Friday, April 23, 2010

Call/e-mail/fax-in to Father Jenkins and Scott Malpass

Click here to email and fax President Jenkins and Chief Investment Officer Scott Malpass. This is not limited to Notre Dame students- people/students from anywhere are welcome to participate

Also, give Father Jenkins a call today! Here is an example of what you can say:

President Jenkins, University of Notre Dame

President Jenkins, my name is _____ and I am calling from ________ in
solidarity with the HEI workers struggling for justice and the the
Notre Dame students on hunger strike. Please, do the right thing and
respect workers' rights - divest from HEI!

Spread the word, and call/email/fax in solidarity today!
1. Click the link at the top of the page to email and fax, make the
call and then forward this email to all friends and group email lists
2. Set the link to the action alert as your facebook status and tweet
3. If you are tabling today, set out a laptop so students can send the email/fax

Today, Notre Dame students are ending a five-day hunger strike today
with a rally and mass calling on the university to take concrete
action against HEI Hotels and Resorts, a company in which the
university is invested. Since fall of 2008, students have raised
concerns about the unethical labor practices of HEI by leafleting,
protesting, meeting with administrators and organizing teach-ins on
campus with HEI hotel workers who are leading the struggle for justice
at their workplace. Students argue that the way in which HEI treats
its workers is in direct conflict with Catholic Social Teaching on
workers' rights, including the right to dignity, respect, fair wages,
and to organize. Notre Dame claims to uphold these teachings in its
investment policy, but the administration has yet to take seriously
the injustices facing HEI workers and has even disciplined students
for handing out leaflets about the company. The hunger strike is a
call for the university to uphold its professed Catholic mission in
its investment practices.

See you at 5pm by the steps of the Golden Dome for the breaking-the-fast-RALLY!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day, everybody!  Being that I am currently an intern for Repower America I feel as though I'm obligated to blog about energy and the environment for Lefty's as we celebrate this Earth Day.  It should go without saying to the readers of this blog that climate change is one of the most urgent and significant issues facing our generation.

Regardless of what the college dropouts turned journalists political commentators televangelists on FOX "News" might say, climate change is indeed happening; and it is a problem we can, and must, address.  The facts about climate change are widely available, and this post is not intended to provoke another faux debate between rationally thinking people and the vocal minority of flat-earthers.  We all know this is serious: the polar ice caps are melting, the seas are rising (along with the average global temperature) causing erratic weather patterns at a higher frequency than usual--that will only increase over time.  What this means for those of us who would like to live long and healthy lives, and would like to pass on a healthy and functioning planet to our children, is that we must come together and take action now to reverse some of the dangerous trends that humans set into motion during the industrial revolution.  For the last 200 years, mankind has been sucking up fossil fuels and consuming its natural resources faster than an 80's rockband goes through hookers and blow.  The party's over kids; and it's time to get into rehab before our planet looks like Lindsay Lohan's internal organs.

The problem of global climate change effects not only our environment, but our economy, national security, and our standard of living.  This is a big problem, and it's going to require BIG solutions.  That's why I've been working with Repower America this semester to spread the message to fellow Hoosiers throughout the 2nd District that America needs strong, comprehensive clean energy legislation.  I was initially surprised upon moving to Indiana, how hostile much of the voting constituency here is to the notion of clean energy, or cap & trade legislation.  Many Indiana residents seem to be under the impression that solving the climate crisis means losing jobs.  Well, wake up folks.  The jobs have been gone for quite some time.  When I drive through the city of South Bend I see old factories in near ruins, the businesses that used to support our manufacturing sector closed and shuttered for years, and the homes of the workers who used to have those jobs abandoned.  Driving through the state the sights don't get much better.  This part of the country used to have a booming manufacturing sector that provided well-paying middle class jobs during America's heyday... And guess what?  Clean energy has the potential to bring that all back.

If we sit back and do nothing, America will continue to lose our competitive edge to nations like China and India who are already jumping aboard the clean energy bandwagon and producing wind turbines and solar technology.  The time to act is now.  We can begin (and have already begun) by using money from the American Recovery Act and Reinvestment Act to rebuild our energy grid and improve energy efficiency throughout the country.  We also need to invest in green-infrastructure, expanding smart-grids throughout the nation, improving the quality, efficiency and access to public transportation, and investing significant capital in the kinds of renewable fuels that will power our economy in the not-too-distant future if we hope to maintain a similar way of life to the one most of us enjoy today.

Here at Notre Dame we've been taking this mission seriously, and doing our part to urge Senator's Richard Lugar and Evan Bayh to pass a comprehensive clean energy bill by the end of the year.  I'd like to say a special thank you to all of you who came out and volunteered your time in recent weeks at the various phone banks and other events that I helped organize with Repower America to spread the word, and rally the support of Hoosiers throughout the state who want a healthy and prosperous future for future generations.  Your action is yet another demonstration of how amazing the progressive presence here at this allegedly conservative campus is (College Democrats 2009-2010 Club of the Year! woot woot!!!).  As fashionable and forward-thinking as we may all consider ourselves when we buy florescent light bulbs, organic cotton T's and order our lattes in reusable thermoses, that simply isn't going to cut it.  If you really want to see change in this world you have to eventually log off of the blogs, put your feet to the pavement, and knock on doors, make phone calls, harass your apathetic friends and neighbors, and fight for change just as hard as we did in the fall of 2008.  You are all already living proof of what can be accomplished when you take these words to heart.  Let's keep up the good work and set an example for our peers.  If anyone's going to clean up this mess, it's going to have to be our generation.

*This post is my own personal opinion, I am not speaking in any official capacity for the Alliance for Climate Protection and Repower America

Hunger Strike Update: We Are Hungry (for JUSTICE)

Good friends,
I wanted to post and give you all and update on how our hunger strike and protest against HEI is going. Yes, we are hungry, but more than that, we are convinced more than ever that HEI is a company that Notre Dame should not be supporting with its endowment funds. Many people have told us that they are worried about our health, and we’d like to direct that feeling of concern and compassion toward the workers in HEI hotels who suffer unreasonable workloads, physical and emotional pain, disrespect, intimidation, and poverty wages on the job every day. Our five days of discomfort is nothing compared to the day to day life of a low wage HEI employee.
In addition, thanks so much for the support! Many students, staff, professors, and community members have stopped by to offer encouragement. There are also a number of different universities involved in the HEI campaign fasting in solidarity with us different days, so we’d like to give a special thanks to those students –you guys are allstars! The picture to the left is of some friends from U Chicago also engaged in the HEI fight on their campus who joined us today in solidarity.

Finally, the last three evenings we have skyped with over 20 HEI employees in San Francisco and Long Beach, California and in Crystal City, Virginia. They offered so much encouragement, and the workers debunked the myth that the investment office continues to spread that HEI is a “good company” with a “great record.” They told stories of intimidation, harassment, and disrespect. Despite what the university claims, there are workers’ rights being violated, and HEI is NOT an upstanding company. The testimony of HEI workers is extremely valuable and should be enough to raise concerns about practices of HEI as a company (not to mention the NLRB complaint, housekeeper letter, and injury survey done by the Journal of Industrial Medicine in 2009 that found that hotel housekeepers suffer a rate of injuries 25% higher than any other service industry job).

Thanks again to everyone who has been out on the quad with us or stopped by; you are great. Everyone should come out and
JOIN THE FIGHT: Tomorrow at 5PM on God Quad under the golden dome, we will hold a rally and a mass to break the fast and call on Notre Dame to take concrete action against the unjust labor practices of HEI. Let's show our administration that we support workers’ rights, and we believe in ethical investment!!
And if you haven’t yet, sign the petition to support HEI workers. Que siga la lucha!

Apathy Is Atrophy: A Political Calling (Part Two)

(Continued from Apathy Is Atrophy: A Political Calling, Part One)

I hope you enjoyed the story about the longest election in American history. I know it really motivates me. I'm happy to see that the Democrat was able to win with a strong get-out-the-vote effort.

As I follow my fellow editor, Bill, into the 100-club on Lefty's Last Cry, I think back about how I found my own political calling. You see, I was raised in a non-partisan household. My parents have voted across party lines and never expressed any strong party identification. In many ways, discovering my own political identity was a curious process.

As a teenager, I was compelled into action not by partisan energies but by an intense urge for participation and civic duty. It wasn't a candidate or a movement that lit my fire. It was a single, local issue about raising taxes towards much-needed school upgrades for Oak Harbor High School.

For 10 years, the campaign had struggled to convince a largely transient and retired population to accept even minor tax increases for a new high school and new stadium. Unlike many of my classmates at Notre Dame, my high school wasn't something to be particularly proud of. With dilapidated facilities and a stadium located 2 miles away that wasn't considered satisfactory for playoff-level competition (forcing us to have home games at neutral sites), the nickname "Broke Harbor" made perfect sense. In 2007, we were even listed among 22 Washington State high school "dropout factories."
No one wants to hear that.

Teachers, students, and passionate parents campaigned for months, rallying the support of politicians and local businesses. In 2005, the levy passed by a slim margin. In the time since I left Oak Harbor, the residents have been blessed with a new stadium (Home of the 2006 Washington State 4A Football Champions. See right) and a new high school. Politically, the issue brought to my attention the injustices of the process by which we fund education in this country. As you can probably guess, it didn't take me long to realize which party I would find a home in.

Realizing that many of you are very politically active, I feel no need to preach to the choir. In fact, the reason I know many you is because we share this similar calling. In telling you my story, I only hope to inspire you to tell yours to the people you care about most. Just maybe, they will wake one day with that same question burning in their minds:

"What better place than here? What better time than now?"

Whether you are working on Brad Ellsworth's Senate campaign or fighting to have a ballot initiative pass in your small town, always remember why you were called into political life in the first place. And don't forget–apathy is atrophy. Exercise your right to vote!

It has been a pleasure working with each and every one of you in the College Democrats and here at Lefty's Last Cry. I hope that we cross paths again, when our passions find a common cause.

For Our Country,
Henry Vasquez

Apathy Is Atrophy: A Political Calling (Part One)

I'd like a tell you story about the longest election in American history. I hope that it will inspire you to stay active in politics.

It began in the fall of 1973..

in the State of New Hampshire, where a Republican Senator by the name of Norris H. Cotton, who had served in the United States Senate for 20 years, had decided not to run for reelection. Senator Cotton was an established leader in the Republican Party, serving as the Senate Republican Conference Chairman in the final 3 years of his tenure.

To fill his seat emerged veteran New Hampshire Republican Congressman Louis C. Wyman (left) . His opponent–young Democratic candidate John A. Durkin (right).

With the advantage of stronger party registration (39% to 28%) and a powerful Republican Governor, the GOP was set to hold the seat. Leading up election night, Wyman was expected to win handily.

On election night–November 5, 1974–poll numbers showed a small GOP victory of 355 votes out of the 223,363 cast (only 0.16%). With such a small margin, Durkin challenged the results and demanded a recount.

He was granted the request, and by November 27, the recount was complete. The winner...

John Durkin, Democrat, by a margin of 10 votes!

That night, Republican Governor Meldrim Thomson certified the election results. Unsatisfied, Wyman filed an appeal to the New Hampshire State Ballot Law Commission. The commission proceeded with its own recount, ending on December 24, 1974. This time, the winner...

Louis Wyman, Republican, by a margin of just 2 votes!

Durkin quickly petitioned the US Senate to review the case. With Senator Cotton's term ending on January 3, Governor Thomson appointed Louis Wyman to temporarily fill his seat. What followed was one of the shortest terms of any US Senator–just 4 days (Congress wasn't in session). Afterward, the seat remained vacant while the election results were settled.

For weeks, the Senate Rules Committee tried to the resolve the issue, which only resulted in a 4-4 deadlock vote, forcing the decision to the entire Senate. Not surprisingly, the Senate was unable to settle the matter, with partisan tension from both sides. By July 1975, with the issue unsettled, Louis Wyman wrote to John Durkin requesting a new election. Initially, Durkin resisted. On July 29, he reversed his decision, endorsing a special election.

In the meantime, the Senate voted to declare the seat vacant, which allowed Governor Thomson to appoint none other than old Norris Cotton to temporarily fill the seat. Finally, on September 16, 1975, a special election was held in New Hampshire. At last, the winner was...

John Durkin, Democrat, by a margin of 27,771 votes!

Many analysts attributed Durkin's victory to a smart, tough, labor-supported get-out-the-vote drive. In the 2nd election, Wyman did not lose a single vote (he actually gained around 2000), meaning that Durkin was able to get 27,000 new voters to visit the polls. Talk about organizing at its best! And for the first time in 121 years, New Hampshire had two Democratic Senators. Woohoo!

The 1974 New Hampshire Senate election was both the closest election in Senate history and the longest election in American history! It should continue to remind us all of how important every vote truly is. I'd like to give a special thanks to for the nitty-gritty.

One of our favorite statistics in the College Democrats of Indiana is the following:
College Democrats of Indiana registered 36,000 Indiana voters in 2008. President Obama won Indiana by 26,000 votes.

After the beautiful reflection that was Bill's 100th post, I felt the pressure to make something of my century mark. So I decided to pull a South Park on you and split up my post into parts.

FOR PART TWO of the story–featuring my own political calling–come back today at 2pm!

While you're gone, remember to tune in tonight at 11:00 pm for a special Little 500 edition of Lefty's Last Laugh Live, hosted by Kelly Smith and myself. It'll be a blast!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Notre Dame College Democrats: Club of the Year 2009-2010

Dear College Democrats of Notre Dame,

Today our organization was awarded the 2009-2010 Notre Dame Club of the Year. Out of more than 200 (correction: 334!) student groups at Notre Dame the College Democrats were selected as the most active and effective club on campus.

This moment and this award put into context the amount of work we have done as an organization. We took the College Democrats to unforeseen levels in the 2008 campaign, but I am more proud of what we have done since the election of President Obama. Our campus is on the front lines of American politics, showing that students are not just the future of the party. TODAY we are the energy, the ideas, and the backbone to political activism in the United States and across the world. We won this award at Notre Dame without an election to catalyze our efforts, because students on this campus are invested in the well being of the American people. Because seeing inequality and suffering makes us willing to sacrifice our time to elect leaders AND hold them accountable to our demands. We believe in equal opportunity for all, and have worked tirelessly here at Notre Dame to do everything in our power to make the American dream attainable for ALL Americans.

Politics provide an opportunity for systemic change. No matter how trivial political debates become, or how many politicians turn their back on the people, the path to justice is public policy. We must continue to be resolute in our pursuit of change at the local, state, and federal level. One signature by President Obama has the power to improve the lives of millions. It is that power that we all work so hard to utilize, and it is why we all need to stay involved in the fight for a just United States.

I am bursting with pride about what we have done to transform the perceptions of Notre Dame students by people in South Bend and across the country, and how we have altered the way current students and alumni view this University. At this supposedly conservative Catholic school we have constructed a vivacious network of progressive students that are coworkers and friends.

For all of you that get the e-mails but have not yet attended a College Dems meeting, or haven't consistently been a part of the club. JOIN US. We are always seeking more active members. However, we could never have gotten to where we are today without the participation of the dozens of students who come out once or twice a semester when they have enough time. It is not just the regulars that define this club.

The College Democrats of Notre Dame is more than an organization that uses the abilities of students to elect Democrats and fight for progressive policy. This organization introduces students to political activism and engages the campus in political debate. Our club develops leadership on campus and is a stepping stone to a politically active life for all who have participated. I am extraordinarily grateful and honored to have worked with so many incredible students in my time at Notre Dame, our potential is limitless. Keep your voices raised. This country needs us!!

Thank you for everything you have done to change our University and our country.

With love,

Chris Rhodenbaugh, former Co-President of the College Democrats of Notre Dame

p.s. in case you don't know what we have accomplished in 2009 and 2010
  • Maintained a solid membership with 25-40 attendees at every weekly meeting.
  • Held weekly dining hall dinners to build a social network for students.
  • Operated over 20 phone banks in partnership with Organizing for America, making over 6000 calls for health care reform.
  • Held 6 phone banks for a strong clean energy bill, in one night we made more calls than any other phonebank in the country for RePower America
  • Coordinated with the White House during the final days of the health care debate to write a letter and send out a press release urging Congressman Donnelly to support health care reform.
  • Had a consistent media presence in The Observer, and we have been featured on local radio and tv stations including NBC and FOX news.
  • Hosted meetings that regularly included guests such as local politicians and candidates.
  • Built strong relationships with other student organizations such as PSA, MeCha.
  • Held regular service events with Hope Ministries, Catholic Worker, Center for the Homeless.
  • Worked consistently with other Indiana College Democrats chapters and brought more students to both statewide College Democrats events, convention and fundraising dinner, than any other organization.
  • Defeated IU Bloomington, 24,127 more undergraduate students than Notre Dame, in an OFA phonebank competition by making more than 1,000 calls for health care reform in one night.
  • Hosted prominent speakers such as liberal talk show host Cenk Uygur.
  • Worked extensively on issues outside of campaigning such as clean energy, GLBT rights, genocide, foreign policy, and labor.
  • Showed issue based documentaries including Sicko and Rethink Afghanistan and sponsored events such as "Are YOU funding conflict in Congo?"
  • Exerted a strong progressive voice in the South Bend community.
  • Co-sponsored a city-wide health care rally.
  • Operated successfully without a Fall CCC budget allocation.
  • Maintained consistent and varied programming with an average of 2 events or opportunities each week.
  • Built a reputation statewide and nationwide as one of the strongest College Democrats chapters in the country.

Trenches Too Deep (Part Two)

Like many of you, I have taken much pride in being a progressive submerged in conservative surroundings. After all, when I started Lefty's Last Cry, the title description was "Treading Water in The Pool of Crosses and Credit Cards."

With this in mind, I realized how important the tough fight is for the political soul. Whether you attend a conservative university, or you do something like start a discussion group in your dorm called "Big Issues and WhatKnott" to hash out the major topics with conservative neighbors, or live in a state that people have told you your whole life is a "red state" (not anymore :), you are really only as progressive as your battlefield has demanded. We should never ascribe virtue to cocooning ourselves politically.

The good thing is, the internet isn't cocooning us at all. It isn't digging deeper trenches. It's making it easier to cross the line and visit our opponents. I guarantee it's much more difficult to talk to the gun rights militias in person than it is to read and understand their motives through the internet. I guarantee I spend much more time visiting conservative websites like to see what they're discussing than I do actually watching Fox News on television. It's much easier to probe into the other side through internet than it is with older forms of media. The internet offers a sense of agency and control that is less invasive and threatening than older forms of communication.

And I'm not the only one who feels this way. David Brooks wrote a column today in the New York Times that inspired my post about how the internet community is more likely to cross the fence to take a peek.
"People who spend a lot of time on Glenn Beck’s Web site are more likely to visit The New York Times’s Web site than average Internet users. People who spend time on the most liberal sites are more likely to go to than average Internet users."
Brooks cites a study conducted by Matthew Gentzkow and Jesse M. Shapiro of the University of Chicago School of Business that examined idealogical segregation on the internet. The study is very thorough and I encourage all of you to read it here. For a snippet, check out this beautiful data below:
While older generations might be quick to blame the internet for polarization, this study suggests otherwise. The great thing is, blogs like Lefty's Last Cry can become forums of discussion without having large barriers to entry for the commenting types. As long as they can back up claims, they are free to make them, even anonymously. If they feel intimidated by our Troll Patrol, then they can disappear without making a scene.

In the end, I want to encourage you to examine your own political trench. For most of my life, I have been out on the battlefield, exposing myself to all kinds of conservative views. Recently, I've noticed that my trench has gotten a little too deep, which is why I intend to pull myself out a little more. I hope I have inspired you to do the same.

Good Day,

Henry Vasquez

PS: Please vote in the poll (about your political trench) and invite your conservative friends to visit Lefty's too!

Trenches Too Deep (Part One)

A few months ago, my mother's friend told me that he visits Lefty's Last Cry. Knowing full well that he is very conservative, I couldn't help but wonder why. He said, quite plainly, he enjoyed reading it. I was pleased to find people with differing opinions coming onto our blog and occasionally joining in the discussion.

For the longest time, I was frustrated by our conservative commenters. I was worried that they intimidated our younger, newer writers and generally didn't add to the level of discourse. I banned anonymous commenting on the site to force people to man up to their words. This fear never really manifested itself, and I'm glad to say that our loyal fans have done a great job at holding the fort in the comment wars.

My fears amounted to a standard human reaction of feeling threatened by insurgents when group cohesion and enthusiasm is particularly valuable. At some point, I decided to re-open the anonymous comments. On a personal level, I decided to start paying regular visits to and a variety of other conservative sites. My mother's friend had reminded me that my trench was a bit too deep.

This was about more than blogging. It was about my political identity.

I have been surrounded by conservatism for most of my life. I spent my youngest years in San Diego, CA with an extended family that jumped for joy for Bush II. I spent the majority of my formative years in Oak Harbor, Washington, a small military town in Western Washington about which wikipedia had the following to say. [On the Naval Air Station]

And now, like many of you, I attend the University of Notre Dame. From the moment I walked on this campus freshman year, I've had a chip on my shoulder. One of my best friends, Ian, remembers his first impression of me from the first week of school:

[Paraphrased] Henry was that loud kid that was arguing against 6 other freshmen in the dining hall about why milk isn't necessary and how the propaganda promulgated by the dairy industry in the United States had brainwashed American children with "Got Milk."

MORE: The rise from the trenches and why the internet isn't making us more polarized. 
To read part two...

The Future of Recycling: A Comprehensive Nationwide Recycling Program

After getting all the way to page 6 of Simple Living’s A-Z guide titled, “How to Recycle Anything,” I had an epiphany; for the average person, recycling nearly all if not all of the waste they produce is a difficult, complicated matter. Recycling should be 100x easier than throwing something away. Yet for many reasons it is 100x harder.

That’s why no one recycles everything they use, even the most committed environmentalists throw away more than they should, its just too hard not to. But I think that if we’re going to really get serious about climate change and sustainability, we’ll need to fix recycling first. We won’t be a sustainable nation until it’s easier to recycle a cell phone and old clothes than it is to throw them into a landfill.

Unfortunately, the state of recycling in America is chaotic, a hodgepodge of state, federal and local laws and regulations, governed and managed by a slew of disparate agencies and nonprofit and for-profit organizations. Why is it that you can recycle plastic bottles, but not bottle caps, and batteries, but not beach balls? There are still some major gaps in recyclability.

Most bottled drinks we consume come in a plastic or glass bottle. Any recycling program in the country can handle a glass or plastic bottle (sans plastic cap). But suppose you’re an avid Capri Sun fan? Capri Sun pouches, along with several other sugar water “juice drinks,” are made with a plastic polymer and aluminum that can’t be recycled by conventional facilities.

Capitalism works to fill in such gaps, and a company called Terracycle will be happy to turn your former juice drinks or potato chip bags into a backpack, laptop case, or any other one of their 178 products. In the process, they’ll donate 1-2 cents for every drink pouch or chip bag you send in to a school or charity of your choice. And while that’s a great deal both for you and the environment, it hasn’t really been translating into a wildly successful reduction in the amount of Capri Sun pouches that end up in landfills.

Chances are you’ve never heard of Terracycle, let alone sent anything to them. A few cents donated to a school or charity just isn’t enough of a motivating factor to make most people take the time and effort to save and mail certain types of trash rather than simply throwing it in a waste bin. This is why it doesn’t seem likely that for-profit upcycling companies will fill in all the gaps in recyclability. At least, they haven’t yet, and recycling has been around for a very long time.

Even if a whole industry of upcycling companies sprung up, I don’t believe it would make recycling any easier. The free market works best in a disorganized, non-monopolized way, yet the more decentralized our recycling process is, the more room for confusion. It’s already hard enough to remember which piece of trash is recyclable and which isn’t, so it doesn’t seem like adding the question of “Which company do I send this to?” to the equation would simplify anything.

Why haven’t local and state governments filled in the gaps? Well some have, but many cannot afford to. It’s simply a matter of priorities, especially in our current economic situation. When it comes to improving our local recycling system or improving schools, I’m sure that most people including myself would want funds to be allocated to the schools over recycling programs. Many states are currently running large deficits, and California, a leader in providing innovative, efficient, and cutting-edge recycling programs could soon be in bankruptcy. The funding to make recycling easier on a state level just isn’t there. Even if the economy was better and funding was available, it isn’t likely that Missouri would ever invest as much in recycling as California. There would still be major gaps in recyclability on the local and state levels.

So if the solution to simple recycling doesn’t lie in the free market, local government, or state government, then what’s left? Oh come on, you’re a good liberal… you know where I’m going with this!

We need a national recycling program, and if the conservative filibusterers will not grant us that, then at the very least we need a national recycling policy. Imagine if there was an easy to understand code consisting of symbols on every product, from your cell phone to your Gatorade, which told you how to recycle it? Imagine if states received extra funding from the federal government to ensure that the recycling facilities in Missouri are up to par with California’s? How about rewarding states with good recycling laws with more funding? Or creating an easy to use website that allows you to search for nearly any product sold in the US for information about its recyclability? What about fining companies that don’t make their products recyclable, and encouraging industries to set standards as far as material use in products? The EPA has set the goal to achieve 35.5 miles per gallon for cars and trucks by 2016, so why not say by 2016 that we’ll reduce our landfill creation by 10% or that by 2016, new pairs of denim jeans must contain at least 5% recycled material?

These are all relatively simple things that we can do as a nation, but they might have to come from the top down. Even a small change such as increasing the funding to states that lack modern recycling facilities could have a huge impact on our nation’s carbon footprint. Such changes would signal to the world that we’re serious about the environmental challenges facing all of us, and they would not be nearly as painful for conservatives as the comparatively giant climate change bill currently being considered. Some of the changes would not even have to come from Congress, as the EPA should be able to move toward a national recycling policy on its own. As far as more funds to states, it’s pretty hard to argue against recycling. A recycling bill may be able to beat any sustained attempt (pardon the pun) at a filibuster from the right. Recycling has been ignored lately as we’ve looked to solving “bigger” (I would argue that waste is a big problem) problems, but we should get the little problems right before we tackle larger, more difficult problems like alternative energy and the smart grid.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Offensive ≠ Funny

Too often, I have heard people (typically conservatives) use terms like "sensitive" and "politically correct" in a pejorative manner. To be honest, I know most liberals aren't always as sensitive as we should be. Behind closed doors, we all say things that are more offensive than we should. The big difference is that we know better and tend to speak more respectfully in public. Deep down, we truly don't want to offend others. But we make mistakes.

The problem is, conservatives who are trying to be funny confound offensive with funny and take their hate speech into the public square. When we speak out against their offensive language, they become defensive and start using all kinds of broken logic to justify what they've said. God forbid we try to suppress their freedom of speech.

Believe me, we care about free speech as much as they do. They have the "right" to say all kinds of hateful trash, and we have the "right" to call them out for it.

The point is, being offensive alone does not make you funny. Especially when your joke falls flat, it makes you look like an idiot. Like when satire is grossly misunderstood and turns out like this trash from the Rover:
Oh, and Polacks suck. The only thing Polacks have ever contributed to civilization are John Paul II and Esperanto. They can't even avoid crashing their presidential plane.
Or when IU bro-champion Yale Reardon thinks that crude objectification of women is inherently entertaining:
Or when a intentionally satirical cartoon isn't funny and turns out to just look homophobic:

Being offensive alone does not make you funny. In fact, if you were actually funny, people probably wouldn't find it offensive anymore. In closing, I urge people to consult the following chart before opening their mouths with hate-spew. Take a lesson from the masters.


Not Funny


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Students Begin Hunger Strike for Ethical Investment

A group of Notre Dame students began a five-day hunger strike today calling on the university to take concrete action against HEI Hotels and Resorts, a company in which the university is invested. We argue that the way in which HEI treats its workers is unsustainable and in direct conflict with Catholic Social Teaching on workers’ rights, including the right to dignity, respect, fair wages, and to organize. Notre Dame claims to uphold these teachings in its investment policy, but the administration has yet to take seriously the injustices facing HEI workers and has even disciplined us for handing out leaflets about the company. The hunger strike is a call for the university to uphold its professed Catholic mission in its investment practices.

What you can do:

•Sign the petition online (seriously, do it now!)
•Join us in the fast. While there is a group of us fasting for all 5 days this week, there are also a number of people joining for just a day or a few days, and you are welcome to do that. Let me know if you decide to join us by emailing
•Involved in a group? Get them to write a letter and do a delegation to Father Jenkins (there are clubs doing this every day, so different clubs can work together to show more support. YES!)
•Come join us outside of Main Building. We will be there all week waving to Father Jenkins, talking about the issue, and getting people to sign the petition online
•Come to the rally on Friday at 5PM outside of Main Building. It will be awesome to show the administration that there is a lot of support for the workers of HEI!!

Background about HEI and this campaign:

HEI has a despicable record of profiting on the backs of its low-wage workers. HEI has engaged in the following anti-worker practices:
-Drastically cut staffing, forcing workers to take on more work, increasing the risk of on-the-job injury
-Eliminated job functions (combining work)
-Made already difficult work harder by failing to provide enough of the necessary supplies
-Hired anti-union consultants to pressure workers against organizing (specifically at the Long Beach Hilton)
-Threatened employees with losing their jobs if they continue union activity (specifically at Le Meridien in San Francisco)

All of these actions by HEI make already difficult and dangerous work even worse. Virginia Portillo, a Room Attendant at the Sheraton Crystal City described her work:

“For each bed that I make, I have to lift the mattress 12 times. If you multiply that by 2 for all of the double rooms and by at least 16 for all of the rooms we clean, that is a lot. I can’t lift my arm above my shoulder, and I have severe pain in my lower back."
Other workers at the hotel have complained about the same thing. It hurts to lie down, so I can never rest. I have to take painkillers just so that I can work. Maria Patlan, a Housekeeper at the HEI Hilton Long Beach Hotel says the most difficult part is “to do my job while in pain. I do the work of two people.” According to a study published in the Journal of Industrial Medicine in 2009, hotel housekeepers suffer a rate of injuries 25% higher than any other service industry job. In addition, employees have spoken out about the level of disrespect by management as well as the rising cost of health coverage.

These conditions have prompted HEI workers across the country to organize. HEI has tried to block their efforts by hiring anti-union consultants. Workers have testified to NLRB investigators that they were threatened and retaliated against for their union activity. The Office of the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board has issued complaints against HEI alleging that the company broke labor laws by, “Inform[ing] its employees that it would be futile for them to select a union as their bargaining representative by implying they would not get a pay raise,” and “Threaten[ing] employees with losing their employment, if they continued to participate in union activity.” The complaints also allege that Ferdi Lazo, a union leader at the Sheraton Crystal City hotel, was fired because of his role in the union. HEI denies these allegations and will face a hearing at the NLRB beginning June 7, 2010.

The way in which HEI treats its employees is unacceptable. We are calling on the University to stop using endowment funds to support HEI Hotels and Resorts. We, instead, should be supporting companies that treat their workers with respect, pay a wage that allows their workers to live above the poverty line, and uphold the mission of this university.

Read more about the workers' fight for justice at HEI.

SIGN UP HERE: CLAP Hunger Strike Against HEI (Mon-Fri)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sunday Evening Tunes: Diabeetus

Sunday Evening Tunes is about bringing a little laughter and entertainment to our wonderful readers at Lefty's Last Cry. To reward all of your hard work, the staff at Lefty's searches far and wide for a video to make your Sunday smooth. After a great week like this, there's nothing like a little Wilford Brimley. Enjoy!

This is one of the more obscure videos we've posted. Here is some background on the meme in case this made no sense to you at all. :)

Also, our Notre Dame students: Be sure to check out these various liberal events on campus this week!

Volunteer at the Center for the Homeless (Sat, 11:00AM)

Canvassing for Rick Hunt and Rosemary Mandrici (Wed and Thurs, 5:30PM) SIGNUP

CLAP Hunger Strike Against HEI (Mon-Fri)

Phonebanking for Repower America (Tues and Wed, 7:00PM)

A New Lefty's Vision

Hey there Lefties!
We want to thank you for keeping up with Lefty's Last Cry. The blog has become a vibrant place for college progressives, adding new writers almost every week and staying on top of the major political issues of the week. In our 22-month history, Lefty's has taken on a new vision that is ambitious and exciting. We recently drafted a mission statement that you can see here on our ABOUT page. It reads:
The mission of Lefty's Last Cry is to provide an independent, powerful voice for progressive college students. In our efforts, we recognize that our ability to empower young people is incompatible with any formal affiliation to a particular university, business, or party.
In addition to this, we have progressively added new pages to the site, giving it a more dynamic appeal.
Here's a taste of each page. We encourage you to check them all out.

On the polls page, you can check out most of the past polls on Lefty's Last Cry and get a taste of history and perspective.

The comedy page features past winners of the caption contests, and funny photos from Lefty's past.
This page contains the recordings of our old podcasts. Check here soon for the audio to some more podcasts.

The newest Lefty's page, featuring winners of our competitive Writer of the Month award.

Our gear page features the beautiful Lefty's t-shirts in 3 color choices. Check out the newest shirts, in red:

Ladies Classic Red
$18.42- Order Here

Mens Classic Red
$18.42- Order Here

Our media page features a few photos of Lefty's writers together in various important events that they attended.

Finally, our contact page allows visitors to contact our editors. As Lefty's expands to more universities, it will be critical to have good communication with our senior staff.

The vision of Lefty's is realized through the efforts of our 40-person staff and the outreach done by our marketing department. Be sure to check out their work on Lefty's Facebook Fan Page

and our Lefty's Twitter account

Be sure to invite your friends to fan/follow Lefty's Last Cry and help us build the movement.

In closing, I'd like to recognize the incredible work of our talented staff. From news to graphics to marketing, you have made Lefty's the fastest growing political blog in the midwest. A special thanks goes out to our head graphic designer, Dylan Spartz, for the new Lefty's banner. I hope you all enjoy the new layout and features on the blog.

In sharing the vision of a strong, progressive voice, you have made us proud.


Your Editors

Bill Sanchez
Henry Vasquez
Brendan McPhillips