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Obama chief of staff Jacob Lew, who multiple media reports say will shortly be named Secretary of the Treasury, led New York University’s campaign to break its graduate student employees’ union eight years ago.

Lew was hired as NYU’s chief operating officer and executive vice president in 2004. Shortly thereafter the National Labor Relations Board, newly stocked with Bush appointees, reversed a Clinton-era ruling that graduate student employees were entitled to collective bargaining rights under the National Labor Relations Act.

NYU’s graduate student union, GSOC, was recognized by the university in 2001, and nothing in the 2004 ruling prevented the university from continuing to do so. When the union’s contract expired the following year, however, NYU withdrew recognition and unilaterally imposed a new, dramatically more restrictive, “paradigm” of the GSOC’s role in graduate employee affairs.

The memo announcing that decision was co-signed by Jacob Lew, who the head of the GSOC’s local now describes as “the point person” in enacting the university’s new policy.

GSOC declared a strike that fall, which NYU met with threats, intimidation, and firings. The strike ended in failure in May of 2006, and Lew left NYU a month later — to become the chief operating officer of Citigroup Global Wealth Management.

A GSOC petition to overturn the National Labor Review Board decision denying them collective bargaining rights is currently pending before the NLRB, which now has a majority Obama-appointed membership.

Today’s press conference by NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre has been greeted with a storm of derision and outrage from across the political spectrum. Even moderates and conservatives were appalled — New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s comment that the speech reflected a “paranoid, dystopian vision” of America was distinctive more for its phrasing than its sentiment.

One of the most ridiculed elements of LaPierre’s appearance was his call for a national volunteer force of armed guards to patrol every school in America — a “blanket of safety,” he called it, and he wants it in place by the end of the Christmas break.

Many observers pointed out that Columbine High School had an armed sheriff’s deputy on site on the day that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold murdered thirteen and wounded twenty-one more in what stands as the bloodiest high school massacre in the nation’s history.

Some conservatives are “peeved” by this criticism, however. As Daniel Foster writes at the website of the National Review,

“it isn’t like the deputy was sitting around eating doughnuts. … He traded fire (that is, he drew fire) with Harris for an extended period of time, during which Harris’s gun jammed. … In this highly chaotic tactical environment, the deputy acted both bravely and prudently, and who knows how many lives he saved by engaging Harris.”

Let’s consider this a moment.

Wayne LaPierre asserts that the solution to the problem of school shootings is bringing armed guards onto the nation’s campuses. Critics point out that the worst high school shooting in American history took place at a school where just such a guard was on hand. And how do LaPierre’s supporters respond?

You see? It works!

The NRA and its allies believe that Columbine was a win. They believe that we need more Columbines, not fewer.

Here’s the entirety of the only passage in President Obama’s speech in Tucson after the Gabrielle Giffords shooting in 2011 that even implied advocacy for governmental action against gun violence:

“We cannot and will not be passive in the face of such violence. We should be willing to challenge old assumptions in order to lessen the prospects of such violence in the future.”

Here’s the analogous passage from his speech in Colorado after the Aurora shootings in July:

“I hope that over the next several days, next several weeks, and next several months, we all reflect on how we can do something about some of the senseless violence that ends up marring this country, but also reflect on all the wonderful people who make this the greatest country on Earth.”

And here’s the analogous passage from his speech tonight in Newtown:

“This is our first task, caring for our children. Our first job. If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right. That’s how, as a society, we will be judged. And by that measure, can we truly say, as a nation, that we’re meeting our obligations? Can we honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep our children, all of them, safe from harm? Can we claim, as a nation, that we’re all together there, letting them know they are loved and teaching them to love in return? Can we say that we’re truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live our their lives in happiness and with purpose? I’ve been reflecting on this the last few days, and if we’re honest with ourselves, the answer’s no. We’re not doing enough. And we will have to change.

“Since I’ve been president, this is the fourth time we have come together to comfort a grieving community torn apart by mass shootings. Fourth time we’ve hugged survivors. Fourth time we’ve consoled the families of victims. In between there have been an endless series of deadly shootings across the country, almost daily reports of victims, many of them children in small towns and big cities all across America. Victims who much of the time, their only fault was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change. We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. No single law, no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society, but that can’t be an excuse for inaction. Surely we can do better than this. If there’s even one step we can take to save another child or another parent or another town from the grief that’s visited Tucson and Aurora and Oak Creek and Newtown and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that, then surely we have an obligation to try.

“In the coming weeks, I’ll use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens, from law enforcement, to mental health professionals, to parents and educators, in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this, because what choice do we have? We can’t accept events like this as routine. Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage? That the politics are too hard? Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?”

Should be an interesting next few weeks.

There’s been a lot of cheering today for the news that Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick plans to direct public colleges in the state to allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition, but a peek at the fine print shows that the policy shift isn’t anywhere near what it could be.

The policy covers undocumented Massachusetts residents eligible for temporary immunity from deportation under the Obama administration’s new DREAM-Act-like policy, but there’s a catch. Actually two.

First, in order to qualify for in-state tuition, you have to have made your way through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) hoops and been granted the reprieve from deportation it provides. That means that if you’ve got qualms about coming forward, or you’re having trouble proving eligibility, or are stuck in the bureaucracy for some other reason, you’re out of luck.

Second, and more importantly, the program only covers DACA-eligible students. So if you’re over thirty, you don’t qualify — even if you’ve lived in Massachusetts for twenty years. If you came to the US after your 18th birthday, or you’ve got the wrong kind of criminal record, or you don’t have (or can’t prove) the uninterrupted presence in the country that DACA requires, you’ll continue be treated as an out-of-state student for tuition purposes.

And it’s important to note that there’s no reason for Massachusetts to be limiting in-state tuition this way. A number of other states have taken the more reasonable approach of applying residency rules to all students equally, no matter what their immigration status. Just this month, in fact, Maryland took that step by statewide referendum.

If you’ve been in state long enough to obtain residency, you’ve been a state resident long enough to get in-state tuition. That’s a simple, straightforward principle, and it should be the one that pertains in Massachusetts.

It’s a shame Deval Patrick doesn’t see it that way.

There’s a conspiracy theory going around the right-wing blogosphere that says that Obama “stole” votes in heavily Democratic precincts in heavily Democratic cities in heavily Democratic states. Why he’d do this isn’t clear — the electoral college chooses the president, so a few extra votes in states that are in the bag aren’t going to change the outcome — but the drum is being beaten louder and louder. It’s “evidence of massive voter fraud” that “could have impacted the election.” It’s “statistically impossible.” It’s proof that he stole the presidency.

And what’s this evidence? That in certain precincts in certain cities, Mitt Romney received no votes.

Now, let’s note at the outset that we’re talking about overwhelmingly Democratic neighborhoods populated overwhelmingly by people of color here. With Obama winning upwards of 95% of the black vote nationally, you’d expect his support in black areas of Democratic cities to be even higher. So the broad trends aren’t cause for alarm.

What’s curious, the conspiracists say, isn’t the landslide. It’s the unanimity — the fact that in 37 precincts in Chicago, 59 in Philadelphia, and about a hundred in Cleveland, Obama won every single vote cast. Here’s Mark Steyn of the National Review, quoting a commenter at a Chicago news station’s website:

Statistically, even if among 10′s of thousands of voters all wanted to vote for Obama, it would not be possible to receive 100% of the vote because at least a few would make a mistake and vote incorrectly for Romney.

A commenter at National Review picks up that ball and runs with it:

It’s not statistically probable that hundreds of thousands of voters in a single sample, would cast votes in such a homogeneous way, particularly when you account for the fact that voters aren’t infallible.

One of two things happened: Either there is some yet undiscovered process error that “accidentally” cast all votes for Obama, or there was intentional fraud or deceit Now, I know what direction I lean, but whatever the case is, there needs to be a robust and thorough investigation to determine if the failure was accidental or intentional.

But, to pretend there wasn’t some kind of failure, is anti-science.

So what’s the deal here? Was there a pool of tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of urban voters in which not a single vote was cast for anyone but Obama?

Simply put, no.

Let’s take Chicago’s 6th Ward as an example.

Ward 6 went for Obama by an overwhelming margin this year. He received more than 99% of the votes cast, holding Romney to just 0.53% of the total. (Jill Stein and Gary Johnson did even worse.) But even in the 6th, Romney managed to get on the board in nearly every precinct.

There are 48 precincts in Ward 6, and Obama took the whole vote in just three of them. Romney managed to pull a single vote in another eight, and multiple votes in the remainder.

The thirty-seven Chicago precincts in which Obama won unanimous victories are scattered across thirteen wards, and the amount to less than 1.5% of the city’s more than 2,000 precincts. And if you have a guy regularly taking 99% of the vote in big swaths of a big city, there are going to be a few places where he hits 100%.

That’s it. That’s the whole story.

Sorry, guys.

About This Blog

n7772graysmall is the work of Angus Johnston, a historian and advocate of American student organizing.

To contact Angus, click here. For more about him, check out
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