Wednesday, April 30, 2008

NYT: Black preacher too charismatic

Yesterday the New York Times ran what was for all practical purposes an editorial on Jeremiah Wright disguised as a news story. Among the insights to be gained was this gem:

[I]t turns out that Mr. Wright doesn’t hate America, he loves the sound of his own voice.

It's hard to know what particular tool the author thought an African-American pastor would use to ply his trade if speaking was too much in bad taste.

Wright is accused of enjoying himself too much, speaking excitedly -- and on topics ranging from the bible to world affairs to black history! He is also indicted for making the very forum that developed in response to the media's portrayal of him as "anti-American" too much about himself and not enough about Obama. In conclusion, Jeremiah Wright is simply too much the black preacher, and too little the campaign asset to be useful to anyone of importance at the Times or within the Democratic party.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Official anthem of the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999

The Rub: Wright is Right, but not quite White

Barack Obama's former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, has a knack for saying things that are broadly incomprehensible to people in high places.

Here is one example:

Jesus said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” You cannot do terrorism on other people and expect it never to come back on you. Those are biblical principles...

Now, to be sure, one can debate the extent to which the United States has done "terrorism on other people," particularly if one was raised within its borders, and especially if one has, with hard work, ascended to some position of importance within either its media or university system, or other avenue of influence.

But here is a useful rule of thumb: people who aren't in the line of fire can do lots of things that the people who are can't. When you are hiding your family from US produced ordnance, or from the "security services" of your US-backed dictatorship, you need not debate with loved ones over the "quality" of the experience being provided courtesy of the American tax-payer. And in the event that you lose a loved one, you need not debate internally whether or not it was "worth it" -- human life being a finite resource, it probably wasn't.

Do such circumstances come about as a result of US policy? It is the kind of question that is best posed to a Nicaraguan farmer or a Saudi Arabian woman -- people who live in close proximity to the effects of our policies -- rather than, say, our highly-educated friends at Harvard or NBC; or at the editorial pages of the New York Times -- people who hear the kinds of things Jeremiah Wright says and faint. Not that there is anything wrong with them -- they just don't see very far beyond their own experiences, nor are they paid to do so.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Carter bitch-slaps Bush on Middle East

It is not a good sign when the business of a nation must be carried out on a volunteer basis by ex-statesmen who have not held office in over a quarter century. Nevertheless, Jimmy Carter's meeting with Hamas leaders in Syria this week was the most constructive development in the Mideast "peace process" since the Bush administration adopted the crisis as its pet cause.

In talks with Carter, Hamas consented to respect any agreement negotiated between rival faction leader Mahmoud Abbas and Israel, provided such an agreement was ratified by Palestinians in a referendum.

The Bush administration reacted with wrath at Carter's initiative, as it undermined the ongoing US/Israeli narrative that "there is no partner" for negotiations in Gaza, a popular justification for the ongoing military and economic embargo there. Mideast scholar Juan Cole writes that up to a million Palestinians now face starvation as the UN has been prevented from distributing food aid by the blockade.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Employers unite against the Employee Free Choice Act

Lee Scott, CEO of Wal-Mart, is desperate to protect worker's rights against a Democrat-backed labor reform bill likely to pass under the next administration, according to Thurday's Financial Times(1,2). Wal-Mart joins a growing coalition of business groups -- including the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Retail Federation, and the US Chamber of Commerce -- dedicated to lobbying against the bill.

"Our members believe this legislation is really detrimental to democracy and freedom of choice," said Jeri Gillespie of the National Association of Manufacturers.

The Employee Free Choice Act would change the way unions gain recognition from employers and the government by requiring majority signatures on membership cards in a workplace. According to organizers, this practice, standard in Canada and Western Europe, would make it harder for employers to disrupt their activity through intimidation and illegal firings.

Under current law, employers can recognize a union if a majority of employees sign a statement of support. However, employers also have the right to request a secret ballot, administered by the National Labor Relations Board. The new law would eliminate this prerogative, which includes "captive audience" meetings with employees to argue against union representation. Employers often hire "union avoidance consultants" to help undermine organizing efforts throughout the ballot process, and utilize the legal system to postpone or reverse the outcomes.

Lee Scott, however, chooses to frame the issue as a profound loss for workers: "It is terribly unfortunate that people are not talking about the fact that you are giving up your right to a secret ballot," he said. In his view, this opens up grave possibilities, such as employees being "subjected to the individual pressure of people calling you and knowing where you stand."

For most workers, the prospect of being fired by their employer for suspected union activity might weigh heavier on their minds than the non-binding judgment of their peers. According to Bruce Raynor of the Unite Here union, "Currently it almost behooves an employer to dismiss union supporters and break the law, because the penalties are so slight."

Nevertheless, the Wal-Mart chief bemoans what he see as the pernicious influence of powerful minority interests in the American workforce: "I think it's just unfortunate that it has become something that has been driven by a small group of people that have just extraordinary political influence."

But according to Rob Green, a lobbyist for the National Retail Federation, there is hope that the combined power of America's largest business lobbies might defeat a bill sponsored by a cabal of working people's organizations, bankrolled by the bottomless pockets of their mostly blue collar members.

"We're looking ahead to 2009. What we're trying to do this year is to educate legislators and the public at large about the details. We think the more the public learns, the less they like it."