MoJo Blogs and Articles | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/rss/blogs_and_articles/favicon.ico/favicon.ico http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en You Might Not Know Where Chad Is, But the US Military Has Big Plans For It http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/11/you-might-not-know-where-chad-us-military-has-big-plans-it <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><em>This <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175925/" target="_blank">story</a> first appeared on the </em><a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/" target="_blank">TomDispatch</a><em> website.</em></p> <p>Admit it. You don't know where Chad is. You know it's in Africa, of course. But beyond that? Maybe with a map of the continent and by some process of elimination you could come close. But you'd probably pick Sudan or maybe the Central African Republic. Here's a tip. In the future, choose that vast, arid swath of land just below Libya.</p> <p>Who does know where Chad is? That answer is simpler: the US military. Recent contracting documents indicate that it's building something there. Not a huge facility, not a mini-American town, but a small camp.</p> <p><a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com" target="_blank"><span class="inline inline-left"><img alt="" class="image image-preview" height="33" src="http://motherjones.com/files/images/tdispatch-notch.jpg" title="" width="100"></span></a></p> <p>That the US military is expanding its efforts in Africa shouldn't be a shock anymore. For years now, the Pentagon has been increasing its <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175823/tomgram%3A_nick_turse%2C_america%27s_non-stop_ops_in_africa">missions</a> there and promoting a <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175743/tomgram%3A_nick_turse%2C_africom%27s_gigantic_%22small_footprint%22">mini-basing boom</a> that has left it with a growing collection of outposts <a href="http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/article/20140930/NEWS08/309300058/Marines-establish-three-new-staging-locations-West-Africa">sprouting</a> across the northern tier of the continent. This <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175830/tomgram%3A_nick_turse%2C_africom_becomes_a_%22war-fighting_combatant_command%22">string</a> of camps is meant to do what more than a decade of counterterrorism efforts, including the training and equipping of local military forces and a variety of humanitarian hearts-and-minds missions, has failed to accomplish: transform the Trans-Sahara region in the northern and western parts of the continent into a bulwark of stability.</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/politics/2014/11/you-might-not-know-where-chad-us-military-has-big-plans-it"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Politics International Military Tom Dispatch Fri, 21 Nov 2014 20:59:34 +0000 Nick Turse 265226 at http://www.motherjones.com Native Children Have the Same Rate of PTSD as Combat Veterans http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/11/native-children-have-same-rate-ptsd-combat-veterans <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Here's the most sobering statistic you'll see today: American-Indian and Alaskan Native children experience PTSD at the same rate at veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to a new report from a Department of Justice advisory committee, 22 percent of American-Indian and Alaskan Native juveniles have PTSD&mdash;three times higher than the national rate. Among other proposals, the committee recommends Congress grant tribes the ability to prosecute non-Indians who abuse children. Under the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, Congress empowered tribes to prosecute non-Indians who commit domestic violence, but left other crimes, like sexual abuse, untouched.</p> <p>You can read the full report here:</p> <div class="DC-note-container" id="DC-note-188681">&nbsp;</div> <script src="//s3.amazonaws.com/s3.documentcloud.org/notes/loader.js"></script><script> dc.embed.loadNote('//www.documentcloud.org/documents/1368962-finalaianreport/annotations/188681.js'); </script></body></html> MoJo Health Human Rights Race and Ethnicity Fri, 21 Nov 2014 20:22:13 +0000 Tim Murphy 265281 at http://www.motherjones.com If You're White and Feel Discriminated Against, Jose Antonio Vargas Wants to Talk to You http://www.motherjones.com/media/2014/11/jose-antonio-vargas <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>"Do you think some people treat you unfairly because you're white?"</p> <p>"Do you feel you're missing out on an important job, school, or other opportunity because you're white?"</p> <p>These questions were included in a recent <a href="http://washingtondc.craigslist.org/doc/tfr/4761857433.html" target="_blank">casting call</a> for an MTV documentary in Washington DC. It swiftly raised eyebrows across the internet:&nbsp;Do white people really need yet another medium to showcase, well, <a href="http://www.vox.com/2014/11/19/7246345/white-people-mtv" target="_blank">white people problems?</a>&nbsp;</p> <p>But when it came out that the man behind the documentary was actually journalist and prominent immigration activist Jose Antonio Vargas and his organization <a href="http://www.defineamerican.com/" target="_blank">Define American</a>, the initial scorn quickly disappeared; the questions suddenly became legitimate.</p> <center> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p>Thought this was a joke saw <a href="https://twitter.com/joseiswriting">@joseiswriting</a> name &amp; it became interesting: MTV Casts Documentary On Hardships Of Anglos <a href="http://t.co/Y9oXM5vEHR">http://t.co/Y9oXM5vEHR</a></p> &mdash; Kristian Ramos (@kramos1841) <a href="https://twitter.com/kramos1841/status/534844067830845441">November 18, 2014</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></center> <p>"Race is uncomfortable for everybody," Vargas told <em>Mother Jones.</em> "But when you bring in race and whiteness, I think you're really laying it on thick for people. And that's why I think we're getting the reaction we're getting."</p> <p>Vargas says he expected the Craigslist post to elicit some controversy&mdash;indeed, it's exactly this tendency to immediately call out others for racial bias, without attempting to seek understanding, he hopes to explore.&nbsp;<span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 24px; ">"I'm not interested in that 'gotcha'&nbsp;moment, where in the age of T</span>witter&nbsp;<span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 24px; ">we over-communicate without ever&nbsp;</span>actually<span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 24px; ">&nbsp;connecting." he said. "I am going to let the work speak for itself."&nbsp;</span></p> <p>In recent years, those "gotcha" moments have dominated countless <a href="http://www.buzzfeed.com/ryanhatesthis/outrage-over-accidental-powder-puff-blackface" target="_blank">headlines.</a> And the news cycle is a familiar one: It starts with the internet discovering a person doing something, at best, racially insensitive, and at worst, blatantly racist. Outrage moves to social media where users are quick to ridicule the offender in question. The mounting anger is only quelled by a forced apology, firing, etc. But what happens after the hashtags stop trending? The conversations that follow don't exactly have the same viral potential and are rarely discussed.</p> <p>"Critical analysis is of utmost importance whenever we talk about race in America," he said. And for Vargas, the way Americans currently discuss race is "superficial and oversimplified."&nbsp;But in a time when race is such a&nbsp;loaded topic, this is increasingly problematic. That's exactly where the "Untitled Whiteness Project" comes in.</p> <p>The film is currently in its beginning stages and aligns with MTV's larger "Look Different" campaign, which explores hidden prejudices among<b> </b>millennials. The campaign recently partnered with David Binder Research for a <a href="http://cdn.lookdifferent.org/content/studies/000/000/001/DBR_MTV_Bias_Survey_Executive_Summary.pdf?1398858309" target="_blank">study</a> to examine how young people view their own identities and biases. Among&nbsp;the white 18 to 24 year-olds who participated in the study, 48 percent&nbsp;said discrimination against white people has emerged as just a serious problem as discrimination against people of color. Only 39 percent&nbsp;believed white people had more advantages than people of color.</p> <p>Vargas wants to discuss these perspectives, shed light on hidden&nbsp;biases, and perhaps even more importantly, create an open discourse for young people to&nbsp;talk comfortably talk about race and their own identities without judgment.</p> <p>"This isn't about making anyone feel bad, "Vargas said. "I want to create a safe place where people can actually explore this conversation."</p> <p>"It's so easy to hate something you don't know. What's harder is to actually scratch the surface."</p> <p>So expect to see similarly uneasy Craigslist posts to emerge all over the country&mdash;Vargas is here to shake things up and get young people to start talking.</p></body></html> Media Interview Film and TV Race and Ethnicity Fri, 21 Nov 2014 20:21:11 +0000 Inae Oh 265251 at http://www.motherjones.com Friday Cat Blogging - 21 November 2014 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/friday-cat-blogging-21-november-2014 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Here in Drumland we have a new version of the Second Commandment. Here's the rewrite:</p> <blockquote> <p>Thou shalt not bow down thyself to any other cats: for I, the Lord thy Hilbert, am a jealous cat.</p> </blockquote> <p>Here's the backstory. Last week I got slightly concerned that Hopper was getting a bit less sociable. It was nothing big. She was still perfectly friendly, but she never jumped into our laps anymore. She's always had too much energy to be much of a lap cat, but when we first got her she'd occasionally get tuckered out and curl up with us.</p> <p>Long story short, my concern was completely misplaced. It turns out the reason she was avoiding our laps was because of Hilbert. Even if he was three rooms away, his spidey sense would tingle whenever she curled up with us, and he'd rush over to demand attention. Eventually he'd push her off completely, and apparently Hopper got tired of this. So she just stopped jumping into our laps.</p> <p>But as soon as we began restraining Hilbert, it turned out that Hopper was delighted to spend a spare hour or so with her human heating pads. This was easier said than done, since Hilbert really, really gets jealous when he sees Hopper on a lap. There's always another lap available for him, of course, but that's not the lap he wants. He wants whatever lap Hopper is sitting in. Keeping him away is an endless struggle.</p> <p>But struggle we do, and we figure that eventually Hilbert will learn there are laps aplenty and Hopper will realize that sitting in a lap isn't an invitation to be abused by her brother. Peace and love will then break out. Someday.</p> <p>In the meantime, here's this week's catblogging. On the left, Hopper is curled up in a sink that just fits her. Like so many cats, she's convinced that we humans might not know how to use the bathroom properly, so she always likes to come in and supervise. On the right, Hilbert is upstairs surveying his domain. Probably checking to ensure that no one else is sitting in a lap.</p> <p><img align="left" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hopper_2014_11_21_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 5px 4px 5px 0px;"><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hilbert_2014_11_21.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 5px 0px 5px 4px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 21 Nov 2014 19:55:06 +0000 Kevin Drum 265266 at http://www.motherjones.com Republicans Finally Sue Over Obamacare -- And There's Even a Surprise Included http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/republicans-finally-sue-over-obamacare-and-theres-even-surprise-included <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>House Republicans finally filed their long-awaited lawsuit against President Obama today, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/22/us/politics/obamacare-lawsuit-filed-by-republicans.html" target="_blank">and it actually contained a surprise:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The suit also challenges what it says is President Obama&rsquo;s unlawful giveaway of roughly $175 billion to insurance companies under the law. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the administration will pay that amount to the companies over the next 10 years, though the funds have not been appropriated by Congress. The lawsuit argues that it is an unlawful transfer of funds.</p> <p>....If the lawsuit is successful, poor people would not lose their health care, because the insurance companies would still be required to provide coverage &mdash; but without the help of the government subsidy, the companies might be forced to raise costs elsewhere. The subsidies reduce the co-payments, deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs that consumers incur when they go to doctors and hospitals.</p> </blockquote> <p>Long story short, it turns out there are two parts to the suit. The first part challenges Obama's delay of the employer mandate, and it's entirely symbolic. After all, it's only a delay. Even if Republicans win, by the time the case makes it all the way through the court system it will be moot. The delay will be over by then and the employer mandate will be in place.</p> <p>But this second part is unexpected. Republicans are arguing that a provision of the law called Cost Sharing Reduction wasn't automatically funded, as were most parts of the law. The law <em>authorizes</em> CSR, but no appropriation was ever made, so it's illegal to actually pay out these funds.</p> <p>Do they have a case? This is a brand new allegation, so I don't think anyone has yet had a chance to look into it. But if I had to guess, I'd say it's probably about as specious as every other allegation against Obamacare. Unfortunately, though, that doesn't mean the Supreme Court won't uphold it. You never know these days. In the meantime, conservatives are likely to be dizzy with excitement over the whole thing since (a) it involves a clear constitutional question about appropriating funds, and (b) it would hurt poor people. That's quite a twofer.</p> <p>Of course, the suit still has to survive challenges to Congress' standing to sue in the first place, and that might kill it before any court even begins to judge the merits of the case. Wait and see.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Congress Health Care Obama Fri, 21 Nov 2014 17:55:40 +0000 Kevin Drum 265286 at http://www.motherjones.com President Obama Acted Unilaterally on Immigration and the Right Is Predictably Outraged http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/11/president-obama-acted-unilaterally-immigration-and-right-outraged <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>President Barack Obama, who has issued fewer executive orders than any president since Grover Cleveland, issued a set of directives this week to protect 5 million undocumented residents from deportation. The <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/11/obama-executive-action-immigration-senate" target="_blank">new executive actions</a> will allow undocumented parents of US citizens to stay in the country, and allow children who were brought to the United States by their parents to apply for employment visas. It also, according to various Republican critics, cements Obama's status as a dictator, a king, an emperor, and maybe even a maniac bent on ethnic cleansing:</p> <p><strong>Obama is a king.</strong> "The president acts like he's a king," Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2014/09/26/politics/rand-paul-obama/" target="_blank">said</a>. "He ignores the Constitution. He arrogantly says, 'If Congress will not act, then I must.' These are not the words of a great leader. These are the words that sound more like the exclamations of an autocrat."</p> <p><strong>This will lead to anarchy. </strong>"The country's going to go nuts, because they're going to see it as a move outside the authority of the president, and it's going to be a very serious situation," retiring Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) told <em><a href="http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2014/11/19/usa-today-capital-download-with-tom-coburn/19263969/" target="_blank">USA Today</a>. "</em>You're going to see&mdash;hopefully not&mdash;but you could see instances of anarchy. ... You could see violence."</p> <p><strong>He could go to jail. </strong>Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) told <a href="http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2014/11/19/alabama_rep_mo_brooks_says_obama_s_executive_action_over_immigration_could.html" target="_blank"><em>Slate</em></a> that the president might be committing a felony: "At some point, you have to evaluate whether the president's conduct aids or abets, encourages, or entices foreigners to unlawfully cross into the United States of America. That has a five-year in-jail penalty associated with it."</p> <p><strong>Is ethnic cleansing next?</strong> When asked by a talk-radio called on Thursday if the new executive actions would lead to "ethnic cleansing," Kansas Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach said <a href="http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/kris-kobach-obama-ethnic-cleansing" target="_blank">it just might</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>What protects us in America from any kind of ethnic cleansing is the rule of law, of course. And the rule of law used to be unassailable, used to be taken for granted in America. And now, of course, we have a President who disregards the law when it suits his interests. And, so, you know, while I normally would answer that by saying, 'Steve, of course we have the rule of law, that could never happen in America,' I wonder what could happen. I still don't think it&rsquo;s going to happen in America, but I have to admit, that things are, things are strange and they're happening.</p> </blockquote> <p>Kobach is hardly a fringe figure. He was <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/03/kris-kobach-anti-immigration-laws-sb-1070" target="_blank">the architect</a> of the self-deportation strategy at the core some of the nation's harshest immigration laws.</p></body></html> MoJo Congress Immigration Top Stories Fri, 21 Nov 2014 17:25:14 +0000 265271 at http://www.motherjones.com Winnie the Pooh Banned From Playground For Wrong Reason http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2014/11/winnie-pooh-banned-playground-because-people-are-stupid <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Goodmorning. Here is <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/news/winnie-the-pooh-banned-from-polish-playground-for-being-an-inappropriate-hermaphrodite-9872278.html" target="_blank">something stupid</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>Winnie the Pooh has been banned from a Polish playground because of his &ldquo;dubious sexuality&rdquo; and &ldquo;inappropriate&rdquo; dress.</p> <p>The much-loved animated bear was suggested at a local council meeting to decide which famous character should become the face of the play area in the small town of Tuszyn. But the idea soon sparked outrage among more conservative members, with one councillor even denouncing poor Pooh as a &ldquo;hermaphrodite&rdquo;.</p> <p>&ldquo;The problem with that bear is it doesn&rsquo;t have a complete wardrobe,&rdquo; said Ryszard Cichy during the discussion. &ldquo;It is half naked which is wholly inappropriate for children."</p> <p>&ldquo;The author was over 60 and cut [Pooh&rsquo;s] testicles off with a razor blade because he had a problem with his identity,&rdquo; she said.</p> </blockquote> <p>Here's the thing, Winnie the Pooh <em>should</em> <em>be banned</em> but not because he doesn't wear pants. He should be banned because he glamorizes stealing honey and tells children to play with bees. It's like he's never even seen <em>My Girl</em>.</p></body></html> Mixed Media Fri, 21 Nov 2014 16:23:35 +0000 Ben Dreyfuss 265261 at http://www.motherjones.com "Food Chains" Looks at the Real Cost of Your Cheap Tomatoes http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/11/food-chains-film-sanjay-rawal-tomatoes-immokalee <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><em>Food Chains </em>opens at the break of dawn, as tomato pickers in Immokalee, Florida, hustle onto buses and out to the fields where they spend long hours trying to pick enough fruit to survive. Late in the evening they return to cramped trailers, with barely enough wages to purchase groceries for a family meal. Though Florida's rich soil generates hundreds of millions of dollars worth of tomatoes, those harvesting them make around $12,000 a year. And the worst part, as tomato picker Gerardo Reyes Chavez points out, at the end of the day there's only the realization of "how little you mean to the people you are working for."</p> <p>"We're not poor in this country&mdash;we're screwed," remarks farm advocate Lucas Benitez in <a href="http://www.foodchainsfilm.com/" target="_blank"><em>Food Chains</em></a>, an illuminating documentary about ag workers that hits theaters today. Directed by Sanjay Rawal (<a href="http://oceanmonk.com/" target="_blank"><em>Ocean Monk</em></a>), the film sheds light on how our produce depends on the labor of workers who are paid by the piece and are <a href="http://www.ers.usda.gov/media/205619/err60_1_.pdf" target="_blank">twice as likely</a> to live beneath the poverty line as salaried employees.</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" mozallowfullscreen="" src="//player.vimeo.com/video/105245146" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="630"></iframe></p> <p><a href="http://vimeo.com/105245146">Food Chains - Trailer</a> from <a href="http://vimeo.com/user10075327">Screen Media Films</a> on <a href="https://vimeo.com">Vimeo</a>.</p> <p>But <em>Food Chains</em> isn't just a typical tale of helpless peons getting swallowed by an oppressive system. The film, produced by <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2001/07/dangerous-meatpacking-jobs-eric-schlosser" target="_blank">Eric Schlosser</a> (<em>Fast Food Nation</em>) and Eva Langoria and narrated by Forest Whitaker, highlights the progress that's been achieved. Much of the movie traces the arduous and ultimately triumphant push by Florida's <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2004/07/power-pickers" target="_blank">Coalition of Immokalee Workers</a>. After years of organizing, the CIW&nbsp;convinced consumers and companies to pay a "penny-per-pound" premium to tomato pickers and established a code of conduct that bans on-the-job harassment and unpaid labor.</p> <p>Since 2011, national brands like <a href="http://www.fairfoodprogram.org/partners/" target="_blank">Burger King and Subway</a> have signed on to the CIW's <a href="http://www.fairfoodstandards.org/reports/14SOTP-Web.pdf" target="_blank">Fair Food Program</a>. In January, <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2014/01/farm-workers-win-extra-penny-ultimate-penny-pincher-walmart" target="_blank">Walmart joined</a>. And last month, a <a href="http://www.news-press.com/story/news/local/2014/10/24/coalition-of-immokalee-workers-debuts-fair-food-label/17828013/" target="_blank">"Fair Food" label</a> debuted on tomatoes in Whole Foods. Ninety percent of tomato pickers in Florida now benefit from the program. In a state once deemed "<a href="http://swampland.time.com/2011/06/11/a-dispatch-from-tomatoland/" target="_blank">ground zero for modern-day slavery</a>," the CIW <a href="http://www.fairfoodstandards.org/reports/14SOTP-Web.pdf" target="_blank">reports</a> finding no incidents of forced labor since the program's inception. So far, buyers have funneled $15 million into the Fair Food Program through the premium, which shows up as a bonus on each worker's paycheck. "The fact that the CIW was able to create this program in the most hostile environment for farm workers in the US shows me that it's a model," says Rawal. "If it works in Florida, it can work anywhere else."</p> <p><em>Food Chains</em>' underlying message is that foodie-ism must encompass more than just a concern for how dinner looks and tastes. People always ask, "Where was the pig raised? What food did it eat?" says Rawal. It's time to start asking: "What were <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2014/10/chain-ted-genoways-spam-hormel" target="_blank">the conditions of the workers who slaughtered that pig</a>?"</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Sanjay2_0.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Sanjay Rawal </strong>Courtesy Food Chains</div> </div> <p>I caught up with Rawal to discuss the social cost of cheap food and his own connection to where our food comes from.</p> <p><strong>Mother Jones:</strong> Your dad has a career as a tomato geneticist. Did you guys grow tomatoes?</p> <p><strong>Sanjay Rawal: </strong>My dad worked for Del Monte and then for Monsanto as one of the chief scientists on the <a href="http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodScienceResearch/Biotechnology/Submissions/ucm225043.htm" target="_blank">Calgene Flavr Savr Tomato</a>. But it was a huge disaster because the tomato <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/24/booming/you-call-that-a-tomato.html?_r=0" target="_blank">didn't taste good</a>. And then my dad started his own genetics company and I began doing that with him. He and I ran a genetics company for 10 years. And so I sold seeds to Florida.</p> <p><strong>MJ: </strong>The tomato your dad worked on was all about taste, right?</p> <p><strong>SR: </strong>Yeah. The Flavr Savr wasn't about taste at all; that was just the name. It was about the shape and the shipability of it. My dad's company was all about flavor. His tomatoes are some of the best selling at Trader Joe's and Whole Foods. Other people grow them and sell them. My dad was a breeder. Most of his work happened in little test plots and didn't require much labor. He tried growing them for a while, and realized that farming is hard. It's just brutally hard. We didn't have the interest or fortitude to farm.</p> <p><strong>MJ: </strong>Why do you think you started to pay attention to workers' issues when you did?</p> <p><strong>SR: </strong>I worked on human rights projects in Haiti, Cameroon, and East Asia, and the bigger ones tended to do with agriculture. My role was to make sure that there was equity that remained at the base of those projects, with the workers. I had a couple of different lives. I had the human rights life, and I had the family business life. I remember being at this tomato seed conference in Fort Meyers, Florida. This was like three months after Barry [Estabrook's] book came out. So I'm reading <a href="http://politicsoftheplate.com/?page_id=831" target="_blank"><em>Tomatoland</em></a>, and I'm literally 30 minutes away from Immokalee, Florida. It all hit home.</p> <p>In Florida, then, and for farm workers for the most part in the US, there's a real sense of economic segregation. In the South, the structures of economic segregation still existed. Now those people are no longer African-American; for the most part, they're Latino. In California, it's different. We saw people sleeping in homeless encampments in Napa Valley and Sonoma. Horrific ones in Watsonville. It's different because you're looking at homelessness and the lack of housing, less than something that's institutionalized.</p> <p><strong>MJ: </strong>The Immokalee workers are central to the film and their story is so rich. Why did you feel the need to also include voices from all over the country, especially California, for this film?</p> <p><strong>SR: </strong>Farm work is a very difficult job, no matter what state you're in. California is an important state in the history of farm work because it was the only one that let unions flourish. California is the largest agricultural state in the country, in terms of fresh produce. You can't make a movie about farm labor without including California.</p> <p>At the same time, what's happening in Florida is revolutionary. C&eacute;sar Chavez and Dolores Huerta spent 20 years building the United Farm Workers. A lot of the progress they achieved has been rolled back slowly. Florida was deemed by one prosecutor from the Department of Justice as <a href="http://swampland.time.com/2011/06/11/a-dispatch-from-tomatoland/" target="_blank">"ground zero for modern-day slavery in the United States."</a> Horrific. And this is seven or eight years ago. But the Coalition, with a couple of farmers, and now a lot of farmers, started the Fair Food Program. They've gone from ground-zero for slavery to no slavery. There hasn't been a case of slavery in the last four years since the Fair Food Program's been in action.</p> <p>Now, four years into it, they've got data, which showed initially a huge spike in sexual harassment complaints. That meant that, for the first time, people felt like they could complain. And now they're showing a pretty steep decline [in complaints] because the perpetuators of those abuses are now not in the system anymore. The fact that the CIW was able to create this program in the most hostile environment for farm workers in the US shows me that it's a model. If it works in Florida, it can work anywhere else. It's a beautiful thing.</p> <p><strong>MJ: </strong>How is this Fair Food Program different from past efforts to reform agricultural labor standards?</p> <p><strong>SR: </strong>California state law is better than any other state law, but no one will say that the enforcement of labor laws in California is up to par with the law itself. There's the <a href="http://www.dol.gov/ilab/child-forced-labor/California-Transparency-in-Supply-Chains-Act.htm">California Transparency in Supply Chains Act</a>, but that's a code of conduct developed by politicians. In Florida, the code of conduct was written by the farm workers. In Florida, when you harvest tomatoes, you put them in a bucket. And that bucket holds 32 pounds with a flat top. But in the old days they made you <a href="http://ciw-online.org/blog/2011/04/bucket_overfilling/" target="_blank">"cup"</a> [overfill] the bucket. So you were getting paid for 32 pounds, but you were putting in 35 pounds. And if you didn't cup it, they would throw it back at you. So one of the first things the farm workers said was, 'We don't need to have a single tomato above the rim of the bucket.' There's no way anyone in Tallahassee or Sacramento would have been able to figure that out. But it's critical for the workers.</p> <p><strong>MJ: </strong>Why do you think the largest grocery store retailers have been slower than fast-food chains and food-service providers to adopt the Fair Food Program?</p> <p><strong>SR: </strong>Walmart's been the only big one that's signed on and that doesn't even represent a quarter of the whole market. The grocery store business is different. They have a control over the supply chain that no other business is allowed to have legally. It's the concept of <a href="http://www.investopedia.com/terms/m/monopsony.asp" target="_blank">"monopsony."</a> There are clear laws to indict a company for monopolistic practices. But a monopsony means you control the supply chain. You control the terms under which you do business. A farm is not a direct employee of, let's say, Kroger. And Kroger might only buy a quarter of that farm's cucumbers. But if that farm wants to have any hope of selling to Kroger, they've got to make sure that every single cucumber meets Kroger's terms. So that means Kroger effectively sets the terms for every single farm that wants to sell to it. That's why when you go to any single store, all the cucumbers look the same. All the tomatoes look the same. This uniformity is key.</p> <p>There is a law against monopsonies. And according to one economist in our movie, <a href="http://history.uga.edu/directory/shane-hamilton" target="_blank">Shane Hamilton</a>, it's the most confusing law in the entire US. No one can even understand it, much less enforce it.</p> <p><strong>MJ: </strong>The film focuses on the Publix grocery store chain in Florida, which still hasn't signed on to the Fair Food Program. You mentioned that Publix has never even agreed to speak to the CIW. You have to wonder about the psychology behind refusing to talk to a group of people who have been protesting so long.</p> <p><strong>SR: </strong>Publix is a private company. It's still owned by the Jenkins family that lives in Central Florida. Corporate cultures are slow to change. In my opinion, one of the hardest things for Walmart to do in joining the Fair Food program was pay the extra penny. It's not because the people that ran the program on the side of Walmart didn't know that it was the right thing to do. But Walmart's philosophy is shave pennies off of everything. Everyone's measured by shaving pennies. You're not taught to add pennies to anything.</p> <p><strong>MJ: </strong>You navigate some pretty depressing territory in this film. What were some of the moments of light during the shooting process?</p> <p><strong>SR: </strong>We really struggled with including immigration as a reality on the ground, and not just as a political reality. We were at a camp of workers in Watsonville, and this one guy started talking to us and he spoke really good English. He said, "My wife and I have a chicken farm. You should come see it." He told me about his border crossing&mdash;super depressing&mdash;but he was like, "My wife is American." I'm thinking, "Yeah, she's Mexican-American." We go to his house, and she's blonde-haired and blue-eyed. It's not your usual story. It wasn't like she had some sympathy towards a certain class of immigrants; it was just love. Their first date, he didn't speak English. If degrees weren't an issue, he could have a very high-level job like doctor or lawyer. He's pouring his energy into organic chicken farming. Hopefully people will go like, "Yeah, he should have a future in this country." His wife said it: "We should feel gratitude towards the people who bring us our food. It's hard work."</p> <p><strong>MJ: </strong>Why were Napa's vineyard workers a group you wanted to include?</p> <p><strong>SR: </strong>If we pick on any issue in the film it's inequality. The progressive liberals in Napa just happen to be extremely rich. Their attitudes towards farm workers are more a function of class rather than party. You see multi-million dollar homes ringed by vineyards with people who can't make a living wage and who live far away. There are Mexican farm workers everywhere, Latinos in every restaurant in Napa Valley, but they aren't part of the narrative. It's as if the narrative of Napa Valley wine can't be cheapened by the notion that somebody poor contributed to it.</p> <p>That to me is emblematic of the tremendous interest we have in food these days, where we take pictures of it. I was at a screening with <a href="http://www.tarantarist.com/meet-the-chef/">Chef Jose Duarte</a>, a well-known chef in Boston, and he was saying that in the six years he's had the restaurant, he's been asked every question: "Where was this pig raised? What kind of food did it eat? Where did this lettuce come from?" Nobody ever asked: "What were the conditions of the workers who slaughtered that pig?" When you look at the pinnacle of foodie culture that drives the foodie networks, that drives the "Top Chefs"&mdash;the question isn't being asked. Which is unusual, because <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2003/05/high-priestess-slow" target="_blank">Alice Waters</a> and <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/01/michael-pollan-paleo-diet-inquiring-minds" target="_blank">Michael Pollan</a> are passionate about food-worker rights. The elders of the food movement are all about labor, and it hasn't trickled down yet.</p> <p><strong>MJ: </strong>Did your eating habits change after making this film?</p> <p><strong>SR: </strong>I've always tried to buy local, and I only occasionally shop at grocery stores. Unfortunately, it's impossible to buy everything certified fair labor. I think I've changed more in terms of attitude: a deeper sense of gratitude. Am I grateful for the food? Will that make me more connected to workers? Yeah, it does. Will it make me more receptive to hear that there are certain programs that workers are doing that I can support? Yeah. The first step is gratitude, as wishy-washy as that seems.</p></body></html> Environment Interview Food and Ag Human Rights Immigration Income Inequality Labor Media Race and Ethnicity Fri, 21 Nov 2014 16:06:09 +0000 Maddie Oatman 265126 at http://www.motherjones.com Obama's Immigration Plan Is Both Good Policy and Remarkably Shrewd Politics http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/obamas-immigration-plan-both-good-policy-and-remarkably-shrewd-politics <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>There are questions about whether President Obama's immigration plan is legal. There are questions about whether it's good policy. And then there are questions about whether it's smart politics. On the latter point, I'd say that Obama has been unusually shrewd, almost single-handedly <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/21/us/politics/in-immigration-fight-some-in-gop-fear-alienating-latinos.html" target="_blank">demolishing the plans of Republican leaders for the next two years:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>All but drowned out by Republicans' clamorous opposition to President Obama's executive action on immigration are some leaders who worry that their party could alienate the fastest-growing group of voters, for 2016 and beyond, if its hottest heads become its face.</p> <p>They cite the Republican Party's official analysis of what went wrong in 2012&hellip;"If Hispanics think that we do not want them here," the report said, "they will close their ears to our policies."</p> <p>&hellip;"Clearly with Republicans not having gotten to a consensus in terms of immigration, it makes it a lot more difficult to talk about immigration as a unified voice," said David Winston, a Republican pollster who advises House leaders. "There are some people &mdash; because there's not a consensus &mdash; that somehow end up having a little bit louder <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_steve_king_canteloupe.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 25px;">voice than perhaps they would normally have."</p> <p>Among them is Representative Steve King of Iowa&hellip;</p> </blockquote> <p>Ah yes, Steve King of Iowa. The odds of shutting him up are about zero, and with primary season approaching he's going to become the de facto leader of the anti-immigration forces. In the same way that Republican candidates all have to kiss Sheldon Adelson's ring and swear eternal loyalty to Israel if they want access to his billions, they're going to have to kiss King's ring and swear eternal hostility to any kind of immigration from south of the border&mdash;and they're going to compete wildly to express this in the most colorful ways possible. And that's a big problem. Expressing loyalty to Israel doesn't really have much downside, but effectively denouncing the entire Hispanic population of the United States is going to steadily destroy any hopes Republicans have of ever appealing to this fast-growing voting bloc.</p> <p>And that's not all. Republican leaders are not only fearful of next year's primaries branding the GOP forever as a bunch of xenophobic maniacs, they're afraid it's going to wipe out any chance they have over the next two years of demonstrating to voters that they're a party of adults. <a href="http://www.latimes.com/nation/politics/la-na-immigration-fight-20141120-story.html" target="_blank">Here's the <em>LA Times</em>:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The strong reaction by Republican leaders has less to do with opposition to the nuts and bolts of the president's immigration policy and more to do with fear and anger that the issue will derail the agenda of the new Republican majority before the next Congress even convenes.</p> <p>Republican leaders who had hoped to focus on corporate tax reform, fast-track trade pacts, repealing the president's healthcare law and loosening environmental restrictions on coal are instead being dragged into an immigration skirmish that they've tried studiously to avoid for most of the last year.</p> <p>&hellip;To many, stark warnings from Boehner and McConnell sound more like pleas to the president to avoid reenergizing the GOP's conservative wing, whose leaders are already threatening to link the president's immigration plan to upcoming budget talks.</p> </blockquote> <p>For what it's worth, I think Obama deserves credit for an unusually brilliant political move here. Some of this is accidental: he would have announced his immigration plan earlier in the year if he hadn't gotten pushback from red-state Democratic senators who didn't want to deal with this during tough election battles. Still, he stuck to his guns after the midterm losses, and the result seems to be almost an unalloyed positive for his party.</p> <p>The downside, after all, is minimal: the public says it's mildly unhappy with Obama using an executive order to change immigration rules. But that's a nothingburger. Outside of the Fox News set that's already convinced Obama is a tyrant bent on shredding the Constitution, this simply isn't something that resonates very strongly or for very long. It will be forgotten in a few weeks.</p> <p>The upside, conversely, is potentially huge. Obama has, indeed, waved a red flag in front of congressional tea partiers, turning them into frothing lunatics who want to shut down the government and maybe even impeach him. This has already turned into a huge headache for John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, who really don't want this to be the public face of the party. In addition, it's quite possibly wrecked the Republican agenda for the next year, which is obviously just fine with Obama. And it's likely to turn next year's primary season into an anti-Hispanic free-for-all that does permanent damage to the GOP brand.</p> <p>And that's not even counting the energizing effect this has on Democrats, as well as the benefit they get from keeping a promise to Hispanics and earning their loyalty for the next few election cycles.</p> <p>Is there a price to be paid for this? If you think that maybe, just maybe, Republicans were willing to work with Obama to pass a few constructive items, then there's a price. Those items might well be dead in the water. If you don't believe that, the price is zero. I'm more or less in that camp. And you know what? Even the stuff that might have been passable&mdash;trade authority, the Keystone XL pipeline, a few tweaks to Obamacare&mdash;I'm either opposed to or only slightly in favor of in the first place. If they don't happen, very few Democrats are going to shed any real tears.</p> <p>That leaves only presidential appointments, and there might be a downside there if you think that initially Republicans were prepared to be halfway reasonable about confirming Obama's judges and agency heads. I kinda doubt that, but I guess you never know. This might be a genuine downside to unleashing the tea party beast.</p> <p>So: the whole thing is politically pretty brilliant. It unifies Democrats; wrecks the Republican agenda in Congress; cements the loyalty of Hispanics; and presents the American public with a year of Republican candidates spitting xenophobic fury during primary season. If you're President Obama, what's not to like?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum 2016 Elections Immigration Obama The Right Fri, 21 Nov 2014 15:29:30 +0000 Kevin Drum 265256 at http://www.motherjones.com 4 Stupid Conservative Arguments Against Net Neutrality, Debunked http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/11/4-stupid-conservative-arguments-against-net-neutrality-debunked <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Last week, Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas set off a firestorm of ridicule when he took to Twitter in an attempt to mock the concept of net neutrality:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p>"Net Neutrality" is Obamacare for the Internet; the Internet should not operate at the speed of government.</p> &mdash; Senator Ted Cruz (@SenTedCruz) <a href="https://twitter.com/SenTedCruz/status/531834493922189313">November 10, 2014</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>The comparison, so stupid on so many levels that it isn't worth <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2014/11/16/3592811/al-franken-ted-cruz-wrong-net-neutrality/" target="_blank">debunking</a>, is not just an isolated example of partisan idiocy. In recent weeks, Republican operatives have trotted out a steaming heap of similar malarkey in an effort to ward off a popular revolt against the cable industry, which wants to charge big companies such as Google or Netflix for faster internet service while slowing it down for the rest of us. Here are four other ludicrous conservative arguments for why the Federal Communications Commission shouldn't prevent this from happening:</p> <p><strong>1. You'll pay more taxes!</strong></p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p>This is what happens if <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NetNeutrality?src=hash">#NetNeutrality</a> becomes reality: add $137 tax per smartphone <a href="http://t.co/G0sHriU2i4">http://t.co/G0sHriU2i4</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/tcot?src=hash">#tcot</a> <a href="http://t.co/HadXrWqhUG">pic.twitter.com/HadXrWqhUG</a></p> &mdash; AFP Arizona (@ArizonaAFP) <a href="https://twitter.com/ArizonaAFP/status/534467270458605568">November 17, 2014</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p><strong>The reality:</strong> To prevent broadband companies from discriminating against certain types of internet traffic, President Obama's wants the FCC to regulate them as a public utilities. This is something it already does with telecommunications providers. While it's true that the Communications Act subjects telecoms to a 16 percent service fee&mdash;which helps provide phone service to rural communities&mdash;<a href="http://www.pcworld.com/article/2848432/net-neutrality-proposal-could-lead-to-broadband-taxes-opponents-say.html" target="_blank">this doesn't mean</a> broadband providers would automatically have to pay a similar tax.<br> &nbsp;</p> <p><strong>2) Regulating the internet will stifle innovation and job creation</strong>.</p> <script>(function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/all.js#xfbml=1"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));</script><div class="fb-post" data-href="https://www.facebook.com/SpeakerJohnBoehner/posts/869839946389998" data-width="600"> <div class="fb-xfbml-parse-ignore"><a href="https://www.facebook.com/SpeakerJohnBoehner/posts/869839946389998">Post</a> by <a href="https://www.facebook.com/SpeakerJohnBoehner">Speaker John Boehner</a>.</div> </div> <p><strong>The reality:</strong> The internet we know and love is already built on the concept of net neutrality. Obama's proposed "regulation" would simply maintain the status quo by preventing monopolistic broadband providers from charging content providers tiered rates for different speeds of internet service. Far from stifling innovation, net neutrality encourages it by allowing startups to compete on the same footing as giants like Google and Facebook. That's why it has overwhelming support among Silicon Valley's "job creators."<br> &nbsp;</p> <p><strong>3) Letting big companies hog bandwidth will encourage cable companies to create more bandwidth</strong></p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="376" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/84Wgk2FrItI?start=205" width="630"></iframe></p> <p><strong>The reality:</strong> America ranks 31st in the world (behind Estonia) in its average download speeds. But that's not because we're preventing Comcast from cutting deals. Quite the opposite: Deregulation of the telecommunications industry has allowed Comcast, Verizon, Time Warner, and AT&amp;T to <a href="http://theweek.com/article/index/257404/why-is-american-internet-so-slow" target="_blank">divide up markets and put themselves in positions where they face no competition</a>.<br> &nbsp;</p> <p><strong>4) It's all a secret plot to hype the risks of global warming</strong></p> <p>This claim made by Andy Kessler in a 2006 <em>Weekly Standard</em> <a href="http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/012/348yjwfo.asp" target="_blank">story</a> has been making the rounds recently <a href="http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2014/11/10/7-reasons-net-neutrality" target="_blank">on conservative blogs</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>[T]he answer is not regulations promoting net neutrality. You can already smell the mandates and the loopholes once Congress gets involved. Think special, high-speed priority for campaign commercials or educational videos about global warming. Or roadblocks&mdash;like requiring emergency 911 service&mdash;to try to kill off free Internet telephone service such as Skype.</p> </blockquote> <p><strong>The reality:</strong> Regulating broadband providers as utilities does not give the FCC more authority to tell them how to treat specific types of content. In fact, preventing discrimination against certain types of content by ISPs is the whole point. That's why net neutrality is popular with everyone from <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpbOEoRrHyU" target="_blank">John Oliver</a> to <a href="http://gizmodo.com/naked-porn-stars-give-a-penetrating-explanation-of-net-1658822791" target="_blank">porn stars</a>.</p></body></html> Politics Tech The Right Top Stories Net Neutrality Fri, 21 Nov 2014 11:30:06 +0000 Josh Harkinson 265241 at http://www.motherjones.com