In a recent e-blast for Fair Grinds Coffeehouses in New Orleans I started off with a weather comment, having just returned from visiting our organizers in India ahead of a heat wave that reportedly has now killed more than 2000 there, and jumping right back into New Orleans, the climatic equivalent of Chennai. I quoted some lines that I thought I remembered well from a snippet of a song in my head, about “hot times in the city, back of my neck getting dark and pretty” and so forth. Next thing you know I’m getting emails both correcting my memory and accurately recording the real lines sung by the Lovin’ Spoonful, along with other emails as well thanking me for reminding one person of the old Holly’s tune, which I did not do, and another saying what a great group the Spoonful was. Learning a lesson, which seems to be “check with Google first,” I’ll let it stand by simply welcoming you to our usual thick summer issue filled with important information, provoking excerpts, and once again political news and views as we dive heavily into the smoking hot political season for the next more than a year.
We open the issue on the most practical level. There are important, emerging handles for finally holding hospitals, especially nonprofit, tax exempt institutions accountable to provide critically needed care for lower income and uninsured patients in the Affordable Care Act. LeeAnn Hall, executive director of the Alliance for a Just Society details the exciting work being done by Washington CAN! in forcing hospitals to do right. The always thoughtful Bob Wing then turns the tables on conventional wisdom and argues that the progressive movement has to win in the South not only because it is possible, but also to counter a third reconstruction to supplant the conservative effort at neo-succession. Melanie Craxton, who has written for us in the past on economic issues (the need for remittance justice and the problems of micro-lending), also prevents future knee jerking by detailing why net energy metering is based on regressive incentives forcing lower income ratepayers to subsidize higher income users. Bard Professor Emeritus Daniel Rossides proves again that there is no age limit on passionate discourse with a brilliantly argued piece explicating the current dilemma of galloping inequity where capital is strangling what’s left of democracy. I even jump into the debate warning about the practical divisions that are rending our countries because of our inability organizationally and politically to keep up with the challenges and opportunities of devolution. Stuart Melvin, ACORN’s national organizer in the United Kingdom, provides a timely and helpful analysis of the immediate problems posed by the sweeping, and surprising, reelection of the conservative Cameron government in that country.
Decades had passed since I had worked with Karen Paget, but reading her book, Patriotic Betrayal, about the well-known, but largely forgotten, scandal of CIA infiltration and manipulation of the National Student Association, sent me searching for her and finally finding her…where else but Facebook! Reading about other colleagues and remembering old stories of my own experiences with Michael Ansara, our Old Mole neighborhood on Brookline Street, Ed Schwartz, recently deceased, but someone I knew back in the same period and subsequently in Philadelphia, and Lee Webb, who gave ACORN valuable help in the 1970’s made the piece and the whole book invaluable. At the same time I made an even more aggressive effort tracking down Adam Seth Levin including interviewing him on my weekly radio show after stumbling onto his book, which I would rate as a “must read” for this political season given his counterintuitive arguments for how we are inadvertently undermining our own message in trying to move people into action. Example: citing our victories on the doors he finds encourages people NOT to act, rather than inspiring activity. Read this book now!
But, while you are at it even if it doesn’t seem like the perfect fit for a beach blanket, take this issue with you for two more good reasons. One, so you can also get a good taste of Randy Shaw’s latest and very timely book about his fights to prevent gentrification in San Francisco’s Tenderloin. The other so you can get a sense of the long, terrible history of anti-union campaigns is the excerpt from Cedric De Leon’s new book, The Origins of Right to Work. We’re seeing way too many of these campaigns, so it is worth understanding the historical context. As an added dividend, though we’ve already excerpted Mike Miller and Aaron Schutz’s new book, People Power, in an earlier issue, the passing of Ed Chambers the longtime head of the Industrial Areas Foundation after Saul Alinsky’s passing, make it worth revisiting Mike’s memories of his own time with Chambers in 1966-67.
We finish with our usual excellent columns. Phil Mattera comments on the hand slaps the corporations are getting for their crimes, and Noorin Ladhini points out that Facebook is actually a useful tool in dealing with disasters these days. John Anderson contributes a great column looking at the ground shaking upheaval in western Canada in the recent provincial victory of the New Democratic Party as a possible harbinger of big changes to come in the north. Unfortunately, I end as a bit of a Debbie Downer on the new unanimous decision when the Supreme Court recently handed the Bank of America and Wall Street a ball and chain to attach to struggling homeowners still trying to survive the recession and the so-called recovery by making second mortgages virtually inescapable.
I don’t know the words to “Be Happy,” so I won’t go there, but I will guarantee you that you will find plenty to chew on this summer in this issue!