Wednesday wrap

No pitchforks over huge Fan-Fred bonuses ... A goodly number of Americans reacted with apoplectic outrage when news of AIG’s retention bonuses hit the headlines. Now that a similar compensation/retention program has been announced by the regulator overseeing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, we wonder if all that public vituperation has been used up. Some lawmakers have raised a stink, but what of the public? Haven’t they heard of the program? Or hasn’t ACORN ginned up the perennially discontented for another series of demonstrations outside the homes of Fannie and Freddie executives? It’s enough to make you scratch your head. You see, the dollar amount involved — $210 million, to be distributed among 7,600 employees of these quasi-governmental entities — actually exceeds that given to the discredited managers at AIG ($165 million). To be sure, a limit has been placed on how much a single executive can receive — $1.5 million over that 18-month period — but really, what’s the difference? Indeed, the public outrage about these bonuses should be greater than the outrage about AIG. Actions taken by the mortgage people at Fannie and Freddie, done at the behest of government officials eager to expand home-ownership to those who couldn’t afford it, precipitated the financial mess from which the nation is trying to extricate itself. Still, to date, we’ve heard of no plans to gather the “pitchforks” and whip up a frenzy. Again, the question is why. (dailynews-record.com)

Obama preps historic secret meeting with Hugo Chávez ... Despite growing speculation in recent days that President Barack Obama will hold a one-on-one meeting with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez at next week's Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago, there will be no special meeting between the two leaders, U.S. officials said Tuesday. In fact, Obama may not hold bilateral meetings with any of the 33 other leaders attending the April 17-18 meeting, well-placed U.S. officials planning Obama's trip say. Instead, Obama will hold just three separate group meetings in addition to the official closed-door session between all participating heads of state. "There will be a series of meetings where both Obama and Chávez will be present, but I don't think there will be a one-on-one bilateral," the U.S. summit organizer said. "I don't think there will be a one-on-one meeting with anyone." During the campaign, Obama had vowed to meet "without preconditions" with anti-American leaders such as Chávez. What if Chávez walks over to Obama during a coffee break, I asked. "If they run into one another at a coffee break, my president is not going to run away from him," one U.S. official said. (miamiherald.com)

Atlas shrugs, Collectivists rage ... Novelist Ayn Rand has always driven lefties to distraction, but it seems that readers are turning in increasing numbers to the founder of "Objectivism" for clues about the origins of the current financial crisis. Atlas Shrugged -- her sprawling novel set in a United States where the economy is collapsing under the dead weight of government edict -- reportedly sold 200,000 copies south of the border last year. Sales have continued to rise in 2009 and, according to tracking Web site TitleZ.com, the book is currently No. 30 on the Amazon rankings. The Economist has noted that spikes in sales of the book, which has sold six million copies since it was published in 1957, have tended to coincide over the past year with announcements of U. S. bank bailouts. Ms. Rand, a Russian emigre who escaped the Communist revolution to work in Hollywood, has always been a lightning rod for the left, who seem as incapable of understanding her as they are reluctant to read her. But who wouldn't love a figure dubbed by paranoid socialist Noam Chomsky (Hugo Chavez's favourite author), "one of the most evil figures of modern intellectual history." Ms. Rand's message is continuously misinterpreted. For example, a columnist in the British Daily Mail suggested this week that Atlas Shrugged was a novel "on the animal forces of capitalism," using John Maynard Keynes' dismissive phrase. In fact, the novel is about the supreme rationality of capitalism. All the "animals" work for government. (financialpost.com)

OpenLeft update: Are we there yet? ... While much of the discussion on the story involved whether this was the proper use of the term "socialism" (some people can get really sensitive over which broad, vague signifiers should be applied to abstract concepts), the lead item of the story remains powerful. Namely, over the last two years, public expenditures as a percentage of GDP has risen dramatically in the United States, from 35.5% in FY 2007 to a projected 44.7% in FY 2009. Outside of World War Two, this is the largest the public sector has been in the US relative to the nation's GDP. The two-year increase of 9.2% is also great than any experienced outside of World War Two. Here is a graphical illustration of trends from 1900 through 2009:

I think that it is important to consolidate our new status in the mid-40% range as, combined with a shift in public expenditures, it would allow us to enter a Western European realm of social investment. Consolidating this upward increase will require finding new sources of government revenue that are easier, from a political perspective, than cutting down the size of the public sector. (openleft.com)

President Pitchfork remakes Stalinist classic ... While some of today’s comparisons between Obama and communist dictators may go over the top, the general direction of such thinking is not without merit: since they share a utopian goal of forced equality, it’s logical to expect that their methods may also converge at some point. To wit, recent actions from Obama reminded me of a ploy Stalin used on Western entrepreneurs, which in itself is an illustrative morality play contrasting the differences between socialism and capitalism. “My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks,” Barack Obama told the CEOs of the world’s most powerful financial institutions on March 27, when they cited competition for talent in an international market as justification for paying higher salaries to their employees. Arrayed around a long mahogany table in the White House state dining room, the bankers struggled to make themselves clear to the president, but he wasn’t in a mood to hear them out. He interrupted them by saying, “Be careful how you make those statements, gentlemen. The public isn’t buying that.” To get the full flavor of the president’s implication we must remember that in Obama’s code language, the word “pitchforks” means “a vigorous campaign of threats and intimidation perpetrated by Obama-sponsored ACORN and union activists in conjunction with theatrical outrage from government officials, amplified by the complicit media, and coordinated from one political center, which has now moved to the White House.” Accordingly, the words “public” and “the people” denote “an appearance of broad popular movement created by a small but highly organized band of professional pitchfork operators (ACORN) who rely on the government funding and the media’s eagerness to present their deliberately planned actions and pre-fabricated messages as heartfelt and spontaneous.” (pajamasmedia.com)

Obamunists prep goon squads to crash Tea Parties ... With growing numbers of Americans expressing outrage over Barack Obama's economic plans for the country, as exhibited by the exploding popularity of 'tea party' citizen protests coming up nationwide on April 15, the goons of the Leftwing are getting antsy. Word has come that Leftwing saboteurs will attempt to somehow thwart various tea parties in various parts of the country. The goons and thugs of the Obamanoid brigade, along with the George Soros hit squad, will try to sabotage the protests in any way they can. From Michelle Malkin: "For the next 9 days, the left-wing blogosphere and left-wing clueless pundits will hammer away with their unreality-based Tea Party smears. And on the ground, the tax-subsidized and Soros-subsidized troops are going to try and wreak havoc every way they can. Many readers and fellow bloggers have seen signs that ACORN may send in ringers and saboteurs to usurp the anti-tax, anti-reckless spending, anti-bailout message. So, it appears that Obama's scandal-ridden front-group, ACORN, is going to get involved in the sabotage as well." In addition, Malkin reports that Democratic strategist Bob Beckel indicates that in conjunction with the efforts at sabotage, the Leftwing will launch a concerted smear campaign online and in the media, aimed at those who protest Obama's spending spree of tax dollars: "Another tack: As Beckel signaled, leftists are going to use fear-mongering to paint mainstream taxpayers who believe in the Second Amendment, the Constitution, limited government, low taxes, and fiscal responsibility as fringe wackos. They have already exploited the Binghamton and Pittsburgh shooting sprees for political gain. They have no shame. Be prepared. Confront them with their own rank hypocrisy and unhingedness. Don’t get distracted. And don’t let your local media get away with lazily recycling their smears." And now for the good news. At last count, between 2000-3000 towns and cities across America are holding Tea Party tax protests on April 15. Some of these expect upwards of 10,000 protesters or more. Over 300,000 protesters are expected nationwide. We must never allow subversives such as ACORN, George Soros, or Obama-bots to thwart or scare us away from doing what is necessary to make our voices heard. And remember, this is merely an important first step only. The hard work comes AFTER the Tea Parties. (examiner.com)

Teamsters to subdue oppressive non-union Amazon.com contractor ... A group of unhappy book sorters are taking to the streets. They're rallying support for the new union they plan to form. They've kept quiet about their plans until now. "We just need the union. We need the representation. We need the Teamsters for our future," said Tammy Box. Box says she's one of about 80 workers who process used books for international web sites like Amazon.com. They want better pay, job security, and better working conditions. Back in December, they decided to organize. "We said enough is enough," said Nichole Groll. That is the message experts say more workers are sending to their bosses across the country as tough economic times threaten jobs. Professor Joe Slater says says the high wages that union members once enjoyed aren't a guarantee. "It might be hard to cut a deal with any employer right now to get any sort of huge raise. That's just not going to happen. That's just the economic environment." Representation does get employees more job security, and most of all -- a voice. Groll said, "We started off in secret. We're very verbal now, as you can see." (wtol.com)

Related video: Ballad of Jimmy Hoffa

NYT-ACORN dust-up implicates SEIU, Rathke ... I do feel that The New York Times was complicit in all of this. It wasn’t just in killing the Obama story, they killed several stories in relation to ACORN. Including one where the Forest City Ratner owned by Bruce Ratner, the same people that own 48% of the Times’ building, gave ACORN a 1.5 million dollar loan. This was interesting because that’s news in New York City, there’s been a lot of contention over the Atlantic Yards deal where they’re bringing the Nets to Brooklyn? Moncrief speculates that another reason that the Times suddenly ceased writing stories that might embarrass ACORN is that one of its leading investors and partners had suddenly become close associates financially with ACORN. This situation occurred because ACORN had done an about face on Ratner’s sports deal and was rewarded by that generous “loan.” ACORN has also been known to be helping Forest City Ratner to get federal stimulus money since the $1.5 million kickback “loan” that Ratner gave to the community organizers. Sadly, at the same time Forest City Ratner was giving ACORN that princely sum, they were laying off workers claiming they were about to go bankrupt. Even when the Times was publishing ACORN stories, Moncrief believes that they were written in such a way as to abjure the organization itself from any blame, pointing all fingers at the Rathke family — ACORN’s founders. ACORN Chicago is also hip deep in this thickening mess. A few years ago it was discovered that ACORN leader Wade Rathke’s brother had been stealing money from the organization. The Rathkes tried to cover up the embezzlement of perhaps as much as $5 million. A group of ACORN board members from around the country, later dubbed the “ACORN eight,” banded together to begin court proceedings to try and find out what happened to all that money and who covered it all up and how it as done. But the Chicago branch of ACORN saw an opportunity, says Moncrief. During the ensuing confusion inside ACORN, a coup of sorts was spearheaded by Madeline Talbot, Obama’s ACORN mentor, a long-time ACORN boss in the Chicago offices. In 2008, March 2008, she took over the Chicago office, locked ACORN out and changed it to an organization called Action Now which has the same address as the old Chicago ACORN. ACORN was able to get back their telephone number but that was about it. And that was her way of distancing herself from ACORN right before the scandal broke. There’s evidence that Chicago folks knew of Rathke’s embezzlement, Moncrief told me. “They talked about it between SEIU, ACORN Housing and ACORN how best to handle it in the election year,” she explained. “So, there was basically a coup, it was not an uncovering of an embezzlement. The embezzlement was known within private circles for years. I knew about it and they considered me to be a low-level employee as they liked to say.” Finally, Moncrief told me she is disgusted that there are so many connections between ACORN and the SEIU in Obama’s administration. “It’s an obvious payoff,” she told me alluding to the fact that Obama included so many of them in his new administration. So, it turns out that this is a tale of deep financial misdeeds, political machinations free of any principle, and incestuous relationships between government and these supposed community organizers. Unfortunately, it seems that many of these troubling connections are not being revealed to the public as this story is being reported. Anita Moncrief finished our interview with a shake of her head. “So, it’s a very interesting story and I think it’s a little bit more complex than when people get involved with their different agendas it becomes ‘New York Times controls Barack Story’ or ‘Obama is involved with this’ and it’s really much deeper than that.” (tips-q.com)

Social Justice rules Big Apple

Rep. Rush Holt placed on Dirty Money Watch ... WHO: Rep. Rush Holt, D-NJ, a co-sponsor of the Employee Free Choice Act (aka Card Check). WHAT: Rep. Holt received the following dirty money: Communication Workers of America (PAC) $2,500 in 2008 election cycle; $4,500 in 2006 election cycle. Boilermakers Union (PAC) $3,000 in 2008 election cycle; $4,500 in 2006 election cycle. International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (PAC) $10,000 in 2008 election cycle; $10,000 in 2006 election cycle. Service Employees International Union (PAC) $1,000 in 2008 election cycle; $1,000 in 2006 election cycle. PMA Group (PAC) $1,000 in 2008 election cycle. WHY IT’S DIRTY: At least eight members of these unions, including several division presidents, secretary-treasurers and business managers, have been convicted since 2001 of felonies ranging from embezzlement, falsifying official reports to government, mail fraud and conspiracy. The Boilermakers have had at least 10 of its members convicted and the IBEW has had at least 14. The amounts of embezzled funds range from over $5,000 to over $100,000. PMA Group (Paul Magliocchetti and Associates) was primarily a defense lobbying group based in Washington D.C. and closely associated with Rep. John Murtha, D-PA, PMA's office was raided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) last year. In total, PMA Group's employees and its political action committee have given current members of Congress $3.4 million since 1989, with 79 percent of that going to Democrats, according to OpenSecrets.org. WILL HOLT GIVE IT BACK? Holt did not respond to a phone call requesting comment. (washingtonexaminer.com)

SEIU: Shame on union big Bruce Raynor ... UNITE President Bruce Raynor is using his union treasury to wage a destructive campaign of character assassination and disinformation against one of San Francisco’s -- and the nation’s -- most progressive institutions, the Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees International Union (HERE). These attacks, part of UNITE’s effort to disaffiliate from UNITE-HERE, are being framed as part of an internal union split but are actually designed to destroy one of the most progressive, successful and activist unions in the United States. Although Raynor’s dismal record of organizing new workers over the past decade makes him the union equivalent of the recently deposed General Motors head Rick Waggoner, he and his consultants are attacking HERE’s organizing success despite the massive increase in unionized hotel and gaming workers over the past decade. It’s time to expose the truth about Raynor’s efforts to destroy hotel worker organizing, and to rally behind a union that has consistently backed economic justice, immigrant rights, and the progressive movement. Raynor’s frustrated ambitions brought SEIU and HERE into open warfare and destroyed the Change to Win Labor Federation. While Stern insists that SEIU is not engaged in any attacks against HERE, Wilhelm filed anti-raiding charges with Change to Win against SEIU on April 3 on the grounds that said union was “interfering with the collective bargaining relationships of UNITE-HERE members.” Reports are rampant of SEIU members infiltrating HERE-organized facilities in Phoenix and Pittsburgh, and while SEIU disputes these claims, the fact that they are so widely believed means that Raynor has succeeded in creating a major and likely permanent rift between the two unions most aligned on immigrant rights, EFCA and a range of progressive issues. (beyondchron.org)

SEIU operative triggers 'Progressive Nightmare' ... Yesterday's filing deadline to fill Hilda Solis' Congressional seat for the largely San Gabriel Valley 32nd District found a dozen candidates in the running. Three of them are sacrificial Republicans, plus one Libertarian, but the bulk are Democrats. The two frontrunners are Judy Chu, currently a member of the State Board of Equalization, and State Senator Gil Cedillo. A May 19 primary will determine the final matchup that takes place July 14, but basically whoever wins the Democratic primary wins the seat. The race is a progressive's nightmare, as it pits two candidates who are very popular with liberal Southern Californians and who both emerged in that post-Bradley-era political crucible marked by a union renaissance and Latino empowerment. It remains to be seen how much a factor ethnic loyalties will play in the election. Chu is Asian while her chief opponent, Gil Cedillo, is Latino in a district in which Latinos substantially outnumber Asian voters. Chu did not win the endorsements of liberal sisters Romero or Martha Escutia, who are supporting Cedillo. Cedillo can also count on a sizable chunk of union votes, having been a longtime leader of Service Employees International Union Local 660 before moving to Sacramento. (blogs.laweekly.com)

SEIU strikers v. Red Cross want more attention ... Striking Red Cross home-care workers are considering escalating their actions to send the provincial government a message that they mean business. More than 30 workers dressed in winter gear spent Tuesday outside the Red Cross office on Main Street West in North Bay waving their placards hoping for a “honk” of support from passing motorists in their efforts to gain some provisions in their contract. Since March 25, workers across the province have been participating in a series of one-day rotating strikes, but that could change. “The morale is really good, but we’re wondering if we’re making a real effect,” said Cathy Carroll, secretary and treasurer of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1 Canada, representing Red Cross workers. “We chose to participate in a rotating strike so as to not be too disruptive to the care we provide our clients, however we may have to escalate our actions so we get someone’s attention,” she said. (nugget.ca)

Labor-state give-backs could total $637 million ... Gov. M. Jodi Rell and the coalition of state employee unions have reached a tentative agreement on contractual concessions that could save Connecticut about $637 million in the two-year budget that starts July 1. The deal includes a retirement-incentive program for veteran state workers, as well as wage and health-insurance concessions. Legislative leaders have counted on major concessions from state workers in an attempt to save employees from layoffs during the state's fiscal crisis. Both sides said more talks are needed on the package before it comes to a vote among union members, whose current benefits contract was to run until 2017. In a joint news release Monday from the governor and the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition, both sides agreed to a "framework" of union givebacks in an attempt to reduce costs and protect public services. The SEBAC group has been meeting with Rell administration officials for months to discuss potential concessions from the 50,000 state public service employees covered by union contracts. Larry Dorman, spokesman for Council 4 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, a member of the SEBAC group, said Monday both sides don't want to reveal too much information until the entire package is negotiated. (connpost.com)

Labor-state givebacks could total $500 million ... Members of the Communications Workers of America formed a “statewide picket line” on Tuesday to protest a proposal by New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine for state workers to accept 12 unpaid furlough days and forgo pay increases. The proposed budget calls for $500 million in givebacks through wages and the furlough days. Under the proposal workers would take two unpaid days off in May with 12 additional unpaid days off over the fiscal year starting in June. The Governor has yet to discuss the proposals with the union regardless of repeated requests to come to the negotiating table. The union has filed a suit to block the Governor’s proposal from being implemented. (pww.org)

Labor-state union big rips school choice ... As hundreds of parents pinned their hopes on winning a spot in Rhode Island’s charter schools Tuesday, teachers union leaders rushed to the State House to protest a plan that would give the alternative public schools more leeway in how they do business. Under the proposal - nestled in Governor Carcieri’s budget plan for the coming year - charter schools would not be bound by prevailing wage, tenure and retirement-system clauses that govern other public schools. Removing those requirements, supporters including the governor say, would eliminate the red tape that can hamper classroom innovation. Such freedoms give charter schools greater control over budgets and personnel and allow them to attract and pay for top teaching talent. But teachers union representatives vehemently object, contending it amounts to an end run around collective bargaining units, giving management an excuse to pay lower wages and do away with seniority protections. “It’s wrong, it’s unfair, it’s unconscionable, it’s absolutely unnecessary and it wasn’t the deal that was struck when the original charter law was put into place,” James Parisi, a lobbyist for the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals, told the House Finance Committee in a hearing Tuesday. (projo.com)

Worker oppression plagues L.A. ... I don't like to see people get fired, especially me, so it's been pretty tough sledding these past months. Five million jobs have been lost since 2008 - 5 million! That's a lot of displacement, a lot of pain. Economists (do they ever get laid off?) have all kinds of mumbo-jumbo terminology to describe mass firings; "down-sizing," "contraction," "market adjustments" and my personal favorite, "negative growth." Five million Americans have had their personal Chrysler plant close. That's certainly depressing even if it's not a depression. However, it's not all gloom. If you work for the city of Los Angeles, you've been spared the pain - except for one guy. As I said, I don't like to see people lose their jobs, but sometimes cuts are necessary, even helpful. Consider L.A.'s fiscal mess. Last year we had a $406 million hole in the budget. Mayor V boldly announced the city would shed 767 jobs. That showed real leadership - taking on the unions - biting the hand that feeds and votes for him, which is pretty much the same people. However, that 767 number seems to have been pulled out of thin air, perhaps literally. After all, the 767 is one of the more popular jets the mayor uses to fly away from L.A. The actual number of city jobs eliminated was closer to 600 and all but one of those jobs was already vacant. So while the mayor pledged to trim the L.A. city work force by 767 jobs, he actually eliminated 600 vacant jobs that didn't save us a penny since nobody held them, which leads us back to the one guy who did get fired. What in the world must he have been like? Considering some of the gems we still employ, including some we elected, the mind boggles at how big a screwup the one guy who actually got fired must have been. The recent United Teachers of Los Angeles protest at the school board meeting created headlines and a news sensation at the mere suggestion some teachers might have to go. I share the teacher's frustration at possible layoffs, but unions must be told "enough" as a matter of survival. The money well is drying up, and if we try to tax ourselves to solvency, we'll tax our base to leave the state. Here's a simple roadmap to recovery for Los Angeles: study the reforms and fiscal disciple Gerald Ford imposed on New York City in the 1970s. After decades of reckless financial behavior, President Ford told the Big Apple to "Drop Dead." Guess what? New York fired 40,000 employees and the city didn't drop dead: It thrived. It became a better city. Meanwhile, Ford lost to Jimmy Carter largely because of New Yorkers. Tragically, that's the lesson politicians learned from New York in the 1970s. Is there a leader today with the guts to tell Los Angeles to "Drop Dead?" Villaraigosa? Schwarzenegger? Obama? Anyone? Or do we get bailed out with other people's money and keep digging the hole deeper? (dailynews.com)

Police union embezzlement ends in tragedy ... There was no sign of foul play. No suicide note. But no one can say yet whether a former Bucks County police officer, found dead a day before her scheduled sentencing for theft, died naturally or took her own life. An autopsy performed yesterday on Katherine Leese, 42, failed to determine the cause of death, First Assistant District Attorney David W. Zellis said. That finding depends on toxicology results, which typically take two or three weeks, he said. Leese was found by her mother Monday in a bedroom of their Middletown Township home, said Leese's attorney, Ronald Elgart. The former Falls Township officer had been scheduled for sentencing yesterday for embezzling more than $87,000 from the Bucks County Fraternal Order of Police. She was the FOP treasurer when the thefts occurred. (philly.com)

International Collectivism

Latin tyrant smacks down Catholic Church ... President Hugo Chávez railed against Venezuela's Roman Catholic leaders on Tuesday for condemning a law that has weakened his political opponents. Chávez took issue with the Venezuelan Bishops' Conference for accusing him of sidelining adversaries with a new law that let him take control of airports and seaports previously under the administration of opposition politicians. "This group of bishops is shameless," Chávez told state television from China, where he is wrapping up a tour that also included visits to Japan, Iran and Qatar. "They side with all those who attack the government." Quoting the Bible, Chávez added: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." The law passed last month by the predominantly pro-Chávez National Assembly reduces the authority of opposition governors and also reduces their government revenues by prohibiting them from collecting tariffs and tolls at transportation hubs. Catholic bishops issued a statement Monday criticizing "the increasing power of the executive branch, which deteriorates the legal system (and) strips national, regional and municipal entities of their legitimate autonomy and puts the democratic system at risk of collapse." The socialist president denied that he holds sway over the judicial system and lambasted the clergy for siding with "crooks." (google.com)
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