Archive for August, 2003

AFL-CIO chief says democracy weakening

Sunday, August 31st, 2003

The Philadelphia Inquirer Online

By Dave Turner
Philadephia Inquirer Staff Writer

The American system for joining or forming labor unions is broken, and that’s weakening the nation’s democracy, AFL-CIO president John J. Sweeney said in a Labor Day weekend address in Philadelphia last night.

His speech, titled “Can We Be a Democracy if Democracy Ends at the Workplace Door?” was delivered to a group of about 120 people at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

Sweeney noted that the percentage of American workers who are union members has been dropping for decades and cited research that linked the decline in union membership to the long-term decline in voter participation in the United States. He blamed union problems on illegal and legal tactics used by employers, as well as on unions’ complacency about organizing additional workplaces.

“When confronted with a union organizing drive, employers do everything they can to delay union elections, to delay certification once the election is held, and then stall for months and years on bargaining a first contract,” he said.

Sweeney, the head of the nation’s largest union federation (which represents about 13 million of the nation’s 16.1 million union members), cited research by a Cornell University researcher and Human Rights Watch that found:

In a quarter of union election campaigns, employers illegally fire an average of four workers who are leading the organizing.

In 92 percent of campaigns, employers force employees to attend mandatory antiunion meetings - from which union representatives are excluded.

And 78 percent require workers to attend one-on-one “pressure sessions” each week with their supervisors.

Given such practices, Sweeney said, “Does democracy end at the workplace door in our country?”

He answered with a quotation from a Human Rights Watch study: “Workers’ freedom of association is under sustained attack in the United States, and the government is often failing its responsibilities under international human rights standards to deter such attacks and protect workers’ rights.”

Only 13.2 percent of U.S. wage-and-salary workers were union members in 2002, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, down from 20.1 percent in 1983, the first year the department compiled such data.

Sweeney blamed the decline in part on unions’ failure to devote enough resources to organizing but, he said, “the biggest problem is that the government system for employees to exercise a free choice to form or join a union is broken.”

One danger of that, he said, is its effect on the nation’s democracy - particularly voter participation.

Sweeney cited research by Ben Radcliff, a political scientist at Vanderbilt University. Radcliff found that each percentage point decline in union “density” in the workforce is linked to a 0.4 percentage point drop in voter turnout.

“To plug in the numbers, the drop from 35 percent to 13 percent union density from the 1950s to today may account for a 9 percentage point drop in voter participation - a significant portion of the overall decline,” Sweeney said.

‘I’ve Got Recon Out There. I’ve Got Some Heavy Artillery That Can Come In …And I’ve Got Strategic Mobility.’

Sunday, August 31st, 2003

NEWSWEEK: Gen. Wesley Clark on Joining the 2004 Presidential Campaign: ‘I’ve Got Recon Out There. I’ve Got Some Heavy Artillery That Can Come In …And I’ve Got Strategic Mobility.’

Retired Gen. Wesley Clark scoffs at the notion that it is too late to enter the 2004 Presidential race. “I’ve got recon out there,” he tells Newsweek in the current issue. “I’ve got some heavy artillery that can come in. I’ve got good logistics, and I’ve got strategic mobility.”

By late last week his closest friends were saying it looked like a “go,” reports Chief Political Correspondent Howard Fineman in the September 8 issue of Newsweek (on newsstands Monday, September 1).

Clark, 58, was the first commander to lead NATO in war, a successful campaign against the Serbs in Kosovo in 1999. A dedicated internationalist and critic of old-style ground wars, Clark opposed the invasion of Iraq and correctly predicted the problems the Coalition has been encountering there, Fineman reports.

Clark harshly criticized George W. Bush’s speech of last week, in which the president portrayed Iraq as the central theater in the war on worldwide terrorism. “It was the best way to put a face on his hip-shot response of ‘bring ‘em on’,” he tells Newsweek. “You can’t win without a vision, and that means working with allies. It means using force when it is appropriate, and as a last resort, and not because it looks easy. Because, as we’re finding out in Iraq, it isn’t easy.”


Saturday, August 30th, 2003

Sooner Thought

Watch the 2-minute film starring Katherine Harris
Plus: Palast meets King

Thursday, August 28, 2003

On the 40th Anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the Washington Monument, BushFlash’s Eric Blumrich has released, “Grand Theft America.” The two-minute flash animation stars Katherine Harris as the leader of the gang that purged Black citizens from Florida voter rolls by the thousands, handing the White House back to the Bush family. Watch it, download it, pass it on at

Plus: Yes! Magazine is publishing our latest warnings on the computer virus known as “Dubya,” programmed to disenfranchise Black voters before the 2004 election. Here’s a taste of it …

by Greg Palast and Ina Howard

At the dais, Martin Luther King spoke with the marchers: “We ask a simple question. Do African Americans have the right to vote in the United States of America?”

We have to blink. Speaking is Martin Luther King THE THIRD, son of the late Nobel Laureate-and the year is 2003. Meeting in Birmingham in May, in the run-up to the 40th anniversary celebration of his daddy’s “I Have a Dream” speech, King was warning that the man in the White House was hacking the computers - and the result is a legalized attack on the Black voter that could steal away 40 years of blood, sweat, tears and civil rights victories.

In 2002, with little public notice, Congress passed and the president signed the “Help America Vote Act.” When the Bush family wants to “help” us vote, look out. Hidden behind the apple-pie-and-motherhood name lies a nasty civil rights time-bomb.

The new law to “Help America Vote” will eat up $3.9 billion of taxpayers’ money, partly to tempt states and counties to adopt computerized ‘touch-screen’ voting. Why is King worried? The first elections with computers produced vote-count horror shows that make one yearn for hanging chads. In 2002, Comal County, Texas, tried out new computer voting machines-and three Republican candidates each won their respective offices with exactly 18,181 votes. “Isn’t that the weirdest thing?” County Clerk Joy Treater asked at the time. “We noticed it right away, but it is just a big coincidence.”

Just down the road in Scurry County, Texas, two unexpected landslide wins for Republican candidates struck election clerks as just one coincidence too many. That county’s clerk, Joan Bunch, investigated and found that a “faulty” computer chip had caused the county’s optical scanner to record Democratic votes as Republican instead. After two manual recounts and one electronic recount using a replacement chip in the scanner, the Democratic candidates were found to have won by large margins and the original results were overturned.

King is not so naÔve as to believe vote-count errors are race neutral. In the presidential election of 2000, 1.9 million ballots cast were NEVER COUNTED by tally machines-”spoiled” in the language of elections officials. But the spoilage rate has a distinctly racial profile: The massive Harvard University Civil Rights Project study released last year found that it was 50 percent more likely for a black vote to be “spoiled” than a white vote. In Florida, the U.S. Civil Rights Commission found that a black vote was nearly 10 times as likely as a white vote to be rejected.

Machinery, computerized or otherwise, has made the racial bend of lost votes worse. In our investigations in Florida for BBC television of London we found that in 2000 paper ballots read by optical scanners in the county with the highest black population were 25 times as likely to be rejected as those cast in the neighboring majority white county, using the same paper ballots-but a different automated counting system.

URGENT: Is There A Super Ticket?

Friday, August 29th, 2003

Sooner Thought

Okay, We’ll go out on a limb here…could Gen. Wesley Clark and U.S. Senator and former First Lady Hillary Clinton be planning an “October Surprise” for the Democratic nomination for president and vice president?

Rumors of an upcoming meeting; along with the tacit endorsement of Clark as presidential material by Bill Clinton in the past could point to a “Super Ticket” which would be virtually unstoppable. Clark brings the military experience and gravitas, Clinton brings the cash, election experience and name recognition. And both together would send the Dean bandwagon off the trail quicker than you can say “Mike Dukakis.”

The big question is, is it to be Clark/Clinton or Clinton/Clark? SoonerThought’s money is on General Clark running for president with Senator Clinton at his side as his Veep candidate. Think about it–Hills can run and if unsuccessful, she can still hold onto her senate seat.

And these two giants could wipe the floor with Bush and Cheney.

You heard it here first. Now let’s see what happens.

Republican Congressman charged with manslaughter

Friday, August 29th, 2003

The Globe and Mail

Flandereau, South Dakota ó U.S. Representative Bill Janklow was charged on Friday with second-degree manslaughter in the death of a motorcyclist, killed when the congressman allegedly ran a stop sign at more than 70 miles an hour (113.6 kilmeters an hour).

If convicted of the felony charge, Mr. Janklow could face up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The House of Representatives ethics committee will also investigate.

The 63-year-old congressman, one of the state’s most powerful politicians, is still recovering from injuries sustained in the crash and was not immediately available for comment. His son, Russell Janklow, said the family had discussed the charges but there was no talk of him resigning. “We believe we have a system in place that will deal with this, the judicial system, and we believe in it,” he said.

According to the accident report, Mr. Janklow’s Cadillac went through a stop sign at a rural intersection on Aug. 16 and a motorcycle hit the side of his car. The crash broke Janklow’s right hand and he suffered a head injury. The motorcyclist, a 55-year-old farmer from Minnesota, died at the scene.

Clark to Announce Intentions Soon

Thursday, August 28th, 2003 - Ex-NATO chief mulling Dem presidential run

Retired Army general Wesley Clark will make a decision in the next week or two about the Democratic presidential race, the former NATO commander said Wednesday.

From $5-trillion in the black to $5-trillion in the hole — a $10-trillion turnaround in just two years.

Thursday, August 28th, 2003

The Globe and Mail

When George W. Bush took office in 2001, the main economic question facing his administration was, ‘’What the heck are we going to do with all this money?'’Forecasters said the government would have a surplus of $334-billion (U.S.) by this year and a cumulative $5.6-trillion at the end of 10 years.
Those were the days. According to a new report by the Congressional Budget Office, the figures have been very nearly reversed. The CBO said on Tuesday that Washington now faces a record deficit of $480-billion next year and a cumulative $5.8-trillion in 10 years.

Oklahoma AG charges MCI with criminal charges

Wednesday, August 27th, 2003

Oklahoma files criminal charges against MCI - Aug. 27, 2003

NEW YORK (CNN) - Oklahoma Attorney General W. A. Drew Edmonson filed criminal securities charges in Oklahoma Wednesday against WorldCom, its former CEO Bernard Ebbers and five other former WorldCom officials.

The defendants are charged with 15 counts of violating the Oklahoma Securities Act. A news conference is scheduled for later Wednesday in Oklahoma City.

Also charged are former Chief Financial Officer Scott Sullivan, former Controller David Myers, former Director of Accounting Buford Yates, and accountants Troy Normand and Betty Vinson, all of whom also face federal criminal charges.

WorldCom, now doing business as MCI, currently is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, after an $11 billion accounting scandal.

U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft had appealed to Oklahoma’s governor to hold off on the charges because they could interfere with an ongoing federal investigation, according to a well-placed source.

The Justice Department has yet to file charges against Ebbers or the company.

WorldCom did reach a civil settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission that requires it to pay $500 million cash plus new stock valued at $250 million. The proceeds are to benefit victims of the WorldCom fraud.

The company has been proceeding with plans to emerge from Chapter 11 protection. A confirmation hearing on the company’s reorganization is scheduled to begin Sept. 8.

As New York Burned, Bush Sat Still

Tuesday, August 26th, 2003

5-Minute Video of George W. Bush on the Morning of 9/11″ href=””>The Memory Hole > 5-Minute Video of George W. Bush on the Morning of 9/11

At 9:03 AM on 11 September 2001, the second airplane hit the South Tower of the World Trade Center. President Bush was in Florida, at the Emma T. Booker Elementary School, listening to children read. Chief of Staff Andrew Card came over and whispered in Bush’s ear, “A second plane hit the second tower. America is under attack.”

What did the Commander in Chief do? Nothing. He sat there. He sat for well over 5 minutes, doing nothing while 3,000 people were dying and the attacks were still in progress.

Not only did the leader of the free world sit as his country was attacked, the Secret Service also did nothing. Bush was appearing in public at a previously announced photo-op. He was a sitting duck. The attacks were ongoing at that point (planes had yet to hit the Pentagon or the field in Pennsylvania), and nobody knew how much more destruction was going to happen. Were there two, three, four, eight more planes hijacked and on their way to crash into prominent buildings? Was one headed for the school, where anyone who checked the President’s public itinerary would know he was located? Were other terrorists planning to detonate dirty nukes? Were they going to release anthrax or smallpox or sarin? Was an assassination squad going to burst into the school and get Bush? Was a suicide bomber going to ram a truck full of explosives into that classroom?

During the midst of the attacks, any of these things could’ve happened. Yet there sits Bush, seemingly unconcerned. His Chief of Staff likewise doesn’t think that America in flames warrants the President’s immediate attention. And the Secret Service utterly fails to do its job by grabbing the President of the United States and getting him to safety. It’s truly inexplicable.

Our Last Best Hope

Monday, August 25th, 2003

Democrats line up Gen Wesley Clark as their best hope of winning against Bush
By Julian Coman in Washington
(Filed: 24/08/2003)

In this era of the War on Terrorism, senior Democrats have decided that the best - possibly the only - way to beat George W Bush in the 2004 presidential elections is to put up a soldier against him.

A retired general, Wesley Clark, the supreme commander of Nato during its successful campaign in Kosovo, is widely expected to announce his candidacy for the White House in the next few days, backed by powerful members of the United States Congress.

In an open field, where none of the nine current Democrat candidates has established a clear lead, a late entry by Gen Clark would have an electrifying effect. The Vietnam veteran has never stood for elected office. Since his retirement, however, he has become a familiar face on CNN television, frequently criticising President Bush’s policies on Iraq.

He is believed to have stood aside from summer campaigning, waiting to see if anyone emerged as an obvious winner of the party’s nomination. Now, according to Donna Brazile, a top Democratic strategist and the campaign manager for Al Gore during the 2000 presidential elections, Gen Clark “will announce his plans to run for president by the end of the month”.

The man who would be the first general to become president since Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 has little political experience, but many Democrats believe that in an election likely to be dominated by national security and terrorism, a four-star military man would be uniquely equipped to attack President Bush’s foreign policy.

For his part, Gen Clark already sounds like a man in the middle of a campaign. Challenged about his political experience in a recent interview, he put up a spirited defence. “My political experience is in dealing with governments. I dealt with 19 governments in Nato. I have held high positions of authority and dealt extensively at political and diplomatic levels with major issues,” he said.

In the same interview, he proved he could also talk about domestic concerns, roundly criticising President Bush’s recent tax cuts and calling for fresh investment in public education. This month’s Esquire magazine devotes nine pages to the former Rhodes Scholar and West Point graduate, emphasising that the 58-year-old would at least be a match for President Bush in terms of fitness. Like the President, Gen Clark exercises vigorously every day.

Yet Another Reason to Oppose Joe Lieberman

Monday, August 25th, 2003

Lynne Cheney-Joe Lieberman Group Puts Out a Blacklist

I’m telling you, the guy is a closet Republican. Perhaps we should start calling him “Tailgunner Joe”?–Alex

A Dangerous Deck of Cards

Monday, August 25th, 2003 / News / Boston Globe / Editorial / Opinion / Op-ed / A dangerous deck of cards