Sunday wrap

Defunding the Left... The list is growing on the number of labor unions affected by the Bernie Madoff scam. Members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers local 1249 are trying to cope with the huge financial loss that Bernie Madoff has left them with. Madoff is said to have swindled billions of dollars from investors promising high returns. His scheme is totaled at about $50 billion dollars. Of those caught up in the mess were a number of local unions who had millions invested with the once-highly trusted Wall Street man. IBEW Local 1249 is the most recent union that Newschannel 9 has learned of. Members received a letter Friday telling them "a great deal of money was lost due to the Madoff fraud. However, there is still $30 million left in the pension fund." To make up the difference, the union plans on making its members contribute more to keep providing benefits. (9wsyr.com)

Dem-Labor P2P chickens ... are coming home ... to roost ... The news is full of stories about how Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich attempted to sell Barack Obama's Senate seat to the highest bidder. But media have been hesitant to show the pattern of close Obama associates involved in scandal. "'Pay to play' means you've got to give something to get something," said Alan Lichtman, professor of history at American University. "So, you want a contract, you want a job, you've got to give something to the decision maker." It is an epidemic amongst FOBs -- friends of Barack. Obama aides sought to downplay Richardson's departure, saying it would not disrupt the transition. Yet one reason Obama was so quick to abandon Richardson is because the investigation would bring more light into the new president's own involvement with "pay to play." (gopusa.com)

We don't need no stinkin' union democracy ... America's labor unions are back at it, making their biggest push since the Jimmy Carter administration for a law that would make it easy for a minority of workers at a company to establish a union shop. It's called the "Employee Free Choice Act." But contrary to what its name implies, the bill actually undermines free choice. Make no mistake: this bill is a dangerous assault on workers' freedom, both now and in the future. The act is sometimes called "card-check" legislation because it shifts the decision on the formation of a labor union from secret ballots to the mere signing of cards under the watchful eyes of organizers. Unfortunately, people often sign union representation cards under social pressure from friends and co-workers. The unions know this, and typically don't call for a vote until they've secured union cards from 60 to 65 percent of a company's employees -- enough to have a reasonable shot at carrying the final certification vote by a margin of 50 percent plus one. Here's what it boils down to: Worker sentiment as measured by face-to-face card signings in the pressure cooker of a union certification drive should always -- always -- be confirmed by secret ballots. The ability to vote, free of external pressures in the privacy of a booth, is a precious gift that should never be relinquished. (heraldextra.com)

Bam's winning strategy: Divide the opposition ... President Obama: "If we don't get this done we (the Democrats) could lose seats and I could lose re-election. But we can't let people like Rush Limbaugh stall this. That's how things don't get done in this town." Rush Limbaugh: "To make the argument about me instead of his plan makes sense from his perspective. Obama's plan would buy votes for the Democrat Party, in the same way FDR's New Deal established majority power for 50 years of Democrat rule, and it would also simultaneously seriously damage any hope of future tax cuts. It would allow a majority of American voters to guarantee no taxes for themselves going forward. It would burden the private sector and put the public sector in permanent and firm control of the economy. Put simply, I believe his stimulus is aimed at re-establishing "eternal" power for the Democrat Party rather than stimulating the economy because anyone with a brain knows this is NOT how you stimulate the economy. If I can be made to serve as a distraction, then there is that much less time debating the merits of this TRILLION dollar debacle." (corner.nationalreview.com)

Andy Stern's SEIU-UHW dues raid explained

Worker oppression: An ugly U.S. tradition ... The most common metaphor I use when describing the historical relationship between American employers and employees is a "seaworthy" one. Think about a Great White Shark. Think about a Harbor Seal. One represents the employer and one represents the employees. Smart people follow this web site; I don't need to explain further. Employers have had a historical and chronic unfair advantage over American labor. And they have surely exercised that advantage. The plight of many to most American workers in much of our history was worse then that of slaves. (tpmcafe.talkingpointsmemo.com)

AFSCME nurses out on strike in labor-state ... Fifty nurses from the Innova Health and Rehabilitation center in Hammonton, NJ went on strike Friday morning in a show of frustration over stalled contract negotiations. Talks between Innova and the union's bargaining unit began in March, a month before the three-year contract expired. Innova's attorney, Jeffrey Daitz, issued a statement that said Innova continues to be committed to providing exemplary care to its residents. "Please remember it was the union that took the strike, while we've been negotiating in good faith," Daitz said. (pressofatlanticcity.com)

Union-backed fraud group in Spread-the-Wealth action ... The Orlando-area chapter of ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) is offering free tax-filing services so that taxpayers don't lose out on refunds. They will also help people see whether they qualify for government subsidies for child care, health benefits, food or other necessities. (orlandosentinel.com)

International Collectivism

Anti-capitalism waxes in Havana, B.A., Caracas ... In a whirlwind whistle-stop on her way back from meeting with the Castro brothers in Cuba, Argentina President Fernandez de Kirchner stops in to meet with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and oversee the signing of 21 bilateral pacts in areas including food, finance, airlines, electricity, oil, gas, metals and technology. "Integration signifies increasing commercial and technological interchange," Fernádez de Kirchner said. She thanked Venezuela for helping "the country's finances" when her country "lacked access to capital markets." Fernández de Kirchner said economic cooperation between Buenos Aires and Caracas had led to the creation of 73 "socialist companies" in Venezuela, and that a total of 200 were planned. However, for all the talk of closer relations, problems hover over the bilateral relationship. Principal among these is Chávez' decision to nationalize steelmaker Sidor. The majority shareholder in Sidor is the Argentine engineering group, Techint. Negotiations on compensation have meandered along for months, but the two sides are still said to be miles apart. There were also no statements about the allegations raised by the recent Kaufman and Duran trial in Miami, at which it was disclosed that, in addition to the $800,000 in a briefcase that was caught on its way to Fernandez de Kirchner, Chávez was sending other millions that successfully got through to help fund Fernandez de Kirchner's election campaign. (laht.com)

Leftist U.S. filmmaker angers Latin socio-fascists ... Controversial US filmmaker Oliver Stone has fueled furor in Argentina after he described actress Eva Peron aka Evita, as a mixture of saint and prostitute. Evita, the former actress and second wife of President Juan Domingo Peron, is revered in Argentina, which is particularly sensitive to criticism from outsiders. Stone had written the film script for Evita, the musical starring Madonna in the lead role. The director also said that Peronists have no sense of humour and appears to have been justified by what happened next. One Peronist, Geronimo Venegas, said that Stone had been drunk and called him ridiculous and a deplorable provocateur who pretends to be an analyst of the Latin American reality. Stone was in Argentina making a documentary about Hugo Chávez, the Venezuelan president, and the resurrection of the Latin American left. (thaindian.com)

Evo Morales: Bolivian anti-capitalist, global environmentalist ... Morales: "Competition and the thirst for profit without limits of the capitalist system are destroying the planet. Under Capitalism we are not human beings but consumers. Under Capitalism Mother Earth does not exist, instead there are raw materials. Capitalism is the source of the asymmetries and imbalances in the world. It generates luxury, ostentation and waste for a few, while millions in the world die from hunger in the world. In the hands of capitalism everything becomes a commodity: the water, the soil, the human genome, the ancestral cultures, justice, ethics, death … and life itself. Everything, absolutely everything, can be bought and sold and under capitalism. And even “climate change” itself has become a business. “Climate change” has placed all humankind before a great choice: to continue in the ways of capitalism and death, or to start down the path of harmony with nature and respect for life." (adropofrain.net)

Out-of-favor African communists ape New York's union-backed leftist front-group ... The battered Western Cape ANC has a fresh challenge or opportunity: Cosatu's high-profile provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich plans to quit the union federation, possibly to contest the forthcoming election with a new party. The move comes as internal polls conducted for the ANC suggest growing hostility to the party among local voters. Two well-placed independent sources said that a survey commissioned from Econometrix's Tony Twine found that 59% of Western Cape voters are actively hostile to the ANC. Ehrenreich said that this concept is similar to the "Working Families Party", a New York city party formed by a coalition of community organisations, neighbourhood activists and labour unions, which aims to hold politicians to account on decent jobs, fair taxes, good schools, reliable public transport, affordable housing and universal healthcare. (mg.co.za)

Chavistas make a timely point about seniority ... A succession of violent incidents in Venezuela, including the armed takeover of the Caracas City Hall, points to an ugly campaign ahead of a Feb. 15 vote that could lift term limits on President Hugo Chávez. A group of 40 armed men identifying themselves as Chávez supporters were still in control Monday evening, two days after they forced their way in, handcuffed two security officers and declared the building “recovered for the revolution,” a mayoral spokesman said. Chávez narrowly lost a previous referendum on lifting his term limits, and various opinion polls indicate he could lose again. Passage would change the constitution, which currently limits Chávez to two presidential terms, to permit all elected officials unlimited re-election runs. Mayor Antonio Ledezma, a Chávez critic who unexpectedly won in November over Chávez ally Artisobulo Izturiz, said the government has not moved to restore control of the building. “I have reminded the president that I was elected by the people of Caracas and that he should respect us just as he would be respected,” Ledezma said. The two handcuffed officers spent eight hours tied to chairs before they were released Sunday, he said. After 10 years in office, Chavez remains highly popular by virtue of his social welfare programs that have redistributed much of this nation’s oil wealth. In state and local elections in November, Chavez allies won 17 of 22 states and four of every five mayoralties. At the same time, a majority seem indisposed to permit Chavez unlimited terms, pollsters say. Analysts theorize that Chavez is holding the referendum next month before the full effect of the global recession hits Venezuela. Such a recession could force Chavez to cut back on many of his welfare and foreign aid projects, which would reduce his popularity and make a referendum victory less likely. (thenews.choate.edu)

Mikheil Saakashvili: Georgia's Hugo Chávez ... Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has made a tradition of his annual televised phone-in with Russians, but their styles could hardly be more different. Think more Venezuela’s fast-talking Hugo Chávez. “I’m not planning to die, nor to step down,” 41-year-old Mikheil Saakashvili said. There was a period recently when it looked as though Saakashvili had dug his own political grave, having attacked breakaway South Ossetia in August last year and, according to his critics and even some of his allies, effectively walked into war with neighbouring Russia. He was on the back foot, defending his fateful decision of Aug. 7 and facing renewed criticism of his record on democracy and freedom of speech since coming to power on the back of the 2003 “Rose Revolution”. His late-night briefings and eccentric behaviour — he chewed his tie on camera before a television interview — became legendary. His appetite and energy are famous. But the opposition looks divided. An opposition rally called for Sunday, Jan 25 was cancelled as leaders bickered over their aims. Saakashvili has quipped that he would have toppled the Georgian government within five months had he been in opposition during such a devastating period. Observers who counted him out would do well to think again. (blogs.reuters.com)
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