Saturday, August 23, 2003

ah c'mon guys. c'mon. c'mon. c'mon. c'mon. c'mon. c'mon. c'mon. 

The World has an excellent report on the wrangling at the UN on recruiting soldiers from around the world to Iraq.

crime pays, just not very well 

The new Ridley Scott film with Nicholas Cage and Sam Rockwell looks great.

chemical weapons don't kill people - people kill people 

From GNN:

A lawsuit on behalf of over 100,000 Gulf War veterans has the Bush administration on edge and businesses running for cover. The class action suit names 11 companies and 33 banks alleged to have helped Iraq with its chemical weapons program in the 1980's, despite knowledge Saddam Hussein was actively using WMD against both Iranians and his own people. At the time, Reagan's Middle East envoy was one Donald Rumsfeld, hard at work opening doors for Hussein's regime to purchase millions in aircraft, hardware and other potential weaponry...

these guys just disgust me 

Ted Rall gets the goods:

WorldCom is
...poised to land a $900 million Pentagon contract to build a cell phone system for occupied Iraq?

Indeed, WorldCom's MCI division never figured out how to build a cell network in the U.S., and ultimately gave up trying. But who needs experience when you have tasty political connections? Before 2000 WorldCom donated equally to Democrats and Republicans in order to land cell service contracts with U.S. occupation armies in Haiti, Kosovo and Afghanistan. Now it's leveraging a $45 million deal with the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) into a Halliburtonesque sweetheart contract to build the first national mobile phone network in Iraq, where more than 2 million new customers are expected to sign up right away.

The Pentagon's rush to protect WorldCom from a scrappy Bahraini-based competitor, Batelco, which has built cell networks in the Middle East, has exposed yet another unholy alliance between corporate America and the Bush Administration.
ites) contract to build a cell phone system

just what are those salutory effects on my pancreatic function 

Dr. Elizabeth Whelan gets it right in the National Review:

Our nation's laws regarding health claims are almost the mirror image of what they should be. Claims based on only the most preliminary (or nonexistent) evidence should not even tacitly be endorsed by the government and should be forbidden when they are found to be misleading and deceptive. At the same time, pharmaceutical companies should not be barred from sharing with physicians and the public data from peer-reviewed journals that point to health benefits of their drugs.

I believe that lack of regulation in the supplement market actually hurts the industry. Many skeptics would use supplements if they could get clear and verifible information on the health benefits.

tough questions, tough guy 

Timothy Lynch writes in the National Review:

The Patriot Act has been taking a pounding since it was enacted in the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks. It's a rare thing, after all, to have 120 American cities and towns declaring themselves to be "civil liberties safe zones" and for some localities to declare that their police departments will not assist the feds when it comes to enforcing the provisions of the Patriot Act. Attorney General John Ashcroft has apparently concluded that he had better shore up public support for the controversial law before the political situation gets even worse. This week, Ashcroft launched a speaking tour to tout the Patriot Act as an "essential" weapon in America's war against terrorists.

...Ashcroft is right that there has been too much politics and propaganda in the debate over security and civil liberties, but he is blowing his opportunity to elevate the discourse by skirting the tough issues. This is unfortunate because the threat posed by terrorism is not a short-term crisis, but a long-term security dilemma. The nagging questions about our recent lurch toward more surveillance and less privacy are not going to go away anytime soon. Here are a few questions that Ashcroft ought to be addressing on this speaking tour:

Mr. Ashcroft, you say that Congress passed the Patriot Act by an "overwhelming margin," but do you think the vote would have been different if legislators had known about your plans to hold terrorism suspects indefinitely and to prosecute others in military tribunals, instead of the civilian courts? You may recall that you announced those initiatives once the debate over the necessity of the Patriot proposal was over and the law was officially enacted.

Mr. Ashcroft, you say that 132 individuals have been convicted or pled guilty in your terrorism investigations, but there have been reports that federal prosecutors are making veiled threats — that if suspects fight the charges by pursuing a jury trial before an impartial judge, well, then, they'll be turned over to the U.S. military, where they will be held in solitary confinement indefinitely. Have you investigated these newspaper reports? Is such conduct by a federal prosecutor constitutional, legal, and ethical?

Mr. Ashcroft, in congressional testimony, you have claimed that federal law-enforcement agencies have been making steady "progress" in the war against terrorism. In support of that claim, you note that "more than 18,000 subpoenas and search warrants" have been executed. In other words, the federal government has threatened more than 18,000 people (citizen and noncitizen alike) with fines and imprisonment if they do not comply with government demands. My question is this: When you say that American soldiers have laid down their lives for the "cause of liberty," what do you mean by "liberty"? And do you expect your department will be making even more "progress" by executing more subpoenas and search warrants this year?

Mr. Ashcroft, you have said that if Congress were to "abandon the tools" of the Patriot Act, it would "senselessly imperil American lives and American liberty." As you know, the Patriot Act makes it a crime for anyone who has been served with a subpoena to speak to anyone about the matter. Writing to the local newspaper or placing a call to one's representative in Congress about such a subpoena would constitute a criminal offense. Are you saying that if the Congress were to revisit and abandon that "tool" and legalize speech about FBI subpoenas, that liberty would be imperiled?

Reasonable people can and will disagree about the proper scope of the government's surveillance powers in the post-9/11 environment, but the stakes need to be clearly understood — and that cannot happen when government officials employ doublespeak, such as by using the terms "liberty" and "coercion" as if they were interchangeable.

new leader in liberia 

From the New York Times:

MONROVIA, Liberia, Aug. 21 — Charles Gyude Bryant, the next leader of Liberia, appears never to have sought the job.

A successful businessman, a pillar of the Episcopal Church and, until today, a minor political figure in Liberia, Mr. Bryant emerged as a compromise figure during peace talks in the Accra, Ghana.

"I think we needed a neutralist," Mr. Bryant, 54, said today in a telephone interview. "The warring parties are too inflamed. There is too much anger among too many people. We need a cooling-off period.

...Mr. Bryant also has few known enemies, and that alone makes him a highly unusual man in Liberia.

Charles Gyude Bryant, whom most people here call Gyude (YOU-deh), was born on Jan. 17, 1949, in Monrovia. His family has roots in Maryland County, Liberia, one of the many places here with names that hark back to the nation's founding by freed American slaves in 1847. Unlike many of Liberia's elite, he is not descended from American ancestors, but from the indigenous Grebo ethnic group. He was awarded an undergraduate degree in economics at Cuttington University College in Monrovia in 1972, and two years later married his wife, Rosielee Williams, who works for United Airlines in the United States. They have three children. He runs a heavy-equipment company that has supplied much of the machinery that lies in ruins at Liberia's war-shattered port.

A first cousin, Anthony W. Deline II, chairman of the Liberian Mining Corporation, said, "He never wanted to be president, but he always wanted to be a leader."

The Very Rev. Jonathan B. B. Hart, the dean of Trinity Cathedral, where Mr. Bryant is chairman of the Episcopal Church of Liberia, said: "I never thought him to have political ambitions — I saw him more as a kingmaker — so I was surprised when I heard he was one of those being considered."

"He has the ability of decision-making" by consent, not fiat, Dean Hart said. "In the church we want decisions coming out of discussions, not unilateral decisions."

This seems like good news.

damn the torpedoes 

From the Washington Post:

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Howard Dean, who had planned to run as an insurgent on a shoestring, is adjusting his campaign to befit his new lot in life: the well-funded, emerging front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Recent polls show the former Vermont governor leading here and in Iowa, the first two stops on the road to the 2004 nomination, running strong in vote-rich California and surging nationally. To build on the momentum, Dean is expanding operations in key states such as Washington and Michigan, and increasingly reaching out to centrists by talking up balanced budgets and gun rights, an issue with broad appeal in key southern states.

...At the Rotary, Dean insisted he is tougher than Bush on national defense, even if he opposed the war in Iraq. He said he supported the Persian Gulf War, the attack on Afghanistan and, unlike Bush, wants to confront Saudi Arabia over its ties to terrorist groups. "Our oil money goes to the Saudis, where it is recycled and some of it is recycled to Hamas and two fundamentalist schools which teach small children to hate Americans, Christians and Jews," Dean said. "This president will not confront the Saudis."

He essentially agrees with Bush's peace efforts in the Middle East and limited U.S. military assistance to Liberia. Dean, like most Democrats, wants to internationalize the military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he would like to greatly increase the number of troops. "What we have to do is get out of this caricature that's been painted [of him] as an antiwar candidate," Trippi said.

...Many Democrats, led by presidential candidate Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (Conn.), argue that Dean would destroy the party's chances of winning a national election because he opposed the Iraq war, which feeds the notion Democrats are soft on defense, and is too liberal on social and spending issues.

I wish Lieberman would shut the hell up. We're better off driving the party off a cliff than into a ditch. I mean at this point, really.

isn't nice when things just work? 

the honda ad loads slowly
the unhonda ad

more from these freaks under: things to do in denver when your dead in the margin.

blair witchhunt project 

From the Guardian:

One of the prime minister's closest advisers issued a private warning that it would be wrong for Tony Blair to claim Iraq's banned weapons programme showed Saddam Hussein presented an "imminent threat" to the west or even his Arab neighbours...Downing Street chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, raised serious doubts about the nature of September's Downing Street dossier on Iraq's banned weapons.

"We will need to make it clear in launching the document that we do not claim that we have evidence that he is an imminent threat," Mr Powell wrote on September 17, a week before the document was finally published.

drowned zero 

The Bush administration has something of a hot potato on their hands with this EPA expose. "An EPA investigation says the White House pressured the agency to say the air quality at Ground Zero in NYC was safe." The headline for the CBS News report is: EPA : Pushed Lies. A quick scan of 40 or so news headlines on Google News doesn't turn up any thing that blunt, but they are fairly pointed. I wonder how this is going to play in middle America where people seem to believe that the White House mislead us on the reasons for going into Iraq but don't really seem to care. This won't penetrate so far that people really think hard about the President's values when he would put people at long term risk just to get Wall Street back open. But it will further cement an impression of him as a liar. It's going to make for a tough moment in a televised debate.

While we're on the subject, The Memory Hole has caught the White House retrofitting a headline on their website. ' When the White House published the text of and photos from Bush's speech announcing the supposed end of the Iraq attack, the headline read: "President Bush Announces Combat Operations in Iraq Have Ended." But on Tuesday, 19 Aug 2003, the Cursor website noticed that the headline had been changed to read: "President Bush Announces Major Combat Operations in Iraq Have Ended." The word "major" had been added. '

tell us what you really think 

As 2001 Nobel economics laureate George Akerlof said recently, in calling the administration "the worst government the US has ever had in its more than 200 years of history, "This is not normal government policy. What we have here is a form of looting."

"it's water." 

From the Guardian:

On the morning of the village party two girls in torn dresses scramble uphill heaving two dusty jerrycans full of a milky-grey liquid.
"It's water," explains eight-year-old Dorothy Nabatanzi, contemplating the brown rim of sludge around the mouth of her can.

Twice a day since she was small, Dorothy has left her thatched homestead in the village of Kisaaka, central Uganda, and set off down the hill to a forest clearing. There she has filled three 10-litre cans with water for her parents and eight brothers and sisters to wash in, cook with and drink. It was a simple task as there was only one water source within a mile - shared by 500 people and their cattle, pigs and goats.

A handful of hope

Ugandan villagers celebrate as they trade a disease-ridden pond for a 'miracle' £800 well

Angelique Chrisafis in Kisaaka, Uganda
Saturday August 23, 2003
The Guardian

On the morning of the village party two girls in torn dresses scramble uphill heaving two dusty jerrycans full of a milky-grey liquid.
"It's water," explains eight-year-old Dorothy Nabatanzi, contemplating the brown rim of sludge around the mouth of her can.

Twice a day since she was small, Dorothy has left her thatched homestead in the village of Kisaaka, central Uganda, and set off down the hill to a forest clearing. There she has filled three 10-litre cans with water for her parents and eight brothers and sisters to wash in, cook with and drink. It was a simple task as there was only one water source within a mile - shared by 500 people and their cattle, pigs and goats.

First, Dorothy would step carefully on to a log bridging the stagnant green pool. Then she would force a space between the thick algae, floating animal and human excrement, and hovering flies, and plunge her plastic cans into the cloudy water. If she dragged her hand through the water, it would emerge webbed with slime. If she looked hard at the pond's surface, she would see bubbles emerging from the mass of parasites breeding beneath. When her six- or seven-year-old friends felt thirsty, they would cup their hands and drink straight from the pond, straining the water through their dirty T-shirts so as not to swallow the lumps of weed.

Sometimes the children would see cattle led into the centre of the pool to lap up the water, defecating into it as they went. Nevertheless, it was the only place in the village to drink.

..."I know it is contaminated," shrugs Dorothy. "They told us at school it was unsafe and my mother likes to boil it first." But this can of murky water is the last Dorothy will draw. She will use it to wash for the grand celebration: the opening of the village's new well.

...Kisaaka shares an irony with most of central Uganda. There is a vast supply of water in the country's massive lakes and rivers, replenished during two rainy seasons, yet the people have no clean water to drink. Across the country more than 40% of the population are forced to sip from rancid, infected sources or die of thirst. The government admits that water must be its priority, but resources for well building are limited. In Mpigi district, which includes Kisaaka, only around a third of people have access to safe water - yet clear, clean water gushes through the rock beneath the soil.

Water is the new oil and this century's wars will be fought over it. The Guardian has a running series on it.

put that in your pipe and smoke it 

From the Guardian:

The Bush administration plans to open a huge loophole in America's air pollution laws, allowing an estimated 17,000 outdated power stations and factories to increase their carbon emissions with impunity. Critics of draft regulations due to be unveiled by the US environmental protection agency next week say they amount to a death knell for the Clean Air Act, the centrepiece of US regulation.

The rules could represent the biggest defeat for American environmentalists since the Bush administration abandoned the Kyoto Treaty on global warming two years ago. But the energy industry welcomed them, saying they were essential for maintaining coal-fired power stations.

Is there any problem on earth that can't be solved by making life easier for big republican campaign donors?

Liars, when they speak the truth, are not believed. 

From the Oregonian:

Loan Chiem's fortune will say: "You will be unusually successful in business."

She's working on it.

The 41-year-old Vietnamese-born transplant owns China Farm, one of Portland's two bakeries that specialize in making that most quintessential of American baked goods: the fortune cookie.

Kien Tran spends his days in the back of the factory growing bean sprouts from water-soaked mung beans. The beans fill bins that are hidden behind tarps in the dark to keep the sprouts a pristine white. Tran sells 1,000 pounds of sprouts each day.

But the heart of China Farm is not about bean sprouts.

It's all about the fortune.

Some are cryptic: "An imaginary illness is worse than a real one."

Some are reminders for ingrates: "You have so much to be thankful for."

Some imply dark secrets about you: "Liars, when they speak the truth, are not believed."

i can't live a lie 

I love WHAM!. I always have and I can't go on pretending that I don't.


accept no substitute.

Scientists say they have identified an ocean sponge living in the darkness of the deep sea that grows thin glass fibers capable of transmitting light at least as well as industrial fiber optic cables used for telecommunication.

The natural glass fibers also are much more flexible than manufactured fiber optic cable that can crack if bent too far.

"You can actually tie a knot in these natural biological fibers and they will not break - it's really quite amazing,"

Friday, August 22, 2003

word on the street 

Megan K. Stack writers in Common Dreams:

AMMAN, Jordan — The silence said the most: Aside from a chorus of official sympathy and condemnations, the devastation of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad drew barely a shiver on the Arab street and in the Middle Eastern media Wednesday.

In a shift made blazingly clear with the bombing, the United Nations' status has become so thoroughly degraded in the Arab world that many people here no longer draw a distinction between the international body and the United States. It has long been criticized as puny and has traditionally been mistrusted in these parts, but the U.N.'s inability to stop the war in Iraq has sowed new seeds of resentment.

"Didn't they see it coming?" Mohsen Farouk, a 36-year-old carpenter from Cairo, demanded. He decried the deaths of innocent people but insisted that nobody should be surprised. "It was just a matter of time," he said. "The U.N. is just a puppet of the U.S., and anyone who is angry with the U.S. is likely to consider the U.N. a target."

The hard-line Iranian newspaper Kayhan was even blunter. A front-page headline Wednesday read, "Destruction and Killing the Result of Bush's Policies in Iraq."

We're making real head way winning hearts and minds.

Thou shalt not be going to work today 

Chief Justice Roy Moore was suspended by a judicial ethics panel Friday for his refusal to obey a federal court order to remove his Ten Commandments monument from the Alabama Judicial Building rotunda.

Could we get a fifth grader to explain the concept of separation of church and state to this guy?

oh no 

Stephen Schwartz has a striking critique of Simon Haselock's career. Haselock has recently been appointed media commisioner in Iraq. He held the similar positions in in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo.

IN BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA, the stated mission of foreign media administrators embodied pure political correctness: It was to separate media from nationalist self-expression and political parties. This meant that although Bosnian Muslims felt they had survived a deliberate attempt at genocide, and while Serbs and Croats felt they had legitimate communal demands to put forward, their journalists were forbidden from dealing with these topics. The argument of the "internationals," as the foreigners in the Balkans love to style themselves, was that any such commentary would constitute hate speech and would incite further violence.

...Bosnian television, in particular, has been subjected to harsh exactions, including a stated policy that the country had "too many" stations. Foreign administrators did not notice that Bosnia is extremely mountainous and that local stations were the cheapest way to quickly establish a media system. Instead, vast sums of foreign pelf were strewn far and wide, with the goal of fostering "public broadcasting."

...But Kosovo also came up against the obsession of the foreign powers with the establishment of new media that would eschew any nationalist vocabulary and thus, allegedly, promote reconciliation between Albanians and Serbs--a will o' the wisp if there ever was one.

In both cases, Simon Haselock's job was, put bluntly, to cram these policies down the throats of local journalists, who remained resentful and reduced in their professional effectiveness in Sarajevo, and recalcitrant and rhetorically excitable (more about the foreigners than the Serbs) in Kosovo.

sometimes you guys actually make sense 

Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan write in the Weekly Standard:

We believe the President and his top advisers understand the magnitude of the task. That is why it is so baffling that, up until now, the Bush administration has failed to commit resources to the rebuilding of Iraq commensurate with these very high stakes. Certainly, American efforts in Iraq since the end of the war have not been a failure. And considering what might have gone wrong--and which so many critics predicted would go wrong--the results have been in many ways admirable.

...It is painfully obvious that there are too few American troops operating in Iraq. Senior military officials privately suggest that we need two more divisions. The simple fact is, right now there are too few good guys chasing the bad guys--hence the continuing sabotage. There are too few forces to patrol the Syrian and Iranian borders to prevent the infiltration of international terrorists trying to open a new front against the United States in Iraq. There are too few forces to protect vital infrastructure and public buildings. And contrary to what some say, more troops don't mean more casualties. More troops mean fewer casualties--both American and Iraqi.

The really bad news is that the Pentagon plans to draw down U.S. forces even further in coming months. Their hope is that U.S. forces will be replaced by new Iraqi forces and by an influx of allied troops from around the world. We fear this is wishful thinking. It seems unlikely that any Iraqi force capable of providing security will be in place by the spring. And as for the international community--never mind whether we could ever convince France and other countries to make a serious contribution. In truth, our European allies do not have that many troops to spare. And consider the possibly unfortunate effects of turning over the security of Iraqis to a patchwork of ill-prepared forces from elsewhere in the world.

...The same goes for the financial resources the administration has sought for Iraqi reconstruction. It is simply unconscionable that debilitating power shortages persist in Iraq, turning Iraqi public opinion against the United States. This is one of those problems that can be solved with enough money. And yet the money has not been made available. This is just the most disturbing example of a general pattern. The Iraqi economy needs an infusion of assistance, to build up infrastructure, to improve the daily lives of the Iraqi people, to put a little money in Iraqi pockets so that pessimism can turn to optimism. There has also been a stunning shortage of democracy assistance, at a time when, according to surveys taken by the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, Iraq is undergoing an explosion of political activity.

The American military is not alone in facing a shortage of people in Iraq. Everyone returning from Iraq comments on the astonishing lack of American civilians as well. Until recently, only a handful of State Department employees have been at work in Iraq. The State Department, we gather, has had a difficult time attracting volunteers to work in Iraq. This is understandable. But it is unacceptable.

I agree, except on internationalizing the military presence. International support should be used to bolster our presence in Iraq. We need the help and we need to move away from running Iraq as colony. The Weekly Standard crew opposes internationalizing the occupation for ideological reasons. I didn't think that we should have gone into Iraq but now that we are there we absolutely must suceed in rebuilding Iraq and Afghanistan.

i wouldn't have thought it possible 

but Jenny Jones' new hair cut makes look even dumber and more obtuse. The pictures don't do just to just how off it is.


From the AP:

Democrats and Republicans alike complain that the administration failed to anticipate the amount and sophistication of attacks in Iraq that have killed 131 U.S. soldiers since Bush, on May 1, declared an end to major combat there.

``I think we may have misled the American people by telling them basically that it was over,'' said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., on a fact-finding mission in Iraq. He said the hardest part is still ahead: trying to instill peace and democracy.

...Many experts think the United States and its allies need to put more troops into Iraq and Afghanistan to stem the violence and stabilize conditions. U.S. forces have failed to find Osama bin Laden despite a nearly two-year search and have failed to turn up Saddam Hussein.

``In both places we have not yet been able to establish a secure and stable environment that we need as a foundation for real reconstruction,'' said Michele Flournoy, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

But American forces already are stretched thin by commitments around the world. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Wednesday there are no immediate plans to bolster troops levels in Iraq. Similarly, no increase is in the works for Afghanistan.

This isn't causing Bush political problems yet. But it will. We really need help in Iraq and Afghanistan.

from fox news 

NEW YORK — A federal judge on Friday denied Fox News Channel's request for an injunction to block humorist Al Franken's (search) new book, which uses the Fox slogan "fair and balanced." U.S. District Judge Denny Chin said Fox's claim was "without merit, both factually and legally."

dispatch from a swing state 

From the Oregonian:

If President George W. Bush wants Oregon, he'll need the help of Elsie Kassner and hundreds like her. Kassner, a Beaverton Republican, voted for Bush in 2000, part of the Oregon groundswell that almost gave him an upset victory over Democrat Al Gore. But now, with U.S. soldiers still dying in Iraq, she's not so sure.

"I think he jumped the gun too fast to get us in the mess we're in in Iraq," said Kassner, who is retired and votes every chance she gets.

Kassner's suburban vote could become a critical factor in the presidential race, which kicks off in Oregon today with a visit from Bush.

...Despite its puny seven electoral votes, Oregon has joined an elite group of states considered key battlegrounds in deciding who wins the White House next year.

Bush's campaign knows that, which is one of the reasons he's starting his campaign early in a state he lost last year by a scant 7,000 votes out of more than 1.5 million cast.

Democrats know it, too. "What I hear, Oregon is in the top five states that are 'in play,' " said Jim Edmunson, chairman of the state Democratic Party. That means, Edmunson admits, that the state has fallen into the up-for-grabs category instead of remaining a safe bastion for the left. Some analysts say there are only 30 to 35 toss-up electoral votes -- including Oregon's -- out of 538 nationally.

...They hope to maintain the momentum they started three years ago. But they face a new set of obstacles, from a sour economy that hit Oregon harder than the rest of the nation to a ballot that won't have Green Party populist Ralph Nader on it to siphon off precious Democratic votes.

...Currently, registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 722,615 to 673,088, according to the latest figures published by the state Elections Division. During the 2000 election, the spread was bigger, about 742,000 to 673,000.

..."It's going to turn on Bush's performance and who the Democrats decide to nominate," he said. Those attractive swing voters in the suburbs tend to be "greener" on the environment than Bush but more fiscally conservative that most Democrats, he said. "Neither party has that figured out."

Excuse me. Howard Dean is greener than the President and more fiscally conservative. And with the work, America Coming Together, the AFL-CIO putting serious resources into swing states we're going to have a real race on our hands.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

bear witness 

Raw footage of the bombing of the UN building in Baghdad from CBS News is absolutely horrifying. It is important to watch and let it sink in that this is what George Bush dragged us into. Because this is exactly what you would expect to be happening now.

Bring'em on, indeed.

Thanks to Josh at Talking Points Memo for picking up on the footage.


Wrapping up this week's Blogonaut Labor News Roundup:

Andy Stern, president of SEIU was on C-Span to talk about America Coming Together. This goup has been formed to export labor's successful grassroots GOTV and issue education to a larger group.

With funding from George Soros, Labor and others so far they have raised 35 million out of a goal of 75 million dollars.

Founding leaders include Ellen Malcolm of Emily's List and Carl Polk of the Sierra Club.

They are setting up operations in 17 swing states.

Already they have registered almost 100,000 black voters in Philadelphia. + America Coming Together + Howard Dean could add up to a formidible grassroots campaign.

why are you shouting? 

I was about half way through writing this post when my computer crashed and I lost my work. It was really hard not to employ a little apelogic to address the situation.

I just finished watching the AFL-CIO's Democratic Candidates Forum on CSpan.


Let's get the marginal candidates out of the way first:

Carol Moseley Braun is just too trivial to discuss.

Every time Dennis Kucinich spoke, I couldn't help but think of the character of Ralph Crispi (fascist smearmonger) running for student body president in Diane Keaton's film Unstrung Heroes. This angry bantam of a candidate has two formidible superpowers. The first is the ability to take only an absolutely principled position on any given issue. The other, more unfortunate, superpower is the ability to make reasonable positions (even those I agree with) sound like the ravings of a bonafide kook. Even the moderator, NPR's Bob Edwards couldn't help but poke fun of him. He did however, make a few points that I think will stick with people and therefore shift the debate somewhat. The first was that we spend 1.4 trillion dollars a year on healthcare. We are paying for universal single payer healthcare but we aren't getting it. The second was that Social Security is secure through 2041 and the Bush administration is simply trying to scare people into privatizing it.

Joe Lieberman has two physical problems that bar him from being elected president. He has lines around his mouth that tell of a life spent pursing his lips in disgust at the foolishness of the rest of us and how can I say this? ... Joe, uh, Willy Wonka called and he wants his hairdo back. Furthermore, he was the only candidate to get booed at this forum. He was booed for cautiously supporting school vouchers. He wants a program of three or four years, where poor children are given vouchers from a federal fund and then the merits of the program are to be evaluated. He didn't get any slack for these qualifications. He just got booed. Union households accounted for 26% of voters in the last election. Labor is exporting it's persuasion and GOTV program to other progressive groups. There is just is no way that a Democratic candidate for president has a prayer of winning either the general or the open election if they are getting openly booed by labor.

I think that John Edwards campaign for the Presidency in 2012 is going well. He is going to have to tone down his drawl, but there is plenty of time for that. He gave a solid performance here. He could have spent less time on his family's textile mill background and more time on policy specifics. His strongest moment came when asked about his position on Right to Work laws, given that is the only candidate from a Right to Work state. He shot back that (along with Dennis Kucinich) he has the best AFL voting record in Congress. His support of labor is clearly principled. More tepid support would be more politically expedient.

Al Sharpton may not have picked up any new support among the brass, but I have to believe that he picked up some support in the crowd. He scored points a few times, not the least of which was when he blamed his tardiness on a non-union cab driver. He scored on the over time question saying that the Administration is distracting us with a debate over how many people will be hurt by their proposal. He scored again, joking in an easy manner that he thought they weren't going to get nasty until September. He got the biggest response of the evening when he said that we have " an attorney general who can't find corporate greed but can investigate every union leader in the country." He won hearts when he complained that the Democratic Party can't continue to treat Labor as a special interest but realize that "it is THE interest of the Party, the family of the Party. You can't have Labor over here and Civil Rights over here..."

Bob Graham has no chance of winning or even moving the debate.

The Players:

The first time I watched the forum, I felt that John Kerry was the big winner and he may have been, although Dean looked better on a second viewing. Kerry is a better candidate than I had thought. He connected a few times. His time spent stumping with NYC public employees has paid off. He connected saying that we shouldn't be building firehouses in Baghdad when we are closing them in the US. ( I don't like the jingoistic tinge. Reasonable people can disagree over the level of need in any given US community over how much resources should go to fire fighting but we absolutely must work to rebuild Iraq with all the vigor and resource we can muster.) He connected again on those themes in his closing remarks, thundering that he couldn't wait to remind George Bush in a debate that the heroes of 9/11 were union members who belived in the right to collective bargaining, the right to strike, etc. He hit the right notes on trade (no rush to the bottom), healthcare (universal coverage, $1000 tax rebate, Federal catastrophic coverage - a little convoluted but any reform other than single payer is goin to be) and then scored the second biggest response of the evening when he addressed retirement security. When asked if he favored expensing stock options in executive compensation, he said he would. He then went on to recount two example's ( Honeywell and Lucent) of monumental executive compensation in the face of plummetting stock prices, massive layoffs and raiding of employees retirement's. "This is trickle down economics and I think that every worker in America is tired of being trickled on by George Bush" Big cheers.

The big loser of the evening was suprisingly, labor darling Dick Gephardt. Despite saying the right things, he never really connected with the audience. Even when he bragged that he fought Clinton on NAFTA, he had just seconds earlier praised Clinton's economic record looking for a big applause beat, and so just came off as confused about how he felt about Bill Clinton instead of clear about where he stood on worker's interests. His best idea of the evening was a Teacher Corps where the Feds would pay off college loans in exchange for spending a few years in targetted crisis schools. I think I'm the only one who is excited by the idea. The audience couldn't care less. Gephardt didn't make any mistakes, but he just seemed too comfortable, too grooved with this crowd to seem real. He showed off that he knew what color t-shirts AFSCME and SEIU members wear and made a crack about Bush being the Houdini of economics that he thought was really clever and would get a big response but it didn't. Gephardt needed to rock the house here and he just didn't. I may be misreading it because I think the last thing we need is the Dead Hand of DH in this election, but I think his adequate showing was a net loss.

Howard Dean was nervous on his first question and his syntax was subsequently tortured. It's too bad, because he had a powerful message on health care when he roared that we should join Britain, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Canada and even Costa Rica in having universal coverage. He is proposing the same program that is already working in Vermont and thus comes across and credible and common sensical on the issue. He beat everyone to the punch and may have scored the most important (in labor circles) if subtlest point of the evening when he proposed card check recognition and an ending to mandatory private management meetings in new union organizing drives as a way of securing pensions. After being asked how he would secure pensions, he said he would end private oversight of pensions making them public would create accountability and make them portable as well. Then he spoke of a Walmart employee who was fired for attending a UFCW conference in San Francisco and tied Labor's right to organize to pension security for all. None of the other candidates spoke of union security issues until the end when it was put to them as a special interest question. When asked specifically about union security issues at the end he spoke about Vermont: a minimum wage that will soon go to $7, mini Davis Bacon, prevailing wage. He had a 100% AFL voting record as Governor and was awarded the first Wellstone award by the AFL for helping nurses in the nation's largest hospital to organize. In his closing statement he put the question to the crowd of who could beat George Bush. He said that he could win by distinguishing himself from Bush not imitating him. He talked about the 93,000 people who donated to his campaign, most in amounts of less than $100 many giving to a political campaign for the first time. He closed shouting that "this time the candidate who gets the most votes is going to win the election!" The crowd went nuts and Dean couldn't help but grin like an idiot, he was so pleased with himself for nailing the line.

Score out of ten:

Kerry 8.6
Dean 8.2
Gephardt 6.8
Edwards 7.5
Sharpton 7.5
Everyone else NA

My question to candidates is who can get me the phone number of Janella Hinds the super cute school teacher from Brooklyn that was featured in the AFL's video of workers asking the candidates questions.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

why not 


Aug. 18 — Union labor is increasingly seeking work on construction projects in the suburbs, where union labor is typically the exception rather than the rule. Residential construction appears to be the main target of union efforts, although commercial work is also sought after. While union labor has a presence in commercial and industrial work throughout the suburban counties, some construction companies report unions have been more "proactive" in trying to expand the number of jobs they are on. No one keeps data that would show whether union labor, commonly used in Philadelphia, is gaining additional work in the suburbs. However, anecdotal evidence indicates more is being done to get organized labor on suburban job sites.

i hate to break this to you, gray 

From the San Diego Union Tribune:

SACRAMENTO – Organized labor's attempt to reserve all of its political firepower for Gov. Gray Davis in the recall campaign began to crumble Monday when three major unions endorsed Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante as an alternative candidate.

The California State Employees Association, followed by the Association of Highway Patrolmen, said they will embrace Bustamante's campaign theme, urging their members and the public to oppose the recall but vote for Bustamante should Davis be removed. The carpenters' union simply endorsed Bustamante.

They are the first to abandon labor's call to coalesce behind the embattled Democratic governor as the best stategy against the recall. Several more powerful unions also are openly pondering spreading their support around.

the ol' gissel remedy 

From the Northwest Labor Press:

A year-long anti-union campaign by company owner Rob Boydstun reaped its intended result on July 31: Workers at his Boydstun Metal Works, a North Portland manufacturer of auto transport trailers, voted 89-to-42 not to join Sheet Metal Workers Local 16.

The problem is, union organizers allege, the company so completely violated workers’ rights that it’s hard to accept the results of the election. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) had already tossed out two prior votes at Boydstun within the last 14 months, ordering new elections each time. Agency investigations found that the company’s violations of labor law disturbed “laboratory” conditions that are necessary to determine whether employees really wanted a union.

...So the union is seeking what is known as a “Gissel” bargaining order — a direct order by the NLRB to recognize the union, and bargain a contract. That remedy, first ordered in the case of NLRB v. Gissel Packing Co. in 1969, is sometimes imposed where unions have lost an election even though before the election a majority of workers had signed cards saying they wanted a union. To impose such an order, the NLRB has to determine that an employer’s unfair labor practices are so pervasive that there is little or no possibility of holding a fair election at any point in the immediate future.

Among their charges, they allege that company owner, managers or supervisors:

• Told employees that if they voted for the union they would lose their jobs, be laid off, or suffer a cut in pay;

• Conducted surveillance of pro-union employees attending pro-union meetings outside the workplace;

• Conducted a de facto “poll” of employees by giving them anti-union buttons and T-shirts and pressuring them to wear them;

• Discriminated against pro-union employees;

• Told workers, in mandatory-attendance meetings, that bargaining would be futile and a strike inevitable; and

• Told employees that they would be released from work early and paid a full day’s wages if they voted.

This is why labor law reform is so crucial to organized labor's continued existence.

From the Norhtwest Labor Press:

SALEM — Oregon workers and their families, frustrated by months of unemployment and angered by recent abuses of state-subsidized enterprise zone laws that allow out-of-state workers to take Oregon jobs, took their message to lawmakers at the State Capitol Aug. 5.

Several-hundred laid-off construction workers came to the State Capitol with a simple message: “Hire Oregon First!”

The rally was triggered by Georgia-Pacific’s use of a non-union contractor who imported low-wage, out-of-state workers to install new machinery for a plant expansion at its Wauna mill in Columbia County. The expansion was made possible through a multi-million-dollar tax break from the state.

“When a company comes to our state and asks our elected officials for tax breaks and other perks in exchange for locating in Oregon, we need to make sure that taxpayers aren’t getting the shaft,” said Grant Zadow, business manager of Portland-based Electrical Workers Local 48, which is experiencing nearly 40 percent unemployment. “We’re here to send a message that we’re not going to put up with it anymore. The people who work at the Wauna mill job don’t vote. But we do vote!”


From Newsday:

A new flight attendant at Southwest makes about $14,000 per year.

that's so crazy it might just work 

From the LA Times:

According to myth, unions were more or less "legislated" into existence, not arriving on the scene until after a New Deal Congress passed a series of benevolent laws to ease the way. The first law came in 1935; the National Labor Relations Act — popularly known as the Wagner Act — established the National Labor Relations Board and guaranteed unions the right to organize, strike and collectively bargain. It was followed by the Fair Labor Standards (1938), Taft-Hartley (1947) and Landrum-Griffin (1959) acts.

In truth, however, unions had been taking their cow to market — actively organizing and bargaining — for more than 100 years before any major legislation. Boston carpenters had gone on strike for a 10-hour day as far back as 1825. In 1835, mill workers in Paterson, N.J., successfully struck for the 11-hour-day/six-day week.

...the government's "protective" legislation did leave its indelible mark. In one swift stroke, the Wagner Act co-opted the labor movement, placing its holy trinity (organizing, bargaining, striking) under federal statutory control for the first time in history.

One doesn't need an AFL-CIO decoder ring to recognize that by removing labor disputes from the factory floor and placing them in the venue of the courts, the NLRB shifted advantage to the side with the most resources and most to gain by using stalling tactics. Nothing has been the same since.

Today, although Canadian and European workers are free to join unions simply by signing membership cards, American workers, astonishingly, must petition their government for permission. The bureaucratic thicket created by Taft-Hartley (passed by a Republican Congress over President Truman's veto) — with applications, hearings and company challenges requiring as long as a year to process — has made becoming a union member nearly as difficult as becoming a U.S. citizen.

...In 1913, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said, "Labor cannot on any terms surrender its right to strike."

If Congress were committed to leveling the playing field, we would already have laws on the books, like those in Canada and Europe, making it illegal for striking workers to be permanently replaced by scabs. Realistically, what economic leverage do workers have when voting to go on strike is tantamount to giving up their jobs?

A bold proposal: Let us repeal Taft-Hartley and the minimum wage and allow labor to compete in a "free market." If joining (or withdrawing from) a union makes sense, then workers should be permitted to make that decision without government interference.

Conversely, if unions are exposed as the obsolete, parasitic institutions they're portrayed to be, then so be it; allow them to follow the dinosaur and Model T into extinction. But it should be the American worker — not Big Brother — who decides.

This is a really bad idea, but the motivation driving it is right on the mark.

rope a dope 

From the Village Voice:

The toughest labor showdown in America this year has been the one between Verizon and its unions, and when contracts expired the first weekend in August the company left no doubt that its negotiating stance was to be one of scorched earth.

Some 30,000 potential replacement workers—in union parlance, scabs—were recruited to take over the moment phone company workers walked off the job at 12:01 a.m., Sunday, August 3. The company's wartime propaganda machine went into high gear, offering conflicting explanations to different audiences. To win broad public support, the company blanketed cable and airwaves with slick television ads, promoting a vision of Verizon's benevolent personnel policies. The message here was that Verizon employees work in a safe cocoon of health benefits and job security. The ads depicted a folksy exchange between neighbors at a local diner talking about an ailing telephone worker, lucky enough—even if the ingrate didn't know it—to enjoy the company's fuller coverage. "He's got it good," one diner says. "Great medical, lots of vacation."

A dramatically different message was beamed to Verizon investors. This one communicated that the company was poised to shave its contributions to that vaunted health care coverage, win the right to lay off employees as it saw fit, and perhaps most importantly, to gain the same flexibility as its non-union competitors in transferring jobs and tasks around the country as necessary. "We have to be flexible to be able to compete," was the mantra repeatedly droned by company spokespeople. Regardless of the costs of the looming battle with its employees, this message went, the result would be a leaner, more agile, and more profitable firm, one capable of soaring to new heights in the telecommunications industry.

...Instead of walking out, the phone company unions went into a labor version of rope-a-dope, the brilliant Muhammad Ali boxing tactic of covering up and burrowing down while your opponent uselessly flails about, unable to land a solid blow. Replacement workers remained holed up in their hotels, representing a hefty added payroll as regular union workers went about their normal routines.

At contract deadline time, both sides agreed to stop the clock, saying publicly that sufficient progress was being made. But there was also another rationale: a jujitsu-style union strategy aimed at using the company's own awesome pre-strike preparations against it.

"We didn't stay at the table because we thought we were close to a deal," said one union leader last week. "We chose to stay because the company was totally geared up for a strike and had expended millions. There were tens of thousands of management people flown in, most of them from Verizon West. This totally shocked them."

... the tactic of the CWA, along with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the other key union in the company's 78,000-member workforce, became one of guerrilla war: members staying on the job while carrying out mini-actions, demonstrations, and rallies designed to keep the pressure on management.

you don't want to mess up a $10,000 dress 

From Newsday:

Leaning together over a sewing table, two men thoughtfully ran their hands over the folds of a red silk brocade so precious that it cost $500 a yard.

"Look, it takes 45 minutes to put in the zipper," said Lutfi Aydin, whose factory was making 40 cocktail dresses from the fabric. He traced his finger along a row of even stitches, explaining how difficult it was to line up the pattern of the brocade on either side. "That's OK. We expected that," said Luis Torero, a pattern maker for Oscar de la Renta, the designer of the dress. "It has to be perfect."

In an era when most clothing is manufactured abroad, Torero had left the designer's showroom on Seventh Avenue and dashed through a quick summer shower to visit this factory a half a block away. Why go to the trouble? "It's important to follow the whole process," Torero said. Or as Maria Bozzone, a seamstress working at the next table, put it: "You don't want to mess up a $10,000 dress." Or even the red dress, which sells for $3,800.

Once, such careful, across-the-street management was commonplace in New York City's garment industry. But these days, it's a rare piece of clothing that's both designed and made in New York. A generation ago, and a generation before that, the garment center in midtown clattered with the rhythm of countless sewing machines, turning designers' creations into the dresses and suits, pants and shirts that clothed Americans of every class. Today, most Americans imported clothes, and most fashion companies fax instructions across oceans, to lower-cost factories in Asia or Central America.

That leaves fewer fashion houses manufacturing in New York, and those that do are likely to make specialized items in smaller numbers - short runs, the industry calls them. There are top designers, like Oscar de la Renta, known for high quality, careful workmanship and customers willing to pay for both. Or trendier boutique companies, like Nicole Miller, seeking flexibility and quick turnaround times to speed the latest fashion trends to market. Or young designers who don't yet sell enough to justify shipping from abroad.

...Still, these sorts of niche markets can't stem the overall loss of manufacturing jobs. And many expect domestic manufacturing to decline further after December 2004, when trade agreements will allow more imports from China.

Bruce Rayner (sic), president of UNITE, the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees, argues that while garment work may not be high- paying, it makes an important contribution to the city economy. "There's a whole section of our population that needs these jobs," he said.

The union would like city and state governments to assign more uniform contracts to local producers. And it opposes zoning changes proposed by the city that would promote West Side development by allowing more non-manufacturing buildings. Some industry leaders joined the union in criticizing Mayor Michael Bloomberg for not making it a priority to save garment jobs.

The city is doing what it can, said Daniel Doctoroff, deputy mayor for economic development. Garment makers, he said, qualify for a range of government programs that help small businesses or manufacturers with matters like taxes, energy rates or financing. And he estimated that rezoning would affect only 300 jobs in the industry.

"I don't think it's dying, but it is changing," said Doctoroff. "There are global forces under way," he said, that affect not

Monday, August 18, 2003

i'm not really comfortable leaving it up to ideologues when it's a matter of safety 

From the Washington Post:

After years of labor peace under a friendly Democratic administration, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association has chosen to take on the Bush administration over whether the Federal Aviation Administration can continue to contract out control towers at some smaller airports.

At first glance the boisterous duel seems to be over whether to continue unchanged a program that the union once tolerated. But beneath the surface, it represents a decision by the union and Senate Democrats to use the issue as a battleground for the Republican philosophy of privatizing functions now handled by government employees.

...At issue is a program begun years ago to help smaller airports acquire control towers without going through a laborious process that could make them too expensive. Instead, a tower could be opened with nongovernment controllers, often lower-paid and sometimes part-time workers who were usually retired military or FAA controllers.

Currently, 219 towers are contracted out, and by law another 71 are eligible to be contracted out, although Blakey said that only a small number of those are likely to be included in the contract tower program.

...Blakey said in a letter to controllers that for something to be inherently governmental, it must involve a function that "binds the government to a particular course of action," and air traffic control "does not meet this stringent definition." But she said the administration has no intention of privatizing air traffic control. Carr said Blakey always hedges her comments with modifiers such as "significant" contracting out, or "widespread" privatization.

"She's too clever by half," he said.

From the NY Times:

WASHINGTON, Aug. 13 — Airport and airline officials today gave strong support to a bill that would allow the Federal Aviation Administration to contract out the jobs of more than 2,000 controllers, saying the move would save money without harming safety.

The bill, which would authorize $60 billion in spending by the aviation administration over the next four years, also provides money needed for war risk insurance, security improvements and air traffic control modernizations, according to James C. May, the president and chief executive of the Air Transport Association, the airline trade group.

Unions representing air traffic controllers, some of whose jobs could be contracted out to private companies under the bill, have been lobbying to defeat it. Supporters of the controllers also said they would seek an extension of the current authorization, which expires on Sept. 30.

The new bill, now in the form of a conference report reconciling differing House and Senate versions, would permit the aviation agency to contract out about 2,000 jobs of controllers who work in Flight Service Stations, offices that do not direct traffic, but provide briefings, mostly to private pilots, on weather and temporary airspace restrictions.

...Supporters of the bill say the number of jobs to be contracted out is small. "The unions that oppose this conference report are using the old Washington trick of dressing up a sheep in wolf's clothing, and selling a fear of wolves," said Charles Barclay, president of the American Association of Airport Executives. "This is hardly the description of a privatization wolf," he said. He spoke at a news conference called to support the bill.

But John Carr, the president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, called the bill more than a case of a camel getting its nose into the tent. "It's the camel sitting in the tent, having a mai tai, and you're paying for it," he said.

tell me how you feel about ethanol 

From the Dallas Morning News:

WATERLOO, Iowa – Robin Armstrong and his union comrades aren't as big in the economy as they used to be, but their political pull is as strong as ever, especially among Democrats in Iowa.

"Look at the numbers – we turn out to vote," said the Des Moines forklift operator as he and other AFL-CIO members mingled with a half-dozen Democratic presidential aspirants. "These guys know it." They know numbers like these: Although union membership slipped to less than 14 percent of the workforce, it accounted for 26 percent of the electorate in the 2000 presidential electorate. And earlier that year, unions supplied a third of those who attended the Iowa caucuses, launching Al Gore to the Democratic presidential nomination.

So it's no wonder Democratic presidential candidates trooped to downtown Waterloo to discuss jobs, health care and trade policy at the Iowa Federation of Labor's 47th annual convention.

...Mr. Gephardt has also fallen into a dead heat with another labor-loving Democrat, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, at least according to a recent poll in the Des Moines Register.

dolores huerta 

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

Dolores Huerta stopped in at United Farm Workers headquarters in Keene on Wednesday morning, on the way from her home in Bakersfield to a funeral in Los Angeles. Tonight she will attend a fund-raiser in San Francisco for her newly launched Dolores Huerta Foundation, which aims to train a new generation of community organizers to tackle the problems facing immigrants, women and the poor.

Huerta, a legendary labor organizer and co-founder with Cesar Chavez of the United Farm Workers Union, has not slowed down, despite her 73 years and a near-fatal aneurysm three years ago.

She rallied farmworkers in upstate New York in May and encouraged the organizing efforts of grocery clerks at Berkeley Bowl in June. Last summer, she marched 165 miles in 100 degree heat from Merced to Sacramento to convince the governor to sign a bill granting farmworkers increased bargaining power. "Every time in the past two years that I've asked her to come march with janitors and nursing home workers, she has been there in a minute," said Fred Ross Jr., who is strategic campaign director for the Service Employees International Union.

...Huerta was awarded $100,000 last year by the Nation Institute and the Puffin Foundation for her lifetime of "creative citizenship." She promptly turned the prize into seed money for her foundation to train young people in the "brick by brick" organizing techniques she learned the 1950s from Ross' father, Fred Ross Sr. "Especially among new immigrants, we have such a need for organization," said Huerta. "'The (foundation) is to show people that they're not helpless. They do have power."

About ten years ago when I lived in Atlanta, I was out of town working as an organizer on a campaign for Ron Carey's Teamster's. A friend called me and asked if it was alright if Dolores Huerta used my bed since I wasn't using it. "Sure" and I sped back to Atlanta to drop off the keys, hoping I'd get a chance to meet her. I didn't but when I got home I found two books had been taken off my shelf: Borges' "Ficciones" and a book on Mexican Anarcho-Syndicalism in the 20's.

That was the kind of union the UFW is. In her 60's travelling the country she would borrow a bed or couch rather than spend her member's dues on a hotel room. I put up a UFW for three months around that same time. When I was on the road he had my bed and when I was in town on the weekends he slept on the floor. He lived on the same $10 a week that Cesar Chavez got until he died in '93. He ate nothing but rice and beans and reading my books was his only diversion. Then he busted in roadblock for possesion of crack, which had to be a set up.

electronic picket 

From Newsday:

Mark Harrington

August 14, 2003

Intent on pressuring Verizon Communications Inc. as formal contract talks stalled, unions representing 79,000 Verizon workers received further pledges of support yesterday from labor groups planning to organize a customer boycott.

The New York Central Labor Council, a regional chapter of the AFL-CIO, has joined more than 100 other groups pledging support for an effort to encourage as many as 3.5 million consumers to prepare to switch their phone service from Verizon to AT&T Corp. as contract talks with unionized employees linger on. Bob Master, political and legislative director of the Communications Workers of America's District 1 office in Manhattan, said there were no formal talks between unions and Verizon yesterday, and none are expected today. The reason, he said, is that the unions are awaiting answers on questions relating to job security.

As the talks bog down, unions are hoping to pressure the company to offer favorable contract terms through the plan to collect names of customers who will pledge to switch to AT&T, though they've not asked anyone to switch just yet


From the American Spectator:

It's remarkable what the Democratic presidential candidates will endure for an endorsement -- apparently ever sort of indignity. In order for Andy Stern's Service Employees International Union to make an endorsement, its boss has designed what has to be the most arduous process in organized labor history.

First, Stern asked all the candidates to agree to allow a young filmmaker to accompany all prospective candidates and film them unfettered for hours on end while on the road. Then, once the filming is completed, the filmmakers will produce an extended documentary in the hopes of revealing unguarded moments that will give union officials some insight into the men they may be supporting. After the world premiere of these films, the union will organize small to medium sized gatherings of between 100 and 500 union members and ask each candidate to attend one and spend between three and four hours socializing with these blue-collar folks. Stern apparently calls this "hang time" and believes that these socials will also give union members a true sense of the men who want their support. After all that, each candidate will again go through the normal debate and vetting process and attend various union functions hat in hand, groveling for an endorsement.

i'm not afraid to use the L word 

I absolutely love this spot from the Sci Fi Channel.

the last refuge 

Last week I was thinking about how strange it is that school children say the Pledge of Allegience every morning. It seems so alien to me. Surprising, considering that I did it too 180 days a year for twelve years. It just seems at least mildly fascistic. But mostly just odd. I thought about how weird it would have been if I had become a school teacher and had to lead my class every morning in the Pledge. I had to wonder if I would take issue with doing that. All these thoughts seemed slightly unpatriotic. When you've turned into the cynical, ironic kind of a-hole that I have, it can be hard to get in touch with your own bad patriotic self. These days especially when the Ashcroft posse seems hell bent on turning Dr. Johnson's dictum that "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel" into a moral imperative.

Then on Saturday Prairie Home Companion rebroadcast a show which featured Mark O'Connor playing America the Beautiful on fiddle and I just got all choked up. If I hadn't been at work I would have cried. It bought me back to running around as kid with our pants rolled up to our knees and our white tube socks pulled up to look like the knickers and stocking of the Sons of Liberty. It brought me back to standing with thousands of people in the bleachers of Fenway with my hand over my heart just like Yaz and Pudge, George "Boomer" Scott and Luis Tiant. It brought me back to seeing the Liberty Bell (or a replica?) zoom by on the Freedom Train on the train tracks next to my school house in 1975 when I was in second grade(it really was a school house, the Westford School Board sold to the local cable company for their offices). It brought me back to finding a rusty square nail in the grass at Valley Forge and Ben Franklin's grave in Boston, the Lexington Green and the bridge at Concord. I was eight years old for the Bicentennial and growing up in Massachusetts the lives of Paul Revere, Sam Adams, Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin, Johnny Tremain, Francis Marion, George Washington, John Hancock, Thomas Jefferson could not have been more real to me.

I almost forgot just how much contempt I had for King George.

* fast forward to 18 mins

that's just great 

Why does this seem so quintessentially "Microsoft"? It makes Open Office look a little less annoying. Credit goes to Instapundit for picking this up.

israel and palestine 

Saturday I was thinking that now that I'm started doing this blog, it's time to end my willful ignorance about the Israel / Palestine conflict. It's always seemed to me that neither side really has any interest in ending the conflict so it isn't worth my time and energy to understand either sides position. Well, no more. I decided that it's cowardly not to cover the conflict in Blogomaut. I pledged to myself that I'm going to make a concerted effort to understand the situation and start looking for and posting the most substansive coverage and analysis I can find.

The next day On the Media dropped two excellent reports right in my lap. The first is on the difficulties that reporters encounter when they try to cover Israel and Palestine."02:06.5" &end= "12:37.2"

Then they ask asks Rashid Khalidi, Director of the Center of International Studies and Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Chicago and Gary Rosenblatt, Editor and Publisher of the Jewish Week, to respond to Rick Davis' report on covering the Middle East."13:55.0"&end="19:37.0"

For technical reasons, I can't post these as hot links. You'll have to copy and paste them into your browser. My apologies.

Then these photos dropped in my lap. Not the substantive reporting I'm looking for but, striking nonetheless.

Sunday, August 17, 2003

sunday supplement 

In the Blogonaut Sunday Supplement we are pleased to offer:

A profile of arms dealer Victor Bout
by Peter Landesman from the New York Times Magazine
Printer friendly version

Thoughtful analysis on the military formulating and implementing US foreign policy in the field tempered with scary imperialist nonsense.
by Robert Kaplan from the Atlantic
Printer friendly version

For decades, Yale's voice of architecture wasn't an architect.
By Paul Goldberger from Metropolis

Film school isn't what it used to be, one father discovers.
by David Weddle from the Los Angeles Times Magazine

A collection of cartoons about the family from the New Yorker archive

James Lileks: The Bleat

Don't forget to read the comics down in the left margin.

friends, today miles massey is here to tell you that: 

love need cause us no fear.
love need cause us no shame.

New from the Coen Brothers.

activist profile 

From the Portland Mercury:

A Conversation with Medea Benjamin

Medea Benjamin is seemingly tireless, as both a leader in the anti-war movement and as a human rights activist. Among countless years of work and action in the US and abroad, she co-founded the 15-year-old international human rights organization Global Exchange--which promotes global, civil, political, social, and economic rights and fair trade. In 2000, she ran for US Senate, strengthening the Green Party presence in California. More recently, she co-founded Code Pink: Women for Peace, an organization that's been instrumental to creative activism and direct action in the anti-war movement.

Earlier this year, Benjamin spent time in Iraq helping set up the International Occupation Watch Center, an organization created by people around the world to monitor the state of Iraq during the ongoing US occupation.

While you were in Iraq, what did you discover that corporate news outlets weren't relaying to us in the States?

I don't think people understand how betrayed a lot of Iraqis feel by the US. They were told their lives would be better, but their lives aren't better; they live in terrible heat without electricity, their hospitals are looted and barely functioning, there's a shortage of clean drinking water, there are no telephones. There's a crisis of unemployment because so many thousands of people have lost their jobs...

budget wrangling gets serious 

SALEM -- State agencies that don't have approved budgets by the end of August can pay employees for the month but could not enter into new contracts, agree to new purchases or distribute money under entitlement programs such as certain human services.

Those were some of the limited options the Department of Administrative Services laid out Friday for Gov. Ted Kulongoski, who had asked for an assessment in case the Legislature doesn't pass all agency budgets or approve temporary spending before Sept. 1.

Gary Weeks, administrative services director, also said employees could not come to work as volunteers or expecting to be paid later when money is available. Nineteen budgets remain in limbo, including the two biggest outstanding pieces of the state's general fund: money for K-12 schools, which under current proposals will be at least $5 billion, and for the Department of Human Services, which stands to come in at more than $2.3 billion. The Legislature has approved and the governor has signed two one-month resolutions allowing agencies without approved budgets to continue operations. If the end of August arrives without a third such resolution, most agencies without budgets will be out of luck.

...The House and the Senate have approved different amounts for human services. The Senate this week passed a $2.4 billion budget that includes $55 million more for health care benefits and other services than the House plan does. Rep. Randy Miller, R-West Linn, the House budget chairman, has said he thinks the larger amount will not pass his chamber.

The schools budget is caught in a similar disagreement. Until recently, Democrats, including Kulongoski, supported a $5.3 billion proposal. Senate leaders then came up with a budget-balancing deal that included a minimum of $5.1 billion. The Republican-led House, however, has passed a $5.05 billion plan.

Of the nonschool budgets, human services is the "800-pound gorilla," said Cindy Becker, assistant director of the Department of Administrative Services.

Potentially affected are services to tens of thousands of people on the Oregon Health Plan for low-income residents, school-based health clinics and general-assistance cash grants to the most needy, as well as a range of services to children and families, abused children, people with mental illness and ailing elderly people.

Conservative anti-tax measures and attitudes have really hamstrung this state's ability to bring itself to some sort of fiscal responsibility. We have a kicker law that says if tax revenues exceed projected revenues by more than 2%, that amount must be refunded to tax payers. So it is essentially against the law for Oregon to have a rainy day fund. Also, Republicans have not been willing to look at raising the state's minimum corporate tax of $10.

From the Oregon Center for Public Policy:

About two thirds of Oregon's corporations, or 23,000 corporations, pay just the $10 corporate minimum tax. Virtually all S-Corporations, the 42,000 or so corporations that choose to pass all of their net income (and losses) to their shareholders to avoid the federal corporate income tax, pay the $10 fee, too.

Oregon's corporations are getting off cheap due to a benevolent Legislative Assembly. The legislature established the corporate minimum tax in 1929, setting it at $25. Later that year the stock market crashed and the Great Depression began. The 1931 Legislative Assembly showed its compassion by lowering the tax to $10. Ignored by the Legislative Assembly, it has been frozen there ever since.

...Two-thirds of Oregon's corporations are taxing the ability of the state to review their tax returns at less than 1929 prices. Besides shedding light on who they are, the Legislative Assembly should raise the corporate minimum tax to at least the level it was in 1929 - $260 in today's dollar terms.

Such a change would raise about $33 million a biennium. Besides paying the Department of Revenue a fair price for reviewing their tax returns, I can think of a host of public services that money could support - services that improve Oregon's business climate.

The effects of shutting down Health and Human services even for a week could be devastating. We the impact of cuts made in January were tragic and virtually instananeous.

"I'm surprised we haven't seen more failures like this" 

From the Oregonian:

Capitol Commerce Mortgage abruptly quit business throughout the West and elsewhere Friday, an apparent victim of interest-rate whiplash.

The meltdown left at least hundreds of Oregon home borrowers and refinancers hanging onto empty promises of low interest rates that are no longer available. Home-loan experts speculated the mortgage loan wholesaler's collapse might be just the first corporate fallout from a sudden rise in mortgage rates after a long financing frenzy that resulted from bargain-basement interest rates.

...The company financed $3.7 billion in mortgages in all of its offices during July, one of the busiest months in its 17-year history, account executives told The Associated Press.

...But homebuyers could be hit especially hard by the firm's demise if they lose the locks they had on lower rates. The homes they're buying could slip beyond their reach. A homebuyer who could afford the monthly payment on a $150,000, 30-year mortgage at 5 percent -- $805 -- might choke on a payment at 6.25 percent -- $923. Yet that's the approximate difference in mortgage rates since June, and buyers caught in the vise might have to scale down the kind of home they buy.

No one could say Friday exactly what caused Capitol to implode. The company's aggressive pricing could have landed the lender in trouble if Capitol's management didn't take adequate protective measures, known as hedging, to guard against a mortgage rate spike. "I'm surprised we haven't seen more failures like this," said Keith Gumbinger, a vice president with HSH Associates, a Butler, N.J., firm that surveys 2,000 lenders nationwide. "It might not be the last."

My friend Doug does real estate and had clients lose their loan at the last moment because of this. His clients have given up their apartment. The seller's have moved out and are closing on another house. This could throw a wrench into that purchase which could throw a wrench into any deal that the people that they are buying from and so on. If a couple more of these mortage companies go down, that could mean some real chaos in a market that is a major economic indicator.

i was like, 'whoa, what did i just do? 

From the Oregonian:

Rod in hand, Jason McGinnis, 14, prowled the banks of Johnson Creek in Milwaukie, chasing after a shadow he thought was a big catfish. A hard strike later, Jason reeled in a red-belly piranha. a predatory fish normally found in South America.

"I was like, 'Whoa, what did I just do?"

...Since he caught the piranha Wednesday, Jason has kept it in his mom's bathtub, where the fish has failed to eat any of the crawdads or worms it has been offered.

...Jason first tried to peddle his toothy catch to pet shops, including the Animal House Pet Shop in Oregon City. John Manrow, manager of the fish department, wasn't too eager to buy it because piranhas are so high maintenance, requiring special water quality and temperature. He offered the teenager a $5 store credit.

...By Friday evening, the hand-sized fish with the razor teeth wasn't doing too well. Jason hoped a local radio station, which wanted the fish for a mascot, would take it off his hands for $40.

His mom desperately wanted the deal to go through.

"I just want to get rid of it," Debbie McGinnis said, "so I can take a shower."

the blackout 

I'll post this link to the Gothamist's Special Blackout Edition and leave it at that.

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