Tuesday wrap

SEIU Pay-To-Play Dooms Dems: No GOP to Blame ... Obama supporters here are angered and exasperated that what had been regarded as a perfect transition up to mid-December has turned into a media scandal-hunt for connections between the president-elect and the soiled Rod Blagojegvich regime. The vaunted Democratic party is reeling from the stench. Worse, there are no Republicans to blame as the Dems control the legislature, all state constitutional offices and the state courts. Gov. Blagojevich has declined to resign to the keen disappointment of Democrats everywhere. Friday he held a news conference ... well not a conference since he wouldn’t take questions-but a cameo appearance ... wherein he said “I will fight, I will fight, I will fight until I take my last breath!” One of his attorneys, Sam Adams, said he would only resign if it became absolutely clear he could not govern. (cdobs.com)

The United States of Corruption ... Despite the obvious, Americans both in government and academia have tried to convince themselves that corruption is something that happens in the underdeveloped and developing worlds alone. They have always presented an unrealistic view of corruption, ignoring the obvious fact that America is plagued by corruption. This year, they are now facing reality: Corruption is very commonplace in America! Now, an open secret is finally being openly discussed, and being called what it is. The list of government officials (local, state and federal) that have been caught up in outright corrupt and criminal practices is too long for the purpose of this article. But let’s just add two more: The Governor who recently tried to sell a senate seat and the investor who bilked his clients to the tone of $50 billion. (theliberianjournal)

SEIU Pay-to-Play: No coincidence ... panel members instead focused on the nitty-gritty of long-standing allegations that Blagojevich ran a "pay-to-play" administration. "Questionable, even alarming, fundraising practices were in evidence from the time that Mr. Blagojevich first set his eye on the governor's office," testified Cynthia Canary, director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, an organization that advocates tougher restrictions on campaign donations. Canary cited the findings of a Tribune examination in April of 235 donations to Blagojevich for exactly $25,000 that found three of every four contributions came from individuals, companies or interest groups who got something from state government. "This appears to be far beyond coincidence," she said. (chicagotribune.com)

Impeachment inquiry exposes SEIU Pay-to-Play ... Lawmakers try to lay out a pattern of pay to play politics they say can be traced back to the governor. Governor Rod Blagojevich has raised $58,000,000 in campaign donations over the last 8 years and one group says many of those donors are doing business with the state. The head of the non-profit group Illinois Campaign for Political Reform disagrees testifying today about the appearance of corruption. The group has linked 125 people to the governor's campaign fund that have later got state contracts. Lawmakers admit it's hard to tell if the money is being paid out for political favors and that could be the key to this case. (illinoishomepage.net)

Dem Sen. rattled by union TV ad ... An anti-union strategy aimed at Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson appears to be backfiring. It's a TV ad targeting Nelson and a handful of other conservative Democrats. The ad is trying to convince Nelson to vote against a pro-union bill, a bill that would arguably make it easier for workers to start a union. The thirty second commercial ties embattled Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich to a controversial union boss and millions of dollars spent to elect Democrats to the Senate. It also tells viewers to call Senator Nelson, and "...tell him to say no to the union bosses bail-out." The bottom line in the ad is what's known in union circles as the card-check bill. When starting up a union workers would sign a card instead of casting a secret vote. Critics say workers would be vulnerable to union scare tactics. (action3news.com)

Fat-cat UAW exposed ... The United Autoworkers Union, which had a total net worth of $1.2 billion in 2007, owns a $27 million resort and conference center that features a $6 million upscale golf course, according to financial statements on file with the U.S. Department of Labor. The retreat, called the Walter and May Reuther Family Education Center, is located on Black Lake in Onaway, Michigan. The union-owned retreat includes the Black Lake Golf Club, valued at $6 million according to the financial statement. The resort features conference centers, classrooms, resort amenities and the golf club, which is open to union members, retirees and their guests, as well as the public, on a space-available basis. Accommodations at the resort cost $92 a night for a single room and $106 a night for a double. Full-service condos are available costing $180 for a two-bedroom and $275 for a three-bedroom unit. UAW members receive a slight discount on accommodations, paying $74 a night for a single, $87 a night for a double. Members can rent a two-bedroom condo for $150/night and a three-bedroom condo for $225/night. The Education Center includes lakeside rooms, hotel-style rooms, as well as a fully-equipped campground, boat ramp and dock. It also has an Olympic-sized swimming pool, two full-length basketball courts, and a sauna. The 1,000 acre golf club is a first-class, 1,000 acre, environmentally conscious course designed by Rees Jones, son of famed golf course designer Robert Trent Jones, the same designer behind PGA-level courses Pinehurst, Torrey Pines, and LPGA International. (frontpagemagazine.com)

Missouri sends in the AFSCME organizers ... A major push to unionize home-care attendants for the elderly and disabled has the Semo Alliance for Disability Independence fielding calls from workers it oversees about how the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees got their names. In some instances, attendants have reported that union organizers told them that they worked for the alliance, better known as SADI, managers at the alliance said. But one of the union's top leaders in Missouri said field organizers have been instructed to tell attendants they acquired their names from SADI and that those instructions may be causing confusion. A major push to unionize home-care attendants for the elderly and disabled has the Semo Alliance for Disability Independence fielding calls from workers it oversees about how the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees got their names. In some instances, attendants have reported that union organizers told them that they worked for the alliance, better known as SADI, managers at the alliance said. But one of the union's top leaders in Missouri said field organizers have been instructed to tell attendants they acquired their names from SADI and that those instructions may be causing confusion. (semissourian.com)

Path to Collectivism, part 1

Bam, union organizers eye small employers ... Business associations across the country, including the United States and Pennsylvania Chambers of Commerce as well as the Chamber of Business and Industry of Centre County, oppose the proposed change. The “card check” legislation poses a significant threat to job creators, particularly medium-sized and smaller companies, which have traditionally not been the target of union-organizing efforts ... It’s difficult to buy into the argument for changing the process. Somehow, secret balloting worked in the recent presidential election. Fortunately, we were able to make our own decisions and not be harassed by family and friends because they would know how we voted. Right or wrong, there is some comfort in knowing that you don’t have to explain or justify your vote. Businesses are struggling through the worst economic crisis in memory. Americans are hurting. The proposed “card check” legislation would only add to the hurt. The new Congress needs to end partisan gridlock and get our economy back on track. It needs to concentrate on somehow avoiding a predicted 10 percent unemployment rate and getting us out of a deepening recession. The union “card check” legislation should not even be on the radar screen of our elected officials. (centredaily.com)

Unions abuse workers' rights ... During the confirmation hearing for Secretary of Labor nominee Hilda Solis, senators should ask whether she supports the rescission of union disclosure requirements. Support for rescission — and its consequent reduction of transparency — would be incongruent with Solis' proclaimed support for employee rights (Solis often makes reference to "protecting employees' rights" and "putting workers first"). And the lack of transparency would be compounded by passage of the Employee Free Choice Act strongly supported by the nominee. EFCA combined with reduced transparency could result in employees being ordered to pay union dues/fees to a union they never got a chance to vote on — and having only the faintest idea where those dues are going. It's easy to see why unions — and certain politicians — might like that. But how is that good for employees? (corner.nationalreview.com)

Striking teachers set down pickets for Holiday week vacation ... Members of the Lake-Lehman Education Association spent a frigid three hours walking a picket line Monday morning. It was the first and last day the teachers will spend picketing this year, though union negotiators said that barring a breakthrough during the next two weeks, strikers would be back on the line Jan. 5. Lake-Lehman teachers have gone on strike every school year since their contract expired in August 2006. When teachers went on strike in 2007, they stayed on the picket lines from Oct. 15 through Nov. 8, encompassing 19 school days. Earlier that year, they were on strike from May 29 to June 4. (timesleader.com)

Terrific deal spares Teamsters from dues hit ... The city's Teamsters voted this evening to give back a pay raise and allow the city to skip payments to the union's welfare fund in exchange for guarantee that none of the 50 Teamsters slated to be laid off would lose their jobs. Teamsters Local 456 would have been the hardest hit among city unions, accounting for 50 of the 76 proposed full-time layoffs announced by Yonkers Mayor Phil Amicone on Dec. 12. Another 75 part-time workers would be laid off as part of the mayor's plan to eliminate a $16 million gap in the combined city-school district budget of $893 million. The Teamsters have 439 members working for the city. "That's terrific for them and their families, and terrific for the city because it saves jobs," Amicone said. "It saves the services they were performing that they no longer would have been been able to perform." (lohud.com)

Union-backed fraud group linked to Franken's vote patron ... “Mark Ritchie as we all know now is a hard-core liberal who was endorsed by ACORN and funded by ACORN,” Matthew Vadum, senior editor of CapitolResearch.org, a nonprofit think tank, tells Newsmax. “It’s not surprising that he has a permissive attitude toward the recount process.” A few weeks ago, Vadum says, he expected Coleman to emerge the winner. But now he says Coleman’s chances are “diminishing daily.” Franken has a 251-vote lead, but many thousands of votes remain to be counted. “I think things are looking pretty grim. It’s pretty ominous for Coleman. What battle in the recount process has he won? It’s pretty hard for him to lose every single challenge, and yet go on to win the election,” Vadum says. Kersten, a long-time observer of Minnesota’s political machinations, writes that it’s too soon to say if Ritchie’s influence and resume will taint the credibility of the contentious recount. “What we do know,” she writes, “is that the referee in the contest appears to be wearing the colors of one of the teams.” (newsmax.com)

UAW critique off-base ... Lately, there has been much ire drawn amongst liberals and progressives as a result of conservatives criticizing the United Auto Workers union. I think a lot of liberals and progressives-and I am one, at least with respect to most of the key issues of the day-are missing some important facts with regard to the UAW. I’ve followed the auto industry very closely for the last 20+ years, and had once planned a career there, and I have many friends who work in the industry. While Republicans have articulated the wrong points, focusing on misleading statistics regarding wages, there are some very real issues with the UAW that liberals and progressive must recognize. The issue with the UAW is not how much workers are being paid. There are two main problems. First, the union contracts do not allow the automakers the workforce flexibility that they need to be competitive. It’s not that the workers are making too much; it’s that the Big Three are forced to keep far more people on the payroll than they need. When business is booming, the Big Three naturally need to add union jobs. But when business begins to contract, the UAW makes it much more difficult that it should be to make workforce changes. (theyoungturks.com)

Governator sued by SEIU ... "Now, I hate to lay off any state employees, may I remind you, because those are hardworking people and they all have to provide for their families," Schwarzenegger said in a Los Angeles news conference. "But we are running out of cash by February, so I have no other choice." ... Service Employees International Union Local 1000 filed an unfair practice charge Monday with the state Public Employment Relations Board accusing the Schwarzenegger administration of negotiating in bad faith in contract talks. The union, which represents 95,000 state workers, asks PERB to maintain the status quo until SEIU completes bargaining with DPA. (sacbee.com)

International Collectivism

Chávez smacks down international press ... Venezuela Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro demanded an explanation from several foreign dailies, which recently spread lies about Venezuela. He cited specifically US The Washington Post, Italian La Stampa and Spanish El Mundo, which published fallacies and nonsense against the people and government of Venezuela. He explained that Venezuela will make representations to the papers, and if they fail to accept our conditions, we will resort to other international legal options, he warned. In different articles published last week, the said conservative dailies criticized the government of President Hugo Chávez for alleged links to Iran and also decried the draft constitutional amendment of section 230. (plenglish.com)

Bogus report smears workers' paradise ... A Human Rights Watch report on alleged setbacks in human rights in Venezuela since President Hugo Chávez first took office 10 years ago has been severely questioned by 118 academics from the United States and several other countries. The report, "A Decade Under Chávez: Political Intolerance and Lost Opportunities for Advancing Human Rights in Venezuela", presented in September, "does not meet even the most minimal standards of scholarship, impartiality, accuracy, or credibility," say the Latin America experts in their open letter to the Board of Directors of Human Rights Watch (HRW). "By publishing such a grossly flawed report, and acknowledging a political motivation in doing so, (HRW’s Americas director José Miguel) Vivanco has undermined the credibility of an important human rights organisation," says the letter dated Dec. 16. The scholars say the "political motivation" was indicated by Vivanco’s statement that "We did the report because we wanted to demonstrate to the world that Venezuela is not a model for anyone ..." The signatories include experts from the United States like prominent linguist and political writer Noam Chomsky, anthropologists Clara and Charles Briggs, historians Greg Grandin and Charles Bergquist, and filmmaker Oliver Stone, as well as Brazilian sociologist Emir Sader, Argentine political scientist Mario Ayala and professor of political economy at the University of Sydney Tim Anderson. (ipsnews.net)

Bush, Morales in tit-for-tat ... The United States's decision to suspend tariff benefits for Bolivian imports as a result of the confrontation with the government of Evo Morales has generated widespread uncertainty among the business and working communities of the Bolivian capital's satellite city of El Alto. The Morales administration expelled U.S. ambassador Philip Goldberg in September -- declaring him ”persona non grata” and accusing him of aiding the opposition in their violent attacks on government supporters -- and then suspended the activities of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in November, showing the government's determination to move forward in what it defines as a cultural and democratic revolution. The George W. Bush administration responded immediately by ordering the indefinite suspension of the benefits granted under the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA) for Bolivian imports, a decision which came into force on Dec. 15. As of Dec. 16, the U.S. has set a 17 percent tariff on Bolivian imports. In response, the Morales administration has offered eight million dollars in long-term soft loans to facilitate the continuation of trade operations. (australia.to)

Russians, Chávez baffle U.S. experts ... Immediately after Russia's August war, U.S. warships travelled to Georgian Black Sea ports, a gesture that angered Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who asked how Washington would like it if Russia sent ships close to U.S. waters. In September, Moscow dispatched two Tu-160 nuclear capable bombers to Venezuela and a naval flotilla there, led by the nuclear-powered battle cruiser "Peter the Great". Because of its overwhelming naval presence, the United States was not threatened by Russia in the region, said Shannon. "What's interesting for us about how Russia is engaging in the region is this is not the Soviet Union, they do not bring an ideological purpose to their engagement," he said. (javno.com)
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