My post blaming nine Democrats in the AZ Senate for helping to pass the second coming of a proposed constitutional ban on gay marriage was mistaken in this sense: Contrary to my statement, even if all nine had voted against the measure, the Republican majority would still have passed it.
The Republicans control both houses of this state's legislature. In this case, they had the votes, making all Democratic votes moot. I knew that. I guess my brain was in temporary shut down when I penned that bit about the vote. I apologize for misleading my readers, and I appreciate Craig's correction in the comments. I'll be more careful in the future.
Also regarding this vote, Leah Landrum Taylor's absence is certainly to be excused. An anonymous commenter reports that she is in bed, recovering from serious post-childbirth complications. Naturally, nobody expects any legislator to risk serious health consequences for the sake of a vote. We wish her and her family only the best, and hope for her full and speedy recovery.
That said, I have lingering concerns about the remaining eight no-shows. Perhaps I'm mistaken, but I do wonder whether eight more Democratic votes against this pernicious gay-baiting measure wouldn't have made a meaningful moral difference across this state, even if it wouldn't have altered the outcome.
I wonder what it would be like to see all the senators of my party stand as one against the fascism creeping across the state in the guise of "Christianity." I wonder what it would be like to see them stand with Paula Aboud and Ken Cheuvront, our two openly homosexual senators, in solidarity with the principle that all people are created equal, with certain unalienable rights.
They still have a chance to do so. The Senate rules were broken in order to silence Aboud and Cheuvront and ramrod the vote. Perhaps that renders the vote itself out of order? I don't know the Senate rules. Far be it from me to offer strategy suggestions. I can only say that I hope that, at the soonest strategically opportune moment, the Democratic senators will find an effective way to address the Republicans' contempt for Senate rules and for the people's business.
I hope, as well, that Arizona's voters remember in November.
Is standing for a bedrock, foundational American principle really too much to ask of legislators? Really? Judging from the behavior of both Republicans and Democrats at every level, and about this matter and numerous others, it is. This readiness to throw principle overboard for the sake of pandering to the lowest common denominator, or for the sake of staying in office, is THE reason why Americans are sick of both parties, nationally and locally.
They're not "leaders." They aren't leading anybody. Although I concede that there are differences of degree among the individuals involved, for the most part, I fear that we have governments of propagandists and panderers, riffraff guns for hire.
Monday, June 30, 2008
My post blaming nine Democrats in the AZ Senate for helping to pass the second coming of a proposed constitutional ban on gay marriage was mistaken in this sense: Contrary to my statement, even if all nine had voted against the measure, the Republican majority would still have passed it.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
As a dutiful Arizonan much concerned to preserve matrimony in its present thoroughly unsullied, post-Britney-Haggard-McCain-Craig state, I must advise Cathi (love that "i," don't you?) Herrod and the Center for Arizona Policy of a fatal weakness in her strategy to limit marrying to one man and one woman.
Someone should bring this immediately to Mrs. Herrod's attention even if she can't read. Tell it to her. Slowly.
The thing is, the plan to reserve marriage to "one man and one woman" actually won't keep gay men and lesbians out of marriage. It can't.
Sometimes gay men and lesbians enter into matrimony in the usual way: by wedding a member of the opposite sex. Worse, they're driven to it by social disapproval--exactly the same thing that's behind Cathi's proposed amendment, right?
So here's my worry. What if heaping still more abuse onto homosexuals isn't going to keep us out of the closet after all? What if it has just the opposite effect?
More and more of us will want to hide, right? And what better way to hide than getting married? You see the concern.
Cathi Herrod's strategy will mean that even more of us will get married to forestall the dreadful possibility that someday we will want to get married.
It's too horrible to contemplate.
I can see only one solution.
If Mrs. Herrod really wants to reserve marriage for heterosexuals, she's going to have to call for a constitutional test--er, I mean a test in the constitution--for bona fide heterosexuality, and any man or woman who wants to get married in this state will first have to pass it.
I'm sure that Mrs. Herrod can devise a fool-proof--well, maybe not "fool"-proof exactly, more "pouf-proof"--method to prove heterosexuality.
Actually, I think they have a test like that already. It's for sex offenders. (Oh my.)
No need to reinvent the wheel, Cathi. Just come up with something for the girls and we're good to go. Pass the test and get married with heterosexual bells ringing.
I can't imagine anyone would balk at that. There's certainly no reason for worry. . .
Nine of the ten AZ senators who didn't show up for the vote to put a new anti-gay AZ constitutional amendment plan on the ballot were Democrats. They are:
Amanda Aguirre (D-24)
Marsha Arzberger (D-25)
Albert Hale (D-2)
Leah Landrum Taylor (D-16)
Debbie McCune Davis (D-14)
Richard Miranda (D-16)
Charlene Pesquiera (D-26)
Rebecca Rios (D-23)
Victor Soltero (D-29)
At least one of them opposes the measure to reserve the secular benefit of marriage to one man and one woman. She told me so, in person.
Yes, responsibility for this dangerous demagoguery belongs chiefly to AZ Republicans, who never miss a chance to demostrate their moral superiority by lying about and placing their feet on the necks of Arizonans (and others) they don't like.
But if we fail to hold these craven Democratic no-shows accountable for the assistance they provided by their absense, we do ourselves a disservice. If even six had voted "nay," this measure would have failed. After all, two similar measures failed: A more stringent version was defeated by AZ voters in 2006, and just days ago, a previous vote on SCR 1042 failed in this same chamber.
This time, however, Senate Republicans, bowing to the lowest common denominator--the un-American, pro-bigotry Center for Arizona Policy, led by "extremist fundamentalist" Cathi Herrod--maneuvered illegally to ram the measure through.
Even Republican Senate President Tim Bee (Tucson), "who had been trying to keep the proposed amendment off the calendar, lambasted the Center for Arizona Policy (CAP), the right-wing lobbying group behind the marriage amendment, for what he described as their divisive tactics, hostility, coercion and threats," before "he publicly buckled under the pressure and became the constitutionally-mandated sixteenth vote to place the measure on the ballot."
Significantly, Bee's district defeated the 2006 measure. Bee is opposed this year by Democrat Gabrielle Giffords.
The measure came to a second vote thanks to cheating by "Majority Leader Thayer Verschoor (R-Gilbert) and Majority Whip John Huppenthal (R-Chandler), among others. [They] devised a scheme with committee chairman Jack Harper (R- rural District 4) to violate the rules of the Senate and the rights of [lesbian and gay] Senators [Paula] Aboud and [Ken] Cheuvront" during the pre-vote debate.
This Republican exercise in contempt for the voters ultimately allowed Republicans to ramrod the vote through the Senate before the session adjourned sine die.
Veteran political observers say the measure is being backed by Republicans as bait to attract lethargic GOP voters to the polls this November. They hope to drum up more votes for Bush clone Senator John McCain.
Friday, June 27, 2008
Using a little known and rarely used rule that requires hearing to adjourn after two hours unless there is unanimous approval, two Senate hearings exploring subjects sensitive to the Republican administration were arbitrarily shut down. Here's the tape.
This is not just about quashing an embarrassing investigation. In line with the views of David Addington and John Yoo and Dick Cheney and George Bush, this is about defiance of the constitutionally mandated balance of powers in the US government. When one party blocks investigations into the actions of the other's White House, effectively it blocks Congress's constitutional right of oversight.
I was around during Watergate. At that time, everyone at least played by the rules set by the Constitution. Not so much anymore.
Anybody care? I mean, it is your country.
Anti-immigration "Minutemen" founder Jim Gilchrist laments the possibility of violence in the movement he helped to create.
"Today, Gilchrist is worried that a few self-proclaimed patriots might be carrying a gun.Oh well duh. Sorry, but there's no way on earth I believe he didn't see the possibility of violence. I mean, words like "invasion" don't exactly conjure rose petals--oh. Er. Unless you're name is Rumsfeld. Maybe Gilchrist was just following his Fuhrer? Consider:
"After seeing online videos that encouraged border violence amid calls to crack down on illegal immigration, the 59-year-old Aliso Viejo resident said he feels responsible for what started out as a publicity campaign and has since fallen prey to internal divisions and to influence by people he believed had 'Saddam Hussein mentalities.'
"'In retrospect, had I seen this, had I had a crystal ball to see what is going to happen… Am I happy? No,' Gilchrist said in a phone conversation late last week. Am I happy at the outcome of this whole movement? I am very, very sad, very disappointed.'"
'"It's an 'invasion'," Gilchrist said of illegal immigration across the border between the United States and Mexico, "but it's not a war. It is a covert 'Trojan Horse invasion'."He can't go around carelessly spewing words like "war" and "vigilante" and "invasion" about brown-skin Mexican immigrants without expecting, if not inviting, militant neo-Nazi types to join his little tea party.
"That's a marked difference from the Gilchrist who led supporters on a caravan across the country two years ago to President Bush's ranch in Crawford, TX, shouting at critics before leaving from Los Angeles: 'Minutemen, stand your ground!. . . If it's a war he wants, then let it begin here.'"
"The year before, just back from the border trip, he told a group of 150 supporters at an anti-illegal immigration group meeting: 'I'm damned proud to be a vigilante.'
"Last year, a coalition of human rights and labor groups labeled Gilchrist a 'voice of intolerance' in the debate over immigration reform. In 2005, the Montgomery, Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center reported that neo-Nazis had joined the border-watching event led by Gilchrist."
Gilchrist is he who waged an internal war with our own Chris Simcox over control of the Minuteman Project. Sorry, but he can't now divorce himself from the consequences of his deliberate racist organizing. He built it, he owns it.
If you don't know who David Addington is or what he does, you really need to get your head out. The New Yorker has a fascinating profile here. It begins thus:
On December 18th, Colin Powell, the former Secretary of State, joined other prominent Washington figures at FedEx Field, the Redskins’ stadium, in a skybox belonging to the team’s owner. During the game, between the Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys, Powell spoke of a recent report in the Times which revealed that President Bush, in his pursuit of terrorists, had secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on American citizens without first obtaining a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, as required by federal law. This requirement, which was instituted by Congress in 1978, after the Watergate scandal, was designed to protect civil liberties and curb abuses of executive power, such as Nixon’s secret monitoring of political opponents and the F.B.I.’s eavesdropping on Martin Luther King, Jr. Nixon had claimed that as President he had the “inherent authority” to spy on people his Administration deemed enemies, such as the anti-Vietnam War activist Daniel Ellsberg. Both Nixon and the institution of the Presidency had paid a high price for this assumption. But, according to the Times, since 2002 the legal checks that Congress constructed to insure that no President would repeat Nixon’s actions had been secretly ignored.So, when a VP who is sworn to uphold, protect, and defend the Constitution instead hires and faithfully follows the thinking of a man who hates, ignores, and undermines the Constitution, do we have an impeachable offense? Inquiring minds want to know.
According to someone who knows Powell, his comment about the article was terse. “It’s Addington,” he said. “He doesn’t care about the Constitution.” Powell was referring to David S. Addington, Vice-President Cheney’s chief of staff and his longtime principal legal adviser. [emphasis added]
Seriously, Americans are as dumb as a box of paper clips.
Here are attorneys for the VP and the President testifying before Congress on when the President can torture, and what kinds of torture he can engage in--you know, trivia like that.
Did you think that, in the USA, Congress had the constitutional right to hold the Executive Branch accountable to the laws of the land? Well, think again.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
"The McCain campaign is managed by a cadre of Washington-insider special interest lobbyists. He and his current wife are estimated to be worth about $100 million. He reportedly owns eight houses. His let-them-eat-cake economic policies are based on George Bush's failed radical conservative "you're on your own buddy" philosophy. One after another he supported trade agreements that protect the rights of corporations, but ignore the rights of labor, and have devastated one Pennsylvania community after another. He gets most of his campaign cash from the wealthiest corporate interests around. And he has the gall to call Barack Obama an 'elitist'?"
Monday, June 23, 2008
Current cries to open ANWAR and offshore drilling are only the environmental counterpart to yesterday's shrieks about waging war on Iraq to fight terrorism. The presnit is using fear to further his own and his cronies' financial interests rather than using common sense to think America out of our paralyzing dependence on petroleum. This is just the most recent reason why he ought to be in prison, IMHO.
Nothing we do today will ease today's gas prices.
ANWAR's estimated supply will provide only 3 months' worth of US demand.
It would take 10 years for oil pumped from ANWAR to reach your gas tank.
Besides, oil companies already have numerous offshore leases just waiting to be drilled using lateral drilling technologies that are now feasible. It's merely a matter of new drilling permits, not of new leases.
But the last thing we need, or deserve, is more offshore leases and more drilling permits. Allowing the petrol giants more access now, especially without windfall profit taxes and mandatory investments in alternative fuels, simply creates more profits for Bush, Cheney and their ilk, provides the illusion that the US is doing something about the oil crisis, and undermines Congress' already shaky interest in investing in alternative fuels. It's dumb, short-sighted, and it's a been-there-done-that "up yours, America" that we ought to be tipped to by now.
We have billions of barrels of oil already stored, not only in the vast Naval Petroleum Reserve next door to ANWAR, but also in underground storage across Louisiana and Texas, among other places. These and the national reserves can be tapped immediately. If they were, theoretically we might feel a price reduction at the pumps in the imaginable future. If they aren't, on the other hand, we can know that the oil giants are banking it, reluctant to sell today at $4/gallon what they can sell tomorrow at $6/gallon.
I hope Congress won't let itself be intimidated by partisan rhetoric and fear, but having seen it cave so many times lately, won't we be amazed if it holds the line!
Whenever comments are submitted, Pico gets an email alert. He just received the following this morning:
Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Basha's "Family Values" To Be Aired Before House C...":Instead of accepting this in comment form, I'm publishing it this way. It's an object lesson.
'Too bad that alot of the workers that did get fired were those who the outsourced company invited with open arms. The problem wasnt with the new company it was with the current employees that never showed up for work or when they did show, spent more time talking than working. Get real dood, I am for changes but this is just another way for minority groups to say OMG the whiteman did it. (And yes Im black so what).'
This writer doesn't know that I know personally three of the men whose jobs were terminated by outsourcing, or that I know a great deal about the details surrounding this case. He or she doesn't know that I saw one of them give sworn testimony before the United States Congress last week, or that even George Bush's National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) charged Basha's with over 70 violations of federal labor law.
Facts about this and other labor complaints against the Basha's chain of grocery stores can be found at the BashasWatch site.
The would-be smear job I received this morning is typical of the mentality that abuses workers who seek fair and safe working conditions. Nonsensical -- why would the new company offer to hire workers just fired for the reasons he alleges -- and a pitiable attempt to race-bait, the post is also a fraud from start to finish. I don't know whether shame or cowardice led to the decision to post anonymously. Either way, it broadcasts the writer's refusal to accept personal responsibility, and that's what this whole thing was about in the first place.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
The McSame you won't see in the US press.
What if you knew that genocide doesn’t necessarily mean what we think it does?
What if you knew that it can begin to happen without our even noticing?
Well, now you do.
In 1996, the International Campaign to End Genocide identified for the US Department of State the eight stages of genocide.
Take a look.
While you’re looking, think about how undocumented immigrants are being discussed on US talk radio, in the press, on Lou Dobbs, in Congress. Notice the swell of violence against immigrants all over the world. Ask yourself whether that doesn’t somehow seem to legitimize it here. Consider the for-profit detention centers—here, on US soil. Focus on the deaths in detention, on the number of parents separated from children by our ICE agents, on demands to deny citizenship to "anchor babies."
Think of the effect of that term on how Americans perceive Latino migrant children. Consider that bills are being written all over the country to deny healthcare to "illegals." Think of that word as a weapon of mass dehumanization. Reflect on the working conditions the immigrants face at Agriprocessors and Smithfield and other US meat packing facilities. Think about racist militias gathering at the border and surrounding (legal) day worker centers here in the land of the free. Consider how many US sheriffs' departments and local police forces are being militarized in the hyped-up war on immigrants. Think how you'd feel if you were the target of dawn and midnight raids and cattle pen roundups.
If even CNN can flagrantly rely on Tanton's white supremacist propaganda machine instead of using respectable, comprehensive immigration data, what makes you so sure that someday you won't be?
I'm daring you--YOU--to read through these online resources on genocide and tell ushow many of the stages of genocide we've let loose on US residents of Hispanic origin--citizens and noncitizens. Or, if you still don’t think that the stages of genocide apply, tell us what differences you see, because I don’t see them.
What I see are my friends and colleagues frightened that they, too, can be caught up and ICE'd even though they are US citizens or are here with proper documents. What I see, all over the world, is that with enough propaganda, in the right conditions--usually economic hardship such as we are experiencing here, now--genocide can occur readily enough. We can all be its enablers if not its agents--witting or unwitting--given sufficient hate speech and rage--or given sufficient apathy and cowardice.
There's certainly a difference between what’s going on all across America right now and full-scale genocide. But it's a difference of actualization, not of potential. All the elements are in place, including the street thugs and way too many complicit police.
What I see going on in Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Maricopa County, AZ, and in Sheriff Chuck Jenkins' Frederick, MD (more here), in and dozens of other small and large towns across America undoubtedly threatens our constitutional democracy to exactly the same degree that it threatens Latinos.
Genocide begins with the unswerving conviction that Das Volk--the people--are under threat from a specific group, and that breaking our own laws, defying our own moral and ethical conventions, and ignoring our own Constitution are justified in their defense.
What does it mean that the United Nations has issued several condemnations of America's human rights record under the Bush Regime?
What does it mean that the same Regime embraces torture, and how many degrees of moral principle separate those who are willing to torture from those who are willing to commit genocide? Who can tell me? If we do nothing to stop this, what are we? And how long do we wait to decide?
Denial is the fertile ground necessary for genocide to take root. Seen from that point of view, the eight stages represent at least half a dozen opportunities to prevent it. Starting now.
(Since 1948, the crime of genocide has been clearly defined in the International Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide. Maybe if it were required reading along with the eight stages of genocide, it wouldn’t be a 21st Century epidemic.)
Saturday, June 21, 2008
Finally, for once, Thomas Friedman makes sense. I wish that he'll soon come to a similar conclusion about the Occupation.
So, that thought nobody wants to speak out loud: Instead of spending even one second of good energy fearing it, put your effort instead into surrounding Obama and his family with a sphere of light, an impenetrable protective shield that keeps them safe. Envision his breathing in strength and wisdom and love, and breathing them out again. Envision his drawing out all our cooperation and power to make radical changes for The Greater Good. Envision an invincible American citizenry united for change coming out to the polls in a tidal wave. Envision it, and then be the change you want to see.
Friday, June 20, 2008
Tired of crap about the Occupation? Get the facts.
The cozy and sordid relationship between two pillars of the Washington media's Republican protection machine sort of begins to explain why everyone in politics and media is bending the knee at Russert's grave. I can't imagine what will happen when Novak dies.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Basha's, Inc., a major Arizona grocery chain, was spotlighted today on Capitol Hill for unsafe and illegal employment practices at its distribution center.
A. C. Span, a former Basha's employee "outsourced" for focusing managers' attention on workplace accidents and hazards, was among a panel of sworn expert witnesses testifying before the House Committee on Education and Labor on governments' underreporting of workplace injuries. The hearing on "Hidden Tragedy: Underreporting of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses," viewable in Phoenix by webcast, repeatedly emphasized that US government data systematically under-report anywhere from 30% to 60% of workplace injuries.
It also highlighted the Bureau of Labor Statistics/OSHA practice of interviewing only employers, not employees, in field data collection on workplace injuries and work-related illnesses.
Today's hearing disclosed numerous methodological discrepancies among OSHA, Workers' Compensation, and BLS in how they define work-related injuries and in what sources they utilize to determine how many and what types occur each year. While Workers'Compensation data are far more extensive than OSHA's data, definitions among the 50 state workers' comp databases and OSHA's about what constitutes a reportable injury or illness and how each is defined vary widely. Further skews result because many workers--including the self-employed--are not included at all.
The hearing revealed also that there are wide descrepancies between hospital records and employer records on the same case, yet government data rely exclusively on logs and reports employers maintain at the worksite. For instance, one panelist noted that BLS missed 67% of amputations that occurred in one year in Michigan.
Committee Chairman George Miller was visibly incredulous when told that BLS investigators do not routinely also interview employees when on data-gathering site visits to the "establishments" included in its database. (An employer such as Basha's can operate numerous establishments, or worksites.)
Span's under-oath testimony was particularly relevant in offsetting one panelist's assertion that employers have no incentive to under-report because already, under current practices, US employers are likely to be investigated only once in 100 years.
Span's testimony made clear that fear of investigation is not the only reason some employers intentionally deflate worker injury counts at their establishments. Some employers, for instance, offer incentives and bonuses to company physicians, HR personnel, and others to turn in low counts. Others punish workers for injuries or related complaints. Others expect company physicians to certify workers to return to work before they are recovered, and others use worker team incentives that discourage one member from reporting an injury in order to preserve rewards for other team members.
Span stated that Basha's point system can penalize workers who report injuries, miss work because of injuries, seek ways to work with managers to minimize accidents, or attempt to organize the workplace as a way to ensure worker safety. He testified that points can be deducted for "infractions" such as reporting injuries, with consequences ranging from "light duty" to termination. An employee placed on "light duty" will almost certainly see his or her hourly rate slashed to minimum wage for the duration--regardless of cause of injury or seniority.
Span, testifing under oath, stated that when he and co-workers approached managers to institute a safety committee, office doors were literally slammed in their faces. Span is among several workers whose jobs at Basha's disappeared overnight through outsourcing when, they allege, they sought managers' cooperation in addressing worksite hazards ranging from inadequate training for operating heavy forklift equipment in high traffic areas to nails on floors. Span stated that it can take 5 to 6 months to become proficient in operating a forklift in warehouse-like conditions where other workers are in the immediate vicinity.
Span testified to toe amputations, smashed fingers, and other serious injuries at the Basha's distribution facility. He himself was injured in the immediate presence of his supervisor when debris from a truck he was unloading flew into his eye. Workers are not provided safety glasses at the Basha's facility. Span was given points for reporting his injury, and testified that it was not included on the establishment's OSHA log. He also alledged that the facility has even hired heavy equipment operators who don't have drivers' licenses.
The hearing noted that probably 90% of US employers try to provide accurate and fair workplace safety reports. Those who don't not only skew national data, but also are highly unlikely to address safety concerns. Even recording near misses and first-aid cases can help conscientious employers develop accident prevention methods. Employers who low-ball accident reports thus also low-ball national prevention strategies.
Unsafe workplace practices can also be seen as a kind of unfair "cost-savings" competition against others in the same industry.
For more on Basha's, see the "Hungry for Justice" campaign organized by Interfaith Worker Justice AZ, a coalition of people of faith to encourage safe, humane, fair, and healthy worker policies. (IWJ-AZ is not affiliated with any union.)
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Mr. A. C. Span, among several warehouse workers outsourced by Bashas' Inc. after they began forming a union to address concerns about workplace safety, will deliver testimony to the US House Education and Labor Committee this Thursday, June 19, at 7:30 a.m., Arizona time.
The House committee will hear A. C. describe the ways that Bashas' warehouse management discourages reporting of workplace injuries and illnesses and attempts to suppress organizing for worker safety.
Watch the webcast on the House Education and Labor Committee website: http://edlabor.house.gov/
Basha's is well known for claiming that it treats its workers are like family. Scary thought for those whom it just treats like workers, isn't it?
Think about the workers when you're making your next grocery list.
T Don Hutto: Women's Commission Calls on ICE to Follow Congressional Directives on Family Detention
What's it going to take, people? Are we going to have to make everyone read Mein Kampf or what?
Just exactly what part of POLICE STATE aren't we getting?
A tip of the sombrero to Zelph for putting me onto the Daily Howler.
If you've ever wondered why Tim Russert never, never, never ruffled any Republican feathers, get this (read the whole thing at the Daily Howler):
Special report: Novels, all the way down!It's not about Catholics, or East Coast, or Irish. It's about locking in one specific filter for US news reporting, which includes the original sort of what gets reported, as well as the spin and the point of view. It's about respect, obedience as defined by one of the most powerful man in US media, GE Chairman Jack Welch (now retired).
PART 1—RESPECTFUL/OBEDIENT: If we might paraphrase Bertrand Russell: When the pundit corps remembers Tim Russert, it’s novels, all the way down. In today’s Post, Gene Robinson’s column is a “cluelessness classic.” But let’s start with the discussion of Russert conducted last evening on "Hardball."
Under Jack Welch, NBC News became a news division without real precedent in modern history; to a remarkable degree, it became an ethnic news division.(Note: By long tradition, most American news orgs were “ethnic” in the sense that they were all-white.) How thoroughly ethnic did this news org become? When Bush and Gore debated in October 2000, MSNBC assembled a five-member panel to discuss the sessions:
Brian Williams (moderator)
Doris Kearns Goodwin
Remarkably, all five were East Coast Irish Catholics! First guest commentator on the air each night? Tim Russert, East Coast Irish Catholic! (Tom Brokaw tagged along with Russert, presumably serving as chaperone.) Under Welch, East Coast Irish Catholics were put in place at the news division’s key spots. (We have no idea if this was done as part of some conscious plan.) Russert became moderator of Meet the Press; Matthews became king of NBC cable; and Williams was locked in place as Brokaw’s successor on Nightly News. Once his runs for public office ceased, Pat Buchanan (East Coast Irish Catholic) emerged as top cable pundit. Under Welch, Robert Wright (East Coast Irish Catholic) became president and CEO of NBC. And the network hired so many O’Donnells, they were routinely said, by us, to have their own page in the company’s phone book.
[Note for the nervous: We were raised East Coast Irish Catholic ourselves. Our grandmother’s maiden name: Callahan. Location of service: Outside Boston.]
Everyone in the wider press world avoided noting this peculiar way of staffing a news division. Except USA Today’s Peter Johnson, who offered this as part of an unusually frank profile of Russert:
JOHNSON (11/1/00): Russert, a Roman Catholic, refers to his religion on Meet the Press and speaks reverentially about moderating. "If there's such a thing as a non-religious vocation, this is it." Colleagues say he shares a Catholic bond with NBC president Bob Wright and General Electric chairman Jack Welch.
In the 1990s, Russert bought a summer home on Nantucket—joining Welch and Wright on the island. Matthews bought a $4.4 million home there in 2003.
Is there actually something wrong with building a news division this way? Consider last night’s discussion on "Hardball." Producers had assembled a three-man panel to discuss Russert and his legacy. . . . More
As telling, to me, is the Nantucket enclave. This is the kind of information we deserve but never seem to have about who's giving us the daily feed. Maybe I'm just a jaded little Chi, but I don't think Russert or Matthews ever did or ever will dump on the (extremely wealthy, powerful, Republican) neighbors, do you?
Remember to visit the Howler for Part II and maybe more.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Chris Matthews seems in a clumsy way to indict Tim Russert for helping to sell the Iraq war:
It's a fair criticism, albeit delivered in Matthews' inimitable man-crush style. What he's saying seems to be that Russert, as Everyman, was as susceptible to administration lies as the rest of us average guys.
That's all well and good, but Russert wasn't paid to be an average guy, was he. He was paid, I hope, to look even harder when his "average patriot" button was pushed. He did just the opposite.
(It has been noticed that the transcript of this comment has "disappeared" from Matthews' site. Unfortunately the YouTube version has not.)
High fuel prices curtail business at Nevada brothel
The Shady Lady Ranch is feeling the pinch from high fuel prices, and the operator of the Nevada brothel will begin offering a $50 gas card to customers who spend more than $300 at the ranch; paying customers who spend $500 will get a $100 gas card.
Las Vegas Review-Journal; June 17
This from the Bottleneck Blog at the LA Times:
There's more if you're interested.
Random searches of passengers and their belongings will begin next week on Metrolink commuter trains, the agency announced Thursday. Passengers got the news via a flier left on train seats.
Sheriff's deputies will be setting up random screening stations at random times. "Access to the station platform will be restricted; passengers must pass through the checkpoint to gain access to the station platform," stated the flier.
The release goes on to say that some passengers will be selected from those lines and have their baggage searched. Anyone who refuses to be searched won't be allowed to get on the train. Deputies are looking for "explosives" or other "dangerous items."
Metrolink spokeswoman Denise Tyrrell told me this morning that the searches are not in response to any threats that have been made against trains.
"It's more in response to what has become standard procedure at other commuter rail agencies across the country," she said. "We were one of the few who wasn't doing this, and we thought it would be a good idea to step up the security a little bit."
She said police are primarily looking for explosives, but won't turn a blind eye to other issues. "They are police officers," Tyrrell added. "If you have a half a pound of hash in your book bag, they are going to arrest you. I would suggest if that's the case you are one of the people that wants to walk away."
Not happy. No US passenger train has been a successful target of terrorists. It's election season. LA is pretty much border country. There's a war on brown people. Privatized prisons need prisoners to make a profit, and there's just no telling what can turn up in a random search. WHOOOHOOOO!!
You say, "Yes, but just because they haven't blown up a train doesn't mean they won't"?
Yes, and just because they haven't used a yacht to blow up a harbor doesn't mean they won't. Let's randomly detain and sweep yachts, what say!
I doubt this is about security. I think this is one more goose step toward a fascist police state. We'll kvetch and argue, and the Fearful will support it because, "You know, it COULD happen here! I mean it DID happen in Madrid!" And while we're busily selling out, random searches and seizures on subways will be added to spying on our emails, letters, parcels, and phone calls. Just in case.
What's next? Random house searches? Well, why not? Exactly where's the logical distinction between private homes and private backpacks in the "Well it Could Happen" school of constitutional law?
This makes me angry. I strongly suspect that this is Joe Arpaio-style intimidation aimed at the LA immigrant population. This is about undocumented workers. Any number of them--Latino, Chinese, African, and others--ride the LA tube. It will mean that many won't take the subway, won't make it to work, and then won't have a job. Some who lose their already all-too-insecure jobs will lose their homes. So, once again in the USA, while we're having our pedicures and Jiffy Lubing the Beemer, human beings will be turned into hungry, frightened prey. And once again, the cover of dealing with "illegal immigration" will blind us to how smoothly we're simultaneously being habituated to life in a police state.
Conservatives who think this incrementalism is just hunky-dory as long as we're talking "terrorism" seem to have forgotten core conservative principles like the sanctity of private property and "reasonable suspicion." But this is only to be expected from the party of idiots like Newt Gingrich and Pat Buchanan. They're denouncing (!) the Supreme Court for upholding habeas corpus!
You just have to wonder. As many have observed, detention and imprisonment are government's most terrifying power, short of outright assassination. But habeas corpus is one of the few thin walls standing between you and that government out of control. You'd think a conservative would get that, wouldn't you?
I think they do get that, when it comes to yachts and white people. When it comes to the rest, all I can think is that they're vanguard soldiers in the police state or stockholders in the Corrections Corporation of America. Or both.
For seven years, our government has only had to whisper "terrorism" to stampede us from defending the world's noblest experiment in democracy. We celebrate racist campaigns not seen since WWII. We welcome violations of the Constitution and make laws to protect the perpetrators. We just don't get it that when we strip the rights from some of us, we strip the rights from all. It's inevitable.
I have just one question: Why are we such pathetic, sell-out losers?
If you’ve never seen a conservative cite the US Constitution to defend somebody else’s human rights, maybe you wonder why. After all, common decency and patriotism seem so clearly to dictate the opposite!
Ronald Reagan called Russell Kirk the “prophet of American conservatism,” and the New York Times said that Kirk’s 1953 book, The Conservative Mind "gave American conservatives an identity and a genealogy and catalyzed the postwar movement.” Bear this in mind when you think about John McSame.
Among his Ten Conservative Principles, Kirk lists (1) belief in an enduring moral order; (2) adherence to custom, convention, and continuity; (3) belief that certain arrangements are proper by virtue of antiquity, such as the right to private property; (4) conviction that a healthy society requires diversity in “orders and classes, differences in material condition, and many sorts of inequality;” (5) belief in human imperfectability—not imperfection, but imperfectability; and (6) conviction that private property is the basis of civilization and freedom.
If you want a primer on the intellectual basis for conservatives’ opposition to the constitutional doctrine of equality, start there.
The first three principles establish a devout reverence for things as they’ve always been and explain why conservatives think government must not correct social wrongs, prevent environmental catastrophes, regulate the market, tackle global warming. To conservatives, each of these steps (a) infringes on the rights of private property owners and (b) violates the divinely ordained social order.
Though most of us believe in enduring principles of right and wrong, conservatives see the established moral order in terms of the medieval Great Chain of Being. A (white, male) God sits atop the chain, followed by angels, (white, male) princes and potentates, birds, fish, animals, plants, and so on. (Women and people of color are understood to be in there somewhere under white men.)
Though long discredited by the theory of evolution, the Great Chain remains the perfect conservative metaphor for the “moral ” universe. This helps to explain fundamentalist conservatives’ outright hostility to science–especially to evolution.
Add their extreme devotion to tradition and the conviction that humans are incapable of evolving morally (see Calvin, also Original Sin) and you can see why conservatives believe they are mandated to oppose equality on the grounds that it is both illogical and unnatural.
It gets worse. The next three principles both sanctify social injustices with the claim that because God ordained them forever they are part of a perfect order, and also equate owning private property with being morally superior.
This, too, is derived from Calvin (see “TULIP"). In time, Calvin’s “doctrine of Election” emerged as the ideal justification for capitalism’s worst tendencies. Conservatives reasoned that if God really has damned some and saved others up front, we ought to be able to tell which is which. Well. Obviously wealth is proof of God’s pleasure and poverty is proof of God’s anger. You can hear it preached in any fundamentalist church and many evangelical churches today. (That might explain their popularity.)
On these Calvinist origins, conservatives built a massively self-serving justification for greed, and a determination to blame only the individual for his or her inequality. This heritage explains Republicans’ hostility, despite clear evidence to the contrary, to the fact that some inequities are systemic (say, sexism and racism), and others result from events totally beyond human control (like Katrina or the Great Depression). Regardless of the problem, “individual responsibility” is the conservative’s only answer.
As a result, conservatives not only wish to leave gaping inequities in place. They also feel just fine about making the poor even more miserable. Possibly you've noticed?
Those who believe poverty is a sign both of God’s displeasure and of a person’s individual failings reason that the poor are supposed to be punished. Maybe you can see why there’s no light between George Bush and fundamentalist Christians.
What I’ve written here is shorthand. If I’m not exactly saying that Calvin made Bush screw New Orleans, I am saying that Calvin certainly didn’t inspire him to help out. (See also Naomi Klein’s explanation of extreme capitalism (aka Chicago School economics, "free trade) for more about why Bush watched New Orleans drown--while eating birthday cake with John McCain.)
I’m saying that John Calvin explains why George Bush and John McCain can cheerfully exploit and oppress the poor (and deny veterans decent care and a GI bill) and still claim to be living a “Christian” life. Calvin explains why all conservatives think Roosevelt’s New Deal is accursed no matter how undeniably, phenomenally successful it was at creating and maintaining the world’s most productive and stable middle class. Despite the facts, conservatives still believe that social safety nets (a) interfere in the ordained social order (but airplanes don’t), and (b) undermine our moral character (unlike lying and occupying foreign lands in order to steal their assets).
A nasty, neo-Darwinian view of human relationships has convinced conservatives that cooperation undermines us. Only the richest, meanest, and most selfish of us will survive. (I call this quasi- Ayn Randism "neo-Darwinian" because, as Riane Eisler points out, Darwin never said “fitness” means being a sociopath.) In effect, this makes the richest and meanest SOB the conservative’s ideal Moral Man (and I do mean "man").
There, at a glance, is is the why of conservatives’ holy marriage of corporatism to fascism.
Last but not least, Kirk shows us why conservatism is so closely aligned with Far Right racist organizations; why socially respectable conservatives never angrily repudiate white supremacists; why Fox News and Ann Coulter speak to the conservative soul, and why Michael Savage and Rush Limbaugh are just so many John the Baptists to Bush’s Call-me-Jesus. For them, racism, classism, sexism, and homophobia aren’t just matters of political expediency. They go much deeper than the desire to preserve white heterosexual male privilege and sweep elections. This stuff is bred in the conservative bone.
For me, all this exposes conservatives' radical political activism for what it is: an inherently corrosive, endlessly corrupting “end justifies the means” oddly theological war on the US Constitution. It’s plain in Gonzalez’s tactics to deny the vote to the poor and minorities, the GOP’s black-box vote fixes, the lies behind Iraq (the profiteer’s wet dream), our embracing torture and domestic spying despite the law, and all the billions in kickbacks to crony pharmaceuticals, big oil, and Halliburton/KBR.
Conservatism is a big tent, all right.
Certainly not all conservatives are raving white supremacists, but all white supremacists are extreme conservatives. And even though most conservatives might not be aware of their Calvinist intellectual roots, every conservative policy—from tax breaks for the wealthy to privatized prisons to global imperialism and minority oppression—stems from these antiquated ideas. You can hear them, outright and whole, in the megachurches, subtly and in fragments at the Yale School of Business, and vestigally in a backwoods Illinois roadhouse.
Sadly, these beliefs are what they are. Sadly, too, they tell me that Obama-like plans for enlightened bipartisanship are likely doomed. We just aren’t dealing with Eisenhower any more. (PS: Read Jeff Sharlett's The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power.)
Well, here's a billion of it. Read the article.
Can someone explain to me why Congress keeps funding this occupation? Are they all on KBR's informal payroll?
June 17, 2008 - NY Times
Army Overseer Tells of Ouster Over KBR Stir
By James Risen
WASHINGTON — The Army official who managed the Pentagon’s largest contract in Iraq says he was ousted from his job when he refused to approve paying more than $1 billion in questionable charges to KBR, the Houston-based company that has provided food, housing and other services to American troops.
The official, Charles M. Smith, was the senior civilian overseeing the multibillion-dollar contract with KBR during the first two years of the war. Speaking out for the first time, Mr. Smith said that he was forced from his job in 2004 after informing KBR officials that the Army would impose escalating financial penalties if they failed to improve their chaotic Iraqi operations.
Army auditors had determined that KBR lacked credible data or records for more than $1 billion in spending, so Mr. Smith refused to sign off on the payments to the company. “They had a gigantic amount of costs they couldn’t justify,” he said in an interview. “Ultimately, the money that was going to KBR was money being taken away from the troops, and I wasn’t going to do that.”
But he was suddenly replaced, he said, and his successors — after taking the unusual step of hiring an outside contractor to consider KBR’s claims — approved most of the payments he had tried to block. . . .
The Army also convened boards that awarded KBR high performance bonuses, according to Mr. Smith.
High grades on its work in Iraq also allowed KBR to win more work from the Pentagon, and this spring, KBR was awarded a share in the new 10-year contract. The Army also announced that Serco, RCI’s parent, will help oversee the Army’s new contract with KBR.
“In the end,” Mr. Smith said, “KBR got what it wanted.”
CONGRATULATIONS to all California newlyweds from two other California newlyweds! CJ and I got married in February 2004 at the San Francisco City Hall. We can personally attest to the joy and the transformation that sincere marriage vows create.
Maybe the most important thing about these weddings was said this morning by StarTrek star George Takei, quoting Ghandi: "Be the change you want!"
Monday, June 16, 2008
Who'da thunk it?
Frank Schaeffer, son of Francis Schaeffer, one of the founders of the politicized "Christian Right," and former Christian Right member himself, has written quite a stirring call to Republicans to wake up and see the dawn of a new age.
I haven't read son Frank's CRAZY FOR GOD: How I Grew Up As One Of The Elect, Helped Found The Religious Right, And Lived To Take All (Or Almost All) Of It Back, but I'm dying to hear from the lips of one of their own what drew him back from the brink.
Sunday, June 15, 2008
Brownfemipower (BFP) pushed me to think past the given frames on choosing what I eat.
First, let it be said that I still eat fast foods occasionally because I'm too lazy to plan ahead. I still eat meat. I also weigh way more than I ought to, which, in my case, is not for a lack of decent grocery stores in my neighborhood, or because I can't afford to fill my belly with nutritious foods and so opt for carbs. I am beginning to excavate this enormously complex issue. I'm not hypocritically "talking the talk." I'm thinking out loud. There's a difference. I'm taking next steps on a journey.
BFP made my week by acknowledging my response to her posts and EllePhD’s on this vegan/vegetarianism subject. I’m happy to have connected partly because I couldn't reach BFP directly to tell her how much I admire her work. For that matter, I still can’t. She’s turned off the "Comments" option on La Chola. But now that I've dug around in the tombs of the Internet, I think understand why, and I now consider that act a wonderful example of owning her own power. BFP could have just gone away, driven into silence by that particular pack of hyenas. (You know who you are.) Instead, thank God, she turned her mike back on and drew some insurmountable boundaries for people who plainly are not acquainted with the concept.
BFP’s response makes me really happy, too, not just because I am a huge fan of her crystalline thinking and writing, but also because I so much want to link across the chasms that the birth lottery carved between our paths. It's not easy, it's perilous, and it doesn't come with promises of perfection on either side, I know. But linking across race, class, sex, gender, nationality, immigration status , religion (and all the rest) is mortally essential. Mortally, morally, vitally essential.
Because you know we're supposed to fail at it. We're not supposed to talk with each other, and if we try, we're supposed to blow it. Everything about the status quo depends on our not connecting across the chasms. When the buttons they’ve planted blow up, we’re really just doing their dirty work. Lateral hostility. All that. It’s true. Look how much time we’ve lost already.
Which isn’t to say we can’t get angry or disagree with each other. It’s just that there’s a way to do so without gutting each other like catfish. To me, BFP illustrates how in her post in reply to EllePhD about vegetarian/veganism. She isn’t attacking anybody. This is one of the several reasons I admire her work.
Second, let it be said that this is a skill too few possess, including me. There's a difference between knowing what I ought to do and being talented at it. Again, I’m just beginning to excavate this next enormously complex issue. These are next steps on the journey.
More thoughts on eating with social consciousness.
It’s also about the vendors.
On the vast list of things I just do not get is why progressives are not all over the whole constellation of worker justice issues: a living wage, worksite conditions, wage theft/fraud practices, health and safety factors, union busting, and all the rest.
Oh, right. “Benefits.” Let’s stop calling health insurance, retirement income, and profit-sharing, and personal leave “benefits,” OK? “Benefits"? As if they’re ours solely at the discretion of the patriarch who owns our labor? Uh, no. This archaic term intrinsically undermines the truth, which is that these are non-negotiable, earned universal worker rights.
As a dear friend puts it, it doesn’t matter whether someone else writes your paycheck or hands you cash in exchange for your work: If somebody else pays you, you’re a worker.
So it’s obvious, isn’t it, that the way the grocery store or chain treats its personnel is directly related to the way your own boss treats you, right? Over time, unfair labor practice in one sector becomes unfair labor practice in all sectors. We get accustomed, and if we have it a bit better than some, well, unlke us, they're just "workers." That's just a "labor" problem. Not.
If that isn’t sufficient reason to get your head out of your sphincter and get active in worker justice, then what about this?
If eating with consciousness is about how the food gets to our mouths and where it comes from, then it’s also about all the other links in the chain, including the warehouse stockers and the cashiers and the gourmet deli workers. It’s about all the labor practices of their employers.
And if that isn’t sufficient reason to pull it out and get busy, then consider this:
Any employer who is willing to cheat his workers of a living wage, clean and safe working conditions, and universal worker earnings (healthcare, leave, retirement income, profit-sharing) is willing to cheat his customers of fair quality for a fair price. It's about one chain of stores for poor Latinos and another for wealthly Scottsdale. It's about expired product on the shelves, and half-rotted produce, and dirty butcher shops, because if the prime motive is money, don't think for a moment that you as consumer aren't fair game, too.So let’s stop calling it "eating with a social consciousness." Consciousness is essential, but it isn’t a substitute for doing something to benefit the rest of the production line. Consciousness strikes me as the minimum factor necessary to benefit myself in this matter. If I eat with a social consciousness, I eat very well and support relatively fewer adverse repercussions for others, but I don’t actually change anything materially.
That takes eating with accountability.
I don’t get out much anymore, but I really believe that the last time I saw the (largely) white radical-to-progressive contingent get out en force around any of this was when Ronald Reagan busted the Air Traffic Controllers. There was a huge protest at the Mall in DC, and I'll never forget it because it began to seem, there for a while, that we might expand our peace and justice movements to include (gasp) all workers-- as if all workers are intrinsically linked in power, strategy, and, well, the fate of humanity. That would include poor white male workers. It seems to me that we could have changed the country if we had had the wit to include them in our demands, because then their anger and resentment would have been redirected. We would have made them allies instead of the reactionary tsunami that swept Reagan, Bush, and Bush into office.
The point is that it isn’t about menus. It's about all of us, and it’s about opening our eyes to every implication of the fact that we actually are all in this together, regardless of the fact that some of us are fuckers. We certainly can prioritize, but I don't think we can leave anybody out of the peace/justice equation.
I don’t aim to perfection. I just aim to do a little bit better with this horrible reality every day.
It is me?
With all due respect to the family and friends of the departed, I thought Tim Russert was a professional enabler of the Right, a tool of the Republican party, a wimp when it came to interviewing its minions, and a smug abuser of his enormous power. However nice a guy he might have been to his friends and family, he just didn't earn my respect or gratitude, or my thanks for his "even-handed" approach to partisan politics. Too many times I saw him skewer Democrats and give Republicans a very wide pass. Thanks, but I don't need to be told what to think of Tim Russert.
With all due respect, I also think the nation's pogroms against brown people, the the 35 Articles of Impeachment, and the 35 Articles of Impeachment are worth a whole lot more air time than the Life and Times of Tim Russert, and I can't believe my eyes when not one but at least two and maybe three mainline TV channels are on an All-Tim-All-the-Time runaway train. He wasn't the Second Coming.
While I'm sorry for the grief his loss is causing to those who loved him, I'm just not sorry at all that Tim is not around anymore to steer votes to the morally bankrupt Republican and shovel indignant outrage at made-up claims against Democrats.
So if I hear one more plaintive wail of tribute to Tim Russert, I think I'm gonna barf.
Labels: Tim Russert
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Finally the Arizona Republic speaks:
The season of dying has started along Arizona's southern deserts.
Those who die are illegal immigrants, so some people say they get what they deserve.
After all, some people say, "What part of 'illegal' don't you understand?"
They've said it so loudly and for so long that they nearly drowned out some of Arizona's other voices.
In hard fact, what happens along the Arizona-Mexico border every summer is an enduring humanitarian crisis that takes the lives of real people.
Sons and daughters.
Fences haven't stopped the deaths. Increases in Border Patrol agents haven't stopped it. The National Guard didn't stop it.
According to Border Patrol reckoning, 61 migrants died in the Tucson Sector from Oct. 1 through April 30. This tally is seven fewer than for the same period last year, which echoes a drop in the number of illegal immigrants caught entering the country.
Even at a reduced number, this represents a tragedy that Arizonans should not be willing to accept or ignore. What's more, those 61 souls perished before the summer heat begins taking a toll.
Migrants have long died trying to cross the border, but the numbers more than doubled from 1995 to 2005, according to the Government Accountability Office. More than three-quarters of that increase happened in Arizona. It was the result of enhanced enforcement in urban areas, which forced migrants deeper into harsh desert country.
The Rev. Robin Hoover has been keeping track of where deaths occur. He says that, eight years ago, bodies were generally found within three-quarters of a mile of a road. Now, they are found nearly 5 miles from the nearest road. The reason? Increased enforcement has driven migrants to even more remote and dangerous areas.
Hoover founded Humane Borders to try to save lives by placing water tanks along routes used by migrants. Despite the decreased numbers of border crossers this year, Hoover says the water stations disperse in excess of 1,500 gallons a week.
Years ago, The Republic editorial page began writing about summer death counts in the hope of shaming Congress into reforming immigration policies that contribute to those deaths. Washington wasn't paying much attention.
In recent years, the issue of illegal immigration reached hot-button status. Attention jumped right over those dead bodies. It leaped past the human dimension. Instead of being seen as people who are caught in a broken system, migrants are now portrayed as villains who are unworthy of sympathy.
That's where Arizona is today. Anger has the upper hand. Rage is louder than reason.
But Arizona risks its humanity if it can't refocus on what immigration policies are doing to real people.
Sons and daughters.
The humanitarian crisis along our southern border needs to recognized for the tragedy it is. Policies that contribute to deaths by driving migrants deeper into the desert need to be assessed for the impact they have on people.
These things need to happen for the sake of the migrants' humanity.
The comments about the original editorial, on the Republic's website, make clear that much of Arizona has already lost its humanity. That was left by the roadside the minute these people elected to treat legality as if it were justice.
Is there anything more dangerous to our common humanity, or more disgusting, than a person who's lost the capacity for self-scrutiny and the saving grace of compassion?
Arizonans looking for a fulcrum for progressive change would do well to support the Arizona Advocacy Network, whose mission statement says it all:
The Arizona Advocacy Network promotes social, economic, racial and environmental justice by connecting and building power among activists and leaders in those fields, and by leading efforts for electoral justice and increased civic participation.One of the issues the Network monitors is the ongoing labor dispute against prominent AZ grocery store chain, Basha's. Bashaswatch monitors and profiles the dispute:
Workers at Bashas' Inc.-owned Food City stores filed a class action lawsuit in 2003, alleging they were paid less and had inferior working conditions than workers at Bashas' Supermarkets. The lawsuit is still pending.More on the dispute here.
Bashas' Inc. broke the law by refusing to negotiate certain changes in working conditions with workers represented by UFCW Local 99. A judge finally had to order Bashas' Inc. to follow the law.
In December 2007, the federal government charged Bashas' with 73 violations of federal labor law.
Earlier this year, Bashas' Inc. outsourced an entire department in their warehouse after workers raised concerns about workplace safety.
"The Arizona Advocacy Network is affiliated with US Action, a network of leading progressive advocacy organizations in 24 states. US Action and its affiliates join together to win social, racial and economic justice for all. We connect issues to elections and policy to politics. We seek to take our democracy back from the corporate elite and the well-heeled special interests that dominate the political process today."
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Taking off from Oprah's exploration of vegetarianism, Elle, PhD and Brownfemipower over at La Chola are dialoguing about the work of, and the practical and emotional cost of, and the political meaning of going vegan as women of color.
They're talking about what it means in communities (like mine, too) where meat-eating is pretty much a given, and women's identities have been baked in the nurturance of feeding others for centuries, and where any chefs we have are in our own skins, and grocery shopping comes with enough angst already.
I don't want to characterize their conversation any further, but it talks to me, too, because in this household we're also struggling with the decision to go vegan.
So just read the originals. If you labor under any misapprehension that going vegan is just automatically taking a giant step up the moral ladder of life, let them smack you upside the head. A.F.G.O.: another fucking growth opportunity.Get this: I'm definitely not saying it's better to eat meat. I'm saying that at least for me, anyway, the way PETA and Oprah and pretty much tout le monde have framed this conversation so far, in that blindly racist and classist way we have of just not seeing, has obscured the most important ethical/moral fact of all: The way what goes on our tables degrades, brutalizes, cheats, injures, and causes other kinds of grave harm to all the workers who get it there.
I'm saying that acting in behalf of animals who are subjected to atrocities so that we might eat is moral, ethical, and principled, but it only goes halfway. It isn't the whole conversation.
I might say, "How did I miss that part about how a vegan diet depends every bit as much on worker exploitation as a meat diet!," except that I know how I missed it. I haven't been thinking about it, and that's a damning indictment of my own racist, classist, blind-way-of-not seeing privilege. I haven't used my eyes or my brain, which leads me still yet again one more time to reflect on the nature of "sin" again--namely, that it happens primarily when we just aren't paying attention to others.
Instead of paying attention myself, I've been content to let the "prevailing conversation," the one that makes it onto the self-help bookshelves, frame the whole thing for me.
But I'm not knocking Oprah. Since when does she have to be perfect in order to make a point worth making? I too feel pretty good that she's taking animal suffering to another level of national consciousness, except that (as you know if you read Wild Chi), I definitely do not think PETA is St. Francis of Assisi by about a trillion miles. About that more some other day.
Meanwhile, thanks to Elle and BFP, I now see in my mind's eye a holy communion meal at which we all KNOW--I mean really KNOW--that not one single bite of anything goes into our mouths that hasn't been sanctified by the blood, sweat, and tears of a picker, a hanger, a packer somewhere, who might be 11 years old or 82, and by the suffering of the animal and sacrifice of the plant that it comprises.
OK I feel a little odd talking about plants' sacrifices over against humans' and animals. I know the story about the pig and the hen: When it comes to breakfast, the pig makes the commitment. But maybe I don't know what plants experience. There's that, but more important still, is this: Since we really are all connected, it really isn't possible to eat without exploiting somebody unless we grow our own. And even then, somebody got paid a low wage to work in miserable conditions to harvest and pack these seeds or the fruit they came from.
So the point for me this minute--it could change because I'm thinking about this--is partly that it's futile to look for the perfectly ethical menu, there being no such thing. Rather, choose my path and be mindful of what I eat and how it comes to me.
Own the debt. It's not just about changing diets. It's about changing industries, wages, working conditions, immigration paths, global trade treaties, and stepping out of the hierarchical, patriarchal way of looking at women and people of color and animals and Earth and, yes, even plants. It's about a whole-life stance, not about what goes on the plate.
This from Elle:
So, a number of things have me thinking about vegetarianism/veganism. One, as noted above, are the thoughtful discussions BFP has about potentially becoming a veg*n.
Another is the nature of my work. Invariably, when I talk about my dissertation, I talk about conditions in poultry processing plants. For the workers, there is exhausting, dirty work, at unbelievable speeds. There is routine underpayment of wages. There are supervisors who treat you as if you are nothing. There is the huge company that will do almost anything--legal or extralegal--to keep workers from organizing. There is the exploitation of the most vulnerable workers. There are the "chicken" rashes, bone splinters, musculoskeletal disorders, cumulative trauma disorders, cuts and amputations, slippery, fat-slick floors, extreme temperatures, dealing with frightened, live chickens and dead ones that rest in a "fecal soup."
Here are the hands of a 22-year old man who works in live hang.
And this from Brownfemipower:
"Dr. Elle talked a lot about the connection she and her family/community has to meat plant workers. She had a picture of the hands of a 22 year old worker and she talked about how wounds and accidents that happen in the plant have led people she knows to do horrible things to the animals that work there (one took out a knife and stabbed the animal).
"Her discussion brought back so many memories to me–memories that I’m not even sure are mine, but sit in my body anyway.
"* My father was a strawberry picker (among other things). He worked on his hands and knees for hours and hours, days and days, weeks and weeks at a time. As a child, when I heard the stories, I imagined my fully grown father with his wide shoulders and strong legs competently stripping berries from plants–just like he did when he and I picked blueberries. As an older woman, I realize now that he was only a kid in those stories. Younger than I was when I started working in the fields (11 yrs.).
To this day, I avoid blueberries. And bananas make me sick. How much blood of the murdered flows through the flesh of bananas? How many years of lost childhood flow through the skin of poisoned blueberries/strawberries/tomatoes/grapes….?
"Is a vegan lifestyle really a 'cruelty free' lifestyle? Why is it so easy to prioritize cruelty inflicted on animals over cruelty inflicted on brown people? Why can people list a whole litany of wrongs committed against animals by the food industry–but at the same time those people “never really thought” about what happens to the workers?
"Should I consider these things while contemplating veganism? Should I mourn them?
"Can I bring myself to say with a straight face that I no longer eat meat because I care about ending violence against animals? Can I say to the workers, to myself, that even animals are more important to me than they are, than I am? Can I continue my own people’s erasure? Can I continue mine?
"How do I make eating vegan/vegetarian a political choice about liberation without making the sacrifice one set of beings make with their bodies more important than another set of beings?"
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
I'm watching Koyaanisqatsi. If you haven't seen it, put it at No. 1 on your Netflix list.
Want to know something really creepy?
The post-WWII federal housing project comprising 33 11-story buildings in St. Louis, called Pruitt-Igoe, was designed by the same person who designed the World Trade Centers. Pruitt-Igoe was destroyed in 1972, by planned demolition.
I can't help wondering how architect Minoru Yamasaki must feel.
There's a lot not to like about Karen Johnson (R-Mesa), but when she questions W, she's walking on the side of the angels, IMHO.
It doesn't particularly matter whether her questions benefit me or don't. As long as she isn't just absorbing what she's told like a sponge, she's exhibiting more reason than our national media has managed to do in 30 years.
I refer to her temerity in questioning the official version of the events of 9-11. She's getting shellacked by all the usual suspects and then some, all of whom congratulate themselves for unsually high levels of sanity and discernment while soaking up the soup.
She's being smeared as a familiar of creationists and Holocaust deniers and that's bad, but oh my god, GASP!, she's a "conspiracy theorist"! (In some circles, a conspiracy theory is just another term for "hypothesis.")
A very close friend of Pico's had this to say in response to Matt Benson's column, "More From Karen Johnson on 9-11":
"I think it's possible to doubt the official scenario without being a nutcase, a partisan, or a fool, and I don't see why it's necessary or helpful to slime people who don't meekly swallow everything they're told.
"In fact, a lot of skeptics are on the opposite side of creationism and have sufficient cognitive skills to research facts like the Trans-Texas Corridor and the objectives and mechanics of global tradem and then to put two and two together to arrive at the obvious conclusion.
"Nothing in the parts of press release that are quoted here suggests that Johnson believes there was a massive conspiracy involving everyone in Congress and the Executive branches. That's [commenter] DekeB's contribution to the conversation.
"[Commenter] MUC38NYU's is to suggest she's saying 9-11 never happened, which, of course, she isn't. Better go back and read what she says, boys, and argue with that, not with your own phantom propositions.
"I rarely agree with Karen Johnson, but unless she's gone down the "US conspiracy" road elsewhere, it looks to me like she's simply saying that there are questions that haven't been adequately answered. She's hardly alone in that opinion, and she's entitled to inquire without being trashed.
"But then, I've noticed that anyone who challenges official doctrine gets trashed. Not exactly a worthy trait of the brave and free, IMHO. In fact, our country is in big trouble because not enough of us challenged the doctrine--about WMD in Iraq, about who knew the levees would fail, about what role courts play in every case of domestic spying, about what constitutes torture, about whether the USA operates gulags, about whether the White House outs our own covert agents, about who's benefitting from $4 gas, about who's profiteering from the Iraq occupation, about what happened to all those billions that we've "lost" there, and about why official investigations are being blocked.
"You can hoot and mock if you like, but as for me, I'm keeping an attitude of healthy skepticism. History tells me that any government can go terribly wrong. I see no reason to think ours is inherently exempt from universal human inclinations. Maybe you do?"
It's pretty clear to me that those who point and laugh at skeptics and "conspiracy theorists" are serving the interests of those in power. Maybe it's because I came of age in DC during the great social change and social protest movements of the 1970s, but I learned a long time ago that our government, like all other governments, CAN abuse the people's trust, CAN lie, CAN conspire to assassinate, CAN funnel large sums of money to insiders, CAN attack and even imprison its critics, CAN smear and destroy the careers of those who question it, and MUST be questioned, rigorously, at every turn. This stance has paid off. It's what prompted me NOT to believe everything Wolf Blitzer and Lou Dobbs have to say about undocumented immigrants. It freed me to do my own digging, and guess what? The facts are just the opposite of what we're being fed night after hate-filled night.
Karen Johnson isn't who I'd choose to ride in on a white horse, and beyond the press release excerpts Benson provided, I don't know what she might think about 9-11. Whatever it is, I'm not signing on to that here.
What I am saying is that we need more questioners of official doctrine, not fewer. She deserves our support for at least that much.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Not for the first time, and not for the last, Paul Newman and his wife of 50 years, Joanne Woodward, demonstrate to the world the meaning of substance, character, and style.
You'll notice that it is the diametric opposite of everything the current Administration stands for. Significant among the differences between the House of Bush and the House of Newman/Woodward is that it's not about the money. It never was, for Newman and Woodward. It's about the stance.
For the Bushes and the Walkers, it's always been about acquisition--of money and the power to intimidate. For persons of authentic substance and character (and the resulting style), it's always about personal excellence and the power to change the world for the better. If money comes as well, it comes coincidentally. It's never the point.
There's a story here within the story for what's gone wrong with America since, roughly, Reagan took office. He embodied the notion that it is not possible to be Commander in Chief without a Rolex, and we've been racing to the bottom ever since.
"Movie star Paul Newman has quietly turned over the entire value of his ownership in Newman’s Own — the company that makes salad dressing and cookies — to charity.
"Completed over a two-year period in 2005 and 2006, the amount of his donations to Newman’s Own Foundation Inc. comes to an astounding $120 million.
"This is unprecedented for any movie star or anyone from what we call Hollywood. Of course Newman and actress wife Joanne Woodward have never been Hollywood types. They’ve lived their lives quietly in Westport, Conn., for the last 50 years. (They were married in January 1958. And people said it wouldn’t last!)
"This column learned about this extraordinary gift as news started coming out recently about Newman’s battle with lung cancer. This is not news to my readers. I told you several months ago that Newman — who has five grown daughters — was seeing an oncologist, that he’d been in and out of Memorial Sloan Kettering hospital on many visits from Westport. Like everything else, the Newmans tried to keep Paul’s illness a private matter.
"But a tip-off that he was maybe not doing so well came in late May. Newman announced that he would not direct a production of 'Our Town' later this summer at the Westport Country Playhouse, where Woodward is the artistic director.
"News of his illness seems to have been exacerbated by none other than neighbor Martha Stewart. She recently published pictures of Paul on her Web site from a party she hosted. He looks gaunt but nevertheless smiling his trademark smile. Nothing will set him back. This racecar driver and adventurer should not be written off as 'dying.'
"'He’s a fighter,' one of his close friends told me Tuesday morning. 'And he’s going to keep fighting.'
"In the meantime, I also told you last August that in Botswana, the Newman name is known not for being a movie star. It’s known for his famous Hole in the Wall Gang camps. The camps go to Africa every summer to run programs for impoverished and ill children. It’s the same program they run in dozens of similar camps all over the United States.
"The Hole in the Wall camps are just a few of the places the hundreds of millions of dollars have gone that Newman has raised since he got the idea to bottle salad dressing for charity.
"According to Newman’s Own federal tax filing for 2006, the actor personally gave away $8,746,500 to a variety of groups that support children, hurricane relief in the Gulf Coast, education and the arts.
"Some of Newman’s recipients are well-known: He gave Rosie O’Donnell’s children's program $5,000 and even donated $25,000 to his pal Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute. But most of them are for the kinds of programs that we never hear about, the kind that simply keep people alive.
"But don’t think that Newman — who received his Kennedy Center honor in 1992 and deserves a Presidential Medal of Freedom — did this because he suddenly thought he was dying. When he set up the new foundation, he hadn’t yet been diagnosed with lung cancer. It was just in honor of his 80th birthday, and an acknowledgment that he wanted to make sure his charities would continue receiving his largesse."
A hat tip to Tom Udall, candidate for US Senate from the great state of New Mexico, for his equal pay calculator.
Find out what you'd make if you were of the opposite sex.
It's an eye-opener, especially, I'd imagine, if you're one of those bright-eyed 30-somethings who think sexism was vanquished before you were born. Well guess what. It wasn't.
A woman in a comparable role today is paid 78% of what her male counterpart is paid. Why? Because she's a female and because our culture penalizes a woman who takes time out for child-rearing.
So much for "family values."
To those who object that it isn't the role of the corporation to subsidize childrearing, I'd ask why not. In an enlightened culture, stockholders would look favorably on deferred profits. In ours, however, extreme capitalism only counts profits generated in the present quarter. As a result, concepts like investing from birth in the quality of the next generations of workers are inconceivable.
I keep having this urge to scream.
I know what's going to happen. Obama is going to tack Rightward, even as McSame tacks Leftward. Both want the voters to believe they're centrists.
The thing is, I have believed Obama is too centrist from Day Uno. Take, for instance, his stance on Israel, Palestine, and Iran. His healthcare plan. His terribly magnanimous pro "civil unions" position. His immigration stance, not significantly different from what McSame's used to be before he flip-flopped to court the Klan vote.
If he gets any "Righter" will the ex-Clintonistas vote for him instead of McSame?
OK, I definitely want a Democrat in the White House, and if I had my druthers, there'd be wall-to-wall donkeys in the House and Senate, too.
I only hope that at the swearings-in, the God of the "Little People" (as that termagint Leona Helmsley called us taxpayers)transforms them all, Obama especially, into Planetary Warriors and Loving Vindicators. I.e., people with Guts. Integrity. Vision. Brains. Compassion. I want a Latter Day Roosevelt. I'll take him, warts and all.
Meanwhile, I guess I have to hold my nose and pray. It would be a miracle, but stranger things have happened.
In the spirit of freedom of speech, I reproduce this alert from Dennis Kuchinich:
Articles of Impeachment
Under circumstances that can best be described as "suspicious," the www.kucinich.us website was crippled early this morning a few hours after Congressman Dennis Kucinich introduced 35 extensively documented Articles of Impeachment against President George W. Bush.
Until we can restore the website and implement additional security measures, you can find the full list and detailed Articles at
If you would like to show your support for the Congressman's efforts, please go to myinfo.kucinich.us to offer your comments and provide us with contact information so that we can continue to keep you informed.
Committee to Re-Elect Congressman Kucinich
That was delivered by email. This is Kucinich's temporary web address. Go there to help out.
Monday, June 9, 2008
The Hispanic Institute Proposes CNN Boycott
Submitted by Rafael Vela on June 3, 2008 - 8:37am.
Cites Lou Dobbs Anti-Immigration Crusade
WASHINGTON (June 3) -- The Hispanic Institute today announced that it will mount a Latino boycott of CNN to protest the cable news network's ongoing distortion of facts surrounding U.S. immigration issues, especially in commentaries and reports on "Lou Dobbs Tonight."
The non-profit organization said the proposed boycott will begin June 3, 2008 and will seek to stop Hispanic viewership of all CNN outlets, including the Spanish-language service. There are now 12.14 million Hispanic television households in the U.S., according to Doug Darfield Sr. Vice President of multicultural measurement for the Nielsen Company.
"We're taking this step after years of CNN management's failure to rein in Mr. Dobbs' irresponsible assertions about immigrants and their impact on our country and its institutions," Gus West, THI board chair, said in making the announcement. He added that THI will work with other national Hispanic organizations to broaden support for the proposed boycott.
West noted that THI called for censure of Dobbs two years ago, following three years of inflammatory on-air rhetoric about undocumented immigrants. "The lack of any meaningful response from CNN's management, or any abatement of Mr. Dobbs' offensive tirades, makes it clear to us that the company supports his misleading and often inaccurate positions," he said.
The large and growing U.S. Hispanic population represents a significant television market, West said, one that CNN can ill afford to ignore. "The State of the Media 2008," published by The Project for Excellence in Journalism, noted that Latino purchasing power was $850 billion in 2007. According to Nielsen Monitor-Plus, total TV advertising dollars spent to reach Hispanics in 2006 was more than $3 billion.
"We will mobilize this important market segment to make our strong convictions heard," West said, adding that THI is not alone in its criticism of Dobbs. In "Fear & Loathing in Prime Time: Immigration Myths and Cable News," an extensive new study published May 21, the Washington-based Media Matters Action Network reported that cable news program hosts Dobbs, Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck of CNN Headline News "serve up a steady diet of fear, anger and resentment on the topic of illegal immigration."
However, Dobbs was singled out by the Media Matters study as "one of the most obsessed with the topic." The study added that the "Lou Dobbs Tonight" program "might be more properly called 'Lou Dobbs Crusades Against Illegal Immigration Tonight.'"
It is clear to THI, West said, that a boycott is "the appropriate vehicle to address CNN's obvious disregard for the concerns of Latino viewers and all others who value factual, responsible news and information."
To schedule an interview with Gus West, please contact him at 202-544-8284 or email@example.com.
The Hispanic Institute is a nonprofit organization. Its mission is to provide an effective educational forum for an informed and empowered Hispanic America. Contact The Hispanic Institute online at: www.thehispanicinstitute.net
If you are serious about impeaching this president, you will get on the phone now and ask your representative in the strongest possible terms to support Kucinich. And while you're at it, call Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
Put up or shut up.
There's a post circulating these days showing what even $2.75/gallon gas buys the (purported) gigantic, obscenely opulent home and the silver--as in silver--Audi of Sheik Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan, former president of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Abu Dhabi.
There are some photos missing from the ensemble. Where's the middle class American house with the foreclosure sign in the yard? Where are the people lined up for an unemployment check? Where are the caskets of the GIs slain in Iraq, and the phalanxes of wounded soldiers and immigrant and murdered Iraqis? After all, it's all of a piece.
We're hearing the cries for domestic drilling grow louder and shriller. Let's not go there.
CNN's Miles O'Brien reported today that drilling in ANWAR would generate no more than 3 months' worth of America's required oil, and even if drilling began today, the first drop of refined ANWAR oil is 10 years away.Anyone who encourages more domestic drilling is simply passing today's disaster on to our kids.
Domestic drilling won't help in the long term. It will seduce us into delaying the production of alternative fuels needed to resolve the energy crisis once and for all.
Thursday, June 5, 2008
Earlier I wrote that HRC's tack to the Right was one reason she lost. And I'm not sad that she lost. She made me furious too many times to regret that she won't be in my face to make me furious regularly any more.
Later I was surfing the web and came across this explanation of why being sad about Clinton's losing could be an affront to women of color.
"You said,'Those of us who care about institutional misogyny (and, again, I don’t think these are mutually exclusive groups) don’t have that consolation, as regards a barrier being broken with regard to misogyny. There was no transcendence; only a loss.'"I feel your loss, I understand why it hurts to see a woman lose, probably (I disagree, but I am willing to see your point) because of sexism."
"But some of us who care about institutional misogyny don’t feel a loss at Clinton not being elected. There would have been no barrier broken if she were elected. I personally don’t look at Clinton and think–geez, look at all she accomplished–now I can do the same thing–I think–geez–she supported the militarization of the Mexican/U.S. border. There are women now being raped, arrested, imprisoned, and ripped from their children because she actively supports increased militarization at the border."
Read the whole post. It is an education.
It isn't OK to tack to the Right. There are consequences.
A lousy campaign predicated on her insurmountability. I won't say "inevitability" because that word has connotations that I don't believe apply. I don't believe that HRC felt entitled. Her dogged fight seems to suggest otherwise. I do believe that she thought she was insurmountable because of the fundraising and powerbroking implications of the Clintons' position in the Party. That's a strategic assessment, not a Marie Antoinette grasp of entitlement.
A tack to the Right. It wasn't just on foreign affairs and defense policy. It was also on choice and gay rights issues. Clinton did not have the courage even to exert leadership on critical constitutional issues. Granted, the Democrats' legacy position should have been pro-choice and pro-gay marriage, and would have been far more risky to stake out than the Republicans' legacy "contra" views. But that doesn't excuse Democrats from stepping up. She didn't. Ever.
A stubborn refusal to come clean on a bad Iraq war vote. It really ticked me off that she would not admit to having erred on that decision. It ticked me off worse that she and the rest of the Democrats erred--allowed themselves to be railroaded by the Fear Factor. There, I think, was core character and judgmental weakness on her part and on the part of all who went that way. There simply was not suffient evidence.
A willingness to play racism. Linking Obama to Al Sharpton was a significant error not because it was stupid and racist, but because it lifted the lid and showed the inside of the can, worms and all. This was an utter capitulation to the worst power lust. It was Bill's capitulation, but it reflected on her.
A tin ear. She's had this reputation for many years -- the cookies comment comes to mind. The business about RFK's assassination belongs in this category, in my judgment. I don't believe for a minute that she meant what the Right suggests. I think she was thinking out loud, and what came up, came out. Public officials have to have a better filter than that.
A media network hostile to HRC from Day One. Matthews was there then and he was there now, along with Fox and the rest. The Clintons have attracted a level of hostility not seen since FDR. I've never understood why, when the GOP has given us so many more worthy options. Suffice to say that from Candy Crowley's bitchy innuendo to Chris's outright misogyny and Wolf Blitzer's predictable negative spin, she's had an up-hill climb that no other candidate has faced in this contest. Some substantial part of this hostility is pure sexism.
Bad Bill's legacy (Good Bill's legacy never showed up. We didn't hear much about reigned in spending, a balanced budget, a short, won war, and a long reign of peace. We did hear about Monica, about the ghost of Bill in the Hillary White House, and so on.
Voter sexism. Sure. How much is hard to say, but judging from the boyz in the mainstream media--and some of the girlz too--sexism is alive and well. Missteps and flaws that would have been overlooked in men have been magnified and hammered into our consciousnesses because they are part of Hillary. Not to mention gratuitously sexist and ageist volleys lobbed at her, visually and in words.
But of all the factors that sunk HRC, the most significant, the sine qua non, was that she faced a brilliant, once-in-a-generation competitor. Obama has the magic. In addition, his campaign was right on every point, from its fundraising to its delegate to its tonal strategy. Except for his occasional missteps --campaigning in South Carolina with a professional gay hater -- and despite the spectre of Jeremiah Wright, he has almost always appealed to what we are capable of being at our best. His careful inclusion of us, over against her "me, I, me" rhetoric enlisted us at a deeper level in deciding our future. It will create a deeper buy-in, as well.