Skip to Content
Skip to Navigation

Clear it with SidneyHow our blog got its name >

 
Notes on journalism for the common good
by Lindsay Beyerstein

How our blog got its name

Sidney Hillman was a powerful national figure during the Great Depression, a key supporter of the New Deal, and a close ally of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

When the rumor spread that President Roosevelt ordered his party leaders to “clear it with Sidney” before announcing Harry S. Truman as his 1944 running mate, conservative critics turned on the phrase, trumpeting it as proof that the president was under the thumb of “Big Labor.”

Over the years, the phrase lost its sting and became a testament to Hillman's influence.

It's hard to imagine a labor leader wielding that kind clout today, but we like the idea—and we hope Sidney would give thumbs up to our blog.

Close window

Clear It With Sidney

Thu, Jul 24, 2014

Federal prosecutors in New York are using a legal loophole to read jailhouse emails between defendants and their lawyers, Stephanie Clifford revealed in the New York Times, yesterday. Inmates have the right to send confidential snail-mail to their lawyers under the ancient principle of attorney-client privilege, but all electronic communications from jail are monitored. In order to use the email system, the inmate must consent to monitoring.

Continue reading

Federal prosecutors in New York are using a legal loophole to read jailhouse emails between defendants and their lawyers, Stephanie Clifford revealed in the New York Times, yesterday. Inmates have the right to send confidential snail-mail to their lawyers under the ancient principle of attorney-client privilege, but all electronic communications from jail are monitored. In order to use the email system, the inmate must consent to monitoring. Those messages sometimes show up in court as evidence against the defendent. 

The Editorial Board of the New York Times assailed this email monitoring as an affront to attorney-client privilege, "one of the oldest, broadest, and most important privileges" in the American legal system.

Close
Tue, Jul 22, 2014

Subprime bubbles aren't just for housing. Financiers are lining up to make questionable car loans, too:

Rodney Durham stopped working in 1991, declared bankruptcy and lives on Social Security. Nonetheless, Wells Fargo lent him $15,197 to buy a used Mitsubishi sedan.

Continue reading

Subprime bubbles aren't just for housing. Financiers are lining up to make questionable car loans, too:

Rodney Durham stopped working in 1991, declared bankruptcy and lives on Social Security. Nonetheless, Wells Fargo lent him $15,197 to buy a used Mitsubishi sedan.

“I am not sure how I got the loan,” Mr. Durham, age 60, said.

Mr. Durham’s application said that he made $35,000 as a technician at Lourdes Hospital in Binghamton, N.Y., according to a copy of the loan document. But he says he told the dealer he hadn’t give car loans that he hadn't worked at the hospital for more than three decades. Now, after months of Wells Fargo pressing him over missed payments, the bank has repossessed his car. [NYT]

The number of subprime car loans has risen an astonishing 130% in the five years since the financial crisis. The New York Times combed through bankruptcy filings to learn about the dubious dealings of lenders. Interest rates ran as high as 23% and the average loan was for double the value of the used car. Sellers often hid mechanical defects from buyers. 

Many people need a car to hold a job, and unscrupulous lenders know that people with damaged credit are a desperate and readily-exploited clientele. 

Close
Fri, Jul 18, 2014

The Best of the Week's News

 

Continue reading

The Best of the Week's News

 

  • Eight reasons why immigrant rights activist and 2011 Sidney Award-winner Jose Antonio Vargas will not be deported. 
  • The demise of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 proves the Russia/Ukraine conflict "out of control," says Julia Ioffe.
  • An investigative journalist teaches you how to eat seafood without destroying wild fish stocks. 

 

[Photo credit: Wander Mule, Creative Commons.]

Close
Thu, Jul 17, 2014

Immigration rights activist, and 2011 Sidney Award-winner, Jose Antonio Vargas has been released from the custody of the U.S. Border Batrol. Vargas was detained on Tuesday at the airport in McCallen, Texas, when he tried to use his Philippines passport to board a flight for Los Angeles. 

Continue reading

Immigration rights activist, and 2011 Sidney Award-winner, Jose Antonio Vargas has been released from the custody of the U.S. Border Batrol. Vargas was detained on Tuesday at the airport in McCallen, Texas, when he tried to use his Philippines passport to board a flight for Los Angeles. 

Close
Tue, Jul 15, 2014

Immigration rights activist Jose Antonio Vargas is in Border Patrol custody in Texas. Vargas, who won a Sidney Award in 2011 for his autobiographical New York Times story, "My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant," recently travelled to McAllen, Texas to gather information on unaccompanied children in federal immigration detention. Huffington Post reports that Vargas was detained when he tried to pass through security at the McAllen airport, Tuesday morning

Vargas has been living openly as an undocumented person in the United States since 2011. He has no official U.S. ID, but he has been able to fly domestically using his Philippines passport. However, security is unusually tight in the border city of McAllen. Last week, Vargas published a report in POLITICO entitled, "Trapped on the Border," explaining his situation.

Border Patrol is active at the McAllen Airport, looking for visa stamps that signal that passport holders are in the United States legally. Vargas doesn't have a visa. He was brought to the U.S. as a child and only learned of his undocumented status as a teenager. 

Vargas was unable to drive north out of Texas because all roads from McAllen pass through the Falfurrias border station, in internal checkpoint where all crossers are grilled about their immigration status.

This incident does not necessarily mean that Vargas will be deported. Vox.com reports that the government still has the power to let Vargas stay in the United States. 

Close
Mon, Jul 14, 2014

Workers at a foam plant in Selma, Alabama that makes headrests for Hyundais suffer from a high incidence of respiratory disease. Are OSHA standards tough enough to protect them from chemicals like toluene diisocyanate? Hillman Prize-winner Seth Freed Wessler investigates for NBC.

 

Continue reading

Workers at a foam plant in Selma, Alabama that makes headrests for Hyundais suffer from a high incidence of respiratory disease. Are OSHA standards tough enough to protect them from chemicals like toluene diisocyanate? Hillman Prize-winner Seth Freed Wessler investigates for NBC.

 

[Photo credit: aidenjewell, Creative Commons.]

Close
Fri, Jul 11, 2014

The Best of the Week's News

Continue reading

The Best of the Week's News

 

[Photo credit: Wander Mule, Creative Commons.]

Close
Wed, Jul 9, 2014

Esther Kaplan wins the July Sidney Award for "Losing Sparta:The Bitter Truth About the Gospel of Productivity," a feature in the Virginia Quarterly Review about a Philips fluorescent lighting plant in Sparta, TN, which the company offshored to Mexico, even though Philips had rated it the top plant in the company's entire global lighting division. Politicans and economists promise that productivity will save American jobs, but Kaplan's analysis shows that even the most productive workers aren't safe from offshoring, because the decision to ship jobs overseas rarely results from a rational economic calculus. Companies aren't accountable to their shareholders or government regulators to justify these decisions, and typically, little attempt is made to defend the move on economic grounds.

For many multinationals, offshoring has become a performance to impress shareholders, and a reflexive union-avoidance tactic, rather than a strategic decision. Companies think nothing of shutting down highly-efficient, conveniently located plants in the United States and relocating to less-efficient, lower-performing facilities far from suppliers and clients. Wages may be lower overseas, but the savings don't necessarily offset the costs of the move, including the loss of the human capital of an experienced and dedicated workforce, like the staff of the Sparta plant. 

"Kaplan's account -- at once deeply moving and brilliantly analytical -- of how a multinational conglomerate shuttered a lighting factory, taking the work to Mexico and destroying the economy of a small Tennessee county in the process, is one of the best articles anywhere on what's befallen American workers in recent decades," said Hillman Judge Harold Meyerson.

Learn more about the reporting of "Losing Sparta" in our Backstory interview with Esther Kaplan

Close
Thu, Jul 3, 2014

 

The Best of the Week's News

Continue reading

 

The Best of the Week's News

  • Hillman Prize-winner Shane Bauer investigates the wild world of bail bondsmen.

 

[Photo credit: Wander Mule, Creative Commons.]

Close
Tue, Jul 1, 2014

Yesterday, Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to exempt public sector workers in union shops from paying union dues to cover the costs of collective bargaining. Until now, these workers were exempt from paying dues to cover the union's political activities, but they still had to pay their fair share of the cost of bargaining on their behalf. 

Continue reading

Yesterday, Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to exempt public sector workers in union shops from paying union dues to cover the costs of collective bargaining. Until now, these workers were exempt from paying dues to cover the union's political activities, but they still had to pay their fair share of the cost of bargaining on their behalf. 

  • Hillman judge Harold Meyerson explains how the ruling will weaken public sector unions by giving workers the option to reap the benefits of union bargaining without paying dues. 
  • Michelle Chen notes that the ruling "pushe[s] public sector unions a step closer toward death by attrition, by eroding their ability to finance themselves."
  • Sarah Jaffe argues that the Harris and Hobby Lobby rulings will be a double whammy for working women. 
  • Carla Murphy observes that, by weakening public sector unions, this ruling imperils a critical path for upward mobility for women and people of color. 
  • The rulings in Harris and Hobby Lobby have been hailed as narrow, but legal analyst Jeffery Toobin explains how these apparently narrowly-tailored rulings fit with the Roberts Court's long-established tendency to issue "narrow" rulings that pave the way for more sweeping rulings in the future. 

 

[Photo credit: Harris v. Quinn Press Conference, SEIU, Creative Commons.]

Close
 
 

Recent Tweets

We're just three followers away from 1500! Help us hit the milestone this week. 12 hours 1 min ago
Federal prosecutors are snooping on attorney/client emails, and the NYT Editorial Board is NOT having it: http://t.co/04mURjx4Fd 12 hours 1 min ago
Subprime bubble for used cars swells. http://t.co/xhNaT84wvb 2 days 11 hours ago
Sidney's Picks: Class War for Democrats & Why Jose Antonio Won't Be Deported. http://t.co/4OSrPGvdXe @juliaioffe @joseiswriting 6 days 7 hours ago
RT @resnikoff: So far #NN14 seems to have a lot fewer journalists than prior years, more organizers from outside the netroots 1 week 14 hours ago