02 December, 2008

Happy Hour Discurso

Today's opining on the public discourse.

Geez... hyperbole much?

Over the weekend, the Wall Street Journal reported that a “face-off is brewing between labor and employers” in regards to the Employee Free Choice Act, which would aid American workers in the path toward unionization. Indeed, despite the bill having widespread public support, the debate surrounding it is becoming increasingly vitriolic.

The Wonk Room previously highlighted Home Depot founder Bernie Marcus’ assertion that retailers who are not fighting the Free Choice Act “should be shot.” Now, the United States Chamber of Commerce has upped the ante, saying that the “coming fight in Congress over the issue” is a “firestorm bordering on Armageddon.”

Big bidness really has a pathological hatred for unions, don't they? It's just a wee bit off-balance. Someone needs to feed them some Prozac, methinks.

In other pathological Con news, the tilting at imaginary windmills is getting out of hand:

And speaking of the Fairness Doctrine, paranoia, and self-pity, it appears the Media Research Center has apparently begun an organized campaign to combat a policy initiative that doesn't exist. My friend Alex Koppelman at Salon has the report:

Monday, the MRC announced the formation of the Free Speech Alliance, a group dedicated to fighting against the reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine, an old FCC regulation that mandated equal time for opposing viewpoints in opinion programming. The move was announced in a post on MRC's blog, Newsbusters, that was titled "The Free Speech Alliance Declares War on the 'Censorship Doctrine.'"

The MRC is also asking people to sign a petition against revival of the regulation. "In 1987, President Ronald Reagan rescinded the Fairness Doctrine and since then, talk radio has flourished. Conservatives dominate it, and liberals can't stand it. By re-instating the Fairness Doctrine, liberals would effectively silence the conservative leaders of the day ... and would essentially take control of all forms of media," the group says in an introduction on the Web page that hosts the petition. On the same page, the MRC warns, "In recent months, the groundswell for reinstatement is intensifying. In fact, a growing number of liberal leaders in Washington, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, have openly stated their intent to do so."

Actually, that's not even close to true. Obama opposes the idea, Pelosi hasn't "openly stated" anything about pursuing this, and Reid's office told Salon that the Senate Majority Leader "is not contemplating anything like that." The "groundswell for reinstatement" exists only in the overactive imaginations of paranoid right-wing activists.

And yet, here we are. The MRC is not only railing against a policy proposal that doesn't exist, it's created an organization committed to fighting a policy proposal that doesn't exist. To help in the endeavor against the imaginary foe, the MRC has roped in Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, Concerned Women for America, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, among others, to help.

How pathetic is that? It's starting to seem as though universal healthcare is a great idea not just to save families from going bankrupt on medical debt, but to ensure that our right wing gets the mental health treatment they so obviously need. We're going to have to start spiking their water with Risperdol to take care of those paranoid delusions and allow them to live healthy, productive, reality-based lives.

While we're medicating folks for their psychosis, we need to bump Rep. Hunter (no relation) up to the front of the line:

Freshman Rep. Duncan D. Hunter (R-CA), son of former GOP presidential candidate Duncan Hunter, recently was elected to Congress after campaigning on a staunch anti-immigration platform.

During an interview with MSNBC’s Luke Russert today, Hunter defended his campaign pledge to end citizenship for children of undocumented immigrants, arguing immigration increases domestic crime. As his evidence, Hunter made the outlandish and grossly inaccurate claim that Tijuana, Mexico has more crime than “Iraq and Afghanistan”:

HUNTER: In San Diego, we face a lot of crime. … There’s been more murders in Tijuana, Mexico than there have been in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s more dangerous to go to Mexico from San Diego than it is to fly over and stroll around a Baghdad market.


Hunter is unfortunately correct that violence in Mexico has ballooned in recent years, in part due to the ongoing drug wars. At least 4,000 have died this year in drug-related violence, according to the AP. Tijuana has also seen a surge in violence.

But to claim that there are more murders in the city of Tijuana than there are in “Iraq and Afghanistan” is absurd. In Tijuana, “at least 200 people have been killed in drug violence this year,” the Washington Post reported in June. But in the month of July 2008 alone, there were approximately 500 civilian fatalities in Iraq. There have been roughly 700 deaths this year in Afghanistan.

Something tells me Rep. Hunter has been watching too many movies, mainlining too many GOP talking points, and forgetting to take his anti-psychotics again. I say we send him on vacation: let him stroll a week in Tijuana, and a week in Baghdad. If he lives through the experience, he can tell us which one's really more dangerous.

When trying to treat the mentally ill, it's vitally important not to help them feed their delusions. The last thing you should do is play along. Someone needs to let the MSM know:

This really isn't complicated. President Bush was not being "blunt" or showing "candor" when he told ABC News in an interview published yesterday that his biggest regret was the failure of intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq War.

Rather, he was whitewashing away his own role in the fisaco by promoting the demonstrable falsehood that there was no available evidence or information that argued against war and that he was merely fooled into invading Iraq solely by the bad intel.

The big news orgs seem eager to help Bush do this. Not a single one of their reports on the interview that we can find bothered to tell readers that there was plenty of good intel -- ignored by the Bush administration -- saying that Saddam wasn't the threat Bush was claiming he was. Nor did any of them bother mentioning that the weapons inspectors in Iraq were saying the same thing -- something that also went ignored.

These facts are absolutely central to understanding Bush's efforts to falsify history in yesterday's interview.

They apparently will need therapy as well, as they seem to have a ginormous co-dependency problem.

Somehow, someday, we'll have a healthy body politic again. Possibly after we've stuck the entire right wing in nice padded rooms.


Woozle said...

Whenever the Right starts pulling something like this War on the Fairness Doctrine, I have to wonder if there's a deeper strategy behind it.

(Mind you, this isn't necessarily anything that the visible exponents of the idea in question may be aware of. I don't know what the mechanism for meme-spreading is among the right-wing intelligruntsia, but at times they do all seem to be receiving orders from somewhere: "There is a War on X! This is a terrible thing, and here is why it is a terrible thing! Be pointed in your accusations of persons A, B, and C, and be careful not to have your views tainted by reading anything in the liberal-elite media! Pundits, to me! Use Wookieestorm Defense!" Okay, I'm getting carried away now...)

Anyway, some possibilities:

* They are trying to draw attention away from some real crisis (duh) by making us spend our column space defending this cause instead.

This would seem the most likely explanation, except that if we don't actually care about the Fairness Doctrine and don't bother wasting time defending it, then they're largely wasting their time attacking it. Perhaps we should care about it?

* They are expecting support for the FD to materialize at some point, and are building up a groundswell of right-wing antipathy ahead of time.

This might make sense. I've often talked about how the main problem we face between now and 2012 is the fact that our national nervous system (i.e. the mainstream media) has been co-opted by the Borg; maybe others have been opining similarly, and the Right has sensed the way the wind might be blowing...

* They are trying to build support for reinstating the FD by getting us to re-examine it, at which point we suddenly remember that that's how we prevented the right wing from taking over the airwaves previously. Not sure how this would benefit them, unless it's purely to distract us from other things (i.e. first reason)

It always seemed to me that the solution to the right-wing takeover should be something more like eliminating mass ownership of media outlets. I don't see why we have a need for anyone to own more than even one newspaper or TV/radio station, but the trend has been to allow more and more ownership and consolidation. Maybe they're trying to push us away from media-deconsolidation and towards reinstating the FD because it would be less effective and something they could be Resentful about forever after...?

* They just need an enemy to fight -- the more imaginary, the better, because it's easier to get people to fear something they can't watch.

* Pure neocon reality inversion: Let's say something that's completely and provably wrong. We do what we must, because we can. &lt:FX of Woozle resisting filking the rest of the song>

And that's about all I have to say about that.

Progressive Conservative said...

From Dana: Big bidness really has a pathological hatred for unions, don't they? It's just a wee bit off-balance. Someone needs to feed them some Prozac, methinks.

In 2001 a letter was sent to the Mexican government from members of Congress. It was written on the letterhead of Congressman George Miller of California (D). The letter reads:
As members of Congress of the United States who are deeply concerned with international labor standards and the role of labor rights in international trade agreements, we are writing to encourage you to use the secret ballot in all union recognition elections.
We understand that the secret ballot is allowed for, but not required, by Mexican labor law. However, we feel that the secret ballot is absolutely necessary in order to ensure that workers are not intimidated into voting for a union they might not otherwise chose.
We respect Mexico as an important neighbor and trading partner, and we feel that the increased use of the secret allow in union recognition elections will help bring real democracy to the Mexican workplace.

This letter was signed by 15 of Miller's fellow Congressmen, all Democrats. Of these 16 Democrats, 11 are still in the House. Amazingly, all 11 of them are now signees in sponsor of the Employee Free Choice Act. That sort of makes one wonder what made them change their mind about secret ballots in union recognition elections in the last 7 years. The only thing I can think of is that they now control Congress, so their priorities (and their responsibilities to their interest groups) have changed.
If Congress is going to pass this un-Democratic piece of junk, they should at least be responsible enough to add a clause that states unions can be de-recognized in the same fashion. Most employees for unionized companies did not vote to bring the union in, so they should have an equal ability to end union membership with the same check-card-only process. Right? Afterall, Democrats are all about fairness….so I don't see why they would oppose a reciprocal clause.

Woozle said...

PC: I'm not getting your argument. As I understanding it, you're suggesting that because certain Democratic congressmen (a) expressed encouragement of secret ballots for unionizing in Mexico in 2001, thereby making it easier for workers to unionize there, they are (b) being hypocritical by encouraging legislation now to make it easier to unionize in the US?

This isn't about secret ballots as a principle, it's about unionizing as a principle.

We like unions. Don't you like unions? They encourage businesses to be more responsible. I thought conservatives were about personal responsibility... or don't businesses count as persons? I thought conservatives were all in favor of corporate personhood... (Gee, sometimes it'd be really nice to know what conservatives are for, instead of what they're against. Oh, sorry, but you're not with those other conservatives and their wacky ideas -- you're a progressive conservative. So do tell: what progress are you for?)

Yours as always, lightly salted in snark and garnished with organic piss & balsamic vinegar in a light whine sauce,


P.S. Nice Right-Wing Talking Point™; how ever did you come by it? (I'm doing an informal study of where right-wingers get their memes from, y'see, so any information you could provide would be valuable.)

P.P.S. It's been a rough morning. My apologies to Dana if I've oversnarked.

Mike at The Big Stick said...

This isn't about secret ballots as a principle, it's about unionizing as a principle.

Woozle, In other words you mean 'this isn't about democracy, it's about unionizing'. Unfortunatley you seem to think that unionizing is more important than democratic voting. If that is the case, then why not do away with secret ballots in ALL union activity, or for that matter in political elections as well?

With the check-card-only system a union rep can corner an employee in the parking lot or come to their home and pressure them into signing the card. Then when they have enough signatures, they have their union. As those 16 Democratic congressmen said in 2001, secret balloting is about stopping worker intimidation and promoting democracy in the workplace.

I would also remind you that secret balloting was an effective means of forming unions for 70 years. Why is it suddenly an obstacle?

Woozle said...


I had to read what you were saying several times before I got the point that you're concerned employees will be pressured into voting for a union they don't want.

Do you have any data to suggest that this is at all likely? Why would employees not want a union to represent them?

Couldn't the hypothetical anti-union worker simply go to management and sign a piece of paper saying "I was pressured into voting for the union, please change my 'pro' vote to a 'con'". I'd think they'd be management's favorite from that point onward -- and if the union was found to be encouraging this sort of nonsense enough to make a difference, that union would be disbanded or nullified for violating the law and your hypothetical worker might well keep his job while many pro-unionists lose theirs.

Show me examples of where pro-union employees have been successfully pressuring anti-union employees into joining. How could pressure be successfully applied if the pro-union employee weren't a higher-up, and since when have higher-ups been pro-union?

Your argument at least makes sense, but it goes completely against what little I know of business-union relations.

Open ballots also have the advantage of verification, so if there's any question that the ballot box might have been stuffed -- or of whether Joe over there voted pro-union or not -- those questions can be answered with an open ballot. If Joe feels pressured by someone who's going against the general sentiment, it seems to me he's less likely to bow to that pressure if he knows he'll have to answer to his co-workers for how he voted.

Mike at The Big Stick said...

Woozle, I have family that works for the UFCW, the Electrician's union, the police union, the postal union, the teacher's union and I myself am a former Teamster and UFCW member from two different jobs. So I guess i feel like I am qualified to speak about unions. Not everyone who works under a union believes it's a good thing. I wasn't that fond of either that I worked for and that was why i ultimately chose a job that was non-union.

Presently I happen to work for a Fortune 500 company that is partially unionized. I can tell you from experience that the employees on the non-unionized side regularly face union reps who harass them as they enter and leave the property, get phone calls at home, etc. There is also pressure from union advocates within. We have had two opportunities to vote in a union and it was rejected two times. The employees on my side of the company do not believe they will be better represented by a union.

What happened both times in our case was that the union reps successfully got enough check cards but the union was voted down in a secret ballot. Under the Employee Free Choice Act, we would now be unionized.

If you make a simple google search you will find dozens of unionization votes across the country that went against the union in the last decade. So what that means is that in most cases there were enough check cards to force a vote, but when employees were given anonymity and privacy, they voted differently. THAT is why the EFCA is such a dangerous tool.

Open ballots also have the advantage of verification, so if there's any question that the ballot box might have been stuffed -- or of whether Joe over there voted pro-union or not -- those questions can be answered with an open ballot.

This is not a formal vote. Check card signatures can be obtained any time, any where. An employee can get the full court press from two reps in their living room and if they sign that would carry the same weight as a secret vote under today's rules. Under what notion of fairness and democracy is that an acceptable form of 'voting' ?

Efrique said...

It's ridiculous to compare raw numbers of murders and conclude that the higher number implies higher danger.

Personal risk would (approximately) relate to the murder rate. Divide number of murders by population. It's silly to compare murders in Tijuana with murders in Iraq given Iraq has many times the population of Tijuana.

I also wouldn't rely on the quoted figures for Iraq (or probably Tijuana, actually).

Woozle said...

Mike: I accept your personal knowledge on the subject as superior to mine and concede the point.

Further research and documentation is needed in order to solidify this data into something compelling. If I were in your present situation, I'd be making a public note (on a wiki or some other venue where the information can be all in one place rather than scattered throughout blog or forum posts) every time I received a pressuring phone call. What date/time, what was the caller ID, who spoke to me (if they gave a name), and what they said. If even a fairly small portion of employees do this, then the pressuring tactics will tend to work against the union rather than for it because people will see the unpleasant side of the union and be less favorable towards it.

Issuepedia was created with this kind of reciprocal accountability in mind. I suspect that you don't want to openly publish anything which might tie back to your actual place of work, though, so I don't know what to suggest; anecdotes without the sort of specifics I mentioned above can't be verified or contradicted, so aren't very useful... but I'm open to ideas for how to document abusive union activity (or abusive activity of any kind, for that matter).

Progressive Conservative's original comment seemed a bit over the top, accusing {members of a party known for being pro-union} of being unfair, with an implication of hypocrisy, for supporting unions. They didn't "change their minds" about secret ballots; they were being consistent in supporting unions. Given Mike's evidence, I'd call it misguided and ill-informed, not inconsistent -- but I'll agree with the conclusion: employees should be able to change their vote.

(I'll go further and say they should be able to change their vote at any time, without cause, though perhaps the "de-unionization" threshold should be some distance below the "unionization" threshold to prevent rapid flip-flopping. I'd also strongly recommend range-voting over binary.)

Mike at The Big Stick said...

Woozle, my apologies for the confusion but 'Progressive Conservative' is me. I changed my blogger settings yesterday since I chose to start posting under my first name a couple of months ago. I just finally got around to changing my Blogger settings.

Let me also say that I don't believe your opinion is any less valid than mine because I have more direct / indirect experience with unions...I mentioned that just to say that I have seen / heard some troubling things.

I would also add that I still feel there is a striking amount of hypocrisy between what those Democrats advocate for other countries and what they advocate for their own...and I can't help but blame their responsibilities to interest groups for the difference.

I'll continue this conversaton on the newer post from Dana.