Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The media is pro-Republican and racist

The Jeremiah Wright story should have been put to bed a long time ago. It's much ado about nothing, especially the recent outrage swirling around Wright's statement that AIDS was a man-made disease aimed at blacks. The media is branding him a conspiracy theorist nut. I guess none of them ever heard of the Tuskegee Study. (Actually, some people in the gay community believe AIDS was created for and targeted at them. Why doesn't some investigative journalist pursue that story and maybe ask Dick Cheney's daughter what she thinks, or are Republicans hands-off?)

And why isn't the media focusing on those nuts who think Wright's speech at the National Press Club event was set up by Clinton supporter Barbara Reynolds? Is is possible the media favors Clinton over Obama? Oh, wait, that's just my nutty theory.

This is the bottom line for me: What's really relevant here is not what Jeremiah Wright says but what Barack Obama believes.

That opinion comes from the Boston Globe, where the writer reminds us that Obama said unmistakably that Wright does not speak for him, and "no matter what conspiracy theories the reverend subscribes to and no matter what moral equivalencies he draws, it's Obama, not Wright, who is the presidential candidate."

This is going to sound like another nutty conspiracy theory, but I think the media is afraid to see a black man in the White House. How else to explain the fact they've let other controversial clergyman's statements slide (of course, they just happened to be white clergymen)? From the same opinion column above, comes this example:
...Jerry Falwell, a pillar of the Christian right, who died last year. Falwell regularly made offensive comments against gays. And after Sept. 11, he opined that the attacks had come because this country had forfeited God's protection, and that pagans, "abortionists," feminists, gay and lesbian activists, the ACLU, and People for the American Way had "helped this happen" by trying to secularize America. (He later offered an unconvincing apology for that comment.)

That didn't diminish the premium Republicans put on Falwell's approval.
And don't forget this televangelist/former presidential candidate:
Televangelist Pat Robertson, meanwhile, has been a veritable artesian well of asinine assertions. Reacting to Orlando and Disney World's decision to allow a "Gay Days" weekend, he once said that accepting homosexuality could result in "earthquakes, tornadoes, and possibly a meteor." Interviewing an author critical of the State Department, he declared that "If I could just get a nuclear device inside Foggy Bottom, I think that's the answer."

In this campaign, however, Rudy Giuliani proudly accepted his endorsement. I don't recall the talk-radio types holding Giuliani responsible for Robertson's views or expressing concern about what the candidate's association with Robertson told us about Giuliani's character.
And last but not least, we can't forget the way the media lets John McCain off the hook:
Certainly Republican John McCain, who sought the endorsement of televangelist John Hagee, hasn't been held responsible for Hagee's various controversial statements, including his (later retracted) suggestion that the devastation of New Orleans was God's punishment for a planned gay-pride parade.

McCain has a confusing pose in regard to Hagee. Although he has rejected Hagee's controversial comments and allowed that it may have been a mistake to seek Hagee's endorsement, McCain has also said that he admires the man and remains pleased to have his support. Still, his unpersuasive attempt to distance himself from Hagee has largely been accepted.
I'm also ashamed that the media was biased in their portrayal of Wright. The Reverend recently spoke in Michigan at the NAACP Freedom Fund dinner and columnist Jack Lessenberry had nice things to say about him - warm, funny, intellectual and patriotic (gasp!).
The real Jeremiah Wright puts the patriotism of most politicians to shame. He was born the same year as Dick Cheney. As a future minister, he likely could have gotten a deferment during the Vietnam War. Our future war-loving vice president got five deferments. Wright enlisted in the Marines, served two years, and then went into the U.S. Navy.

Not bad for someone who hates America.

Afterward, he got a couple master's degrees and a doctorate, married, and raised five children. He took over a struggling, down-and-out Chicago church with 87 members and built it into a powerhouse that is now the largest church in the entire United Church of Christ fold — a mostly white denomination, by the way.
How often have you read about that side of the pastor?

So what's my point in bringing all of this to your attention? Because I think Wright is being maligned by the media and/or the other candidates. If you're going to judge him by his words and ideas, then you need to judge the other preachers and candidates in the same way. And in Obama's case, he deserves to be judged by his own beliefs, not those of Rev. Wright.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Can institutions learn from their mistakes?

What happened to this 7-year-old boy after he consumed Mike's Hard Lemonade probably harmed him more than the alcohol itself.

Here's the scoop. Leo Ratte and his father Christopher, a professor of classical archaeology at the University of Michigan, were at a Tiger's baseball game three weeks ago when his dad stopped to buy him lemonade as they headed to their seats. Unbeknownst to the father, the lemonade he bought contained alcohol (the sign at the concession stand even called it Mike's Lemonade, no mention of the word "Hard"). Long story short, at the top of the ninth inning a security guard noticed the bottle in Leo's hand and asked the father if he knew it contained alcohol. The father replied, "You've got to be kidding me," but Detroit Police and Child Protective Services didn't find anything to laugh about. The child ended up being placed in a foster home for two days.

I'm the first one to err on the side of caution, especially when vulnerable children are involved, but this was a case of over-zealousness from square one. First, a physician at Comerica Park decided to send Leo to the hospital by ambulance after examining him because the boy complained of feeling a little nauseated. This was in spite of the fact the boy showed no signs of inebriation and had only consumed 12 ounces of the hard lemonade, which contains 5% alcohol. Leo's blood was drawn by the ER doctor 90 minutes after the security guard found the child with the drink and the test came back negative.

Most children aren't too fond of doctors and needles, let alone hospitals. Those factors, along with the ambulance ride and police presence, probably scared the poor child half to death. If that didn't scare him, the decision to have Child Protective Services step in did. Leo ended up crying himself to sleep in front of a television inside the CPS building that night.

It took two days before Leo was allowed to return home to his mother, but his father was forced to move to a hotel while an investigation continued. It was another three days before the juvenile referee dismissed the complaint and permitted Ratte to move home.

I realize we live in a society where everyone feels the need to cover their backside against criticism and lawsuits, but the adults in this situation should have paused to listen to what was being said by other people in authority. The police officer who interviewed the father and son at the hospital was convinced the drink was an accident. The ER doctor wrote in his report that the child was "Completely normal appearing...he is cleared to go home." And one of the child protective workers told Rattke, "This is so unnecessary," before driving away with his son. Key people showed common sense, yet CPS ignored them.

As you might imagine, the Rattke's have filed a formal complaint with the CPS ombudsman's office, and Mr. Rattke even apologized to his son for the "silly mistake that got him into this mess." He also told his son that "what happened afterward was an even bigger error, and I would like to be able to say to him that institutions, like people, can learn from their mistakes."

For the sake of children everywhere, I sure hope so.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Fighting over crumbs

Here's something to ponder as you're filling up your gas tank or digging deep into your pocket to pay for groceries.

In case you're interested, the gentleman in the video has a blog:
The Hillbilly Report.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Labor Calls for Strike Against the War

(h/t AlterNet)

Take note, John McCain: Labor is calling for a general strike against the war. Specifically, the Vermont AFL-CIO is throwing their support behind the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), who announced it will shut down West Coast ports on May 1st to demand an immediate end to the war and the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the Middle East.

Here's the VT AFL-CIO press release [my emphasis]:
The Executive Board of the Vermont AFL-CIO, representing thousands of workers in countless sectors across Vermont, have unanimously passed an historic resolution expressing their "unequivocal" support for the first US labor strike against the war in Iraq.

Montpelier, VT - The Executive Board of the Vermont AFL-CIO, representing thousands of workers in countless sectors across Vermont, have unanimously passed an historic resolution expressing their "unequivocal" support for the first US labor strike against the war in Iraq. The strike, being organized by the Longshore Caucus of the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU), will seek to shutdown all west coast ports for a period of 8 hours on the day of May 1st 2008. The Vermont AFL-CIO is the first state labor federation to publicly back the Longshoremen; other state federations are expected to follow.

The resolution, among other things, calls the war in Iraq "immoral, unwanted, and unnecessary", states that the vast majority of working Vermonters oppose the war, and contends that the war will only be brought to an end by "the direct actions of working people." Many other Vermont labor unions and organizations, including the Vermont Workers' Center, have also made official statements condemning the war.

The resolution also calls on working Vermonters to "discuss the actions of the Longshoremen, to wear anti-war buttons, and to take various actions of their own design and choosing in their workplace on May 1st, 2008."

"Workers in Vermont and all across this nation are against this war. We have already demanded that the government end it, but they have consistently failed to heed our words. Therefore working people are beginning to take concrete steps to make our resistance known. If the war does not immediately end we, the unions and working people of Vermont, will also be compelled to take appropriate action," said David Van Deusen, a District Vice President of the Vermont AFL-CIO.

Traven Leyshon, President of the Washington, Lamoille & Orange County Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, said, "Vermont labor has long called for an end to this war. The untold billions being spent on the war could instead be used to address our domestic needs. It is working people who pay the cost of the war - in some cases with our lives, but always with our sacrifices."
Labor looks out for us. The same can't be said for John McCain and friends.

You can read the full text of the resolution here.

(Cross-posted at Blogging for Michigan.)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Liberalism by close encounter

Cliff Schecter describes what I've always referred to as Republican hypocrisy like this: No Golden Rule For Conservatives. In other words, conservatives can be progressive on issues where they have been personally affected, but remain steadfastly opposed to government assistance in all other areas of life.

Schecter listed several examples, beginning with John McCain, who benefited from government health care for the last seven decades (his father was an Admiral, McCain was in the military, and he currently receives health care from the Senate), yet McCain voted against the State Children's Health Insurance Program. Schecter has a comment about that, along with more examples from the "No Golden Rule" gang:
McCain's rhetoric vs. reality on government health care is important in not only what it says about John McCain, but what it conveys about modern conservatism. Remember, Senator Trent Lott didn't believe in "big government," except when Hurricane Katrina decided to destroy HIS house. [...]

Reporter Matt Cooper noted this phenomenon in his New Republic piece "Liberals for a Day" almost 10 years ago. In his work, Cooper established the voting records of Republican Senators Pete Domenici, R-N.M., and Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, as the sine qua non of proving liberalism by close encounter. As Cooper stated, Domenici is "to the left of Ted Kennedy" on mental health issues, because his daughter suffers from mental illness. Meanwhile, former Senator DeWine, whose daughter was tragically killed in an auto accident at only 22 years of age, was an active supporter of related regulations, from speed limits to seatbelt safety laws.

Over the years, these men have remained consistently passionate on these issues, and consistently hostile to government protection of virtually everyone else. In 2004, Domenici supported the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Campaign and American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals a combined 0 percent of the time. DeWine (who lost his reelection race to then-Congressman Sherrod Brown in 2006) was marginally better, standing with the ACLU 22 percent of the time and the Human Rights Campaign for 25 percent of crucial votes.

Meanwhile, back when he was in the House and thankfully could do somewhat less damage, Dick Cheney's voting record was to the right of Newt Gingrich's — he voted against Head Start, Meals on Wheels for seniors and the Department of Education, to name only a few of his more infamous positions. After his daughter came out as a lesbian, however, he began calling for federal protection for gay men and lesbians — including civil unions, a position way to the left of most of his ideological brethren — as if he had begun breaking bread with Barney Frank.
Maybe Cooper was onto something when he called their change of heart "liberalism by close encounter." It's possible Republicans just don't understand until they walk in other people's shoes. If that's the case, lets send some of them to Iraq so they can experience war firsthand, and we should immediately cancel their health insurance and reduce the salaries of all senators and legislators to reflect those of their constituents. That might soften their hearts and purse strings and encourage them to vote for the common good more often. What do you think?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Email Propaganda in My Inbox

I received the following email message from two different people yesterday.
Definitely something to consider before you cast your vote this election!!!

A short, but poignant, independent film on government-sponsored healthcare systems. Anyone who plans to vote for our new President in 2008 must see this.
This is the independent film: A Short Course in Brain Surgery

That link explains the film is part of the Free Market Cure Video Series created to inform Americans about the dangers of collectivized medicine and the benefits of free markets in health care. In this particular case, "A Short Course in Brain Surgery" highlights the story of Lindsay McCreith, "a man with a cancerous brain tumor who crossed the border to the U.S. to get the medical care that is rationed in his home country." You can read more about McCreith here and here.

I never heard of Free Market Videos so I decided to do some digging and hit pay dirt right away. An entertaining blog called the Hillbilly Report already dug up information on them. Basically, the film is partly funded by the Moving Picture Institute, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and one of their board members is Freyda Levy. Freyda co-founded the New Jersey chapter of Americans for Prosperity - the limited government, free market group that teaches grassroot activitists how to lobby legislators - and she also serves on the board of Club for Growth. You get the picture.

The film and its backers are trying to convince voters that government health care isn't the answer, and they're using this one example from Canada to make their point. The problem is that no one ever said Canada's health care was perfect. We've all heard the stories about patients waiting for hours in Canadian emergency rooms. But guess what? The average length of stay in U.S. emergency rooms in 2005 hit 3 hours and 42 minutes. And for every Lindsay McCreith in Canada, there's a Nataline Sarkisyan in the United States. Nataline is the 17 year-old girl from California who died five days after her insurance company refused to approve her liver transplant.

Actually, Lindsay McCreith is fortunate that he had government health care to fall back on at the first sign that something was wrong. That's not the case for thousands of uninsured Americans. Consider these facts from Families USA:
  • In 2002, the Institute of Medicine released a groundbreaking report, Care without Coverage: Too Little, Too Late, which estimated that 18,000 adults nationwide died in 2000 because they did not have health insurance. Subsequently, The Urban Institute estimated that 22,000 adults died in 2006 because they did not have health insurance.

  • Across the United States, in 2006, twice as many people died from lack of health insurance as died from homicide.

  • Uninsured adults are more likely to be diagnosed with a disease in an advanced stage. For example, uninsured women are substantially more likely to be diagnosed with advanced stage breast cancer than women with private insurance.
  • The bottom line is that other countries health systems have their problems, but each one seems to deliver a better total package than the one here at home. That point was made in a new documentary on PBS called Sick Around the World. The film is underwritten by The Kaiser Foundation and hosted by Washington Post correspondent T.R. Reid. Jonathan Cohn says viewers will find this film has an evenhandedness viewers didn't find in "Sicko" (and I didn't find in "A Short Course in Brain Surgery"). This is what Cohn has to say:
    In England, the film notes, patients frequently wait for elective services; in Germany, physicians are unhappy that they don't get paid more; in Japan, the government's hyper-aggressive price controls have led to chronic underfunding. And yet the new film also puts these drawbacks in their rightful context. Every system the film portrays has its problems, but overall each one seems to deliver a better total package than the one in the U.S.

    The most interesting case study is probably Taiwan. A few years ago, when Taiwan decided to revamp its health care system, it studied other countries to determine which system might work best. Its conclusion? A single-payer system--one in which the government insures everybody directly--made the most sense.

    [...] Today, the people of Taiwan have guaranteed access to health care--and, according to the film, it's very good health care. There are no chronic waiting lists, like you find in Britain, and the care is very advanced. Among other things, Taiwan is among the world leaders in establishing electronic medical records--an innovation that should significantly improve care by keeping doctors and nurses better informed about patient histories and, no less important, avoiding potentially dangerous drug interactions.
    Cohn admits that politically single-payer is still a tough sell in this country, but "Sick Around the World" makes it clear that alternatives work well too.
    The reports from Germany, Japan, and Switzerland make it clear that it's possible to have everything Americans like about their health care system--quick access, choice of doctor and provider, high quality care--while covering everybody and spending less.
    That brings me back to that email I referred to at the beginning. I need to consider the candidates plans before I vote in November. Back to Cohn:
    The presidential candidates don't talk about other countries, except (for opponents of universal coverage, like McCain) to bash them.

    But both of the Democrats call for covering everybody--and for overhauling the system so that it can achieve the sorts of efficiencies the best systems abroad have realized. Their plans, if implemented as they've been drawn up, would make American health care look a lot like the Swiss version.

    Neither plan would accomplish that transition overnight... Still, that's a far cry from what McCain and much of his party advocates, which is essentially to fix the existing patchwork with even more patches. And that's a crucial difference of which viewers (and voters) should be aware.
    Hmm...patches or the efficiencies the best systems abroad have realized? No-contest. I'm voting Democrat.

    (Cross-posted at Blogging for Michigan.)

    Monday, April 14, 2008

    McCain Is Like Every Other Old Republican

    This headline from The Huffington Post is meant to warn us about McCain, but I think most voters know he only pretends to be a moderate. After all, it's common knowledge that McCain has earned an 83 lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union and votes with his party 88.3 percent of the time.

    McCain also pretends to care about working class Americans. Or, as this writer puts it: It Takes Real Chutzpah For A Guy Who Owns Eight Houses (McCain) To Call Barack Obama An "Elitist"
    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"?
    The McCain campaign said of Obama, "It is hard to imagine someone running for president who is more out of touch with average Americans," but McCain is the guy who supports the Bush tax cuts, offers everyday Americans no solutions on the housing crisis, and thinks a return to trickle-down economics would be good for the country.

    Talk about being out of touch. McCain is just more of the same. He's Romney, he's DeVos, and he's George (this is my base) Bush all rolled into one.

    Sunday, April 13, 2008

    Outsourcing a threat to workers and national security

    As I wrote earlier in the month, the aerospace industry is sending jobs to Mexico - including those in airline maintenance.
    At least one U.S. airline, Delta, is already sending entire planes to Mexico for maintenance work. In 2006, it signed a deal handing heavy maintenance of 120 of its planes over to Aeromexico, an airline.
    My concern was for the number of good paying jobs being lost, but that pales in comparison to the security risk our country faces. Teamsters President Jim Hoffa explains [emphasis mine]:
    The outsourcing of aircraft maintenance is another major concern—just ask the United Airlines mechanics and related workers. Some 9,300 of these skilled workers resoundingly chose to join the Teamsters last month because we understand the real danger the outsourcing of aircraft maintenance poses to national security.

    From 1996 through 2006, major U.S. airlines' outsourcing expenses increased from 37 percent to 64 percent, and the number of foreign repair facilities grew from 344 to 698 over a comparable period.

    As outsourcing expanded, regulatory standards and oversight have failed to keep pace. Background checks, duty-time limitations, and alcohol and drug testing are much more lax at foreign stations than they are in the United States. For example, supervisors and inspectors who sign off on maintenance work at foreign repair stations are not required to hold a Federal Aviation Administration repairman certificate or an airframe and power-plant certificate, and neither are mechanics working on the aircraft at these facilities.

    Increased outsourcing is a domestic security risk. In the U.S., FAA-certificated repair stations have standards for personnel background checks and restricted access to aircraft. Foreign repair stations lack these precautions. Outside of our borders, only flimsy safeguards prevent a terrorist from exploiting an opportunity to do us harm by tampering with airline systems or inserting explosives into aircraft while they are undergoing maintenance. (Despite a mandate in 2003 to create a security standard for repair stations and audit foreign stations, the Transportation Security Administration has yet to do so.)
    My son-in-law recently graduated from airline mechanics school after 22 months of studies. He's in the process of taking three written tests and two oral tests in order to receive his certification so he can work on planes. I should also mention his education was very expensive. That 22 month program cost him nearly as much as four years in college.

    It just doesn't make sense for our country to mandate higher education and licensing requirements for jobs that we then turn around and allow employers to outsource without equal standards. Americans can't compete with the lower wages and now it appears we're fighting against reduced educational requirements. That's crazy. Why should our young adults spend thousands of dollars to get an education if a person in Mexico or some other country is allowed to do the job without any advanced training or certification?

    We definitely need to level the playing field in this country so our workers can compete and our national security isn't compromised.

    (Cross-posted at Blogging for Michigan.)

    Friday, April 11, 2008

    Can President Bush dance?

    Yep. Bush is an expert at the Limbo Rock. So, how low can he go? Really low according to a new AP-Ipsos poll taken from April 7-9:
    A survey released Thursday showed 28 percent approve of the overall job Bush is doing. That was statistically tied with his previous low in the poll of 30 percent last month and in February.

    Only 27 percent are happy with his job on the economy, which threatens to enter a recession and which many national surveys show is voters' top worry. That was worse than his previous low of 29 percent approval for handling the economy set in February, and down 4 percentage points from last month.
    Sadly, Bush is taking us down with him:
    Confidence among U.S. consumers sank to a 26-year low in April as the labor market continued to deteriorate and gasoline prices rose.

    The Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary index of consumer sentiment decreased to 63.2 from 69.5 in March. The reading was below the lowest forecast in a Bloomberg News survey and the weakest since March 1982.
    Oh, yeah, one more thing - we haven't hit bottom yet.
    According to a new Wall Street Journal forecasting survey, by a 3-to-1 ratio, economists say “the economy is in a recession, and almost three-quarters [say] the economy hasn’t yet hit bottom.”

    Wednesday, April 09, 2008

    McCain is Downright McNasty

    The Republicans have spent decades proclaiming their moral superiority and they crow that they're the only ones who can be trusted to uphold the sanctity of marriage, yet they're enamored with John McCain, a person who swears, throws temper tantrums and calls his wife despicable names in front of others. Did I mention he's a philanderer?

    Is this the kind of person we want representing our country?
    The Real McCain by Cliff Schecter, which will arrive in bookstores next month, reports an angry exchange between McCain and his wife that happened in full view of aides and reporters during a 1992 campaign stop. An advance copy of the book was obtained by RAW STORY.
    Three reporters from Arizona, on the condition of anonymity, also let me in on another incident involving McCain's intemperateness. In his 1992 Senate bid, McCain was joined on the campaign trail by his wife, Cindy, as well as campaign aide Doug Cole and consultant Wes Gullett. At one point, Cindy playfully twirled McCain's hair and said, "You're getting a little thin up there." McCain's face reddened, and he responded, "At least I don't plaster on the makeup like a trollop, you c---t." [my editing] McCain's excuse was that it had been a long day. If elected president of the United States, McCain would have many long days.
    The man who was known as "McNasty" in high school has erupted in foul-languaged tirades at political foes and congressional colleagues more-or-less throughout his career, and his quickness to anger has been an issue on the presidential campaign trail as evidence of his fury has surfaced.
    Schecter isn't the first person to note McCain's character failings. The NY Times wrote this in 2000:
    For a candidate running on character and biography, it is also an awkward time to remember: Mr. McCain abandoned his wife, who had reared their three children while he was in Vietnamese prisons, and he then began his political career with the resources of his new wife's family.[...]

    The story began when Vietnam released Mr. McCain and other prisoners of war in March 1973. He stepped off a military transport plane on crutches, an instant war hero, and quickly had a painful shock.

    His wife, Carol, a tall, slim woman who had once been a model, had nearly died in a car wreck in 1969. H. Ross Perot, the businessman and advocate of prisoners of war, had paid for her medical care, but the injuries left her four inches shorter and on crutches, and she had gained a good deal of weight.

    As John McCain puzzled over his career, he also found himself sorting out his marriage.
    McCain also did a little soul searching back in 1979 and lamented that he would never make admiral like his father and grandfather. The Times said "he had always dreamed of doing something great, of imprinting his name on the history books, but at age 42 he found himself with a stuttering military career and no base from which to go into politics."

    That all changed in April 1979 when he met Cindy Hensely at a cocktail party in Honolulu. He spent the whole party talking to her, went out to dinner and from there he pursued her. McCain didn't divorce his first wife till the following February, which left him free to promptly marry Cindy, heiress to Hensley & Co., one of the largest Anheuser-Busch beer distributors in the nation. It was her father's business and political contacts that helped McCain gain a foothold into Arizona politics, along with Cindy's wealth from her expired trust funds.

    Nice guy, eh? He dumps his disabled wife and marries a wealthy woman in order to advance his ambitions, and then he treats her like dirt in public. I cringe to even think about what he might do to her behind closed doors.

    The kind of marriage the McCain's have is their business, but the way he treats people, his violent temper and the inappropriate words he uses in public are things that should concern us. We need a cool head in the White House, not a hot head who speaks before thinking, and we definitely need someone who will bring respect back to the office. That person is not John McCain.

    Monday, April 07, 2008

    The peace symbol is 50 years old

    While reading about the anniversary of Martin Luther King's death last week, I came across something I had never heard before: The peace symbol was brought to our country by one of King's associates. It became a prominent feature during civil rights marches before migrating to protests against the Vietnam War.

    I also learned that the peace symbol turned 50 years old in February. Amazing! That simple symbol of peace has been around for half a century, but it wasn't always an anti-war symbol. It was designed by Gerald Holtom for the Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War (CND) and was originally used by the British nuclear disarmament movement.
    [Holtom]...was one of many intellectuals in Britain during the 1950s who were deeply agitated first by having witnessed the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but then watching their own government, despite being in a time of postwar material hardship, race to join the nuclear club. [...]

    At its basic level, the design combined two letters from the semaphore alphabet of flag-signalling, N (flags at eight and four o’clock) and D (flags at six and 12 o’clock), to indicate nuclear disarmament. A circle signified the earth.

    But to Holtom, who had been a conscientious objector in the Second World War, there was more to it. “I was in despair,” he later wrote, “deep despair. I drew myself: the representative of an individual in despair, with hands palm outstretched outwards and downwards in the manner of Goya’s peasant before the firing squad.”

    The newborn symbol premiered in the world’s first anti-nuclear march on Good Friday of that year, shortly after Britain’s first H-bomb tests in the South Pacific. Some 10,000 gathered first in Trafalgar Square, then over four days marched 80 kilometers to a place called Aldermaston where the nuclear program was — and still is — headquartered.
    No longer focused solely on nuclear disarmament, since 2001 the CND started organizing resistance campaigns against U.S. and British policies in the Middle East.

    It's sad to think that 50 years later men are still waging wars and peace is still as elusive as ever.

    (Image by Flickr user NoHoDamon and used under a Creative Commons license.)

    Friday, April 04, 2008

    Martin Luther King, Jr. Died Fighting for Labor

    Today marks the 40th anniversay of Martin Luther King Jr's assassination in Memphis. King died fighting for labor and a living wage. He was there to support municipal sanitation workers who were striking for better pay, benefits and working conditions. King didn't die in vain. The strikers did ultimately win their strike and receive better pay, benefits and working conditions, which helped lift millions of other Americans into the middle class. However, the AFL-CIO reminds us that for all the good that came from that strike, labor rights and economic equality have been losing ground (which we know all too well here in Michigan):
    Over the past three decades, however, this situation has taken a turn for the worse as both the number of jobs in manufacturing and the number of unionized jobs have declined sharply. In 1979, for example, manufacturing accounted for nearly one-quarter of all jobs in this country and about the same share of the total workforce was in a union. Today, only about one-in-10 jobs is in manufacturing, and roughly 13 percent of the workforce is in a union or represented by one at their workplace. [...]

    Meanwhile, probably the most important reason for the simultaneous drop in unionization was corporate America's deliberate decision to adopt a more hostile attitude toward unions. Many firms have relocated plants overseas or in states with little union presence as part of a conscious effort to evade unions. [...]

    Employers also regularly violate other aspects of the NLRA designed to protect workers' freedom to form unions. Research... has estimated that one-in-five workers actively involved in organizing a union can expect to be fired in the middle of a union organizing election.
    And here in Michigan we have the "right-to-work" crowd stirring the pot. These attacks on labor are discouraging, but as King often said, "We, as a people, will get to the promised land!”

    In his lecture, "The Quest for Peace and Justice", King said...
    Let me close by saying that I have the personal faith that mankind will somehow rise up to the occasion and give new directions to an age drifting rapidly to its doom. In spite of the tensions and uncertainties of this period something profoundly meaningful is taking place. Old systems of exploitation and oppression are passing away, and out of the womb of a frail world new systems of justice and equality are being born.
    If Martin Luther King were alive today, I have no doubt he'd be openly critical of the economic inequality in our country. King believed all work has dignity and worth and it was a crime for people to live in this rich nation and receive starvation wages. It's up to us to continue his fight.

    Wednesday, April 02, 2008

    Following in the steps of the auto industry...

    Another industry is going south of the border.
    Aerospace companies are streaming to Mexico, drawn by lower wages, enthusiastic government promotion, a new safety agreement with the United States and an increasingly sophisticated workforce.

    In a new plant in the central Mexican city of Querétaro, workers who make $3.50 an hour are building rudders and bundles of wiring for airliners. Across town, engineers at General Electric's research center are designing jet engines. In a nearby industrial park, workers are overhauling landing gear at a gleaming new plant.
    Engineers fare a little better. They earn anywhere from $5.80 to $8.70 an hour. The lower costs translate into a 30 percent savings on parts even after transportation gets added back in. Mexico's aerospace-related exports have more than tripled since 2004.

    How are American workers supposed to compete with those wages? The impact on jobs has been minimal so far, but workers see the writing on the wall.
    Companies say that, because of a booming market for aircraft worldwide, the move to Mexico has not resulted in major layoffs in the United States. But American unions are afraid it might if aviation takes a downturn.

    "This is a technological base, an important industrial base for our country, and we're just giving it up," said Ron Eldridge, aerospace coordinator for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

    Industry officials liken the trend to the 1980s, when U.S. companies moved from making auto parts in Mexico to assembling entire vehicles there. Now, Mexico exports $42 billion in cars and auto parts every year.

    "Mexico's vision is to do the same thing they did with the auto industry," said Real Gervais, head of Bombardier's operations in Mexico. "There's a lot of potential."
    So much for the myth that NAFTA was going to help American workers. When is the United States going to sign an agreement that benefits workers here at home?

    Airline maintenance is also heading south, which hits my family personally. My son-in-law recently graduated from an airline mechanics school. He picked that career because he felt it would be stable employment and couldn't be outsourced. We all did, but it looks like we were wrong.
    Mexico also is becoming a center for maintenance as airlines look for cheaper places to have their planes fixed. [...]

    At least one U.S. airline, Delta, is already sending entire planes to Mexico for maintenance work. In 2006, it signed a deal handing heavy maintenance of 120 of its planes over to Aeromexico, an airline.

    The Mexican government is hoping exports will grow even faster in the wake of a new Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement signed with the United States in September.

    The pact allows Mexican officials to certify new aircraft parts instead of shipping them to the United States for inspection.

    "It's a great logistical advantage," Roch said. "It's going to be a detonator for the industry."
    Yeah, right, and it's going to blow up a whole lot of American jobs too.

    It's no longer enough for a person to play by the rules, get an education and work hard. There will always be someone in another country willing to work for less. Where is it all going to end? Who will save us? We know we can't depend on the Republicans so it's up to the Democrats. I sure hope they win the White House and lots of seats in November. Workers can't hold on much longer.

    (Cross-posted at Blogging For MI.)