Thursday wrap

Bam stained by Dem Pay-to-Play ... Obama's transition team has become increasingly anxious about the backgrounds of nominees now that two nominees have hit significant bumps in the rush of confirmation hearings, and the committee is waiting to get some background paperwork on LaHood that it says is usually provided on nominees. Obama's pick for commerce secretary, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, withdrew from consideration after the FBI flagged an ongoing grand jury investigation that is looking at the governor's office role in the hiring of a bond adviser and Richardson donor. And Treasury Secretary-designate Timothy F. Geithner has had his hearing rescheduled after questions came up about errors he made earlier this decade in reporting and paying his income taxes. LaHood, a seven-term House member who retired last month, has close ties to a Republican power broker William F. Cellini Sr., who was indicted in the pay-to-play scandal that also led to Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's recent arrest, The Post reported yesterday, and LaHood also sponsored $60 million in congressional earmarks last year. (washingtonpost.com)

Chao: Beware EFCA Bait-and-Switch ... One of these counterproductive, special-interest initiatives is "card check," which would deprive workers of the ability to vote privately in workplace unionization elections -- a vital worker protection that dates back to the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947. There is a push in Congress to enact card check despite the fact that the vast majority of workers -- including rank-and-file union members -- want to keep the private ballot system in workplace unionization elections and do not want it replaced by a signature card process that will subject them to the pressures of solicitation and potential intimidation by union activists. Ironically, to decertify a union, labor leaders insist on holding private-ballot elections to protect workers from employer intimidation. Another destructive and undemocratic aspect of the card-check bill is a provision for government-dictated labor contracts in newly unionized workplaces. Under the bill, if an initial labor contract is not agreed to within a congressionally dictated timetable, the government could designate an "arbitration board" to write a labor contract that employers and workers would be forced to live under for two years. This is not just a problem for employers. Workers would not have any right to ratify or reject the contract. (online.wsj.com)

Irony drips from anti-choice Bam appointee ... A union watchdog group says president-elect Barack Obama's nomination of California Congresswoman Hilda Solis for secretary of labor is a "concerning development" since she has been a supporter of compulsory unionism throughout her career in the U.S. House as well as in the California State Assembly and Senate. Labor secretary-designate Solis co-sponsored the Employee Free Choice Act, one of organized labor's top legislative priorities. The bill would eliminate the rights of workers to a secret ballot election for the purpose of certifying unions as their bargaining agents... Ironically, even though Solis opposes a secret ballot for union employees, she protested Joe Baca's election as chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus a few years ago because his election had not included secret ballot votes. (onenewsnow.com)

Reid, Pelosi cultivate small business ... The EFCA poses an especially strong threat to our smallest of industries and businesses. In 2005, for example, the vast majority of petitions filed and elections held in Virginia, as in prior years, involved companies employing fewer than 100 people. Small businesses simply do not have the resources to contest organizing efforts and will be more susceptible to organizing than larger firms under this bill. Union supporters indicate that the EFCA is needed simply to "level the playing field." That is not the case in Virginia. As evidenced by Chamber reports, unions have won nearly half of all elections held in Virginia since 1989. Current law seems to be working just about right. "Card check" elections are simply a bad idea. The right to a private ballot is a cornerstone of our democracy. It is a right we all exercise in our daily lives. (newsleader.com)

DINOs stung by Card-Check fascism ... GOP strategists and party leaders are approaching the issue by focusing on the loss of the secret ballot, a proposition they call undemocratic. “Many people, not just Republicans, see this as a blatant power grab,” said Ron Nehring, chairman of the California Republican Party. “It’s very easy for people to oppose card-check because it’s so undemocratic.” At several meetings of national Republicans last week in Washington, leaders from around the country — including several of those running to chair the Republican National Committee — called card-check their best issue against Democrats. While it riles up the party’s base, those involved in plotting strategy on the ground said it also allows for a simple message the party can use to appeal to independent voters. Several said both the messaging and the associated fundraising have provided early dividends, an experience not unlike that which developed for Washington-based Republicans last year. (thehill.com)

We don't need no stinkin' private ballots

Unionist decries AFL-CIO's anti-democracy propaganda ... Nobody can accuse the Trib of not airing both sides of the proposed Employee Free Choice Act, which its opponents say would eliminate the secret ballot in union organizing campaigns and make it easier for workers to organize unions. I just read the letter penned by William George that states, "Most workers will choose majority sign-up to avoid the fear and intimidation tactics under the corporate-dominated election process" ("Worker choice," Jan. 14 and PghTrib.com). I was wondering what the heck he was smoking -- until I saw the editor's comment that Mr. George is president of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO. I was "fortunate" enough to participate in three union organizing elections in my life -- all in the aviation industry. One of them resulted in a successful union certification and the other two were not successful. I don't know how Mr. George wrote his letter with a straight face. In each election I participated in, the ballot arrived at my house via U.S. mail. I filled it out and returned it via U.S. mail -- without anyone from the union or management looking over my shoulder. The ballots were counted by the National Mediation Board -- not by management, not by the union. It seems to me that the secret ballot works fine. I see no reason to mess up a system that works. (pittsburghlive.com)

Congress adds to sad history of union organizing ... Ernest Istook, Chairman of the National Advisory Board for Save Our Secret Ballot, described at the Conservative Bloggers’ Briefing yesterday a grassroots, state-level strategy to nullify the effects of the Employee Free Choice Act should it be passed by Congress. SOSBallot.org, a 501 c(4) organization, is currently pushing for constitutional amendments to be placed on the ballots of Arizona, Arkansas, Montana, Nevada and Utah. “Save Our Secret Ballot exists to give the citizens in the various states the opportunity to creat state level protections for secret ballots that would include union representation elections,” Istook said. Istook, who is also a former Congressman from Oklahoma and a Distinguished Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, is determined to stop the EFCA, which he says will enable unions to strong-arm otherwise unwilling workers into endorsing the formation of a union by eliminating the privacy of their vote. Instead, a far more public system of simply signing an authorization form will replace the secret ballot. “Intimidation and attempts to intimidate people is very real,” Istook said. “Certainly, one of the areas where it has a sad history is union organizing tactics.” (blog.heritage.org)

Forced-unionism: As Un-American as it gets ... Big Labor came through for the Democrats last November big time. They put their man in the White House, helped expand the Democrats’ majorities in Congress. Now it’s payback time. The biggest problem facing organized labor in this country today is that so many people have wised up to their scam and no longer are joining unions voluntarily. Indeed, the only membership growth area for organized labor is among government workers, not in the private sector. Go figure. For years now, harassed and brow-beaten workers have been publicly nodding their heads in agreement just to get union organizers to leave them alone, but then in the privacy of their secret ballots they’ve been voting, “Thanks, but no thanks.” That’s why union membership today is at its lowest level in half a century. Unable to win traditional elections fair and square, Big Labor has a new idea: Just get rid of secret elections altogether. Which is exactly what the ridiculously misnamed “Employee Free Choice Act” (EFCA) would do. (gopusa.com)

L.A.'s IBEW hogs taste pro-union green pork, power ... City Hall observers and Los Angeles activists demanded to know who stood to gain the most from an unusually rushed decision to put it on the ballot. Many critics began pointing to a politically connected union that employs about 8,000 Department of Water and Power workers — and that openly brags about its aggressiveness in getting its way inside City Hall. “Nothing is done [by management] at the DWP without the union’s direct participation and approval,” alleges Joel Davidson, a solar-power consultant for 30 years. The union is the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), whose motto is, “If provoked, we will strike.” Measure B calls for DWP to install, and own, the solar panels that will cover Los Angeles roofs. Davidson, who worked on DWP solar plans with Freeman in the late ’90s, says DWP has “aggressively pursued the solar market because they are concerned about losing it to the private sector.” The DWP is a political power in its own right because its profits — earned from Los Angeles residents and businesses — pump nearly $175 million dollars into the city’s general fund. That’s a strong political force weighing on the City Council, which always wants more money. Measure B spokeswoman Sarah Leonard dismisses criticism of the DWP and its powerful IBEW union as a monopoly that pushes around the City Council. But dozens of private solar-panel installers in the burgeoning solar industry will be all but cut out of the bonanza in installation work under Measure B — leading critics to fear that the hurried nature of this deal was custom-designed to bolster the size and political power of IBEW. (laweekly.com)

Teamsters enjoy long winter strike ... “The Metalworks labor strike is now in its 11th week. The union has had a company offer since Dec. 17, 2008 and yet the union has not answered. In fact, the union is just now asking the company for negotiating information, a process that should have been done months ago. Metalworks continues to operate and put up with the heinous and destructive picket line behavior that is part of a strike we did not want, could not be avoided and never should have happened. The union leadership has caused a severe economic hardship to all members because of a strike that they initiated and continue to promote. Instead of working through the economic and competitive challenges, the Teamsters union instructed their membership to walk off their secure jobs. “Teamsters Union Local 406 recently addressed a letter to the citizens of Ludington. This letter was their attempt to address their reasoning for abandoning their jobs and choosing to go on strike against the company. Metalworks maintains its position that it is best not to negotiate publicly and in front of the community, however, we feel we need to address some of the comments that were misrepresented: (ludingtondailynews.com)

Out-of-step SEIU demands pay hike from City ... As the city of Santa Cruz and its libraries continue to hemorrhage money and slash services, union workers are balking at talk of wage or benefit cuts to save the city or library system money. "Our workers are upset," said Sonia Laracuente, internal organizer for Service Employees International Union Local 521, which represents city and library employees, at Tuesday night's City Council meeting. Laracuente told the City Council the union needed more details on the budget deficit and direction from the city before they would consider compromising. On Monday, SEIU member Leslie Auerbach had a similar message for the Santa Cruz Public Libraries Joint Powers Board, which governs all branches except those in Watsonville. "No givebacks at this time," Auerbach said ... On Monday, the library board cut $640,000 from its own $13 million budget, and agreed to close all branches on Fridays as of Feb. 6. At city offices, managers have foregone pay raises and taken pay cuts, as have City Council members. Funding for the Teen Center, Harvey West Pool, Beach Flats Community Center, Natural History Museum and Surfing Museum was eliminated last month. Meanwhile, all SEIU city workers still are in line to receive a 5 percent raise next year. (mercurynews.com)

New Haven: Free Saul Alinsky ... Local activists nationwide were offended during the presidential election when Sarah Palin slammed Barack Obama's experience: "I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities." A movie showing Tuesday at the New Haven Public Library shines a light on the history of community organizing, and how the movement encouraged Americans to actively participate in civic affairs. As co-director Bob Hercules states, "this is a story about poor people getting power." "The Democratic Promise: Saul Alinsky and his Legacy" tells the story of Alinsky (1909-1972) the father of American community organizing, and how he strove to combat voter alienation and apathy. The film is 60 minutes and will be shown Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the downtown branch, 133 Elm St. It will be followed by a presentation by Melissa Canham-Clyne, manager of the library's Wilson branch. Bruce Orenstein and Hercules' film is unrated. Admission is free. For details, call 203-946-7431. (courant.com)

Make America Socialist. Again.

International Collectivism

Communist monarchy gets fresh blood ... North Korea's leader Kim Jong-Il has nominated his third son as successor and informed the ruling communist party leadership of his choice. South Korea's Yonhap news agency reports the nomination of Kim Jong-Un, 24, was totally unexpected even among party leaders. Analysts have said previously Jong-Un is not in the running. He was born to the leader's third wife, Ko Yong-Hi. Educated at an international school in Switzerland Kim Jong Un holds no key official posts. (radioaustralianews.net.au)

Artist sought for questioning ... Peru's President Alan Garcia along with the heads of state from other South American countries were drawn as if they were to appear on the Simpsons. Created by artist Ed Wheeler, a picture of the presidents of Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru and Brazil is circling the internet. The presidents of the South American countries are hugging each other and gathered around Latin pop singer Juanes, who is holding a guitar. The presidents of Chile and Argentina, Michelle Bachelet and Cristina Fernández are not in the picture. The artist paid attention to even the smallest details, reported online media. Evo Morales can be seen wearing brown slippers along with an Andean style sweater instead of a suit. While Alan Garcia is wearing a suit, it is a small one that doesn't cover his protruding belly. Hugo Chávez is seen wearing a red beret along with a red jacket. According to Peru21 newspaper, it is hoped that the image will spark the interest of television producers to create an episode using the presidents of these South American countries. (livinginperu.com)

Chávez extends term-limits, shames Bolívar ... Mario Isea, another PSUV deputy, said: "Before us we have an amendment aimed at eliminating current (term) limits, so that all legally able citizens can run for election and the people can choose from them without limitations of any kind." Podemos Party member Juan Jose Molina, one of the few dissenting lawmakers, warned that the measure was unconstitutional and was a product of Chávez' whim to stay in office all his life. "You cannot manipulate things by invoking the law and democratic values, believing that people are stupid and unaware that the idea behind it is to concentrate power in one man and dissolve the (government) institutions," he told his colleagues. Wednesday's vote was the second on the no-term-limits measure, after it was approved on its initial reading on December 18. A few students demonstrated in Caracas against the measure and were dispersed by police with tear gas. Last month, Chávez denied he was seeking a permanent foothold in power through the constitutional amendment. "They say my personal goal is to perpetuate myself in power; nothing could be further from the truth," Chávez told a group of military garrison chiefs on December 28. "What we have here is a national independence project that still needs more work to consolidate. It's not consolidated yet," he said of his "Bolívar" socialist revolution that has so far nationalized several key industries, including energy, telecommunications, oil and steel concerns. Opposition parties have set up a pressure group to reject the no-term-limits measure, calling their movement "Angostura," after a speech by Venezuelan founding father Simon Bolívar warning of the dangers of unlimited political power. (capitalfm.co.ke)

Where in the world is Oliver Stone? ... Why was Bolivia's President Evo Morales doing chewing coca leaves and kicking a futbol around with U.S. filmmaker Oliver Stone? Talking about their BFF Hugo Chávez. Stone is working on a film about the Venezuelan president and was interviewing Morales. Also, it just came through the Twittersphere that Morales is cutting diplomatic relations with Israel over what is happening in Gaza. (vivirlatino.com)

Bolivia asserts global socialist leadership ... President Evo Morales announced on Wednesday that Bolivia had broken off diplomatic ties with Israel in protest at its deadly attacks in the Gaza Strip. "I would like to announce that Bolivia had diplomatic relations with Israel (and) given these grave crimes against life and humanity, Bolivia is breaking off diplomatic relations with Israel," the president said. Morales, a socialist, is a close ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez who January 6 decided to expel Israel's ambassador from Caracas, winning him hero status among the Palestinians. (timesofindia.indiatimes.com)

Whimsical Chávez picks new 'partner of choice' ... Toronto-based Crystallex International has not been informed by the Venezuelan government about any changes in the status of its Las Cristinas gold project, the firm said on Wednesday. The company was responding to comments reportedly made by President Hugo Chávez, that the project would be taken from Crystallex and developed by a joint venture between the government and Vancouver-based, Russian-owned Rusoro Mining. Crystallex “has not been notified of any changes in position by the Venezuelan government regarding the Las Cristinas project or the mine operating contract,” the company said in a statement. The firm's staff and representatives are in “continual communication with senior Venezuelan officials” and the comments attributed to Chávez had not been raised with the company, it added. Rusoro, which has been named as the government's 'partner of choice' when it comes to gold-mining, operates the Choco 10 gold mine in Venezuela, and last year bought Hecla Mining's Isidora operation, which it now owns in joint venture with a State-owned company. The firm is also in the midst of a hostile takeover bid for Spokane, Washington-based Gold Reserve, which plans to develop the Brisas gold/copper project, just down the road from Las Cristinas. (miningweekly.com)

Chávez to Bam: Leave me alone ... If the Ibero-American summit was anything like Tuesday's annual address before the national assembly, no wonder King Juan Carlos told Hugo Chávez to shut up: Not only did Chavez waltz in three hours late, but he droned on for more than eight hours. Unfortunately, the speech was carried in a mandatory TV and radio broadcast, so few Venezuelans were spared from the ordeal. In addition to claiming that he's totally solved the problem of the country's homeless street children, Chávez expressed hope that the Barack Obama administration would leave him alone. (worldnews.about.com)
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