News Updates

America This Week: July 24-31, 2022 Matt Taibbi-UAW Intrigue, Biden’s Debt Nightmare, Trump’s Grand Jury Trouble, more

Clockwise from top left: Jerome Powell once caught a fish this big, the F-35 selling itself, GTA for Women, Rob Portman Sees Chinese People, the fish Garland wants to catch, and Trump waiting out grand jury terror at Bedminster

 

You’re reading “America This Week,” a recap of U.S. news that launched in English, Mandarin, Arabic, Japanese, Russian, and German last Friday. Today we say Hola to readers in Spanish as well, while taking the first steps into what’s historically the slowest month in American politics.

The emptying of Washington in late summer has a long and weirdly deadly backstory. The capital is notorious for stifling heat, and officials spent the 1800s trying and failing to improve ventilation in the Capitol through various harebrained schemes. The Senate, whose stained glass ceiling produced a hothouse effect that all but roasted the stout cigar-smoking men who packed the chamber, soon earned a rep as a “death trap,” with 34 Senators going to their graves between 1916 and 1928 alone. When a doctor named Royal Copeland took office in 1923, he chided colleagues for working too hard, blamed Capitol air for deaths, and drew up reforms leading to the introduction of “manufactured weather,” a.k.a. air conditioning. Copeland went on in 1938 to collapse and die from overwork just after leaving a session, prompting the Associated Press to run the following cold-blooded headline:

Instead of dying en masse, legislators now go away every August, which annoys some but gives journalists a chance to catch up on divorce hearings and work on failed novels. Still, news never stops:

Landmark Auto Worker Convention Begins. Seven years ago, the Department of Justice (DOJ) began a probe of the powerful United Auto Workers (UAW). Centered on sham billing and millions in embezzlement, it involved 17 UAW officials, including two presidents, all later convicted of swiping funds “to purchase expensive liquor and cigars and to pay for golfing outings and related equipment.” This wasn’t a break-up-the-mob type investigation, but more about garden variety, dumb, avoidable corruption, fueled by a Brewster’s Millions approach to stewardship of member dues that continues. Just this year, for instance, the union spent $95,000 on backpacks emblazoned with the name of Secretary-Treasurer Frank Stuglin for handing out a conference, and another $300,000 on a “dinner reception for the approximately 1,000 conference attendees. The DOJ action led to the 2021 appointment of an independent monitor, who turned out to be legendary corruption-buster and former TARP bailout inspector Neil Barofsky of firm Jenner & Block. One Barofsky recommendation led to a court-ordered change in February, to replace the union’s delegate-based election system (which insiders could manipulate) with a new, “one member, one vote” plan forcing true open votes for the first time in 70 years. That process began this week, with five new nominees, including incumbent Ray Curry, as well as Shawn Fain, a 53 year-old backed by a group called Unite All Workers For Democracy, and Will Lehman, the first openly socialist candidate for president of a major union since the Red Scare era. American unions have been notorious for Scorcese-caliber wiseguy corruption, over-closeness with management, and unwillingness to strike, and it will be fascinating to see if the cleanup effort sticks.

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