Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Should Congress Pass the Employee Free Choice Act?

Politico is featuring op-ed columns on the controversial Employee Free Choice Act by two members of Congress, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.). As can be expected, Boehner comes out against the EFCA, while Sanchez comes out in favor.

According to Wikipedia, the EFCA “would require the National Labor Relations Board will be required to certify a union as the bargaining representative without directing an election if a majority of the bargaining unit employees signed cards, however, employees may still request a secret ballot election if 30 percent of employees petition for one.”

EFCA supporters argue that the act would protect the right of employees to join unions, while opponents say the proposed legislation would allow union organizers to coerce employees into joining their unions. They also claim that the privacy of workers could be violated.

Boehner writes, “Republicans support Americans’ right to unionize freely, and that is why we oppose this anti-worker legislation. Stripping workers of free choice in union organizing elections, this bill would leave workers open to coercion and intimidation — from either union officials or company management. In other words, rather than allowing an employee to make this critical choice in secrecy, the act would end workers’ right to privacy, making votes public for all coworkers, union organizers and employers to see — and that is simply not the way Americans conduct elections. Never have, never should."

Boehner says his party has a better alternative called the Secret Ballot Protection Act. According to the House Minority Leader, this piece of legislation would protect an employee’s right to a union election by secret ballot.

The Republican Congressman also accuses EFCA’s Democratic supporters of serving special interest groups at the expense of the American worker.

”Few rights are more fundamental to our democracy than the right to a secret ballot,” Boehner writes. “Even some of card check’s most ardent supporters, such as Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), have spoken in favor of secret ballot elections — but only when it serves their interests. Such duplicity highlights what is really at play here. This legislation is not about workers’ rights; it’s about satisfying the demands of Democrats’ special-interest political allies.”

For her part, Sanchez argues that, “This legislation gives workers more options to ensure they have the freedom to choose whether they want to form a union without facing intimidation and undue pressure from any entity. Several large companies, including AT&T and Kaiser Permanente, have voluntarily implemented some of the provisions in the Employee Free Choice Act, and the result has been a decrease in hostility in the workplace, which ultimately leads to increases in worker productivity.”

Sanchez goes on to rebut the claim made by critics of EFCA that the act would not give workers the right to have a secret ballot election.

“Opponents of the Employee Free Choice Act label it ‘undemocratic’ and claim that it eliminates workers’ right to a secret ballot election,” she writes. “This is simply untrue. If one-third of workers prefer to have a secret ballot National Labor Relations Board election, then they are able to do that. The Employee Free Choice Act preserves this option while providing the majority vote process as an additional way to decide whether to form a union without the possibility of the employer rejecting the result.”

I must confess here that I am no expert on labor issues. What do you think? Should EFCA be passed or not? And why or why not? Does the EFCA really help the American worker, or does it hurt him or her?

Monday, March 30, 2009

McCain Refuses to Say Whether He Would Support Palin in 2012

Would Sarah Palin make a good president? At least one person isn’t sure – her former running mate.

According to Politico, Arizona Senator John McCain dodged and weaved when asked Sunday during an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press whether he would support the Alaska governor if she chose to make a run for the presidency in 2012.

First, Meet the Press host David Gregory asked the man who ran as the Republican Party’s candidate in the 2008 election if he would “like to see” Palin become president.

"I'd like to see her compete. I think we got some very good candidates," McCain said before giving the names of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, and Utah Gov. John Huntsman.

When Gregory asked McCain point-blank if he would support Palin if she entered 2012 GOP primary, Mr. Straight Talk gave the usual ass-covering response: “I'd have to see who the candidates are and what the situation is at the time."

This is something McCain apparently didn’t do in 2008. Who says the elderly are slow?

What an odd thing for the senator to say about a woman he chose to run for the second-highest job in the land. After al, they say the vice president is just one heartbeat away from the presidency, and in Palin’s case, this was literally true, as her running mate was old enough to have crossed the Alps with Hannibal.

Of course, I’m being sarcastic. I’m really not this na├»ve. I have learned enough about presidential elections to know that when you are running for the Big Job and are deciding on a ticket partner, you pick the person who will help you get elected, not the person you like.

Still, given this, why did McCain pick The Hockey Mom. Why did he think she would help him with the voters? Who was his campaign strategist, James Carville?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Reid Says Chief Justice Roberts “Misled” Senate During Confirmation Hearings

Politico reports Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has accused Chief Justice John Roberts of misleading the Senate during his conformation hearings in 2005 by acting like a moderate and says the country is now “stuck” with him.

“Roberts didn’t tell us the truth. At least Alito told us who he was,” Reid said, referring to Samuel Alito, the second Supreme Court justice appointed by President George W. Bush. “But we’re stuck with those two young men, and we’ll try to change by having some moderates in the federal courts system as time goes on — I think that will happen.”

”Reid’s comments, which came during a wide-ranging discussion hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, reflect Democratic concerns that Roberts presented himself as a neutral arbiter of the law but has wielded a relentlessly conservative agenda,” writes Raju. “Republicans reject the attacks, saying Roberts has been a fair judge and has been consistent in his opinions.”

Reid says he and his fellow Democrats will seek out moderates to put on the bench, but he also said he will not attempt to keep Republicans from filibustering nominees they feel are too extreme. Four years ago, former Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), who was the Majority Leader at the time, threatened to use the “nuclear option” and do away with the filibuster. This triggered a harsh response from Reid and members of his party, who argued that such a move would eliminate the rights of the minority.

Ironically, if First had carried out his threat three years ago, Republicans today would not be able to filibuster President Obama’s judicial nominees.

“As I said at the time, the nuclear option was the most important issue I’ve ever worked on in my entire career, because if that had gone forward it would have destroyed the Senate as we know it,” Reid said.

“If the Republicans want to filibuster a judge, that is directly contrary to what their political philosophy was, but I guess it’s all subject to change,” he added.

Reid also recalled Senate Republicans’ campaign to block President Bill Clinton’s court appointees, calling it “a dark point in the history of our country. I would hope we don’t have to go through that again.”

I’m afraid I don’t know jack about the Supreme Court. In fact, I don’t even know the names of all of the justices. Can someone help me out here? Is Chief Justice Roberts really an extremist or a moderate?

Obama to Dole Out Some Tough Love to Automakers

Forget about bailout money. It’s time for President Obama to hand out some tough love to those automakers!

Ken Thomas and Tom Krisher of The Associated Press report Obama will announce a new aid package for General Motors and Chrysler within the next week or so and says the auto giants need to make “pretty drastic changes” if they want to save their industry in the long run.

“Obama gave a preview of his administration's approach to fixing the struggling U.S. auto industry during an online town hall meeting Thursday, promising additional aid only if the Detroit change its ways and receives concessions from stakeholders,” Thomas and Krisher write.

"We will provide them some help," Obama said. "I know that it is not popular to provide help to auto workers — or to auto companies. But my job is to measure the costs of allowing these auto companies just to collapse versus us figuring out — can they come up with a viable plan?"

"If they're not willing to make the changes and the restructurings that are necessary, then I'm not willing to have taxpayer money chase after bad money," he added.

Hmmm….not willing to have taxpayer money chase after bad money? What does B.O. think he’s doing with the banks?

All told, Chrysler and General Motors have received over $17 billion in bailout money since December and are requesting billions more. A presidential task force set up by Obama “has been meeting with industry officials and studying restructuring plans submitted by the companies to put them on the path to long-term profitability through tough concessions.”

"Everybody is going to have to give a little bit — shareholders, workers, creditors, suppliers, dealers — everybody is going to have to recognize that the current model, economic model, of the U.S. auto industry is unsustainable," Obama said.

Although the president believes the auto companies brought about many of their own troubles through mismanagement, he says it is vital to preserve the industry for symbolic and employment reasons. It is estimated that some 3 million American jobs would be lost if the car manufacturers were allowed to go out of business.

According to Thomas and Krisher, “The government can recall its loans to GM and Chrysler if they fail to sign deals for debt restructuring and other concessions from stakeholders, including the United Auto Workers union, by March 31.”

So when does the newspaper industry get a bailout? Seriously, should the government help the automakers in the name of preserving an important American institution and keeping many citizens employed, or should the automakers be allowed to pay for their mistakes and go out of business?

Obama and “Afghanistanization”

To escalate or not to escalate? That is the question.

Obama’s answer: Escalate.

Kim Chipman and Tony Capaccio of Bloomberg News report President Obama plans to deploy 4,000 troops to Afghanistan on top of the 17,000 he already sent there in February. According to administration officials, the additional forces will train the members of the Afghan army and “set benchmarks for progress in battling militants there and in Pakistan.”

It is hoped that this new strategy, which will be announced later today, will turn the tide in America’s eight-year-old war in Afghanistan and stem the recent wave of insurgent violence that has racked the landlocked nation. An important presidential and provincial election is scheduled to take place in Afghanistan on August 20 and security will be crucial to its success, as many expect the Taliban and other insurgents to do everything in their power to disrupt what would normally be a peaceful political event.

The London-based Times reports the top commander of the British Army is ready to deploy a further 2,000 troops to Afghanistan.

According to Simon Tisdall and Ewen McAskill of The Guardian, diplomatic and military officials say the Obama administration thinks it has only one year to make real progress in Central Asia before it loses the support of the U.S. public. The American people have never liked long conflicts, and for good reason. Unfortunately, the president may need more than a year to fix this situation.

The hyenas over at Code Pink want President Obama to immediately withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan and focus instead on diplomacy and bringing humanitarian aid to that country. Are they serious? What good is humanitarian assistance if you don’t have troops there to stabilize the country and provide security? Of course, a conventional military strategy won’t work in Afghanistan and the Obama administration recognizes that fact, which is why it is putting a great deal of emphasis on training Afghan forces to protect their country. With regard to fighting the Taliban and other Islamic militants, this is an unconventional war and should be fought mainly by unconventional forces like the Army Rangers, Green Berets, Navy Seals, Air Force Combat Controllers and PJs, and Recon Marines. But there still needs to be a certain number of conventional troops for the reasons I outlined above.

The Code Pinkers and those who agree with them need to come up with a more realistic alternative than the “Kumbaya” approach. Utilizing “soft” methods in a conflict such as this one is important, of course, but as a great man once put it, it helps to have a big (insert your own expletive) stick.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Republicans’ Transparency Push Interpreted by Democrats as an Attack on Michelle Obama

According to Politico, an effort is being made on the part of House Republicans to institute a change in federal law that would require first ladies to conduct their policy work in public. But many Democrats are interpreting this move as an attack on Michelle Obama and are warning their GOP colleagues that her husband, who has a big-ass nuclear arsenal at his disposal, might see it the same way.

This Republican push for transparency is being led by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Issa, a key player behind the 2003 gubernatorial recall election of former California Gov. Gray Davis and a one-time target of the Jewish Defense League, launched what is shaping up to be yet another partisan campaign at a combative committee markup session on March 10.

If his proposed amendment passes, “any government policy group that Mrs. Obama or another first spouse regularly participates in would be subject to a law requiring meetings to be announced in advance and, in most instances, public.”

Issa’s initial proposal at the markup sparked a furious debate between Democratic and Republican House members that lasted more than half an hour. Rep. William Clay (D-Mo.) said President Obama might view the legislation as a personal attack and a brutal partisan fight could be the result.

“Let me… caution my friend from California that, as you’re probably aware, this president is very guarded about his family,” Clay said. “I think that, no matter what you’re intending with this amendment, that the president may view this as an attack on his wife. And I’m just saying, you know, let’s be careful--if we want to open up that can of worms. Let’s not go in that direction.”

For his part, Issa insists that he and members of his party are only trying to get the Obama administration to live up to its image of itself as a champion of transparency.

“We are trying actually to protect the historic role of the first lady,” Issa said. “I believe this is open government at its finest.”

So who is telling the truth here? Are the Republicans sincere in their transparency effort or are the Democrats right in their suspicion that this same effort is really nothing more than a not-so-subtle knock at the woman Michelle Malkin derisively refers to as “the Other Michelle”?

Republicans Eager to Counter “Party of No” Image

Politico reports House Republicans have unleashed a new legislative offensive to present “detailed alternatives” to President Obama’s policies and fight back against Democrats’ attempts to paint them as “the Party of No.”

On Wednesday, it was a housing plan,” says Politico writers Mike Allen and Victoria McGrane. “Thursday, it will be a big, TV-friendly stack of budget blueprints, ‘The Republican Road to Recovery.’ That’s to match the president’s own platitudinous budget title, ‘A New Era of Responsibility.’”

“The House Republicans’ budget document, provided to POLITICO ahead of its release, makes sure no one can miss the point: Each chapter begins ‘The Republican Plan,’ and each section is divided into ‘The President’s Budget’ and ‘Republicans’ Solution.’”

According to House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the housing proposal he and eight of his fellow Republicans unveiled on Tuesday was designed as a response “to the administration — and the president himself, who continues to say that Republicans don’t have any ideas.”

“We’re here today to say yes we do,” Cantor said. “This is one in a series. It will not be the last. We are committed to trying to pull the agenda back to the mainstream and to respond to the problems facing America’s families today.”

”The documents — and the showmanship in releasing them — are the result of frustration by GOP leaders who repeatedly hear on TV that they have no alternatives,” writes Allen and McGrane. “In fact, they had their own plans. They just didn’t get much attention, partly because Republicans sometimes disagreed about them among themselves.”

“It’s the old ‘I want to see it in writing,’” said a top House Republican official. “They’re going to see it in writing.” Another official said: “We need to hold something up and say, ‘Here are our charts. Here are our graphs. It’s real.’”

The Republicans will also host a TV series called “Mr. Jindal’s Nation,” starring Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal as the lovable and cuddly man who talks to American voters as though they were children.

Here are the lyrics to the show’s theme song, Won’t You Be My Supporter?

It's a beautiful day in this nation,
A beautiful day for a supporter.
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?...
I've always wanted to have a supporter just like you.
Even if I’m not in the same tax bracket as you.
I’ll cut your taxes and protect you from foes,
Ban gay marriage and liberal news shows.
You’ll be doing God’s will if you vote for me,
This nation will be Christian and how great will that be?
So, let's make the most of this beautiful nation,
And join together to celebrate the Good Lord’s Creation.
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
Won't you be my supporter?
Won't you please,
Won't you please?
Please won't you be my supporter?

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