3/10/09

Tuesday wrap

New Prog Era heralds end to Age of Prosperity ... We understand the premise of a new president's "First 100 Days." There is no time in the lifespan of a U.S. administration that is more powerful - more heavy with the mandate of voters - than the first few months of a first term. And that is especially true for this enormously popular new president. But let's have a look at the president's short list of agenda items: a historic revolution in health-care insurance; passing a sweeping, multifaceted energy policy; a tax overhaul that pushes the burden of government more heavily onto businesses and high-wage earners; and, far from least, a huge new federal role in education. The president is pursuing all of the above, of course, in addition to addressing the faltering national economy, including banking and auto industries on the verge of collapse. As the implications of the president's $3.6 trillion budget sinks in, so, too, has the Dow Jones average. Something will have to give. And the first item on the costly list that the president should ratchet back is passage of the ill-named Employee Free Choice Act. Card-check is bad policy in the best of times. It is particularly harmful in a down economy. (azcentral.com)


P2P: How union-backed pols allocate power ... After collecting $82 million in two campaigns for governor, Gov. Ed Rendell said today he would sign legislation to ban "pay-to-play" activities where large contributors get state contracts. "There's no pay-to-play" in the Rendell administration, the governor said, denying recent allegations by House Republicans. Rep. Douglas Reichley, R-Allentown, and other GOP lawmakers have criticized what Reichley has called a "pay-to-play mind-set" in Rendell's awarding of no-bid contracts. "Based on the governor's comments I would assume he would have no problem releasing copies of all the no-bid contracts, settlement agreements, and change orders of contracts which resulted in $600 million of taxpayer money paid to Deloitte," Reichley said. Lawmakers also have questioned Rendell's award of a contract worth more than $1 million to Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll, a law firm where Rendell once worked, and his receipt of $40,000 in campaign donations from David Rubin, chief financial officer of CDR Financial Products, a company ensnared in the federal probe of contracts awarded under New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. In Pennsylvania, CDR landed $600,000 in a contract with the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency. Rubin has denied engaging in pay-to-play. "In light of the staggering amounts the governor claims in overall fundraising, we certainly need to verify that the procurement process and the method by which taxpayer money went to Ballard Spahr, Deloitte (Consulting), CDR and some of the other firms implicated in national political scandals, is beyond reproach," Reichley added. (pittsburghlive.com)


Rep. George Miller placed on Dirty Money Watch ... WHO: Rep. George Miller, D-CA, chief House sponsor, Employee Free Choice Act (aka Card Check). WHAT: Miller received the following dirty money: Communication Workers of America (PAC) $10,000 in 2008 cycle; $10,000 in 2006 cycle; Boilermakers Union (PAC) $10,000 in 2008; $6,500 in 2006. American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) $2,500 in 2008; $1,500 in 2006. International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) $10,000 in 2008; $10,000 in 2006. WHY IT'S DIRTY: At least eight members of these four unions have been convicted since 2001 of felonies ranging from embezzlement, falsifying official reports to government, mail fraud and conspiracy. WILL MILLER GIVE IT BACK? Miller did not respond to a phone call and email message seeking a response. (dcexaminer.com)


Judge: Union bigs are not corrupt racketeers ... In an excoriating decision against Cintas, Judge William H. Pauley of the Southern District of New York Court dismissed all claims--federal and state--of Cintas's Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) lawsuit against UNITE HERE, the International Brotherhood of the Teamsters, and the Change to Win coalition. Calling the company's complaint "sprawling" and "larded," Judge Pauley said, "The Complaint is not [a] 'short and plain statement' ... it is a manifesto by a Fortune 500 company that is more a public relations piece than a pleading." "Cintas does not have the right to operate free from any criticism, organized or not," Pauley continued, noting the constitutional free-speech protection given to labor activities. (news.prnewswire.com)


High Court gives union political operatives a road map ... Can unions force governments to be collection agents for union political activities? Common sense says no. Common sense says unions are free to ask members for donations for political work, but not to involve the state in collecting those donations. After all, does the state collect employee donations for political activities of the Christian Coalition or U.S. Chamber of Commerce? Of course not. Why should unions be different? But the law is not always based on common sense. Unions are adept at gaining powers to assess dues even on non-members, or securing payroll deductions from private employers, by claiming to bargain for all workers collectively. Hence this case from Idaho, in which state government allows payroll deductions for general dues of public employee unions, but prohibits paycheck withholding for the unions’ political action committees (PACs). The unions argued that this policy put the government in the position of denying unions’ First Amendment rights by making it harder for unions to raise money necessary for promulgating their particular political views. The high court majority ruled against the unions; that decision, quite rightly, will stand. But by going beyond the unions’ claims in this particular case, Breyer and Souter provided a road map for future union lawsuits by creating constitutional arguments the unions themselves did not raise here. Unfortunately, they thus invite unions to file more future cases to enlist the weight of government behind their quest for political power. (dcexaminer.com)


P2P propels D.C. union organizers ... Democrats in the House, Senate and White House were told before last fall’s election that the price for organized labor’s support would have to be paid as soon after the election as possible. They agreed to the price and the payment schedule, but until recently have been wondering if they could at least delay paying the bill. The price is not support for, but enactment of, what the unions, the president and their friends in Congress refer to euphemistically as the Employee Free Choice Act, which would for all practical purposes eliminate secret-ballot elections to determine whether workers want to unionize. Critics refer to it more accurately as “card-check” because it would allow union organizers who can somehow get 50 percent plus one (1) of a company’s employees to check a card saying they want the union to represent them to declare victory without any election. Candidate Obama promised labor this travesty would be accomplished during his first hundred days in office and “become the law of the land when I am president of the United States,” and more than one Democratic congressional leader bragged that card-check would be among the first bills voted on in the new Congress. Labor has reason to be more than just hopeful. November’s election winners promised to pay early for the millions of dollars in direct and indirect labor contributions that allowed them to outspend their opponents. The secretary of Labor is a true believer with the chutzpah to laugh at those who believe in old-fashioned things like free elections and secret ballots. (thehill.com)


Expert: Obama in payback to organized labor ... The head of a union watchdog group warns that an executive order recently signed by President Barack Obama could potentially increase the cost of federal construction projects by up to 30 percent. Last month, President Obama issued an executive order that allows government agencies to limit large federal construction projects to unionized contractors. The order reversed a directive under former President George W. Bush. Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Committee, says the Obama order will have a detrimental effect on both non-union workers and taxpayers. "We know from various studies across the country -- one coming from Beacon Hill Institute in Massachusetts that indicates very decisively -- that these so-called 'project labor agreements' add significantly to the cost of federal contracts," Mix explains. "And further...these non-union contractors across the country, of which about 85 percent of construction workers don't labor under union monopoly contracts, ... are effectively knocked out of the competitive bidding process because they don't have a union contract," he adds. "That's an outrage both from an individual freedom standpoint and from a taxpayer standpoint." Mix believes the executive order is a payoff to the building trades unions for the "massive forced dues support" they showered on Obama during his presidential campaign. (onenewsnow.com)


Anti-business SEIU protest backfires ... A spokeswoman for the Service Employees International Union said the organization dispatched 300 labor union members to protest outside the offices of the Chamber of Commerce, which opposes legislation — also known as card check — that would make it easier to unionize. SEIU spokesman Jeffrey Cappella said the protest was meant to show that Big Business has “deployed against change” that would help workers.The clash comes as the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee prepares to hold a hearing Tuesday on the bill. “Not only is [the protest] an advertisement for the chamber’s effectiveness on card check, but this protest reveals exactly what the card check bill is designed to do: expose workers to these kinds of pressure tactics,” said Steven Law, the chamber’s chief legal officer and general counsel. “Seriously, we hope they’ll stay all week.” (politico.com)


Andy Stern threatens Obama Dems



Dem Buffett gets up in Andy Stern's face ... Warren Buffet is a known supporter of the Death Tax, a long-time Democrat, was an unofficial adviser on economic policy to President Obama during the 2008 campaign and he recently served on the President’s Economic Advisory Board during the transition between presidential administrations. Oh, and he revealed this morning that he also opposes ending secret ballots for union organizing elections:

(blog.heritage.org)


Message to Axelrod: Free Barack Obama ... Well, it might be time to ask even more seriously if David Axelrod is Barack Obama's brain. Finally, last Friday, Politico broached a topic that has been talked about in Washington for months - Obama's almost total reliance on a teleprompter. The Politico went so far as referring to it as a "crutch" that created awkward moments witnessed by the press that made taking pictures of the president and others in the White House tricky. It is hard for the media to ignore the teleprompter when they are angling for shots so that the teleprompters aren't blocking pictures of the president and others. Towson University political science professor and presidential historian Martha Joynt Kumar noted this use of the teleprompter "is just something presidents haven't done." Until now. Just last week, Obama's presentation of Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius as head of Health and Human Services created an awkward silence between the Obama and Sebelius presentations while everyone had to wait for the teleprompters to be lowered to be moved out of the way. Politico mentioned the "uncomfortable laughter" the delay produced from the audience. The American Spectator notes that for many events: "... down to many of the questions and the answers to those questions. ... [t]eleprompter screens at the events scrolled not only his opening remarks, but also statistics and information he could use to answer questions." It quoted one Obama advisor as saying that Mr. Obama is looking at installing a computer screen in White House podiums so "it would make it easier for the comms (communications) guys to pass along information without being obvious about it." With all the effort to maneuver camera shots to avoid teleprompters blocking Mr. Obama's pictures, the news media has no such excuse. While the teleprompter might let Mr. Obama blame someone else whenever the answer turns out to be wrong, we would like to have a president who occasionally comes across as more than a TV anchor reading a script. (washingtontimes.com)


Obama, in over his head, tries to quit smoking ... A well-connected Washington figure, who is close to members of Mr Obama's inner circle, expressed concern that Mr Obama had failed so far to "even fake an interest in foreign policy". The American source said: "Obama is overwhelmed. There is a zero sum tension between his ability to attend to the economic issues and his ability to be a proactive sculptor of the national security agenda. That was the gamble these guys made at the front end of this presidency and I think they're finding it a hard thing to do everything." But they concede that the mood music of the event was at times strained. Mr Brown handed over carefully selected gifts, including a pen holder made from the wood of a warship that helped stamp out the slave trade - a sister ship of the vessel from which timbers were taken to build Mr Obama's Oval Office desk. Mr Obama's gift in return, a collection of Hollywood film DVDs that could have been bought from any high street store, looked like the kind of thing the White House might hand out to the visiting head of a minor African state. "The one real serious flaw I see in Barack Obama is that he thinks he can manage all this," the well-known figure told a Washington official, who spoke to this newspaper. "He's underestimating the flood of things that will hit his desk." A Democratic strategist, who is friends with several senior White House aides, revealed that the president has regularly appeared worn out and drawn during evening work sessions with senior staff in the West Wing and has been forced to make decisions more quickly than he is comfortable. He said that on several occasions the president has had to hurry back from eating dinner with his family in the residence and then tucking his daughters in to bed, to conduct urgent government business. Matters are not helped by the pledge to give up smoking. "People say he looks tired more often than they're used to," the strategist said. "He's still calm, but there have been flashes of irritation when he thinks he's being pushed to make a decision sooner than he wants to make it. He looks like he needs a cigarette."(telegraph.co.uk)


Union authorization law confuses key Dem Sen ... Sen. McCaskill: "I’m not sure that we have the votes, and I have no hope of backing Mr. Donohue off. I would say that I think it would be fair that we have a secret ballot for decertification of unions. Right now, businesses can go with a card check. There is no secret ballot to get rid of a union, but there is a requirement of that for people to be able to organize. And to me, that seems unfair. Let’s — what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Let’s put people on a level playing field and have both businesses have to have a secret ballot to decertify. Until they do that, I’m not sure they’ve got a lot of room to complain." Wait a minute. Just the opposite is true. Under EFCA’s rules, unions could use card check to form a union, but they’d still have to use a secret ballot to decertify a union. (Sec. 9(e))

(laborpains.org)


Take the Card-Check Quiz ... Right now, Congress is considering the misnamed "Employee Free Choice Act." But it would strip an estimaed 105 million working Americans of the right to a private ballot in union elections. Instead, employees would be subject to "card check" - a process that's open to coercion, confusion, and intimidation. Take the Card-Check Quiz now to find out if EFCA will steal your private vote! (cardcheckquiz.com)


Conflicted D.C. organizers pimp anti-stimulus measure ... Whether the misleadingly named Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA)—known as “card check”—is introduced in the next hour or next year, it remains the central political objective of organized labor. It was also championed as a domestic priority by President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats during the 2008 campaign. The EFCA would undercut the idea of a secret ballot in unionization drives and guarantee mandatory arbitration of many initial collective bargaining agreements. Canada’s experience with card check illustrates how it could further hobble the U.S. economy. Imagine a political environment in which only one political party has access to the media in order to make its promises, criticize the other side, and press its case. Or consider a scenario in which one of the competing political parties cannot begin its campaign until a week before the election. Neither the 21st-century U.S. economy nor American workers would benefit from changing the rules for union organizing in the manner currently proposed by card check supporters. Card check should be seen for what it is: an attempt to rebuild the private-sector union movement by making it dramatically easier for unions to organize American workers. Adding card check to the already heavy burden of U.S. labor and employment law that companies face today will cost the U.S. economy additional jobs. This is hardly a recipe for getting the country through the current economic crisis without substantial additional damage. (american.com)


Iowa to punish non-union workers ... The Iowa Board of Regents will consider capping salaries for employees of the state's public universities as a way to deal with expected 2009-10 budget cuts of up to $75 million. Regents President David Miles will ask the board to adopt at its meeting later this month a resolution capping the salaries for nonbargaining unit employees. The regents institutions employ about 12,500 nonunion employees, which include most professors and professional and scientific staff, the regents office reported. About 12,700 regents-system employees are represented by unions. (desmoinesregister.com)


Secret-ballot threatened in Hawaii ... Labor unions have played a key role in improving the quality of life for countless working-class Hawaii residents. It's a hard-won benefit, recognized in federal law: Workers may form a union through a formal process that includes a secret ballot monitored by the National Labor Relations Board. That vote is important. It can shape the future of the company and its workers, for better or worse. A worker faced with this choice should make it with care, fully informed of the pros and cons and without undue pressure from either side. In other words, in the same way we elect public officials: in the privacy of a voting booth. Two bills in the Legislature — House Bill 952 and Senate Bill 1621 — make it easy to circumvent this process through a "card-check" system. Reforming the system to protect against abuses may be necessary. But taking away the secret ballot isn't the answer. (honoluluadvertiser.com)


Union sues to prevent workers' vote ... A union that won an election to represent workers at MeadWestvaco's paper mill in Covington has appealed an administrative law judge's order for a new vote. An attorney for the Covington Paperworkers Union, John Fishwick, said Monday that an appeal of the decision has been filed with the National Labor Relations Board. Workers voted in October 2007 to cut ties with the United Steelworkers after more than a year of failed contract negotiations. The Covington Paperworkers Union Local 675 won an election in March 2008 to represent the plant's nearly 1,000 workers. The Steelworkers alleged pre-election misconduct by officers and others affiliated with the paperworkers union and sought a new election. (wric.com)


SEIU sues labor-state hospital: You can't close ... SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania has filed a complaint in federal court, alleging that Aliquippa-based Commonwealth Medical Center closed in December without filing the required notification with the state. The state requires 60-days’ notice of a business closing to help prepare workers, families and communities for the change, and the complaint says Commonwealth Medical Center violated the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act by unexpectedly terminating most of its 200 employees on Dec. 12. “We found out the hospital was closing the day it closed,” Linda Karamarkovich, a former emergency room nurse said in a prepared statement. “After spending decades caring for patients in the hospital, you expect to be treated with some compassion and respect.” (bizjournals.com)


Labor-state News Union takes dues hit ... The Sacramento Bee says it is cutting 128 jobs, or 11 percent of its workforce, as revenue continues to fall in the beleaguered newspaper industry. The cuts announced Monday include 29 jobs in the newsroom, 8 in advertising, 62 in circulation and 23 in production. Remaining employees face wage cuts of up to 6 percent and could be forced to take a week of unpaid leave. Members of the Newspaper Guild voted last week to take pay cuts to save 19 jobs. Company spokeswoman Pam Dinsmore said 30 of the employees losing their jobs Monday are union staffers. The layoffs are the latest in a series of cutbacks at the 152-year-old newspaper, one of 30 daily newspapers owned by Sacramento-based McClatchy Co. (theunion.com)


U.S. socialists celebrate Saul Alinsky ... The fountainhead of community organizing in the United States is the work and teachings of Saul David Alinsky. Last month the 100th anniversary of his birth was celebrated at the University of Chicago's Quadrangle Club at a time that could hardly seem more fitting. Ten days earlier, Barack Obama had been inaugurated as the first president with genuine experience as a community organizer. Over 160 pages of his memoir, "Dreams From My Father," are reflections on his work with neighborhood leaders and clergy in the gritty southeast side communities of Chicago that Alinsky knew well. Our newly appointed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote her senior college thesis on Alinsky's work, and a former colleague said that he invited her to train at the Industrial Areas Foundation. She enrolled in law school at Yale instead. One of Colorado's most influential leaders worked closely with Alinsky. Robert Craig, a renowned mountaineer, founder of the Keystone Center and former executive director of the Aspen Institute where Alinsky was a prominent figure, called him "the most inspiring and penetrating advocate of democracy I've ever read or encountered. "In all my years at the institute, there was never a resource person who could so exchange and empathize with struggling business executives striving to understand the roots and underpinnings of American democracy," Craig said. While Craig was unable to attend the Chicago event, it was cause for celebration for the 75 leaders who crowded into the Quadrangle Club. The tribute, organized by Sanford Horwitt, who authored "Let Them Call Me Rebel, Saul Alinsky His Life and Legacy," provided an opportunity to reminisce about the impact Alinsky and his colleagues had on American history. (denverpost.com)

Bonus links:
Summary of Saul Alinsky's 'Rules for Radicals'
'Rules for Radicals' at amazon.com


International Collectivism

Chávez lectures Hillary ... The U.S. State Department has accused senior Venezuelan officials, including a close aide to President Hugo Chávez, of assisting narcotics trafficking from Colombia in an annual report that describes Venezuela as a "major drug-transit country." The charges drew an indignant rebuke from Mr. Chávez, who recently won a popular referendum on constitutional changes allowing him to be re-elected indefinitely. He told Venezuela´s National Assembly that President Obama should "go clean up that dirt." "The biggest support for narco-trafficking comes from the nation of the north," Mr. Chávez told lawmakers earlier this month. (washingtontimes.com)


Latin socialist ready for war v. Colombia ... Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has said the country's armed forces are ready for a war with Colombia should Bogota provoke it. "In case of a provocation on the part of Colombia's armed forces or infringements on Venezuela's sovereignty, I will give an order to strike with Su aircraft and tanks. I will not let anyone disrespect Venezuela and its sovereignty," Chávez said Sunday on his weekly TV show, "Hello, President." Chávez said this in response to Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos's recent statements, which said that Colombia's military will keep killing rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) on the territory of other states. (en.rian.ru)


Chávez to offer a better cell phone ... Forget the $10 laptop from India. Down in Venezuala, Hugo Chávez is planning to make a cheap cellphone for his democratically-challenged subjects. The handset, to be named El Vergatario, will cost the equivalent of $14 and will contain an MP3 player, a camera and a radio. This seems like a smart move. Why bother with a cheap laptop when computers are eventually going to be replaced by cellphones anyway? The Vergatario will be made in China by Vetelca, a company owned both by Chávez' government and Chinese company ZTE. The phone will be available in May. Rumors that King Juan Carlos of Spain will be calling Chávez to ask "¿Por qué no te callas?" are unfounded. The name means, more or less, penny-phone -- verga is used to mean "penny", although literally it has a more vulgar meaning. My dictionary lists cock amongst other variations. You get the idea. (blog.wired.com)


Latin social justice in bloom ... The President of the Dominican Republic, Leonel Fernández Reyna, described the efforts made by his country and Cuba towards integration as a contribution to the socio-political situation of Caribbean and Latin American countries, at a time when the region is more united than ever, working to meet the needs of the peoples. Fernández paid his respect and recognition to the efforts made by Cubans in achieving justice, social well-being and human dignity. He described his visit as "satisfactory and beneficial," "of reciprocal interest," "consistent with history," "in accordance with the brotherly ties that unite both peoples," and as "a reflection of the friendship and mutual respect that has characterized our bilateral relations." (periodico26.cu)
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