Joe the Plumber: The game changer?

More collectivism stories: here

Collectivism rears its ugly head and 'middle class' wakes up

Turns out that Joe Plumbers are sprinkled all over the country. At least one is already better off, thanks to references by presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama to Ohio resident Joe Wurzelbacher — now famously "Joe the Plumber" — as they debated tax policies Wednesday night.

Phones rang off the hook Thursday in the Amarillo office of plumber Joe Francis, whose Web site joetheplumber.com became an instant Internet curiosity the day after the final presidential debate. About 1,200 miles from the Ohio plumber, Francis found his business suddenly in the spotlight.

Related video: "Middle Class"

Entrepreneurs hoping to cash in on a quick buck called about buying the Web address. Many others want T-shirts with the company logo, featuring a droopy-eyed cartoon plumber revealing the ubiquitous "plumber's crack" above his pants.

"I'm taking orders," said Ronnie Bishop, who works with Francis. "It's kind of wild."

Francis was elk hunting Thursday and couldn't be reached for comment. But he did see the debate Wednesday night, Bishop said.

Bishop said their small plumbing outfit started getting calls during the debate. The publicity kept Bishop busy again the next day with offers for the Web address, T-shirts and interviews with media.

Francis, a 38-year-old father of two, could stand to part ways with the Web site address, Bishop said.

While Francis was weighing that option, Joe Griesbach was signing autographs and granting television interviews in southern New Jersey, according to The Press of Atlantic City. He goes by "Plumber Joe" — the name painted on the side of his van.

In recent days, other drivers have honked and saluted at Griesbach, 39, the paper reported.

And in Oxnard, Calif., plumber Joe Lara said the debate prompted a flood of phone calls to him, some from as far away as London, the Ventura County Star reported. He racked up dozens of calls and voice mails and has done interviews with news organizations.

"They're trying to get insights on my political views," he told the paper.

Lara, 49, works for himself as Joe the Plumber and said he works seven days a week to support himself, his wife and handicapped daughter.

"But that's just the way it goes," he told the Star.

He said he watched the debate for only about 30 minutes and is still undecided about his vote.


Organized Labor's card-check: Growth Killer

More EFCA stories: herecard-check: here

Unionists' dream = Management nightmare

Around here it’s called “The Las Vegas Dream.” It’s a job with a good wage, health care for the family and dignity in retirement. And even with the recent downturn, tens of thousands of people from across America and around the world have come here to own a little piece of it.

Culinary Union Local 226, which represents more than 50,000 workers on the Las Vegas Strip and downtown, can claim a share of the credit for Southern Nevada’s robust middle class.

It is a story traced to 1989, when casino mogul Steve Wynn agreed to recognize the union at the Mirage — and at each of his successive properties — through the “card check” system, in return for some concessions. The card check allowed the union to organize Wynn properties by having workers simply sign a card saying they wanted to be in the union, rather than going through the cumbersome — and often unsuccessful — process of a secret ballot election. Labor advocates say employers use an election campaign to threaten or fire workers to kill support for the union. Business says the process protects both parties’ freedom of speech and the democratic principle of the secret ballot.

Within two decades, the union had won the same right from every other Strip property, save the Venetian.

With each passing year, tourists streamed into new resorts, union rolls swelled, profits grew, wages climbed.

Labor leaders from across the country now view Las Vegas with jealous eyes and have made codifying the card check system into law their top legislative priority, hoping to export the Las Vegas system to the rest of the country.

That dream, which was far-fetched just a few years ago, is close to becoming reality. Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama supported legislation, called the Employee Free Choice Act, when it came up for a vote in 2007, and he has promised to sign it if he’s elected president.

Democrats, who are surging in national races across the country, appear to be close to the 60 votes they will need to get it passed in the Senate, even as money from both sides is dumped into those races nationwide — the words “card check” an almost magical phrase for raising campaign cash.

Labor leaders think the legislation would help them reverse the union movement’s long slide toward obsolescence, helping them sign up workers and organize whole industries in a manner not seen in decades.

Although rarely discussed in the presidential campaign, the new law could be the most consequential — and radical — social and economic policy shift since President Reagan reshaped the country by slashing taxes and regulation and crushing unions.

This raises questions thus far unanswered:

What would be the economic effect of a more unionized workforce?

What would happen to wages and the price of goods and services?

What would happen to largely nonunion industries, such as retail, suddenly forced to negotiate with newly powerful unions?

Could a newly unionized America compete in a global economy?

Can the Las Vegas dream be exported?

• • •

W. Bentley MacLeod is a Columbia University economist who studies labor markets, and he summed up the complexity of the questions above. Higher rates of union membership “would be good in some situations and not in other situations, and in the aggregate, I don’t think anyone knows,” he said.

Although the notion of a more unionized economy after decades of union decline presents many unknowns, there are historical parallels. And indeed, the question of whether card check would be good for the country outside the Las Vegas Strip, when posed to economists, business lobbyists and labor advocates, often hinges on what they think of 1950s America.

That’s because that was the golden age of the American labor movement, when private sector union membership, or “union density,” as economists call it, was 33 percent of the labor force.

John Schmitt, an economist at the liberal-leaning Center for Economic and Policy Research, noted that from the end of World War II to the mid-1970s, America experienced a sustained boom, with the economy growing at about 3.7 percent a year, accompanied by rapidly rising wages. During those years, private sector union density was three to four times the current 7.5 percent.

Those years of union popularity might seem surprising, given the dominance of today’s laissez faire orthodoxy, which usually teaches that labor unions are an impediment to the workings of the free market, gumming up a company’s ability to compete and innovate.

But liberal economists such as the Brookings Institution’s Gary Burtless note that such high rates of union density meant whole industries were organized. That in turn meant all the companies in that industry wound up paying similar wages and benefits to the workers, so they weren’t competing with one another to see who could have lower labor costs.

This is what the Culinary has achieved by negotiating similar contracts with both MGM Mirage and Harrah’s Entertainment, the two largest gaming companies with multiple casinos here and across the country. If card check becomes law, expect Culinary Secretary-Treasurer D. Taylor himself to walk through the doors of the Venetian and begin handing cards and pens to workers there.

But back to the 1950s: Even when an industry wasn’t all-union, the nonunion firms faced the “threat effect,” which means they too would face unionization unless they paid good wages that competed with those of the union shops. This is what prompts the Venetian, Station Casinos and other nonunion Vegas companies to pay their workers wages similar to those at union hotels on the Strip, although the companies would likely never acknowledge the “threat effect.”

Either way, the union is driving high wages across the board for average workers.

Liberal economists argue these wages created healthy economic growth because workers had money to buy refrigerators, cars and suburban homes. That consumption in turn led to more high-wage jobs at the automakers and other manufacturers, and the cycle continued.

Jeffrey Waddoups, a UNLV labor economist, said the fortunes of American workers have gone awry in part because of the decay of unions, beginning especially in the 1970s. “Part of the reason real wages have declined has been that workers don’t have union bargaining power,” he said.

• • •

Conservative economists see labor unions as growth killers.

James Sherk, an economist at the conservative Heritage Foundation, said unions drive down profits. With less profit comes less investment in new plants, research and development, and, thus, fewer new workers.

Sherk and other conservative economists refer to unions as cartels or monopolies: When an entire industry is subject to negotiation with one collective bargaining unit, it’s akin to consumers being forced to fly just one airline or use one telephone service. The result: A wildly profitable airline or phone company, but one that faces no competition and so offers an inferior product at an inflated price.

Similarly, the argument goes, companies that have to deal with labor unions get overcharged for an inferior product.

Unions, Sherk acknowledged, can leverage good wages for workers, including the one-third of workers who were unionized in the mid-1950s. But their healthy wages came at the expense of everyone else, he said.

This is the argument of business lobbyists staring down the barrel of card check.

Craig Shearman of the National Retail Federation said retailers would be affected more than other sectors of the economy. “Our costs go directly to the consumer,” he said. “If retailers’ cost of doing business go up, then prices for consumers go up.”

Sherk continued the monopoly analogy: “They’re a more sympathetic group than the typical monopoly company,” he said. “But the straight-up effect on prosperity and the national economy is the same as with other monopolies: It’s destructive.”

Sherk pointed to an oft-quoted statistic: That $1,100 to $1,500 is added to the price of General Motors vehicles to offset the high price of retiree health care costs.

He lamented the fortunes of a single mother who needs a car to get to work but can’t afford one because of the inflated price due to the high cost of the union wages and benefits.

And when that woman couldn’t buy her car, that meant the automakers made fewer cars, which meant they employed fewer people, he said. The result: economic stagnation.

Conservatives and business lobbyists fear more than just stronger unions from any law resembling card check legislation. Last year’s Employee Free Choice Act also included a provision that would have mandated binding arbitration between companies and unions unable to reach a contract compromise. That provision seems unlikely to pass as part of card-check protection, but still frightens the business community as a dangerous encroachment into the affairs of the private sector after decades of deregulation.

Union density is declining, Sherk said, because “we’ve opened up the economy to competition,” referring to the 30-year wave of deregulation, tax cuts and free trade, all while government policy pushed the pendulum away from unions and toward management.

“I think that has been on net very good for consumers,” he said, correctly citing sharply lower prices compared with those of 30 years ago on shipping, phone service and airline tickets.

• • •

Mention low prices, and most people think of one store: Wal-Mart.

Indeed, Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, has catalyzed the card check debate.

The company’s history is bound up with its obsessive desire to avoid unionization.

“That’s the Wal-Mart story,” said Ray Hogler, a labor relations expert at Colorado State University and author of “Employment Relations in the United States.”

His point here: The company thrived in regions most hostile to labor unions: the South and the West, rural and suburban America.

When it ran into union organizing drives, the company did everything it could to crush them, employing the new cottage industry of consultants and lawyers that arose in the 1970s and 1980s and specialized in beating organizing campaigns.

When that didn’t work, the company skirted the law.

The company was found in violation of labor law — or settled cases alleging violations — at least two dozen times from 1998 to 2003, according to the pro-union group American Rights at Work. The National Labor Relations Board, the government agency that oversees labor law, filed formal complaints against the retailer an additional 70 times during the same period.

Just last week, organizers won an election in a Wal-Mart tire and lube shop in Quebec, creating the only union in the 7,200-store chain. The company swiftly closed the tire-and-lube shop, and that was that.

The company has used its considerable market power, inexpensive foreign goods and cheap nonunion labor to drive down costs. Suppliers and competitors have been forced to respond in kind by driving down their own labor costs.

Wal-Mart is the big prize for the labor movement, which has spent millions of dollars trashing the company’s image and fighting it in court.

But what would happen if the company were unionized? After all, its business model is based on huge volume, but relatively small profit margins, about 3.38 percent on revenue of nearly $400 billion.

Would it be forced to raise prices for goods bought by a struggling American middle class? Would it close stores or lay off workers?

If the company has penciled out the cost of organized labor, it isn’t sharing the numbers. Wal-Mart spokesman Greg Rossiter addresses the threat of unions this way: “The last thing this country needs right now in tough economic times is a bill that would hurt job creation and increase prices for consumers.”

• • •

Crocodile tears fall from the eyes of liberal economists and labor scholars when they consider the plight of a unionized Wal-Mart.

The company would still make billions, even with a 10 or 15 percent increase in labor costs.

“It’s not the end of the world if Wal-Mart shareholders get less and workers get more,” said Ross Eisenbrey, vice president of the liberal-leaning Economic Policy Institute.

For labor advocates such as Eisenbrey, card-check is the key way to reverse a 30-year trend — exploding income for the wealthy, and very little progress for everyone else.

Corporate profits grew 13 percent annually since 2001, while employee compensation rose less than one-fifth as fast, even as workers became more productive, according to Steven Greenhouse’s recent book, “The Big Squeeze.”

Eisenbrey noted that the wealthiest 1 percent of America more than doubled its share of the national income since 1980, from 10 to 23 percent.

“Where did that share come from?” he said. “It came from everyone else.”

Here, Eisenbrey and other union advocates, though full of data and economic theory, are just as happy to strip the argument down to its barest essentials: Unions once had more power and money and shared it with their millions of members. But now, executives and shareholders own America.

For the labor movement, card check isn’t just a way to build membership and take back some of that money from shareholders, its also a way to build something permanent.

Indeed, a key subtext of the card check fight is a battle for control of the political landscape for a decade or more.

A salutary effect of card check and an attendant rise in union density would be new political clout, said Helen Ginsburg, a Brooklyn College economist.

With new union members would come new dues.

With new dues, the unions could invest in political campaigns, which would lead to still more power. With the new political influence, the unions could strengthen their hand further still, eliminating right-to-work laws in states such as Nevada that make it OK for a worker to be part of a collective bargaining unit without having to be a member of the union.

The unions could also advance a separate agenda for more progressive taxation, universal health care and tougher trade policies that could block imports of foreign goods.

• • •

America isn’t returning any time soon to the world of the 1950s, when unions were dominant and the U.S. economy was peerless.

The world has changed.

American companies are competing globally and other countries welcome fleeing American companies with open arms.

This could allow businesses to escape the oncoming unionization of card check.

Verizon, for instance, outsourced its call centers to avoid a union drive.

Moreover, unions, if they don’t act carefully and strategically, could wind up worsening the situation for American workers, said Burtless, the Brookings economist.

For instance, if a union were to organize Target but not Wal-Mart, then Wal-Mart could severely undercut Target prices and drive it out of business. The big retailer would then grow even more powerful relative to its workers, consumers and suppliers.

“What is crucially important is how successful unions are in persuading most of the industry to accept union contracts. If they can only persuade one or two, it’s going to be very dangerous,” Burtless said.

Some labor leaders, such as Andy Stern of the Service Employees International Union, seem to get it. The SEIU in New York didn’t negotiate a contract for janitors it had organized until it had unionized most of the industry, which prevented a nonunion upstart from crushing union competition.

Another key to any labor future: Unions must do more than extract higher wages, according to MacLeod, the Columbia economist. He said unions must commit to helping workers — and their companies — become more productive, because if American companies can’t stay competitive, workers will be poorer for it.

Economists are in wide agreement that when American productivity stalled in the 1970s, workers stopped seeing wage gains.

The productivity model here, the economists said, is Costco, some of whose stores are unionized. Costco’s business model isn’t terribly dissimilar to Wal-Mart’s — big box, high-volume retailer — but the company’s management takes a different approach with its labor force. Workers earn considerably higher wages and have better benefits, and the company has less turnover.

Other models, said UNLV’s Waddoups, include Canada and Europe. Many Canadian provinces have card check provisions, and that country’s economy has grown despite considerable union density.

Waddoups said Americans have a choice: “You can follow one of two strategies. Highly skilled, highly productive, well trained workers who are paid well. That’s one way. Another is low wage, low skill, low prices.”


Organized labor ads deceive workers, voters

More worker-choice stories: hereBig Bedfellows stories: here

Big Bedfellows go all-out to protect forced-labor unionism

There are deceptive commercials being run on the Denver TV stations. The two most misleading are one with a very somber firefighter talking about how three ballot initiatives (47, 49, and 54) will “silence the voices of firefighters” and “make our jobs more difficult” and another claiming that “loopholes” exempt multi-national corporations from these amendments. These claims are outright false.

Here’s the truth:

Amendment 47 is a right-to-work initiative. It states that no worker in Colorado can be forced to join a union as a condition of employment. It does not prevent workers from joining unions — it merely gives them the choice. This means that unions will have to earn their members by providing value rather than through coercion.

Amendment 49 prohibits our government payroll systems from being used to collect funds for private organizations (including union dues). Accounting for deductions and payments involves staff time and costs money — there is no reason for the taxpayers of Colorado to foot the bill as a collection agency for private entities. If these organizations provide their members with value, they will willingly send in their membership dues.

Amendment 54 prohibits any organization receiving a no-bid contract (think Halliburton-style) of $100,000 or more from a government agency from turning around and making political contributions to an official or a campaign that directly affects this contract. It also prohibits any organization that has made such a contribution within the last two years from receiving a no-bid contract. This is an attempt to prohibit organizations from buying these contracts. Unions don’t like this because a union contract is considered a no-bid contract, so it will prohibit them from paying off politicians to support their causes.

Please read through your “blue book” and decide for yourselves.

Vote YES on 47, 49, and 54.


Ineligibles voting for Obama

More ACORN stories: hereVoter-fraud stories: here

Homer Simpson voted 15 times

More ACORN stories: hereVoter-fraud stories: here

Barack cracks, collectivism seeps out

More ACORN stories: hereVoter-fraud: here collectivism: here

Obama, ACORN and Joe the Plumber

From Ohio and Florida to Wisconsin and Nevada, there are reports of fraudulent voter registration forms being submitted by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), a liberal group that is dedicating its resources to electing the Obama-Biden Democrats.

Now, the FBI is investigating whether ACORN helped foster voter registration fraud around the nation. They already are being investigated in 13 states for their fraudulent actions.

Barack Obama has a long history of working with ACORN. The Obama-Biden campaign has funneled more than $800,000 to ACORN and its friends for work on get-out-the-vote activities.

The Democrats have proven they will do and say whatever it takes to win this election. This isn't the first time they've tried to inflate voter rolls with false names and take money from questionable sources -- and it won't be the last.

But this time we are ready for the liberals' deceitful tactics. We will not stand for the stealing of elections -- the tainting of our democracy -- by those who wish to subvert the rule of law.

Every once in a while, a small crack opens up in Barack Obama's smooth and polished persona, and the truth shines through.

Back in April, Obama's true feelings about traditional American values slipped out -- almost derailing his campaign.

And, earlier this week, America got another look at the true Barack Obama.

By now, you've probably heard of Joe the Plumber. A small town kind of guy trying to live the American dream and run his own small business.

But when he asked if Obama planned to raise his taxes, The One responded:

"Its not that I want to punish your success, when you spread the wealth around it is good for everyone."

Everyone, except for Joe the Plumber -- and the millions of other Americans with big dreams of their own. Obama will raise taxes on seniors and hard working families just so he can send government checks to those who pay no taxes at all.

- Jim Kouri


Unions out to destroy opposition

Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

Collectivist power-grabbers rely on the politics of personal destruction

We cry out for change and condemn our corrupt politicians, but we let the powerful unions trash our system with millions of dollars taken from workers' union dues and let them control the Democratic party.

The unions protect a lot of worthless employees who couldn't hold a job without their protection. Unions have driven our labor costs out of the world labor market and then they blame the Republicans for our jobs going to other countries.

Bill Sizemore had guts enough to challenge union operations with some very good initiatives. So the unions spent millions of dollars to destroy him. With the millions of dollars that the unions have at their disposal, they can destroy most anyone they choose. They are now working on Gordon Smith.

Sizemore has produced more good ideas for Oregon than anyone else I know. But the unions, with their big money, convinced voters to vote against most all of those great ideas.

He has created several more for this election, including Measure 58 (English immersion) which has already proved itself in other states. Let's pass this one for our children. It's very good for all children and it will save us big money doing it.

— Jim Elvin, Salem


Labor thugs protest v. non-union workers

Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

Typical labor-state intimidation tactic

A protest against non-union labor being used in the Lodi Memorial Hospital expansion was held on Friday in front of the job site. District Council 16 in Livermore (CA) is a union representing glaziers, specialty painters, architectural metal, glass workers and a variety of other construction specialties. They are protesting the contracting of Horizon Companies, a non-union sub-contractor doing the window glazing on the project.

"It's my understanding that there will be a one-day work stoppage," said Carol Farron, the spokeswoman for Lodi Memorial Hospital.

The one-day delay is due to other on-site unions supporting District 16's protest. She also said that it's a labor dispute and not a strike against the hospital, Farron said. Construction on the project is ahead of schedule, and crews are expected to be back on the job come Monday.

Patrick Shurnas, the owner of Horizon Companies, said that once a dual-gate system is set up — one for non-union workers and one for union workers — work will continue.

Union leader John Sherak was unable to comment on the picketing due to the ongoing labor dispute.

Picketing ended just after 10 a.m. Friday, and information wasn't available if it would continue at a later date.


Defunding Rathke's ACORN: Weak Tea

Related: "Catholics cancel $1.3 million ACORN grant"
More ACORN stories: hereMore collectivism stories: hereWade Rathke stories: here

Wade Rathke and comrades are well-positioned for a successful future

On October 16, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) announced that it is suspending further funding to ACORN after learning that Dale Rathke, the brother of ACORN founder Wade Rathke, embezzled nearly $1 million from the organization between 1999 and 2000. Thanks to a whistle-blower, the incident became public this summer, as the organization had been handling the matter “in-house”, according to Maud Hurd, ACORN’s president.

CCHD, which claims to give grants to groups “fighting poverty”, has finally had to distance itself. Having given more than $7.3 million to ACORN projects over the last 10 years and $1.13 million just this year, this latest disclosure among a slew of convictions, indictments, investigations, and lawsuits against ACORN for voter fraud has tipped the scale.

It’s about time. After decades of warnings, Ralph McCloud, executive director of CCHD, told a reporter from Catholic News Service, “The whole idea is making sure that the efforts of the groups we fund are working in nonpartisan efforts and focusing on the kind of work that we would like for them to do”.

Good! Now it’s time to take the next step of distancing itself from Alinsky’s Industrial Areas Foundation and its affiliates who in 1996, set its membership to work in a get-out-the-vote drive called Active Citizenship Campaign. The effort included working with individuals from the Democrat Party to “streamline” the naturalization process and fraudulently put an IAF-backed candidate, favorable to legalized abortion, into Congress rather than her pro-life opponent. Though Active Citizenship Campaign was found guilty of abusing the naturalization process and a congressional investigation concurred that the seat they had supported was not honestly obtained, the CCHD continues to pour money into this network.

We’ve been telling you for decades…

CCHD has been collecting money from generous Catholics annually since the early 1970s, ostensibly “to help the poor.” There has always been a group of people, however, complaining that the money has little to do with “the poor” and everything to do with left-wing politics.

In the first years, to take an example, there was CCHD’s $157,900 to Alianza Federal de Pueblos Libres, awarded in the 1972-3 grant period. It wasn’t as though the CCHD didn’t know what they were funding. The Alianza had made New Mexico news five years earlier in an incident that involved an armed raid on a courthouse, a standoff between the National Guard and the “activists”, and two wounded law officers.

Twelve years after the Campaign began, the complaints were growing more strident. One Catholic periodical, The Wanderer, called CCHD funding “a scandal” and fired, “In little more than ten years, the Bishops have received almost $60 million from the Catholic people to ‘help break the hellish circle [sic – the actual word used by the Campaign was “cycle”] of poverty’….and instead directed the funds to groups which seek to ‘empower the poor’ and ‘change sinful institutions’.”

In 1989, researcher Laurene Conner wrote, “While the average Catholic assumes his contribution is for charitable causes, CHD’s objectives suggest an entirely different set of priorities. Its present executive director, Fr. Alfred P LoPinto, has been quoted as saying, ‘We’re not really involved in charity…it’s considered funding for justice.”

Conner goes on to explain that the principle recipients of CCHD grants are “community organizing projects in the Saul Alinsky radical left-wing tradition: the Industrial Areas Foundation he founded; Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN); the Youth Project; and the Citizen Action groups.”

Ten years further down the road and the Bishops were each sent a 4” binder that detailed the continuing problem of funding radical Alinskyian organizations and the progressives with whom they network.

The binder provided source materials from ACORN and the other Alinskyian networks that receive millions of Catholic dollars every year. It demonstrated their socialist ambitions and their political activism – including serious, proven incidents of voter fraud.

It demonstrated the CCHD’s funding pro-abortion networks – such as the Justice, Economic Dignity, and Independence for Women (JEDI Women) grants in $20,000 in 1994 and $20,000 in 1995 – a group that worked in coalition with Planned Parenthood, Utahans for Choice, and Utah NOW.

The CCHD put the word “Catholic” in its name and improved its guidelines to disqualify openly pro-abortion groups but has continued to fund the Alinskyian organization that are politically networked to the pro-abortionists.

The CCHD can be applauded for finally acknowledging that illegal activity must not be rewarded with Catholic money, but it must take the next step toward authentic human development funded – one that respects life.

- Stephanie Block editr Los Pequenos Pepper, a New Mexico-based newspaper.


Epic ACORN fraud taints Obama, Dems

ACOR: hereVoter-fraud: hereWade Rathke: hereSaul Alinsky: here

'Social justice' fraud propels collectivists into power

ACORN, the past employer of Barack H. Obama, has spent 35 million dollars this year to register 1.3 million new voters. So what squawk the liberal left as they cheer for their new "messiah"? The problem is the fact that hundreds of thousands of them are bogus. The "honorable" ACORN canvassers, paid by the numbers they enrolled, registered people in the graveyards, illegal aliens and others ineligible to vote. ACORN apparently thinks that fraud in the name of "social justice" is acceptable. Obama's ties to ACORN run deep; in fact he gave $832,000.00 to one of its "fronts" to aid in registering these "new voters".

In San Diego County nearly 2000 of the 26000 forms it turned in were invalid, a much higher than normal number. But compared with what ACORN did elsewhere, its San Diego effort was a model of probity. In Ohio, for example, officials say ACORN gets the primary blame in the registration of 200,000 new voters whose forms appear to be bogus.

Most Democrats, as we see here on Gather, depict our concern as "republican hysteria". In the past voter fraud has been a small problem, but here we see that it has grown to epic proportions. With the numbers of invalid registrations taking place they could tip the scale in battleground states such as Ohio, or Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina or Wisconsin - all swing states where ACORN has been active.

So to all you Obamanoids, spare us the "social justice" rhetoric. What ACORN has done is reprehensible and the FBI should investigate EVERY case in question and prosecute those involved to the fullest extent of the law. This very fact of voter fraud could bring on a court case that will make Florida look like child's play.

So I ask you, did Obama know what was taking place? Did he encourage it? It is right out of his playbook, "Rules for Radicals" by Saul Alinsky.


Obama's management skills rated 'poor'

More ACORN stories: hereVoter-fraud stories: here

Tree-killers in the tank for union-backed Obama

Just when I think your paper cannot get more biased, you amaze me by doing just that. Your editorial Oct. 14 concerning ACORN is a masterful exercise in doubletalk. You seem to acknowledge that "shenanigans" by this group probably do exist; but not to worry: They pose little problems to the election. Huh! And of course, your favorite candidate, "O," is squeaky-clean.

Let's see, he did legal work for ACORN in the past, conducted leadership training sessions and as late as this February, gave ACORN $800,000 to get out Democratic votes. But we are to believe he has hardly any connection to them. Instead, you blame overzealous workers at the lowest level.

If I gave some organization that much money, I would want to ensure its proper utilization. If "O" did not know what is going on with a group like this representing him, he exhibits poor leadership and management skills. We are supposed to trust this guy with a blank check to the U.S. Treasury?

We are supposed to believe that these thousands of questionable registrations pose no risk to the validity of the election. Don't you wonder that if this type of "shenanigan" is showing up, what else is under the radar?

Your words are carefully chosen. "Shenanigans" makes it sound like a child's game. Well, it's not a game, and it is a good indication of the lengths "O" and the Democrats will go to win the election.

- Robert J. Jones, Cleveland


Unionist ACORN-Obama thugs: Win at any cost

More ACORN stories: hereVoter-fraud stories: here

The payoff: Forced union dues to plow back into politics and legislative favors

What we do know today is that ACORN (the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) has registered some 1.3 million new voters.

It’s safe to say that given the group’s left-leaning philosophy and the endorsement by its political wing of Sen. Barack Obama that those new voters can be counted on to do the right thing for the Democratic presidential nominee.

ACORN has focused its efforts in key battleground states where - as we know from the 2000 and 2004 elections - a relative handful of votes can make a big difference.

We also now know that the FBI is investigating possible fraud in ACORN’s registration campaign in at least nine and possibly as many as 12 states. Over the past several days the stench from this scandal has become ever more obvious, but FBI investigations take time - and the other fact of the matter is there is no time.

In Wednesday night’s debate Obama attempted as best he could both to defend ACORN’s practices and to downgrade his own involvement with the organization. Both efforts were disingenuous in the extreme.

First Obama insisted that because ACORN was “apparently paying people to register voters” that “they just filled out the paperwork.” When Mickey Mouse became a registered voter, it was indeed a dead giveaway that something was amiss. But, Obama added, “It had nothing to do with us.”

Of course, Obama has in the past represented ACORN in his home state of Illinois. And during the primary season the Obama campaign gave ACORN some $830,000 to help with a get out the vote drive.

In Ohio, where the ACORN effort was particularly intense, about a third of some 660,000 new voter registrations don’t match information on file in other government databases. Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat, didn’t seemed particularly concerned, so Republican Party officials took the issue into federal court.

Yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brunner’s favor but only on a technicality - the state GOP didn’t have standing to bring the action.

So when and how did the politics of hope become inextricably linked with the politics of win at any cost?


Obama is not involved with ACORN

More ACORN stories: hereVoter-fraud stories: here

Finds Obama-MSM ACORN hypocrisy amusing

More ACORN stories: hereVoter-fraud stories: here

Tree-killers do, say anything to protect union-backed candidate

I was amused by the juxtaposition of your editorial Oct. 14 that claimed the voter fraud done by ACORN "poses little threat to the election" with a story the same day in the New York Post reporting that an Ohio man registered to vote several times and cast a bogus ballot.

You see an obvious pattern of felonies, but discount their impact by writing, "it's quite another matter for someone to walk in on Election Day and provide legal documentation that he is the person on that card." Motor-voter laws, and the actions of politicians such as the Ohio secretary of state, have lowered the identity standard below what it takes to cash a check.

Now that we have evidence of actual fraud, will you change your editorial position?

You editorialized Sept. 28 that a set of (fully constitutional) state laws that prevent convicted felons from voting "continues to diminish democracy." But you won't admit the votes and rights of millions honest citizens are diminished by the actions of ACORN and the politicians and journalists who shrug them off.

In his inaugural address our second president, John Adams, said, "If an election is to be determined by a majority of a single vote, and that can be procured by a party through artifice or corruption, the government may be the choice of a party for its own ends, not of the nation for the national good." Your editorial chose to call massive fraud and criminal activity "shoddy" and a "shenanigan." Forgive me if I believe Mr. Adams had the more intelligent opinion.

- Scott Clark, Fulton


Social Justice collectivists re-claim Barack Obama

More ACORN stories: hereVoter-fraud: here collectivism: here

ACORN offshoot gives up deceiving the public about union-backed Obama

It appears ACORN has decided there is no point in continuing to hide an article that links Senator Barack Obama to it in the early 1990s because it’s out there in cyberspace already.

After locking “Case Study: Chicago-The Barack Obama Campaign” (Social Policy magazine, Winter 2003-Spring 2004) when ACORN began getting pummeled by bad press, suddenly the article is available again. (registration required for access) Social Policy magazine is run by ACORN affiliate, the Institute for Social Justice.

The only difference between the version of the article we posted Oct. 13 (PDF) and the version now available on the Social Policy website is the one-page chart labeled “Voter Turnout, Chicago Primaries 2003-2004.” The chart is in the version we posted previously but is absent from the version now available on the website.


Elections official: No ACORN, no fraud

More ACORN stories: hereVoter-fraud stories: here

Has Obama surrendered The Sunshine State?

Apparently, ACORN has failed to take root in Collier County. The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now is drawing national attention for voter registration efforts that have been beset by problems, if not outright fraud.

Dave Carpenter, qualifying officer for the Collier County Supervisor of Elections, says no voter registration forms were submitted here by the group prior to the Oct. 6 cut-off date. “We haven’t seen ACORN locally in Collier County,” Carpenter said.

As opposed to other jurisdictions where thousands of suspicious registration forms have overwhelmed election staffs, questionable registration in Collier County is no more than a minor problem, Carpenter said. Of about 3,000 registrations received in the six weeks prior to the deadline, only about 45 had a problem that forced elections officials to seek more information from the registrant.

Several duplicate registrations have been detected, generally involving someone who didn’t realize they were still registered or who thought they had to re-register before every election, he said.

“It’s been quiet here really, which we’re thankful for,” Carpenter said.


Another Minnesota county probes ACORN

More ACORN stories: hereVoter-fraud stories: here

Collectivists: Steal This Election

The community action group Minnesota ACORN is under investigation in Ramsey County for allegedly mishandling voter registration cards.

Nearly half of about 800 voter registration cards the group submitted to county election officials Tuesday had been held longer than the 10 days permitted by state law. Some of the cards had been signed by would-be voters as long as 27 days ago, according to Ramsey County officials.

All of the registration cards were processed by Friday, giving the county time to confirm the voter information so all the registrants will be eligible to cast ballots in November, said Ramsey County Elections Manager Joe Mansky.

Similar problems arose earlier last week with registrations collected by ACORN in Hennepin County. The group could face prosecution over the tardy submissions, a possibility that will depend on the results of an investigation, said Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Phil Carruthers.

On Wednesday, the Republican National Committee contended that Minnesota ACORN's issues in Hennepin County were linked to allegations of voter registration fraud by the group elsewhere and condemned presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama's onetime involvement with ACORN in Chicago.

In a statement Thursday, Minnesota ACORN called the RNC's charges "a disappointing attack on a community organization which is working to increase public participation in democracy."

A handful of registration cards -- 16 -- that have come to the Ramsey County elections office through ACORN this year have been set aside as possibly false or fraudulent, Carruthers said, but most of them arrived already flagged by the group.


Collectivists make strategic advance

More collectivism stories: here

Centralized credit: Check!

In a recent article for Reuters, titled “Karl Marx and the World Financial Crisis,” Bernd Debussmann discusses the present global crisis. The reporter, far brighter than most we are used to in “mainstream” US media, quoted the Communist Manifesto’s statements on the centralization of credit as a major step on the road toward socialism and suggested that Marx and Marxism may be relevant to understanding what is happening in the world today.

These views shouldn’t surprise anyone. They are views that smart people in the capitalist world, especially those who had no desire to see a working-class revolution take place, noted when they began to take Marx and Marxism seriously in the late 1870s. These were the last years of Marx’s life, but the beginning of the establishment of mass socialist parties strongly influenced by and/or committed to the general theories propagated by Marx and Engels. Debussmann, to support his analysis, also quotes warnings from IMF historians and US analysts who saw disaster, the equivalent to an international economic “train wreck,” in the offing.

The article is an excellent one for general readers and should be circulated widely. Debussmann mentions that since 1980 (the beginning of the “free market” reign), the top one percent of US income earners has seen their share of the national income grow from around eight percent to about 20 percent. Meanwhile the percentage of workers in private sector unions has dropped to about 7.5 percent, “the lowest in the industrialized world,” which should be a source of both anger and concern for American working people. Debussmann also mentions positively the campaign labor is waging for the Employee Free Choice Act.

But there are some points of Debussmann's interpretation that need to be challenged, along with important omissions in the article. Let me begin with the omissions, which I see as wholly constructive and friendly.

Marx stressed the battle for democracy as essential for the Communists to support as a necessary condition to the eventual establishment of socialism.

He also saw the attempts by capitalists to save the capitalist system from its chronic crisis, the crisis of overproduction, leading to depressions, as not only hopeless but self-defeating. In their centralization of credit, their creation of bigger and bigger monopolies, their search for foreign markets to dump surplus goods and gain access to greater and cheaper quantities of raw materials and pools of labor, the capitalists were digging their own grave. Marx believed that they were literally setting the stage for bigger crises in the future, breaking down the distinctions between workers in various countries and regions of the world by putting more and more of them, from Beijing to Brooklyn, from Calcutta to Cleveland, in the same boat so to speak.

The capitalists' development of manufacturing, centralization of credit, expansion of both capital and productive capacity, would create the conditions that make socialism possible. By themselves, these things are not socialism. Capitalism also created a working class whose material interest would be to establish socialism, not only, or even primarily, to create a “better society,” to achieve “social justice,” but to survive beyond a hand to mouth existence, losing jobs, skills, homes, and fighting endlessly to keep up with a “labor market” whose rules are fixed for bigger and bigger, richer and richer employers seeking to the cheapest labor costs possible.

Marxism has little meaning (except as an understanding of what modern capitalists are trying to do and why they are trying to do it) without this understanding of the class struggle as the foundation for understanding social development in class divided society. The future of the capitalist class and working class are as Marx and Engels understood as closely intertwined as that between slaveholder and slave, feudal landlord and serf.

A strong possibility of a “global depression” – rather than the euphemism “recession" – is what the world today is facing. It is rooted in enormous over-production and income inequalities among and within the “producing nations" (China and India for example as against Britain and the US). there are also many possible outcomes. The worst would be new imperialist alliance systems and a global and probably nuclearized world war (the “ruin of the contending parties” to quote the Communist Manifesto). The best would be either the establishment or re-establishment of working-class power and socialist policies of economic development based on cooperative planning and public ownership in both industrialized and industrializing countries. Many other outcomes, such as global systems of resource and labor management through corporations, trade unions and governments operating through international organizations are also possible, depending on the developing social struggles as they are enacted in political-economic contexts.

What we can be sure about, though is, that "free market capitalism," "self-regulating markets," "supply side economics," and all of the reactionary romanticism which was dusted off from its 19th century archives after 1979 in Britain and 1980 in the US and paraded as “cutting edge” economic theory and practice have lost their luster.

Marxism is what Marx and Engels meant it to be: a guide for action for the working class. The author’s contention that there are “few Marxists” in the industrialized world after the “dismal failure” of the Soviet Union is a significant slight to Marxists and a spectacular one to the former USSR. Marxism, stated or unstated, is a force in all of the struggles of labor movements to keep the capitalists of their countries from foisting the economic crisis on them, in the attempts, limited as they have been for workers movements to achieve international labor cooperation.

Still, Debussmann article is thoughtful and captures where the capitalists of the world are going, while Americans are forced to watch the Republican Party leadership debate among themselves about what set of names to call Barack Obama in the last weeks of the campaign. While the economic crisis deepens, the stalwarts of the Republican “base” engage in racist hate speech.

Debussmann expresses strong pessimism, however, about the possibilities for major changes in the US, which I think are unfounded. The US does have, as he writes, “an Everest size debt” along with its crumbling infrastructure and backward health care. Today, the US, to use the term that Lenin used about Czarist Russia at the time of the revolution, may be the “weak link” among the major capitalist states, not the “anchor” that he quotes another writer as saying. No one really expected the Czarist Russian Empire at the beginning of the 20th century to become the citadel for a world socialist movement and no one really expects the US at the beginning of the 21st century to play such a role in the future.

But, as Marx and Engels always understood, beneath the surface of events, the struggles of factions and parties, there are class and social forces at work, seeking to fit theory to practice to make an understanding of the world a force to change it. And the US, with its popular democratic culture, its skilled and educated working class, and its central, albeit declining role in the global capitalist economy, may have surprises in store for its own ruling class and the rest of the capitalist world in the future.

--Norman Markowitz is a contributing editor of Political Affairs.


Congressman mediates USW strike

More USW stories: hereMore strike stories: here
Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

Union militants plague labor-state

Striking American Standard workers hoisted picket signs while union leaders and company officials met behind closed doors Friday with a federal mediator and U.S. Rep. Charlie Wilson, but with no agreement reached, workers remain on the strike line.

"The company refuses to move off of their last position on Sept. 30," United Steelworkers Local 1538 staff representative Joe Holcomb said after the meeting.

That's when American Standard Brands made what company spokesman Tracy Benson Kirker called its last, best and final contract offer, which included a 5 percent wage reduction, a reduction to 401K contributions to a 75 percent match up to 6 percent of pay and an increase in health care contributions to 25 percent, along with the addition of a profit-sharing plan.

The previous three-year contract expired Sept. 30, but was extended twice. The company implemented the contract offer on Thursday, one day after the union issued a 48-hour unfair labor practice strike notice which took effect at 1 p.m. Friday. Employees had already left the plant on South Ellsworth Avenue at 10 a.m. when the company suspended production "to ensure an orderly and efficient operations shutdown," a company press release said.

According to the press release issued by Kirker, all employees will be paid for four hours of work Friday, regardless of shift, as a show of good faith. Wages and benefits, including health insurance, will end Monday for any employee who strikes and doesn't report for work at 8 a.m. Monday, regardless of shift.

Wilson, D-6, met with representatives of both sides, along with a federal mediator and Salem Mayor Jerry Wolford, for more than four hours Friday afternoon at the Salem Community Center, but talks stalled with no resolution reached.

"He did the best he could," Holcomb said about the congressman.

According to Holcomb, the union offered to give some wages back, but the company wouldn't budge from its proposal. He said the workers will remain on strike and the union will file an unfair labor practice complaint Monday with the National Labor Relations Board accusing management of failing to bargain in good faith. He called the company's offer a "take it or leave it contract proposal."

"They put their feet in clay and they're not willing to talk," Holcomb said.

When asked if there was any talk about closing the plant or bringing in replacement workers, he said nothing was mentioned.

When contacted after the meeting, Kirker said mediation is a closed door private discussion and management wasn't going to comment on the discussions that took place. She said the two parties were at an impasse, with the company planning to release a statement today.

Holcomb said workers will have the opportunity to purchase health insurance coverage through COBRA or through the strike defense fund through the union. If the strike lasts longer than three weeks, strike pay benefits allotted to the USW Local 1538 will become available to workers, based on need.

A spokesman for Wilson could not be reached for comment, but Wolford said he's talked to both sides and neither wants to see the plant move out of Salem. He commented that both sides have their points, adding that nobody likes concessions and the company says it needs the concessions.

He admitted the situation will affect the city financially, but he's thinking more about the people who work there because a lot of families will be affected.

"I have fear for them," Wolford said.

State Rep. Linda Bolon, D-Columbiana, didn't attend the meeting, noting the congressman set it up and was handling it. She said she and Sen. Jason Wilson, D-Columbiana, met with company officials about a month ago and she's been concerned and watching the situation as it unfolded.

She said she's willing to work with anybody and offer her assistance to help get it resolved.

As for the employees on the picket line, most of them just want to get back to work.

"We don't want to be out here. We want to be in there, working," Mel Cipra of Guilford Lake said.

A 19-year veteran of the plant which produces kitchen and bath products, he said the union members have been forced into the strike due to unfair labor practices. The picketing will take place 24/7 with workers taking turns on a voluntary basis.

"We don't want any problems from anybody. We just want to represent our Local," he said.

One sign said, "We don't want to stand at the gate, we want to negotiate."

Edna Dillinger, another worker from Guilford Lake, with 17 years on the job, said they just want things to be fair.

"We're hard-working people. We make them money. We're just asking for a little piece of the pie," she said.

Ronnie Hughes, a Hubbard resident with 20 years at American Standard, said workers want to maintain what they have. She said the company threatened that if they went on strike, they would lose their jobs.

"Tell old man Bush to give us some bailout money," Bob Breese of Ellsworth said.

Mike Stuchell, of East Liverpool, wore a union shirt from 2005 and changed the 5 to an 8 for 2008. He said the workers are concerned.

"This is definitely not what we wanted. We're like the rest of the world, we just want to work," Rich Wright of Salineville said.

American Standard Brands is an affiliated portfolio company of Sun Capital Partners with a minority interest held by Bain Capital Partners Inc.

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