The ‘Arizonification’ of America continues to frame the national immigration debate.

Photo via

By JEFF BIGGERS of the New York Times

Phoenix, Ariz.

With the “papers please” provision of Arizona’s controversial SB 1070 immigration law now in effect, Bill Clinton roused an overflowing crowd at Arizona State University last week with a special shout out to the state’s “dreamers,” the highly organized ranks of undocumented youth seeking permanent residency either through education or the military (and sometimes both). Appearing on behalf of the former Surgeon General Richard Carmona, whose surging campaign to become the first Latino Senator in Arizona now leads in the latest polls, Clinton drew some of his biggest cheers for his support of the DREAM Act merely by calling it the “right thing to do.”

Welcome to the Arizona showdown.

Read more here.

Obituaries: Reubin Andres, advocate of weight gain, dies at 89

Don Hogan Charles/The New York Times

So the headline of this story could have read, “Advocate of Weight Gain dies of Heart Disease,” (because it’s true) but there is more to the story. This guy started looking into weight gain when he was asked to participate in a conference and deduced that one could live longer if they gained about six pounds per year starting at age 40. Obviously, this went against the prevailing wisdom at the time.

“For some reason the idea has grabbed us that the best weight throughout the life span is that of a 20-year-old,” Dr. Andres said in a 1985 interview with The New York Times. “But there’s just overwhelming evidence now that as you go through life, it’s in your best interests to lay down some fat.”

Read the rest of this interesting obit in the New York Times here.

On Labor Day: Two interesting reads on unions

I’ve only been in a union once in my career. It was the Writers Guild East and I had to join as a condition of employment for a company that produced sports news highlights for a couple of New York City news stations. Aside from the night my friend Michele and I got to volunteer at the Writers Guild Awards, I never really felt *part* of the union, but that’s not surprising as it was a part-time job while I worked at a newspaper during the day.

Sometimes I think that if there were more unions around, perhaps we would not have so many laid off Americans who feel hopeless today. I mean, unions were created to protect workers rights, right? Maybe people would have had to take pay cut or a decrease in hours, but they might still have their jobs if their unions would’ve negotiated some kind of deal. Who knows? As I mentioned above, I don’t have much experience with unions at all.

On this Labor Day, I stumbled upon an obituary for Alexander Saxton, a novelist and historian who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on August 20 at the age of 93.

Saxton had a very interesting life. He went from “upper-income youngster to working-class adult; from Harvard student to Chicago laborer; from novelist to union organizer and Socialist; and from activist to academic who wrote many books.”

Among them, as it says in his obituary in the New York Times, was “The Rise and Fall of the White Republic, known as one of the foundations of ‘critical whiteness studies,’ an academic field that examines the assumptions underlying ‘whiteness’ as a racial designation and political organizing principle.”

But it’s his first historical book, The Indispensable Enemy: Labor and the Anti-Chinese Movement in California, that I found interesting. Considered a landmark of labor history, the book describes how “19th- and 20th- century labor unions used racism against Chinese immigrants as a tool for unifiying and organizing white union members.

“It challenged one of the foundational stories of the labor movement,” said Eric Foner, a Columbia University professor and Pulitzer prize winning historian. “Instead of the story of solidarity and democracy usually told, Saxton showed how racism was one of labor’s most important organizing tools.”

Who knew? So some unions were created to protect only a certain kind of worker in this country. Can’t be surprised, I guess. Read more about Saxton’s life and work here.

I’d like to recommend another Labor Day read. It’s by Fordham University sociologist, Christopher Rhomberg. His book, The Broken Table: The Detroit Newspaper Strike and the State of American Laboruses interviews and archival research to examine the labor and management disputes of the Detroit newspaper strike of the 1990s and the effect it has had on business-labor relations and workplace governance.

Listen to an interview of Rhomberg on the Craig Fahle Show on Detroit radio station, WDET, here. Read an article about the book in Dissent magazine here. And stay tuned for a GREAT opinion piece on labor and unions he wrote that I am working on getting placed in the media this week.


We’ve got to do better for U.S. Veterans

A car bomb in Iraq in May 2007 left Ben Richards, then a captain, with a severe concussion. A second concussion left him with debilitating injuries. (Photo by Ben Richards)

War Wounds


IT would be so much easier, Maj. Ben Richards says, if he had just lost a leg in Iraq.

Instead, he finds himself losing his mind, or at least a part of it. And if you want to understand how America is failing its soldiers and veterans, honoring them with lip service and ceremonies but breaking faith with them on all that matters most, listen to the story of Major Richards.

Read more of Nick Kristof’s heartbreaking piece here.

About 30 percent of Americans over age 65 live alone.

This New York Times article touches on elderly people and loneliness reminded me of my aunt, who not long ago lost her husband of more than 50 years. She’s in her 70s and lives alone, yet I know my other family members make sure she comes over often and vice versa. I don’t think she should live alone, but I know she wants to be strong and not impose on anyone.

So far, it’s working out. She’s keeping active and I think that’s important. Anyway, onto this great story:


The Neighbors Who Don’t Knock

By John Leland

NO one on the floor can say how or why it happened, what made them different from other residents in the building. Maybe it began with a small thing: a cup of coffee brought from across the hall, a phone call at night to make sure the day’s demons were not filling up the dark.

They are about a dozen New Yorkers in their 70s and 80s, mostly women, mostly living alone, on the fifth floor of a public-housing building for older residents in Washington Heights. They have enough health problems to fill a nursing home. They are prime candidates for social isolation and the consequences it brings.

Instead, on a morning in March, they are a crowd, squeezing into the apartment of Bienvenida Torres, 78, in what has become their project for the past year, and a test of their bonds as a community. On June 30, 2011, Ms. Torres’s daughter was stabbed to death in her apartment in Co-op City in the Bronx. The police arrested the daughter’s common-law husband, who remains on Rikers Island awaiting trial. Since the killing, Ms. Torres’s neighbors have been united in purpose, to help her weather the blow.

Read more here.