Friday, November 21, 2003

let's take look at the markets 

Dean is leaving the rest of the field in the dust. Meanwhile. . .

Dean and Bush are running neck and neck in the Iowa Electronic futures market.

report on nafta 

From the NY Times:

As the North American Free Trade Agreement nears its 10th anniversary, a study from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace concludes that the pact failed to generate substantial job growth in Mexico, hurt hundreds of thousands of subsistence farmers there and had "minuscule" net effects on jobs in the United States.

The Carnegie Endowment, an independent, Washington-based research institute, issued its report on Tuesday to coincide with new trade negotiations aimed at the adoption of a Nafta-like pact for the entire Western Hemisphere. Trade ministers from 34 countries in the Americas are gathering now in Miami.

Link via Qualmatrix

no-lobbyist-left-behind bill 

The Economist:

...After three years of talk, Congress has agreed on a massive energy bill, full of handouts to every imaginable corner of the business. Republican leaders rammed the bill through to help George Bush's re-election race. They may have gone too far.

As The Economist went to press, Democratic senators looked set to start a last-minute filibuster to delay the bill. They are still furious that the Republicans shut them out of the process of reconciling the Senate and House versions of their bill. But when John Dingell, the top Democrat on the House energy committee, compares reading the 1,100-page bill to "lifting the lid of a garbage can and smelling the strong smell of special interests"?, he is not merely making a partisan point. The "no-lobbyist-left-behind bill" has also been condemned by John McCain, the libertarian Cato Institute and the Wall Street Journal.

Is the law really that bad? Yes. Invoking the bogus notion of an energy-supply crisis, Republican leaders have doled out a fortune to energy lobbies. The biggest whack--some $22 billion--goes to the oil-and-gas industry. Having lost the opportunity to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, it will get billions to build a pipeline to bring natural gas from Alaska to Chicago. The nuclear industry gets more than $7 billion. The coal industry picks up $8 billion...

Courtesy Brad Delong

E-Mail your Senator

Copyable and Pastable Sample Letter:

I am writing to urge you to vote against the Energy Bill (AKA the No Lobbyist Left Behind Bill) currently under consideration in the Senate.

While I applaud the continued ban on drilling in the Artic Wildlife Preserve, the bill fails to protect the environment on several counts.

The bill does not do enough to promote biofuels or other alternative energy sources.

The bill weakens the Clean Air and Water Act.

The bill does not go far enough to promote investment in America's powergrid.

The bill includes public subsidies for private nuclear power that would cost the American taxpayer an average of $600 a year.

I call on you to reject this bill so that we can develop a plan to deal with the challenges of providing power to the country, protecting our environment and reducing our dependence on foreign oil.

Yours truly,

Xxxx Xxxxxxx

Thursday, November 20, 2003

bush and the eeoc 

From Marketplace:

Bush undercuts EEOC power, recommends facelift
The Bush administration is calling for a comprehensive restructuring of the EEOC, the agency that serves as the nation's workplace discrimination watchdog. The plan includes peeling back layers of management, updating technology, and making operations more cost efficient. But critics say this is instituting the agenda of the Bush administration to downsize and privatize government, and that efforts to reorganize the EEOC mirror plans at other agencies with missions that differ from the White House’s conservative pro-business agenda.
Reporter: John Dimsdale

The idea of a centralized phone intake center would be disastrous. I've walked people through filing EEO charges and it's tricky. People have this long story of all this bad stuff that has happened and you have to sift through it to get to the thirty percent that might help and then draw out ohter examples and counter examples. If you don't do it well the complaintant starts to believe that you've turned against them. Usually what you need to do is let them know that they don't have a case without them thinking that you are blowing them off. It's very easy to increase the disenfranchisement of people who already feel marginalized and helpless.


From Marketplace:

The FTAA talks: Is it democracy at work?
In Miami today, trade representatives scramble to put forward a final draft for the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas. But will the final trade rules represent the majority opinion in each participating country? Well, some say the spread of democracy in Latin America could be the greatest obstacle to these trade deals, as negotiators are restrained by voters back home. But Latin American democracies may actually reflect wider public opinion than the U.S. because Congress has given the White House "fast track" negotiating authority, meaning the trade representatives have the power to make a deal.
Reporter: Jeff Tyler

Sign the AFL-CIO ballot to stop the FTAA

latest on the ufcw 

Meanwhile, the UFCW strike involving 70,000 workers at 859 stores throughout Southern California and parts of Central California in seven locals continues in federal mediation. Local 770 president Rick Icaza has accused the grocers of stonewalling. The accusations go outside the agreement to refrain from public comment made by both sides as a condition of mediation. Icaza said that posts made to a website maintained by Safeway Inc., the parent company of Vons and Pavilions andthe main target of the strike, broke the news blackout first through a Web site it maintains for its employees.

A Nov. 11 posting chided the union for staging high-profile rallies. "It is our hope that union leaders are spending at least as much timedeveloping a comprehensive proposal that addresses the issues that led up to the strike as they are organizing rallies and press events," the message said.

Icaza said the posting prompted questions from his membership, leading him to break his silence.

CalPERS is moving to pressure the grocers to move to end the strike.
From the Sacramento Bee Business Digest:

The nation's largest public pension fund took steps Wednesday that could pressure supermarket chains to settle the contentious grocery strike in Southern California.
After hearing a plea from union representatives during a meeting in San Diego, trustees of the California Public Employees' Retirement System agreed to let board member Rob Feckner explore ways to help speed up a settlement and assess the possible financial impact the walkout may have on the fund's investment returns.

Feckner said CalPERS' real estate holdings include shopping centers, and the landlords should consider how the labor disputes are affecting tenants' business. In the past, the $154 billion fund has used its financial influence to help settle labor disputes, including this year's janitors strike in Sacramento.

Board President Sean Harrigan is an executive with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union in Southern California, and other trustees have strong union ties.

The union has extended picketing to Northern California.
From the Sacramento Bee Business Digest:

The grocery workers on Friday set up informational picket lines at Safeway stores in Northern California, including selected stores in the East Bay, according to officials of the United Food & Commercial Workers union. Colleagues from Bay Area Safeway stores plan to join them in the picketing activity, though there is no strike against grocers in this part of the state.

Southern California UFCW leaders say they've been told by northern colleagues that many consumers in Northern California have expressed support for the Southland strike, so the picketing will raise visibility for the issue in this area.

From Newsday:

Yesterday 4,000 workers on Long Island and in New York City, have reached tentative agreements on four-year contracts. The tentative accords come about a month after the previous ones expired. The union represents meat, seafood and deli workers at a total of 275 supermarkets, including A&P and ShopRite. The union said it prevailed on the sticking point of benefits. The supermarkets wanted the workers to contribute to the benefit plans. But the new accord doesn't call for them to do so, according to a union statement.

On Halloween some 10,000 UFCW members in the St. Louis area ended a strike/lockout against Schnuck Markets Inc., Dierbergs Markets Inc. and Shop 'n Save Warehouse Foods Inc. Schnucks and Dierbergs and Shop 'n Save. They were successful on a number of counts including healthcare:

Elimination of an original proposal for $200-$400 deductibles in medical benefits.

Restoration of lower caps on the cost of prescription drugs at $25 for a 30-day supply and $75 for a 90-day supply. The earlier proposal had raised those caps to $75 for a 30-day supply and $175 for a 90-day supply

Contribute to the Strike Fund

Wednesday, November 19, 2003


I've been trying to get a handle on the UAW and their relatively new president, Ron Gettelfinger. I think the UAW is one of the most interesting labor stories this year and it's not getting covered. The UAW matters because of it's role in the labor aristocracy, they are the classic blue collar middle class - homeowners, good pensions, etc. They matter because of their presence in swing states, most notably Michigan. They matter because at 644,000 members and around 500,000 retiree members, they are still a pretty big union. They are important because with all the new auto plants built in this country by foreign auto companies they could be a very big union again if they got serious about organizing.

Gettlefinger took a novel approach to bargaining the Big Three contracts. Instead of picking a fight with the first company and using that contract as the standard, the UAW bargained all three in tandem. They made some pretty big concessions to secure card check and neutrality agreements for new organizing. They did the same when bargaining with part suppliers earlier in the year.

From the Akron Beacon Journal:

The United Auto Workers' decision to accept job cuts in exchange for health-care benefits in last month's labor agreement may extend a membership slide that would reduce the union's ranks to the lowest in 61 years.

The four-year accord with General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler unit will close eight plants, cutting as many as 50,000 jobs by 2007, Goldman Sachs analyst Gary Lapidus estimated in a report. That would lower UAW membership below 600,000 for the first time since 1942, and from a 1979 peak of 1.5 million.

The success of Asian automakers such as Toyota Motor Corp. at winning market share has taken a toll on the union's ability to confront the Detroit-based automakers. UAW President Ronald Gettelfinger's decision to swap jobs for benefits highlights the union's waning influence since the previous contract in 1999, when it won a ban on factory shutdowns.

"There was a major, major philosophical change'' in the union's approach, said Dan Genter, chief investment officer of RNC Genter Capital Management, which manages $1.6 billion in bonds, including debt issued by Ford and General Motors. "Corporate survival is now superseding individual (union) members' needs.''

Last month's contracts were negotiated as General Motors and Ford offered rebates of as much as $6,000 and no-interest loans for as long as six years. Even with escalating incentives, the market share of those two companies and Chrysler fell to 60.1 percent in 2003's first nine months from 61.7 percent in the 2002 period, according to Autodata Corp. Asian automakers gained 1.5 percentage points to 32.9 percent. Ten years ago, the U.S.-based manufacturers controlled 78 percent of the market.

The U.S. auto industry ``is going to shrink,'' and Gettelfinger ``is trying to manage the shrinkage,'' said Richard Block, a professor of industrial and labor relations at Michigan State University. ``There's a realization there will be far fewer UAW-represented workers at the Big Three.''

Gettelfinger, whose union has about 644,000 members now, declined to be interviewed.

Reading the mainstream press you get the sense that Gettelfinger has made some shrewd and tough decisions about the future of his union and the industry. But there are troubling aspect to what form some of the concessions took - tiered wage structures - and what they got in exchange. As I reported on October 11 it looked like someone at the UAW really blew it when it was revealed the card check and neutrality language in the Daimler/Chrysler agreement didn't cover the 2000 worker Alabama Mercedes plant. That has been confirmed.

From Labor Notes:

The union's bulletin to DCX workers listed "card check" as one of seven 'highlights' of the new contract. This led many to believe that the language applied to Mercedes' non-union, 2,000-worker assembly plant in Alabama, which UAW Vice President Nate Gooden had vowed would soon be organized.

Mercedes is owned by DaimlerChrysler A.G. of Germany, as is DCX in the U.S. But the company later clarified that the language does not cover the Alabama plant.

The new contracts include some hidden facets:

An unpublished letter says that UAW-DCX joint funds will pay for a benchmarking study of an assembly plant. "Benchmarking" means studying a plant believed to be the best, in order to copy its "best practices." It appears that the plant at which company and union will study "production, safety, attendance, quality, [and] employee relations" is a nonunion Toyota plant in Princeton, Indiana.

DCX is playing catch-up: the UAW has done such joint benchmarking with GM for years.

In another unpublished letter, DCX and the union agreed to develop a classifications structure for skilled workers that "migrates to world class levels." Although not spelled out, the benchmark automakers have long coveted is that of Japanese-run plants in the U.S. (some UAW-organized), which use only two skilled classifications.

Skilled workers say that, in addition to cutting jobs, such a structure dumbs down their work and allows a larger proportion to be contracted out.

The companies will move all workers and retirees now covered by traditional Blue Cross-about 43% of the total-into a plan with "network providers." This change was not mentioned in the union's bulletin to Ford workers, and was mentioned merely as an update in the DCX bulletin. Only GM workers were informed.

Controlling health care costs had been one of the companies' main goals, and union bargainers' chief selling point to workers was "health care protected-no cost-shifting." It is not known how much the switch will affect workers' costs or choice of physicians, but it is expected to cut the companies' costs substantially.

Rank-and-filer Gregg Shotwell agitated against the Delphi agreement in Coopersville, pointing out that current workers' security is illusory.

Shotwell said, "This contract more than any other I have seen devastates relationships. Over the next four years I will say 'goodbye' to everyone I work with [as they transfer to GM or retire], and ;good luck; to the poor bastards who take our place. Delphi workers will be forced out, but since our pensions are tied to the sinking ship there isn't much buoyancy in the life raft.

"When retirees speak at UAW conventions they get standing ovations. We love and respect what they did for us. I wouldn't dare go to a UAW convention after I retire. They will probably throw eggs at us."

It's one thing to make economic concessions to create opportunities to grow the union and build it's another to bargain concessions that divide the workforce. And yet another to let the company trick you about neutrality and card check for a 2,000 workers plant in Alabama.

Then there is the question of organizing. By my count the UAW has organized about 8800 workers this year. That's out of 130,553 total worker's that joined AFL-CIO unions this year. Of that 8800, 4000 came in an impressive card check campaign at two Freightliner plants in North Carolina. The next largest auto industry unit seems to be 529 workers. A third of the 8800 new members came from public sector workers including 2500 workers at the Puerto Rico Treasury Department. I understand how the UAW got started representing public employees in the Midwest where 'the union' meant the UAW but, it seems to me that they really need to be focusing on the auto industry - especially car plants in the South.

The one organizing victory report in the April issue of Solidarity was a 45 member unit. Now when 82 bus drivers for the Brandywine School District in Delaware join the UAW, I would argue that it makes the union weaker not stronger, because those workers need the resources of the union but do not contribute to the institutional power of the union.

The bulk of the victories coming from units of 100 to 250 workers in the auto parts industry and scattered and unrelated public sector units. When you bargain an agreement that calls for Chrysler to close eight plants, cutting as many as 50,000 that's 2500 small auto parts plants that you have to organize. I would have to say that the UAW organizing program suffers from a real lack of focus and vision. They are going to have to get off the hot shop organizing and make hay with the card check agreements that they've secured this year. They should also approach other union that have been successful in organizing shops over 1000 workers and get some help. Those campaigns are very different than winning an election with 150 angry workers who called you.

In politics, he isn't showing a lot of leadership.

From the Oakland Press:

The United Auto Workers has opted not to endorse any single candidate in the Democratic primaries.

Instead, the union's top executive board has decided to let each of its 11 regional offices make their own endorsements from among the announced candidates. The "no recommendation" position frees up the UAW's 11 regions to work through their respective regional structures to endorse the candidate of their choice, or not endorse, union officials said Friday.

. . . The UAW, however, polled its members in late summer and found them divided over which of the Democratic candidates to support.

. . . The UAW's "no recommendation" position, however, will undercut its ability to reach a consensus on one candidate in its home state of Michigan. The Michigan Democratic caucuses are now slated for early February 2004 and could have a major impact on the eventual outcome of the battle for the Democratic nomination.

The Iowa UAW CAP has gone ahead and endorsed Gephardt.

It's easy to understand why the UAW would sit out this race out. On one hand you want to go with the winner. On the other hand, while healthcare was the number one issue for SEIU, NAFTA is one, two and three for the UAW and I imagine a lot of their member are going to be very loyal to Gephardt and I'm sure he seems more electable in the Midwest. But where Gettelfinger needs to turn these massive contract negotiations into participatory deliberative events that involve the membership, if he had an endorsement process that involved the whole union the way SEIU's did then the union could get out ahead on this stuff. I mean giving a statement of no recommendation and then saying the Regions can endorse - what the hell is that?

Then there is the question of internal leadership of the union. Given the precarious nature of the auto industry in the US there are going to be tough choices made and often those choices are going to have to be finessed or "sold" to the membership. This is especially true when the membership has been cut out the deal. When they haven't been involved in the process of negotiations. Gettelfinger seems to have a top down style that doesn't bode well for the future of the union.

Delphi UAW members letter to
Ron Gettelfinger, President, United Auto Workers


We have belonged to the UAW for 25 years, first as GM employees, and now working for Delphi. We have always been proud to be members and supporters. Our answer to criticism of our union, from fellow union members and non-union workers, was that the dues we paid to the union were some of our most well spent money.

Due to the contents of (and future contents not yet stipulated), and the ratification procedure implemented by the UAW of the 2003 National agreement, we have become upset enough that we are writing this letter. We won't go into details because we know that you are a busy man, and would never have the time to read the several pages of diatribes that would be listed. Besides, you as well as anyone, know of the shortcomings of the contract for Delphi UAW employees and of the deceitful and under handed way in which the ratification process was handled.

Enclosed in this package are the rings we received from the UAW for 25 years of membership. We had anticipated for years wearing these rings with pride. They are symbols of achievement not unlike a college diploma or a journeyman's card. They cannot be bought. They must be earned. They were received shortly after the 2003 National Agreement negotiations and ratification procedure.

It is our hope that they will be reminders to you, the most influential representative of all of us in the UAW, that we hope that our leadership will remember that honesty, integrity and respect are still as important to us who work on the shop floor today, as when our Union was formed. If you do not want them for this purpose, feel free to give them to someone else. They are brand new, and never been worn, so there is no dirt or grime from being on a worker's hand. If you don't know anyone else who would like to have them, then throw them away, as we would be ashamed to wear them unless we were convinced that the Union was returning to the values which until now, have always made us proud to be members of the United Auto Workers.

We do have one question. Will you explain how a two tiered wage scale at Delphi, which goes against one of the UAW's basic beliefs "equal pay for equal work", will ever promote solidarity among current and future employees?

We will still pay our union dues and support our local union. Instead of feeling that it is some of our best spent money, we will have the same attitude as that of a small business owner who pays money to a group of unscrupulous thugs; it's just the cost of doing business.

Roderick M. Underhill
Daniel Smith
UAW Local 2151
Coopersville, MI

I don't know if that statement is fair to Gettelfinger, but I do know that if members feel that way, he is doigng something wrong - even if it isn't what those members feel it is.

Caterpillar negos are right around the corner.

Past UAW posts: 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 6 , 7

blogonaut activist network: unemployment benefits 

From the Center for Budget Policies and Priorities:

A schedule released by the Senate leadership indicates that after the Senate adjourns for the year, the plan is for the Senate to reconvene on January 20.[1] This schedule guarantees that unless Congress acts to extend the Temporary Extended Unemployment Compensation (TEUC) program before it adjourns, large numbers of unemployed workers will be harmed.

In January about 90,000 unemployed workers are likely to exhaust their regular, state benefits each week, but absent Congressional action, none of these people would be eligible for TEUC aid.[2] Absent Congressional action, starting January 1 workers who exhaust their regular, state benefits will not be eligible for additional federal TEUC benefits. The only people who will continue to receive TEUC benefits will be those already enrolled in the program at the end of this year.

With the leadership in Congress and the President remaining nearly silent about their intentions for the TEUC program, it is possible that Congress will depart for the year without taking any action on it. Some may then assert that the issue of whether to extend the program, and in what form, can be dealt with easily upon Congress’ return. From the perspective of many of the unemployed, this approach would be damaging. Available data indicate that in the month of January alone as many as 400,000 unemployed workers may exhaust their state benefits.

Write your Senator

Copyable and Pastable Sampleable Letter

I am writing to urge you too take action to extend the Temporary Extended Unemployment Compensation before the Senate adjourns for the year. As many as 400,000 unemployed workers may exhaust their benefits in January if the Senate does not take action now.

Yours truly,

Xxxx Xxxxxxx

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

that ain't right 

This story is almost a month old but as Klein says: it deserves telling.

Joe Klein writes in Time:

In 1999, an unassuming Michigan road builder named Bob Thompson sold his construction company for $442 million, an amount he and his wife Ellen believed was far more than they needed for retirement. His first act, which received national attention, was to distribute $128 million to his employees; about 80 became instant millionaires. Then Thompson decided to donate most of the rest of his money to public education, preferably in Detroit. After doing some research, he offered $200 million to build 15 small, independent public high schools in the inner city. A few weeks ago, Thompson withdrew his offer after the Detroit Federation of Teachers (DFT) led a furious, and scurrilous, campaign against his generosity. The philanthropist is in seclusion now—friends say he is stunned and distressed—but his is a story that deserves telling. . .

something to chew on 

From the CS Monitor:

. . . Yes, US jobs have been lost. But the "giant sucking sound" famously predicted by presidential candidate Ross Perot in 1992 has arguably been more of a whimper. Nor has it created enough jobs in Mexico to stem illegal immigration, as others predicted.

What it has accomplished, without dispute, is increase trade. Commerce between the US and Mexico has nearly tripled in a decade, growing twice as fast as US trade with the rest of the world.

"This increased trade has brought cheaper products and allowed US manufacturers to remain competitive in the world market," says Jorge Gonzalez, chairman of the economics department at Trinity University in San Antonio. "And that is exactly what it was supposed to do. Trade is not an engine for jobs, it's an engine for efficiency."

Most economists do not deny that NAFTA has displaced American workers and devastated entire towns - even as the US economy has added about 2 million jobs a year since 1990. It's evident from the job-training centers in southern Texas to the "NAFTA ghost towns" of North Carolina, with their shuttered textile plants.

The US Department of Labor calculates that about 500,000 jobs - mostly in manufacturing - have been lost to Canada or Mexico since NAFTA was enacted Jan. 1, 1994. Some claim that number is even higher. Robert Scott at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, for example calculates it at 766,000.

. . . And as prices for certain goods drop as a result, Americans have more money to spend on other things, thus stimulating the economy. In addition, some workers whose jobs go south are able to retrain for higher-skilled, higher-paid jobs. As Dan Griswold at the Cato Institute's Center for Trade Policy Studies in Washington says, "Trade is not about more jobs or fewer jobs; it's about better jobs, and NAFTA is no exception."

Trade, according to economic theory, allows countries to use their resources more effectively by reducing production in the areas where they are less efficient and increasing it where they are more efficient. This increases the standard of living for everyone, says Dr. Gonzalez. "We've basically taken two economies with vastly different resources and integrated them," he says. "That helps the whole region become more competitive."

But there is still much to be done if NAFTA is to be a success, analysts say. Issues of trucking, immigration, environment, and tariffs on certain agricultural products remain unresolved 10 years later.

In addition, increased competition from China has forced many Mexican maquiladoras to shut their doors. In fact, the number of maquiladoras here has dropped to 1999 levels - in part because of the downturn in the US economy, but also due to the lure of even cheaper labor elsewhere.

That has changed the face of NAFTA workers.Leaning on a massive length of steel, Jim Jackson motions to Mexican engineers studying blueprints at the Cives Steel Plant - one of hundreds of maquiladoras in Nuevo Laredo.

It's highly technical work - raw steel beams are fabricated for building projects in the US - so a third of all workers here have engineering backgrounds, says Mr. Jackson, the plant's general manger. "This is a custom-job shop. Employees have to be able to read and interpret blueprints."

This isn't the assembly-line factory that springs to mind when one hears the word maquiladora. These are skilled workers. Indeed, as more US companies move their unskilled, production-line jobs to Asia, Mexico is being forced in a new direction.

In fact, many economists agree that NAFTA has played a role in helping turn the Mexican economy from a model of centralized protection to decentralized, democratic capitalism. Closely tied to the US economy, it now has one of the most stable and dynamic economies in volatile Latin America.

And that has prompted steady political reform, says Russell Roberts, a professor of economics at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. "The bottom line is this: NAFTA has caused hardship for some Americans in certain sectors, but it's made for a more stable and integrated Mexican political system - and that's a real good thing for the world."

I'm doing this for nursing. I gain nothing from this strike,'' said Patricia Beer 

From the New York Times:

PETOSKEY, Mich. (AP) -- For a year now, through the autumn chill, the winter snows, the spring rain and the summer heat, hundreds of nurses have been on strike at Northern Michigan Hospital in a dispute that illustrates what is ailing the nursing profession.

"I'm doing this for nursing. I gain nothing from this strike,'' said Patricia Beer, who had been looking ahead to retirement after 44 years on the staff but is now picketing every morning. "We have to stand up and make a difference, or there aren't going to be nurses to take care of people in the future.''

The walkout by about half of the hospital's registered nurses hit the one-year mark Friday, with no end in sight. No talks have been held since the work stoppage began, and none are planned. So polarized are the two sides, they do not even agree on what issues are behind the strike. Hospital administrators say it is about money and a union power grab; the nurses say it is about working conditions and quality of care. They say that they are short-handed, overworked and treated shabbily, and that patient care is suffering as a result.

But with the dispute at an impasse, the 506 Teamsters-represented nurses voted Thursday on whether to stay with the union they joined in 2001. The outcome wasn't immediately known Friday because each side challenged the eligibility of numerous voters.

everybody, everybody - blackbox 

From the New York Times:

For Middle Class, Health Insurance Becomes a Luxury

From the USA Today:

Fewer workers make use of 401(k)s

New York Times Editorial:

The 70,000 grocery workers on strike in Southern California are the front line in a battle to prevent middle-class service jobs from turning into poverty-level ones. The supermarkets say they are forced to lower their labor costs to compete with Wal-Mart, a nonunion, low-wage employer aggressively moving into the grocery business. Everyone should be concerned about this fight. It is, at bottom, about the ability of retail workers to earn wages that keep their families out of poverty.

a twist in the... 

From the Washington Post:

A provision in a spending bill that House and Senate negotiators agreed to last week could cripple a White House initiative that requires thousands of federal workers to compete with private contractors for their jobs, according to Bush administration allies.

The government-wide provision, part of the fiscal 2004 spending bill for the Transportation and Treasury departments, would grant federal workers the right to appeal to the General Accounting Office if they lose job competitions under President Bush's "competitive sourcing" initiative. That could trigger a wave of frivolous challenges from employee groups, said Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council, a contractor group.

"It is an enormous change in labor and procurement law that I think is going to have a chilling effect on the overall competitive sourcing process," Soloway said. "I think it has the potential to be the death knell."

Mark Roth, general counsel for the American Federation of Government Employees, said Soloway was overreacting. The legislation merely grants employees a right of appeal that contractors have had for decades, Roth said. "This is very simply balancing out the process," Roth said. "If the union files frivolous appeals, the [GAO], just like a court, will stop entertaining them."


From Newsday:

Though Verizon said it will maintain service levels despite cuts in workforce, skeptics contend repairs and installation could be adversely affected.

Verizon will usher 21,600 of its workers out the door by Friday - nearly double the number of resignations expected when it offered souped-up severance packages last month.
The departing employees, about 10% of the phone company's workforce, have accepted the lump sum or early retirement packages offered to help hack costs at the nation's No. 1 local phone company.

They include 5,600 union workers, mostly technicians and call center operators, and about 16,000 nonunion managers and administrative staff.

Many of those taking the buyout are expected to search for new jobs and could have an impact on the city's 8.8% unemployment rate, already more than a third higher than the national average.

mediation in l.a. 

From the LA Times:

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority and its mechanics union agreed Monday to settle their remaining contract differences through mediation, ending a 35-day transit strike that has left an estimated 400,000 daily passengers without bus or train service. A few limited bus routes began running Monday night, and partial rail service on the Red Line subway and light-rail Blue Line was expected to resume this morning. Officials said full countywide service would probably not be restored until Friday.

Negotiators reached a tentative settlement shortly before midnight Sunday after what both sides characterized as several grueling bargaining sessions since Friday.

The agreement was quickly and unanimously approved Monday by the MTA board. It must still be ratified by the Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 1277, which has scheduled a vote for Wednesday. But union President Neil Silver, who is recommending the deal to his members, urged them to go back to work immediately as a show of good faith.

The key sticking point during more than a year of negotiations, the provision of health benefits for active and retired mechanics, remains to be settled. It will be presented now to a panel of three mediators — one picked by each side, the other chosen jointly — who will draft a compromise proposal that can be rejected by either side.

from the department of weird but good(?) 

From the Dayton Dispatch:

Negotiators for Delphi Corp. and the International Union of Electronic Workers-Communications Workers of America reached a tentative four-year contract Sunday evening after days of intensive bargaining, union officials announced Sunday night.

. . . Under the proposal, Delphi agreed to a plant-closing moratorium that would cover all Delphi plants for the life of the contract, including plants placed in a holdings group that Delphi has said it will close if they don't become profitable, IUE-CWA spokeswoman Lauren Asplen said.

. . . The IUE-CWA represents about 4,500 hourly workers at General Motors Corp.'s Moraine Assembly plant and another 3,000 workers at two Delphi plants in Kettering and Moraine. Delphi is the world's largest supplier of automotive parts.

The union announcement said members covered by nontraditional wage and benefit agreements would become eligible for full job security coverage after reaching five years of seniority, a year earlier than they do now. The provision will extend immediate job security to an additional 1,000 union members and 500 more within the next few months, the union said.

The deal includes a $3,000 signing bonus for all members as well as improvements in pension and health care coverage and contract language, the union said. It also said Delphi would "communicate to its suppliers its respect to IUE-CWA and the benefits of an organized work force," fight for national health-care coverage and "consider" supporting labor law changes affecting organizing campaigns and union elections.

The Street Railroad Strike in New York - The Police Opening the way for a Horsecar


From the Cinncinatti Post:

Two national labor unions waging a campaign to represent workers at Cintas Corp. plan to file charges against the company with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The unions say the charges will allege discrimination against women and minorities. The Union of Needletrades, Industrial, and Textile Employees (UNITE) and the Teamsters said they will hold a related press conference today in Washington, D.C., with Kweisi Mfume, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and representatives from the National Organization for Women, and the black and Hispanic congressional caucuses.

narrow special interest group strikes again 

From Business Week:

In Milwaukee, a nonprofit and a union local are working together to make health insurance accessible and affordable for home-healthcare workers. In what may be a first, the two have devised an unusual setup that will allow the union's health-insurance plan to be available to small companies that are not union shops. Some sort of innovation has been sorely needed: Milwaukee's health-insurance premiums are 55% higher than those in other large Midwestern metropolitan areas, and premiums for small and midsize companies are expected to rise 23% this year.

So the Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership (WRTP), which trains unemployed and low-income workers for better jobs, is joining with a union representing home healthcare workers -- Service Employees International Union Local #150 (SEIU). Because of legal restrictions on the use of union healthcare funds, the union can't simply open up its plan to nonunion companies. To get around that obstacle, the union and WRTP will set up a professional employee outsourcing company (PEO), which will stand between the union and small home-healthcare agencies. The PEO will have a collective-bargaining agreement with the union, making it and its employees eligible for health insurance through the union.

pounding pensionshares into swords 

From Business Week:

Labor Sharpens Its Pension Sword: Unions are using their shareholder clout -- and pickets -- to lean on employers

On Oct. 28, several dozen union members rallied at Kroger Co.'s (KR ) headquarters in Cincinnati, holding signs protesting the company's threat to cut health-care benefits for its striking supermarket workers in Southern California. But these protesters were not strikers, or even colleagues from their union, the United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW). The picketers were members of 14 Cincinnati area construction unions. Stranger still, they were there at the behest of the Cincinnati Worker-Owner Council, a group of construction labor officials who are also trustees of union pension funds.

. . . Ever since John J. Sweeney took the reins of the AFL-CIO in 1995, he has been urging unions to use the power of their $350 billion in pension funds to become shareholder activists. Spearheaded by the AFL-CIO Office of Investments, labor has become one of the country's strongest voices for corporate reform, demanding independent boards of directors, mutual-fund accountability, and curbs on runaway CEO pay. But now a number of unions are upping the ante, using their pension holdings to pressure companies on bread-and-butter labor issues as well. Combining old-fashioned tactics such as picketing with their clout in the boardroom, unions are attacking employers on everything from health-care benefits to job outsourcing.

the road to miami 

From the

Nov. 18—Tens of thousands of workers and activists from the United States and Central and South America are arriving in Miami for four historic days of rallies, marches, conferences and other actions to highlight the devastating effects of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) on jobs and the environment, as trade ministers meet Nov. 18–21 to hammer out details of the hemisphere-wide trade deal.

Click here to sign a petition to stop FTAA

tired of tire talks  


NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Contract negotiations have broken off between tire manufacturer Bridgestone/Firestone and the United Steelworkers of America. Union negotiators walked away from the table Wednesday in St. Louis because they found the Nashville tire maker's offer "so far off base it doesn't even serve as a starting point," Steelworkers spokesman Wayne Ranick said Thursday. "We told them that as long as that proposal remains on the table, there will be no negotiations."

The union represents about 6,000 workers at eight factories in Tennessee, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Oklahoma and Ohio. The company has 18 plants and about 35,000 workers in North America.

mcjob mcjob mcjob mcjob mcjob mcjob mcjob mcjob  

From the BBC:

McDonald's anger over McJob entry

McDonald's has expressed its outrage over how the latest Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary describes job prospects at the US fast-food giant.

In its latest edition, the dictionary defines the term McJob as "low-paying and dead-end work".

McDonald's CEO Jim Cantalupo dismissed the term as "an inaccurate description of restaurant employment". He called it "a slap in the face to the 12 million" industry's staff, according to the Associated Press news agency.

It's not in the online edition yet. I checked.

blogonaut activist network: the energy bill 

From the New York Times Editorial:

Last weekend, (President Bush) claimed that the energy bill approved by Republican leaders would make the country "more secure." Senator John McCain's description of the bill as a "leave no lobbyist behind" barrel of pork for selected industries and campaign contributors was closer to the truth. So was Senator Robert Byrd's unsparing judgment that the bill would "do about as much to improve the nation's energy security as the administration's invasion of Iraq has done to stem the tide of global terrorism."

One can only hope for a similar show of honesty from 39 of their Senate colleagues, 41 being the minimum needed to sustain a filibuster and launch this dreadful bill into the legislative netherworld where it belongs. At that point Congress can start again and give the country an energy strategy worthy of the problems it faces, oil dependency being one, and global warming another.

Both problems require fossil fuel alternatives — not just environmentalists' favorite hobbyhorses, like wind and solar power, but biofuels that can take the place of gasoline. They demand vastly more efficient cars and trucks, as well as more benign forms of coal, the world's most abundant fuel. This bill takes baby steps — a clean-coal demonstration project here, a hydrogen project there — that pale next to the huge tax breaks and generous regulatory rollbacks it gives fossil fuel producers.

The oil and gas companies were particularly well rewarded — hardly surprising in a bill that had its genesis partly in Vice President Dick Cheney's secret task force. Though they did not win permission to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, they got a lot of other things, not only tax breaks but also exemptions from the Clean Water Act, protection against lawsuits for fouling underground water and an accelerated process for leasing and drilling in sensitive areas at the expense of environmental reviews and public participation. Meanwhile, the bill imposes new reliability standards on major electricity producers, but it is not clear whether it would encourage new and badly needed investment in the power grid.

From the Daily Outrage@the Nation:

The Republican-controlled federal government, in its wisdom, has decided America needs six new nuclear power plants -- which should be born of a Soviet-style taxpayer-subsidized scheme, yet privately-owned and for-profit. (You and I shoulder the costs -- $600 per family -- while friends-of-Cheney collect the profits.) The Nuclear Information and Resource Service says the nuclear industry will be getting upwards of $11 billion from the porkfest known as the energy bill. The Washington Post observes with alarm that the bill includes a staggering $100 billion in tax cash giveaways

E-Mail your Senator

Copyable and Pastable Sample Letter:

I am writing to urge you to vote against the Energy Bill currently under consideration in the Senate.

While I applaud the continued ban on drilling in the Artic Wildlife Preserve, the bill fails to protect the environment on several counts.

The bill does not do enough to promote biofuels or other alternative energy sources.

The bill weaks the Clean Air and Water Act.

The bill does not go far enough to promote investment in America's powergrid.

The bill includes public subsidies for private nuclear power that would cost the American taxpayer an average of $600 a year.

I call on you to reject this bill so that we can develop a plan to deal with the challenges of providing power to the country, protecting our environment and reducing our dependence on foreign oil.

Yours truly,

Xxxx Xxxxxxx

re: linkrot and the new york times 

Good news for bloggers who A) don't want to mess with a news aggregator B) want there NY Times links to last more than two weeks:

The New York Times Link Generator

will generate Radio Userland urls for bloggers that last in perpetuity. How 'bout that?

Radio Userland worked out a deal with the Times to create blogger friendly links that don't roll over into a pay for play archive. Cool beans. But what happens when everyone figgers out that they never have to pay for an article? They can use that as a backdoor. Most likely the Times will get more revenue from advertising from bloggers linking to the Times than they get from the pay for play archive.

I know I avoid the Times as much as possible because of that. If I find an article, I google it to see if I can get it from another source and I don't browse the Times, because I see it as a collection of links that expire in two weeks. Well now the Times can count on me sending both my readers their way a lot more often now.

Serendipity baby - I happen to be building an archive of my Sunday Magazine in my margin and I can fix all the NY Times Sunday Mag links now. I don't think that I'm going back through my whole archive though. I'm still fixing my first month of blogging from when I was working in Konquerer and didn't know how to write tags to create links.

blogonaut activist network: medicare 

From the NY Times:

Critics of the Medicare plan devised by Congressional leaders said yesterday that it contained little in the way of mechanisms to slow the runaway costs of drugs and medical services even as it provided tens of billions of dollars for hospitals, health plans, employers, doctors and the drug industry.

With the full details of the proposal not yet public, some policy analysts also expressed doubt that the compromise, reached over the weekend, would stay within the 10-year, $400 billion cost that Congress allotted to a Medicare overhaul. The legislation would provide a prescription drug benefit for the first time to 40 million disabled and elderly Americans.

"There's something here for everybody," said Ira Loss, who follows the health-care industry for Washington Analysis, a service for investors. The legislation, he said, "is a classic election-year giveaway, a year early."

The legislation would give employers $70 billion or more in subsidies to discourage them from dropping health coverage for their retirees. Private health plans would receive roughly $15 billion to persuade them to assume a much larger role under Medicare, in particular providing the new drug coverage. Hospitals, particularly in rural areas, could expect about $20 billion in added payments, and doctors — who were facing lower Medicare reimbursements — would instead receive a small increase.

Reports and a Press Release from the Center for Budget Policies and Priorities

Click here to write your Representative to stop passage of this legislation.

Click here to write your Senator.

Sample letter:

Dear xxxxx:

I am writing to urge you to vote against Medicare Plan currently under consideration. I feel that it too greatly rewards special interests while doing little to benefit seniors.

Respectfully yours,

Xxxx Xxxxxxx

the road map 

From Haaretz:

IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon lashed out at Syria yesterday for supporting Palestinian terror organizations and Hezbollah, hinting Israel might again attack targets in Syria - as it did in early October - if Damascus does not desist from providing this support.

bad news 

From CRN:

The SCO Group will pay nearly $9 million to its legal eagles at Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP to continue its Linux fight against IBM and others. The Lindon, Utah-based company will pay former Microsoft antitrust prosecutor David Boies and company $1 million in cash and 400,000 shares of its common stock valued at $7.956 million that will be recorded against the company's fourth quarter, which ended Oct. 31, the company said.

Most of what I've read suggested to me that SCO's case is weak. However, the government's case against against Microsoft was weak until Boies took on the case. It took him about twenty minutes to figure out where the center of the case was. He's a pretty frickin' damn good lawyer. And with 400,000 shares of SCO stock, a pretty motivated one.

Maybe Al Gore should have offered him 400,000 shares of stock.

Monday, November 17, 2003 

A new Iraqi blog launched on Friday. Omar lays down a powerful challenge to anti-war westerners. His first two posts are incredibly touching.

Link via Andrew Sullivan

this is despicable 

From the BBC:

A group of Italian anti-war militants is raising funds to support the armed Iraqi resistance, the BBC has learned.
The discovery comes as Italy mourns 19 men killed in a suicide attack in Iraq last week. The "Antiimperialista" organisation's internet campaign asks people to send "10 Euros to the Iraqi resistance". Nineteen Italians were killed in last week's suicide attack in Nasiriya. They say they have collected 12,000 euros ($14,165) in the past eight weeks and admit the money used could be used to buy weapons. The Antiimperialistas are a group of European anti-war and anti-globalisation supporters.

Link via Andrew Sullivan

bush continues campaigning abroad for anti-american candidates around the world 


GEORGE Bush's administration has called on US companies in Britain to relocate jobs to America in an astonishing move that could trigger a major trade war. US-based multinationals have been told they will receive compensation from American trade authorities if they cancel contracts in Britain and take jobs home, according to CBI director-general Digby Jones. The allegations come only a day before Bush arrives in London for his controversial State visit and escalate the storm of protest he has already caused by slapping big protectionist tariffs on European steel imports.

Link via Atrios

blogonaut activist network 

AARP members can register their dismay and/or outrage at AARP's endorsement of the President's Medicare Bill here.

Link via Atrios

the anybody but dean movement strikes again 

The Anybody but Dean Movement was on Meet the Press with Tim Russert producing some TV spots for the Bush Campaign on Sunday:


MR. RUSSERT: This was the article back in 1994 in the Washington paper: A senior Pentagon official has ignored State Department warnings not to meet with Serb officials suspected of ordering deaths of civilians in a campaign known as ethnic cleansing, State Department officials said. Despite the department's protests, Army Lieutenant General Wesley Clark, the Joint Chiefs of Staff director of strategy, plans and policy, met with Serb General Ratko Mladic, who had been named a war crimes suspect...

Here's a photograph. You're wearing his hat. He's wearing yours. The article goes on to say that you had exchanged caps, that he had given you a bottle of brandy and a pistol
inscribed in Cyrillic. "It's like cavorting with Hermann Goering," one U.S. official complained. - Hitler's number two, of course. That was a mistake, wasn"t it?

GEN. CLARK: It was a mistake to accept the gifts. But let me correct the headline in the story, Tim.


MR. RUSSERT: September 26, your testimony to the House Armed Services Committee. And this is what you said: "There's no question that Saddam Hussein is a threat. He does retain his chemical and biological capabilities to some extent, and he is, as far as we know, actively pursuing nuclear capabilities." You went on: "Our president has emphasized the urgency of eliminating these weapons and weapons programs. I strongly support his efforts..." And"I do believe the United States' diplomacy in the United Nations would be strengthened if Congress can adopt a resolution expressing U.S. determination to act if the United Nations cannot act." And you continued, "As Richard Perle , - chief architect of the war in Iraq, - so eloquently pointed out, this is a problem that's longstanding. It's been a decade in the making. It needs to be dealt with and the clock is ticking on this."
A month later you went up to New Hampshire, campaigning for Katrina Swett, a candidate for Congress in the 2nd District, and said this: "Clark endorsed Democratic Katrina Swett in the 2nd District in New Hampshire. - And "He said if she were in Congress this week, he would advise her to vote for the resolution." And as recently as September of this year, in response to a question of the press,"On balance, I probably would have voted for it."

This was the resolution that the president asked for, giving him the authority to go to war. And the record's pretty clear, General, that you were supporting the president.

GEN. CLARK: Well, I don't think the record's clear


MR. RUSSERT: And we are back. General Clark, one of your opponents in the Democratic primary, Howard Dean, said your biggest problem may be convincing Democratic voters that you’re truly a Democrat. And what they refer to is now a famous speech you gave at a Republican county dinner on May 11, 2001. Let's listen to a portion of that:

(Videotape, May 11, 2001):

GEN. CLARK: If you look around the world, there's a lot of work to be done. And I'm very glad we've got the great team in office, men like Colin Powell, Don Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Paul O'Neill - people I know very well - our President George W. Bush. We need them there, because we've got some tough challenges ahead. (End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: "A great team. We need them there." And then on January 22, 2002, at Harding University in Arkansas, again, you added to that. Let's watch.
(Videotape, January 22, 2002):

GEN. CLARK: I didn't say this earlier, and I should have. I tremendously admire, and I think we all should, the great work done by our commander in chief, our president, George Bush, and the men and women of the United States armed forces.
(End of videotape)


MR. RUSSERT: I want to give you a chance to respond to some of the comments some of your fellow military men have said about you, because it has received a lot of coverage in the newspapers and on television. This was a question posed to Hugh Shelton, who was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President Clinton:"What do you think of General Wesley Clark and would you support him as a presidential candidate?" "I've known Wes for a long time. I'll tell you the reason he came out of Europe early had to do with integrity and character issues, things that are very near and dear to my heart. ...I'll just say Wes won't get my vote."

Tommy Franks, who led the effort in Iraq, said this: Would you make a good president? He said, "Absolutely not."
Norman Schwarzkopf added, "I do know that Clark's always been viewed as being very, very ambitious. I mean, he was fired as a NATO commander, and when Hugh Shelton said he was fired because of matters of character and integrity, that is a very, very damning statement, which says if that's the case, he's not the right man for president as far as I'm concerned."

What is General Shelton referring to? Why were you given the ax as NATO commander?

GEN. CLARK: Well, I don't know what he's referring to.

This guys a real giant slayer.

Last week Kevin Drum asked us to close our eyes and imagine what the Bush ads against Dean would look like in April. When I close my eyes and think about them, I don't know what they will look like -

Maybe this -
(Ominous voiceover) "Last year when the Nation preparing for war in Iraq, Howard Dean was howling in the wilderness. He said that the intelligence supporting the President's assertions about the threat that Saddam Hussein posed internationalable. Then he said that we should not act without more interational support (Ominous music) We now know that he was right. Come November think long and hard about whether you want a President who was right (Blurry, menacing photo of Dean) ... or one who (photounnecessaryking dashing in flightsuit) dragged the country into an unneccessary and costly war that ended with an ungrateful Iraq giving the US the bum's rush?"

Well, when I close my eyes and picture the Clark kryptonite ads I know damn well what they will look like. They will look like Tim Russert asking him questions without a chance to respond.

the blogonaut activist network 

From the AFL-CIO:

The Bush administration is pushing for a major trade deal that would hurt ordinary working Americans by exporting even more jobs. This deal, called the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), is like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) of 10 years ago but much bigger. The FTAA would apply to the 34 countries and 800 million people throughout North and South America. The FTAA would trade away millions more U.S. jobs.

This week, representatives of the governments of these countries are meeting in Miami to negotiate the details of this trade deal. To ensure these trade ministers won't hear only from Big Business and huge corporations, working families are sending tens of thousands of messages opposing passage of the FTAA.

Click here to add your name to the ballot to stop the passage of the FTAA.

song of the week 

Cold Hungry Blues by Po' Girl. They seemed a tiny bit nerdy for my tastes, but this song grew on me. Then I proceeded to listen to it ten times in a row last night, because it suited my mood. Now I'm sick of it. City Song is pretty good too.

Has it really been three weeks since I did a 'Song of the "Week" '? Well today marks the first day in almost month that I'm back blogging full steam.

let a half dozen flowers bloom 

At work we have a young pup who peppers me all day long with sophomoric philosophical and political questions. Last week he asked me if I was offered the job of running Iraq would I take it and what would I do. I proposed a number of obvious top of the list things all related to creating a constitution and an elected government and then tacked on at the end this: "I would start handing out small and medium sized grants to anyone who wanted to start a newspaper/radio station/tv station/news website." As soon as I said it occurred to me that that was more important for creating civil society and the preconditions for successful democracy than any structure or timetable anyone could come up with for directly creating a constitutional democracy.

So what is the Pentagon doing?

From the Village Voice via GNN:

the Pentagon has decided to spend the Iraqis' media budget on one very polished, tightly controlled center for "public diplomacy," rather than on a diverse chain of independent news centers. Critics say that's no way to introduce the value of free speech.

In October, the Pentagon began soliciting bids for a $100 million renewable contract to run the Iraqi Media Network (IMN). The project is overseen by the U.S. military occupation (a/k/a Coalition Provisional Authority, or CPA) and is rising out of the infrastructure of Saddam Hussein's state-run news network. The dream is for IMN to become a "world-class" media operation, including a 24-7 satellite channel, two land-based TV channels, two radio channels, a national newspaper, and TV and film studios in every major region of Iraq. To top it off, this producers' utopia is expected to provide "comprehensive, accurate, fair, and balanced news," instill a "code of ethics" in Iraqi journalists, and line up its own funding by the end of 2004.

Easily controlled by the Provisional Authority, but just as easily controlled by the mullahs or the next strongman. Luckily the Iraqis are far ahead of the Pentagon on the project of building a media that can truly safeguard a nascent democracy.

Finally, an excuse to post this BBC article that I somehow fumbled at the end of June.

In Najaf, Kerbala, Kut and Hilla engineers and technicians who used to work for the Iraqi national station have taken over relay stations and started broadcasting. Iraqis are enthusiastically embracing the possibilities of a free media after years of heavy censorship. Alongside these do-it-yourself radio and TV stations, dozens of newspapers representing every kind of political viewpoint are suddenly available. For now it's a kind of media Wild West. Anyone who can grab a relay station and get a radio or TV station off the ground becomes a station manager. Anyone who can get hold of a printing press, or even a photocopier, is suddenly a newspaper editor.

. . . In Kut a 67-year-old man spent seven hours fitting a radio aerial 55 metres up an electricity pylon. The pylon has no ladder and was not designed to be climbed. Abu Musa, a short man built like a miniature weightlifter, gives himself the grand title of "mast manager, Kut Radio and Television".

"It was hot and very windy, but I tied myself to the girders. I took water up with me. There was no electricity running through the wires, so there was no real danger. I was more worried about the American planes and helicopters," he said.

Abu Musa and his colleagues spent the three weeks immediately after the collapse of the Iraqi regime hiding two trucks, one containing a TV production facility and transmitter, the other a radio station and transmitter. Kut TV and radio employees spent weeks hiding their mobile station from looters. They were built by the Iraqi regime in anticipation of the bombing by US and UK planes of the fixed TV and radio stations during the invasion. When the regime evaporated and the looting began, Abu Musa and others moved the trucks every night, hiding them under camouflage under trees, in ditches and in isolated farm building to keep them safe.

Now they are running Kut TV and Radio from inside the walls of the compound of a former Saddam Fedayeen headquarters, which has been looted right down to the door frames.

. . . In Najaf, Kerbala and Kut station staff were making rough and ready TV and radio reports on topical local issues - the high price of public transport, the re-opening of a school, CPA attempts to restore water and electricity, some insect that is attacking the local date trees ("from Iran," I was told). The computers, video recorders, cameras and everything else used to run the station are borrowed from the staff or locals who want to support the station. Each piece of kit has a white label on it recording the owner's name, their address and the date of the loan.

Each station insists it is the first independent station in the new, free Iraq. In Kerbala, station manager Kahlil al-Tayyar said that the Najaf station was being paid for by the Iranians. In Najaf, Ali Kashif al-Ghitta insisted the station manager in Kerbala was in the pocket of the Americans. The Najaf station's motto is "peace, reform, neutrality".

In fact the CPA was trying to establish good relations with all the new stations in the area. US or UK soldiers are making great efforts to encourage these stations, sometimes paying salaries, sometimes supplying broadcast equipment.

This arrangement does not always go smoothly. The station manager in Najaf said the US Army was leaning on him to carry what he viewed as pro-coalition propaganda. "We are an independent station. The CPA can't tell us what to say. They want us to tell everyone how good the governor they have appointed is when he is a crook and a Baathist," Ali Kashif al-Ghitta said. The US Army insists it is only trying to get essential information across to Iraqis. The threat of the withdrawal of salaries paid by the CPA hung over the conversation.

The CPA should be giving grants, no strings attached to any group that isn't pro-Baathist or otherwise preaching terrorism. That would go much further in the long run to make it difficult for an authoritarian leader, fundamentalist Islamic or otherwise to consolidate control. What they are setting up now will be all to easy for the mullahs or a strong man to take control of.

They should be giving $10,000 to anyone who has started a functioning outlet.

Where's Michael Powell in all this?

re: the immune system 

From PR

The British government has refused a diplomatic request from the United States for "shoot-to-kill" immunity for armed American special agents and snipers who will be travelling to Britain as part of President Bush's entourage this week, which means that if they accidentally kill a protester, they'll have to stand trial for it. The Brits are also balking at the Bush team's demand that they shut down parts of London's Tube (subway) system and that they create a "sterile zone" around the President to keep the public at bay. The U.S. has also been denied permission to use its "mini-gun," a piece of military hardware that is fired from a tank and can kill dozens of people.

i'm more of an information archaeologist 

From the NY Times via PR Watch:

George Orwell's "1984," documents deemed embarrassing to the State were tossed down a memory hole, a disposal chute in the Ministry of Truth that led to enormous furnaces. Taking a cue from the novel, Russ Kick, a journalist and author, established, a Web site dedicated to saving official documents from oblivion and posting them online.

From his home in Tucson, Mr. Kick runs his own Ministry of Truth, chasing down government reports, Congressional testimony, court proceedings, corporate memos and media images that have been either suppressed or ignored.

"I'm certainly not a journalist in the normal sense of the word," said Mr. Kick, who is 34. "I'm more of an information archaeologist. I'm trying to get the stuff that's either been purposely buried or just covered over by time."

One of Mr. Kick's recent digs involved an internal report from June 2002 that harshly criticized the Justice Department's efforts toward diversity in employee hiring, promotion and retention. A version of the report was posted at the department's Web site last month with about half of the material in the 186-page study blacked out.

But Mr. Kick discovered that the deletions were easy to restore electronically. Opening the document in Adobe Acrobat, a reader and editor for Portable Document Format, or PDF, Mr. Kick used the software's "Touch Up Object" tool to select the black bars covering the text. He then hit the delete button. The black bars disappeared, leaving just the text.

"It was that simple," Mr. Kick said. "I was kind of surprised, but we are talking about a government bureaucracy, so I wasn't that surprised."

The uncensored report, posted at The Memory Hole on Oct. 21, has been downloaded more than 340,000 times.

The Memory Hole can always be found in my margin. It was one of the first links I added and has provided this site with mucho content.

college loans and service 

From the Village Voice:

On Wednesday, Howard Dean's campaign unveiled a revolutionary - some would say radical - proposal for lowering the cost of college in America, while at the same time encouraging a fresh wave of national service. In a speech at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire on Thursday, the Democratic frontrunner is expected to announce details of a sweeping plan he claims will guarantee "every young person access to an affordable four-year college education."

The "College Commitment," as the policy is called, promises that all students will have access to $10,000 annually for college, provided in a mix of grants and loans, depending on family earnings. After school, students would make regular payments on the full debt, but they'd receive a tax credit at the end of each year for any amount they'd paid over 10 percent of their income. That way, the campaign argues, no one would ever pay out more than 10 percent of their earnings, or have to make payments for more than a decade.

...In return for the public support, Dean plans to ask students, beginning in the eighth grade, to "work hard in high school" and to commit to college. His vision also calls for a large expansion of the Clinton-era Americorps program, from 50,000 positions to 250,000. Finally, it pledges that graduates who enter public service - becoming police officers or teachers, for example--will pay no more than 7 percent of their annual income toward school loans.

From the Dean Campaign Press Release:

His plan, the Dean College Commitment, provides hope to high school students and their families by broadening access to college by ensuring that, not later than middle school, students would develop a plan for their futures, including the courses they need to take in high school; families would receive an advance determination of their eligibility for federal financial aid; and they would have assistance in developing a savings plan for college expenses.

Then, upon graduating from high school, students would:

Have access to $10,000 per year for postsecondary education-either traditional college or high-skills career training.
Never have to pay more than 10% of their income after college on student loan payments (and even less if they enter service fields like nursing or teaching in high need ares).
And, if they work and make these loan payments for 10 years the loans will be paid in full.
Those who enter public service professions will get a special bonus: Nurses, teachers, social workers, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians in high need areas would never pay more than 7 percent of their income.

The plan would also benefit Americans already in the workforce who are still making payments on student loans. If your payments on your undergraduate loans are more than 10% of your income, you will be eligible for a tax credit.

In addition to the public service incentives, Dean will boost opportunities for Americans to serve their communities while earning additional money for education, by increasing the number of AmeriCorps positions to 250,000. Of these, 50,000 will be dedicated to new "Frontline" public safety national service programs, which will provide opportunities for young Americans to serve for two years as firefighters, emergency medical technicians, and forest and park service rangers, enhancing our nation's safety and security.

"Students who normally wouldn't be able to pursue public service careers -- because they'd be saddled with debt -- will now be able to follow their dreams after college. It will also encourage students to enter fields like nursing and teaching where our country is facing shortages," Governor Dean said.

Governor Dean's proposal would give a quarter of a million Americans the opportunity to serve through programs like Teach for America and City Year.

PDF of the plan

This is exactly the kind of vision that I talked about here.

This will obviously build Dean's support with young voter's. It should catch the attention of anyone with outstanding student loans, parents facing putting their kids through college, etc.

One of the big things that Dean's campaign has going for it is it's youth appeal. College kids are increasingly identifying with the Republican party. As a party we have got to get a handle on that. With both Lieberman and Tipper on the Gore campaign last time around, who can blame them. This plan takes Dean's youth appeal beyond style and gives it some substance. It also goes to a structural point that Democrats haven't been making in a while - institutionalizing constituencies. If this plan is enacted, a lot of people will identify their education and in some cases ability to choose their career with the Democratic Party.

More importantly it gives Dean a way to talk to American's about their identity in terms of citizenship and service. I hope that he can reignite some of the civic spirit and respect for firefighters, police and the service professions that 9/11 inspired. One of the great tragedies in the aftermath was the way President Bush squandered that moment with his call to shop and keep an eye on your neighbor.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

sunday magazine 

Final edition: 3:15 PM Pacific Time Zone - pathetic, but I've got the day off from work so, tough. Better than last week anyways.

One of the strangest Left-Right coalitions in recent memory has
challenged a free-market FCC. What's the glue that holds it together?

by Gal Beckerman from the Columbia Journalism Review
printer friendly

With their nifty new windmills, tidy techno-homes, and enviro-crusading
queen, the Dutch are busy creating the cutest little ecotopia on earth -
while stoking a booming hypercapitalist economy. What does tiny Holland
know that America is too big and dumb to figure out?

By Florence Williams from Outside

The take-no-prisoners social critic skewers Bush, Ashcroft
and the whole damn lot of us for letting despots rule.

by Marc Cooper from LA Weekly

The real Acadian cooking of South Louisiana makes
blackened redfish look pale.

by Gene Bourg from Saveur
printer friendly

Through the past darkly with a former pro.
by Sam Slovick from LA Weekly

A compendium links commemorating World War I
on Veteran's Day

by Teresa Nielson Hayden from Making Light

A century ago, most Americans lived to be about 50. Today people
over 100 make up the fastest-growing segment of the population. As some
researchers bet that children born today will live to be 150, others say there
is no upward limit on longevity.

by Karen Wright from Discover

Sumo wrestling news
by Kenji Heilman from McSweeney's

This massive, unprecedented book, begun in the early '80s and mostly
completed by 1998, is nothing less than "a critique of terrorist, defensive,
military and police activity," along with an attempt to construct a moral
calculus for the human use of violence.

by Publisher's Weekly
Interview with Vollman

Who does what to whom?
Flash graph from Search This

short film
by Naoki Mitsuse from

Kick Ass website. Check out the jukebox - Second to last page -
Especially 'Arkansas State Prison' and 'Across 110th Street'

by Jimmy Dare from Brokentype

by Ken Krimstein from Pinedeldboyz

by The Ramones

by No Doubt

by Carlton Doby from McSweeney's

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