We have been this way before

People’s party candidates for president and vice president 1892. Goes Lith. Co. (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.)

Erik Loomis at Lawyers, Gun$ and Money continues his excellent series on Labor History today with a look at the first convention of the People’s Party in  Omaha, Nebraska, in 1892.

During the late 1880s, Farmers’ Alliance members began reaching out to the growing number of reformers and working-class activists. People like Knights of Labor leader Terence Powderly began encouraging the Alliance to mount a political challenge to the corrupt 2-party system of the Gilded Age, when neither party represented working-class interests.

Thus in 1892, the Farmers Alliance and its allies met in Omaha to articulate a political platform and nominate a presidential candidate. The Omaha Platform demanded much that reformers would take up over the next thirty years. It called for the 8-hour day, government control of railroad and communication networks, direct election of senators, civil service reform, the graduated income tax, and the abolition of national banks. It also supported the coinage of silver, which would create inflation, allow farmers to pay off their substantial debts, and alleviate the very real shortage of currency the U.S. faced in the 1890s.

You can read more about the campaign poster pictured above here.

Supreme Court. What Fallows said (better than I could)

Capitol from Supreme Court, March 1937. Harris & Ewing, Inc. ( Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.)

Short version titled 5 Signs of a Radical Change in U.S. Politics via the Supreme Court.

Through the past decade, there has been a radical shift in the “by any means necessary” rules of political combat, as I describe. Previous conservative administrations have nominated previous conservative Justices — but not radical partisans, happy to overthrow precedent to get to the party-politics result they want.

Long form is called SCOTUS Update: La Loi, C’est Moi

Liberal democracies like ours depend on rules but also on norms – on the assumption that you’ll go so far, but no further, to advance your political ends. The norms imply some loyalty to the system as a whole that outweighs your immediate partisan interest. Not red states, nor blue states, but the United States of America. It was out of loyalty to the system that Al Gore stepped aside after Bush v. Gore. Norms have given the Supreme Court its unquestioned legitimacy. The Roberts majority is barreling ahead without regard for the norms, and it is taking the court’s legitimacy with it.

Also too, David Orentlicher at Concurring Opinions has this to say:

 But all we really need to know is that George Bush, rather than Al Gore or John Kerry, nominated Sandra Day O’Connor’s replacement to the Supreme Court…If the individual mandate goes down, its viability was determined not in the past couple of years but in 2006 when George Bush appointed Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.

I swear, if it wasn’t for people like Fallows, Charles Pierce (bless him) and TBogg, I’d be writing this from a padded cell instead of my sunny terrace.

Note: The Supreme Court will not be giving us their ruling on the health care reform law today. Most of Arizona’s immigration law was struck down although you still gotta show them your stinking papers. But Citizens United still stands, even stronger now.

Pacific Northwest: Sending coal to China?

Long coal train, South Dakota, 1946. Carol M Highsmith, American (Carol M. Highsmith's America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.)

SSA Marine, which is 51% owned by Goldman Sachs, has applied for federal and state permits  to build facilities at Cherry Point to ship coal from the Rocky Mountains to China, thereby making the Pacific Northwest the largest coal exporting region in the country. (As many as half a dozen future sites have been proposed along the Oregon and Washington coast. If all of them were built and operated to planned capacity, those ports would ship 50% more coal than the entire country did in 2011.)

Most of the coal would come from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana; the coal would arrive on the coast either by train or river barges. What could possibly go wrong?

Physicians fret about an explosion of locomotive exhaust, while mayors grumble about the potential for long traffic-snarling trains. Washington state fears 1,200 new barge trips on the Columbia River could spark more accidents and marine-vessel groundings. Tribes worry that spilled coal could poison aquatic food webs.

But as the federal government begins its first lengthy review of plans to ship coal through Northwest ports, it’s not clear how — or if — the feds will weigh in on perhaps the most far-reaching issue: the potential effect new markets for coal could have on greenhouse-gas emissions.

There’s more information about the Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point near Ferndale, Washington, here and here. SSA has provided some more details to its proposal which the Bellingham Herald explains here.

TSA: Out in left field

Shadowlight Theater poster, 1963. Milton Glaser

The TSA keeps on keeping on. Between May 4th and 10th, 2012, here’s what they found on the roughly 10 million air passengers* in US airports during that period.

  • Firearms: 30 - 29 loaded; 1 unloaded
  • 1 artfully concealed prohibited item found at checkpoints

TSA’s homepage posted this link to the story of one of their employees who helped thwart an abduction on his way to work at the Dallas/Ft Worth airport. Good on him.

At the TSA Blog, the find of the week was a disassembled gun and ammunition found in a three of a child’s stuffed animals, one of which was Mickey Mouse.

This is just another example that threats can appear anywhere and this is why our Officers take a closer look at everything. It’s also an example that shows that even though we’ve made changes to how we screen children 12 & under, the security process is still just as effective.

Meanwhile in Salt Lake City, a Savannah Barry, diabetic sixteen-year-old girl with her physician’s letter in her hand, was coerced into undergoing a full body scan which damaged the software in her $10,000 insulin pump.

“I was like, ‘Are you sure that I can go through with this insulin pump? It’s not going to hurt the pump at all?’ And she was like, ‘No, no, you’re fine.’ So I went through with my pump. Some part of me knew that it wasn’t OK, but when someone in a position of authority is telling you it is, you think that it’s right,” said Barry.

Although TSA policy clearly states that diabetics can travel with their insulin and have the right to opt for a pat-down, there have been ongoing problems  and according to a staff attorney for the American Diabetes Association training in the field has been lacking.

Finally, Bruce Schneier explains what’s wrong with profiling people at airports.

Any bureaucracy that processes 630 million people per year will generate stories like this. When people propose profiling, they are really asking for a security system that can apply judgment. Unfortunately, that’s really hard. Rules are easier to explain and train. Zero tolerance is easier to justify and defend. Judgment requires better-educated, more expert, and much-higher-paid screeners. And the personal career risks to a TSA agent of being wrong when exercising judgment far outweigh any benefits from being sensible.

The proper reaction to screening horror stories isn’t to subject only “those people” to it; it’s to subject no one to it. (Can anyone even explain what hypothetical terrorist plot could successfully evade normal security, but would be discovered during secondary screening?) Invasive TSA screening is nothing more than security theater. It doesn’t make us safer, and it’s not worth the cost. Even more strongly, security isn’t our society’s only value. Do we really want the full power of government to act out our stereotypes and prejudices? Have we Americans ever done something like this and not been ashamed later? This is what we have a Constitution for: to help us live up to our values and not down to our fears.

*Note: My very conservative estimate based on number of passengers reported by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics for January 2012, the most recent month available.

Maryhill Museum: Artful wind power

Maryhill Museum of Art with spring lupines. (Photography: Nayland Wilkins)

This isolated museum, which sits on 5,300 acres located in Washington State’s Columbia River Gorge about two hours east of Portland, derives some of its annual income from leases for the 15 wind turbines that have been installed on its grounds, part of a huge grid supplying power to Los Angeles.

Essentially, it’s an endowment,” said Jim Foster, the past president of the Maryhill board. “It really gave us the freedom to go forward.”

Originally built by Sam Hill, who built roads and railroads in the Pacific Northwest in the early 20th Century, Maryhill’s eclectic permanent collection includes European art and Native American objects.

Maryhill’s creative sources of income are not confined to wind power:

Capturing the wind is not the only way Maryhill uses its land to benefit its bottom line. The museum brings in about $60,000 by leasing acreage for fruit orchards and vineyards. It earns about $20,000 each year by renting access to the Loops Road, a series of curving roads built by Mr. Hill that is now the site of the annual Maryhill Festival of Speed, a skateboarding contest.

If I’m ever in the neighborhood, I’ll be sure to stop by.