crisis of confidence for the labor movement in a generation.
Why Americans might be feeling better about unions
American workers typically feel best about unions when unemployment has been low for a while, as it has been for the past few years. The unemployment rate has settled now under 4 percent after topping 10 percent in 2010.
“People feel better about unions when labor markets are tighter and there is less fear of being laid off,” Rich Yeselson, a longtime labor activist and contributing editor at Dissent, told Vox.
Another likely driver of positive union sentiment is young workers who are more open to social democratic ideas, Jake Rosenfeld, a sociology professor at Washington University in St. Louis, explained. And very public gains won by recent union actions at young media companies, like Vox, as well as strikes by teachers and corporate employees that have put the labor movement back in the news could also help explain the spike in support. The corporate strikes, like the one by Stop & Shop employees, and teacher strikes, like this January’s in LA, have also generally enjoyed public approval.
“When unemployment spikes, many blame businesses (understandably) but also organized labor,” Rosenfeld said. “It seems clear that non-union workers look to their unionized peers with resentment during tough economic times (aided by enterprising anti-union politicians). And some may blame unions for part of the economic mess — this was a clear narrative about the auto industry in the debates about whether to bail it out, for example.”
Trump’s trade war with China could undermine GOP chances of holding the White House and Senate in 2020.
Republicans have sat patiently with President Donald Trump on his tariff roller-coaster ride with China. Now they’re starting to feel queasy.
Trump argues his escalating trade war will force China to the table for a deal. But his ever-rising tariffs — and his market-rattling tweets — are increasingly alarming the GOP.
“There’s no question that trade uncertainty is contributing to the slowdown,” said Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), a leading free-trader. “We’re in a very good place. The danger is: Where are we going to be a year from now if concerns about trade continue to be an irritant to growth?”
Particularly as the global economy cools, key Republicans say new levies on almost all Chinese goods threaten to step on the president’s good news story: A growing economy, rising wages and low unemployment. And that could have outsize effects on Republicans’ tough task of defending the Senate and the White House in 2020.
“The biggest risk to the economy is the whole trade situation,” added Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) in an interview. “I think the president did a great job, we stopped doing the regulatory burden, we have a fairer tax system … and the whole trade war has injected a huge dose of uncertainty and instability.”
Most Republicans have resisted Trump’s protectionist tendencies for ideological reasons as well as for the hit to the economy and their own political fortunes. But they’ve made an exception on China given its economic rivalry with the United States. Now his tariff regime on Chinese, European and North American imports have reduced economic growth and increased household costs, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Amid some talk by Trump of new tax cuts to juice the economy, his own political party is cool to the idea. Instead GOP senators are urging the president to conclude new trade deals with Japan and the United Kingdom and intensify the effort to push the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement through Congress.
Republicans like Toomey are also advising the White House to embrace modest renewals of expiring tax provisions to counteract a slowdown in business investment.
And, however delicately, they are urging Trump to show more flexibility on China.
A conversation with New York Times reporter Jason DeParle about his new book.
In the late 1980s, a young journalist named Jason DeParle moved in with a Filipino family in Manila to learn more about global poverty. Now a veteran New York Times reporter and author of the 2004 book, American Dream: Three Women, Ten Kids, and a Nation’s Drive to End Welfare, DeParle followed the family he met as they have grown to include more than four dozen people over three generations, spread across the globe as migrant workers.
His latest book, A Good Provider is One Who Leaves, follows Rosalie Comodas Villanueva, who was 15 when DeParle was living in Manila, from her childhood in a shantytown in the Philippines through college and eventually to a career as a nurse. She worked in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates before finally moving her husband and three children to a large home in the Houston suburbs. Through it all, she supports her family back in that Manila shack.
“Migration has become the defining story of the twenty-first century,” DeParle writes. “By the accident of an old friendship, I had an intimate view.”
We caught up with DeParle to learn more about this story, where Rosalie’s family fits into the kaleidoscope of the American immigrant experience, and how her story resonates in the time of Trump’s draconian immigration policies.
Let’s start with the title. What does it mean and why is migration such a way of life for the Comodas and other families like them?
The title comes from the main character’s aunt, who was watching the men in her generation go abroad and then be able to build their families nicer houses. She lived in a straw house and saw that when people went abroad, they could come back and build cement block homes. So she encouraged her husband to go to Saudi Arabia and told him “a good provider is one who leaves.” It serves as an informal motto for the family, because it’s a family of 11 siblings who then grew up and had 45 children. And out of the first generation, nine of the 11 went abroad and in the second generation, something like 24 out of the 45 have gone abroad. So they’ve taken it to heart. They do leave. And most of them are good providers.
One of the things that really jumped out at me was your discussion of the feminization of migration. Why did you choose to tell this story primarily through women?
Two potential payouts from Johnson & Johnson and Purdue Pharma have provoked varied responses
Efforts to get compensation for the US opioid crisis with two multimillion-dollar drug manufacturer payouts have been met by leading activists and addiction experts with a range of responses from incredulity to cautious optimism.
On Tuesday, the wealthy Sackler family and their embattled drugmaker, Purdue Pharma, makers of two opioids that triggered the crisis, Oxycontin and MSContin, reportedly backed a proposal to resolve all opioid lawsuits against themselves and the company for more than $11bn.
The potential settlement, if agreed by attorneys general across the US, would be the largest to date in the complex litigation over addictive painkillers, which have caused the deaths of about 400,000 people since 1999.
The proposal, first reported by NBC, came a day after a judge in a different case in Oklahoma found that drug firm Johnson & Johnson created a “temporary” public nuisance by tricking doctors into overprescribing its opioid-based medications.
Judge Thad Balkman ordered the company to pay $572m to Oklahoma as reimbursement for costs it incurred dealing with the surge in addiction and overdoses.
Shares in the company rose more than 5.4%, reflecting investors relief that the payout was far less than the $17.5bn the state sought and likely to bring down the liabilities facing drug companies and distributors that by some estimates could reach $100bn.
But the two potential payouts – one a pre-trial settlement and the other a court judgement – have brought widely different reactions.
Nan Goldin, the photographer whose PAIN campaign has triggered widespread protests at Sackler-supported art institutions and forced the family to abandon philanthropic donations, told the Guardian the reported Purdue settlement would be “highly questionable” and that the Sacklers would still walk away as billionaires and experience no judicial judgement.
Rep. Ilhan Omar participates in a panel discussion during the Muslim Collective for Equitable Democracy Conference and Presidential Forum at the National Housing Center in Washington, D.C., on July 23, 2019. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
“IT’S ALL ABOUT the Benjamins, baby.”
That is, of course, what Rep. Ilhan Omar famously tweeted on February 10, in response to a tweet from my colleague Glenn Greenwald decrying “how much time U.S. political leaders spend defending a foreign nation” — namely, the state of Israel. Then, when a journalist followed up by asking Omar who she believed was “paying American politicians to be pro-Israel,” the congresswoman tweeted: “AIPAC!”
The freshman Democrat from Minnesota “unequivocally” apologized the very next day, saying that she was grateful to Jewish allies and colleagues who were educating her “on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes” and insisting that she never intended to “offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole.”
Now, fast forward to last week, specifically August 21. Rep. Mo Brooks, a right-wing Republican congressperson from Alabama with a long history of controversial and offensive remarks, was interviewed on WVNN, a radio station in Huntsville, about the decision by Israel’s government to deny entry to Omar and her fellow Muslim Democrat Rashida Tlaib.
“Usually, there is not much controversy with respect to Israel,” Brooks told host Jeff Poor. “Usually, the United States Congress is overwhelmingly close to 100%, if not 100%, in support of recognizing Israel as a long-term American ally, and that we have a mutual defense relationship. Unfortunately, we now have people in the United States Congress who view Israel as an enemy, and that makes for an entirely different mix of conversation.”
While the Trump administration has been focused on trade wars, China has found another way to challenge U.S. power. It is using its signature overseas development policy, “The Belt and Road Initiative,” to advance military interests, especially on the high seas. China is using the debts it is owed by other countries to purchase or invest in strategically located ports around the world on terms favorable to Beijing. The country is investing in ports located near U.S. military bases in places like in Djibouti, countries like Israel and Greece, which are traditional U.S. allies, and, increasingly, in Latin America.
The Philadelphia rapper had been caught in America’s probation system for years. On Tuesday, his case finally came to an end.
In 2017, the imprisonment of Philadelphia rapper Meek Mill for minor probation violations served as a rallying cry for racial justice advocates and celebrities focused on the justice system’s treatment of African Americans.
On August 27, Mill agreed to plead guilty to possession of a firearm in exchange for having all other charges against him dropped. Mill will not be required to serve any additional time behind bars, bringing an end to a high-profile legal battle that has stretched on for more than a decade.
The announcement comes a month after the Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that Mill’s 2008 conviction on gun and drug charges should be vacated, saying that the case had been riddled with problems, including testimony from a discredited police officer and overly punitive rulings from Judge Genece Brinkley, who oversaw the case from the beginning. The ruling meant that the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office would need to fully retry Mill, and on Tuesday, the office announced that it would not do so.
Mill’s fight in the justice system began to see increased attention in November 2017, when Brinkley sentenced him to serve two to four years in prison after violating the terms of his probation. The rapper’s rise has been haunted by a 2007 arrest, followed by close court supervision, multiple minor probation violations, and periods of incarceration at various points.
His difficulties prompted fierce support from justice advocates and Mill’s celebrity supporters argued that at a time when police violence, mass incarceration, and harsh sentencing continue to disproportionately affect people of color, Mill’s case was an all-too-normal tale of the potential harms of America’s probation system: A single infraction can affect a person for years after they have served time due to an extensive web of supervision and the courts’ ability to put someone back behind bars for even minimal offenses.
“His case is highlighting how messed up the system is,” Clarise McCants, the criminal justice campaign director for Color of Change, told me in 2018. “A lot of people think of probation and parole as a get out of jail free card, but it’s not.”
As outrage over Mill’s case grew last year, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered that he be released from prison on bail. In the year since, Mill has become a leading celebrity advocate for criminal justice reform, saying that his case showed him how harsh the system can be and why reforming it is necessary.
On Tuesday, Mill celebrated the end of his case. “I’m extremely grateful that my long legal battle is finally behind me,” he tweeted. “And I appreciate that it has sparked a much-needed discussion about probation reform and the inequalities that exist within our two Americas.”
Meek Mill was arrested in 2007. It followed him for more than a decade.
To truly understand what made Mill’s case so prominent, it’s helpful to revisit how it all started.
In 2007, Robert Williams, still a teenager, wasn’t yet Meek Mill, although he was already held in high regard as a local Philadelphia battle rapper. In January 2007 a police officer named Reginald Graham, who worked with a Philadelphia narcotics unit, claimed to have seen Williams selling crack cocaine. The next day when Graham and another officer approached Williams while he walked from a relative’s home to a local corner store, everything changed.
Accounts given by officers at the time allege that Williams pulled out a gun and pointed it at them. When Williams attempted to run, the officers quickly caught up. Williams was struck by officers and appears visibly injured in a mug shot taken at that time; officers have said the injuries were the result of his resisting arrest.
The rapper’s account of events is somewhat different. He doesn’t deny having had a gun but says he never pointed it at police and instead ditched it as officers approached. He also argues that the officers used excessive force, going so far as to use his head as a battering ram to gain entry into his relative’s home. I had “a concussion, stitches, braids ripped out,” Mill told Billboard in 2015. “My blood was on the ceiling, on the floor.”
What is for certain is that in 2008, Williams faced multiple gun and drug charges. In 2009 Judge Brinkley, whose Philadelphia court would become a recurring setting in Williams’s legal saga, sentenced him to serve 11 to 23 months in county prison. Williams left prison after five months and was placed on house arrest for a brief period. He also was placed on probation for five years.
In the years that followed, after Williams secured a record deal and had a platinum-selling debut album called Dreams and Nightmares, he contemplated the prospect of touring the country but continued to face strict probation requirements. In 2012 after Mill was arrested on suspected marijuana use, Brinkley briefly barred him from touring. In 2014 he was sentenced to serve three to six months in prison for failing to have his travel plans approved by the court, tweeting negatively about his probation officer, and being “disrespectful.”
Mill faced additional punishments in 2015 and 2016 for probation violationsand had more years added onto the initial five-year probationary period. Mill’s team argued that Brinkley was being too strict about relatively minor infractions.
In 2017, two events would prove to be the final straw in Brinkley’s eyes. In March, Mill was involved in a fight at a St. Louis airport. In August, he was seen popping wheelies on a dirt bike as he drove down a New York City street. Mill was charged with misdemeanor assault for the airport incident and reckless endangerment for what transpired in New York. The first charge was later dismissed, and a court said it would drop the reckless endangerment charge if Mill kept out of trouble for six months.
But Brinkley argued that Mill had been given too many chances, sentencing him in November 2017 to serve two to four years in prison as a result of his probation violations, unapproved travel, and a failed drug test. That decision arrived despite the advice of prosecutors and his probation officer. One month later Brinkley denied him bail, arguing that the rapper was a “danger to the community” and a flight risk.
The birth of the #FreeMeekMill movement
At that point, Mill’s ongoing legal troubles began drawing attention from supporters in the music industry. Fellow rappers like Jay-Z, Rick Ross, and T.I. called for Mill to be released from prison. Beleaguered former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick tweeted about the rapper’s incarceration, and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft visited Mill in prison along with 76ers owner Michael Rubin. Fans posted messages of support, uniting under the banner of #FreeMeekMill.
Mill, his supporters argued, was being treated unfairly by a justice system that had closely monitored him for the better part of a decade. “He’s been stalked by a system that considers the slightest infraction a justification for locking him back inside,” Jay-Z wrote in a New York Times op-ed published in November 2017.
A movement quickly grew. Philadelphia, racial justice advocates noted, had the highest numbers in the state when it came to people on probation or parole being reincarcerated, and often this resulted from technical violations. And nationally, roughly one-third of the more than 4 million people on probation or parole are black.
While advocates moved to make the #FreeMeekMill movement symbolic of broader sentencing issues in the justice system, Mill’s lawyers worked to get their client released from prison. They began by pointing at Brinkley, alleging that the judge carried a “vendetta” against the rapper and her refusal to let Mill out on bail indicated that she needed to be removed from the case. The judge, meanwhile, has maintained that she has been fair in her decisions and that punishments occurred because Mill, by repeatedly violating the strict terms of his probation, “thumbed [his] nose at” the court.
“He’s been on probation for nearly 10 years,” Joe Tacopina, one of Mill’s lawyers, told CNN in 2017. “Nobody goes on probation for 10 years.” In June the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a split ruling on the matter, allowing Brinkley to remain on Mill’s case.
In an April 2018 opinion filed with the state supreme court, Brinkley refused to recuse herself and defended herself from allegations of misconduct; she argued that Mill’s sentence was “reasonable” and “appropriate.” A representative for Brinkley did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Department of Homeland Security said it will transfer the emergency funds — including $155 million from FEMA’s disaster relief fund — to support new Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention beds as well as facilities for related court cases, according to documents obtained by NPR.
In a July notification to Congress about the transfer, DHS said the $155 million comes from recoveries of prior year funds and that “absent significant new catastrophic events” the department believes the fund will still have enough money to operate.
Congressional Democrats slammed the move on Tuesday, which comes at the peak of hurricane season and as Tropical Storm Dorian was poised to reach hurricane levels.
“The Trump administration’s plan to divert money away from FEMA at the start of hurricane season to continue its efforts to separate and jail migrant families is backwards and cruel,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said. “Taking these critical funds from disaster preparedness and recovery efforts threatens lives and weakens the government’s ability to help Americans in the wake of natural disasters. Congress appropriated these funds to meet the American peoples’ priorities and I strongly oppose this effort to undermine our constitutional authority.”
DHS alerted Congress to the move in a 15-page notification dated July 26, which NBC first reported earlier Tuesday. The agency is required to give Congress a 30-day notice to the plans.
Democrats, opposed to the move, waited to respond until the end of that notification period in hopes of delaying the costly action, a congressional source familiar with the plans said.
“I have significant concerns about the intended use of funds, and consequently, about the tradeoffs between that use and activities that would otherwise be funded from the source accounts,” California Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, chair of a House Appropriations subcommittee, told DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan in an Aug. 23 letter.
Individuals who scored higher on an optimism assessment were likely to live significantly longer lives, a new study finds
Humans have been searching for centuries for the secret to living longer, but the answer may be as simple as maintaining a positive state of mind. A new study published Monday by researchers at Boston University adds to the evidence that optimistic men and women may live longer than those who are pessimistic.
Researchers found that people who scored higher on an optimism assessment were more likely to live past the age of 85. Those with higher optimism levels at the start of the study were more likely to have advanced degrees and be physically active, and less likely to have health conditions like diabetes or depression. However, when researchers accounted for these variables, they still found that optimism was associated with people living significantly longer.
Often, researchers focus on finding risk factors the heighten the likelihood of falling ill. But Lewina Lee, the lead researcher on the new study and an assistant professor of psychiatry at BU School of Medicine, said, “These findings reinforce the value of looking at psychosocial assets and not just deficits in overall health and health outcomes.”
The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, involved long-term follow up of women enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study and men in the Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study. The women have been followed since 1976, and in 2004 they completed a six-question optimism assessment. Their survival was tracked until 2014. The men have been followed since 1961, and in 1986 they completed a baseline assessment with 263 true or false statements about their experiences and their outlook on life. Survival outcomes were tracked through 2016.