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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, Aug 2, 2012

Maia Manian of the University of San Francisco School of Law explains why the South Dakota law that forces women seeking abortions to hear a false disclaimer about abortion increasing the risk of suicide makes a mockery of the principle of informed consent:

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Maia Manian of the University of San Francisco School of Law explains why the South Dakota law that forces women seeking abortions to hear a false disclaimer about abortion increasing the risk of suicide makes a mockery of the principle of informed consent:

[The informed consent requirement] ensures that patients receive sufficient information to make their own decisions about whether to consent to medical treatment. Informed consent law’s long-established principles have been perverted in the context of abortion legislation. Anti-choice laws claiming to ensure well-informed decisions for women in fact misuse informed consent terminology to further goals antithetical to the imperatives animating informed consent law.

Read the rest at RH Reality Check.

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Tue, Jul 31, 2012

So-called "stand your ground laws," which allow people to shoot in self-defense without first attempting to flee, appear to increase the homicide rate. In the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting, many have wondered whether whites who claim to have been standing their ground against black assailants are more likely to be excused under "stand your ground" than blacks who claim to have killed whites for the same reason. PBS/Frontline investigates with the help of an analyst from the Urban Institute.

[Photo credit: Lindsay Beyerstein, All Rights Reserved.]

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Mon, Jul 30, 2012

Jim Morris of Mother Jones reports on the safety crisis facing the university chem labs:

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Jim Morris of Mother Jones reports on the safety crisis facing the university chem labs:

Sheri Sangji was on fire instantly. The 23-year-old research associate had accidentally pulled the plunger out of a syringe while conducting an experiment in a UCLA laboratory. In the syringe was a solution that would combust upon contact with air. It spilled onto Sangji's hands and body. 

She wasn't wearing a lab coat; no one had told her to. The fire burned through her gloves, then her hands. She inhaled toxic, superheated gases given off by her burning polyester sweater, a process that accelerated as she ran and screamed.

Sangji's supervisor is facing criminal charges in connection with her death. This is the first time a university professor has been charged for endangering a lab worker.

[Photo credit: tk-link, Creative Commons.]

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Fri, Jul 27, 2012

  • The latest threat to the ozone layer? Freaky summer storms
  • When "informed consent" is anything but. RH Reality Check reports on a federal court ruling to uphold a South Dakota law that requires doctors to mislead women about the risks of abortion

[Photo credit: Wander Mule, Creative Commons.]

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Fri, Jul 27, 2012

Pam Belluck, the talented New York Times health reporter who exposed the truth behind Plan B labels, talks about her new book, "Island Practice":

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Pam Belluck, the talented New York Times health reporter who exposed the truth behind Plan B labels, talks about her new book, "Island Practice":

In her new book, “Island Practice,” the New York Times reporter Pam Belluck tells the story of Dr. Timothy Lepore, a quirky 67-year-old physician who for the past 30 years has been the only surgeon working on the island of Nantucket. But Dr. Lepore (rhymes with peppery) is no ordinary surgeon. Life on an island, even one that has become a summer playground to the rich and famous, requires a certain amount of resourcefulness and flexibility. [NYT]

Dr. Lepore's ecclectic practice as been full of memorable incidents, like the time he reached into a stab wound to massage a patient's stopped heart because there was no time to get him off the island.

"Island Practice" has already been optioned for TV by the creators of "24" and "Friday Night Lights."

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Wed, Jul 25, 2012

Taser bills its less-lethal weapons as tools to reduce police shootings. According to the marketing pitch, officers will be less likely to shoot suspects if they can disable them with electric shocks. That promise has not come true in Chicago, Dan Hinkel and Alex Richards report for the Chicago Tribune:

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Taser bills its less-lethal weapons as tools to reduce police shootings. According to the marketing pitch, officers will be less likely to shoot suspects if they can disable them with electric shocks. That promise has not come true in Chicago, Dan Hinkel and Alex Richards report for the Chicago Tribune:

In 2010, the city armed hundreds more officers with the weapon, fueling a 329 percent jump in Taser use, from 195 incidents in 2009 to 836 in 2011. Yet shootings by police didn't drop significantly during that period, according to figures from the city's Independent Police Review Authority.

The numbers raise questions about how often police use the weapons to defuse confrontations that might otherwise escalate to use of deadly force. Civil lawyers and department critics have alleged that, rather than deploying Tasers to subdue dangerous criminals, officers have sometimes drawn them on mildly obstinate suspects.

The best line in the story goes to a Florida policing consultant:

"The big investment in Taser is meant to preserve lives," said Roy Bedard, a Florida-based consultant on policing and use of force. "If you're Tasing more people and you're still shooting more people, well, something's wrong."

Despite the lackluster outcomes, the Chicago Police Department is replacing its 600-Taser arsenal with the $1300 X2 model, for even more firepower.

[Photo credit: hradcanska, Creative Commons.]

 

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Tue, Jul 24, 2012

NYT metro reporter Gina Bellafante critiques Mayor Bloomberg's claims of job creation in New York City:

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NYT metro reporter Gina Bellafante critiques Mayor Bloomberg's claims of job creation in New York City:

Despite job growth in certain knowledge-class and service sectors, unemployment has been rising. On Thursday, the State Labor Department reported that the city’s unemployment rate climbed to 10 percent in June, exceeding the national figure by close to two percentage points. The unemployment rate in the city is now nearly twice what it was five years ago and has been running higher than the figures for Atlanta, Boston, Houston and Chicago.

While it is indeed a very good time to be moving to New York with a Stanford M.B.A. and a business plan to create the Twitter of 2014 (as suggested by the barely post-adolescent tech entrepreneur Josh Miller when he stood next to the mayor at a press event in May), it is a far less auspicious moment to be someone who already lives here and is looking for cleaning work, say, in the offices of the Twitter of 2012.

Bellafante reports that low-wage workers in New York are battling high unemployment and dwindling purchasing power. In the 1960s and '70s a full time job at minimum wage was enough to lift a family above the poverty line, but that is no longer the case, according to a recent by a local social justice organization. Today's full-time minimum wage worker supporting a family of three makes just 82% of the federal poverty threshold.

[Photo credit: Shawn Hoke, Creative Commons.]

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Mon, Jul 23, 2012

Great piece by Adam Gopnik of the New Yorker about the Aurora shooting and American gun culture:

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Great piece by Adam Gopnik of the New Yorker about the Aurora shooting and American gun culture:

The truth is made worse by the reality that no one—really no one—anywhere on the political spectrum has the courage to speak out about the madness of unleashed guns and what they do to American life. That includes the President, whose consoling message managed to avoid the issue of why these killings take place. Of course, we don’t know, and perhaps never will, what exactly “made him” do what he did; but we know how he did it. Those who fight for the right of every madman and every criminal to have as many people-killing weapons as they want share moral responsibility for what happened last night—as they will when it happens again. And it will happen again.

Gopnik cites another important essay by his colleague Jill Lepore, an American history professor and New Yorker staff writer. Therein, Lepore debunks many of the myths surrounding the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms.

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Fri, Jul 20, 2012

  • Rumors are flying in the wake of the mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado. Gawker media reporter Adrian Chen explains why "clues" linking the shooter to the online community 9gag are probably internet pranks   
  • Joe Atkins of the Jackson Free Press takes us inside the UAW's high-stakes battle to unionize Nissan in Mississippi. Hillman trustees Bruce Raynor and Danny Glover are there.
  • Katha Pollitt of the Nation takes Jason DeParle to task for his sentimental paean to marriage as a path to economic stability. "Do we really need a front-page story in the Sunday New York Times to tell us that a woman with a college degree and a good solid marriage is better off than a college dropout raising three kids alone?" she asks
  • Greg Ousley killed his parents 19 years ago, at the age of 14. Prison officials in Indiana hope he'll be paroled in a few years. Should he be? 
  • "These are my guys forever." John Gravois reports on an innovative new program that places disabled veterans in family homes

[Photo credit: Wander Mule, Creative Commons.]

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Fri, Jul 20, 2012

Mary Kay Cosmetics bills itself a woman's ticket to a pink Cadillac, but it's really a quasi-pyramid scheme in which aspiring sellers are pressured into buying expensive inventory on their Mary Kay credit cards and recruiting their friends to do likewise. Few sellers make a decent living, and many plunge themselves into debt.

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Mary Kay Cosmetics bills itself a woman's ticket to a pink Cadillac, but it's really a quasi-pyramid scheme in which aspiring sellers are pressured into buying expensive inventory on their Mary Kay credit cards and recruiting their friends to do likewise. Few sellers make a decent living, and many plunge themselves into debt.

Virginia Sole-Smith reported on the pink, shimmery menace for Harper's with support from the Investigative Fund of the Nation Institute.

[Photo credit: kwalk628, Creative Commons.]

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