Thursday, August 28, 2008

Bush DOT To Track All Cars

Mary E Peters

The U.S. Department of Transportation has been handing millions of dollars to state governments for GPS-tracking pilot projects designed to track vehicles wherever they go. So far, Washington state and Oregon have received fat federal checks to figure out how to levy these "mileage-based road user fees."

Now electronic tracking and taxing may be coming to a DMV near you. The Office of Transportation Policy Studies, part of the Federal Highway Administration, is about to announce another round of grants totaling some $11 million. A spokeswoman on Friday said the office is "shooting for the end of the year" for the announcement, and more money is expected for GPS (Global Positioning System) tracking efforts.

Iraq Vets Rage Against the Machine in Denver

The pro-socialist punk band Rage Against the Machine staged a free concert in Denver the night of August 27th. Attended by nearly 10,000 people, thousands of protesters, led by Iraq war vets marched on the Democratic National Convention to demand an end to the war.

From Rocky Mountain News:
BRIGHTON AND 44TH -- A massive group of at least 2,000 chanting, shouting, sign-waving protesters are marching down Brighton Boulevard escorted by police in what is easily the largest such protest Denver has seen during this convention.

Employees at the Coors Field reportedly were told after 4 p.m. to evacuate because a protest was approaching.

The march, organized in conjunction with a free Rage Against the Machine-headlined music festival at the Denver Coliseum, is cosponsored by Iraq Veterans Against the War and Tent State University.

About 50 Iraq veterans are leading the march to the Pepsi Center, followed by thousands of mostly young protesters carrying signs denouncing the war. More protesters continue to stream from the coliseum, where nearly 10,000 watched Rage urge them to join the march.
From CommonDreams:
DENVER - August 28 - Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) led a non-violent march of 8,000 allies, including members of Rage Against the Machine, to the front entrance of the Pepsi Center. There they delivered a letter containing their three points of unity to the Obama campaign's veteran staff. IVAW's three points of unity are:
  1. Immediate withdrawal of all occupying forces from Iraq
  2. Full benefits and healthcare for returning veterans
  3. Reparations to the Iraqi people
IVAW is calling on Senator Obama to allow an IVAW representative to read the letter to the delegates.

Senator Obama's veterans' liaison, Phil Carter, told IVAW that they could expect a response from the Senator's campaign staff regarding their request. IVAW plans to hold Senator Obama's campaign team to their word.

*IVAW members Jared Hood, Jeff Key and Josh Earle are available for comment throughout the day.

Jared Hood, who lives here in Denver, served as a specialist in the Colorado Army National Guard from 2004-2007. During that time he served in Camp Navistar, Kuwait and Vilseck, Germany.

Josh Earl served as a Military Police Specialist in Iraq from 2003-2004 with the Denver-based 220th Military Police Company of the Colorado Army National Guard.

Jeff Key, a former Marine Corp lance corporal, served in Iraq in 2003. Mr. Key currently performs his one-man show, The Eyes of Babylon, which tells his story as a Marine in Iraq, in theaters across the country. He was also one of the IVAW members to speak with Obama's veterans' liaison on Aug. 27.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Disney makes health care unaffordable

From CNN:
ANAHEIM, California (AP) -- Cinderella, Snow White, Tinkerbell and other fictional fixtures of modern-day childhood were handcuffed, frisked and loaded into police vans Thursday at the culmination of a labor protest that brought a touch of reality to the Happiest Place on Earth.
"Tinkerbell" and other Disney characters were handcuffed Thursday in a protest outside the gates of Disneyland.

"Tinkerbell" and other Disney characters were handcuffed Thursday in a protest outside the gates of Disneyland.

The arrest of the 32 protesters, many of whom wore costumes representing famous Disney characters, came at the end of an hour-long march to Disneyland's gates from one of three Disney-owned hotels at the center of a labor dispute.

Those who were arrested sat in a circle on a busy intersection outside the park holding hands until they were placed in plastic handcuffs and led to two police vans while hundreds of hotel workers cheered and chanted.

The protesters were arrested on a misdemeanor count of failure to obey a police officer and two traffic infractions, said Sgt. Rick Martinez of the Anaheim police. They were cited and released, Sgt. Chris Schneider said.

Bewildered tourists in Disney T-shirts and caps, some pushing strollers, filed past the commotion and gawked at the costumed picketers getting hauled away. The protest shut down a major thoroughfare outside Disneyland and California Adventure for nearly an hour.

"It's changing my opinion of Disneyland," said tourist Amanda Kosato, who was visiting from north of Melbourne, Australia. "Taking away entitlements stinks."

The dispute involves about 2,300 maids, bell hops, cooks and dishwashers at three Disney-owned hotels: the Paradise Pier, the Grand Californian and the Disneyland Hotel.

The workers' contract expired in February and their union says Disney's latest proposal makes health care unaffordable for hundreds of employees and creates an unfair two-tier wage system. The union also says Disney wants to create a new category of part-time employees who would receive greatly reduced benefits.

"The other hotels around the area all have health care that is provided by the boss and have been able to get wage increases," said Ada Briceno, president of Unite Here Local 681, which represents the workers.

"At the other hotels in the same classification, for the same work, the workers get paid $2 to $3 an hour more."

Disney spokeswoman Lisa Haines said Disney and the union are in negotiations and nothing has been finalized. She said workers have protested 14 times but sat down to negotiate only 11 times in the past six months.

"Clearly we're disappointed that Unite Here Local 681 has spent more time protesting," she said. "Publicity stunts are not productive and are extremely disruptive to the resort district."

Before the arrests, the picketers marched and chanted outside Paradise Pier, holding signs that read, "Disney is unfaithful," and "Mickey, shame on you." They were joined by community activists and religious leaders from local churches.

Luz Vasquez, who works in the bakery at Disneyland Hotel, said she can't afford to lose many of her benefits. She said it's already hard to care for her three grandchildren and aging mother while earning $14.32 an hour.

"Disneyland is being unfair with us because we're fighting for our health care and they're trying to take it away," said Vasquez, 45. "They're trying to cut our hours and take away our seniority."

Co-worker Diane Dominguez, 50, said she was worried about losing health care because of the heavy labor involved in lifting mattresses, moving furniture and making dozens of beds a day. She also said rising prices and the cost of gas were eating into her salary of $11.11 an hour.

"The most important is health care. We need that and they want to take it away," she said.

At the heart of the issue is a free health care plan that has been provided to Disney hotel workers through a trust fund that Disney and other unionized hotels in the area pay into.

Briceno said that in exchange for the free medical plan, union members agreed in previous contracts to a lower wage for hotel workers in the first three years of their employment.

But Disney now wants to eliminate the free health plan for new hires and wants to create a new class of workers who put in less than 30 hours a week, said Briceno. Those part-time workers would receive no sick or vacation pay and not be given holidays, she said.

The company also wants to increase the number of hours full-time employees must work before qualifying for the health plan, she said.

"At the end of the day what it means is that workers are going to be priced out of health care," she said.

Haines said the majority of other employees at Disneyland pay for a share of their health plan, even though the resort shoulders about 75 percent of the overall cost. She said it's important to negotiate a contract that's fair to those other unions, too.

"We do remain hopeful that we can reach an agreement that's both fair and equitable, providing that union leadership is reasonable and realistic in its approach," Haines said.

Friday, August 15, 2008

McCain Aid Paid $800,000 by Georgian Government

From People's Weekly World news:
The conflict in Georgia has cast a spotlight on both John McCain’s ethics and on his ability to exercise good judgment in a time of crisis.

McCain’s longtime business partner and current chief foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, lobbied the senator on 49 occasions during a three year period while being paid $800,000 by the right-wing government of the former Soviet Republic of Georgia.

In numerous speeches this week McCain has ranted and raved against Russia’s role in the current conflict in Georgia. Positioning himself to the right of even the Bush administration, he has said that he believes the Russian leadership to be “far more dangerous” than the president believes it to be.

Precisely because of this posturing, the payments by the Georgian government to McCain’s partner raise ethical questions about the connection between Scheunemann’s personal finances and his advice to McCain who has seized on the current conflict as a campaign issue.

Barack Obama has called for a “review” of U.S. agreements with Russia but, unlike McCain, said, “We seek a future of cooperative engagement with the Russian government, and friendship with the Russian people.”

If McCain was hoping that escalation of tensions in Georgia would boost his campaign, he definitely was not hoping for what seems to be happening now: More and more media outlets are beginning to focus on the McCain-Scheunemann relationship.

The Seattle Times is reporting that on April 17, a month and a half after Scheunemann officially stopped working for Georgia, his partner and the only other member of his firm, took another $200,000 from Georgia to continue lobbying McCain.

The maneuvering amounts to McCain functioning on behalf of paid foreign agents and, at the same time, using helping create international tension to benefit his campaign for the presidency.

“Scheunemann’s work as a lobbyist poses valid questions about McCain’s judgment in choosing someone who – and whose firm – are paid to promote the interests of other nations,” said New York University law professor Stephen Gillers.

Brian Rogers, a spokesman for the McCain campaign admitted to the Los Angeles Times: “This is an issue that he (McCain) has been involved with for well over decade.”

A report in the Bloomberg News noted that McCain’s strong condemnation of Russia’s military action against Georgia as “totally, absolutely unacceptable” reflects long-standing ties between McCain and hard-line conservatives such as Scheunemann, an aide in the 1990’s to then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott.

Numerous press reports on Scheunemann are turning up more and more disturbing background information:

Scheunemann, who also ran McCain’s 2000 campaign foreign policy operation, has, like McCain, supported regime-change in Iraq and NATO membership for all of the former Soviet republics. McCain sponsored or co-sponsored every one of the four bills and resolutions regarding Georgia that Scheunemann told him to sponsor.

Scheunemann, it turns out, was one of the ring leaders of the neo-con drive to go to war with Iraq. Before the U.S. invaded, he was chairman of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. Prior to that he was a leader of the Project for the New American Century, an outfit that said nine days after the Sept. 11 attacks, that the terrorists were linked to Iraq. Those claims, of course, were later proven false.

Support Obama

Folks, Obama is getting tons of negative press, as expected, from the US right-wing controlled media.

Sure, he is no socialist, but realistically, it is NOT in the interest of the world working-class for the Republican's to consolidate their stranglehold on the American imperial system.

Sure, all Obama offers a kinder-gentler capitalism - GOOD! I'd rather that then an invasion of Venezuela, for instance.

Finally, any movement to the left by the American ruling elite is going to pay out for the working classes and working class movement.

That is why I am supporting Obama.

From the AFL-CIO:
Sen. Barack Obama has pledged to fight for working families, and he has the record and the policy proposals to back it up.

Check out new fact sheets that spell out what Obama would do as president in two crucial areas: education and the building trades.

When it comes to education, Obama has a record of supporting full funding for No Child Left Behind, increased special education funding and expanding Pell Grants to enable more students to attend college.

He supports forgiving student loans for teachers and opposes taking away funds from the public school system through private voucher programs.

Obama’s education plan includes:
  • More funding for early childhood education and Head Start, so children are ready for school.
  • Reforming and fully funding the No Child Left Behind Act so it supports, rather than punishes, schools that need help.
  • Providing scholarships, mentoring and training to help recruit and retain teachers.
  • Supporting after-school activities and special education.
  • Helping make college more accessible for all families through grants, loans, tax credits and full funding for community colleges.
Obama has earned the endorsement of the AFT and the School Administrators union for his strong support of public education.

He also will support good jobs in the building and construction industry. As a church-based community organizer, Obama helped neighborhoods recover after being devastated by steel mill closings, so he understands the importance of protecting workers and making sure they have good jobs.

As a senator, Obama has been a strong supporter of prevailing wage laws and of investing in America’s infrastructure.

A co-sponsor of the Patriot Employers Act, Obama has fought to reward companies that keep good jobs here and support workers’ rights to a fair wage, health coverage, retirement security and the ability to form unions. And as an Illinois state senator, Obama voted for numerous bills ensuring workplace safety, prevailing wages and responsible bidder requirements for public contracts.

The AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department, a coalition of 13 unions in the industry, gave Obama its endorsement earlier this summer.

To rebuild an economy that works for everyone, we need to make sure that all families can send their children to public schools that are safe, well-staffed and well equipped so they can get the education they deserve at all stages of life. We also need to make sure we’re creating good jobs with good pay and an infrastructure that can support economic growth. Obama has the plans that will help create prosperity and make sure it’s shared by everyone.

To find out more about where Obama stands on the issues that matter most, check out Meet Barack Obama.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Mediocre McCain

From Rex Nutting of MarketWatch:
Since last January, Sen. Obama's fitness for the presidency has been the only question that matters in American politics. The pollsters and pundits agree that if Obama can show the voters that he's up to the job, he'll win. If not, he won't.

But that begs another question: Is McCain fit to lead America?

That question hasn't been asked, nor has it been answered.

The assumption seems to be that McCain's years of experience in the military and in Congress of course give him the background and tools he'd need in the White House. As Britney might say, "Duh! For sure he's qualified!!! He's Mac!!!"

But is that true? Does McCain have the right stuff?

A careful look at McCain's biography shows that he isn't prepared for the job. His resume is much thinner than most people think.

Here are some reasons why McCain would be a mediocre president.

Lack of accomplishments
Like the current occupant of the White House, McCain got his first career breaks from the connections and money of his family, not from hard work.

The son and grandson of Navy admirals, he attended Annapolis where he did poorly. Nevertheless, he was commissioned as a pilot, where he performed poorly, crashing three planes before he failed to evade a North Vietnamese missile that destroyed his plane. McCain spent more than five years in a prison camp.

After his release, McCain knew his weak military record meant he'd never make admiral, so he turned his sights to a career in politics. With the help of his new wife's wealth, his new father-in-law's business connections and some powerful friends had made as a lobbyist for the Navy, he was elected in 1982 to a Congress in a district that he didn't reside in until the day the seat opened up. A few years later, he succeeded Barry Goldwater as a senator.

McCain hasn't accomplished much in the Senate. Even his own campaign doesn't trumpet his successes, probably because the few victories he's had still rankle Republicans.

His campaign finance law failed to significantly reduce the role of money in politics. He failed to get a big tobacco bill through the Senate. He's failed to change the way Congress spends money; his bill to give the president a line-item veto was declared unconstitutional, and the system of pork and earmarks continues unabated. He failed to reform the immigration system.

Every senator who runs for president misses votes back in Washington, so it's no surprise that McCain and all the others who ran in the primaries have missed a lot of votes in the past year. But between the beginning of 2005 and mid-2007, no senator missed more roll-call votes than McCain did, except Tim Johnson, who was recovering from a near-fatal brain aneurysm.

McCain says he doesn't understand the economy. He's demonstrated that he doesn't understand the workings of Social Security, or the political history of the Middle East. He doesn't know who our enemies are. He says he wants to reduce global warming, but then proposes ideas that would stimulate -- not reduce -- demand for fossil fuels.

McCain has done one thing well -- self promotion. Instead of working on legislation or boning up on the issues, he's been on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" more than any other guest. He's been on the Sunday talk shows more than any other guest in the past 10 years. He's hosted "Saturday Night Live" and even announced his candidacy in 2007 on "The Late Show with David Letterman."

McCain has not articulated any lofty goals. So far, his campaign theme has mostly been "McCain: He's None of the Above."

In the primaries, he campaigned on "I'm not that robotic businessman, I'm not that sanctimonious hick, I'm not that crazy libertarian, I'm not that washed-up actor, I'm not that delusional 9/11 guy." In the general election, he's emphasized that he's not that treasonous dreamer.

No leadership
McCain has frequently taken on near-impossible missions that go against the grain of his party. It's the basis of his reputation as a maverick. But McCain has never been able to bring more than a handful of Republicans along with him on issues such as campaign finance reform or immigration. Democrats on the Hill have accepted McCain's help on some issues, but except for a few exceptions (John Kerry and Joe Lieberman), they've never warmed to him.

To achieve anything as president, McCain would have to win over two hostile parties: The Democrats and the Republicans.

Living in the Sixties
McCain is still fighting the Vietnam War. But he's not fighting the real historic war, which taught us the folly of injecting ourselves into a civil war that was none of our business. We learned that, in a world where even peasants have guns, explosives and radios, a determined and popular guerrilla force can defeat a modern army equipped with the mightiest technology if that army has no vital national interest to protect.

Instead, McCain is fighting an imaginary Vietnam War, where a sure victory could have been achieved with just a little more bombing, just a little more "pacification," just a little more will to win at home. This fantasy clouds McCain's judgment on foreign policy.
Most of the other high-profile politicians who fought in Vietnam -- Colin Powell, Chuck Hegel, John Kerry, and Jim Webb -- aren't stuck in the past, and they don't view the Iraq War as a chance to get Vietnam right.

No principles
After years of honing a reputation as a guy who'll say the truth regardless of the political consequences, McCain has crashed the Straight Talk Express. On almost every issue where he took a principled stand against the Republican line -- taxes, immigration, oil drilling, the Religious Right -- he's changed his views.

We ought to like politicians who change their mind when the facts change; it shows maturity, judgment and flexibility. But politicians who change their mind to suit the prevailing winds show the opposite.

The bottom line
Successful presidents come from two molds: visionaries, or mechanics. The visionaries -- think Reagan or FDR -- see what others can't and say 'Why not?" to inspire the country. The mechanics -- think LBJ or Eisenhower -- know the ins and outs of government and are able to harness the power of millions of humans to accomplish great things, or at least keep the wheels from coming off.

McCain fits neither style. He's neither a dreamer, nor a detail guy. His major accomplishment, in Vietnam and in the Senate, has been merely to survive.

Just surviving doesn't make you're a hero, or a decent president. America needs to do more than survive the next four years.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

South Korea Attacks Union Leaders

South Korean president Lee Myung-bak's Grand National Party (GNP) has consistently shown its fascist tendencies, but this time it has crossed the line unambiguously for all to see. The GNP, much like the us GOP (interestingly similar name in this time of globalization), has implemented a brutal anti-working class agenda for the past two decades. The majority of the leaders of the GNP had been leaders in previous reactionary parties including those which ran the country during the dictatorships of the 60's and 70's.

Now they are trying to destroy the labor movement in that country.

From LabourStart:
About ten days ago, the South Korean government issued arrest warrants for the leaders of the country's trade union movement. Among those named were the President, Vice President and General Secretary of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), as well as leaders of affiliated unions. The KCTU Vice President was arrested by police and she's now being held at the Youngdeungpo Police Station.

The others are still at large. Police have encircled the union headquarters in Seoul.

The “crime” these trade union leaders are accused of committing is this: in early July, they called for a general strike. The South Korean government, in defiance of universally recognized human rights standards (including ILO conventions) has decided that this strike was illegal.

The KCTU has asked us all to take a moment and send off a strong message of protest to the South Korean government. LabourStart has launched a major new online campaign to do precisely that. Please go here now to send off your message: