Saturday wrap

Bam Labor pick admits to U.S. Senate: I'm 'not qualified' ... Senate Republicans, frustrated over the answers they say they're not getting from Rep. Hilda L. Solis, may try to block her confirmation as Barack Obama's secretary of labor. "She answered no questions," said Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), a member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. "If she won't answer the questions, how can you support the nomination?" During the California Democrat's Jan. 9 confirmation hearing, Solis repeatedly told senators that she could not speak for the incoming Obama administration on the card check bill, and she told Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) that she was "not qualified" to speak about maintaining right-to-work laws that prohibit workers from paying union dues as a condition of employment. "These aren't positions that you're allowed not to have an opinion," Wyoming Sen. Michael Enzi, the ranking Republican on the committee, told Politico. "These are extremely critical things that she was asked about. Each of the people that asked questions from the Republican side asked about different areas of labor law and wondered what she was going to do. And we still don't know." Enzi said it's "too early" to say whether he will place a procedural hold to slow down her nomination. (politico.com)

Dem P2P Exposed: Well-organized, disguised ... Alvin Ira Malnik is a very interesting fellow who I assume is responsible for Obama dumping Richardson; Obama didn’t want the appearance of being connected too closely with Al Malnik even though Mr. Malnik has been one of the big major donors to the Democratic Party for many years. Malnik "inherited" a very interesting "business." He is the heir to the Meyer Lansky "syndicate." Malnik was the guy chosen by Meyer Lansky to make his business "legitimate" and guide the "business" through the losses suffered as a result of the Cuban revolution. It is quite interesting how all of these fellows are "connected." One has to kind of wonder if Obama and his handlers haven’t perhaps intentionally created a link to leftists and communists (Frank Marshall Davis) as a means to kind of lead people away from what might really be the case that Obama is well connected to organized crime … Add in one of Malnik's closest of personal friends, Bernie Madoff -- another major donor to the Democratic Party, and one begins to wonder if Bernie Madoff wasn’t actually "laundering" the Lansky "family" money. Mr. Malnik provided the "consultancy" to get two huge casino empires off the ground in Minnesota … Mystic Lake and the Grand Casinos as well as the huge casino operation in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan … but his pet project was working the deal that saw the Seminoles in Florida taking over the huge Hard Rock casino/resort empire. Mr. Malnik is associated in one way or another with over 300 of the 450 or so casinos in the Indian Gaming Industry. Two other people well connected to Malnik are Chuck Schumer and Obama’s Chief of Staff … I am sure they know nothing about Malnik's "business" interests … ya, sure; you betcha. (opednews.com)

Bam's anti-embezzlement unit to get Pay-to-Play data ... The U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) today announced that on Jan. 21 a final regulation will be published in the Federal Register to update the Form LM-2. The changes will ensure that relevant information on union finances is provided to rank-and-file union members to better ensure transparency and accountability as required by the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (LMRDA). The final rule continues the administration's commitment to transparency and accountability for corporations, pension funds and labor unions. (news.prnewswire.com)

Jumbo SEIU divided on union transparency ... SEIU spokeswoman Michelle Ringuette said in an e-mail that the new rules appear to be "predictable eleventh- hour maneuvers of the Bush administration, and we look forward to the day the DOL is focused on protecting workers by enforcing existing regulations preventing exploitation by unscrupulous employers." An SEIU dissident, however, said he welcomed further disclosure. Sal Rosselli, president of an Oakland-based local, has feuded with the SEIU's national leadership over the direction of the union. He said the national office has refused to fully disclose how much money it has spent on the internecine fight. "Transparency on how unions spend their members' dollars, from our point of view, is wanted," Rosselli said. "We let our members look at every check." (latimes.com)

Soros: Blame Americans First

Anti-corruption law backfires on Dem Gov ... When he signed the Fraud Against Taxpayers Act into law in 2007, Gov. Bill Richardson said it “sends a strong message to those who would try to cheat the taxpayers and the state of their money.” “Crime doesn’t pay,” Richardson said at the March 15, 2007, bill-signing ceremony in his office. On Wednesday the public learned that the very law Richardson said would help fight corruption was being used to file a lawsuit on behalf of the state, alleging that schoolteachers and taxpayers lost $90 million in investment deals made in exchange for contributions to Richardson’s presidential campaign. (newmexicoindependent.com)

Culture Unions swing with Bam ... But it increasingly looks like Michael Dorf, a Chicago attorney who has played key roles in shaping arts policy in both his city and on a national level, is the leading candidate to become chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts in the Obama administration. At least, he’s won the outspoken support of union leaders who represent workers in the arts and entertainment fields and who, after years of feeling left out in the cold about the NEA appointment, are energized by what they view as the president-elect’s interest in their opinions. On Jan. 7, about 10 top officials of these unions, including the Screen Actors Guild, Actors Equity and the American Federation of Musicians, took part in an hour-long conference call in which they interviewed Dorf. They did so, says Paul E. Almeida, president of the Department for Professional Employees of the AFL-CIO, to which the unions belong, with the “background understanding” that Dorf is a likely pick for the job, that “there’s a there there with this guy.” (latimesblogs.latimes.com)

Union operatives assume White House command ... Mrs. Michelle Obama today announced the following staff for the First Lady's Office: David Medina as Deputy Chief of Staff, Jocelyn Frye as Director of Policy and Projects, Trooper Sanders as Deputy Director of Policy and Projects, Franny Starkey Sanguin as Director of Scheduling and Advance, Jennifer Goodman as Deputy Director of Scheduling and Events, Dana M. Lewis as Personal Aide, Kristen Jarvis as Special Assistant for Scheduling and Traveling Aide, Tyler Lechtenberg as Director of Correspondence, Ebs Burnough as Deputy Social Secretary, Joe Reinstein as Deputy Social Secretary, Sally Armbruster as Staff Assistant to the Social Secretary, Joe Boswell as Executive Assistant to the Chief of Staff, and Natalie Bookey as Staff Assistant. (blogs.suntimes.com)

Secret ballots block social justice ... Free choice? Or forced choice? Those, essentially, are the questions at the heart of the debate over the hotly controversial Employee Free Choice Act, which is being hailed by labor unions and decried by some business leaders. "We don't think it's right, and we don't think it's fair," said Neil Golub, president of Golub Corp., which has 24,000 nonunion workers at its Price Chopper supermarkets. Golub spoke Thursday at an event at The Desmond Hotel & Conference Center in Colonie, organized by area chambers of commerce and business groups, that unflatteringly depicted the legislation, which would allow the formation of a union when a majority of a company's employees sign authorization cards. No secret-ballot decision on whether to unionize would be required. (timesunion.com)

Union bigs: We don't need no stinkin' secret ballots ... The problem with card-check is that there's no way to know whether or not an employee's signature represents an informed choice to back a union. That signature could also have been garnered through intimidation or deception. Unlike an election, there's no privacy and no monitor to ensure that the whole thing is done fairly. Incidents of intimidation by union officers in card-check campaigns are legion: workers have been harassed by union officers, been visited at their homes by union officials without notice or invitation, and told they would be fired if they fail to sign. Unions typically receive fewer votes in secret ballot elections than the number of authorization cards they have that were signed. As one Teamsters union Web site puts it: "cards don't vote." Numerous unions are on record stating that a union should not go ahead with a vote unless they have signed cards from around 70 percent of workers. Doing away with the secret ballot would put workers in a vulnerable position: unions could resort to intimidation and deception to gain signatures, and then impose their representation over workers who do not really want the union there. (mackinac.org)

Not winning enough? Change the rules. ... Currently, according to the NLRB, secret ballot elections result in a union victory in about 60 percent of the elections held. This is after the campaign in which the employer educates the employee on the facts of unionism. If we already have a supervised process that obviously works, then do we need Employee Free Choice Act? (lehighvalleylive.com)

Dems throw Democracy under the Organized Labor bus ... If civic elections operated the way union drives under card check would, they would look something like this: Instead of a regular election campaign overseen by a state board of elections and various local registrars -- with declared candidates, designated polling places, official voting hours, secret ballots, reporting requirements, and so on -- those wishing to elect, say, Englebert Storpingoiter as governor would simply begin a covert pledge-card campaign. Volunteers for Storpingoiter could roam through cities and towns, knocking on doors and asking residents to sign pledge cards for him. If a resident declined, then volunteers could come back, again and again. They could call him, e-mail him, and buttonhole him in the grocery-store parking lot until he gave in. Once half of eligible voters signed the cards, then Storpingoiter would become governor-elect. If his volunteers plotted their strategy carefully, then Storpingoiter could become governor before any of his potential opponents even knew he was running. Doesn't sound very democratic, does it? (timesdispatch.com)

Bam: 'EFCA devil incarnate' ... Obama: I think I think that is a fair question and a good one. Here's my basic principal that wages and incomes have flatlined over the last decade. That part of that has to do with forces that are beyond everybody's control: globalization, technology and so forth. Part of it has to do with workers have very little leverage and that larger and larger shares of our productivity go to the top and not to the middle or the bottom. I think unions serve an important role in that. I think that the way the Bush Administration managed the Department of Labor, the NLRB, and a host of other aspects of labor management relations put the thumb too heavily against unions. I want to lift that thumb. There are going to be steps that we can take other than the Employee Free Choice Act that will make a difference there. I think the basic principal of making it easier and fairer for workers who want to join a union, join a union is important. And the basic outline of the Employee Fair Choice are ones that I agree with. But I will certainly listen to all parties involved including from labor and the business community which I know considers this to be the devil incarnate. I will listen to parties involved and see if there are ways that we can bring those parties together and restore some balance. You know, now if the business community's argument against the Employee Free Choice Act is simply that it will make it easier for people to join unions and we think that is damaging to the economy then they probably won't get too far with me. If their arguments are we think there are more elegant ways of doing this or here are some modifications or tweaks to the general concept that we would like to see. Then I think that's a conversation that not only myself but folks in labor would be willing to have. But, so that's the general approach that I am interested in taking. But in terms of time table, if we are losing half a million jobs a month then there are no jobs to unionize. So my focus first is on those key economic priority items that I just mentioned. (marcambinder.theatlantic.com)

SEIU tactics: A staple of bad government ... We’re sure that he isn’t enjoying it, but Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico is offering statehouses across the nation a needed lesson in “pay-to-play” contamination. Richardson backed away from the chance to run the Commerce Department as federal prosecutors investigate whether his aides steered a lucrative state contract to a generous political donor. The governor proclaimed his innocence while conceding the inquiry would be too much of a distraction from the Obama administration’s opening months. (Neither he nor the Obama team explained why the investigation — which has been going on for months — is more of a distraction now than when Richardson was first interviewed for the job.) Pay-to-play is a staple of bad government. Proving an actual quid pro quo that can be prosecuted can be difficult, especially under porous state laws. But appearances — the fawning recipient, the deep-pocketed donor — taint all politicians. And pleas of “I didn’t know,” or “everyone else does it” aren’t fit for middle-schoolers let alone elected leaders ... Of course, the most brazen episode of pay-to-play of late is Gov. Rod Blagojevich of Illinois. He is charged with trying to auction off the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. The now-impeached governor wound up arrested, begging for someone to take the seat off his hands for nothing — with the rest of us shuddering at the spectacle. (telegram.com)

Gov't unionists arrested ... Twenty AFSCME union demonstrators were arrested and cited for trespassing Friday morning in San Francisco after occupying the office of University of California Regents' Chairman Richard Blum, police said. Protesters said they took the action because the UC system has refused to offer 8,500 service workers decent pay raises in long-stalled contract talks. (latimes.com)

Privatization Kills ... An Oxford study, published in The Lancet, shows that nearly one million working-aged men and women died in Eastern Europe due to the sudden transition from nation-owned businesses to the private sectors in the years following the collapse of Communism in the Soviet Union. Countries that were a former part of the Soviet block took the full force of the downfall, the paper says. The surge of deaths in the early 1990s affected some 25 countries, increasing their death statistics by more than 13 percent. Most of these countries employed a very aggressive “shock therapy,” the name given to the way their economists understood the need for transition to a market economy. Most of these individuals advocated a very short time frame for the changes, which led to a 56 percent increase in unemployment rates, as uncompetitive state-owned factories became private. Lay-offs were made, in order to increase profit, and citizens found it extremely hard to find another job. (news.softpedia.com)

International Collectivism

Chávez: The evil side of global politics ... Dozens of demonstrators gathered outside the Venezuelan Embassy in Herzliya late Friday morning to protest the previous day's decision by the Venezuelan government to break diplomatic ties with Israel. The majority of the protesters were Venezuelan-born, while some were from Argentina and Colombia. "We feel that it's very important, not only for the Venezuelan community in Israel, but also for the Jewish community in Venezuela to maintain these kind of ties," said Daniel Translateur, one of the organizers of the demonstration. We hope [Venezuelan President Hugo] Chávez will see the importance, as we all do, of peace in the Middle East, while also recognizing Israel's right to defend itself," he continued. "Such a decision shows him to the world as being part of the evil side of global politics." (jpost.com)

Chávez: The New Hero in the Arab World ... Since Israel's assault on the Gaza Strip began, Venezuela's president has openly and strongly criticized Israel and the United States for what he labeled the "holocaust" of the Palestinian people; his outspoken rhetoric has turned him into a hero for the Arabs resisting occupation. Venezuelan flags and portraits of Hugo Chávez have been flying high during protests across the Middle East, with people in Lebanon, Jordan and across the Palestinian territories showing their support for the left-wing South American leader. (alarabiya.net)

Trotskyite Lula: Bam to sit down with Latin socialists ... Brazil's president said Friday he expects President-elect Barack Obama will meet with the leaders of Venezuela and Bolivia, expressing hope the new U.S. administration will mend fences with the South American leftists who often clashed with the Bush administration. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva raised the possibility of easing conflict with Washington during a meeting with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, a day after the top U.S. envoy in Caracas also said Washington will seek increased cooperation with Venezuela. Addressing Chávez, Silva said: "I think at some point you and Obama are going to meet. I think Evo (Morales) and Obama also are going to have to meet." (google.com)

Trotskyite Lula: Bam must bow to Hugo, Evo ... Chávez, however, was less sanguine about prospects for improvement in the region's relationship with the US under the leadership of Obama. "I don't have many hopes -- though I haven't lost them -- above all when a statement from Obama just came out saying the same thing as (outgoing President George W.) Bush," the Venezuelan leader said. Obama, Chávez added, has said that Venezuela is a negative factor in the region and that Caracas supports armed rebels in neighbouring Colombia. Chávez, whose oil-rich nation is a key supplier of crude to the United States, accuses Washington of complicity with an abortive 2002 coup against him and views the millions of dollars Venezuelan opposition groups receive from US public entities as interference in the country's domestic affairs. Similarly, U.S. officials denounce Chavez as an autocrat who undermines "stability" in Latin America. But Lula, despite his own radical pedigree as a one-time Trotskyite union leader, has had cordial relations with the Bush administration and is seen as well-placed to help effect a rapprochement between Washington and outspoken Latin American leftists such as Chávez and Bolivia's Evo Morales. (hindu.com)

Venezuela running on empty, Chávez taps reserves ... Venezuela will use $12 billion of its international reserves to finance spending and development projects this year amid a collapse in prices for oil, the country’s top export, President Hugo Chávez said. The central bank will transfer the “excess” reserves by next month, Chávez said during a speech today in Zulia state. Venezuela had $41.3 billion in international reserves as of Jan. 14, and Chávez said today the country needs only $30 billion. “We have financing, in the first place we have our own,” Chávez said today during a televised meeting with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. (bloomberg.com)
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