Sunday, May 29, 2011

Revitalizing the AFL-CIO

Ralph Nader/In The Public Interest

When Harry Kelber, the 96 year old relentless labor advocate and editor of The Labor Educator speaks, the leadership of the AFL-CIO should listen. A vigorous champion for the rights of rank-and-file workers vis-à-vis their corporate employers and their labor union leaders, Kelber has recently completed a series of five articles titled “Reasons Why the AFL-CIO Is Broken; Let Us Start a Debate on How to Fix It.” (http://www.laboreducator.org/broken.htm)

The reaction: Silence from union leaders, their union publications and at union gatherings.

Kelber, operating out of a tiny New York City office, knows more firsthand about unions, their historical triumphs, their contemporary deficiencies and their potential for tens of millions of working families than almost anyone in the country. Over the decades, no one has written more widely distributed pamphlets that cogently and concisely explain unions, the labor movement and anti-worker restrictive laws like the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, than this honest, sensitive worker campaigner.

At a perilous period for both working and unemployed Americans, facing deep recession, corporate abandonment to China and other repressive regimes, and the Republicans’ virulent assault on livelihoods and labor rights, Kelber believes that AFL-CIO should be on the ramparts. Instead, he sees it as moribund, hunkering down, with control of the power and purse concentrated in the hands of the silent and Sphinx-like Federation officers and the tiny clique of bureaucrats who run the show.

“In the AFL-CIO, the rank-and-file have no voice in electing their officials, because only the candidates of the Old Guard can be on the ballot,” he writes.

Certainly, the AFL-CIO is not reflecting the old adage that when “the going gets tough, the tough get going.” They recoil from any public criticism of Barack Obama, who disregards or and humiliates them by his actions.

Mr. Obama promised labor in 2008 to press for a $9.50 federal minimum wage by 2011, and the Employee Free Choice Act, especially “card check,” and then forgot about both commitments. He has not spoken out and vigorously fought for an adequate OSHA inspection and enforcement budget to diminish the tens of thousands of workplace related fatalities every year. He’s been too busy managing drones, Kandahar and outlying regions of the quagmire of our undeclared wars.

Nothing Obama does seems to publically rile the AFL-CIO. In February, he crossed Lafayette Square from the White House with great fanfare to visit his pro-Republican opponents at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce yet declined to go around the corner and visit the AFL-CIO headquarters. Where was the public objection from the House of Labor?

He prevents his vice-president from responding to the Wisconsin state federation of Labor’s invitation to address the biggest rally in Madison, Wisconsin protesting labor’s arch enemy, Republican Governor Scott Walker. Biden, a self-styled “union guy”, wanted to go but the political operatives in the White House said NO. Still no public objection from Labor’s leaders.

Kelber describes the lack of a strong, funded national and international strategy to deal with the growing gap between rich and poor and the expanding shipment of both blue and white collar jobs abroad. He laments AFL-CIO’s failure to develop a “working relation with the new global unions that are challenging transnational corporations and winning some agreements.” He also notes that the AFL’s top leaders “have minimal influence at world labor conferences. They rarely attend them, even when they are invited.”

Pushing for higher wages and worker rights in the poorer developing countries, including the adoption of International Labor Organization (ILO) standards has great merit and is also a constructive way to also protect American workers.

Kelber believes it is obvious “that U.S. cooperation with labor unions from other countries with the same employer is the best way to organize giant multinationals, but the AFL-CIO has spent little time, money and resources in building close working relations with unions from abroad.”

What is restraining AFL-CIO’s President Richard Trumka? A former coal miner, then a coal miners’ lawyer, and president of the United Mine Workers, Mr. Trumka has been at the Federation for over a decade. He knows the politics of the AFL-CIO, makes great speeches about callous corporatism around the country, and has a useful website detailing corporate greed.

Unfortunately, words aside, he is not putting real, bold muscle behind the needs of America’s desperate workers.

He can start by shaking up his bureaucracy and put forth an emancipation manifesto of democratic reforms internal to the unions themselves and external to the government and the corporate giants. They all go together.

When I asked Harry Kelber whether there were any unions he admires, he named the fast-growing California Nurses Association (CNA) and the United Electrical Workers.

CNA’s executive director Rose Ann DeMoro is on the AFL-CIO Board and has urged Mr. Trumka to be more aggressive. She has secured his stepped-up support for a Wall Street financial speculation tax that could bring in over $300 billion a year. He may even join her and the nurses in a symbolic picketing of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce headquarters next month.

The ever fundamental Kelber, however, sees a plan B if the AFL-CIO does not change. “Union members should be thinking about creating a new bottoms-up labor federation,” he urges, reminding them that in the nineteen thirties, the Committee of Industrial Organizations (CIO) seceded from the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and went on “to organize millions of workers in such major corporations as General Motors, General Electric, U.S. Steel, Westinghouse, Hormel and others.”

The new labor federation, he envisions, for today’s times would be controlled by the membership and led by local unions and central labor councils that are impatient with the sluggish leadership of their international union presidents.

Harry Kelber, you epitomize the saying that “the only true aging is the erosion of one’s ideals.”

(Visit Harry’s Kelber’s website www.laboreducator.org for more of his insights.)

Another music benefit ...

This one sent to me by Ray Mason. Looks like another good one.
Sunday June 12 - Benefit Rock Show For Charlie Chesterman (Scruffy The Cat, Harmony Rockets, Chaz & The Motorbikes) @ T.T. The Bear's, 10 Brookline St., Central Square, Cambridge, MA (617) 492-0082. www.ttthebears.com. Featuring The Upper Crust, Roy Sludge Trio, Raging Teens, Ray Mason Band and a "Friends Of Charlie" All-Star set! 12 noon - 5:30 p.m. Michael J. Charles says "Charlie was diagnosed with colon cancer last year. His spirits are good and he's been making progress. His outlook has broadened. He used to take things a day at a time and it's nice to see him get excited about things "down the road" like this benefit on June 12th where he intends on performing. Hope you can make it!" We love Charlie! He's been a friend and major inspiration for years. One of the greatest American rock n' rollers! See you at T.T's!!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Exciting news coming ...

A quick note to let all of my blog followers and readers know that I will soon have some exciting news to announce about a new gig I have landed.
I'll give everyone a little hint: I'm going to be covering the New Hampshire primary, some State House news, and local police/fire and municipal government in Concord.
In order to succeed at this new thing, I'm going to need a lot of help from all of you. So stay tuned for more details.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A great show and a great cause

The 1st Annual FREDSTOCK benefit to raise cancer awareness & Fred Ciampi memorial concert will be held at the Magic Room Gallery in Brighton at 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 18 (www.magicroomgallery.com). Tix are $20. Check out this line up, including reunion shows by Miles Dethmuffen, The 360s, and Curious Ritual. Wow!

7:15 Andy pratt
7:45 Annette Farrington
8:15 Revolutionary Snake Ensemble
8:45 Peter Moore & Sarah Rabdau
9:00 Miles Dethmuffin
9:30 Up Your Bucket
10:00 360’s
11:00 Curious Ritual
11:30 Linda Veins
12:00 Special Friends Jam

Saturday, May 21, 2011

June 2011 Top 30 Noise chart

Reporting: 14 different radio stations and Internet programs

1. Faces on Film – Some Weather
2. The Rudds – Get The Femuline Hang On
3. The Low Anthem – Smart Flesh
4. The Bynars – The Bynars
5. Deer Tick – The Black Dirt Sessions
6. Gene Dante & the Future Starlets “The Love Letter Is Dead”
7. The Lights Out – Primetime
8. Audrey Ryan – Thick Skin
9. Chop Chop – The Spark
10. Girlfriends – “Cave Kids”
11. Hallelujah the Hills “ Country Before Kings”
12. Hands and Knees – Wholesome
13. Hooray for Earth – True Loves
14. The Longwalls – Careers in Science EP
15. The Macrotones – First Signs of Danger
16. Old Jack – Gone Before You Know EP
17. Radio Control – Hot Audio
18. Soft Pyramids – Electric Scenes EP
19. John Powhida International Airport – Dirty Birdy and Funny Bunny
20. The Fatal Flaw – Narrow Hours
21. Spirit Kid – “Wrong Kind of Money”
22. Mango Floss – Monsters EP
23. Buffalo Tom – Skins
24. The Cinnamon Fuzz – Cruise of the Century EP
25. Freezepop – Imaginary Friends
26. J. Mascis – Several Shades of Why
27. Mean Creek – Hemophiliac EP
28. The Michael J. Epstein Memorial Library – Volume One
29. Mount Peru – My Sweetheart The Destroyer
30. The Sheila Divine – “Carve Away”

Friday, May 20, 2011

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Jon Huntsman coming to N.H.

Potential 2012 Republican presidential candidate and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman is coming to New Hampshire this weekend for a number of events. Huntsman will be at house parties and meet-and-greets around the state. Here are some of the public events, if anyone is interested:
May 19, 5:30 p.m. Meet and greet at Jesse's Restaurant in Hanover.
On Friday, May 19, he'll be in Keene, Hancock, and will speak at the Concord VFW Post 1631 at 6 Court St. at 4 p.m.
On Saturday, May 20, Huntsman will deliver a SNHU commencement address at the Verizon Wireless Arena. Later in the day, he'll have photo ops at Riley's Gun Shop in Hooksett and Robie's Country Store (a requirement for anyone running for president). At 5 p.m., Huntsman will speak at a Windham GOP meeting at the Nesmith Library.
On Sunday, Huntsman will be in the Lakes Region and in Franklin; on Monday, he'll be in Durham.
As always, the events are subject to change.

Couple of quick GOP poll notes

Two new GOP polls were released yesterday which are worth a quick mention.

First, Suffolk University in Boston revealed the results of its latest national poll showing former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney "surging" in the wake of former Ark. Gov. Mike Huckabee and showman Donald Trump bowing out of consideration for the 2012 Republican nomination: ["Suffolk poll data"].

Another admittedly more curious poll coming out of Iowa by a site called the 2012 Iowa Report shows former Godfather Pizza CEO Herman Caine's support at nearly 30 percent of those polled (I'll get to that in a moment). U.S. Rep. Michelle Bachmann received 14%, Ron Paul had 10, and Newt Gingrich and Tim Pawlenty with 8 and change. The rest were below 8 percent: ["Iowa Report survey"].
The 2012 Iowa Report seems to be a blog and not a "professional" polling association (not that that means anything; polling agencies have been known to manipulate the data or produce data that is speculative at best). The site describes itself as "a project of Grassfire Nation" and "is a special survey of Iowa conservatives conducted weekly to help measure where Iowa conservatives stand on the 2012 Republican presidential field."
So, this means that Caine and Bachmann are getting a good chunk of support from those who consider themselves "Iowa conservatives" and are surveyed by the site, not people randomly called on the telephone or invited to participate in an online survey. It's a snapshot, just like everything in politics, and worth mentioning since the caucus process is completely different than a primary. Caucuses rely on rabid support and interaction, especially when held in the dead of winter. More on that as we all get closer to the election days ahead.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Huckabee decides not to run

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee announced tonight he would not run for president in 2012. Most folks figured this would be his decision. I even stated such in March: ["Can Giuliani be a player in 2012?"].
You never really know until the person makes the decision. Everything else is just speculation. Most folks, it would seem from a quick Google search, were predicting he would stay out of it.
In his announcement, he took some shots at pundits and the media, and also noted that he was polling well in and out of the South, which he seemed to find surprising.
Having interviewed Huckabee twice, I can tell you that he is extremely likable, very charming (as is his wife), and, frankly, probably the strongest potential candidate for Republicans in 2012. Not just because he would run strong in southern states, working class places, and the rust belt, areas of the country that have been creamed by globalization, but also because he historically had the support of blacks in Arkansas, a voting bloc Republicans have always had problems galvanizing. He wasn't afraid to go into Democratic strongholds to look for votes - and win them.
Interestingly enough, Ted Nugent was Huckabee's guest tonight, performing a rollicking version of "Cat Scratch Fever." Huckabee was clearly enjoying himself, even rolling his eyes when Nugent offered his more sexually graphic lyrics, which seemed to embarrass Huckabee. If he is having fun and he's happy, that's a good thing. Why wreck it running for president?

Ron Paul speaks in Exeter

Thanks to state Rep. Seth Cohn, R-Canterbury, for posting this AP video quote highlight reel of 2012 presidential candidate Ron Paul speaking in Exeter on his facebook account: (Seth and his wife are the ones sitting behind Rep. Paul, center-right):

Friday, May 13, 2011

End the Land Mine Plague

In the Public Interest By Ralph Nader
5/13/11

Everyday around the world innocent people, many of them children, are killed or injured by millions of unexploded land mines and cluster bombs. Some of the cluster bomblets look like candy or a toy which attract a child in a field, orchard, schoolyard or by the roadside.

Powerful aggressor nations are responsible for most of these anti-personal weapons being laid from land or by air. Most recently, Libya’s rulers laid mines on the outskirts of Ajdabiya as part of its battle against the resistance.

In 2006, Israel laid huge numbers of cluster bombs in southern Lebanon each of which contains lethal bomblets. For many months after the ceasefire, the United Nations could not get Israel, to provide its cluster bomb algorithms to UN experts so they could safely neutralize these heinous weapons. In that period many Lebanese, adults and children, became cluster bomb casualties. (Visit http://www.atfl.org and see the Cluster Bomb Victims photo gallery.)

Two broad-based international treaties address the humanitarian necessity to ban both weapons, just as many horrific chemical and biological weapons have been banned for years. For both treaties—one on land mines, the more recent on cluster bombs—the United States has been the egregious odd man out under both Republican and Democratic Administrations.

The 1997 Mine Ban Treaty has been signed by 133 countries including many U.S. allies. Not the United States, Russia, Israel and China all of whom are major producers, users or sellers of these lethal weapons. As reported by Human Rights Watch, 68 U.S. Senators—enough votes to ratify the Land Mine treaty, have urged President Obama to move on this urgent matter. Sixteen Nobel Peace Laureates have urged their fellow Laureate, Barack Obama, to live up to the spirit of this award and lead the U.S. in embracing this treaty.

But the “permanent government” persists especially when its current President is so preoccupied with all his wars, attacks, incursions and intrigues with foreign leaders, tribes, clans, and spies.

Presently, the U.S. has a stockpile of ten million land mines. Washington claims “it has not used any since the 1991 Gulf War, has not exported any since 1992 and has not produced them since 1997” according to a Reuters report. The federal government also says it spent $1.5 billion since 1993 to help clear landmines and treat accident victims.

The State Department and the Pentagon stall and say year after year they are reviewing U.S. landmine policy. Years pass. Still no decision. One reason is that the U.S. wants flexibility to maintain mines in areas like the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea.

When it comes to the more grisly cluster bombs, the Convention on Cluster Munitions, a treaty banning the “use, stockpiling, production and transfer of cluster munitions” and disassembling and clearing the remaining stockpiles within ten years, has been signed by 108 nations. It went into effect August 2010 without the signature of the United States.

From Laos to Kosovo and from Chechnya to Iraq, these savage weapons continue their daily devastation. Pictures of the survivors with lost limbs provide the evidence of what havoc weapons profiteering and unaccountable bureaucrats can wreak. Some of these unexploded ordinance in Iraq and Afghanistan-Pakistan can be reworked into the dreaded IED’s against U.S. soldiers. Maybe that’s a wakeup call for the White House.

Still Obama fiddles and perplexes our allies with his indecision. He displays no such hesitancy about ordering more and more drones to fire on homes, buildings and vehicles with the imprecision of suspicion that has blown up wedding parties, gatherings of innocent non-combatants and recently, nine boys collecting firewood for their families.

More and more international civic organizations, often backed by their governments, are working together for a “mine-free world.” However, sluggishness in Washington can be compared with the speedy innovation by defense firms in the demonic configuration of ever more deadly cluster bombs. Wait and see what nanotechnology can do when basic research moves to application in this violent area.

There is all too much secrecy and too little open discussion in the political and electoral arenas. Obama’s annual weapons destruction report does not tell Americans why he refuses to sign either Treaty.

Mr. Obama has been to many ceremonies and photo opportunities lately. Perhaps he can reserve some space on his calendar to take a photo with some children seriously maimed by cluster bombs and land mines coupled with an announcement that he will take this next long-overdue step toward disarmament and lessen man’s inhumanity to man.

In the meantime, go to Human Rights Watch’s website (hrw.org) and sign their anti-landmine letter to President Barack Obama. And call the White House comment hotline (202-456-1111) and voice your resolve to end this scattered and often invisible scourge plaguing war-torn areas of the world.

Monday, May 9, 2011

No Labels? How did I miss this?

This morning many of us opened our work email inboxes to find a press release about a panel discussion being presented at Northeastern University tomorrow night discussing how "to break down the political divide and combat the excessive polarization of our politics."
To those of you who live and/or work in the Boston area, this might be intriguing to you. According to the press release, at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 10, Ron Shaich, the co-founder and chairman of Panera Bread, and John Avlon, CNN contributor and author, will headline a No Labels panel discussion, at the Curry Student Center at Northeastern University.
No Labels folks are meeting around Massachusetts to discuss some of the issues around the movement and what can be done to fix national problems without the political labels. The press release noted that the group was formed in December 2010 and is made up of Republicans, Democrats and Independents "who believe that America’s toughest challenges will never be solved by one party alone."
I won't be able to attend due to work commitments which are starting to become a bit overwhelming (I rarely attend personal things on Tuesday night anyway). I'm intrigued, however, about some of these ideas and just how this org will attempt to move the nation forward, especially during a presidential primary year.
This is also the first I'm hearing about this org which surprises me a little. It means that I'm either really too busy with work and family or just not paying attention (It's the former, trust me). I will also say that this is something I have really been looking forward to seeing in our political system.
I seriously hope that members of this organization will come to New Hampshire to talk in the near future. They will find a much more receptive audience here than in Massachusetts, considering the makeup of our state, politically, the fact that indies wildly swing elections (which means that both parties actually listen to them up here), and that Democrats and Republicans really do work together sometimes.
I also hope that this really is a serious effort to bring people together and not just another phony organization created to damper or control indie swing voters who make the political process so interesting. If it is a serious effort, good luck to them! We need this kind of discussion.

Here are the event details included in the press release:
WHAT: Ron Shaich, John Avlon Headline No Labels Panel Discussion in Massachusetts
WHO: Ron Shaich, John Avlon, and No Labels Massachusetts leadership
WHEN: Tuesday, May 10th at 7:30PM
WHERE: Curry Student Center at Northeastern University, 360 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA
Online @ nolabels.org.