Romance novels need a canon
"Bet Me" by Jennifer Crusie
A contemporary romantic comedy set to Elvis Costello and lots of luxurious and sinful sugary treats. Read the whole essay.
When Republicans rode Tea Party anger to large majorities in Georgia’s state Legislature in 2010, it seemed inevitable that sooner or later some of these restive constituents would turn against them. Few, though, would have predicted the cause of an uprising that went down this week: an anti-picketing bill aimed at silencing union members.
On March 7, the Georgia Senate passed SB 469, a bill backed by the state’s Chamber of Commerce and introduced by state senators including Waffle House executive Don Balfour. Along with a battery of other anti-union measures, the bill bans picketing that targets private residences and causes “intimidation” or disturbs the “quiet enjoyment” of local residents. (“Quiet enjoyment” apparently being a more fundamental right than freedom of speech.) SB 469 would increase potential punishments for picketing or “conspiracy,” and it would make it easier for companies to request and receive injunctions from judges halting demonstrations. In a letter to Balfour, Ted Jackson, the sheriff of Georgia’s largest county, wrote that “The role of law enforcement shouldn’t be to police free speech but the intent of this bill seems to be just that.” (Balfour did not respond to Salon’s request for comment.)
Unions began rallying in opposition to the bill shortly after it was introduced last month and have been active ever since. They’ve been joined by several non-labor groups that also see the bill as a threat to their right to demonstrations. Occupy, environmentalist and civil rights activists have warned for weeks that the broadly written bill put their protest rights at risk as well. On Monday, so did the Atlanta Tea Party.
“We were extremely excited when they showed up,” says Georgia AFL-CIO president Charlie Flemming. “We [had] reached out to them, not knowing that they would.”
As Dave Jamieson reported for the Huffington Post, the Atlanta Tea Party sent a message Monday to its 50,000-person email list calling SB 469 “a gross violation of the First Amendment.” That day, Tea Partyers joined union members and others in packing a House Industrial Relations Committee hearing on the bill. Debbie Dooley, whom Teamsters Local 728 political director Eric Robertson calls “the most well-known Tea Party activist in Georgia,” was among those testifying against the bill.
“Labor unions have First Amendment rights just like Tea Parties,” Dooley says. “I don’t see how you can say it’s OK for one group to go and protest in front of CNN but a labor union can’t.”
Her testimony, along with the Tea Party revolt, may have made a difference. The next day, the 35th day of Georgia’s 40-day legislative session, the Industrial Relations Committee canceled a planned vote on SB 469. There’s not much time left for the House to pass the measure. Dooley thinks, based on conversations with Republican legislators, SB 469 is already dead.
“They’re traditionally the Republicans’ allies,” says Flemming, and so if SB 469 is defeated, Tea Party opposition “might be the reason, and then again, it might just be the final straw.”
But labor is still aggressively lobbying to stop it. ”This is a test case,” says Robertson. If SB 469 passes, “they’re going to roll it out everywhere else.” He and Flemming say labor and the Tea Party have discussed working together to target Balfour and other SB 469 supporters in Republican primaries, though Dooley says “469 would not be one of our criteria” in determining which incumbents to oppose. And while Dooley notes that SB 469 is not the first time the Atlanta Tea Party has clashed with Republicans, the cooperation with labor does not signal the start of a long and happy friendship.
For starters, labor and the Tea Party opposed the bill for different reasons. Robertson sees a bill from “the corporate far right” that’s “designed to crush dissent and to mortally cripple the labor movement.” Certainly, labor is far more constrained in its right to picket than Occupy or Tea Party groups. Union members are bound by the 1947 Taft-Hartley Amendments to the National Labor Relations Act, which restrict what legal scholars call “secondary boycotts” pulling suppliers or customers into disputes. And when the Supreme Court affirmed that anti-gay activists are free to picket military funerals with signs that say “God Hates Fags,” it left untouched an earlier precedent excluding union picketing from the same protections. So union activists in Georgia see SB 469 as yet another attempt to tie their hands behind their backs.
Tea Party opposition does not run nearly as deep. Dooley says she wouldn’t object to banning protests in “strictly residential” neighborhoods, but the bill as written “would have affected a lot of our protests, because the language was so broad.” Another Tea Party leader, Virginia Galloway, the Georgia state director for Americans for Prosperity, says of the House, “If they would fix some of the details, we would have a good deal.”
Dooley also says she supports other recent union-busting actions like those against public workers’ collective-bargaining rights by Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin. “Any time taxpayer dollars are involved, I think there should be tighter restrictions.” But SB 469 is a reminder that labor rights are a First Amendment issue, not just the fiscal one that many conservatives have painted it to be. “This was within our core values,” Dooley says, “because it would limit our right to protest.”
"Bet Me" by Jennifer Crusie
"Welcome to Temptation" by Jennifer Crusie
Another of Crusie's romantic comedies, this one in the shadow of an ostentatiously phallic water tower. Read the whole essay.
"A Gentleman Undone" by Cecilia Grant
A Regency romance with beautifully broken people and some seriously steamy sex. Read the whole essay.
"Black Silk" by Judith Ivory
A beautifully written, exquisitely slow-building Regency; the plot is centered on a box with some very curious images, as Edward Gorey might say. Read the whole essay.
"For My Lady's Heart" by Laura Kinsale
A medieval romance, the period piece functions much like a dystopia, with the courageous lady and noble knight struggling to find happiness despite the authoritarian society. Read the whole essay.
"Sweet Disorder" by Rose Lerner
A Regency that uses the limitations on women of the time to good effect; the main character is poor and needs to sell her vote ... or rather her husband's vote. But to sell it, she needs to get a husband first ... Read the whole essay.
"Frenemy of the People" by Nora Olsen
Clarissa is sitting at an awards banquet when she suddenly realizes she likes pictures of Kimye for both Kim and Kanye and she is totally bi. So she texts to all her friends, "I am totally bi!" Drama and romance ensue ... but not quite with who she expects. I got an advanced copy of this YA lesbian romance, and I’d urge folks to reserve a copy; it’s a delight. Read the whole essay.
"The Slightest Provocation" by Pam Rosenthal
A separated couple works to reconcile against a background of political intrigue; sort of "His Gal Friday" as a spy novel set in the Regency. Read the whole essay.
"Again" by Kathleen Gilles Seidel
Set among workers on a period soap opera, it manages to be contemporary and historical both at the same time. Read the whole essay.