The Daily Planet, Vol. 139

You can access all the past editions of The Daily Planet on the green Category bar on the top of each page under the heading PlanetPOV.

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BUSINESS

 

 

 

 

NYT Op-Ed: America’s Sweatshop Diplomacy

ACCORDING to the State Department, the J-1 visa Summer Work Study program, which allows foreign students to work in the United States for a few months, is meant to promote “lasting and meaningful relationships” between the students and Americans.

Try telling that to the more than 300 J-1 holders who went on strike at a Hershey’s distribution plant in Pennsylvania last week, with the support of the National Guestworker Alliance. These engineering majors and future lawyers from places like Turkey, Moldova and China came hoping to travel and speak English, but spent the summer packing and lifting heavy pallets of Kit-Kats, often on overnight shifts and for meager pay.

The America that the Hershey’s workers have seen is surely not the one the J-1 visa was created to promote. But perhaps it is the America we have become. Hershey’s business strategy is a microcosm of the downsizing and subcontracting that so many American companies have pursued during the past few decades in search of ever cheaper labor.

The J-1 visa, also known as the exchange visitor visa, has its roots in the cold war. In 1961, Congress created a program for international students and professionals to travel here, with the goal of building good will for the United States in the fight against Communism. The program, which became the J-1 visa, thrives today — but not as Congress intended.

Instead, it has become the country’s largest guest worker program. Its “summer work travel” component recruits well over 100,000 international students a year to do menial jobs at dairy farms, resorts and factories — a privilege for which the Hershey’s students shelled out between $3,000 and $6,000. They received $8 an hour, but after fees and deductions, including overpriced rent for crowded housing, they netted between $1 and $3.50 an hour. Hershey’s once had its own unionized workers packing its candy bars, starting at $18 to $30 an hour. Now the company outsources distribution to a non-union company that hires most of its workers from the J-1 program.

The Pennsylvania workers are not alone. Recent exposés by journalists and advocates have found similar abuse of J-1 visa holders at fast food restaurants, amusement parks and even strip clubs.

Though the number of J-1 visa holders admitted to the United States swelled from 28,000 in the program’s first year to more than 350,000 in 2010, and the government made minor changes to the program earlier this year, the State Department has never established a sufficient oversight system. Instead, it hands that responsibility to organizations it designates as sponsors, who profit from the arrangement and so have no incentive to report abuses.

Other guest worker programs — themselves often avenues for exploitation — are managed, however ineffectually, by the Departments of Homeland Security and Labor. They require employers to offer international workers the same wages as local workers in comparable jobs and to attest that no local workers are available. Not so with the J-1 visa.

Indeed, the J-1 program is attractive to employers because it is uncapped and virtually unregulated; companies avoid paying Medicare, Social Security and, in many states, unemployment taxes for workers hired through the program. One sponsor authorized by the State Department even offers a “payroll taxes savings calculator” on its Web site, so potential employers can see how much they would save by hiring J-1 visa holders rather than American workers. Visa holders can be deported if they so much as complain, and cannot easily switch employers.

At a minimum, the government should preclude the use of the J-1 program as a way to obtain workers at below-market rates. If the program continues, it should be reformed to explicitly incorporate worker protections, including the right to organize, and should be supervised by the Department of Labor.

But last week’s strike, and the resulting uproar over J-1 visas, should also lead us to rethink the downward spiral of job quality to which such programs contribute. To recover from economic distress, this country needs not only more jobs, but good jobs, with living wages, full workplace rights and meaningful freedom to organize. That goal will remain out of reach as long as easily abused guest-worker programs exist. Among other things, Congress should pass the proposed Power Act, which protects immigrants who report workplace abuses from being deported.

In a way, the students at Hershey’s got more insight into the realities of the American economy than they ever could have expected. Unfortunately, it’s an insight unlikely to foster the sort of “lasting and meaningful relationships” that Congress intended — or the United States needs if it is to promote decent work in a global economy.

 

Google to Pay $500M for Illegal Ads

Google has reached a $500 million settlement with the government, the Justice Department announced on Wednesday. The search company has been charged with illegally displaying ads for online pharmacies that fail to require prescriptions and sell counterfeit drugs. The investigation began in May, after which Google set aside a large sum for the potential settlement. In the past, Google has admitted that regulating ads from illegal pharmacies on its site is difficult, because the companies find loopholes in each new rule. The $500 million fund Google set aside has decreased its quarterly profits by 22 percent.
 

ECONOMY

 

 

 

 

The cost of raising Medicare’s eligibility age

Ezra Klein:


Raising the Medicare eligibility age to 67 from 65 would cost states and private payers about twice as much as it would save the federal government, according to this graph from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ Paul Van de Water. The change would net the federal government $5.7 billion in savings if enacted in 2014. But it would also increase health care costs for many other health care payers, to the tune of $11.4 billion. You can see how that breaks down above.

It’s little surprise that raising the Medicare eligibility age would shift costs to the private sector; someone would still foot these health bills. But how does the change suddenly double the cost of caring for the same group of seniors? That price difference likely stems from Medicare’s efficiency as a health delivery system. The program has consistently seen lower cost growth than private insurance plans.

As I’ve written previously, raising the Medicare eligibility age would also be a blow to health reform’s insurance exchanges, causing premiums there to rise. And here’s more from Van de Water, who draws largely on a Kaiser Family Foundation report last month, on what else it would do:

●65- and 66-year-olds would face higher out-of-pocket health care costs, on average. Two-thirds of this group — 3.3 million people — would face an average of $2,200 more each year in premiums and cost-sharing charges.

●State Medicaid costs would rise as some of those who lost Medicare coverage (those with the lowest incomes) would obtain coverage through Medicaid instead.

●Employer costs would rise as more 65- and 66-year-olds whose employers offered coverage to their retirees received primary coverage through their employer rather than Medicare.

●All Medicare beneficiaries would pay higher premiums because the removal of 65- and 66-year-olds, who are typically healthier than the overall Medicare beneficiary population, would leave the Medicare beneficiary population costlier, on average, to cover.

 

LAST YEAR, NEARLY ONE-THIRD OF AMERICANS AGES 65-69 WERE WORKING OR LOOKING FOR WORK | 

According to data from the AARP, 31 percent of Americans aged 65-69 were either working or looking for work last year, up from 18 percent in 1985, as more and more seniors delay retirement due to the poor economy.

 

 

 

 

Bernanke’s Perry Problem

PAUL KRUGMAN

As I write this, investors around the world are anxiously awaiting Ben Bernanke’s speech at the annual Fed gathering at Jackson Hole, Wyo. They want to know whether Mr. Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, will unveil new policies that might lift the U.S. economy out of what is looking more and more like a quasi-permanent state of depressed demand and high unemployment.

But I’ll be shocked if Mr. Bernanke proposes anything significant — that is, anything likely to make any serious dent in unemployment or offer any serious boost to growth.

Why don’t I expect much from Mr. Bernanke? In two words: Rick Perry.

O.K., I don’t mean that Mr. Perry, the governor of Texas, is personally standing in the way of effective monetary policy. Not yet, anyway. Instead, I’m using Mr. Perry — who has famously threatened Mr. Bernanke with dire personal consequences if he pursues expansionary monetary policy before the 2012 election — as a symbol of the political intimidation that is killing our last remaining hope for economic recovery.

To see what I’m talking about, let’s ask what policies the Fed actually should be pursuing right now.

Obviously, the U.S. economy remains deeply depressed, and under normal conditions we would expect the Fed to pump it up by cutting interest rates. But the interest rates the Fed normally targets — basically rates on short-term U.S. government debt — are already near zero. So what can the Fed do?

Well, in 2000 an economist named Ben Bernanke offered a number of proposals for policy at the “zero lower bound.” True, the paper was focused on policy in Japan, not the United States. But America is now very much in a Japan-type economic trap, only more acute. So we learn a lot by asking why Ben Bernanke 2011 isn’t taking the advice of Ben Bernanke 2000.

Back then, Mr. Bernanke suggested that the Bank of Japan could get Japan’s economy moving with a variety of unconventional policies. These could include: purchases of long-term government debt (to push interest rates, and hence private borrowing costs, down); an announcement that short-term interest rates would stay near zero for an extended period, to further reduce long-term rates; an announcement that the bank was seeking moderate inflation, “setting a target in the 3-4% range for inflation, to be maintained for a number of years,” which would encourage borrowing and discourage people from hoarding cash; and “an attempt to achieve substantial depreciation of the yen,” that is, to reduce the yen’s value in terms of other currencies.

Was Mr. Bernanke on the right track? I think so — as well I should, since his paper was partly based on my own earlier work. So why isn’t the Fed pursuing the agenda its own chairman once recommended for Japan?

Part of the answer is internal dissension. Two weeks ago, the committee that sets monetary policy declared that conditions “are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels for the federal funds rate at least through mid-2013” — that is, it didn’t even promise to keep rates low, it just offered an observation about what the state of the economy is likely to be. Yet, even so, the statement faced serious internal opposition, with three inflation hawks on the committee voting against it and calling it a mistake.

The larger answer, however, is outside political pressure. Last year, the Fed actually did institute a policy of buying long-term debt, generally known as “quantitative easing” (don’t ask). But it faced a political backlash out of all proportion to its modest effect on the economy, culminating in Mr. Perry’s declaration that any further monetary easing before the 2012 election would be “almost treasonous,” and that if Mr. Bernanke went ahead and did it, “we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas.”

Now just imagine the reaction if the Fed were to act on the other and arguably more important parts of that Bernanke 2000 agenda, targeting a higher rate of inflation and welcoming a weaker dollar. With prominent Republicans like Representative Paul Ryan already denouncing policies that allegedly “debase the dollar,” a political firestorm would be guaranteed.

So now you see why I don’t expect any substantive policy announcements at Jackson Hole. Back in 2000, Mr. Bernanke accused the Bank of Japan of suffering from “self-induced paralysis”; well, now the Fed is suffering from externally induced paralysis. In effect, it has been politically intimidated into standing by while the economy stagnates. And that’s a very, very bad thing.

Political opposition has already crippled fiscal policy; instead of helping to create jobs, the federal government is pulling back, acting as a drag on output and employment.

With the Fed also intimidated into inaction, it’s hard to see any end to the ongoing economic disaster.

EDUCATION

 

 

 

 

Perry and the dead peasants 

by digby 

Now this is what I call constituent service — if your constituents are wealthy Wall Street donors: 

Two weeks before Thanksgiving in 2003, top officials from Texas Governor Rick Perry’s office pitched an unusual offer to the state’s retired teachers: Let’s get into the death business.  Perry’s budget director, Mike Morrissey, laid out a pitch that was both ambitious and risky, according to notes summarizing the meeting provided to The Huffington Post.  According to the notes, which were authenticated by a meeting participant, the Perry administration wanted to help Wall Street investors gamble on how long retired Texas teachers would live. Perry was promising the state big money in exchange for helping Swiss banking giant UBS set up a business of teacher death speculation.  All they had to do was convince retirees to let UBS buy life insurance policies on them. When the retirees died, those policies would pay out benefits to Wall Street speculators, and the state, supposedly, would get paid for arranging the bets. The families of the deceased former teachers would get nothing.  The meeting notes offer the most direct evidence that the Perry administration was not only intimately involved with the insurance scheme, but a leading driver of the plan.

Those of you who saw Capitalism: A Love Story, will recall the part about dead peasants, right? 

And people say America doesn’t produce anything anymore. 
 

ENERGY

 

 

 

 

What’s All the Fuss About the Keystone XL Pipeline?

Mother Jones:

Hundreds of activists have arrived in Washington, DC, to protest the proposed Keystone XL project, a1,661-mile pipeline that would carry oil from Canada’s tar sands to refineries in Texas. If TransCanada gets the green light from the Obama administration, the pipeline would carry as much as 900,000 barrels of oil every day—oil with a carbon output 20 percent higher than conventional oil supplies.

The State Department is expected to release a final environmental impact statement on the proposal this month and issue a decision by the end of the year. The looming ruling has prompted activists to organize two weeks of protests at the White House—with several thousand expected to risk arrest.

Since the action began on Saturday, 212 people have been arrested outside of the White House. The majority have been processed and released, though some of the higher-profile activists were kept from Saturday through Monday morning, a move they believe was made to deter further protests. Writer and activist Bill McKibben (also a Mother Jones contributor), lawyer and environmental leader Gus Speth, and LGBT-rights activist Lt. Dan Choi were among those kept in jail.

The protesters have arrived outside the White House each morning, with a group of volunteers agreeing to sit in until they are arrested each day. Organizers estimate that between 50 and 100 people will be arrested every day, with the biggest day of action planned for Saturday, August 27. Spokesman Jamie Henn, of the group 350.org, said that 2,000 people have signed up to participate. They plan to continue the protest through Labor Day.

Because many of you may be wondering what the heck is going on with the protests, we’ve compiled this backgrounder. But I’m sure none of you need it, since you’ve been following our coverage of the Keystone XL all along. Right?

What is the Keystone XL? The Canadian energy company TransCanada has asked for permission to build a 1,661-mile pipeline that would travel from Hardisty, Alberta, down to oil refineries in Houston and Port Arthur, Texas. It would supplement the existing Keystone pipeline, which went into operation last summer and can carry up to 435,000 barrels of oilper day. The pipeline would carry tar sands oil, which is heavier, more carbon-intensive, and more corrosive than conventional oil. It is scheduled for completion in 2013, though it would not hit capacity until 2056.

What’s wrong with building a giant pipeline across the US? That existing Keystone line has already leaked a dozen times in just one year of operation. The Keystone XL would cross more than 70 rivers and streams, including the Missouri, Platte, Yellowstone, and Arkansas. Theoil spill from another pipeline in the Yellowstone River last month didn’t do much to allay those concerns. It would also cross the Ogallala Aquifer, which provides nearly one-third of the groundwater used to irrigate US crops, supports $20 billion in agriculture, and supplies drinking water to about 2 million people. A recent report from a researcher at the University of Nebraska estimated that there would be 91 significant spills from the pipeline in the next 50 years. A worst-case-scenario spill in Nebraska’s sand hills above the Ogallala Aquifer could dump as much as 180,000 barrels, tainting the vast water supply in the region.

The much-higher carbon footprint of tar sands oil and its contribution to climate change are also concerns, as are the health problems reported near extraction sites.

Who is opposed to building the pipeline? Environmental groups, landowners along the path of the pipeline (especially those threatened with eminent domain), the National Farmers Union, climate scientists, a number of senators (including both the Republican and Democratic senators from Nebraska), the Transport Workers Union, and the Amalgamated Transit Union have all urged the State Department to veto the plan.

Who supports building it? TransCanada, of course, as well as the oil companies that plan to ship oil through it, the American Petroleum Institute, the Teamsters Union, the US Chamber of Commerce, and the members of the House that voted for a bill that would expedite consideration of the plan.

How does the Keystone XL compare in size to other oil pipelines?If constructed, it would certainly be among the longest pipelines in the United States. But there are longer ones, like the 1,679-mile Rockies Express natural gas pipeline from Colorado to Ohio or the 1,900-mileLakehead System from North Dakota to Michigan.

But won’t the pipeline create tons of jobs? API refining issues manager Cindy Schild claimed in a press call last week that the pipeline would directly create 20,000 new jobs, and spur the creation of as many as 80,000 more jobs in the United States related to tar sands development. TransCanada’s own projection on job growth has ballooned in the past few years, from initial predictions of 13,000 to now 20,000. But most of those jobs would be short-term, lasting for just the two years expected to take to complete the pipeline.

Why does the State Department get to decide whether to build it?Because the pipeline crosses an international border. The State Department is required, however, to ask other federal agencies to weigh in. Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency gave a failing gradeto State’s initial environmental-impact analysis. State issued a new draftin April and is expected to issue a final version later this month. After that, they plan to hold public meetings in September.

Where will all that oil go? That’s a good question! Supporters argue that getting oil from our friendly neighbors up north is preferable to getting it from Middle Eastern countries that don’t like us very much. But our oil demand is expected to decline anyway. And since it would be pumped down to ports in Texas, it can easily be shipped to other countries in Europe or Asia, a concern that critics have raised.

What does President Obama think about the pipeline? That’s another good question! It’s also the reason the protesters plan to be out there for the next few weeks. They’re hoping that the actions will put pressure on Obama, who has so far been pretty quiet on the subject, to weigh in against the pipeline. Obama may be in Martha’s Vineyard right now, but the protesters will be waiting for him when he returns to the White House.

We already have a ton of pipelines, so why do activists care so much about this one? Well, unlike most major environmental issues, President Obama doesn’t need Congress to do anything here. The decision is entirely within the control of his administration. For protesters, this is also symbolic; if Obama wants to show that he still cares about climate change, he could veto this project, they argue. Environmental groups are also hoping for a concrete victory. Even with a supposedly sympathetic president, they haven’t seen the big policy shifts on this front that they were hoping for. And while addressing climate change is a giant, complicated challenge, vetoing a pipeline is fairly straightforward.

 

 

 

 

IMMIGRATION

 

 

 

 

Meant to Ease Fears of Deportation Program, Federal Hearings Draw Anger

NYT:

A task force set up by the Obama administration to ease political tensions over a deportation program has held the last of four public hearings, which instead served largely to galvanize vocal protests against the policy.

Immigrant, labor and church groups walked out halfway through the session Wednesday in Arlington, Va., banging drums and denouncing the hearing as a “sham” intended to gloss over deep problems with the program, known as Secure Communities.

Immigrant and Latino groups also marched out of hearings this month in Los Angeles and Chicago, calling for a halt to the program. In Chicago, six illegal immigrants, all students, were arrested after briefly stopping traffic outside the hearing. The students were later released. The first hearing, in Dallas, drew heated debate but less militant protests.

With a series of initiatives since June, the Obama administration has sought to tighten the focus of its deportation strategy on illegal immigrants who also have been convicted of crimes, especially serious violent and drug offenses. Officials say the rapid expansion of Secure Communities to cover the whole country by 2013 is part of that plan.

At the same time, senior administration officials announced measures last week to cancel deportation proceedings against many noncitizens who are charged with immigration violations (which generally are civil offenses), but who had not committed crimes.

A 21-member Secure Communities task force was established in June by John Morton, the director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency running the program, in response to resistance from states and cities. Mr. Morton assigned the group to examine narrow issues concerning the program’s impact that had drawn complaints from immigrant leaders.

But the task force soon decided to hold hearings, concluding they needed to hear directly about the groundswell of discontent stirred by the program. The task force includes local law enforcement officers, immigration lawyers and representatives of immigration agents’ unions.

In a letter Thursday, more than 160 immigrant rights organizations said that Immigration and Customs Enforcement was a “rogue agency,” and they called on the members of the task force to resign.

Under Secure Communities, the fingerprints of everyone booked into jail are checked against the F.B.I.’s criminal databases — long a routine police practice — and also against Department of Homeland Security databases, which record immigration violations.

“This program at its heart is about serious offenders,” Chuck Wexler, the executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum and the task force’s chairman, said Thursday. “I don’t think there is any question that a number of people being caught up in the system don’t fit the criteria of serious offender.”

He said the hearings had revealed many episodes when detention of immigrants who were not dangerous criminals had led to mistrust of the local police, even though immigration enforcement is handled by federal authorities.

Mr. Wexler said the hearings had shown that “every time someone who is not considered a serious offender is picked up and put into deportation proceedings, it undermines the credibility of the program.”

Most people who spoke at the hearings opposed the program, Mr. Wexler said, but many local law enforcement and government officials had expressed support. The task force will issue a final report in September.

In Arlington, about 150 protesters marched to the hearing on the campus of George Mason University, chanting, “Hey, Obama, don’t deport my mama.”

During the hearing, Maria Bolaños, 28, an immigrant from El Salvador, approached an immigration official sitting in the audience to confront him directly. She said she had been detained after calling the police following a fight with her partner. She has been charged with illegal sale of phone cards, she said, a charge she denied.

“I wouldn’t call the police again, and I know many people that wouldn’t do the same,” said Ms. Bolaños, who spoke in Spanish through an interpreter.

Paul Showalter, 51, an American who spoke in favor of the program, said a young illegal immigrant had been murdered in his Arlington neighborhood by another immigrant. “So I, as a taxpayer in the State of Virginia, get to pay to house that individual for 20 years to life,” said Mr. Showalter. “One young man is dead, another is behind bars, because no one checked.”

A senior official from the immigration agency at the hearing said they had been surprised by the strong criticism. “In spite of what we’ve been trying to do to get the word out about what Secure Communities is, we clearly are not making ourselves clear,” said Gary Mead, a top official in charge of deportations. He said that the local police generally avoid arresting victims or witnesses of crimes.

“If you don’t get arrested, you don’t get your fingerprints submitted to the F.B.I., you will never become a subject of Secure Communities,” Mr. Mead said.
 

JUSTICE

 

 

 

 

JP Morgan Fined $88.3M

JP Morgan was fined $88.3 million on Thursday in connection with transactions involving Iran, Cuba, and Sudan. JP Morgan will pay the money to the Treasury Department, who called the bank’s actions “egregious” in a statement. The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control said JP Morgan had processed wire transfers in late 2005 and early 2006 totaling around $178.5 million for Cuban nationals, a violation of the U.S.’s embargo laws, and then failed to report the transfers after discovering them. The bank was also fined for a $2.9 million loan to a bank with ties to Iran’s government. In the third incident, the bank reportedly failed to give up documents relating to a wire transfer that referred to Sudan’s capital, Khartoum. The penalty had been lightened because JP Morgan cooperated with the investigation, the Treasury Department said.

 

 

 

 

(Well, Poetic Justice) News media taking stance on Marco Rubio eligibility

Those asking question called ‘racists,’ ‘misguided adherents to Constitution’

MIAMI, Fla. – Some national news media are declaring thatU.S. Sen. Marco Rubiois a natural-born citizen and thus eligible for the presidency or vice presidency, even though Rubio’s constitutional eligibility remains unclear and the popular Florida Republican has himself downplayed any interest in running on a White House ticket.

In a Daily Caller piece today titled “Coming soon: Rubio ‘birthers,'” journalistMatt Lewis warns, “There is already a movement afoot (led by some on the fringe) to disqualify him from servingaspresident(which would presumably disqualify him from serving as vice president). That’s right – some are arguing that Rubio is not eligible because he is not a ‘natural-born citizen.'”

What really makes someone a “natural-born citizen?” Find out in Jerome Corsi’s New York Times best-seller,  “Where’s the Birth Certificate?”

Lewis explains the logic by citing a May 22 WND report examining the issue, which noted, “WhiletheConstitutiondoes not define ‘natural-born citizen,’ there is strong evidence that the Founding Fathers understood it to mean someone born of two American citizens.”

That report examined both Rubio and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, both of whose parents were legal U.S. residents but not legal U.S. citizens when the future politicians were born.

“Who knows how big this thing will get?” asks Lewis. “Maybe it’s just a small fringe movement – but it is a ‘thing.’ The good news here, of course, is that the rise of Rubio birthers proves that birthers are not merely partisan hypocrites who solely attack Democrats like Obama. They are, instead, either consistent racists – or consistently misguided adherents to the Constitution. But hey – at least they aren’t partisan hacks.”

“He is [a natural-born citizen of the U.S.],” declared Elspeth Reeve of the Atlantic Wire, referring to Rubio in reaction to the Daily Caller’s analysis.

And despite a one-on-one, exclusiveinterview with Rubio last night, Fox News host Sean Hannitydid not raise the eligibility question, but merely stated, “One name is often mentioned as a possible vice presidential nominee in 2012. He is the wildly popular freshman senator from the great state of Florida, Marco Rubio.”

In a speech last night at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., Rubio reportedly received laughter ashe clowned, “I have no interest in serving as vice president for anyone who could possibly live all eight years of the presidency.”

“What happens in politics is the minute you start thinking there’s something else out there for you, it starts affecting everything you do,”he added. “The reality of it is I’m not going to be the vice presidential nominee, but I look forward to working with whoever our nominee is.”
 

MEDIA

 

 

 

 

Huffington Post Girl Reporter: Michele Bachmann Is A-OK, Except For Ugly Shoes

Wonkette:

Important AOL spam site “The Huffington Post” has a Fashion Reporter! She likes to report on girly things like fashion. But sometimes when you let ladies post things on the Internet without a professional man checking them first, the Fashion Reporter might tackle a political subject, like this:

On camera, Michele Bachmann embodies the sort of power polish that America expects from its top-tier politicians. For women, there’s an especially high bar — with a sweet spot somewhere between Sarah Palin’s up-market, foxy fashion and Hillary Clinton’s bold, corporate uniforms.

During the past few months, Bachmann’s handlers have zeroed in on a look that seems to appeal to a wide swath of Republican voters. The Iowa Straw Poll winner’s appearance is carefully crafted with soft color palettes, a great blow-out, and enough flawless makeup to ensure she’s camera-ready at all times. Or so it seems. According to a recent New Yorker profile, one of the rules for news photographers who travel with Bachmann is that they never photograph her in casual clothing.

But all these calculations leave one big unanswered question: How is it that a public figure receiving this much strategic advice still wears such unflattering shoes?

This is so fucking shallow and insipid and awful that America’s women are probably going to lose the vote altogether, out of shame. Well done, Fashion Reporter. [Huffington Post via everybody]

 

 

 

 

 

Formerly Popular Sites that Are Dying: Salon.com

The Obama Diary:

Well, this snippet of news today made my heart sing….

“One of the oldest online magazines, Salon.com, has sunk like a rock lately, losing about one million regular visitors over the past year, per Compete.com, a 37 percent decline.”

37 percent! And Salon chuckles at the drop in the President’s approval ratings!

Poor Joan ‘I resent African Americans who say THEY are THE BASE’ Walsh. There she was on Twitter tonight, frantically dismissing the story because she said it came from Fox. Except the stats quoted weren’t from Fox, they were from Compete.com, as some truly heartless Twitterers pointed out.

Oh dear, looks like Salon’s Greenwald-fuelled firebaggery isn’t paying off.

Oh, speaking of Greenwald. […]

Today he was attacking Michael Tomasky for his “this may be a truly great foreign-policy president in the making” post on the Daily Beast (here), while also sneering at Ezra Klein and Steve Benen for pieces they had written recently that acknowledged the President’s achievements and the depth of opposition and obstruction he faces.

Greenwald’s narcissism, as we know, won’t tolerate any one disagreeing with his point of view, and the fella pretty much needs to be sedated when supposed fellow ‘progressives’ (*) refuse to join him in spitting bile all over the President. So, we can expect more of these ‘Oh My God! Tomasky, Klein and Benen are, like, totally brainwashed Obot sheeple, besotted with the exotic Dear Leader’ tantrums. Lotsmore.

(* Greenwald is not and has never been a ‘progressive’ – see his views on immigration below. He’s a part-time Libertarian, but generally this privileged white boy sits on the sidelines and sneers at the efforts of any elected representative who tries to change things for the better, even if, thanks to the political system, that change can only be incremental.) […]

But why, exactly, has Greenwald upped his vitriol?

It could be that he sees no credible GOP candidate emerging who could beat the President next year. Let’s face it, his beloved Gary Johnson and Ron Paul have as much chance of winning the GOP nomination as Bernie Sanders.

Or maybe it’s the President’s “humane immigration policy” (Steve Benen) that has incensed him.

After all, this is the King of the Progressives who wrote:

“….illegal immigrants have poured into the United States by the millions … The parade of evils caused by illegal immigration is widely known, and it gets worse every day. In short, illegal immigration wreaks havoc economically, socially, and culturally; makes a mockery of the rule of law; and is disgraceful just on basic fairness grounds alone.“

“There already is a “closed sign on the border” when it comes to illegal immigration. It’s called the law. The problem is that the “closed sign” isn’t being enforced because the Federal Government, which has its interfering, power-hungry hands in virtually everything else, has abdicated its duty in one of the very few areas where it was actually meant to be: border security.”

No, honest, that wasn’t Rush Limbaugh, it was Greenwald (see here)

Note the aggression and venom in the language. No one, I think, would argue that illegal immigration isn’t an issue that has to be dealt with – hopefully with a revived DREAM Act – but a“parade of evils”? What? People, often desperate for a new and better life for their families, who enter America illegally, are a “parade of evils”?

How progressive!

But look, maybe it’s Salon’s sinking traffic and the firebaggers’ funding going through the floor (here and here) (remember, he once profited handsomely from his collaboration with Jane ‘Grover Norquist’s best buddy’ Hamsher), that has driven him over the edge?

Who knows?

But….

“One of the oldest online magazines, Salon.com, has sunk like a rock lately, losing about one million regular visitors over the past year, per Compete.com, a 37 percent decline.”

…. won’t lighten Glenn’s mood. Seems like fewer and fewer folk care to read his bile.

 
 

 

POLITICS

 

 

 

Herbert Hoover: Winning

Ezra Klein:

[…] And yet Hoover has won. Read his statement from March 8, 1932, and tell me that there’s one elected Republican who disagrees with any part of it:

Nothing is more important than balancing the budget with the least increase in taxes. The Federal Government should be in such position that it will need issue no securities which increase the public debt after the beginning of the next fiscal year, July 1. That is vital to the still further promotion of employment and agriculture. It gives positive assurance to business and industry that the Government will keep out of the money market and allow industry and agriculture to borrow the monies required for the conduct of business.

Frankly, that bears more than a passing resemblance to quite a bit of the Democrats’ rhetoric on the economy, as well. And yet Hoover had an excuse: The economics profession had not yet advanced to the point where it knew what to during a liquidity trap. What’s our excuse?
 

 

Perry’s problem: His extreme views are right there in black and white

Greg Sargent:

This may seem like an obvious point. But seriously: Does the Rick Perry campaign have any strategy at all to deal with the fact that a whole host of extreme views that would seriously complicate his general election chances are right there in black and white, right under his own byline?

Judging by recent events, the Perry campaign launched with no plan to deal with or explain what appears in his own books. Here’s another example. Time magazine has discovered that in his first book, Perry compared being gay to being an alcoholic:

in a little-noticed passage in his first book, “On My Honor,” a encomium on the Boy Scouts published in 2008, Perry also drew a parallel between homosexuality and alcoholism. “Even if an alcoholic is powerless over alcohol once it enters his body, he still makes a choice to drink,” he wrote. “And, even if someone is attracted to a person of the same sex, he or she still makes a choice to engage in sexual activity with someone of the same gender.”

In “On My Honor,” Perry also punted on the exact origins of homosexuality. He wrote that he is “no expert on the ‘nature versus nurture’ debate,” but that gays should simply choose abstinence. Perry’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment on whether he maintains this view.

So: Asked if he still believes homosexuality is akin to alcoholism, the Perry campaign simply didn’t answer. That means we’ve now seen three different approaches from the Perry camp on how to deal with his printed views.

First, in response to questions about his book’s suggestion that Social Security may be unconstitutional and is an “illegal Ponzi scheme,” the Perry campaign distanced him from the book by claiming it was intended as “a look back, not a path forward.” In fact, the book did contain policy prescriptions. What’s more, as Jed Lewison notes, Perry himself recently cited his book approvingly as something that should be read as his blueprint for the future — one in which “there’s not going to be a Social Security and Medicare program.” That seems strikingly at odds with the campaign’s claim.

Second, in response to questions about whether Perry still believes his book’s assertion that repealing the 16th Amendment would be a good idea, his campaign issued a statement that conspicuously did not reaffirm his support for that position, and instead declaredhis support for more modest proposals. But then the campaign turned right around and claimed that the statement hadn’t distanced him from his book’s views on the 16th Amendment. So does Perry still think repealing the 16th Amendment is a workable option, or doesn’t he?

And third, the Perry campaign has now responded to his own book’s comparison of homosexuality and alcoholism with … radio silence.

All this underscores that there isn’t much you can do about it when your controversial and extreme views are spelled out in black and white in books that boast your name in big letters on their covers.

Rick Perry says ‘there’s not going to be a Social Security and Medicare program’

Daily Kos:

Rick Perry has managed to fly below the radar on this, but on August 14 he told a gathering of Iowa Republicans that it’s “a fact” that Social Security and Medicare are going to be eliminated for future generations, adding that we need to have an “adult conversation” about “how are we going to make the transformation.” And it’s on video:

Look, the whole issue of—have you read my book, ‘Fed Up!’?

Get a copy of it and read it, becaue I talk about the entitlement programs in there.

And listen, how many people in here are less than 50 years old in this audience? All right, I got in trouble by asking that question right off the bat, there, but these young kids who are coming along, they know for a fact there’s not going to be a Social Security and Medicare program. They know that.

So we have to have an adult conversation with this country. We have to talk about how are we going to transfer over. How are we going to make the transformation.

 

 

 

 

Big Labor Eyes the Super PAC Playing Field

MoJo:

The AFL-CIO, the largest labor federation in America, is considering launching its own “super PAC.” The move would allow the labor group to rake in unlimited amounts of campaign cash from inside and outside its affiliated unions to spend in state and federal elections. If the new political action committee gets the final stamp of approval, the Associated Press reports, it would join more than 100 super PACs already raising and spending money to influence the 2012 elections.

The explosion of super PACs onto the political scene came after the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which opened the door to unlimited political spending by corporations and labor unions. Here’s more from the AP on the AFL-CIO’s plan to potentially capitalize on that decision:

The move would also help steer more of labor’s money to state legislative battles, where unions have been battling efforts to curb union rights in states like Wisconsin and Ohio.

“The essential idea is that changes in the law for the first time really allow the labor movement to speak directly to workers, whether they have collective bargaining agreements or not,” AFL-CIO political director Michael Podhorzer said in an interview. “Before, most political resources went to our own membership.”

Labor leaders discussed the plan at the AFL-CIO executive council meetings earlier this month, but officials said the idea remains subject to final approval over the next few weeks.

Rick Scott Takes the Piss Out of Florida Taxpayers

Mother Jones:

Florida’s neophyte Republican governor, tea-party-friendly Rick Scott, signed a bill back in June requiring the state’s welfare recipients to undergo drug-testing urinalysis before collecting their$241-to-$303 monthly assistance check. The measure, he said, would save taxpayer money by barring drug addicts from getting the dole. “Studies show that people that are on welfare are higher users of drugs than people not on welfare,” he said.

Florida’s welfare recipients are proving that Scott’s assumption wasn’t worth a warm bucket of pee. Now, the state is effectively being forced to pay for 11.5 gallons of welfare applicants’ drug-free urine every month, to the tune of around $34,000.

Of the 1,000 or so recipients who have taken the required drug tests (at their own expense) since early July, only 2 percent have tested positive for drugs, according to the Tampa Tribune. That’s well below the national population’s average, and it’s so low that the testing plan—which was expected to cost $187 million by some analysts’ estimates—could end up costing taxpayers even more in the long run.[…]

But with 96 percent of applicants passing the test with flying colors (and another 2 percent getting inconclusive results), the state is having to buy back a lot of clean pee: 11.5 gallons at $34,300 every month, assuming an average sample size of 1.5 ounces and and average test price of $35. Not only that, but Florida’s rules allow parents who fail the test to designate another adult who can collect the benefits on behalf of any dependent children. And since the state’s welfare program is oriented toward families, it seems likely that most of the failures’ benefits will still be paid out to someone. (Given the scarce numbers offered by the Florida Department of Children and Families, it’s also not immediately clear whether the amount of applicants for assistance changed significantly after the whiz quizzes were instituted.)

Local reporters around the state have run smaller investigations and found the economics to be grim. TV station WFTV found that 40 applicants were tested in Central Florida, and two popped positive for drugs. The testing cost to taxpayers was at least $1,140; the theoretical savings in benefits to the two who failed was $240. “We have a diminishing amount of returns for our tax dollars,” ACLU spokesman Derek Brett, an opponent of the drug plan, told WFTV. “Do we want our governor throwing our precious tax dollars into a program that has already been proven not to work?”

The Tribune engaged in some creative accounting to show that the testing program could still show a modest net savings on benefits payments, of roughly $40,000 to $60,000 a year in total, or half of what most senior staffers in Gov. Scott’s office make. But that doesn’t take into account the state’s costs to process the test results and administer the program, which nobody seems to know yet—least of all the governor who sold state residents on the idea. “We don’t have a dollar cost estimate at this time,” Scott’s spokesman said on June 6…five days after Scottsigned the bill into law. (Interestingly, Florida requires all state ballot initiatives to be accompanied by an estimate of the proposals’ financial impacts; Scott and the Legislature, though, don’t have to do any such calculations for their bills.)

Despite Florida conservatives’ miscalculations—miscalculations that critics say are based on bogus stereotypes—many states are considering following its lead on drug tests for welfare applicants. Last spring, Idaho’s Legislature commissioned a study on the subject, which foundthat the plan would end up costing more than it took in.

But then, Idaho analysts also assumed the state would put its failures in publicly financed drug-counseling programs. By contrast, Florida’s welfare information site stresses that the state “does not pay or reimburse for the cost of drug treatment programs.”

 

 

 

POLLS

 

 

 

Perry Surges in Polls, Testing Romney’s Strategy

NATE SILVER

Primary polls can be erratic, so the rule is not to get too worked up about any one set of numbers. But now there have been five surveys conducted since Rick Perry announced his presidential campaign — one each fromGallup, Rasmussen Reports and Public Policy Polling, and two from YouGov. Each shows Mr. Perry having vaulted into a lead over Mitt Romney.

On average, Mr. Perry gets 26 percent of the vote in the new surveys, as compared to 16 percent for Mr. Romney. By comparison, in polls conducted in the month prior to Mr. Perry’s announcement, he averaged 14 percent to Mr. Romney’s 21 percent.


Mr. Perry’s results are yet more impressive if you account for his name recognition — which although increasing very rapidly remains behind that of Mr. Romney and some of the other Republican contenders. About two-thirds of Republican voters now recognize Mr. Perry’s name, which means that almost 4 in 10 who do recognize him have him as their first choice, roughly double the fraction for Mr. Romney.

[…]

There are, to be sure, several reasons that Mr. Romney should not panic.

First, with these shiny new numbers will come higher expectations for Mr. Perry, particularly during the three Republican debates that will be held in September.

Second, Mr. Romney should have a fair amount of breathing room since the Republican field is heavily tilted toward very conservative candidates like Mr. Perry. Were Rudolph W. Giuliani or Chris Christie to enter the race, Mr. Romney might face a bit more pressure, as he would if Jon M. Huntsman Jr. were somehow to surge. […]

Third, Republican elites have not given Mr. Perry a warm welcome. Of course, the same can be said for Mr. Romney; that Republicans have been casting about for a candidate like Paul Ryan or Mr. Christie reflects poorly on him as well as Mr. Perry. But as Barack Obama looks more and more vulnerable, Republicans may begin to prioritize electability over ideological purity.

Finally, although national polls at this stage have a fair amount of predictive power, they are hardly foolproof. At this point in 2007, Rudy Giuliani had about 29 percent of the Republican vote, about where Mr. Perry is now.

Instead, the key numbers for Mr. Romney are in New Hampshire and Iowa.

Mr. Romney retains a reasonably large lead in New Hampshire for now. The danger is that, if Mr. Perry were to win Iowa convincingly, he could clear the field of other conservative candidates. New Hampshire has a lot of moderate and independent voters — but it is still majority conservative. And although Mr. Romney holds a solid lead over each of the individual conservatives, he does not hold a lead over them collectively: Mr. Perry, Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul, Herman Cain, Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich together have in excess of 50 percent of the vote there, based on a trendline constructed from recent polls of the state, as compared to 34 percent for Mr. Romney. If, for example, Mr. Perry were to knock out Mrs. Bachmann, Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Cain by winning Iowa, picking up most of their votes, the New Hampshire contest would become very tight.

Mr. Romney has adopted a slow-and-steady strategy since the beginning of the campaign, one which has de-emphasized Iowa. Instead, the idea would be to pick up delegates in the early going in friendly territory, particularly in caucus states where his organizational and monetary advantages should give him some help. Although the race might remain tight for the first month or two of the primary campaign, Mr. Romney would then hope to grab some big prizes once states started to vote on a winner-take-all basis in the spring, including large coastal states where Mr. Romney’s relative moderation could be an advantage.

But the linchpin of that strategy has always been New Hampshire. If Mr. Romney does not win there, Republicans may decide that although Mr. Perry is not an optimal general election candidate, Mr. Romney has fallen too far behind him and it is best to rally around Mr. Perry rather than having a prolonged and bloody primary battle. There is also some chance that another moderate candidate who had performed relatively well in New Hampshire, like Mr. Huntsman or Mr. Giulaini, could lay claim to being the alternative to Mr. Perry. On a more fundamental level, the question would be how Mr. Romney could hope to beat Mr. Perry elsewhere on the map if he hadn’t beaten him in New Hampshire, which oughtto be among Mr. Romney’s best states.

These concerns would be less acute for Mr. Romney if a candidate like Mrs. Bachmann won Iowa. She has less of a national profile and her victory might be viewed as more of a one-off. Mr. Perry, for instance, could well survive a second or third place finish there, hoping to regroup in South Carolina or Florida. That means that Mrs. Bachmann and Mr. Perry would continue to split the conservative vote for some period of time, allowing Mr. Romney to clear his New Hampshire hurdle at a minimum.

Unfortunately for Mr. Romney, Mr. Perry’s national surge does show some signs of transferring into Iowa. The only poll there since he officially entered the race shows him ahead of Mrs. Bachmann, with 21 percent of the vote to her 15 percent, with Mr. Romney stuck in between at 18 percent.

The question for Mr. Romney is whether his New Hampshire lead is robust enough to survive a win by Mr. Perry in Iowa. If not, Mr. Romney will need to involve himself more in Iowa — whether he’s playing to win the state or simply to meddle in it, hoping somehow to harm Mr. Perry at the expense of Mrs. Bachmann and other candidates that would be less of a threat to him.

Mr. Romney does not need to make this decision today: it’s probably worth waiting to see how Mr. Perry performs in the debates, as well as whether Ms. Palin enters. For the time being, it may be more important for Mr. Romney to focus on cultivating elite opinion, and raising money for a strategy that might require the primaries to continue until late into the spring.

Still, Mr. Romney probably will need to decide upon a strategy reasonably soon, either committing to Iowa or writing it off. Hedging his bets could be the worst alternative.

 

 

 

SCIENCE

 

 

 

Can party drug ecstasy cure cancer?

The Week:

Scientists are excited after a preliminary study shows that modified forms of the euphoria-inducing party drug can wipe out cancer cells

Ecstasy, the recreational drug associated with dance clubs and all-night raves, may have some medicinal uses, too. Scientists report in the journalInvestigational New Drugs that chemically altered ecstasy, also known as MDMA, was able to suppress the growth of blood-cancer cells. Though the results are preliminary, experts are calling this discovery “genuinely exciting.” Here, a brief guide:

Ecstasy can really fight cancer?
Yes. In fact, it’s been known for years that ecstasy and other psychoactive drugs like antidepressants are able to stop the growth of cancer cells. But in order to be effective, the doses needed would be massive enough to kill a person. By chemically re-engineering the drugs, scientists were able to develop variants that are 100 times more effective at fighting cancer – lowering the necessary dosage, and making treatment safer.

What kinds of cancer are affected?
Right now, scientists are looking at cancers like leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma, all of which affect blood cells. The modified drugs are attracted to the fats that make up the walls of these cancer cells; once the cell walls are broken down, the cancer cells are killed. “This is in the test tube – it could be different in the patient,” says researcher John Gordon of the University of Birmingham in the U.K., as quoted by BBC News, “but for now it’s quite exciting.”

Is ecstasy really a cancer cure? 
Not exactly. The chemically altered drugs researchers are looking at are distinctly different from recreational ecstasy. Also, the drugs need to be tested in animals and in humans to determine if they’re safe and effective, so any breakthroughs are still years away. Still, experts like Dr. David Grant of the charitable group Leukemia and Lymphoma Research are calling this a real step forward. “The prospect of being able to target blood cancer with a drug derived from ecstasy is a genuinely exciting proposition,” Grant says.
 

 

Conservatives Scare More Easily Than Liberals, Say Scientists (H/T bito)

Wired:

Deep-seated political differences aren’t simply moral and intellectual: They’re also biological.

In reflex tests of 46 political partisans, psychologists found that conservatives were more likely than liberals to be shocked by sudden threats.

Accompanying the physiological differences were deep differences on hot-button political issues: military expansion, the Iraq war, gun control, capital punishment, the Patriot act, warrantless searches, foreign aid, abortion rights, gay marriage, premarital sex and pornography.

“People are experiencing the world, experiencing threat, differently,” said University of Nebraska political scientist John Hibbing. “We have very different physiological orientations.”

The study, published today in Science, has not yet been duplicated, but adds a potentially troubling piece to the puzzle of biology, behavior and politics.

Earlier studies have linked reflexive responses to threats — which for testing purposes take the form of loud noises and graphic images — with existing states of heightened anxiety.

Though the Science study’s authors cautioned against an overly broad interpretation of their findings, the results suggest that fear leads to political conservatism.

“Threatening situations do indeed seem to increase people’s affinity for politically conservative opinions, leaders, and parties,” said New
York University psychologist John Jost.

Study co-author Kevin Smith, also a University of Nebraska political scientist, demurred at making such a connection. “Historically speaking, politicians have appealed to the ‘be afraid’ response in the electorate in an attempt to mine votes,” he said. “But in terms of going from campaigning to what we did in the laboratory, that’s a large leap.”

But even Smith agreed that “people with stronger responses are more sensitive to potential threats in their environment.”

Asked whether the findings imply a fearmongering strategy for conservatives, New York University psychologist David Amodio responded, “Yes.
And some people believe that they are actively using this strategy.”

The Bush administration has been accused of exploiting fears, though it’s hardly a new approach.

“The whole aim of practical politics,” wrote journalist gadfly H.L. Mencken,
“is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins.”

Jost condemned such tactics. “From an ethical standpoint, conservative campaigns should not exploit feelings of fear in the general population,” he said.

Of course, ethics tend to be forgotten during election seasons — but fear-mongering may be counterproductive.

“From a practical standpoint, I think that there will eventually be a backlash against those tactics as it becomes more obvious how exploitative they are,” said Jost.

Darren Schreiber, a University of California, San Diego political psychologist, contends that a candidate “who merely tries to trigger fear simply can’t be successful in the long run. Joe McCarthy had his run, but now his name is synonymous with a vile form of politics.”

Exploitation aside, there may be a gentler side to the findings.

“Instead of political opponents thinking their opposite party is simply being willfully bullheaded,” said Hibbing, “you can say, ‘Well, they see a little differently than I do.’”

 

 

 

UNIONS

 

 

 

Left Wing Elitism: Richard Trumka Joins the Professional Left

The People’s View:

Union membership among American workers is at a dangerously low level: in the private sector, less than 7% of workers are unionized. Despite Americans’ strong and overwhelming belief in workers’ right to organize, this is still the case. Why? Two reasons: primarily,corporate wholesale purchasing of an entire political party (the Republican party). Secondarily, labor establishment and “leadership” like this:

 The most powerful union official in the country offered reporters his harshest critique of President Obama to date Thursday, questioning Obama’s policy and strategic decisions, and claiming he aligned himself with the Tea Party in the debt limit fight.

“This is a moment that working people and quite frankly history will judge President Obama on his presidency; will he commit all his energy and focus on bold solutions on the job crisis or will he continue to work with the Tea Party to offer cuts to middle class programs like Social Security all the while pretending the deficit is where our economic problems really lie,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told reporters at a breakfast roundtable hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

I would call Trumka uninformed, but I know that is not the case. The debt ceiling deal offered no changes on social security – none – either as part of the initial package or as part of the triggers. In fact, the President has never offered the Republicans or anyone else any cuts to basic Social Security benefits, and in fact, for the poorest retirees, proposed to increase their Social Security benefits, while guaranteeing a base benefit above poverty. By the way, the AFL-CIO supported the Clinton economic plan in 1993 that raised taxes on social security benefits (in other words, cut the dollar value of the benefit for some beneficiaries).

But Trumka is not ignorant. While it leaves me somewhat confused just what progressive thing Trumka thinks is gained by spending $800 billion a year on paying interest on the national debt alone, it’s not Trumka’s ignorance but his elitism that is the most striking. That comes off here:

 Trumka dismissed Obama’s recent job creation proposals — an extended payroll tax cut, patent reform, free trade deals — as “nibbly things that aren’t going to make a difference,” and said the AFL might sit out the Democratic convention if he and the party don’t get serious.

I hate to tell you this, Mr. Trumka, but while for someone who collects nearly $300,000 a year (search for Trumka on this labor reporting database) on union officer salary alone (and thus pays a payroll tax only a little more than a third his income), a cut in the payroll tax can seem like a “nibbly thing,” I assure you for the average American family that it put $3,000 in the pockets of this are not going to have the same view. I assure you that the working poor – for whom this is the first tax reduction in a long, long time, don’t think this is “nibbly.” And because it most affects the working poor and the middle class, who have a higher propensity to spend extra dollars they have (due to their necessities), it certainly wasn’t a “nibbly thing” to the economy.

Apparently, Trumka also doesn’t care much for infrastructure or an infrastructure bank, because it apparently won’t create any jobs. Said Mr. Trumka of President Obama:

 He’s talking about things like patent reform and an infrastructure bank, but that’s not going to do anything for jobs.

Oh. I see. Not only investments in infrastructure has the capability of creating a million jobs in the near term, Mr. Trumka of August 2011 may want to have a chat with Mr. Trumka of January 2011:

 America’s working families and business community stand united in applauding President Obama’s call to create jobs and grow our economy through investment in our nation’s infrastructure.

Whether it is building roads, bridges, high-speed broadband, energy systems and schools, these projects not only create jobs and demand for businesses, they are an investment in building the modern infrastructure our country needs to compete in a global economy. [ – Joint statement of Trumka and US Chamber CEO Tom Donohue. ]

I’m a little confused. Which Trumka am I supposed to listen to? The one who issued a statement on his website as official representative of his union, or the one he made to the Christian Science Monitor?

Trumka did not fail to take a potshot at the President’s council on job creation, saying that he doesn’t know if the council is making any difference. Interestingly enough, Trumka has not yet turned in his resignation from this panel that he doesn’t know to be making a difference. And for someone eager to compare President Obama to the Tea Party (yes, the Tea Party people who show up to Presidential events with guns and display pictures of the President as a witch doctor with a bone through his nose are apparently doing all of those things as a display of their affection for Barack Obama), the American Prospect notes that Trumka refused to go after the Tea Party:

 Trumka didn’t lay much-deserved blame at the feet of the Tea Party Republicans control the House of Representatives and thus set much of the legislative agenda.

Of course not. He was too busy whining about the wording of the President’s speeches to worry about the policies of the Tea Party that is hurting this country.

Maybe there’s a reason some labor publications themselves opposed Trumka’s rise to AFL-CIO’s top post for what they noted were his essentially elitist attitudes.. The American labor movement has a problem – and it is not entirely attributable to the big business lobby in DC (although it is to a very large degree). Some of the problem lies within the leadership of the labor movement itself.

That part of the problem lies with people who badmouth the President whose Administration has been a steadfast ally of labor and the right of workers to organize – whether by proposing to speed up the union election process so employers have less opportunity to intimidate, by preventing Boeing from moving a plant just get non-union workers, by protectig coal miners, winning wage increases for agricultural workers, taking action against employers who fail to pay benefits or legal wages and/or put their hands in employee pension funds, or a myriad of other ways (hat tip for much of this goes to rootless_e). Ignoring the achievements and the dedication of this President to American workers and organized labor is the kind of “leadership” that reeks elitism.

The progressive movement is dependent on the labor movement and the labor movement on the progressive movement. Men like Richard Trumka may want to realize that President Obama is a friend of labor, not the enemy of it. Snipping at this President and pre-emptively attacking him for an economic plan that is yet to be released does not do any favors to the American worker or the organized labor movement. It only hands ammunition to the true enemies of labor and worker fairness.

 

 

 

 

 

Romney begins anti-union push with video filled with falsehood

Daily Kos:

Romney’s video (and presumably his next RtW salvo as well) is just plain wrong. The video features a New Hampshire business owner, one in the warm grandpa mode, talking plaintively about how his business is a family and he has “reasonable confidence” his workers are happy and he’s just worried about them, the workers:

What if they don’t want to join the union and the union says you have to join? What happens to them? Do they have to leave the company because it’s a union house? Well, to me that’s absolutely wrong. Absolutely wrong….We live in the Live Free or Die state and they can damn well choose whether they want to join an organization or not join an organization.

As it happens, it is absolutely wrong to say that workers have to leave a union employer if they don’t want to be in the union. That is, it’s a factually incorrect statement. A refresher on the facts, from the post I’m glad I wrote once so I wouldn’t have to rewrite it every single time:

[“Right to Work”] proponents would have you believe that without RtW laws in place, you can be forced to join a union in order to get a job…in a unionized workplace, a point they tend to gloss over. I mean, really, it would be nice if job=job in a unionized workplace, but that’s not remotely the case.In reality (PDF), though, you can never be forced to join a union—you can only be required to pay dues directly related to work the union does representing you.

So there is no circumstance (barring an unimaginably massive, pro-union overhaul of labor law) in which Romney’s grandpa figure would have to worry that his anti-union employees would be driven from the warm family embrace of his business because of their refusal to join a union. What he really appears to be worried about is that his workers may unionize—buried in the video is an admission that what makes him want RtW is the concern that the NLRB might make it easier to unionize.

All his talk about the union as a third party coming between him and his warm loving family of employees, then, is a cover for the fact that he’s concerned that those very employees, the ones he’s “reasonably confident” are happy, might want to join a union. After all, a currently non-union workplace is not going to become a union workplace without support from a majority of the workers. But by weakening unions in a state, RtW makes it less likely a strong union will be available for workers in that state to join should they wish to. RtW prevents employers and unions from agreeing to a “union security” clause, which:

…says that if the union represents you, you have to pay your share of the costs they incur. So what banning that type of agreement means is that if someone gets a job in a unionized workplace, the union has to represent them, but they have no responsibility to the union. They get the wages and benefits negotiated, however improved those may be (union members earn, on average, 28% more than non-members), and don’t contribute to the costs of negotiating. If they’re fired illegally, the union represents them for free, no matter how much staff time and resources go into defending them. And if they feel like the union didn’t do well enough representing them for free, they can sue.

You can see where that goes. People enter as freeloaders, happy to have improved wages and benefits and help when they have a problem with the boss, and happy to let someone else pay for it. But that freeloading weakens the union, and in the end, working conditions and pay are driven down for everyone[.]

That’s the reality of what Mitt Romney is pushing today, however much grandfatherly rhetoric about management and workers as one big happy family he wraps it in.

 

 

 

AND IN OTHER NEWS…

 

 

 

Associated Press: In New Book, Details Of Ikea Founder’s Nazi Links

 

 

 

NYT Reviews DICK Cheney’s new book

(They report that there is nothing new at all, just the same old talking points.)

 

 

 

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

 

“Moral indignation is jealousy with a halo.”- H. G. Wells 

 

  1. RE: Bernanke’s Perry Problem:

    Seems his speech this morning was a he will “mess with Texas” no matter what Perry threatens. He said it in own wonkish way but he said it. Now will Michelle, Ron Paul and Perry double down?

    In his conclusion, Bernanke condemned the summer-long debate over raising the debt ceiling, which was egged on by Republican presidential contenders, in what passes for harsh terms from a Fed chairman.

    “The country would be well served by a better process for making fiscal decisions,” he said. “The negotiations that took place over the summer disrupted financial markets and probably the economy as well, and similar events in the future could, over time, seriously jeopardize the willingness of investors around the world to hold U.S. financial assets or to make direct investments in job-creating U.S. businesses.”

    http://nationaljournal.com/economy/bernanke-returns-fire-with-a-lecture-20110826

    • Yes bito, except Bernanke didn’t allow the Fed to do ANYTHING to help unemployment. These are just words. Let’s see if he comes up with something in September, as he said he might. We have to remember that Bernanke, while not a crazy, is still a conservative Republican--albeit in the old-fashioned, sane way.

      • As you say Cher, it will have to wait until the next meeting and this was not a Fed meeting. He cannot do much unilaterally, it takes a vote and he has some board members even more conservative than he.

        The article I posted wasn’t addressing that aspect, it was about he speech this morning.

  2. Trumka cannot tell friend from foe. In a way, I can see why he cannot. Democrats bought into the free trade/globalization/deregulation business just as much as the GOP did. The legislation based upon those ideas did not help american workers at all; quite the opposite in fcat.
    And, that sits atop an underlying equivocal attitude toward unions in the USA.

    • Agrippa, that’s a good point about trade agreements. I have a hard time figuring out how to support the Dems while not being taken for granted. It’s a fine line but since we have a 2 party system it’s hard to influence a party by withholding votes, yet what other leverage is there? I’m NOT promoting that, just trying to find a way to influence.

  3. This seemeed like a weird Cher story--

    I’m actually relieved to see this is a business model that is failing.

    Don’t need a $100,000 razor? Portland company now has an $18,000 alternative
    http://www.oregonlive.com/silicon-forest/index.ssf/2011/08/dont_need_a_100000_razor_portland_company_now_has.html

    Oh, and more on that whole mosque arson after the Christmas tree bomb plot in Portland…

    Suspect in Corvallis mosque arson has history of mental illness and alcohol problems, lawyers say
    http://www.oregonlive.com/pacific-northwest-news/index.ssf/2011/08/suspect_in_corvallis_mosque_arson_has_history_of_mental_illness_and_alcohol_problems_lawyers_say.html

    Long-time suspect in mosque fire-bombing arrested
    http://www.gazettetimes.com/news/local/article_fad91c70-cf38-11e0-bb87-001cc4c002e0.html

    …and of course, he has a kid.

  4. Hey Cher!

    Good column today…lots of good stuff! But at the risk of being considered “shallow”, I have to make a comment about Michelle Bachmann’s shoes!

    Every single time I have seen a full-length shot of her on the campaign trail, she has indeed had on the most ugly shoes I’ve ever seen…like something my great-grandmother would wear. They certainly are not flattering to her, nor to they jive with the rest of her wardrobe! And then, she and Marcus take to the stage to dance?? It’s almost enough to make me gag! :-)

    Sorry…I guess I’m still just one of those jaded females!