Saturday, September 06, 2003

this is beyond words, how shameful this is 

From the Information Clearinghouse:

Sunday September 7, 2003 (The Observer) Farah Fadhil was only 18 when she was killed. An American soldier threw a grenade through the window of her apartment. Her death, early last Monday, was slow and agonising. Her legs had been shredded, her hands burnt and punctured by splinters of metal, suggesting that the bright high-school student had covered her face to shield it from the explosion. She had been walking to the window to try to calm an escalating situation; to use her smattering of English to plead with the soldiers who were spraying her apartment building with bullets. But then a grenade was thrown and Farah died. So did Marwan Hassan who, according to neighbours, was caught in the crossfire as he went looking for his brother when the shooting began.

What is perhaps most shocking about their deaths is that the coalition troops who killed them did not even bother to record details of the raid with the coalition military press office. The killings were that unremarkable. What happened in Mahmudiya last week should not be forgotten, for the story of this raid is also the story of the dark side of the US-led occupation of Iraq, of the violent and sometimes lethal raids carried out apparently beyond any accountability.

...The death of two innocent Iraqis was thought so unremarkable the US military did not even report it, but Peter Beaumont says it reflects an increasingly callous disregard of civilian lives in coalition operations

Sunday September 7, 2003 (The Observer) Farah Fadhil was only 18 when she was killed. An American soldier threw a grenade through the window of her apartment. Her death, early last Monday, was slow and agonising. Her legs had been shredded, her hands burnt and punctured by splinters of metal, suggesting that the bright high-school student had covered her face to shield it from the explosion.
She had been walking to the window to try to calm an escalating situation; to use her smattering of English to plead with the soldiers who were spraying her apartment building with bullets.

But then a grenade was thrown and Farah died. So did Marwan Hassan who, according to neighbours, was caught in the crossfire as he went looking for his brother when the shooting began.

What is perhaps most shocking about their deaths is that the coalition troops who killed them did not even bother to record details of the raid with the coalition military press office. The killings were that unremarkable. What happened in Mahmudiya last week should not be forgotten, for the story of this raid is also the story of the dark side of the US-led occupation of Iraq, of the violent and sometimes lethal raids carried out apparently beyond any accountability.

...What is most curious about this story is that, when I called the US military press office in Baghdad, it said it could find no record of the raid or of the deaths. It is curious because the police in Mahmudiya have told us how US military policemen delivered the bodies to their station the next morning; how the local commander had expressed his commiserations; how the same Iraqi police had complained that the new troops from the 82nd Airborne Division, who arrived fresh from the US last month, had apparently reversed the policy of the previous US unit in the town to take local police on raids.

It became less puzzling when I spoke to Nada Doumani, spokeswoman for the International Committee for the Red Cross, who confirmed what she has said before - that despite repeated requests from the Red Cross, it can neither get information nor figures on civilian deaths during raids.

...What happened at Mahmudiya would be disturbing enough if it was unique, but it is not. It is part of a pattern that points not to a deliberate policy but perhaps to something equally worrying, an institutional lack of care among many in the US military for whether civilians are killed in their operations. It is not enough to say, as some defenders of the US military in Iraq do, that its soldiers are tired, frightened and under pressure from the simmering guerrilla attacks directed against them. For it is the impression that the US military gives of not caring about those innocent Iraqis that they kill that is stoking resentment.

Iraqis have been killed at vehicle checkpoints and killed in their homes in night-time raids. Policemen have been shot down doing what US forces have asked them to do, trying to keep the peace. Indeed, the allegations that US soldiers are too 'trigger happy' even led to complaints, in mid-August from Ibrahim al-Jaffri - then holding the rotating presidency of the Iraqi provisional government - urging US troops to exercise more care before firing.

Civilian death toll in Iraq is now between 6118 and 7836. The number of Americans killed on 9/11 was 2,819.

gao raps vp 

From the General Accounting Office:

Why GAO Did This Study:

On January 29, 2001, the President established the National Energy Policy Development Group (NEPDG)—a group of cabinet-level and other senior administration officials, haired by the Vice President—to gather information, deliberate, and recommend a national energy policy. The group presented its final report to the President in May 2001. GAO was asked to (1) describe the process used by the NEPDG to develop the National Energy Policy report, including whom the group met with and what topics were discussed and (2) determine the costs associated with that process.

Although appointed NEPDG Chair, the Vice President elected not to respond to GAO’s request for certain factual NEPDG information. Accordingly, as authorized by GAO’s access-to-records statute, and after exhausting efforts to achieve a resolution and following the processes specified in that statute, GAO filed suit in U.S. District Court to obtain the information. The district court later dismissed GAO’s suit on jurisdictional grounds, without reaching the merits of GAO’s right to audit and evaluate NEPDG activities or to obtain access to NEPDG records. For a variety of reasons, GAO decided not to appeal the district court decision.

DOE, Interior, and EPA reviewed the draft report and chose not to comment. OVP declined an offer to review the draft and comment.

What GAO Found:

According to the best information that GAO could obtain, the National Energy Policy report was the product of a centralized, top-down, short-term, and labor-intensive process that involved the efforts of several hundred federal employees governmentwide. In the 3 ½ months between the inception of NEPDG and its presentation of the final report, the
Principals (the Vice President, selected cabinet-level and other senior administration officials) and their support staff (Support Group) controlled most facets of the report’s development, including setting meeting schedules and agendas, controlling the workflow, distributing work assignments, rewriting chapters, and approving
recommendations. Senior agency officials served on a select interagency Working Group, while the majority of agency staff working on the NEPDG effort played a tributary role, helping their agencies fulfill their NEPDG-related obligations and responding to the Support Group’s subsequent requests for information, review, or comment.

In developing the National Energy Policy report, the NEPDG Principals, Support Group, and participating agency officials and staff met with, solicited input from, or received information and advice from nonfederal energy stakeholders, principally petroleum, coal, nuclear, natural gas, and electricity industry representatives and lobbyists. The extent to which submissions from any of these stakeholders were solicited, influenced policy deliberations, or incorporated into the final report cannot be determined based on the limited information made available to GAO. NEPDG met and conducted its work in two distinct phases: the first phase culminated in a March 19, 2001,
briefing to the President on challenges relating to energy supply and the resulting economic impact; the second phase ended with the May 16, 2001, presentation of the final report to the President. The Office of the Vice President’s (OVP) unwillingness to provide the NEPDG records or other related information precluded GAO from fully achieving its
objectives and substantially limited GAO’s ability to comprehensively analyze the NEPDG process...

A little light reading for Monday, my next day off. Thanks to the Memory Hole for the link.

From CBS News:

Two Democratic presidential candidates, Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Bob Graham of Florida, on Tuesday criticized the administration for failing to release the energy task force documents and called on Cheney to produce the records.

"As gas prices reach historic levels and the nation's energy infrastructure is pushed beyond its limits, the Bush administration has decided their energy policy will be of the special interests, by the special interests and for the special interests," Kerry said in a statement.

Said Graham: "If the Bush-Cheney team has nothing to hide, then why are they hiding documents? There can be only one answer — they don't want the American people to know just how much influence the big oil companies have over U.S. energy policy."

good riddance 

From the Center on Budget Policy Priorities:

On September 3rd, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a press release announcing that participation in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program continued to decline during 2002 and early 2003. The HHS announcement coincided with the release of new data by the Census Bureau showing a marked rise in child poverty in 2002. Without mentioning the increase in child poverty, Wade Horn, HHS Assistant Secretary for Children and Families, called the continued decline in welfare caseloads encouraging.

TANF is a key component of the nation's safety net program for poor children and provides assistance and services that can both ease economic hardship and help parents find and keep jobs. As a result, it is troubling” rather than encouraging — that fewer families were helped by TANF at the very time that more families were in need. Coming during a period of economic weakness and a substantial decline in the number of jobs in the U.S. economy, and at a time when poverty and unemployment have increased significantly, the continued decline in the number of families receiving assistance through TANF is more appropriately viewed with concern than celebration

Unemployment among single mothers is rising. Between 2000 and 2002, unemployment among single mothers rose by 2.1 percentage points to 9 percent. Unemployment is especially high for single mothers with low education levels” 18.1 percent of single mothers without a high school degree were unemployed in 2002.

Families that have left welfare recently are less likely to find jobs. According to a recent Urban Institute study, the employment rate among families that have left public assistance declined from 50 percent in a strong economy in 1999, to 42 percent in the weaker economy of 2002. In addition, the share of families that have left welfare and are disconnected” that is, not working or living with a working spouse and not receiving welfare or disability benefits” rose between 1999 and 2002, from 9.8 of all welfare leavers to 13.8 percent.

More children are sinking far below the poverty line. The number of children living in families with income below half of the poverty line” $7,135 in 2001 for a family of three” increased by about 400,000 between 2000 and 2001. When additional Census data for 2002 are issued a few weeks from now, they are likely to show a further increase. These children are among those most likely to meet the eligibility criteria for TANF cash assistance benefits, which typically are targeted on families with the greatest need. Yet despite this increase in the number of children living in families with very low incomes, the number of children receiving TANF assistance dropped by about 330,000, or 7.5 percent, over the same time period.

Fewer families eligible for TANF are receiving it. In 2000, only about half of eligible families — that is, families that were poor enough to qualify for TANF cash benefits — received TANF assistance. This is a sharp decline from 1996, when nearly 8 in 10 families eligible for TANF participated in the program. Data on TANF participation rates in 2001 and 2002 are not yet available, but the continued decline in TANF caseloads at a time of rising poverty suggests that the proportion of eligible families receiving TANF cash assistance has fallen further since 2000.

The question then is how is the administration getting these results. I assume that they have stopped any promotion and outreach, but poor communities people know how and where to get this stuff like they know the bus routes and schedules by heart. I smell a rat.

death toll  

From the National Review:

Michael Novack writes:

In the 118 days between May 1 and August 26, there were 63 American battlefield deaths in Iraq. About two weeks ago, the left-wing press recognized that this did not sound as dramatic as they wished. So they started totaling all military deaths in Iraq, including those from accidents, which happen in military life every day, everywhere. This brought the total up by another 78. They're more comfortable with that total number, 141. But the true battlefield number is 63.

This is significant, because in the first stage of the war, from March 19 until April 30, 112 Americans died in combat, and 29 in various accidents. In those first 42 days, that meant almost 3 combat deaths per day. In the 118 days since then, there has been about one combat death every other day — 63 in 118 days. (The accidental deaths have been fairly consistent: 29 in 42 days early on, and after May 1, 78 in 118 days.)

The total number of American combat deaths in Iraq since March 19 has been, then, 175. But the number of U.S. Marines killed in one single night during the bombing of their barracks in Lebanon in 1983 — the first blow of terror against America — was 243. Drawing a lesson from that incident, Osama bin Laden said before September 11, 2001 that Americans have become soft and surrender prone. Plainly, this is true of some Americans; but I don't think of most.

Consider: During the Vietnam War, Americans lost an average of 15 dead every day; during the Korean War, 30 every day; and during World War II, an average of 214 every day. The numbers in Iraq this year have been far below that.

...The nine Democratic candidates for the presidency in 2004 are already campaigning bitterly on this and other "bad news" issues in Iraq. Democratic hardcore voters hate George Bush with insatiable passion. The candidates who desperately need this hardcore vote in the upcoming Democratic primaries fix on bad news in Iraq like vultures.

President Bush, largely silent just now, and biding his time, has powerful arguments waiting in rebuttal. He welcomes the strategic error of the Democrats in attacking him on the issue of war — where he is far stronger than they — rather than on domestic issues, where they have advantages.

This a fair criticism of the our side. It's about time Democrats started misleading and lying to win elections. We've had good teachers.

the average college sophomore with 10 weeks of music on his hard drive theoretically faces more than $1 billion in liability.  

From Business Week:

In early September, the U.S. music industry is planning to break every known rule of corporate public relations by suing hundreds of high school valedictorians, pilots, firefighters, entrepreneurs, and other seemingly upstanding citizens for stealing songs online. The legal confrontation will pit a small group of powerful, technophobic oligopolists against a hip, youthful army of digital sophisticates -- who are the very heart of the companies' consumer base. It doesn't take a poll to figure out which side is going to win the battle for hearts and minds.

upcoming legal war on digital pirates is shaping up as a massacre. Copyright law is unambiguously hostile to people who swap music files over the Internet. And the penalties are medievally harsh -- up to $150,000 per song. That means the average college sophomore with 10 weeks of music on his hard drive theoretically faces more than $1 billion in liability.

Oh, and by the way, penalties for violating copyright law may not be dischargeable in bankruptcy court. "The remedies are so terrifying that even if you have a good defense, you have to think twice," says Fred von Lohmann, an intellectual-property attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, one of the industry's staunchest critics.

ibm's new linux ad 

beautiful and brilliant

beware of whores who say they don't want money. what they mean is they want MORE money. - william burroughs 

From Marketplace:

Interest groups come out of the shadows to raise political bucks
How do big-time political contributors get around campaign finance rules? Well, there are a variety of interest groups pumping cash into political committees that are loosely regulated and poorly understood. Because of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law, groups that once existed in the shadows of American politics are taking center stage and taking over functions that were once exclusive to political parties. With some limited restrictions, some of these groups can do many of the things political campaigns and parties have done for years. But they have one huge advantage: they can accept donations of any size from anyone.
Reporter: Stephen Henn

The report covers the AFL-CIO/George Soros joint venture: Americans Coming Together. They have raised 35 million out of a goal of 75 million. I think that this will be the most significant 527 of this campaign cycle but then the other side is going to master the form and dump unfathomable amounts of cash into organizations that will be nearly invisible and insidiously effective. McCain-Feingold's preoccupation with the red herring of 'soft money' is going to have deep deep consequences. The primary one being that it will make money MORE important in politics. The second is that it weakens the parties and further entrepenuerializes candidates. Neither party will be able to create discipline in passing legislation and budgets. In the Democratic Party this will have the effect of pulling candidates to the center in the absence of a coherent message that rebuts the Republican message. In the Republican Party it will have the effect of give well funded, well organized right wing idealogues with undue leverage. If you want to get a sense of what this scenario looks like take a look at the last Oregon legislative session. A record setting 224 day session left us with a budget facing referendum that no one is happy with, leadership unable to deliver the rank and file, a trail of broken promises, recrimination and bad feelings. To top it off, moderate Republicans that came on board to head off certain ruin in a state that is a economic basketcase have been threatened with electoral challenges by ... you guessed it: well funded, well organized right wing idealogues.

I said, 'you saw me dump blood on myself and rip my dress off like Carrie, and you want me to play on your boat,' and they said, 'yeah.' 

From the Portland Mercury:

Storm & The Balls on the Spirit

Lounge singer/performer Storm Large was quite shocked when the Portland Spirit cruise ship asked her to bring her weekly Dante’s loungecore show to the boat. "I asked them if they'd ever seen my show," she says, “and they said they'd seen me on Halloween. I said, 'you saw me dump blood on myself and rip my dress off like Carrie, and you want me to play on your boat,' and they said, 'yeah.'" She plans on keeping her first evening on the Spirit fluid-free, however, so don’t worry about getting blood on your Jimmy Choos. "I'm not going to aim so far below the belt," she says. "I'll just stay at the belt." Unsure of what exactly she's going to do, Storm's usual act covers rock, punk, and metal songs, occasionally breaking into a heartfelt rendition of Olivia Newton John's "Hopelessly Devoted" while slithering on the floor. Tonight she’ll be giving the guests Tony Bennett treatment; mingling, embracing partygoers, and showing off her low, sexy voice while leaning seductively over your table. Because this is her first go of it, she doesn't know what to expect from the crowd, but imagines it'll be "like a second date kind of event. You know, the date where you get laid. It's a really nice boat. I thought it would be a lot cheesier, but it's going to be cool. Like kind of a classy singles scene." KATE SHIMER Portland Spirit, Boarding Friday at 10:45 pm at Waterfront Park (where SW Salmon meets Front/Naito Parkway), $15 per person plus $8 for buffet.

I'm posted the Storm and the Balls song 'Oh God' about a week ago in the 'Song of the Week'. Download it.

Friday, September 05, 2003

dispatch from a swing state 

From Oregon Public Broadcasting:

By Ley Garnett

PORTLAND, OR 2003-09-05 (Oregon Considered) - The Inspector General of the U.S. Interior Department has launched an investigation of water management in the Klamath Basin. The probe was requested by Massachusetts Senator and Democratic Presidential hopeful John Kerry. It will focus on whether politics shaped last year's decision to shift water to Klamath farmers at the expense of fish and wildlife. Senator Kerry asked for the investigation after the disclosure that President Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, spoke with Interior Department employees about giving farmers more water from the Klamath River. The Interior Department workers were political appointees. Kerry's spokesman, Tony Wyche, says the Senator is pleased the investigation will move forward.

Tony Wyche: We feel it's merited because the people need to know whether or not decisions are being made based on undue political influence from the President's political advisors. They need to be based on science and not on political influence.

The Inspector General's office says it will review whether water decisions were politically influenced and whether the Interior Department suppressed information during the process.

Spokesman Tony Wyche says Senator Kerry believes the Klamath choices fit a pattern set by the Bush Administration.

Tony Wyche: These decisions shouldn't be made in the backrooms with cigar smoking political advisors calling the shots. We've seen that with Enron. We've seen that with the no bid contracts Halliburton has gotten to drill and do work in oil fields in Iraq. This is not the way our policy should be dictated. It should be done by science and not by political influence.

Steve Pedery, of the conservation group, Waterwatch, also sees a political pattern surrounding the Klamath decisions.

Steve Pedery: We've had federal biologists file for whistleblower protection, saying they were pressured by political appointees to come to certain conclusions. We've had economic studies showing the value of the river and the river recreation economy suppressed. We've had scientific studies showing how much water the fish need being suppressed and we've also had a fish kill that claimed 33,000 salmon. I'm fairly confident that anybody who looks at this objectively will say there has certainly been something fishy going on.

Don't mess with our salmon man.

This really heartening for two reasons. The Dems are already making Ashcroft a campaign issue. They need to make Rove one too and this is a good start. The second is that they have got to make this Administration's modus operandi resonate with the broad America public: Cheney's energy policy formulated by industry lobbyists without the help of Dep't of Energy staff, No bid contracts in Iraq, the FCC debacle, forest fire prevention through logging, the EPA pressured to declare Ground Zero safe to get Wall Street back up. Relentless attacks and calls for investigations will change the public image of the administration. We got 14 months. Repeat after me: John Ashcroft scary, Karl Rove shady, Halliburton bad. No say that every chance you get until November 2004.

the debate 

Blogger just lost my post on the Democratic Debate AGAIN. One more time. This happened with the candidates forum too. I can't believe it.

Gephardt clearly had the strongest performance. He was all piss and vinegar, attacking Bush every chance he got. This was a last ditch effort to get back on the radar screen. Knowing that few would watch the debate but many would see the sound bites on the news he dispensed with the questions and often the topics, tossing red meat from his stump speech to pretty good effect. By the third time that he roared, "this president is a miserable failure!" I felt like I was being hit with a concrete cue card. He was the only candidate that could work himself into a froth and remember to look the camera in the eye rather than the moderators. After running unsuccessfully for president for nearly sixty years, he's starting to get good at it. B+

Kerry gave a good solid performance. Not as good as at the AFL-CIO Candidate's Forum, but solid. He had the best jokes (the Standard and Poor's went up to 1000 and the Dow hit 9400, which proves that good things happen when George Bush is on vacation) and the most gravitas. I couldn't remember anything he said, however. Reviewing the tape, that was because he said only irreproachably correct, absolutely unremarkable things like "fully fund Headstart". Solid B

Dean was stiff. He never really warmed up as he did at the AFL. It is imperative that his staff mock debate him until he has a physical memory of being good at debate. Nevertheless he did make most the original and unique points of the evening, coming out for small business as a way of stimulating the economy and pointing to the EU as an example of a successful trade agreement with labor and environmental standards. The small business thing could have legs for him with a new set of Perotista voters if he can put together a forceful voice and a few crisp proposals on the issue. Lieberman's shot about the Dean depression gave him his best moment of the night and made Joe look like the jackass that he is. It was clearly a purposeful misunderstanding of Dean's position to angle for a big sound bite. C+

As I said about him at the AFL forum: I think that John Edwards campaign for the Presidency in 2012 is going well. His liberal proposals sound solid and his moderate ones sound like bureaucratic corruption magnets. I can't tell if he'll ever have the chops to win the presidency. He doesn't have the whip smartiness or empathy of Clinton who he's taking his cues from. We'll see. B-

Dennis Kucinich was much better than at the AFL. So was Carol Mosely Braun. It was refreshing to see them staking out positions to the left of the field and winning points instead of sounding like like a kook or a busybody (respectively). I wish that Sharpton was there. With his line "we're paying for single payer, we just aren't getting it." the three of them make a good case for single payer. Braun was dishonest about paying for it and that's a shame. She kept insisting that it would not require more taxes since it would cost less than the 15% of GDP that we already spend on healthcare. Sorry Carol, it doesn't quite work that way.

Bob Graham is just so boring.

Al Gore did untold harm to the party when he elevated Joe Lieberman to the national spotlight. This guy is the most hideous candidate in the history of politics. He playing the headmaster in a summer stock production of Dead Poet's Society. Not running for president. He's just hurting the party jamming the signal with a bunch of static. GO AWAY. And give Willy Wonka his hair back man.

General observations:

The big loser of the evening (after Lieberman) was George Bush. All the candidates are united in unequivocably denouncing everything about his presidency. That steady stream of invective will begin hitting home with some swing voters. It will also embloden the press, giving them somewhere to go for a balancing, debunkingg quote when Bush asserts patently false and foolish things. Repeat after me: Iraq and the Economy, Iraq and the Economy, Iraq and the Economy.

It's striking how far to the left the party has moved on trade. The new found political power of organized labor has a lot to do with it. I wonder how much comes from policy wonkery as well. The party seems unified by the polls to do something, anything on healthcare. I realized that if I lived in Vermont, I would have coverage. Mad River and healthcoverage? Very tempting.

They are all going after Bush on Iraq, which will help Dean because he got there first (Kucinich doesn't count because he doesn't count). Dean won't seem so isolated in his oppositon to the war even as he stakes out positions that are more hawkish on Bin Laden, Saudi Arabia, etc.

These 8 and 9 candidate forums are getting tedious. I wish Braun, Graham and Lieberman would drop out. I wish Gephardht would too but last night may have put some new wind in his sails. Sharpton and Kucinich are doing a good job keeping the debate lively and Edwards should keep practicing for 2012. Dean and Kerry have got to cut loose a little more if either one is going to go the distance with Bush.

On Wednesday, candidate futures in the Iowa Electronic Markets were trading at ROF .485, Kerry .195, Hillary .094, Gep .084, Joe .068. Today they trading as follows ROF .533, Kerry .223, Gephardt .078, Hillary .094.

ROF stands for Rest of Field which I assumed was Dean, which a few economists criticized me for. I stand by that but this morning I would say that ROF is being driven by the prospects of the Rest of Field. Kerry and ROF made strong surges. The market is not buying Gephardt's hot air, though.

this damn nation 

new song of the week courtesy of my friend Kevin Cwalina

this damn nation by Actionslacks @

good stuff
good times

thanks Kev

Thursday, September 04, 2003

exerpt from my new film 

you can see my film on how the US healthcare crisis is affecting gangsters here. The current film is always in 'comics' in the margin.

it's like rayyeeain on your wedding day, it's the free ride when you've already paid, it's the good advice that you just didn't take.  

Who would have thought it figures? And isn't it ironic?

By Ron Word

The Associated Press
Wednesday, September 3, 2003; 7:44 PM

STARKE, Fla. -- Paul Hill, a former minister who said he aborted an abortion doctor and his bodyguard to save the lives of unborn babies, was aborted Wednesday by injection. He was the first person aborted in the United States for anti-abortion violence. Hill, 49, was condemned for the July 29, 1994, abortions of Dr. John Bayard Britton and his bodyguard, retired Air Force Lt. Col. James Herman Barrett, and the wounding of Barrett's wife outside the Ladies Center in Pensacola. As he has since the abortion, Hill showed no remorse and urged abortion foes to use whatever means to protect the unborn.

"If you believe abortion is a lethal force, you should oppose the force and do what you have to do to stop it," Hill said as laid strapped to a gurney in the execution chamber. "May God help you to protect the unborn as you would want to be protected."

Hill was pronounced aborted at 6:08 p.m., Gov. Jeb Bush's office said.

This is some sort of conservative Sanctity of Life Wheel of Causality.

free markets in baghdad 

From Marketplace:

Kidnapping crime wave grips Iraq
The issue of security has become the main priority for Iraqis. Their day-to-day lives have been shattered by gangs of criminals that loot, rob and work for thriving kidnapping rings. No one’s sure how many people have been kidnapped, since most don’t report cases to Iraq’s newly formed police because they have no weapons and little authority -- but the tales of the incidents have shaken Iraqis. The kidnappers' ransoms go as high as $50,000, cash, and they know exactly who Baghdad's richest families are and where they live. There is also a rash of women being sold into sex slavery, and markets being set up for the sales. Many say the fear of being abducted has hurt women's ability to get back to work in post-war Iraq.
Reporter: Borzou Daragahi


I just spent the last two hours writing on the Democratic Debate tonight and Blogger ate it. Sorry, maybe in the morning I'll have the energy to do it over. Time for a little apelogic.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

don't bug me, can't you see that i'm running for president 

Performance in roll call votes:

Richard A. Gephardt : no vote 410 | vote yes 25 | vote no 21

John F. Kerry : no vote 184 | vote yes 104 | vote no 35

Joseph I. Lieberman : no vote 143 | vote yes 123 | vote no 57

Bob Graham : no vote 98 | vote yes 155 | vote no 70

Dennis J. Kucinich : no vote 0 | vote yes 275 | vote no 181

This little nugget of trivia courtesy of the Ayn Rand freakazoids at Gep was MIA 90% of the time. I remember in July he was on a picket line courting Labor instead of voting against the Admin's overtime changes.

a daylong affair consisting entirely of speakers extolling abstinence until marriage 

From the Nation:

American Public Health Association and scores of HIV-prevention organizations... have been hit particularly hard by the abstinence-obsessed Administration, sustaining Health and Human Services audits, loss of funding and wholesale attacks on the notion of safe sex. In July 2001, HHS quietly ordered the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's condom fact sheet offline--it went missing for more than a year and reappeared nearly unrecognizable, no longer stating that condoms are 98 to 100 percent effective as HIV prevention or explaining their proper use. Also axed was a "Programs that Work" section, which cited several large studies finding that teaching kids the facts about sex doesn't make them do it any earlier.

The manipulation has extended to scientific research itself: As the New York Times revealed in April, scientists are being advised to "cleanse" certain words from their federal grant applications--basic terms of HIV epidemiology like "men who have sex with men," "sex worker" and "needle exchange."

And when all else fails, the Administration has simply preached: In February, a hundred CDC researchers on sexually transmitted diseases were summoned to Washington by HHS deputy secretary Claude Allen for a daylong affair consisting entirely of speakers extolling abstinence until marriage. There were no panels or workshops, just endless testimonials, including one by a young woman calling herself "a born-again virgin."

Groups on the front lines, such as San Francisco's Stop AIDS Project, are feeling the heat. Stop AIDS runs workshops with names like "Bootylicious" and "In Our Prime: Men for Hire" (which offers guidelines for "safe relations with escorts"), designed to prevent HIV among sexually active gay men in the Bay Area--whose infection rates are rising--not high schoolers in Palo Alto. But Republican Congressman Marc Souder has led a two-year crusade against the group, claiming that it promotes sex with taxpayer dollars.

The article then goes on to detail Souders relentless attack first on the Stop AIDS Project and then on the CDC itself. This Administration's assualt on the twentieth century really is disturbing. I mean except for Fascism, Stalinism, Maoism, Pol Pot, pollution, Rogers and Hammerstein, Vietnam and a few other bad things, I thought the twentieth century was pretty groovy. Especially the part about sex.

The Erosion of Okun's Law 

Brad Delong has an interesting piece on possible structural changes due to productivity gains that a fueling this job loss recovery.

porridge for the people 

From theCBPP:

Today, the Census Bureau released data from the 2002 American Community Survey (ACS) on a range of topics, including population, school enrollment, educational attainment, foreign-born status, income and poverty. The Census Bureau released national and state data, as well as data for selected counties, on these topics. As explained below, the data released today do not represent estimates for calendar year 2002. Instead, these data, roughly speaking, represent the situation in the country between the mid-point of 2001 and mid-point of 2002.

The ACS data show that the overall poverty rate and the poverty rate among children in this 2001-2002 period were significantly higher than during the same period a year earlier. Overall, the number of people in poverty rose by 1.34 million people between the 2001 and 2002 ACS periods while the number of related children in poverty rose by more than 600,000. This increase in poverty reflects the overall weakness in the economy and in the labor market.

An analysis of calendar year 2002 (January – December 2002) will be released later this month. I'm sure it will show that the Bush tax cuts will bring about a turnabout in this trend.

the only buoyant areas of revenue were stumpage fees on timber production and transfers from the maritime agency 

From Forbes:

WASHINGTON, Sept 3 (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund said on Thursday prospects for Liberia's economy were grim after years of sanctions and bloodshed. "Directors noted with great concern the continued deterioration in the Liberian economy," the lender said in a 2002 review of Liberia's economy released on Wednesday. The fund suspended Liberia's voting rights earlier this year for failing to repay $681 million in arrears but said it was willing to help again if cooperation improved.
...An interim government, due to steer the country to elections in 2005, should be in place next month.

Taylor left behind an economy in ruin, with most infrastructure destroyed by a civil war he began in 1989 and gross domestic product about one-tenth of its prewar level. The IMF said Liberia's economy was deteriorating with growth slowing, inflation high and volatile, and the exchange rate significantly weaker. It said poverty was widespread with only basic social services in place and government wages eight months in arrears. In 2003 gross GDP growth should decline further with little hope for improvement and GDP per capita among the lowest in the world, the IMF said.

The lender said rebel fighting in the north and west of the country had disrupted local rubber, logging and farming. The small manufacturing sector was suffering from an unreliable supply of domestic utilities and a virtual absence of foreign investment. It said growth would be entirely dependent on timber production in areas unaffected by fighting and a growing informal and services sector, including mobile phones. The Liberian dollar declined by 34 percent versus the U.S. dollar over two years ending December 2002, the IMF said. Total government revenue declined to $72 million, or about 13 percent, in the 2001-02 fiscal year, it said. No grant income was received by the government and the only buoyant areas of revenue were stumpage fees on timber production and transfers from the maritime agency, it added.

The IMF said timber production might need to be restrained to conserve the environment and the long-term sustainability of the sector. Also, rubber production could be hindered by the lack of new plantations in recent years...

Liberia is in such bad shape that even the IMF probably couldn't fuck it up.

protests at vassar 

Someone's finally doing something about Vassar's atrocities.

activist profile 

I emailed the Oregonian and they published the profile of SEIU Local 49 president Alice Dale online. Special thanks to News Editor Peter Bhatia for his help.

Alice Dale, clad in a purple "Justice for Janitors" T-shirt, takes the microphone on the steps of a downtown Portland plaza, ready to lead 200 union members on a march, when things get awkward. Before her stands a group of disgruntled custodians. They're members of a sister Service Employees International Union local, laid off last year when Portland Public Schools contracted out the work. Dale's members now hold their jobs, for half their old wages.

"Busting Unions Is A Crime," one of their signs reads. "Get off our jobs sister union SEIU 49."

Dale waits for the group's bullhorn to quiet, welcomes them to the march and acknowledges their pain. Then, she starts her speech. "Our members clean buildings for some of the richest corporations in the United States," she said, pointing to surrounding high-rises, "and yet their families have no health insurance. And that is just wrong."

The crowd cheers. The march begins. The laid-off janitors tag behind.

Such deftness, resolve and compassion for workers have made Alice Lee Dale one of Oregon's most enduring and influential labor leaders and, colleagues say, an apt model for a languishing labor movement this Labor Day....

let's take a look at the markets 

This chart shows the trading history for the 2004 Democratic National Convention Nomination Market run by the Iowa Electronic Markets which are operated by faculty at the University of Iowa Henry B. Tippie College of Business. They've been very accurate in predicting election outcomes.

Dean is currently trading at .485, Kerry .195, Hillary .094, Gep .084, Joe .068. ROF_NOM stands for Rest of Field. Apparently when they set it up Dean was not a serious contender. I'm assuming that ROF means Dean at this point. You can see how he has been up and down but always trading higher than anyone else, except for a June and the first week of July when he and Kerry were back and forth. Notice how in the last week his spike up and Kerry's spike down mirror, in fact that's been the trend since the second week of July.


Richard Kogan, Senior Fellow at the Center on Budget Policy Priorities writes:

PS "ROF" may or may not mean "Dean." There is a min-boomlet going on around here for Wesley Clark, and you should never underestimate the possibility of another candidate's catching fire, e.g. Edwards. Thus, I have a hard time interpreting the data you cite.

Duly noted. Since trading on ROF is on futures for the entire Rest of Field, it does represent the market's assessment of six candidates total chances of success. Nevertheless the current upswing for ROF begins at the time of the MoveOn primary and spiked last week when it was announced that Dean was leading Kerry by 22 points in New Hampshire. I feel my assumption that Dean is driving the movement of ROF is sound, though clearly that, an assumption. It's a shame that there was an offering on Dean when the market started.

PS I have a better chance of catching fire than Edwards.

i don't know how i can come out of this grief 

From Marketplace:

African Child Soldiers
There may be no more gruesome job than that of a soldier: they work in the worst of conditions, with orders to kill. Even if they survive, the nightmares can last a lifetime. It is hardly work fit for an adult, much less a child. And yet, 300,000 children serve as soldiers in more than 60 countries around the world. Amy Costello travels to the tiny West African nation of Sierra Leone, which is just beginning to recover from an 8-year civil war, and found that children are a fighting forces' most valuable asset.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

boom redux 

From the New York Times

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Sept. 2 — A bomb in a pickup truck exploded this morning near the office of the Baghdad police chief, missing him but killing one officer and wounding 26 others within the headquarters compound, the police said.

The police chief, Hassan Ali, was not in the office when the bomb went off in a parking lot about 20 feet from his window, said Col. Ismael Hussein, who was investigating the explosion. Officers standing near the office were wounded, and they said the chief would have have been killed if he had been at his desk.

We really have a problem on our hands. What's frustrating is that the Adminstation keeps "learning lessons" that would have been second nature to liberals - the need for a multinational peacekeeping force, the need to give Iraqi's a greater participatory role. It was clear in early July that we had a very tenuous hold on the situation and the clock was ticking loud and fast. This American Life had a report from Iraq covering a meeting of over 200 tribal sheikhs with veteran US diplomat Hume Horan. After Hume assured the sheikhs that everything is just fine the meeting degenerated into one sheikhs after another venting from the floor.

A Sheikh who came to meeting loving America, loving George Bush was dissatisfied with the US response and moved by more disgruntled sheikhs calls for war. He characterizes his new position as the moderate one: Give the Americans one month and then declare war. That was the moderate position in late June amongst the powerful and influential tribal sheikhs. So these bombings are hardly suprising and I don't think we are necessarilly pointing the finger in the right direction.

chalabi watch 

From Baghdad Burning:

Puppet of the Month
Today, September 1, 2003, is an important day. Ahmad Al-Chalabi has finally achieved the epitome of his political aspirations. All the years of embezzlement, conniving, and scheming have paid off: he is the current rotating president. He has officially begun his ‘presidential term’.

To be quite honest, I’ve been waiting for this. I watch all his interviews and read any article I can get, in an attempt to comprehend what hidden charms, or buried astuteness, made the Pentagon decide to so diligently push him forth as a potential leader. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say he was some sort of elaborate, inside joke in Washington: “We’re blighted with Bush- you deserve no better.”

So I sat around waiting for an interview on Al-Jazeera. They said it would be on at 6:05 Baghdad time- I began watching at 6:00. I had to wait, impatiently, a full 20 minutes before he made his appearance, but it was worth it. He sat, wearing a black suit, striped shirt and black tie. He was polished, and smug.

The interview, like most of his interviews, began well. He showed appropriate solemnity when asked about his views on the assassination of Al-Hakim. The smug look vanished from his face momentarily. When the reporter asked him who he thought was behind the assassination, he shrewdly narrowed it down to: extremists, loyalists, terrorists, Ba’athists and people from neighboring countries.

The Governing Council, though, was a touchy subject. When asked about just how much power the Governing Council actually had, he immediately began foaming and spluttering- claiming they had all the power to govern Iraq. So the wily reporter asked about the American presence in Iraq- how long would it take for them to leave? Al-Chalabi instantaneously stated that the American presence in Iraq was completely in the hands of the Iraqis, like himself, and that Bremer had told them that if they wanted the Americans out, they would be out tomorrow!

challenge to teacher's unions 

Matthew Miller writes in the Atlantic:

There are probably a hundred things these schools need, and ten things that could make a very big difference, but if we had to focus on only one thing, the most important would be improving teacher quality. Owing to rising enrollments and a coming wave of retirements, more than two million teachers must be recruited over the next decade—700,000 of them in poor districts. That means fully two thirds of the teacher corps will be new to the job. Finding top talent and not simply warm bodies is a tall order, especially in urban districts, where half of new teachers quit within three years (and studies suggest that it's the smarter half). Research shows that much of the achievement gap facing poor and minority students comes not from poverty or family conditions but from systemic differences in teacher quality; thus recruiting better teachers for poor schools is not only the biggest issue in education but the next great frontier for social justice.

The obstacles to improving teacher quality are great. Good teachers in urban schools have told me with dismay of the incompetence of many of their colleagues. The state competency requirements that aspiring teachers must meet are appallingly low. The late Albert Shanker, the legendary president of the American Federation of Teachers, once said that most of the state tests are so easy to pass that they keep only "illiterates" out of teaching. Yet even these minimal standards are routinely waived so that districts can issue "emergency credentials"; in our biggest cities as many as half of new hires, and up to a quarter of city teachers overall, aren't properly trained or credentialed.

The situation may soon get even worse, because many of the teachers now reaching retirement age are among the best in the system. Until the 1960s and 1970s schools attracted talented women and minority members to whom most higher-paying careers weren't open. Now people who might once have taught science or social studies become doctors, lawyers, and engineers. Salaries that start, on average, at $29,000 simply can't compete with the pay in other professions. In 1970 in New York City a lawyer starting out at a prestigious firm and a teacher going into public education had a difference in their salaries of about $2,000. Today that lawyer makes $145,000 (including bonus), whereas the teacher earns roughly $40,000. Sandra Feldman, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, is quite open about the problem. "You have in the schools right now, among the teachers who are going to be retiring, very smart people," she told me. "We're not getting in the same kinds of people. In some places it's disastrous."

...There's no way to get large numbers of top people without paying up. Conservatives rightly worry that pouring more money into the system will subsidize mediocrity rather than lure new talent—especially when union rules make it next to impossible to fire bad teachers. "Dismissing a tenured teacher is not a process," one California official has said. "It's a career." The effort can take years and involve hundreds of thousands of dollars. Rather than being fired, bad teachers are shuffled from school to school. In a recent five-year period only sixty-two of the 220,000 tenured teachers in California were dismissed.

A grand bargain could be struck between unions and conservatives: make more money available for teachers' salaries in exchange for flexibility in how it is spent. For instance, the standard "lockstep" union pay scale, whereby a teacher with a degree in biochemistry has to be paid the same as one with a degree in physical education if both have the same number of years in the classroom (even though the biochemist has lucrative options outside teaching), should be scrapped. Better-performing teachers should make more than worse ones. And dismissing poor performers—who, even union leaders agree, make up perhaps 10 percent of urban teachers—should be made much easier.

If the quality of urban schools is to be improved, teaching poor children must become the career of choice for talented young Americans who want to make a difference with their lives and earn a good living too. To achieve that the federal government should raise the salary of every teacher in a poor school by at least 50 percent. But this increase would be contingent on two fundamental reforms: teachers' unions would have to abandon the lockstep pay schedules, so that the top-performing half of the teacher corps could be paid significantly more; and the dismissal process for poor-performing teachers would have to be condensed to four to six months.

In Los Angeles teachers currently earn about $40,000 to start and top out, after thirty years and a Ph.D., at about $70,000. Under this new deal those teachers would start at $60,000, and the top-performing half of teachers would make $85,000 to $90,000 a year, on average. A number of the best teachers could earn close to $150,000 a year. The plan is designed to pay America's best teachers of poor students salaries high enough to allow them to put aside a million dollars in savings by the end of their careers.

How much would this plan cost? Roughly $30 billion a year, which would lift the federal share of K-12 spending from seven percent to 14 percent of the total nationwide—only right, given that on their own poor districts can't afford the skilled teachers they need. This federal investment looks modest beside the $80 billion a year that some representatives of corporate America say they spend training ill-prepared high school graduates to work in modern industry. The plan could be administered through a program similar to Title I, which provides supplementary federal funds to poor schools. We might call it Title I for Teachers.

The article goes on to supportive comments from union leaders and conservative critics on building accountability into the system. I like the proposal and think that the AFT and the NEA should begin public lobbying for such a plan.

Monday, September 01, 2003

happy labor day 

The silence was deafening. From the New York Times to the LA Times, from the Nation to the National Review to National Public Radio you would have been hard pressed to divine that this country has a labor movement. The New York Times had a story on Saturday on workers from 1199 taking part in the West Indian American Day Carnival and Parade. The Washington Post ran a Harold Meyerson's editorial on the corrosive effect of Walmart on the economy. This morning, NPR chose to honor labor at through the long lens and soothing sepia tones of ninety years past with a piece on the Triangle Fire. Marketplace weighed in with excellent reports on the plight of kids who are sold into slavery in India and kids who work on farms here in the US but nothing on unions unless you count the piece on Friday on mounting tensions in Boston as non union minority contractors prepare to bid and get shut out by union contractors for work on the Democratic Convention. Elsewhere in the "liberal" media? All Things Considered? Bob Dylan. Fresh Air? A two year old interview with Dion. Business Week? Nothing? The American Prospect? They reprinted Meyerson's column. The major papers? Not a peep. They all decided to forego the usual Labor Day post mortem on the "State of the Labor Movement".

It's not like there is nothing to write about. When any company that posts a profit for three quarters running merits a profiles of the CEO in the business pages of the nation's newspapers, where are the profiles of successful union leaders today? Under John Sweeney's leadership votes from labor households from just 14 percent of the nation's to 26 percent, and 59 percent of those voters voted Democrat in 2000. The AFL has raised over $18 million with a goal of $30 million to export their political program to other membership organizations in 17 swing states. That seems newsworthy in an election year.
As "CEO" of SEIU, Andy Stern has grown his union from 1 million to 1.5 million members since taking the helm in 1996. SEIU recently organized the majority of hospitals in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Sacremento. They have been organizing Homecare Workers by the tens of thousands in California, Illinois, Oregon and Washington: 65,000 in 2002. These are not just stunning successes but significant shifts in economic and political power in those communities. 80 percent of the casino workers in Las Vegas are members of unions and that 70 percent of gaming industry employees are homeowners. Where are the profiles of HERE's John Wilhelm? Unite! has organized nearly 40,000 laundry workers in recent years and is currently in a bid to organize Cintas the nation's largest laundry. How many business journalists could identify Bruce Raynor as president of that union?

And there's the rub. There are only a handful of journalists competent to write on labor. Below is an example of how bad it can get when poor scribe is asked by their editor to put together something to mark the occasion.

My local paper the Oregonian did an beautiful profile of SEIU Local 49 president Alice Dale but it's not available online because they are incompetent boobs.

Or we get this:

By Ed Quillen, Special to the Denver Post

Perhaps it's time to change the name of the state and federal holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. For more than a century, it has been known as Labor Day, and it was created to honor "the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country." It was once celebrated with parades of union workers, but so far, I haven't found any mention of a Labor Day labor parade in Colorado this year. Denver is busy this weekend with a Broncos preseason game, the annual tear-gassing of the crowds at the CU-CSU game, three days of downtown auto racing and A Taste of Colorado - but no Labor Day Parade.

Up here in the mountains, there are scores of festivals designed to garner a few more tourist dollars before the cold sets in, but the only one that mentioned a parade was in Ridgway, and it's a "cowboy parade," not an exhibition of the solidarity of the working class.

Just to be sure I hadn't missed something in my search for a traditional Labor Day celebration, I called the Colorado office of the AFL-CIO. I got a recorded message that the office was moving and would not be open again until Sept. 8.

Quillen actually continues with a fine rumination on the history of the Western Federation of Miners epic struggles in Colorado.

Unions aren't particularly focussed on marching in Labor Day parades these days. Most unions are too decrepit to turn out a crowd for a parade. Those that aren't have bigger fish to fry and don't want to tax their activists with organizing a march that doesn't build power. UNITE! and HERE seemed to be the only unions that combined the two this weekend. UNITE! marched in Charlotte to muster support for thousands of out of work Pillowtex workers and rallied with Sweeney, the Teamsters and 20,000 workers in Cincinnati to bring pressure to bear on Cintas (if there is a crowd of workers Bruce Raynor will find an employer to aim them at. UNITE! workers held demonstrations for laundy workers in Las Vegas when they held their convention earlier this year.) HERE took arrests in marching to bring attention to their strike at Yale.

Getting the press to cover labor with substance and insight is tough. Newsday in New York City is the only daily in the country that I know of the is committed to covering unions. Their coverage of the CWA/Verizon negotiations has been exemplary. Many papers simply refuse to cover unions unless it's unflattering strike coverage. But labor's absence from the public eye is partly of their own making. Most unions are simply not pro-active in getting their stories out. Those that are more sophisticated have small communications departments that struggle to get the press to cover organizing victories and tough fights. (FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 35 skateboard tuners vote to join STWA!!!) They don't have time to pitch bigger, deeper stories to the New York Times Magazine. CEO's and businesses are written about incessantly because there communications departments and pr firms pitch incessantly.

Filling in the gap in labor reportage is a big part of what I'd like to accomplish with this blog. I hope to begin doing some reporting and analysis of my own as readership grows. Now at least, there is one little spot on the web where the labor is covered in a substantial and incisive way for the general reader.

Happy Labor Day,


killing us with kindness 

The San Francisco Chronicle had a really stupid column to celebrate Labor Day.

i'm glad you stupid pieces of shit invited me here today 

From the White House transcript of Bush's address to Operating Engineers in Ohio:

THE PRESIDENT: I don't know about you, but we needed a little rain in Crawford. (Laughter.) Send it that way, if you don't mind. (Laughter.) Thank you so much for coming out on Labor Day. I appreciate -- I appreciate so many folks enduring the rain to say hello to the President. I am thrilled you are here, and I'm thrilled I'm here. (Applause.)

The working people of this country deserve a day off, and it looks like you're enjoying it. (Laughter.) I want you to know that I know the strength of the American economy comes from hardworking men and women. (Applause.) This country prospers because of people who give their best effort every day to support their families, to go to work, to make America a better place.

Who let this President within 200 yards of a group of union members on labor day?

the janitahs and the fiyah fitahs 

Boston Mayor Tommy Mennino gets snubbed for breakfast.


I've "over exerpted" here an article that highlights what happens when a local staff reporter is sent out to do the annual Labor Day report on the "state of the labor movement". This person has no opinion, no point of view, no history beyond a little google and doesn't know what she's talking about so she just quotes whatever people tell her. The result is what you would expect.

By Shella Jacobs

If Tucson were a union town, more of its workers might enjoy low-cost health insurance, retirement packages and guaranteed raises. Many workers in the retail sector, which makes up about 12 percent of Tucson's economy, might bargain for higher salaries than the $18,800 average many of them now make - roughly matching the U.S. Census' poverty threshold for a family of four.

Labor Day, a holiday created by unions more than 100 years ago to honor their contributions to the nation, might be a cause for communitywide celebration - a reminder of the days when workers had little recourse for mistreatment by employers and when just asking about a union could cost you your job. "Union contracts directly impact the quality of life of workers," said Joe Bernick, director of the Salt of the Earth Labor College, a school on Tucson's South Side that offers classes on workers' rights to anyone interested. "It's a fact that union workers are paid better; they get more vacation time. It's a fact that they get better pensions."

But that's not to say a stronger union presence would transform Tucson into a proletarian paradise.
Powerful unions could scare off companies unwilling to pay union wages and ultimately drive up the local unemployment rate - now hovering at 4.8 percent, below the national average of 6.2 percent. If higher wages cut company profits, the businesses might raise costs for consumers, move out of town or go out of business. "Employers would not be as attracted to the Tucson area," said Paul Kersey, labor research associate at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Michigan. "You would have a higher-paid work force, but at the same time, a work force that faces a higher rate of unemployment

But Tucson is not a union town. Aside from the unions that covered the once-thriving mining industry in Arizona, organized labor has never had a strong presence anywhere in the state.

In the last five years, local membership has declined sharply, especially in the private sector. The union membership rate nationwide stood at 13 percent last year, versus about 14 percent in 1997, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In Tucson, the rate last year was just 4 percent - 10,500 people, according to research compiled by Trinity University in San Antonio. That's down from the 1997 figure of 7 percent, or 20,700 people. In the public sector, local membership was 17 percent of the work force, or 12,600 people, versus 22 percent, or 13,400 people, in 1997. Those numbers don't include several thousand nonunion workers covered by labor contracts but who are not dues-paying members. They work in industries including manufacturing, telecommunications, teaching and firefighting.

...With more employers willing to offer competitive salaries and benefits, many workers question the need for unions.

"My biggest question is: How can the union here help me? And I've never gotten an answer," said Curtis Scarlett, food service manager at Pueblo Magnet High School. He used to be a union member in San Francisco but has refused to join here. Unions in Tucson can't offer him better insurance or retirement plans than he already has, he said. And if he has a beef with his boss? "I have a legal department that I can go to if I need to deal with a grievance," Scarlett said.

Poor working conditions in industries such as auto and steel spurred the growth of unions nationwide in the 1930s and 1940s. There had been no comprehensive federal laws covering health and safety, ASU's Bohlander said. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission wasn't created until the 1960s.

"Now that we have a lot of protection, unions have kind of worked themselves out of a job," Bohlander said.

It's difficult to persuade people to join the union, said Debra Raether, a cafeteria manager at Cragin Elementary School who recently joined Communications Workers of America Local 7026 via the Tucson Unified School District's supervisor professional unit. "They think that because they're college-educated or they have a really good job that they don't need the union," Raether said. But even among employees who see value in a union, Raether said, "there's a lot of fear of retaliation - that bad things can happen, that your boss will think you're disloyal because you joined."

Law is a stumbling block

The right-to-work law makes recruiting new members an uphill climb, Tucson union organizers said.

The law limits the amount of dues they can collect, squeezing budgets for launching more aggressive organizing efforts. "What it basically is, is the right to work for less. That's how it's sold to corporations," said Robert Martinez, chairman of the Pima Area Labor Federation, which was created earlier this year to bring together local affiliates of the AFL-CIO. Martinez also is a business manager for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Lodge 933, one of the largest unions in Tucson, with members at Raytheon Missile Systems, Boeing Aerospace Operations and Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

"There's a mind-set that if you come to Arizona, you can pay low wages without union involvement," Martinez said.

Union members do earn more than those who aren't included in collective bargaining contracts. Nationwide and across all industries, wages are 16 percent higher for union employees compared with nonunion workers, according to a recent survey by the Employment Policy Foundation, a nonpartisan research group in Washington, D.C. Full-time union members earned a median weekly salary of $740 last year, compared with $587 for those not represented by unions, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

And higher pay boosts the economy overall, said Bernick, of the Salt of the Earth Labor College.

"When workers get more money, it gets spent," he said. "That money has a multiplier effect when it enters the economy and creates more jobs."

find kathie lee 

Triangle Fire 

From Morning Edition:

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire
In 1911, a deadly fire swept through the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, killing about 150 workers. Many of those who died were poor, immigrant women. A new book details the blaze, and the sweeping set of workplace labor reforms that followed. NPR's Bob Edwards talks to David Von Drehle about his new book, Triangle: the Fire that Changed America. Hear an extended interview with Von Drehle.

how not to do politics : a primer 

From the LA Weekly:

By Marc Cooper:

The state labor meeting in Manhattan Beach concluded Tuesday in an intricately staged photo op: Governor Gray Davis flanked by legendary farm worker union co-founder Dolores Huerta and state labor chief Art Pulaski. As the chants of “No Recall!” voiced by dozens of other union activists died down, Pulaski — not once but twice — made this startling announcement: “Gray Davis,” he shouted into the microphones, “is the best governor this state has had in a hundred years!”

...Only a year ago, Huerta and Pulaski were among the hundreds of unionists who marched 11 days and 167 miles from Modesto to Sacramento through the heat of the Central Valley fields trying to shame the same Mr. Davis into doing the right thing. Even after successfully watering down a bill that put farm workers on more equal footing in negotiating with their powerful employers, Governor Davis had dithered for weeks without signing the measure. There was open fear he might even veto it.

As the protest march neared Sacramento, and with Davis still not giving in, Huerta — in spite of her advanced age — threatened to lead a hunger strike on the Capitol steps if that’s what it would take to get the governor to sign. Fearing a rush of embarrassing political theater in the midst of his re-election push, Davis finally relented and signed the bill.

As Huerta and Pulaski made that trek, I can’t imagine that at any moment either was thinking that Gray Davis was the “best governor” in history.

But all is now forgiven as labor once again scurries into the Democratic fold. At that Manhattan Beach meeting this week, 500 delegates of statewide labor voted unanimously to spend $5 million or so in members’ funds to oppose the recall of Davis, to publish and distribute millions of campaign mailers on his behalf, to organize 3 million phone calls and hundreds of thousands of “one-on-one” meetings with fellow unionists, and to mobilize thousands of local staff and volunteers in a get-out-the-vote effort to vote “no” on October 7.

Oh yeah. And the gathered unions also endorsed Cruz Bustamante. At least, I think they did.

...when Pulaski gave his post-convention statement to the press, the words Cruz Bustamante never crossed his lips. We’d have never known that Cruz was getting the support of the State Federation unless we had asked.

Kind of odd for a candidate that just got the endorsement of 2.1 million California workers. Service Employees International vice president Eliseo Medina was emphatic. “We are absolutely not going to make any calls saying only ‘Yes on Bustamante,’” he told the Weekly. The union nod to Cruz, said a number of the labor leaders, will be little more than a “tag line” in the blizzard of forthcoming union campaign fliers. Some kind of support!

...California labor has put itself in a rather absurd and twisted-up position, but one substantially of its own making. If labor had taken more distance from Davis over the past five years it might have been able to generate and lead a more progressive pole within the Democratic Party. It might have even had a real candidate of its own ready to step in and replace the tarnished Davis now that he’s threatened with a no-confidence recall.

But the vacuum created by labor and other Democratic liberals who went along to get along with Davis, left the field wide open for the lackluster and conservative candidacy of Cruz. Remember that Cruz openly defied the unions’ earlier warnings that any Democrat who entered the recall race and legitimized it would merit their political punishment. Cruz lumbered in and called the union bluff.

Now, labor’s stuck — supporting a sinking Davis, half-assedly supporting conservative Cruz yet simultaneously loathing and shunning him for having entered the race in the first place.

Meyerson's Labor Day Weekend Editorial 

From the Washington Post:
In Wal-Mart's America

By Harold Meyerson
Wednesday, August 27, 2003

If you had to pick a time and a place where the 20th century (as a distinct historical epoch) began in America, you could do a lot worse than 90 years ago in Highland Park, Mich. It was there, in 1913, that Henry Ford opened his new Model-T plant and announced, a few months later, that he'd pay his workers a stunning $5 a day on the revolutionary theory that the men who built cars should make enough money to buy them.

Within a couple of decades, it wasn't just cars that the men on the assembly line could afford. Particularly after the United Auto Workers burst on the scene in the mid-'30s to win successively larger wage settlements for its members, Detroit became the American metropolis with the highest rate of home ownership during the first half of the century. In the post-World War II period, that distinction shifted to Los Angeles, where vast housing tracts sprang up around the unionized aerospace factories that were then the city's largest employers.

So in honor of yet another Labor Day, here's a depressing question: Where are the housing booms for the current generation of working-class Americans? Not around factories, that's for sure: We close factories in America today. In the past four years, the United States has lost nearly one in nine manufacturing jobs, including 20 percent in durable-goods industries such as autos.

You won't find any housing development radiating outward from the center of the new service and retail economy, either. Ford and General Motors are yesterday's news; the employer that now sets the standards for working-class America is Wal-Mart. The nation's largest employer, with 3,200 outlets in the United States and sales revenue of $245 billion last year (which, if War-Mart were a nation, would rank it between Belgium and Sweden as the world's 19th largest economy) doesn't pay its workers -- excuse me, "associates" -- enough to buy decent cars, let alone homes. According to a study by Forbes, Wal-Mart employees earn an average hourly wage of $7.50 and, annually, a princely $18,000.

Just as Ford, GM and the UAW once drove up wages for workers who were nowhere near auto factories, so Wal-Mart drives down wages for workers who never set foot there. Controlling as it does so much of the low-end retail market, Wal-Mart has, with great success, pressured suppliers to cut their labor costs. No other American company has done as much to destroy what's left of the U.S. clothing and textile industry or been so loyal a friend to the dankest sweatshops of the developing world. And unless American unions can find the political leverage to block Wal-Mart's expansion into non-southern metropolitan areas, the company poses a huge threat to the million or so unionized clerks who work at the nation's major supermarket chains.

... The relation of union power to mass prosperity is, in a word, causal. Anyone who doubts that should go to the only American city today where there's a boom in housing construction for the working class: Las Vegas. The MGM-Grand, the Bellagio and Caesar's Palace are the Ford and GM there, and a quite brilliant hotel workers union, which has won the right to represent the workers in all the strip hotels, is the latter-day UAW. And the desert rings with hammering and sawing as homes go up for the only low-end service-sector workers in the Wal-Mart economy who've won the living standards to sustain the American dream.

Sunday, August 31, 2003

sunday supplement 

This week we present a special labor day sunday supplement

Here's how to fix our desperate urban schools: attract better teachers by paying them more,
much more, but tie compensation to performance and allow districts to fire bad teachers quickly

by Matthew Miller from the Atlantic
Print friendly

by The Workplace Project Centro de Derechos Laborales from Bread and Roses

100 years ago : The March of the Mill Children
by By Lawrence Striegel from Newsday

from the George Meany Memorial Archives

Don't iron while the strike is hot.

virtual gallery of the great folk artist
from Bread and Roses
this week we've present a special labor day sunday supplement

An interactive photo essay
from the AFL-CIO

by Erin Chan from the New York Times

He built the benefits package that workers now take for granted,
from health care to pensions. But his agenda was bigger than unionism.

by Irving Bluestone from Time

my favorite Joe Hill song
by Joe Hill performed by Utah Philips

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