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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

Mon, Feb 17, 2014

Fines levied against Kleen Energy, the company responsible for the fiery deaths of six workers in a pipe-cleaning accident in 2010, were quietly lowered by 88%:

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Fines levied against Kleen Energy, the company responsible for the fiery deaths of six workers in a pipe-cleaning accident in 2010, were quietly lowered by 88%:

After six workers were killed in a massive gas explosion at the Kleen Energy plant in Middletown four years ago, federal investigators tallied hundreds of violations at the site and issued $16.6 million in penalties against more than a dozen companies — the third-largest workplace-safety fine in the nation's history.

"The millions of dollars in fines levied pale in comparison to the value of the six lives lost and numerous other lives disrupted," U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said at the time. "However, the fines and penalties reflect the gravity and severity of the deadly conditions created by the companies managing the work at the site." [Courant]

The fines were lowered because Kleen convinced OSHA that many of its "willful" violations should be downgraded to a less-expensive category of infraction because Kleen was relying subcontractors to tell them how clean their pipes. 

[Photo credit: danmachold, Creative Commons.]

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Fri, Feb 14, 2014

The Best of the Week's News

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The Best of the Week's News

  • Will Volkswagen workers in Tennessee say "yes" to the United Auto Workers?
  • It wasn't just the bridge: Chris Christie's political career is a study in slime.
  • So, now we know who to blame: Al From claims he personally stopped the Democratic Party's "headlong dash into social democracy."
  • A famous anti-choice doctor in West Virginia appears to have fabricated lurid tales of women with "botched abortions" flocking to his emergency room.

 

[Photo credit: Wander Mule, Creative Commons.]

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Thu, Feb 13, 2014

Hillman judge Harold Meyerson explains what's at stake in this week's historic unionization vote at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. 

 

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Hillman judge Harold Meyerson explains what's at stake in this week's historic unionization vote at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. 

 

[Photo credit: A VW plant in Germany, by roger4336, Creative Commons.]

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Wed, Feb 12, 2014

Amanda Hess wins the February Sidney Award for her provocative essay, "The New Civil Rights Issue: Why Women Aren't Welcome on the Internet" in Pacific Standard. Get the Backstory with Lindsay Beyerstein.

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Amanda Hess wins the February Sidney Award for her provocative essay, "The New Civil Rights Issue: Why Women Aren't Welcome on the Internet" in Pacific Standard. Get the Backstory with Lindsay Beyerstein.

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Fri, Feb 7, 2014

The Best of the Week's News

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The Best of the Week's News

  • If they look like decrepit relics from the 19th Century, that's because they are! New York City's rustic-looking rooftop water towers are unregulated vats of filth.
  • In a historic vote, Volkswagen workers in Tennessee will decide next week whether to join the United Auto Workers.
  • 1 million Texans have fallen into the Medicare coverage gap because their state refused to expand the program under Obamacare.
  • The Koch Brothers left a confidential document at their last donor confab, now Mother Jones has it.

 

[Photo credit: Wander Mule, Creative Commons.]

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Wed, Feb 5, 2014

What is it like to be gay in Russia today? Jeff Sharlet reports on LGB life in Russia on the eve of the Sochi Olympics for GQ

 

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What is it like to be gay in Russia today? Jeff Sharlet reports on LGB life in Russia on the eve of the Sochi Olympics for GQ

 

[Image credit: ME!O, Creative Commons.]

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Mon, Feb 3, 2014

Social justice journalist Beth Schwartzapfel has an important piece on juveniles sentence to life without parole (LWOP) and the legal fight to eliminate LWOP for young offenders:

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Social justice journalist Beth Schwartzapfel has an important piece on juveniles sentence to life without parole (LWOP) and the legal fight to eliminate LWOP for young offenders:

A common perception is that these kids are “the worst of the worst,” and indeed, many juveniles sentenced to life have done terrible things. But HRW estimates that a quarter of them were, like Jennifer, convicted of “aiding and abetting” or of felony murders. Almost 60 percent had no prior criminal convictions. More than 70 juveniles were just 13 or 14 years old at the time of their crime — some so small when they arrived in prison that all the uniforms were too big for them. Anecdotally, many, like Jennifer, had been subjected to abuse and neglect, their childhoods marred by instability, poverty and violent or criminal behavior by the adults in their life. [AJAM]

The Supreme Court has already declared mandatory LWOP for juveniles to be unconstitutional and a handful of states have eliminated it as a punishment for young offenders. 

[Photo credit: shingst, Creative Commons.]

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Fri, Jan 31, 2014

The Best of the Week's News

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The Best of the Week's News

  • A Volkswagon plant in Tennessee is poised to become the first unionized auto plant in the American South.
  • How the myth of the "Negro Cocaine Fiend" shaped U.S. drug policy.
  • South Carolina is the slowest state when it comes to delivering results on the potentially life-saving blood tests that all babies get during their first days in the hospital.
  • The Polar Vortex is like a portal from another dimension, sucking snowy owls in to our reality.

 

[Photo credit: Wander Mule, Creative Commons.]

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Thu, Jan 30, 2014

Texas's draconian new abortion law has left the 1.2 million women of the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas without an abortion provider. While pro-choice groups challenge some parts of the law in court, Valley women are forced to travel hundreds of miles for a clinic abortion. The Valley is one of the poorest regions in the United States and extended journeys to abortion clinics are beyond the reach of many poor valley women who have to budget not only for the procedure itself but for transportation, lodging, lost work hours, and often, the cost of childcare. 

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Texas's draconian new abortion law has left the 1.2 million women of the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas without an abortion provider. While pro-choice groups challenge some parts of the law in court, Valley women are forced to travel hundreds of miles for a clinic abortion. The Valley is one of the poorest regions in the United States and extended journeys to abortion clinics are beyond the reach of many poor valley women who have to budget not only for the procedure itself but for transportation, lodging, lost work hours, and often, the cost of childcare. 

One Valley abortion provider reinvented himself as a miscarriage management consultant after the new law prohibited him from performing abortions this fall. He examines his patients and subtly steers them towards self-abortion with misoprostol if he thinks it's safe for them to do so. He can't tell them to go out and get the drugs, but he doesn't have to, misoprostol miscarriages are already part of the culture. If the drugs don't work all the way, he tells them they can always come back for surgery to finish the process. 

Miscarriage management is a flashback to the pre-Roe days when sympathetic doctors would tell women to hurt themselves or visit back alley abortion providers in order to get a miscarriage started. Once a woman began bleeding, the doctor could legally perform surgery to resolve the miscarriage and end the pregnancy. 

The Texas law hasn't stopped abortions in the Valley, it has just made them more difficult and dangerous. 

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Wed, Jan 29, 2014

Researchers and forensic anthropologists have uncovered 55 sets of remains from an unmarked cemetary on the grounds of what was once the Arthur G. Dozier reform school in South Florida. Some of the boys who were sent to Dozier in the mid-twentieth century were never heard from again. There investigators found 24 more bodies on the site than were listed in school records. 

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Researchers and forensic anthropologists have uncovered 55 sets of remains from an unmarked cemetary on the grounds of what was once the Arthur G. Dozier reform school in South Florida. Some of the boys who were sent to Dozier in the mid-twentieth century were never heard from again. There investigators found 24 more bodies on the site than were listed in school records. 

Survivors who attended the school have described beatings, torture sessions, rapes and the disappearances of boys, many of them after they were taken from dormitories or other school buildings for punishment.

Roger Dean Kiser, now 67, of Brunswick, Ga., told The Times in October that he was sent to Dozier at age 12 in 1959 and stayed for two years. He wrote a book about the school, "The White House Boys,’’ named for a house on school grounds where he said boys were beaten. [LAT]

Survivors recount being raped by their captors as well as beaten. School records assert that boys died of natural causes or in a fire, but investigators think the newly uncovered remains could cast doubt on the official story.

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