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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.

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Clear It With Sidney

Thu, Apr 24, 2014

In his Hillman Prize-winning book, Fear Itself, Ira Katznelson argues that the New Deal was a deal with various devils. In order to save America's foundering democracy--and usher in the progressive reforms of the New Deal--Franklin Roosevelt had to ally himself with various anti-democratic factions including the racists of the Jim Crow South.

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In his Hillman Prize-winning book, Fear Itself, Ira Katznelson argues that the New Deal was a deal with various devils. In order to save America's foundering democracy--and usher in the progressive reforms of the New Deal--Franklin Roosevelt had to ally himself with various anti-democratic factions including the racists of the Jim Crow South.

The South was adamant that the New Deal could not threaten segregation, and Roosevelt played along, allowing the South to effectively shut its black citizens out of the benefits of the New Deal. Fear Itself forces us to confront the hidden history of racism at the heart of one of the most beloved progressive initiatives in U.S. history. 

Writing in the New York Times, Kevin Boyle praised the book's thesis as a "powerful argument, swept along by Katznelson’s robust prose and the imposing scholarship that lies behind it."

Katznelson is Columbia University’s Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History and the author of When Affirmative Action Was White

We are very proud to honor Katznelson with this year's Hillman Prize for Book Journalism. 

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Wed, Apr 23, 2014

The wait is over! Meet the brilliant, brave, committed, creative winners of the 2014 Hillman Prizes:

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The wait is over! Meet the brilliant, brave, committed, creative winners of the 2014 Hillman Prizes:

  • Book: Ira Katznelson, Fear Itself, Liveright Publishing Corp, a division of W.W. Norton & Co. 
  • Newspaper: Pat Beal, "Private Prisons: Profit, Politics, and Pain," The Palm Beach Post.
  • Magazine: Jonathan Cohn, "The Hell of American Daycare," The New Republic
  • Broadcast: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Bud Bultman, Roni Selig, Melissa Dunst Lipman, Carl Graf, Saundra Young, "Weed: Dr. Sanjay Gupta Reports," CNN. 
  • Web: Craig Welch & Steve Ringman "Sea Change: The Pacific's Perilous Turn," The Seattle Times

Congratulations to all the winners. 

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Tue, Apr 22, 2014

Tomorrow, we will announce the winners of the 2014 Hillman Prizes. Stay tuned to learn all about this year's crop of outstanding journalists. 

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Tomorrow, we will announce the winners of the 2014 Hillman Prizes. Stay tuned to learn all about this year's crop of outstanding journalists. 

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Fri, Apr 18, 2014

The Best of the Week's News

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The Best of the Week's News

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Tue, Apr 15, 2014

The Bureau of Land Management backed down from an armed standoff with militiamen on a Nevada ranch Saturday and returned over 300 head of cattle seized for non-payment of grazing fees, thereby setting the precedent that if you're white and well-armed, you can steal from the government with impunity. Just in time for Tax Day! 

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The Bureau of Land Management backed down from an armed standoff with militiamen on a Nevada ranch Saturday and returned over 300 head of cattle seized for non-payment of grazing fees, thereby setting the precedent that if you're white and well-armed, you can steal from the government with impunity. Just in time for Tax Day! 

Ian Millhiser of Think Progress explains how this fiasco came about:

This conflict arises out of rancher Cliven Bundy’s many years of illegally grazing his cattle on federal lands. In 1998, a federal court ordered [Cliven] Bundy to cease grazing his livestock on an area of federal land known as the Bunkerville Allotment, and required him to pay the federal government $200 per day per head of cattle remaining on federal lands. Around the time it issued this order, the court also commented that “[t]he government has shown commendable restraint in allowing this trespass to continue for so long without impounding Bundy’s livestock.” Fifteen years later, Bundy continued to defy this court order.

The rangers can't be blamed for temporarily withdrawing, given that they were facing real guns with stun guns, but this prudent short-term decision sets a terrible long-term precedent.

As Steve Benen wrote on the Rachel Maddow Show website:

But you probably see the problem: it’s unsustainable to think a group of well-armed extremists can simply block the enforcement of American laws in the United States. It’s perfectly understandable that the Bureau of Land Management saw a crisis unfolding and pulled back to prevent bloodshed, but there’s an obvious problem with establishing a radical precedent: you, too, can ignore the law and disregard court rulings you don’t like, just so long as you have well-armed friends pointing guns at Americans.

To put it mildly, that’s not how the American system works. Indeed, that’s not how any system of government can ever work.

[Illustration: A Nevada ranch, Creative Commons.]

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Mon, Apr 14, 2014

In February, Kiera Feldman exposed a culture of sexual misconduct and official indifference at Patrick Henry College, the elite evangelical school known as "God's Harvard." Feldman found that, when it comes to protecting students from rape, the college promises much more and delivers less than your average secular institution. 

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In February, Kiera Feldman exposed a culture of sexual misconduct and official indifference at Patrick Henry College, the elite evangelical school known as "God's Harvard." Feldman found that, when it comes to protecting students from rape, the college promises much more and delivers less than your average secular institution. 

Today, Feldman reports that her story has sparked soul searching among Henry's administrators, students, and alumni. (Link fixed.) The school says it is doing more to prevent rape now. Some voices on campus are even beginning to ask what role the school's self-proclaimed patriarchal and authoritarian values play in perpetuating the culture of rape and victim-blaming on campus. 

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Fri, Apr 11, 2014

The Best of the Week's News

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The Best of the Week's News

  • Labor foment at the Metropolitan.

 

[Photo credit: Wander Mule, Creative Commons.]

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Wed, Apr 9, 2014

Carol Marbin Miller and Audra D.S. Burch of the Miami Herald win the April Sidney Award for "Innocents Lost", an investigative multi-media package profiling some 477 Florida children who died after the state’s child protection authorities investigated their families for abuse or neglect but failed to take them into care.

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Carol Marbin Miller and Audra D.S. Burch of the Miami Herald win the April Sidney Award for "Innocents Lost", an investigative multi-media package profiling some 477 Florida children who died after the state’s child protection authorities investigated their families for abuse or neglect but failed to take them into care.

Marbin Miller and Burch collected the death reports on each child who died of confirmed abuse or neglect within five years of Florida's Department of Children and Families finding maltreatment in the home during a prior investigation, from 2008 onwards. They found that deaths had skyrockedted since the state implemented slashed funding for child protection in the name of "family preservation." The reporters also found that DCF was low-balling the number of child deaths with priors they reported to the state legislature by as many as 39 cases a year.  

Get the Backstory.

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Fri, Apr 4, 2014

  • Hobby Lobby claims to have a sincere religious belief that IUDs and emergency contraception are wrong, but the company's retirement plan invests in the makers of those products.
  • 13 people die because of faulty G.M. parts, and G.M. gives the cold shoulder to their families.

 

[Photo credit: Wander Mule, Creative Commons.]

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Thu, Apr 3, 2014

A judge dismissed a "depraved heart" murder charge against a Mississippi woman who delivered a stillborn baby and positive for a metabolite of cocaine. Rennie Gibbs was 16 years old when she delivered her stillborn child in 2006. There was never any evidence that drugs caused the demise of the fetus, which was born with the cord wrapped around its neck. 

The judge dismissed the case on a legal technicality:

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A judge dismissed a "depraved heart" murder charge against a Mississippi woman who delivered a stillborn baby and positive for a metabolite of cocaine. Rennie Gibbs was 16 years old when she delivered her stillborn child in 2006. There was never any evidence that drugs caused the demise of the fetus, which was born with the cord wrapped around its neck. 

The judge dismissed the case on a legal technicality:

[Lowndes County Circuit Court Judge Jim] Kitchens dismissed the charge against Gibbs Wednesday. Citing Mississippi Supreme Court case Buckhalter v. State, he said the law was unclear on the appropriate charge for Gibbs.

"Gibbs was indicted prior to Buckhalter and the law was unclear in Mississippi as to the appropriate charge, if any, to be levied when a pregnant woman allegedly consumed illegal drugs and allegedly caused the death of her unborn child," Kitchens ruling stated.

He added, "Accordingly, pursuant to the Mississippi Supreme Court's ruling this case for depraved heart murder is dismissed without prejudice." [CD]

Nina Martin of ProPublica and the other reporters who kept this case in the spotlight probably had a lot to do with justice finally being served, at least for the time being. 

The prosecutor has pledged to send the case back to a grand jury in August. 

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