SAVE RENT CONTROL! NO ON PROP. 98!
We All Hate that 98!
[The catch is, that while it's true that the landlord can increase rents to whatever he or she wants once a property becomes vacant, the current rent-control law now ensures that the new tenants are still under rent-control for their, albeit higher, rent. Under the new law, there simply will be no rent control when the new tenant moves in so their much higher rent-rate can increase as much as the landlord chooses each year from then on!!! So, no more rent-control at all!!! Tricky, huh?...BW]
Prop 98, a statewide measure on the June 3 ballot will end rent control and just cause eviction protections for renters. San Francisco will see massive displacement and the city will change forever if 98 passes.
We’re steadily moving through the renter neighborhoods in the city getting the word out about Prop 98 through door to door literature deliveries. Our goal is to get 100,000 pieces delivered by election day—which is just a month and half from now.
Help us this week in one of the cities most strategically important neighborhoods—the Richmond (it’s a neighborhood with lots of frequent voters). If we get the word out, we’ll be able to pull lots of NO on 98 votes out of this neighborhood.
We’re meeting Saturday, April 19 at 11 AM at 558 8th Ave (between Anza & Balboa; the 38 Geary, 1 California, and 31 Balboa all go a block or so away). We’ll have coffee & bagels and then get NO on 98 literature and a precinct map showing where you’ll deliver it.
The Richmond is an easy neighborhood to do this—lots of small apartment buildings & level streets. It takes just a few hours and your few hours will get us as many as 1,000 votes. Bring a friend and it’s even more fun and easier and when you’re done you can explore the Richmond neighborhood (many restaurants and bookshops) or nearby Golden Gate Park.
READ ALL OF PROP. 98 at: http://yesprop98.com/read/?_adctlid=v%7Cwynx8c5jjesxsb%7Cwziq39twoqov52
"- Government may not set the price at which property owners sell or lease their property.
"...SECTION 6. EFFECTIVE DATE
The provisions of this Act shall become effective on the day following the election ("effective date"); except that any statute, charter provision, ordinance, or regulation by a public agency enacted prior to January 1, 2007, that limits the price a rental property owner may charge a tenant to occupy a residential rental unit ("unit") or mobile home space ("space") may remain in effect as to such unit or space after the effective date for so long as, but only so long as, at least one of the tenants of such unit or space as of the effective date ("qualified tenant") continues to live in such unit or space as his or her principal place of residence. At such time as a unit or space no longer is used by any qualified tenant as his or her principal place of residence because, as to such unit or space, he or she has: (a) voluntarily vacated; (b) assigned, sublet, sold or transferred his or her tenancy rights either voluntarily or by court order; (c) abandoned; (d) died; or he or she has (e) been evicted pursuant to paragraph (2), (3), (4) or (5) of Section 1161 of the Code of Civil Procedure or Section 798.56 of the Civil Code as in effect on January 1, 2007; then, and in such event, the provisions of this Act shall be effective immediately as to such unit or space."
Stop fumigation of citizens without their consent in California
Target: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Senator Joe Simitian, Assemblymember Loni Hancock, Assemblymember John Laird, Senator Abel Maldonado
Sponsored by: John Russo
Additional information is available at http://www.stopthespray.org
Murdering Mumia: A Strategic Component of the War on Black America --
A Conversation with Chris Kinder, Coordinator, Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia Abu Jamal
Access the "Taking Aim" web site above for the one hour program with Chris Kinder broadcast last Tuesday on WBAI, New York. Accessing the web site gives you the choice of playing the entire program or downloading it so that you can go both forward and backwards. The show is heard primarily on WBAI New York but also on Pacifica "listener-supported" radio.
A CALL TO ACTION MAY 1
ALL OUT ON MAYDAY TO STOP THE WAR!
ILWU-called May Day Labor Antiwar Demo
Meet at 10:30 a.m. at Mason & Beach (Fisherman's Wharf)
March at 11:00 a.m.
Rally at Noon at Justin Herman Plaza
SF Immigrant Rights May Day Demo
Meet at Dolores Park at 2pm
March at 3:30 pm
Rally at 6:00 pm in Civic Center Plaza
Oakland Immigrant Rights May Day Demo
Meet at 3:00 pm Fruitvale Plaza (35th & International Blvd.)
March at 4:00 pm
Rally at 6:00 pm at Oakland City Hall Plaza
At the start of the Iraq War in 2003, many working people were opposed to the invasion. Now the overwhelming majority want to end the war and withdraw troops. Yet, both major political parties continue to fund the war. Marches and demonstrations have not been able to stop the war. The Longshore Union (ILWU) will stop work for 8 hours in every port on the West Coast on May 1st. This action shows that working people have the power to stop the war.
Don't work on May 1st! MAKE MAYDAY A "NO PEACE, NO WORK HOLIDAY"!
We'll march from the Longshore Union hall at the corner of Mason and Beach Streets (Fisherman's Wharf area), along the Embarcadero--where San Francisco was forged into a union town in the 1934 General Strike. A rally will be held in Justin Herman Plaza across from the Ferry Building at noon.
--Stop the war!
--Withdraw the troops now!
--No scapegoating immigrant workers for the economic crisis!
--Healthcare for all!
--Funding for schools and housing!
--Defend civil liberties and workers'rights!
MAKE MAYDAY A "NO PEACE, NO WORK HOLIDAY"!
Port Workers' May Day Organizing Committee
ILWU MAY DAY PROTEST OF WAR: Big news below!
NY Metro APWU votes May Day action against the war--ILWU website-Stop work in W Coast ports to stop the war--ILWU letter to John Sweeney about May Day
2 minutes of silence May 1st in all postal stations -- backing ILWU & NALC May Day actions
7,000-member NY Metro Area Postal Union (APWU) votes May Day action to protest 'unjust' US war in Iraq
Scroll down for ILWU's decision to Stop Work to Stop the War on May 1st
in West Coast ports, and ILWU appeal to John Sweeney to "spread the word" on May Day labor actions
The New York Metro Area local of the American Postal Workers Union will observe a "2-minute period of silence at 1:00 AM, 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM" during all three shifts on May 1st, 2008 - International Workers Day - to show their opposition to the Iraq war and occupation and Bush's threats to attack Iran and Syria.
The resolution, "in support of labor actions to stop the war," passed without opposition at the general membership meeting March 19th. NY Metro is the largest local in the APWU, representing many thousands of clerks and other postal workers in Manhattan, the Bronx and several large mail processing facilities in New Jersey.
The vote by NY Metro is "in solidarity with the actions of our brothers and sisters in the ILWU," which plans to shut down all West Coast ports for 8 hours on May 1st, and with San Francisco Branch 214 letter carriers, who voted to have a 2-minute period of silence (at 8:15 AM) on May Day in all carrier stations, in opposition to the war.
The resolution also urged NY Metro members in all postal facilities to "wear a button, ribbon, badge or some other symbol in protest of the war on May Day." On March 22, NY Metro leaders and members marched with other unionists in the "River to River Against the War" protest on the 5th anniversary of the Iraq war. They marched on 14th Street in both directions, from the East River to the Hudson, meeting up for a rally at Union Square with wounded veterans of the war and military families.
N.Y. METRO APWU RESOLUTION IN SUPPORT OF LABOR ACTIONS TO STOP THE WAR
WHEREAS New York Metro has long opposed the U.S. war against and occupation of Iraq as unnecessary and unjust; and
WHEREAS the Bush administration is threatening to expand the war to Iran and Syria; and
WHEREAS the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) is planning to shut down all Pacific Coast ports on 1 May 2008---International Workers Day, or Mayday---to protest the war; and
WHEREAS National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Branch 214 in San Francisco is requesting its members to observe a 2-minute period of silence in all stations on Mayday in solidarity with the ILWU;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that New York Metro requests that all its members in all its stations observe a 2-minute period of silence at 1AM, 9AM and 5PM on Mayday in solidarity with the actions of our brothers and sisters in the ILWU and NALC; and
THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that New York Metro requests all its members to wear a button, ribbon, badge or some other symbol in protest of the war on Mayday. -- Adopted without opposition March 19, 2008
ILWU website on May Day Stop Work to Stop the War
protest in West Coast ports
ILWU Longshore Caucus calls for Iraq war protest at Pacific ports on May 1
Nearly one hundred Longshore Caucus delegates voted on February 8 to support a resolution calling for an eight-hour "stop-work" meeting during the day-shift on Thursday, May 1 at ports in CA, OR and WA to protest the war by calling for the immediate, safe return of U . S . troops from Iraq .
“The Caucus has spoken on this important issue and I’ve notified the employers about our plans for 'stop work' meetings on May 1,” said ILWU International President Bob McEllrath .
Caucus delegates, including several military veterans, spoke passionately about the importance of supporting the troops by bringing them home safely and ending the War in Iraq . Concerns were also raised about the growing cost of the war that has threatened funding for domestic needs, including education and healthcare . Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard economist Linda J. Bilmes recently estimated that the true cost of the War in Iraq to American taxpayers will exceed 3 trillion dollars--a figure they describe as "conservative . "
The union’s International Executive Board recently endorsed Barack Obama, citing his opposition to the War in Iraq as one of the key factors in the union's decision-making process .
Caucus delegates are democratically elected representatives from every longshore local who set policy for the Longshore Division .
ILWU International President Robert McEllrath has written letters to President John Sweeney of the AFL-CIO and President Andy Stern of the Change-to-Win Coalition, and to the presidents of the International Transport Workers Federation and the International Dockworkers Council to inform them of the ILWU's plans for May 1 . [From ILWU website]
Text of ILWU letter to AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, dated February 22, 2008
ILWU President asks Sweeney's help "spreading the word" about May 1 action opposing Iraq war
"ILWU delegates recently concluded a two-week caucus where we reached agreement on our approach for bargaining a new Pacific Coast Longshore Contract that expires on July 1, 2008. We expect talks to begin sometime in March and will keep you informed of developments.
"One of the resolutions adopted by caucus delegates called on longshore workers to stop work during the day shift on May 1, 2008, to express their opposition to the war in Iraq.
"We're writing to inform you of this action, and inquire if other AFL-CIO affiliates are also planning to participate in similar events on May 1 to honor labor history and express support for the troops by bringing them home safely. We would appreciate your assistance with spreading word about this May 1 action."
ILWU International President
S.F. Labor Council backs ILWU May Day action in West Coast ports
Whereas, the San Francisco Labor Council has a longstanding position calling for an immediate end to the U.S. war and occupation in Iraq; therefore be it
Resolved, that the San Francisco Labor Council supports the decision of the Longshore Caucus of the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) to stop work for eight hours on Thursday, May 1, 2008—International Workers Day—at all West Coast ports, to demand "an immediate end to the war and occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan and the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the Middle East." The Council supports the decision of Branch 214 of the National Association of Letter Carriers to observe two minutes of silence in all carrier stations at 8:15 a.m. on May 1, in solidarity with the ILWU action and to express their opposition to the war in Iraq; and be it further
Resolved, that the San Francisco Labor Council encourages other unions to follow ILWUs call for a “No Peace-No Work Holiday” or other labor actions on May Day, to express their opposition to the U.S. wars and occupations in the Middle East; and be it finally
Resolved, that the San Francisco Labor Council send a letter of congratulations to ILWU President Bob McEllrath for his union's bold initiative to use the occasion of International Workers Day to stop work to stop the war.
—Resolution adopted by the San Francisco Labor Council March 24, 2008, by unanimous vote.
Rock for Justice-Rock for Palestine
FREE outdoor festival
May 10th, 2008
Civic Center, San Francisco
I am involved in the Local Nakba Committee (LNC), which is made up of Palestinians and allies for justice in Palestine from the San Francisco/Bay Area. Our purpose for coming together is to raise awareness, unite, and mark 60 years since the ongoing Palestinian Nakba and struggle for self-determination and the right of return. We are promoting a very special day-long FREE Palestine, Peace and Solidarity Festival-with an amazing program of Palestinian, and other musicians for peace and justice. The FREE outdoor festival will be held at the Civic Center in downtown San Francisco, May 10th, 2008.
The purpose of the Solidarity Festival is to raise the voices of Palestinian and other artists who resist the domination of their communities, through music and to initiate a public discourse of our issues. Palestinians are the largest and longest displaced refugee community in the world as a result of Israel's occupation, Apartheid-wall and illegal settlements. We intend to use resistance music and issue a rallying call for those in solidarity to build a mass popular movement and support the Palestinian struggle for self-determination and right of return.
In order reach out beyond our existing allies, the event will serve as an opportunity to outreach broadly and educate youth and those who are interested in understanding the historical context of Palestine. The event is a first step to historical and political education, and for those interested, the LNC is planning youth programs and educational workshops for both the day of, and to follow the event.
I am contacting you on behalf of the Local Nakba Committee to request a demonstration of solidarity with the Palestinian people. To make this historic gathering possible, will require tremendous amount of labor and financial contribution. The concert will only happen with the generosity of donors such as yourself. Thank you for recognizing the urgency of this time in the Palestinian people's struggle, and helping make it possible to hear these important voices.
Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition is acting as the fiscal sponsor of the event (www.al-awda.org). Please feel free to contact me with for additional information and questions.
Thank you for your support!
Local Nakba Committee Coordinator
Please make your tax-deductible donation, payable to 'Palestine Right to Return Coalition' or 'PRRC/Palestine Solidarity Concert'
Local Nakba Committee (LNC)
PO Box #668
2425 Channing Way
Berkeley, CA 94704
Event Sponsorship - If your organization or business wishes to sponsor the event, have a booth, and/or to be listed in all related promotional material, please see, and be in full agreement with the points of unity below.
For a detailed budget breakdown and itemization of artist & logistic expenses that your contribution will go directly towards, please email: email@example.com requesting specific sponsorship opportunities.
For more information about individuals who make up the Local Nakba Committee, please email us at the above address for a list of bio's.
For more information about, the Palestine Right of Return Coalition, see: www.al-awda.org.
For regular concert updates see our website at: http://www.araborganizing.org/concert.html
You can donate online at the Facebook Cause 'Nakba-60, Palestine Solidarity Concert' at: http://apps.facebook.com/causes/causes/19958?h=plw&recruiter_id=6060344
List of confirmed artists:
Dam, featuring Abeer, aka 'Sabreena da Witch'–Palestinian Hip-Hop crew from Lid (1948, Palestine).
Fred Wreck–DJ/Producer, for artists Snoop Dogg, Hilary Duff,
Brittany Spears and other celebs.
Ras Ceylon –Sri Lankan Revolution Hip Hop
Narcicyst - with Iraqi-Canadian Hip Hop group Euphrates
Excentrik- Palestinian Producer/Composer/MC
Omar Offendun- with Syrian/Sudani Hip Hop group The N.o.m.a.d.s
Ragtop- with Palestinian/Filipino group The Philistines
Scribe Project – Palestinian/Mexican Hip Hop/Soul Band
Additional artists still pending confirmation.
Coalition Building: The LNC is working with a coalition of social justice groups and organizations. Our primary goal is to further reach out to natural allies and communities who are affected by the similar issues as Palestinians. We are calling on Native communities to commemorate with those who have died, or been killed by fighting for self-determination, and Hurricane Katrina Solidarity groups with their solidarity message to Palestinians of the "right to return" to New Orleans. More generally, we are calling on groups organizing youth & communities around issues of social justice, indigenous/land/human rights, and international law.
Online video streaming: The goal is to provide online video steaming technology of the concert, so that it can be watched from Palestine and anywhere in the world.
Points of Unity for Concert Sponsorship
An end to all US political, military and economic aid to Israel.
The divestment of all public and private entities from all Israeli corporations and American corporations with subsidiaries operating within Israel.
An end to the investment of Labor Union members' pension funds in Israel.
The boycott of all Israeli products.
The right to return for all Palestinian refugees to their original towns, villages and lands with compensation for damages inflicted on their property and lives.
The right for all Palestinian refugees to full restitution of all confiscated and destroyed property.
The formation of an independent, democratic state for its citizens in all of Palestine.
For Immediate Release
UPDATE: SIXTH AL-AWDA CONVENTION TO MARK 60 YEARS OF PALESTINIAN NAKBA
Embassy Suites Hotel Anaheim South, 11767 Harbor Boulevard,
Garden Grove, California, 92840
May 16-18, 2008
The 6th Annual International Al-Awda Convention will mark a devastating event in the long history of the Palestinian people. We call it our Nakba.
Confirmed speakers include Bishop Atallah Hanna, Supreme Justice Dr. Sheikh Taiseer Al Tamimi, Dr. Adel Samara, Dr. Salman Abu Sitta, Dr. Ghada Karmi, Dr. As'ad Abu Khalil, Dr. Saree Makdisi, and Ramzy Baroud. Former Prime Minister of Lebanon Salim El Hos and Palestinian Legislative Council member Khalida Jarrar have also been invited.
Host Organizations for the sixth international Al-Awda convention include Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition, Palestinian American Women Association, Free Palestine Alliance, National Council of Arab-Americans, Middle East Cultural and Information Center - San Diego, The Arab Community Center of the Inland Empire, Campaign to End Israeli Apartheid - Southern California, Palestine Aid Society, Palestinian American Congress, Bethlehem Association, Al-Mubadara - Southern California, Union of Palestinian American Women, Birzeit Society , El-Bireh Society, Arab American Friends of Nazareth, Ramallah Club, A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition, International Action Center , Students for Justice in Palestine at CSUSB, Students for Justice in Palestine at UCLA, Students for Justice in Palestine at UCR, Students for International Knowledge at CSUSB, Muslim Students Association at Palomar College, Muslim Students Association at UCSD, and Muslim Students Association at Mira Costa.
In May of 1948, with the support of the governments of the United States, Britain, and other European powers, Zionists declared the establishment of the "State of Israel" on stolen Palestinian Arab land and intensified their full-scale attack on Palestine. They occupied our land and forcibly expelled three quarters of a million of our people. This continues to be our great catastrophe, which we, as Palestinians with our supporters, have been struggling to overcome since.
The sixth international Al-Awda convention is taking place at a turning point in our struggle to return and reclaim our stolen homeland. Today, there are close to 10 million Palestinians of whom 7.5 million are living in forced exile from their homeland. While the Zionist "State of Israel" continues to besiege, sanction, deprive, isolate, discriminate against and murder our people, in addition to continually stealing more of our land, our resistance has grown. Along with our sisters and brothers at home and elsewhere in exile, Al-Awda has remained steadfast in demanding the implementation of the sacred, non-negotiable national, individual and collective right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and lands.
The sixth international Al-Awda convention will be a historic and unique event. The convention will aim to recapitulate Palestinian history with the help of those who have lived it, and to strengthen our ability to educate the US public about the importance and justness of implementing the unconditional right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and lands. With symposia and specialty workshops, the focus of the convention will be on education that lead to strategies and mechanisms for expanding the effectiveness of our advocacy for the return.
We invite all Al-Awda members, and groups and individuals who support the implementation of the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes of origin, and to reclaim their land, to join us in this landmark Sixth Annual International Convention on the 60th year of Al-Nakba.
MASS RALLY FOR THE RETURN TO PALESTINE
The convention will culminate in a major demonstration to mark 60 years of Nakba and to call for The RETURN TO PALESTINE. The demonstration will be held in solidarity and coordination with our sisters and brothers who continue the struggle in our beloved homeland.
DON'T DELAY! REGISTER TODAY!
Organizational endorsements welcome. Please write to us at convention6@ al-awda.org
For information on how to become part of the host committee, please write to convention6@ al-awda.org
For more information, please go to http://al-awda. org/convention6 and keep revisiting that page as it is being updated regularly.
To submit speaker and panel/workshop proposals, write to
info@al-awda. org or convention6@ al-awda.org
Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition
PO Box 131352
Carlsbad, CA 92013, USA
E-mail: info@al-awda. org
WWW: http://al-awda. org
Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition (PRRC) is the largest network of grassroots activists and students dedicated to Palestinian human rights. We are a not for profit tax-exempt educational and charitable 501(c)(3) organization as defined by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) of the United States of America. Under IRS guidelines, your donations to PRRC are tax-deductible.
Call for an Open U.S. National Antiwar Conference
Stop the War in Iraq! Bring the Troops Home Now!
Join us in Cleveland on June 28-29 for the conference.
Crown Plaza Hotel
Sponsored by the National Assembly to End the Iraq War and Occupation
P.O. Box 21008; Cleveland, OH 44121; Voice Mail: 216-736-4704; Email: NatAssembly@aol.com
List of Endorsers (below call):
Endorse the conference:
THE PURPOSE OF THE CONFERENCE:
2008 has ushered in the fifth year of the war against Iraq and an occupation "without end" of that beleaguered country. Unfortunately, the tremendous opposition in the U.S. to the war and occupation has not yet been fully reflected in united mass action.
The anniversary of the invasion has been marked in the U.S. by Iraq Veterans Against the War's (IVAW's) Winter Soldier hearings March 13-16, in Washington, DC, providing a forum for those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan to expose the horrors perpetrated by the U.S. wars. A nonviolent civil disobedience action against the war in Iraq was also called for March 19 in Washington and local actions around the country were slated during that month as well.
These actions help to give voice and visibility to the deeply held antiwar sentiment of this country's majority. Yet what is also urgently needed is a massive national mobilization sponsored by a united antiwar movement capable of bringing hundreds of thousands into the streets to demand "Out Now!"
Such a mobilization, in our opinion, commemorating the fifth anniversary of the war -- and held on a day agreeable to the IVAW -- could have greatly enhanced all the other activities which were part of that commemoration in the U.S. Indeed, a call was issued in London by the World Against War Conference on December 1, 2007 where 1,200 delegates from 43 nations, including Iraq, voted unanimously to call on antiwar movements in every country to mobilize mass protests against the war during the week of March 15-22 to demand that foreign troops be withdrawn immediately.
The absence of a massive united mobilization during this period in the United States -- the nation whose weapons of terrifying mass destruction have rained death and devastation on the Iraqi people -- when the whole world will mobilize in the most massive protests possible to mark this fifth year of war, should be a cause of great concern to us all.
For Mass Action to Stop the War: The independent and united mobilization of the antiwar majority in massive peaceful demonstrations in the streets against the war in Iraq is a critical element in forcing the U.S. government to immediately withdraw all U.S. military forces from that country, close all military bases, and recognize the right of the Iraqi people to determine their own destiny.
Mass actions aimed at visibly and powerfully demonstrating the will of the majority to stop the war now would dramatically show the world that despite the staunch opposition to this demand by the U.S. government, the struggle by the American people to end the slaughter goes on. And that struggle will continue until the last of the troops are withdrawn. Such actions also help bring the people of the United States onto the stage of history as active players and as makers of history itself.
Indeed, the history of every successful U.S. social movement, whether it be the elementary fight to organize trade unions to defend workers' interests, or to bring down the Jim Crow system of racial segregation, or to end the war in Vietnam, is in great part the history of independent and united mass actions aimed at engaging the vast majority to collectively fight in its own interests and therefore in the interests of all humanity.
For an Open Democratic Antiwar Conference: The most effective way to initiate and prepare united antiwar mobilizations is through convening democratic and open conferences that function transparently, with all who attend the conferences having the right to vote. It is not reasonable to expect that closed or narrow meetings of a select few, or gatherings representing only one portion of the movement, can substitute for the full participation of the extremely broad array of forces which today stand opposed to the war.
We therefore invite everyone, every organization, every coalition, everywhere in the U.S. - all who oppose the war and the occupation -- to attend an open democratic U.S. national antiwar conference and join with us in advancing and promoting the coming together of an antiwar movement in this country with the power to make a mighty contribution toward ending the war and occupation of Iraq now.
Everyone is welcome. The objective is to place on the agenda of the entire U.S. antiwar movement a proposal for the largest possible united mass mobilization(s) in the future to stop the war and end the occupation.
Join us in Cleveland on June 28-29 for the conference.
List of Endorsers
Join us in Cleveland on June 28-29 for the conference.
Sponsored by the National Assembly to End the Iraq War and Occupation
P.O. Box 21008; Cleveland, OH 44121; Voice Mail: 216-736-4704; Email: NatAssembly@aol.com
Center for Labor Renewal Statement and Call for the Elimination of Two-Tier Workplaces
On Saturday, January 26, 2008, over 80 U.S. and Canadian auto industry worker/activists met in Flint, Michigan, birthplace of militant unionism in the Auto Industry in the late 1903s. The agenda was how to measure and respond to the crippling impact of the 2007 auto industry collective bargaining agreements. The daylong discussions led to the issuance of the following Statement and Call for a:
Campaign to oppose two-tier wages
The United States has never been an equal opportunity society. During periods of intense collective struggle workers made economic gains, but sustained progress in equity distribution has not been achieved. Capital’s effort to exploit labor is never put on hold for long. Over the past 30 years corporate America, often supported by government, has engaged in an all-out assault on working people. That relentless campaign has increased and extended social inequality to levels many had not thought possible without triggering a concerted rebellion from the ranks of labor. Such an upsurge of resistance has not yet coalesced but there are indications that worker anger and disillusionment is rising.
Corporate aggression, particularly in historically well-organized, higher wage industries is increasingly tied to capital’s global restructuring agenda, which is capitalizing on the low standard of living prevalent in impoverished countries and regions around the world. The rising demand for U.S. worker concessions in such sectors as auto, metalwork, electronics, communications, etc. is part of that restructuring process and, unchallenged, sweeps all workers into a downward spiral of wage and working conditions. Employer claims that competition necessitates wage and benefit reductions in order to save jobs has become the weapon of choice. Workers are told they have to choose between massive reductions for future generations of workers or no job at all.
That this is happening in the most heavily unionized industries reveals the effectiveness of the corporate strategy to both disarm and attract many union leaders and some portion of the base to accept the proposition that pursuing their agenda of “competitiveness” is in our mutual interest. The U.S. labor leadership has not put forward any meaningful alternatives to global corporate restructuring. Embracing the companies’ “competitiveness” agenda is a flawed, if not fatal strategy.
The corporations are demanding, and the unions are accepting, permanent two-tier wage schemes whereby new hires work side by side with workers earning substantially higher wages for the same tasks. This new, generalized wage retreat comes after years of unresolved wage inequities that have disproportionately affected women and workers of color in U.S. workplaces. The introduction of both two-tier and “permanent temporary” workers in auto plants adds more layers of blatant discrimination. We must continue to fight against all forms of discrimination in two-tier wage structures, whether directed at workers of color or women, or now “the new hire” and the defenseless temp workers.
Our acceptance makes us an accessory to corporate divide and conquer schemes
Allowing the employers to expand inequality, rather then resolve it fosters additional resentment among workers and recklessly severs solidarity between generations. Two-tier wage agreements and the use of permanent temporary workers make the union partners in the business of exploiting workers.
Big Three auto contracts institutionalize second-class workers
In the 2007 Big Three auto negotiations the UAW, a once powerful wage and benefits pacesetter, agreed to a radically reduced two-tier wage and benefit package. The Big Three auto agreement cuts wages for new workers by up to 50 percent (67 percent if you include benefits) for doing the same work as current workers. The need to help the companies be more “competitive” to insure “job security” was the advertised selling point. The 25-year history of concession bargaining in auto has not stopped the massive decline in the ranks of the Big Three from 750,000 in 1979 when the concession era began to 170,000 today. Yet contract after contract during that period were heralded as “historic job security” agreements.
In 200 the UAW negotiated a Supplemental Two-Tier Wage Agreement for new hires at Delphi Corporation, a former GM Parts division, which had been “spun-off” as an independent parts supplier in 1999. Members of one UAW-Delphi Local, Local 2151 voted to appeal the International Union’s decision not to permit the thousands of Delphi union members to vote on the Supplemental Two-Tier Agreement, which affected them. In defense of their decision to evade ratification the UAW International Executive Board argued that the “future hire group is a null class.”
The segregation of future union members into a “null class” is a ruthless act of discrimination against an entire generation, and another example of the failure of competitiveness to secure jobs. Delphi subsequently used bankruptcy as a strategy to further restructure and destroy jobs and incomes. Within four years 27,000 out of 33,000 union members were eliminated at Delphi and the remaining workers were brought down to the lower wage and benefit scale.
Wage costs are not the problem
Wages and benefits of assembly workers account for less than 10 percent of the cost of a car and differentials between companies are not significant, especially since GM, Ford, and Chrysler’s competitors are primarily building cars inside the U.S. Furthermore, productivity in the auto industry has been rising rapidly: real output per worker has more than doubled since 1987. Even the Harbour-Felax Report—which analysts consider the industry bible on productivity—has acknowledged that: the Big Three has now largely eliminated the productivity gap with Japanese manufacturers.
In a globally restructured auto industry, it was inevitable that the Big Three would not sustain their monopoly control of the domestic market. Their arrogance toward foreign producers is only matched by their greed and arrogance toward consumers. This resulted in decades of marketing second rate, unimaginative, and shoddily engineered products at the same time union workers were making concessions allegedly to help them be more competitive. Yet, coming on the heels of the Delphi bankruptcy, the 2007 negotiations were pitched as if the sacrifices of workers was the only thing that could help the domestic auto manufacturers out of the “competitiveness” hole they’d dug themselves into. Making workers pay for the bosses’ mistakes is as much a national pastime as baseball.
The new-hire wage rates in UAW contracts with the Big Three automakers are now set below the average industrial wage in the U.S. which is already below that of other major developed countries. The competitive spiral will accelerate as foreign transplants are relieved of the pressure to match union wages. The failure to protect wages, benefits, and working conditions means that it will be even more difficult for the UAW to organize new workers. Yet the real answer to the “competitiveness” question lies in organizing the workers employed by the anti-union foreign owned producers and taking wages, benefits, and working conditions out of competition through solidarity-unionism.
For Canadian Auto Workers whose collective agreements with the same Big Three companies expire in September of 2008, the reduced new worker hire rate and permanent two-tier precedents set in the U.S. will represent a huge challenge. CAW members have traditionally resisted the concession patterns of their neighbors to the South; their continued resistance in their negotiations this Fall would be reinforced by a rising tide of opposition from U.S. auto workers to slashing wages and attacks on worker dignity.
The Japanese companies have already introduced the two-tier half-wage system in Japan. The threat of unionization had, until now, blocked their trying it here. But with the implementation of two-tier in the Big Three plants, they can now do the same in this country. Net result: no shift in relative competitiveness, but a destructive further lowering of wages for all auto industry workers.
Furthermore, now that the new hire wage rate is set below the industry average for the Big Three, workers in the auto parts supply industry will be confronted with a stark choice: accept lower wages or their jobs will be outsourced, or more correctly “re-insourced,” to the big auto companies at the radically reduced new lower tier wages. Once again the net result is zero security for workers and a further collapse in living standards. As part and parcel of the concessions mentality, the auto union failed to pursue its own longstanding demand for single-payer national healthcare (for all). Instead, they agreed to relieve Big Three automakers of billions of dollars in legacy costs for retiree healthcare protection by accepting responsibility for future coverage through an under-funded Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association, or VEBA.
The UAW is not the only union that has bargained away equality within the workforce. This trend is the deathwatch for the labor movement in our era. Union collaboration in wage discrimination for the sake of competitiveness is the counsel of despair. The future of active and retired workers is inextricably bound with the future of new workers. The segregation of future union members into a “null class” is an invitation for “payback” at some future time. If new hires are treated as a “null class,” one day they will in turn classify senior workers and retirees as a “null class.” There is no seniority date for dignity and should be no retirement from solidarity.
The corporate blitzkrieg on working people is subsidized with tax abatements while health, education, and social programs are slashed to the bone. The parrots of the status quo insist there is no alternative to an economic system that degrades workers, deprives the unfortunate of health care, undermines the security of the elderly, and desecrates the environment. It’s a lie. The degradation of the working class is chronic and contagious. We need strategic collective action with allies here and around the world.
History suggests that UAW members would have followed the lead of a progressive leadership to militantly resist the destruction of wage parity and other hard won gains in the workplace. But nearly 30 years of concession bargaining and yielding to the “logic of the competitiveness agenda” produced an opposite result.
Workers throughout all employment sectors face this same assault on wages, benefits, and working conditions in one form or another. It is time for all workers to reject the false logic of corporate competitiveness and reinvigorate the logic of solidarity.
Today, we stand at the crossroad knowing full well where both roads lead. One road leads to division, despair, and social isolation, and the other road points to hope, solidarity, and the dignity of collective struggle.
Call for national campaign
In conjunction with the Center for Labor Renewal, participants at the Flint, January 26, 2008 meeting issue the following Call:
In the face of the continuing assault on worker wages, benefits, and the quality of work life where rising economic injustice is destroying the stability and hopes of an increasing numbers of workers and their families, here and around the world; and where inequality and income discrimination are celebrated by a protected few at the desperate expense of so many others; we call on all workers of conscience everywhere to join a campaign to bring our collective strength and renewed solidarity to the struggle against the agenda of social devaluation and despair.
Workers in the auto industry have a critical role to play in this campaign given the destructive events in that industry which now, more than ever, seeks to validate the pitting of workers against workers, and communities against communities, and the glorification of the false dog-eat-dog, workplace agenda of the corporations today. In that world its “winner-take-all,” and the winner has been pre-determined. We call on all auto workers to reject all forms of wage discrimination and renew the fight for industrial democracy through worker solidarity, and to:
• Build within our workplaces, a movement against two-tier wages, and a renewal of solidarity unionism by means of varied communications vehicles including the internet; web sites; newsletters and plant gate handbills, etc.
• Promote crosscurrents of opposition against the creation of second-class workers in all workplaces.
• Where a two-tier system is in place, concretely demonstrate to the new workers that there is a strong base of resistance against the discrimination they face, and that we all need to remember the lesson that “an injury to one, is an injury to all.”
• Within the Big Three, or any auto workplaces, target the rejection of future agreements (2011 in the Big Three ) if they do not reverse the two-tier system.
• Promote internal democracy to encourage the inclusion and participation of the second tier workers alongside the entire rank and file to change the concessionary path followed by the current leadership.
Such a campaign will need mechanisms to facilitate links, exchange information, and assist in the coordination of future actions. Coming out of a meeting organized by the Center for Labor Renewal (CLR) of 80 activists in Flint, Michigan, the CLR commits to:
• Collect and develop material for building the necessary base in the workplace and its electronic dissemination. Assist in the development and proliferation of additional vehicles of communication.
• Develop an information clearinghouse to gather and disseminate reports and updates on local struggles and developments.
• Support regional forums to assist activists in developing the arguments and organizational capacities to build the solidarity program at the base
• Facilitate national meetings through which local activists can assess the campaign and collectively strategize on further events and actions.
• Promote the development of the analytical tools required by union activists to successfully integrate this campaign with a workers’ struggle that is increasingly global in dimension.
This fight is winnable. The U.S. working class needs a victory and it needs this victory in particular. The one-sided class war against workers has gone on far too long. The defeat of the two tier system is a crucial step in the struggle to address broader inequalities in our society. It’s time to draw the line.
—Center for Labor Renewal/
—Future of the Union/
—Soldiers of Solidarity
Help Save Troy Davis
Troy Davis came within 24 hours of execution in July, 2007 before receiving a temporary stay of execution. Two weeks later the Georgia Supreme Court agreed to hear his extraordinary motion for a new trial. On Monday, March 17, 2008 the court denied Mr. Davis’ appeal. Troy Davis was sentenced to death for the murder of Police Officer Mark MacPhail in Georgia. The case against him consisted entirely of witness testimony which contained inconsistencies even during the trial. Since then, all but two of the state's nine non-police witnesses from the trial have recanted or contradicted their testimony. Many of these witnesses have stated in sworn affidavits that they were pressured or coerced by police into testifying or signing statements against Troy Davis.
"I welcomed your decision to stay the execution of Troy Anthony Davis in July 2007, and thank you for taking the time to consider evidence of his innocence. When you issued this decision, you stated that the board "will not allow an execution to proceed in this State unless and until its members are convinced that there is no doubt as to the guilt of the accused." Because the Georgia Supreme Court denied Troy Davis a hearing, doubts of his guilt will always remain. I appeal to you to be true to your words and commute the death sentence of Troy Davis.
"This case has generated widespread attention, which reflects serious concerns in Georgia and throughout the United States about the potential for executing an innocent man. The power of clemency exists as a safety net to prevent such an irreversible error. As you know, Mr. Davis has been on death row in Georgia for more than 15 years for the murder of a police officer he maintains that he did not commit. Davis' conviction was not based on any physical evidence, and the murder weapon was never found.
"Despite mounting evidence that Davis may in fact be innocent of the crime, appeals to courts to consider this evidence have been repeatedly denied for procedural reasons. Instead, the prosecution based its case on the testimony of purported "witnesses," many of whom allege police coercion, and most of whom have since recanted their testimony. One witness signed a police statement declaring that Davis was the assailant then later said "I did not read it because I cannot read." In another case a witness stated that the police "were telling me that I was an accessory to murder and that I would…go to jail for a long time and I would be lucky if I ever got out, especially because a police officer got killed…I was only sixteen and was so scared of going to jail." There are also several witnesses who have implicated another man in the crime but the police focused their efforts on convicting Troy.
"It is deeply troubling to me that Georgia might proceed with this execution given the strong claims of innocence in this case. It has been repeatedly demonstrated that our criminal justice system is not devoid of error and we now know that 127 individuals have been released from death rows across the United States due to wrongful conviction. We must confront the unalterable fact that the system of capital punishment is fallible, given that it is administered by fallible human beings. I respectfully urge the Board of Pardons and Paroles to demonstrate your strong commitment to fairness and justice and commute the death sentence of Troy Anthony Davis.
Thank you for your kind consideration."
Messages will be sent to:
Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles
2 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, SE
Suite 458, Balcony Level, East Tower
Atlanta, Georgia 30334-4909
Telephone: (404) 657-9350
Fax: (404) 651-8502
Please take a moment to help Troy Davis. On Monday, March 17, 2008, the Georgia Supreme Court decided 4-3 to deny a new trial for Troy Anthony Davis, despite significant concerns regarding his innocence. The stunning decision by the Georgia Supreme Court to let Mr. Davis' death sentence stand means that the state of Georgia might soon execute a man who well may be innocent.
For 35 years, Jim Crow justice in Louisiana has kept Herman Wallace
and Albert Woodfox locked in solitary confinement for a crime
everyone knows they didn't commit.
Despite overwhelming evidence of their innocence, the "Angola 3",
spend 23 hours each day in a 6x9 cell on the site of a former
plantation. Prison officials - and the state officials who could
intervene - won't end the terrible sentence. They've locked them up
and thrown away the key because they challenged a system that deals an
uneven hand based on the color of one's skin and tortures those who
assert their humanity.
We can help turn things around by making it a political liability for
the authorities at Angola to continue the racist status quo, and by
forcing federal and state authorities to intervene. I've signed on
with ColorOfChange.org to demand an investigation into this clear case
of unequal justice. Will you join us?
When ColorOfChange.org spoke up about the Jena 6, it was about more
than helping six Black youth in a small town called Jena. It was about
standing up against a system of unequal justice that deals an uneven
hand based on the color of one's skin. That broken system is at work
again and ColorOfChange.org is joining The Innocence Project and
Amnesty International to challenge it in the case of the Angola 3.
"Angola", sits on 18,000 acres of former plantation land in Louisiana
and is estimated to be one of the largest prisons in the United
States. Angola's history is telling: once considered one of the most
violent, racially segregated prison in America, almost a prisoner a
day was stabbed, shot or raped. Prisoners were often put in inhumane
extreme punishment camps for small infractions. The Angola 3 -
Herman, Albert and Robert - organized hunger and work strikes within
the prison in the 70's to protest continued segregation, corruption
and horrific abuse facing the largely Black prisoner population.
Shortly after they spoke out, the Angola 3 were convicted of murdering
a prison guard by an all-white jury. It is now clear that these men
were framed to silence their peaceful revolt against inhumane
treatment. Since then, they have spent every day for 35 years in 6x9
foot cells for a crime they didn't commit.
Herman and Albert are not saints. They are the first to admit they've
committed crimes. But, everyone agrees that their debts to society
for various robbery convictions were paid long ago.
NBC News/Dateline just aired a piece this week about the plight of the
Angola 3. And it's time to finally get some justice for Herman and
Albert. For far too long, court officials have stalled and refused to
review their cases. Evidence of prosecutorial misconduct and
constitutional violations have not swayed them.
It's now time for the Governor of Louisiana and the United States
Congress, which provides the funding for federal prisons like Angola,
to step in and say enough is enough. Please join us in calling for
Governor Bobby Jindal and your Congressperson to initiate an immediate
and full investigation into the case of the Angola 3.
Gaza's lost childhood - 23 March 08
Mike Prysner (Part 1 and Part 2 -- please watch both parts. Wow! This is powerful testimony. Thank you, Mike Prysner! ...bw)
Winter Soldier Testimonies
Winter Soldier Mike Prysner testimony, Pt1
Winter Soldier Mike Prysner testimony Pt2
Tent Cities, USA
DEFEND FREE SPEECH RIGHTS ON THE NATIONAL MALL!
~ Please circulate this urgent update widely ~
The ANSWER Coalition is vigorously supporting the campaign launched by the Partnership for Civil Justice to defend free speech rights on the National Mall. We thank all the ANSWER Coalition supporters who have joined this campaign and we urge everyone to do so. What follows is an urgent message from the Partnership for Civil Justice about the campaign.
For those who already signed the Statement in Defense of Free Speech, Please take 30 seconds to let us know if we can publicize your name as a signer along with 15,000 others. If you signed up before, it is crucial that you take the next step by clicking this link.
OPPOSE THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION'S ASSAULT ON FREE SPEECH
Save the National Mall as a place of protest!
The struggle to preserve Free Speech in Washington D.C. has entered a new phase. We are writing to you so that you can help in the next step of this critical struggle. If he gets his way, Bush will leave office having shredded fundamental rights to redress grievances and engage in dissent on the National Mall in the nation's capital. But we can stop this plan.
Because of the participation of you and so many other people around the country, the Bush Administration has been pushed on the defensive. Due to immense public pressure that has been mobilized in the last months the government is now resorting to a smoke and mirror campaign to derail those who are fighting to preserve cherished rights. The people can stop them.
We need you to take action right now:
We are planning on sending the Statement in Defense of Free Speech Rights on the National Mall -- with a list of its thousands of signers -- to the National Park Service and want to further publish the statement. Showing just how many people have already taken action will be an important part of the campaign to defend the National Mall and the First Amendment.
Before we send or publish the statement and signers, we want to confirm with you that we can include you as a signer. We value your privacy. Please take 30 seconds to fill out the form here if you have already signed the statement.
Please take a moment and help this Free Speech movement take the next step. If you signed the Statement in Defense of Free Speech on the National Mall before it is crucial that you take the next step by clicking this link. You can also let us know on this same link if you do not want your name included publicly. Initial signers include, Howard Zinn, Cindy Sheehan, Ed Asner, Malik Rahim, Ramsey Clark, Kathy Kelly, Ron Kovic, Dennis Banks and many others.
Here is the situation: More than 15,000 letters flooded the National Park Service (NPS) supporting the centrality of free speech rights on the National Mall. The Bush Administration was shocked by the overwhelming response. They thought that they could essentially privatize the National Mall in Washington DC and quietly eliminate essential Free Speech activities. The plan is to go into effect the last month that Bush is in office in January 2009.
This insidious goal hasn't changed one bit but they have now quickly shifted their tactics to blunt the massive new movement that has arisen to defend Free Speech on the National Mall.
Bush's NPS has quickly revamped the web site. The phrase "First Amendment" now appears all over the site. You would think that they are re-organizing the National Mall in order to have more demonstrations, protests and rallies rather than try to banish or limit them. It is all smoke and mirrors. More untruths from the Bush Administration working in partnership with Corporate America.
This is a coordinated effort that we are seeing across the country - the privatization of our public spaces to make them off-limits for us to gather for free speech and assembly. While we have just been victorious in the fight for the Great Lawn of Central Park all eyes are now turning to the National Mall. This is the battle of most significance with repercussions that will be felt coast-to-coast.
Here is how you can help. It will take only a moment of your time but it will make a huge difference.
1) The Partnership for Civil Justice has set up an easy-to-use mechanism that will allow you to send a message directly to the National Park Service about their National Mall Plan. Click this link to send your message.
2) Sign the Statement in Defense of Free Speech Rights on the National Mall.
3) If you have already signed this statement, click this link right now to let us know if we can publicize you as a signer of this important statement.
4) If you are unsure whether you have already signed, you can sign the statement again, and all duplicate names will be eliminated.
Mara Verheyden-Hillard and Carl Messineo, co-founders of Partnership
for Civil Justice
Background on the NPS initiative to restrict protesting on the National Mall
Washington Post article: The Battle to Remold the Mall
Alternet article: National Mall Redesign Could Seriously Restrict Free Speech
National Office in Washington DC: 202-544-3389
New York City: 212-694-8720
Los Angeles: 323-464-1636
San Francisco: 415-821-6545
If this message was forwared to you and you'd like to receive future ANSWER updates, click here:
Student Walkout Portland Oregon 3/20/08
The Sand Creek Massacre (6 MINUTES)
Thought you might enjoy this item I've posted about a 1970 antiwar
poster folio with a name similar to yours.
Lots of good history here.
ARTICLES IN FULL:
1) Professor in Deadlocked Terrorism Case Could Face a New Indictment
By NEIL MacFARQUHAR
April 18, 2008
2) Sadr City Fighters Lay Defenses Amid Latest Official Efforts at Calm
By ALISSA J. RUBIN and STEPHEN FARRELL
April 19, 2008
3) As War’s Costs Rise, Congress Demands That Iraq Pay Larger Share
By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN and ERIC LIPTON
April 19, 2008
4) How Hunger Could Topple Regimes
By TONY KARONM
Apr 14, 10:00 AM ET
5) Food price rises are "mass murder": U.N. envoy
Sun Apr 20, 5:56 AM ET
6) Behind Military Analysts, the Pentagon’s Hidden Hand
By DAVID BARSTOW
April 20, 2008
7) The Torture Sessions
April 20, 2008
8) U.S. Military Seeks to Widen Pakistan Raids
By MARK MAZZETTI and ERIC SCHMITT
April 20, 2008
9) The Wage That Meant Middle Class
By LOUIS UCHITELLE
April 20, 2008
10) Working Life (High and Low)
By STEVEN GREENHOUSE
April 20, 2008
11) Medicare Plans Affected by Rising Drug Costs
By MILT FREUDENHEIM
April 19, 2008
1) Professor in Deadlocked Terrorism Case Could Face a New Indictment
By NEIL MacFARQUHAR
April 18, 2008
Sami al-Arian, a computer science professor imprisoned for more than five years after pleading guilty to a single terrorism-related charge when his trial deadlocked, is back in legal limbo this week. He faces either deportation or a new indictment that could extend his incarceration for years.
The Justice Department and some independent terrorism investigators have long accused Mr. Al-Arian of being the main North America organizer for Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which has claimed responsibility for some of the more deadly suicide bombings against Israeli targets and which the United States has designated a terrorist organization.
Mr. Al-Arian’s supporters, though, say that he is nothing more sinister than an outspoken Palestinian activist, and that the Justice Department has tried to exploit the post-Sept. 11 mood in the United States to punish him for that, using legal maneuvering to keep him behind bars.
“The government has shown a willingness to go to the most extreme lengths to prolong Mr. Al-Arian’s incarceration,” his defense lawyer, Jonathan Turley, said.
The treatment of Mr. Al-Arian, who taught at the University of South Florida, has drawn international condemnation, including a complaint in 2007 by Amnesty International that he has suffered a pattern of abuse in United States prisons.
Mr. Al-Arian maintains that a plea agreement he reached with the federal government in 2006, in which he accepted deportation in exchange for pleading guilty to one terrorism-related charge, included a verbal understanding that he would not have to testify in any other case. The government maintains that the plea agreement does not explicitly bar such testimony. The United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, in Atlanta, upheld the government’s stance in January. The government has thrice sought to compel him to testify before a long-running grand jury in Federal District Court in Alexandria, Va.
If the government chooses to charge Mr. Al-Arian with criminal contempt for refusing to testify, his time in jail could be open-ended, Mr. Turley said. “It is an abuse of the grand jury system,” he said. “It is an effort to secure by abusive means what the government could not secure from a jury.”
A Justice Department spokesman, Dean Boyd, pointed to the 11th Circuit’s decision as affirming that the government’s stance is correct. Jim Rybicki, spokesman for the United States attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Virginia, would not comment.
Mr. Al-Arian, 50, has been in jail since February 2003, somewhat longer than his 57-month sentence because of the wrestling over his grand jury testimony. The sentence expired last weekend, though, so he is now in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which would be in charge of his deportation should it occur.
He has been moved repeatedly from jail to jail, Mr. Turley said. A slight man, Mr. Al-Arian has been on a hunger strike since March 3 and has lost more than 30 pounds, he added. A Palestinian born in Kuwait, Mr. Al-Arian was a legal resident of the United States, but not a citizen. His trial is the subject of a documentary, “USA vs. Al-Arian,” that can be watched at linktv.org/programs/usavs.
In February 2003, a 121-page indictment trumpeted by the United States attorney general, John Ashcroft, painted Mr. Al-Arian as a linchpin of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, or P.I.J., funneling money, support and logistical advice to suicide bombers. But after a six-month trial in Federal District Court in Tampa, Fla., Mr. Al-Arian was acquitted on eight counts and the jury deadlocked on the remaining nine. The hung jury was considered a major embarrassment for the Bush administration by critics who saw it as another example of the administration’s overreaching on terrorism cases.
Rather than face another trial, defense lawyers said, Mr. Al-Arian pleaded guilty to one conspiracy count of helping individuals associated with P.I.J. on immigration and other court matters. The United States designated P.I.J. a terrorist organization in January 1995, and the activities to which he pleaded guilty occurred shortly after that.
In negotiating the plea agreement, his defense lawyers said, they explicitly removed standard language stating that Mr. Al-Arian agreed to testify against others.
“They made a deal, and that deal was that if he would enter this negotiation, it would end all business with the federal government, but they didn’t mean it,” said Linda Moreno, one of his lawyers in the Florida case.
2) Sadr City Fighters Lay Defenses Amid Latest Official Efforts at Calm
By ALISSA J. RUBIN and STEPHEN FARRELL
April 19, 2008
BAGHDAD — As the cleric Moktada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army fighters squatted in the Sadr City district’s main highways on Friday, planting homemade bombs less than a mile from Iraqi and American troops, his political bloc offered on Friday to negotiate with the Iraqi government to end fighting in the area.
Posing as municipal workers in fluorescent orange and yellow vests, three militia members — one masked with a checkered head scarf — dug holes in one main thoroughfare while wary drivers skirted around them and loose wires trailed across the street every few yards. Nearby, some of the heaviest fighting in weeks broke out late Friday night.
The mixed messages, at once conciliatory and threatening, are a hallmark of the Sadr movement, which appears to be gearing up to confront the government both with bullets and at the ballot box in provincial elections this fall.
As thousands of Shiites gathered for Friday Prayer, United States and Iraqi troops continued to ring Sadr City, the east Baghdad neighborhood that is Mr. Sadr’s Baghdad redoubt.
In recent days, United States forces have built high concrete blast walls to cordon off Sadr City’s government-controlled southern section from the rest of the sprawling district, which remains firmly under the control of the Mahdi Army militia. Within that Mahdi-controlled area, Falah Shanshal, a Sadrist member of Parliament, said Friday that the American and Iraqi government offensive in Sadr City was a “political war against the Sadrists.”
Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki insists that the offensive is aimed at criminals and illegal militias, not at the Sadrists in particular. But Mr. Shanshal said Mr. Maliki was using the accusation of criminal activity in Sadr City as a pretext for “mass punishment” intended to discourage Mr. Sadr’s supporters from participating in the provincial elections.
One of the policies Mr. Shanshal singled out for criticism was the decision of the American military and the Iraqi government to introduce to Baghdad’s most populous district the blast walls, which have been used to seal off and divide other neighborhoods.
The walls are intended to stop Mahdi fighters from infiltrating areas from which mortars and rockets have been fired at the high-security Green Zone, which lies four miles to the west.
During a tour of several streets in the Mahdi-controlled area on Friday, it was clear that concrete blast walls erected elsewhere in Sadr City had been moved or knocked down. Some were covered with anti-American slogans.
“They are just building the walls to cut the city into pieces that are isolated from each other,” Mr. Shanshal said. “It has always been a united area.”
Sadr City is a huge neighborhood, measuring about two miles by three miles, in Baghdad’s poorest quarter. Overwhelmingly Shiite, it consists mainly of cheap, poor-quality houses, street markets, shops, mosques and government buildings, and it has filthy, slumlike outlying areas that appear to expand annually in a haphazard manner.
It is separated from the rest of the city by a canal, and Iraqi or American troops are now stationed in force at the crossing points. On some days they try, with varying degrees of success, to seal off the neighborhood. On others, including Friday, they allow vehicles to enter and leave on some roads.
Sadr City is now divided into three zones: a small area under American and Iraqi government control; a much larger one under the Mahdi Army militia, where many streets are calm and businesses and grassy recreation areas were open as usual; and in between, a fluid no man’s land where much of the fighting is centered and civilians are afraid to venture.
On Friday, one such front-line area, the main Jamila market, was a charred, half-deserted stretch of shuttered stores, garbage and abandoned vegetable trolleys. The smell of burning was everywhere. Gangs of young men loitered near doorways.
Only 50 yards from a traffic circle controlled by the Mahdi militia, two American armored vehicles — one of them an MRAP, for Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected — were visible; nervous Iraqi drivers edged between the sides.
The Mahdi Army militia, which has flaunted its weapons and two weeks ago could be seen sitting on street corners with rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles, is now largely invisible, if only to avoid missiles from American helicopter gunships and other aircraft.
Pro-Sadr graffiti could be seen everywhere, even on the walls of the Rafidain police station, where officers sat passively in the guardroom.
Sadrists had banned Western journalists from Sadr City but lifted the prohibition on Friday; they insisted, however, on accompanying them some of the time.
The fighting late Friday was in the American-held area; Reuters reported that 132 people had been admitted to Sadr City hospitals Friday evening.
At the Sadr Hospital in the neighborhood, a number of the patients had been injured by the fighting. A doctor had also been killed on her way to work, said Sihan Zaidan, 35, the chief nurse in the children’s ward.
Sadrist members of Parliament said that 398 people had been killed in Sadr City and 1,331 wounded, and that 91 houses had been destroyed in the past three weeks.
There was no way to verify the numbers, but there have been daily clashes in the area, and in hospital interviews it was clear that many women and children had been wounded, usually as they stood in their doorways, walked to the corner to buy bread or took a breath of fresh air on the roof.
Often it was unclear who was responsible for the shootings. While those who are Sadr supporters blamed either the Iraqi government troops or the American military, many people interviewed in a local hospital said they did not know who had shot them.
Upstairs in the children’s ward, Ali Mortada, 3, lay silently on his bed, looking at his aunt, who sat beside him. A bullet tore through his abdomen on Thursday evening as he stood with his father and uncle at the front gate of their house.
“We heard the sound of shooting, but it did not seem so close so we thought it wasn’t very dangerous,” said Khalid Zeda, 28, the uncle.
“We have gotten so accustomed to fighting that even when a mortar hits our neighbor’s house, we don’t notice,” Mr. Zeda said. “We are unemployed, so we cannot stand to be indoors all day — it is like a prison.”
To reach the hospital, Ali’s relatives had to pass through an American checkpoint. They feared they would be shot if they drove, said Mr. Zeda, who added, “We walked a long way, holding Ali in our arms and holding him up to show him to the American soldiers so that they would let us pass.”
Mr. Zeda said he did not know where the bullet had come from, but he said, “The Americans should leave, and of course the government is involved, too.”
Qais Mizher, Ali Hameed and an Iraqi employee of The New York Times contributed reporting.
3) As War’s Costs Rise, Congress Demands That Iraq Pay Larger Share
By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN and ERIC LIPTON
April 19, 2008
WASHINGTON — As Congress gears up to debate President Bush’s latest request for $108 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, lawmakers in both parties are pointing to record-high oil prices and demanding that Iraq pay a larger share of the costs, especially for reconstruction efforts.
In a letter to the defense secretary, Robert M. Gates, a group of 10 senators — six Democrats and four Republicans — wrote that Iraq was likely to see a “financial windfall” of about $56 billion from high oil prices and that it should be forced to spend that money.
“The time has come to end this blank-check policy and require the Iraqis to invest in their own future,” the senators wrote.
The rising clamor, particularly among Republican lawmakers who face tough re-election challenges, and new polls showing Americans more dissatisfied than ever with the war, are ratcheting up the pressure on the Bush administration ahead of what is likely to be a pitched battle over the war spending bill.
Congressional Democrats have said that they will not simply grant Mr. Bush’s request, but will once again seek to attach strings, including a requirement that Iraq pay a higher share of the costs. The Democrats also plan to add up to $30 billion in domestic spending that they say is needed to help the economy.
Some Democrats are also trying to approve an additional $70 billion to sustain military operations through the end of Mr. Bush’s term, a move that would draw greater attention to the high cost of the Iraq war.
Mr. Bush’s current request would finance the Iraq and Afghanistan operations through Sept. 30.
In a new line of attack against the administration, the majority leader, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, has taken to stressing that the cost of the Iraq war is roughly $5,000 per second.
“The president has not been honest about the cost of the war from the beginning,” Mr. Reid said at a news conference this week. “$5,000 a second, $434 million every day. Seven days a week, no weekends off, no vacations. $12 billion every month.”
The White House says it shares the view that Iraq must shoulder more of the costs, and insists that Iraq is already beginning to do so. But the administration continues to dismiss criticism of its spending.
“Fighting terrorism and taking care of our veterans is not inexpensive,” the budget director, Jim Nussle, wrote in a letter this week. “We acknowledge that. However the economy also benefits when terrorist attacks are prevented and we doubt any critics of the level of spending take that into account.”
At a news conference on Thursday, 3 of the 10 senators who wrote to Mr. Gates — Evan Bayh, Democrat of Indiana; Susan Collins, Republican of Maine; and Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska — said they would press the administration to force Iraq to spend more of its budget surplus, projected at $60 billion, on reimbursing American expenses, including the cost of fuel.
Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, is considering pushing the debate into yet another arena next week, an aide said, perhaps by asking the State Department to determine if Iraq is using American tax dollars to hire lawyers and lobbyists to influence Congress and the administration.
Mr. Schumer does not know if that was the case, the aide said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the senator had not yet finalized his plans. But he said Mr. Schumer believed that it was inappropriate for Iraq to try to influence policy while American soldiers were in Iraq.
Since 2003, $22 million has been spent by political and government entities in Iraq on lawyers, lobbyists and other consultants who represent them in the United States, according to Justice Department records.
The Iraqi government has been the biggest spender: $15.6 million through late last year, with the Kurdistan Regional Government spending $6 million.
Mr. Schumer’s concerns mostly relate to two firms hired by the Iraqi government that helped defeat a proposal in Congress that would have allowed Americans to seize Iraqi assets to settle certain outstanding legal claims.
Samir Sumaidaie, Iraq’s ambassador in Washington, rejected Mr. Schumer’s criticism, saying that United States aid has never been used to pay its lobbying and law firms here.
“I can say categorically, that no such thing has happened,” he said Friday.
4) How Hunger Could Topple Regimes
By TONY KARONM
Apr 14, 10:00 AM ET
The idea of the starving masses driven by their desperation to take to the streets and overthrow the ancien regime has seemed impossibly quaint since capitalism triumphed so decisively in the Cold War. Since then, the spectacle of hunger sparking revolutionary violence has been the stuff of Broadway musicals rather than the real world of politics. And yet, the headlines of the past month suggest that skyrocketing food prices are threatening the stability of a growing number of governments around the world. Ironically, it may be the very success of capitalism in transforming regions previously restrained by various forms of socialism that has helped create the new crisis.
Haiti is in flames as food riots have turned into a violent challenge to the vulnerable government; Egypt's authoritarian regime faces a mounting political threat over its inability to maintain a steady supply of heavily subsidized bread to its impoverished citizens; Cote D'Ivoire, Cameroon, Mozambique, Uzbekistan, Yemen and Indonesia are among the countries that have recently seen violent food riots or demonstrations. World Bank president Robert Zoellick noted last week that world food prices had risen 80% over the past three years, and warned that at least 33 countries face social unrest as a result.
The sociology of the food riot is pretty straightforward: The usually impoverished majority of citizens may acquiesce to the rule of detested corrupt and repressive regimes when they are preoccupied with the daily struggle to feed their children and themselves, but when circumstances render it impossible to feed their hungry children, normally passive citizens can very quickly become militants with nothing to lose. That's especially true when the source of their hunger is not the absence of food supplies but their inability to afford to buy the available food supplies. And that's precisely what we're seeing in the current wave of global food-price inflation. As Josette Sheeran of the U.N. World Food Program put it last month, "We are seeing food on the shelves but people being unable to afford it."
When all that stands between hungry people and a warehouse full of rice and beans is a couple of padlocks and a riot policeman (who may be the neighbor of those who're trying to get past him, and whose own family may be hungry too), the invisible barricade of private-property laws can be easily ignored. Doing whatever it takes to feed oneself and a hungry child, after all, is a primal human instinct. So, with prices of basic foods skyrocketing to the point that even the global aid agencies - whose function is to provide emergency food supplies to those in need - are unable, for financial reasons, to sustain their current commitments to the growing army of the hungry, brittle regimes around the world have plenty of reason for anxiety.
The hunger has historically been an instigator of revolutions and civil wars, it is not a sufficient condition for such violence. For a mass outpouring of rage spurred by hunger to translate into a credible challenge to an established order requires an organized political leadership ready to harness that anger against the state. It may not be all that surprising, then, that Haiti has been one of the major flashpoints of the new wave of hunger-generated political crises; the outpouring of rage there has been channeled into preexisting furrows of political discontent. And that's why there may be greater reason for concern in Egypt, where the bread crisis comes on top of a mounting challenge to the regime's legitimacy by a range of opposition groups.
The social theories of Karl Marx were long ago discarded as of little value, even to revolutionaries. But he did warn that capitalism had a tendency to generate its own crises. Indeed, the spread of capitalism, and its accelerated industrialization and wealth-creation, may have fomented the food-inflation crisis - by dramatically accelerating competition for scarce resources. The rapid industrialization of China and India over the past two decades - and the resultant growth of a new middle class fast approaching the size of America's - has driven demand for oil toward the limits of global supply capacity. That has pushed oil prices to levels five times what they were in the mid 1990s, which has also raised pressure on food prices by driving up agricultural costs and by prompting the substitution of biofuel crops for edible ones on scarce farmland. Moreover, those new middle class people are eating a lot better than their parents did - particularly more meat. Producing a single calorie of beef can, by some estimates, require eight or more calories of grain feed, and expanded meat consumption therefore has a multiplier effect on demand for grains. Throw in climate disasters such as the Australian drought and recent rice crop failures, and you have food inflation spiraling so fast that even the U.N. agency created to feed people in emergencies is warning that it lacks the funds to fulfill its mandate.
The reason officials such as Zoellick are sounding the alarm may be that the food crisis, and its attendant political risks, are not likely to be resolved or contained by the laissez-faire operation of capitalism's market forces. Government intervention on behalf of the poor - so out of fashion during globalization's roaring '90s and the current decade - may be about to make a comeback. View this article on Time.com
5) Food price rises are "mass murder": U.N. envoy
Sun Apr 20, 5:56 AM ET
Global food price rises are leading to "silent mass murder" and commodities markets have brought "horror" to the world, the United Nations' food envoy told an Austrian newspaper on Sunday.
Jean Ziegler, UN special rapporteur on the right to food, told Kurier am Sonntag that growth in biofuels, speculation on commodities markets and European Union export subsidies mean the West is responsible for mass starvation in poorer countries.
Ziegler said he was bound to highlight the "madness" of people who think that hunger is down to fate.
"Hunger has not been down to fate for a long time -- just as (Karl) Marx thought. It is rather that a murder is behind every victim. This is silent mass murder," he said in an interview.
Ziegler blamed globalization for "monopolizing the riches of the earth" and said multinationals were responsible for a type of "structural violence."
"And we have a herd of market traders, speculators and financial bandits who have turned wild and constructed a world of inequality and horror. We have to put a stop to this," he said.
Ziegler said he believed that one day starving people could rise up against their persecutors. "It's just as possible as the French Revolution was," he said.
(Reporting by Sylvia Westall; Editing by Giles Elgood)
6) Behind Military Analysts, the Pentagon’s Hidden Hand
By DAVID BARSTOW
April 20, 2008
In the summer of 2005, the Bush administration confronted a fresh wave of criticism over Guantánamo Bay. The detention center had just been branded “the gulag of our times” by Amnesty International, there were new allegations of abuse from United Nations human rights experts and calls were mounting for its closure.
The administration’s communications experts responded swiftly. Early one Friday morning, they put a group of retired military officers on one of the jets normally used by Vice President Dick Cheney and flew them to Cuba for a carefully orchestrated tour of Guantánamo.
To the public, these men are members of a familiar fraternity, presented tens of thousands of times on television and radio as “military analysts” whose long service has equipped them to give authoritative and unfettered judgments about the most pressing issues of the post-Sept. 11 world.
Hidden behind that appearance of objectivity, though, is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance, an examination by The New York Times has found.
The effort, which began with the buildup to the Iraq war and continues to this day, has sought to exploit ideological and military allegiances, and also a powerful financial dynamic: Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air.
Those business relationships are hardly ever disclosed to the viewers, and sometimes not even to the networks themselves. But collectively, the men on the plane and several dozen other military analysts represent more than 150 military contractors either as lobbyists, senior executives, board members or consultants. The companies include defense heavyweights, but also scores of smaller companies, all part of a vast assemblage of contractors scrambling for hundreds of billions in military business generated by the administration’s war on terror. It is a furious competition, one in which inside information and easy access to senior officials are highly prized.
Records and interviews show how the Bush administration has used its control over access and information in an effort to transform the analysts into a kind of media Trojan horse — an instrument intended to shape terrorism coverage from inside the major TV and radio networks.
Analysts have been wooed in hundreds of private briefings with senior military leaders, including officials with significant influence over contracting and budget matters, records show. They have been taken on tours of Iraq and given access to classified intelligence. They have been briefed by officials from the White House, State Department and Justice Department, including Mr. Cheney, Alberto R. Gonzales and Stephen J. Hadley.
In turn, members of this group have echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated. Some analysts acknowledge they suppressed doubts because they feared jeopardizing their access.
A few expressed regret for participating in what they regarded as an effort to dupe the American public with propaganda dressed as independent military analysis.
“It was them saying, ‘We need to stick our hands up your back and move your mouth for you,’ ” Robert S. Bevelacqua, a retired Green Beret and former Fox News analyst, said.
Kenneth Allard, a former NBC military analyst who has taught information warfare at the National Defense University, said the campaign amounted to a sophisticated information operation. “This was a coherent, active policy,” he said.
As conditions in Iraq deteriorated, Mr. Allard recalled, he saw a yawning gap between what analysts were told in private briefings and what subsequent inquiries and books later revealed.
“Night and day,” Mr. Allard said, “I felt we’d been hosed.”
The Pentagon defended its relationship with military analysts, saying they had been given only factual information about the war. “The intent and purpose of this is nothing other than an earnest attempt to inform the American people,” Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said.
It was, Mr. Whitman added, “a bit incredible” to think retired military officers could be “wound up” and turned into “puppets of the Defense Department.”
Many analysts strongly denied that they had either been co-opted or had allowed outside business interests to affect their on-air comments, and some have used their platforms to criticize the conduct of the war. Several, like Jeffrey D. McCausland, a CBS military analyst and defense industry lobbyist, said they kept their networks informed of their outside work and recused themselves from coverage that touched on business interests.
“I’m not here representing the administration,” Dr. McCausland said.
Some network officials, meanwhile, acknowledged only a limited understanding of their analysts’ interactions with the administration. They said that while they were sensitive to potential conflicts of interest, they did not hold their analysts to the same ethical standards as their news employees regarding outside financial interests. The onus is on their analysts to disclose conflicts, they said. And whatever the contributions of military analysts, they also noted the many network journalists who have covered the war for years in all its complexity.
Five years into the Iraq war, most details of the architecture and execution of the Pentagon’s campaign have never been disclosed. But The Times successfully sued the Defense Department to gain access to 8,000 pages of e-mail messages, transcripts and records describing years of private briefings, trips to Iraq and Guantánamo and an extensive Pentagon talking points operation.
These records reveal a symbiotic relationship where the usual dividing lines between government and journalism have been obliterated.
Internal Pentagon documents repeatedly refer to the military analysts as “message force multipliers” or “surrogates” who could be counted on to deliver administration “themes and messages” to millions of Americans “in the form of their own opinions.”
Though many analysts are paid network consultants, making $500 to $1,000 per appearance, in Pentagon meetings they sometimes spoke as if they were operating behind enemy lines, interviews and transcripts show. Some offered the Pentagon tips on how to outmaneuver the networks, or as one analyst put it to Donald H. Rumsfeld, then the defense secretary, “the Chris Matthewses and the Wolf Blitzers of the world.” Some warned of planned stories or sent the Pentagon copies of their correspondence with network news executives. Many — although certainly not all — faithfully echoed talking points intended to counter critics.
“Good work,” Thomas G. McInerney, a retired Air Force general, consultant and Fox News analyst, wrote to the Pentagon after receiving fresh talking points in late 2006. “We will use it.”
Again and again, records show, the administration has enlisted analysts as a rapid reaction force to rebut what it viewed as critical news coverage, some of it by the networks’ own Pentagon correspondents. For example, when news articles revealed that troops in Iraq were dying because of inadequate body armor, a senior Pentagon official wrote to his colleagues: “I think our analysts — properly armed — can push back in that arena.”
The documents released by the Pentagon do not show any quid pro quo between commentary and contracts. But some analysts said they had used the special access as a marketing and networking opportunity or as a window into future business possibilities.
John C. Garrett is a retired Army colonel and unpaid analyst for Fox News TV and radio. He is also a lobbyist at Patton Boggs who helps firms win Pentagon contracts, including in Iraq. In promotional materials, he states that as a military analyst he “is privy to weekly access and briefings with the secretary of defense, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other high level policy makers in the administration.” One client told investors that Mr. Garrett’s special access and decades of experience helped him “to know in advance — and in detail — how best to meet the needs” of the Defense Department and other agencies.
In interviews Mr. Garrett said there was an inevitable overlap between his dual roles. He said he had gotten “information you just otherwise would not get,” from the briefings and three Pentagon-sponsored trips to Iraq. He also acknowledged using this access and information to identify opportunities for clients. “You can’t help but look for that,” he said, adding, “If you know a capability that would fill a niche or need, you try to fill it. “That’s good for everybody.”
At the same time, in e-mail messages to the Pentagon, Mr. Garrett displayed an eagerness to be supportive with his television and radio commentary. “Please let me know if you have any specific points you want covered or that you would prefer to downplay,” he wrote in January 2007, before President Bush went on TV to describe the surge strategy in Iraq.
Conversely, the administration has demonstrated that there is a price for sustained criticism, many analysts said. “You’ll lose all access,” Dr. McCausland said.
With a majority of Americans calling the war a mistake despite all administration attempts to sway public opinion, the Pentagon has focused in the last couple of years on cultivating in particular military analysts frequently seen and heard in conservative news outlets, records and interviews show.
Some of these analysts were on the mission to Cuba on June 24, 2005 — the first of six such Guantánamo trips — which was designed to mobilize analysts against the growing perception of Guantánamo as an international symbol of inhumane treatment. On the flight to Cuba, for much of the day at Guantánamo and on the flight home that night, Pentagon officials briefed the 10 or so analysts on their key messages — how much had been spent improving the facility, the abuse endured by guards, the extensive rights afforded detainees.
The results came quickly. The analysts went on TV and radio, decrying Amnesty International, criticizing calls to close the facility and asserting that all detainees were treated humanely.
“The impressions that you’re getting from the media and from the various pronouncements being made by people who have not been here in my opinion are totally false,” Donald W. Shepperd, a retired Air Force general, reported live on CNN by phone from Guantánamo that same afternoon.
The next morning, Montgomery Meigs, a retired Army general and NBC analyst, appeared on “Today.” “There’s been over $100 million of new construction,” he reported. “The place is very professionally run.”
Within days, transcripts of the analysts’ appearances were circulated to senior White House and Pentagon officials, cited as evidence of progress in the battle for hearts and minds at home.
Charting the Campaign
By early 2002, detailed planning for a possible Iraq invasion was under way, yet an obstacle loomed. Many Americans, polls showed, were uneasy about invading a country with no clear connection to the Sept. 11 attacks. Pentagon and White House officials believed the military analysts could play a crucial role in helping overcome this resistance.
Torie Clarke, the former public relations executive who oversaw the Pentagon’s dealings with the analysts as assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, had come to her job with distinct ideas about achieving what she called “information dominance.” In a spin-saturated news culture, she argued, opinion is swayed most by voices perceived as authoritative and utterly independent.
And so even before Sept. 11, she built a system within the Pentagon to recruit “key influentials” — movers and shakers from all walks who with the proper ministrations might be counted on to generate support for Mr. Rumsfeld’s priorities.
In the months after Sept. 11, as every network rushed to retain its own all-star squad of retired military officers, Ms. Clarke and her staff sensed a new opportunity. To Ms. Clarke’s team, the military analysts were the ultimate “key influential” — authoritative, most of them decorated war heroes, all reaching mass audiences.
The analysts, they noticed, often got more airtime than network reporters, and they were not merely explaining the capabilities of Apache helicopters. They were framing how viewers ought to interpret events. What is more, while the analysts were in the news media, they were not of the news media. They were military men, many of them ideologically in sync with the administration’s neoconservative brain trust, many of them important players in a military industry anticipating large budget increases to pay for an Iraq war.
Even analysts with no defense industry ties, and no fondness for the administration, were reluctant to be critical of military leaders, many of whom were friends. “It is very hard for me to criticize the United States Army,” said William L. Nash, a retired Army general and ABC analyst. “It is my life.”
Other administrations had made sporadic, small-scale attempts to build relationships with the occasional military analyst. But these were trifling compared with what Ms. Clarke’s team had in mind. Don Meyer, an aide to Ms. Clarke, said a strategic decision was made in 2002 to make the analysts the main focus of the public relations push to construct a case for war. Journalists were secondary. “We didn’t want to rely on them to be our primary vehicle to get information out,” Mr. Meyer said.
The Pentagon’s regular press office would be kept separate from the military analysts. The analysts would instead be catered to by a small group of political appointees, with the point person being Brent T. Krueger, another senior aide to Ms. Clarke. The decision recalled other administration tactics that subverted traditional journalism. Federal agencies, for example, have paid columnists to write favorably about the administration. They have distributed to local TV stations hundreds of fake news segments with fawning accounts of administration accomplishments. The Pentagon itself has made covert payments to Iraqi newspapers to publish coalition propaganda.
Rather than complain about the “media filter,” each of these techniques simply converted the filter into an amplifier. This time, Mr. Krueger said, the military analysts would in effect be “writing the op-ed” for the war.
Assembling the Team
From the start, interviews show, the White House took a keen interest in which analysts had been identified by the Pentagon, requesting lists of potential recruits, and suggesting names. Ms. Clarke’s team wrote summaries describing their backgrounds, business affiliations and where they stood on the war.
“Rumsfeld ultimately cleared off on all invitees,” said Mr. Krueger, who left the Pentagon in 2004. (Through a spokesman, Mr. Rumsfeld declined to comment for this article.)
Over time, the Pentagon recruited more than 75 retired officers, although some participated only briefly or sporadically. The largest contingent was affiliated with Fox News, followed by NBC and CNN, the other networks with 24-hour cable outlets. But analysts from CBS and ABC were included, too. Some recruits, though not on any network payroll, were influential in other ways — either because they were sought out by radio hosts, or because they often published op-ed articles or were quoted in magazines, Web sites and newspapers. At least nine of them have written op-ed articles for The Times.
The group was heavily represented by men involved in the business of helping companies win military contracts. Several held senior positions with contractors that gave them direct responsibility for winning new Pentagon business. James Marks, a retired Army general and analyst for CNN from 2004 to 2007, pursued military and intelligence contracts as a senior executive with McNeil Technologies. Still others held board positions with military firms that gave them responsibility for government business. General McInerney, the Fox analyst, for example, sits on the boards of several military contractors, including Nortel Government Solutions, a supplier of communication networks.
Several were defense industry lobbyists, such as Dr. McCausland, who works at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, a major lobbying firm where he is director of a national security team that represents several military contractors. “We offer clients access to key decision makers,” Dr. McCausland’s team promised on the firm’s Web site.
Dr. McCausland was not the only analyst making this pledge. Another was Joseph W. Ralston, a retired Air Force general. Soon after signing on with CBS, General Ralston was named vice chairman of the Cohen Group, a consulting firm headed by a former defense secretary, William Cohen, himself now a “world affairs” analyst for CNN. “The Cohen Group knows that getting to ‘yes’ in the aerospace and defense market — whether in the United States or abroad — requires that companies have a thorough, up-to-date understanding of the thinking of government decision makers,” the company tells prospective clients on its Web site.
There were also ideological ties.
Two of NBC’s most prominent analysts, Barry R. McCaffrey and the late Wayne A. Downing, were on the advisory board of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, an advocacy group created with White House encouragement in 2002 to help make the case for ousting Saddam Hussein. Both men also had their own consulting firms and sat on the boards of major military contractors.
Many also shared with Mr. Bush’s national security team a belief that pessimistic war coverage broke the nation’s will to win in Vietnam, and there was a mutual resolve not to let that happen with this war.
This was a major theme, for example, with Paul E. Vallely, a Fox News analyst from 2001 to 2007. A retired Army general who had specialized in psychological warfare, Mr. Vallely co-authored a paper in 1980 that accused American news organizations of failing to defend the nation from “enemy” propaganda during Vietnam.
“We lost the war — not because we were outfought, but because we were out Psyoped,” he wrote. He urged a radically new approach to psychological operations in future wars — taking aim at not just foreign adversaries but domestic audiences, too. He called his approach “MindWar” — using network TV and radio to “strengthen our national will to victory.”
The Selling of the War
From their earliest sessions with the military analysts, Mr. Rumsfeld and his aides spoke as if they were all part of the same team.
In interviews, participants described a powerfully seductive environment — the uniformed escorts to Mr. Rumsfeld’s private conference room, the best government china laid out, the embossed name cards, the blizzard of PowerPoints, the solicitations of advice and counsel, the appeals to duty and country, the warm thank you notes from the secretary himself.
“Oh, you have no idea,” Mr. Allard said, describing the effect. “You’re back. They listen to you. They listen to what you say on TV.” It was, he said, “psyops on steroids” — a nuanced exercise in influence through flattery and proximity. “It’s not like it’s, ‘We’ll pay you $500 to get our story out,’ ” he said. “It’s more subtle.”
The access came with a condition. Participants were instructed not to quote their briefers directly or otherwise describe their contacts with the Pentagon.
In the fall and winter leading up to the invasion, the Pentagon armed its analysts with talking points portraying Iraq as an urgent threat. The basic case became a familiar mantra: Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons, was developing nuclear weapons, and might one day slip some to Al Qaeda; an invasion would be a relatively quick and inexpensive “war of liberation.”
At the Pentagon, members of Ms. Clarke’s staff marveled at the way the analysts seamlessly incorporated material from talking points and briefings as if it was their own.
“You could see that they were messaging,” Mr. Krueger said. “You could see they were taking verbatim what the secretary was saying or what the technical specialists were saying. And they were saying it over and over and over.” Some days, he added, “We were able to click on every single station and every one of our folks were up there delivering our message. You’d look at them and say, ‘This is working.’ ”
On April 12, 2003, with major combat almost over, Mr. Rumsfeld drafted a memorandum to Ms. Clarke. “Let’s think about having some of the folks who did such a good job as talking heads in after this thing is over,” he wrote.
By summer, though, the first signs of the insurgency had emerged. Reports from journalists based in Baghdad were increasingly suffused with the imagery of mayhem.
The Pentagon did not have to search far for a counterweight.
It was time, an internal Pentagon strategy memorandum urged, to “re-energize surrogates and message-force multipliers,” starting with the military analysts.
The memorandum led to a proposal to take analysts on a tour of Iraq in September 2003, timed to help overcome the sticker shock from Mr. Bush’s request for $87 billion in emergency war financing.
The group included four analysts from Fox News, one each from CNN and ABC, and several research-group luminaries whose opinion articles appear regularly in the nation’s op-ed pages.
The trip invitation promised a look at “the real situation on the ground in Iraq.”
The situation, as described in scores of books, was deteriorating. L. Paul Bremer III, then the American viceroy in Iraq, wrote in his memoir, “My Year in Iraq,” that he had privately warned the White House that the United States had “about half the number of soldiers we needed here.”
“We’re up against a growing and sophisticated threat,” Mr. Bremer recalled telling the president during a private White House dinner.
That dinner took place on Sept. 24, while the analysts were touring Iraq.
Yet these harsh realities were elided, or flatly contradicted, during the official presentations for the analysts, records show. The itinerary, scripted to the minute, featured brief visits to a model school, a few refurbished government buildings, a center for women’s rights, a mass grave and even the gardens of Babylon.
Mostly the analysts attended briefings. These sessions, records show, spooled out an alternative narrative, depicting an Iraq bursting with political and economic energy, its security forces blossoming. On the crucial question of troop levels, the briefings echoed the White House line: No reinforcements were needed. The “growing and sophisticated threat” described by Mr. Bremer was instead depicted as degraded, isolated and on the run.
“We’re winning,” a briefing document proclaimed.
One trip participant, General Nash of ABC, said some briefings were so clearly “artificial” that he joked to another group member that they were on “the George Romney memorial trip to Iraq,” a reference to Mr. Romney’s infamous claim that American officials had “brainwashed” him into supporting the Vietnam War during a tour there in 1965, while he was governor of Michigan.
But if the trip pounded the message of progress, it also represented a business opportunity: direct access to the most senior civilian and military leaders in Iraq and Kuwait, including many with a say in how the president’s $87 billion would be spent. It also was a chance to gather inside information about the most pressing needs confronting the American mission: the acute shortages of “up-armored” Humvees; the billions to be spent building military bases; the urgent need for interpreters; and the ambitious plans to train Iraq’s security forces.
Information and access of this nature had undeniable value for trip participants like William V. Cowan and Carlton A. Sherwood.
Mr. Cowan, a Fox analyst and retired Marine colonel, was the chief executive of a new military firm, the wvc3 Group. Mr. Sherwood was its executive vice president. At the time, the company was seeking contracts worth tens of millions to supply body armor and counterintelligence services in Iraq. In addition, wvc3 Group had a written agreement to use its influence and connections to help tribal leaders in Al Anbar Province win reconstruction contracts from the coalition.
“Those sheiks wanted access to the C.P.A.,” Mr. Cowan recalled in an interview, referring to the Coalition Provisional Authority.
Mr. Cowan said he pleaded their cause during the trip. “I tried to push hard with some of Bremer’s people to engage these people of Al Anbar,” he said.
Back in Washington, Pentagon officials kept a nervous eye on how the trip translated on the airwaves. Uncomfortable facts had bubbled up during the trip. One briefer, for example, mentioned that the Army was resorting to packing inadequately armored Humvees with sandbags and Kevlar blankets. Descriptions of the Iraqi security forces were withering. “They can’t shoot, but then again, they don’t,” one officer told them, according to one participant’s notes.
“I saw immediately in 2003 that things were going south,” General Vallely, one of the Fox analysts on the trip, recalled in an interview with The Times.
The Pentagon, though, need not have worried.
“You can’t believe the progress,” General Vallely told Alan Colmes of Fox News upon his return. He predicted the insurgency would be “down to a few numbers” within months.
“We could not be more excited, more pleased,” Mr. Cowan told Greta Van Susteren of Fox News. There was barely a word about armor shortages or corrupt Iraqi security forces. And on the key strategic question of the moment — whether to send more troops — the analysts were unanimous.
“I am so much against adding more troops,” General Shepperd said on CNN.
Access and Influence
Inside the Pentagon and at the White House, the trip was viewed as a masterpiece in the management of perceptions, not least because it gave fuel to complaints that “mainstream” journalists were ignoring the good news in Iraq.
“We’re hitting a home run on this trip,” a senior Pentagon official wrote in an e-mail message to Richard B. Myers and Peter Pace, then chairman and vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Its success only intensified the Pentagon’s campaign. The pace of briefings accelerated. More trips were organized. Eventually the effort involved officials from Washington to Baghdad to Kabul to Guantánamo and back to Tampa, Fla., the headquarters of United States Central Command.
The scale reflected strong support from the top. When officials in Iraq were slow to organize another trip for analysts, a Pentagon official fired off an e-mail message warning that the trips “have the highest levels of visibility” at the White House and urging them to get moving before Lawrence Di Rita, one of Mr. Rumsfeld’s closest aides, “picks up the phone and starts calling the 4-stars.”
Mr. Di Rita, no longer at the Defense Department, said in an interview that a “conscious decision” was made to rely on the military analysts to counteract “the increasingly negative view of the war” coming from journalists in Iraq. The analysts, he said, generally had “a more supportive view” of the administration and the war, and the combination of their TV platforms and military cachet made them ideal for rebutting critical coverage of issues like troop morale, treatment of detainees, inadequate equipment or poorly trained Iraqi security forces. “On those issues, they were more likely to be seen as credible spokesmen,” he said.
For analysts with military industry ties, the attention brought access to a widening circle of influential officials beyond the contacts they had accumulated over the course of their careers.
Charles T. Nash, a Fox military analyst and retired Navy captain, is a consultant who helps small companies break into the military market. Suddenly, he had entree to a host of senior military leaders, many of whom he had never met. It was, he said, like being embedded with the Pentagon leadership. “You start to recognize what’s most important to them,” he said, adding, “There’s nothing like seeing stuff firsthand.”
Some Pentagon officials said they were well aware that some analysts viewed their special access as a business advantage. “Of course we realized that,” Mr. Krueger said. “We weren’t naïve about that.”
They also understood the financial relationship between the networks and their analysts. Many analysts were being paid by the “hit,” the number of times they appeared on TV. The more an analyst could boast of fresh inside information from high-level Pentagon “sources,” the more hits he could expect. The more hits, the greater his potential influence in the military marketplace, where several analysts prominently advertised their network roles.
“They have taken lobbying and the search for contracts to a far higher level,” Mr. Krueger said. “This has been highly honed.”
Mr. Di Rita, though, said it never occurred to him that analysts might use their access to curry favor. Nor, he said, did the Pentagon try to exploit this dynamic. “That’s not something that ever crossed my mind,” he said. In any event, he argued, the analysts and the networks were the ones responsible for any ethical complications. “We assume they know where the lines are,” he said.
The analysts met personally with Mr. Rumsfeld at least 18 times, records show, but that was just the beginning. They had dozens more sessions with the most senior members of his brain trust and access to officials responsible for managing the billions being spent in Iraq. Other groups of “key influentials” had meetings, but not nearly as often as the analysts.
An internal memorandum in 2005 helped explain why. The memorandum, written by a Pentagon official who had accompanied analysts to Iraq, said that based on her observations during the trip, the analysts “are having a greater impact” on network coverage of the military. “They have now become the go-to guys not only on breaking stories, but they influence the views on issues,” she wrote.
Other branches of the administration also began to make use of the analysts. Mr. Gonzales, then the attorney general, met with them soon after news leaked that the government was wiretapping terrorism suspects in the United States without warrants, Pentagon records show. When David H. Petraeus was appointed the commanding general in Iraq in January 2007, one of his early acts was to meet with the analysts.
“We knew we had extraordinary access,” said Timur J. Eads, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and Fox analyst who is vice president of government relations for Blackbird Technologies, a fast-growing military contractor.
Like several other analysts, Mr. Eads said he had at times held his tongue on television for fear that “some four-star could call up and say, ‘Kill that contract.’ ” For example, he believed Pentagon officials misled the analysts about the progress of Iraq’s security forces. “I know a snow job when I see one,” he said. He did not share this on TV.
“Human nature,” he explained, though he noted other instances when he was critical.
Some analysts said that even before the war started, they privately had questions about the justification for the invasion, but were careful not to express them on air.
Mr. Bevelacqua, then a Fox analyst, was among those invited to a briefing in early 2003 about Iraq’s purported stockpiles of illicit weapons. He recalled asking the briefer whether the United States had “smoking gun” proof.
“ ‘We don’t have any hard evidence,’ ” Mr. Bevelacqua recalled the briefer replying. He said he and other analysts were alarmed by this concession. “We are looking at ourselves saying, ‘What are we doing?’ ”
Another analyst, Robert L. Maginnis, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who works in the Pentagon for a military contractor, attended the same briefing and recalled feeling “very disappointed” after being shown satellite photographs purporting to show bunkers associated with a hidden weapons program. Mr. Maginnis said he concluded that the analysts were being “manipulated” to convey a false sense of certainty about the evidence of the weapons. Yet he and Mr. Bevelacqua and the other analysts who attended the briefing did not share any misgivings with the American public.
Mr. Bevelacqua and another Fox analyst, Mr. Cowan, had formed the wvc3 Group, and hoped to win military and national security contracts.
“There’s no way I was going to go down that road and get completely torn apart,” Mr. Bevelacqua said. “You’re talking about fighting a huge machine.”
Some e-mail messages between the Pentagon and the analysts reveal an implicit trade of privileged access for favorable coverage. Robert H. Scales Jr., a retired Army general and analyst for Fox News and National Public Radio whose consulting company advises several military firms on weapons and tactics used in Iraq, wanted the Pentagon to approve high-level briefings for him inside Iraq in 2006.
“Recall the stuff I did after my last visit,” he wrote. “I will do the same this time.”
Pentagon Keeps Tabs
As it happened, the analysts’ news media appearances were being closely monitored. The Pentagon paid a private contractor, Omnitec Solutions, hundreds of thousands of dollars to scour databases for any trace of the analysts, be it a segment on “The O’Reilly Factor” or an interview with The Daily Inter Lake in Montana, circulation 20,000.
Omnitec evaluated their appearances using the same tools as corporate branding experts. One report, assessing the impact of several trips to Iraq in 2005, offered example after example of analysts echoing Pentagon themes on all the networks.
“Commentary from all three Iraq trips was extremely positive over all,” the report concluded.
In interviews, several analysts reacted with dismay when told they were described as reliable “surrogates” in Pentagon documents. And some asserted that their Pentagon sessions were, as David L. Grange, a retired Army general and CNN analyst put it, “just upfront information,” while others pointed out, accurately, that they did not always agree with the administration or each other. “None of us drink the Kool-Aid,” General Scales said.
Likewise, several also denied using their special access for business gain. “Not related at all,” General Shepperd said, pointing out that many in the Pentagon held CNN “in the lowest esteem.”
Still, even the mildest of criticism could draw a challenge. Several analysts told of fielding telephone calls from displeased defense officials only minutes after being on the air.
On Aug. 3, 2005, 14 marines died in Iraq. That day, Mr. Cowan, who said he had grown increasingly uncomfortable with the “twisted version of reality” being pushed on analysts in briefings, called the Pentagon to give “a heads-up” that some of his comments on Fox “may not all be friendly,” Pentagon records show. Mr. Rumsfeld’s senior aides quickly arranged a private briefing for him, yet when he told Bill O’Reilly that the United States was “not on a good glide path right now” in Iraq, the repercussions were swift.
Mr. Cowan said he was “precipitously fired from the analysts group” for this appearance. The Pentagon, he wrote in an e-mail message, “simply didn’t like the fact that I wasn’t carrying their water.” The next day James T. Conway, then director of operations for the Joint Chiefs, presided over another conference call with analysts. He urged them, a transcript shows, not to let the marines’ deaths further erode support for the war.
“The strategic target remains our population,” General Conway said. “We can lose people day in and day out, but they’re never going to beat our military. What they can and will do if they can is strip away our support. And you guys can help us not let that happen.”
“General, I just made that point on the air,” an analyst replied.
“Let’s work it together, guys,” General Conway urged.
The Generals’ Revolt
The full dimensions of this mutual embrace were perhaps never clearer than in April 2006, after several of Mr. Rumsfeld’s former generals — none of them network military analysts — went public with devastating critiques of his wartime performance. Some called for his resignation.
On Friday, April 14, with what came to be called the “Generals’ Revolt” dominating headlines, Mr. Rumsfeld instructed aides to summon military analysts to a meeting with him early the next week, records show. When an aide urged a short delay to “give our big guys on the West Coast a little more time to buy a ticket and get here,” Mr. Rumsfeld’s office insisted that “the boss” wanted the meeting fast “for impact on the current story.”
That same day, Pentagon officials helped two Fox analysts, General McInerney and General Vallely, write an opinion article for The Wall Street Journal defending Mr. Rumsfeld.
“Starting to write it now,” General Vallely wrote to the Pentagon that afternoon. “Any input for the article,” he added a little later, “will be much appreciated.” Mr. Rumsfeld’s office quickly forwarded talking points and statistics to rebut the notion of a spreading revolt.
“Vallely is going to use the numbers,” a Pentagon official reported that afternoon.
The standard secrecy notwithstanding, plans for this session leaked, producing a front-page story in The Times that Sunday. In damage-control mode, Pentagon officials scrambled to present the meeting as routine and directed that communications with analysts be kept “very formal,” records show. “This is very, very sensitive now,” a Pentagon official warned subordinates.
On Tuesday, April 18, some 17 analysts assembled at the Pentagon with Mr. Rumsfeld and General Pace, then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
A transcript of that session, never before disclosed, shows a shared determination to marginalize war critics and revive public support for the war.
“I’m an old intel guy,” said one analyst. (The transcript omits speakers’ names.) “And I can sum all of this up, unfortunately, with one word. That is Psyops. Now most people may hear that and they think, ‘Oh my God, they’re trying to brainwash.’ ”
“What are you, some kind of a nut?” Mr. Rumsfeld cut in, drawing laughter. “You don’t believe in the Constitution?”
There was little discussion about the actual criticism pouring forth from Mr. Rumsfeld’s former generals. Analysts argued that opposition to the war was rooted in perceptions fed by the news media, not reality. The administration’s overall war strategy, they counseled, was “brilliant” and “very successful.”
“Frankly,” one participant said, “from a military point of view, the penalty, 2,400 brave Americans whom we lost, 3,000 in an hour and 15 minutes, is relative.”
An analyst said at another point: “This is a wider war. And whether we have democracy in Iraq or not, it doesn’t mean a tinker’s damn if we end up with the result we want, which is a regime over there that’s not a threat to us.”
“Yeah,” Mr. Rumsfeld said, taking notes.
But winning or not, they bluntly warned, the administration was in grave political danger so long as most Americans viewed Iraq as a lost cause. “America hates a loser,” one analyst said.
Much of the session was devoted to ways that Mr. Rumsfeld could reverse the “political tide.” One analyst urged Mr. Rumsfeld to “just crush these people,” and assured him that “most of the gentlemen at the table” would enthusiastically support him if he did.
“You are the leader,” the analyst told Mr. Rumsfeld. “You are our guy.”
At another point, an analyst made a suggestion: “In one of your speeches you ought to say, ‘Everybody stop for a minute and imagine an Iraq ruled by Zarqawi.’ And then you just go down the list and say, ‘All right, we’ve got oil, money, sovereignty, access to the geographic center of gravity of the Middle East, blah, blah, blah.’ If you can just paint a mental picture for Joe America to say, ‘Oh my God, I can’t imagine a world like that.’ ”
Even as they assured Mr. Rumsfeld that they stood ready to help in this public relations offensive, the analysts sought guidance on what they should cite as the next “milestone” that would, as one analyst put it, “keep the American people focused on the idea that we’re moving forward to a positive end.” They placed particular emphasis on the growing confrontation with Iran.
“When you said ‘long war,’ you changed the psyche of the American people to expect this to be a generational event,” an analyst said. “And again, I’m not trying to tell you how to do your job...”
“Get in line,” Mr. Rumsfeld interjected.
The meeting ended and Mr. Rumsfeld, appearing pleased and relaxed, took the entire group into a small study and showed off treasured keepsakes from his life, several analysts recalled.
Soon after, analysts hit the airwaves. The Omnitec monitoring reports, circulated to more than 80 officials, confirmed that analysts repeated many of the Pentagon’s talking points: that Mr. Rumsfeld consulted “frequently and sufficiently” with his generals; that he was not “overly concerned” with the criticisms; that the meeting focused “on more important topics at hand,” including the next milestone in Iraq, the formation of a new government.
Days later, Mr. Rumsfeld wrote a memorandum distilling their collective guidance into bullet points. Two were underlined:
“Focus on the Global War on Terror — not simply Iraq. The wider war — the long war.”
“Link Iraq to Iran. Iran is the concern. If we fail in Iraq or Afghanistan, it will help Iran.”
But if Mr. Rumsfeld found the session instructive, at least one participant, General Nash, the ABC analyst, was repulsed.
“I walked away from that session having total disrespect for my fellow commentators, with perhaps one or two exceptions,” he said.
View From the Networks
Two weeks ago General Petraeus took time out from testifying before Congress about Iraq for a conference call with military analysts.
Mr. Garrett, the Fox analyst and Patton Boggs lobbyist, said he told General Petraeus during the call to “keep up the great work.”
“Hey,” Mr. Garrett said in an interview, “anything we can do to help.”
For the moment, though, because of heavy election coverage and general war fatigue, military analysts are not getting nearly as much TV time, and the networks have trimmed their rosters of analysts. The conference call with General Petraeus, for example, produced little in the way of immediate coverage.
Still, almost weekly the Pentagon continues to conduct briefings with selected military analysts. Many analysts said network officials were only dimly aware of these interactions. The networks, they said, have little grasp of how often they meet with senior officials, or what is discussed.
“I don’t think NBC was even aware we were participating,” said Rick Francona, a longtime military analyst for the network.
Some networks publish biographies on their Web sites that describe their analysts’ military backgrounds and, in some cases, give at least limited information about their business ties. But many analysts also said the networks asked few questions about their outside business interests, the nature of their work or the potential for that work to create conflicts of interest. “None of that ever happened,” said Mr. Allard, an NBC analyst until 2006.
“The worst conflict of interest was no interest.”
Mr. Allard and other analysts said their network handlers also raised no objections when the Defense Department began paying their commercial airfare for Pentagon-sponsored trips to Iraq — a clear ethical violation for most news organizations.
CBS News declined to comment on what it knew about its military analysts’ business affiliations or what steps it took to guard against potential conflicts.
NBC News also declined to discuss its procedures for hiring and monitoring military analysts. The network issued a short statement: “We have clear policies in place to assure that the people who appear on our air have been appropriately vetted and that nothing in their profile would lead to even a perception of a conflict of interest.”
Jeffrey W. Schneider, a spokesman for ABC, said that while the network’s military consultants were not held to the same ethical rules as its full-time journalists, they were expected to keep the network informed about any outside business entanglements. “We make it clear to them we expect them to keep us closely apprised,” he said.
A spokeswoman for Fox News said executives “refused to participate” in this article.
CNN requires its military analysts to disclose in writing all outside sources of income. But like the other networks, it does not provide its military analysts with the kind of written, specific ethical guidelines it gives its full-time employees for avoiding real or apparent conflicts of interest.
Yet even where controls exist, they have sometimes proven porous.
CNN, for example, said it was unaware for nearly three years that one of its main military analysts, General Marks, was deeply involved in the business of seeking government contracts, including contracts related to Iraq.
General Marks was hired by CNN in 2004, about the time he took a management position at McNeil Technologies, where his job was to pursue military and intelligence contracts. As required, General Marks disclosed that he received income from McNeil Technologies. But the disclosure form did not require him to describe what his job entailed, and CNN acknowledges it failed to do additional vetting.
“We did not ask Mr. Marks the follow-up questions we should have,” CNN said in a written statement.
In an interview, General Marks said it was no secret at CNN that his job at McNeil Technologies was about winning contracts. “I mean, that’s what McNeil does,” he said.
CNN, however, said it did not know the nature of McNeil’s military business or what General Marks did for the company. If he was bidding on Pentagon contracts, CNN said, that should have disqualified him from being a military analyst for the network. But in the summer and fall of 2006, even as he was regularly asked to comment on conditions in Iraq, General Marks was working intensively on bidding for a $4.6 billion contract to provide thousands of translators to United States forces in Iraq. In fact, General Marks was made president of the McNeil spin-off that won the huge contract in December 2006.
General Marks said his work on the contract did not affect his commentary on CNN. “I’ve got zero challenge separating myself from a business interest,” he said.
But CNN said it had no idea about his role in the contract until July 2007, when it reviewed his most recent disclosure form, submitted months earlier, and finally made inquiries about his new job.
“We saw the extent of his dealings and determined at that time we should end our relationship with him,” CNN said.
7) The Torture Sessions
April 20, 2008
Ever since Americans learned that American soldiers and intelligence agents were torturing prisoners, there has been a disturbing question: How high up did the decision go to ignore United States law, international treaties, the Geneva Conventions and basic morality?
The answer, we have learned recently, is that — with President Bush’s clear knowledge and support — some of the very highest officials in the land not only approved the abuse of prisoners, but participated in the detailed planning of harsh interrogations and helped to create a legal structure to shield from justice those who followed the orders.
We have long known that the Justice Department tortured the law to give its Orwellian blessing to torturing people, and that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approved a list of ways to abuse prisoners. But recent accounts by ABC News and The Associated Press said that all of the president’s top national security advisers at the time participated in creating the interrogation policy: Vice President Dick Cheney; Mr. Rumsfeld; Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser; Colin Powell, the secretary of state; John Ashcroft, the attorney general; and George Tenet, the director of central intelligence.
These officials did not have the time or the foresight to plan for the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq or the tenacity to complete the hunt for Osama bin Laden. But they managed to squeeze in dozens of meetings in the White House Situation Room to organize and give legal cover to prisoner abuse, including brutal methods that civilized nations consider to be torture.
Mr. Bush told ABC News this month that he knew of these meetings and approved of the result.
Those who have followed the story of the administration’s policies on prisoners may not be shocked. We have read the memos from the Justice Department redefining torture, claiming that Mr. Bush did not have to follow the law, and offering a blueprint for avoiding criminal liability for abusing prisoners.
The amount of time and energy devoted to this furtive exercise at the very highest levels of the government reminded us how little Americans know, in fact, about the ways Mr. Bush and his team undermined, subverted and broke the law in the name of saving the American way of life.
We have questions to ask, in particular, about the involvement of Ms. Rice, who has managed to escape blame for the catastrophic decisions made while she was Mr. Bush’s national security adviser, and Mr. Powell, a career Army officer who should know that torture has little value as an interrogation method and puts captured Americans at much greater risk. Did they raise objections or warn of the disastrous effect on America’s standing in the world? Did anyone?
Mr. Bush has sidestepped or quashed every attempt to uncover the breadth and depth of his sordid actions. Congress is likely to endorse a cover-up of the extent of the illegal wiretapping he authorized after 9/11, and we are still waiting, with diminishing hopes, for a long-promised report on what the Bush team really knew before the Iraq invasion about those absent weapons of mass destruction — as opposed to what it proclaimed.
At this point it seems that getting answers will have to wait, at least, for a new Congress and a new president. Ideally, there would be both truth and accountability. At the very minimum the public needs the full truth.
Some will call this a backward-looking distraction, but only by fully understanding what Mr. Bush has done over eight years to distort the rule of law and violate civil liberties and human rights can Americans ever hope to repair the damage and ensure it does not happen again.
8) U.S. Military Seeks to Widen Pakistan Raids
By MARK MAZZETTI and ERIC SCHMITT
April 20, 2008
WASHINGTON — American commanders in Afghanistan have in recent months urged a widening of the war that could include American attacks on indigenous Pakistani militants in the tribal areas inside Pakistan, according to United States officials.
The requests have been rebuffed for now, the officials said, after deliberations in Washington among senior Bush administration officials who fear that attacking Pakistani radicals may anger Pakistan’s new government, which is negotiating with the militants, and destabilize an already fragile security situation.
American commanders would prefer that Pakistani forces attack the militants, but Pakistani military operations in the tribal areas have slowed recently to avoid upsetting the negotiations.
Pakistan’s government has given the Central Intelligence Agency limited authority to kill Arab and other foreign operatives in the tribal areas, using remotely piloted Predator aircraft. But administration officials say the Pakistani government has put far greater restrictions on American operations against indigenous Pakistani militant groups, including one thought to have been behind the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
American intelligence officials say that the threat emanating from Pakistan’s tribal areas is growing, and that Pakistani networks there have taken on an increasingly important role as an ally of Al Qaeda in plotting attacks against American and other allied troops in Afghanistan, and in helping foreign operatives plan attacks on targets in the West. The officials said the American military’s proposals included options for limited cross-border artillery strikes into Pakistan, missile attacks by Predator aircraft or raids by small teams of C.I.A. paramilitary forces or Special Operations forces.
In recent months, the American military officials in Afghanistan who are urging attacks in Pakistan discussed a list of potential targets with the United States ambassador in Pakistan, Anne W. Patterson, officials said.
The requests by the American commanders for attacks on targets in Pakistan were described by officials who had been briefed on the discussions but who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the discussions involved possible future operations.
The discussions are the latest example of a recurring problem for the White House: that the place where the terrorist threat is most acute is the place where American forces are most restricted from acting.
Officials involved in the debate said that the question of attacking Pakistani militants was especially delicate because some militant leaders were believed to still be on the payroll of Pakistan’s intelligence service, called the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, or another part of Pakistan’s intelligence apparatus. Among the groups thought to be targets was one commanded by Sirajuddin Haqqani, son of the legendary militant leader Jalaluddin Haqqani, as well as the network led by Baitullah Mehsud that is believed to have been behind Ms. Bhutto’s death.
For years the intelligence services have relied on a web of sources among Pakistani militant groups to collect information on foreign groups like Al Qaeda that have operated in the tribal areas.
A Pentagon adviser said military intelligence officers in Afghanistan had drawn up the detailed list of potential targets that was discussed with Ambassador Patterson. It is unclear which senior officials in Washington were involved in the debate over whether to authorize attacks.
One administration official said the internal discussions in Washington involved President Bush’s top national security aides, and took place earlier this year.
Military and intelligence officials say Al Qaeda and its affiliates now have a haven to plan attacks, just as they used camps in Afghanistan before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the C.I.A. director, said last month that the security situation along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border “presents clear and present danger to Afghanistan, to Pakistan and to the West in general, and to the United States in particular.”
American officials involved in the discussions said that they had not ruled out striking Pakistani militants in the tribal areas. American forces in Afghanistan are authorized to attack targets in Pakistan in self-defense or if they are in “hot pursuit” of militants fleeing back to havens across the border.
American-led forces in Afghanistan fired artillery at what they suspected was a Haqqani network safe house on March 12 that an American spokesman said posed an “imminent threat.” But the Pakistani Army said the strike killed only civilians.
Administration officials say the risk of angering the new government in Pakistan and stirring increased anti-American sentiment in the tribal areas outweighs the benefits of dismantling militant networks in the region.
“It’s certainly something we want to get to, but not yet,” said one Bush administration official. “If you do it now, you can expect to do it without Pakistani approval, and you can expect to do it only once because the Pakistanis will never help us again.”
Spokesmen for the White House and State Department declined to comment, as did a spokeswoman for Ambassador Patterson in Pakistan.
Intelligence officials say they believe that leaders of the Pakistani Taliban and other militant groups have in recent months forged closer ties to the cadre of Qaeda leaders in the tribal areas. Officials have said that they thought the leader of the Taliban there, Jalaluddin Haqqani, may have died last year. But Mr. Haqqani recently released a video denying those reports and made reference to a military attack in eastern Afghanistan that happened this March. Mr. Haqqani’s son, Sirajuddin, has also made aggressive efforts to recruit foreign fighters from the Persian Gulf and elsewhere in Central Asia.
“The relationship between the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and Al Qaeda and other groups such as the Haqqani network, are stronger today than they were, and they’re primarily based on the Pakistani side of the border,” said Seth Jones, an analyst with the RAND Corporation, in Congressional testimony this month after his trip to Afghanistan.
The Haqqanis are suspected of organizing a suicide attack on March 3 that killed two American soldiers at an Afghan government office. Sirajuddin Haqqani is also suspected of orchestrating a suicide bomb attack in January at the Serena Hotel in Kabul that killed six people.
The discussions over how to combat Al Qaeda and Pakistani militant networks in the tribal areas have been going on for nearly two years, as American policy makers have weighed the growing militant threat in the border area against unilateral American action that could politically weaken President Pervez Musharraf, a close ally in the global counterterrorism campaign.
A few weeks after Ms. Bhutto’s assassination in December, two senior American intelligence officials reached a quiet understanding with Mr. Musharraf to intensify secret strikes against suspected terrorists by Predator aircraft launched in Pakistan.
American officials have expressed alarm that the leaders of Pakistan’s new coalition government, Asif Ali Zardari of the Pakistan Peoples Party and Nawaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League (N), are negotiating with militants believed to be responsible for an increasing number of suicide attacks against the security forces and political figures.
The new government has signaled that in its relations with Washington, it wants to take a path more independent than the one followed by the previous government and to use military force in the tribal areas only as a last resort.
In Congressional testimony this month, a former top American commander in Afghanistan said the need for more action was urgent. “A senior member of the administration needs to go to Pakistan and take the intelligence we have on Al Qaeda, the Taliban, the Haqqani network inside of Pakistan and lay it out for their most senior leadership,” said the retired commander, Lt. Gen. David W. Barno.
He said the American envoy should “show them exactly what we know about, what they don’t know about what’s going on in their tribal areas and say, this is not a tolerable situation for you nor for us.”
“And,” he added, “we need to sit down and think through what we can collectively do about this.”
Carlotta Gall contributed reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan.
9) The Wage That Meant Middle Class
By LOUIS UCHITELLE
April 20, 2008
Whatever Senator Barack Obama meant by his less than artful remarks about small-town Pennsylvanians “bitter” over lost jobs, he certainly turned a lot of attention last week to the decline of the American worker, bitter or not.
The talk most often has been of shuttered factories, layoffs, outsourcing and other effects of globalization, especially in a state like Pennsylvania, which has lost tens of thousands of industrial jobs. But there is another way to look at blue-collar workers or their counterparts in the service sector.
Leaving aside for a moment those who have lost their jobs, what of those who still have them? Once upon a time, a large number earned at least $20 an hour, or its inflation-adjusted equivalent, and now so many of them don’t.
The $20 hourly wage, introduced on a huge scale in the middle of the last century, allowed masses of Americans with no more than a high school education to rise to the middle class. It was a marker, of sorts. And it is on its way to extinction.
Americans greeted the loss with anger and protest when it first began to happen in big numbers in the late 1970s, particularly in the steel industry in Western Pennsylvania. But as layoffs persisted, in Pennsylvania and across the country, through the ’80s and ’90s and right up to today, the protests subsided and acquiescence set in.
Hourly workers had come a long way from the days when employers and unions negotiated a way for them to earn the prizes of the middle class — houses, cars, college educations for their children, comfortable retirements. Even now a residual of that golden age remains, notably in the auto industry. But here, too, wages are falling below the $20-an-hour threshold — $41,600 annually — that many experts consider the minimum income necessary to put a family of four into the middle class.
The nation’s political leaders — Democrats and Republicans alike — have argued that education and training are a route back to middle-class wages for those who have fallen out. But the demand isn’t sufficient to absorb all the workers that the leaders would educate. Even now, roughly 15 percent of college-educated workers find themselves in jobs for which they are overqualified, the Economic Policy Institute reports, and many of these jobs pay less than $20 an hour.
“People are mainly worried about having a job and only secondly what it pays and whether they are gaining ground,” said Frank Levy, a labor economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, trying to explain the absence of an outcry and a political debate in which the candidates do not quantify the decline. “If you aren’t gaining ground,” Mr. Levy added, “then you look for other ways to pay for consumption, going into debt or, until recently, refinancing your home.”
Still, the erosion haunts the presidential campaign. Mr. Obama, competing against Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Pennsylvania primary to be held on Tuesday, touched this nerve in his description of small-town voters who “cling” to their guns and their religion in their resentment over lost jobs. It was a description that prompted John McCain, the Republican candidate, to label Mr. Obama an “elitist,” and Mrs. Clinton to portray him as out of touch with small-town sentiment. But like Mr. Obama, neither spoke of dollars missing from paychecks, or of the disappearing $20-an-hour wage.
That basic wage blossomed first in the auto industry in 1948 and served, in effect, as a banner in the ideological struggle with the Soviet Union. As the news media frequently noted, salt-of-the-earth American workers were earning enough to pay for comforts that their counterparts behind the Iron Curtain could not afford.
As the years passed, unions succeeded in negotiating this basic wage not as an ultimate goal but as an early rung in their wage ladders. That was the union standard, particularly in heavy industries, and in the early postwar decades nonunion employers fell into line, spreading middle-class incomes broadly through the service sector.
“The most important model that rolled off the Detroit assembly lines in the 20th century,” said Harley Shaiken, a labor economist at the University of California at Berkeley, “was the middle class for blue-collar workers.”
The high point came in the 1970s, just as the United States was beginning to lose its controlling grip on the economies of the non-Communist world. Since then the percentage of people earning at least $20 an hour has eroded in every sector of the economy, falling last year to 18 percent of all hourly workers from 23 percent in 1979 — a gradual unwinding of the post-World War II gains.
The decline is greatest in manufacturing, where only 1.9 million hourly workers still earn that much. That’s down nearly 60 percent since 1979, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports.
The shrinkage is sometimes quite open. The Big Three automakers are currently buying out more than 25,000 employees who earn above $20 an hour, replacing many with new hires tied to a “second tier” wage scale that never quite reaches $20. A similar buyout last year removed 80,000 auto workers. Many were not replaced, but many were, with the new hires paid today at the non-middle-class scale, and with fewer benefits.
The United Auto Workers agreed to this arrangement, accepting management’s argument that it must have labor cost relief to rebound and prosper. Whatever the justification, the new accord in effect abandoned the 1948 contract. That agreement is still hailed as historic. In contrast, the 2007 contract that reversed it is hardly recognized as a significant event in labor history. “It is significant,” Mr. Shaiken insisted, referring to last year’s contract. “The Big Three and the U.A.W. were the model for industrial America at its zenith.”
This time the auto workers weren’t first. They ratified a practice that had spread to tire makers, heavy-equipment manufacturers, parts plants, groceries, retailers and longshoremen, diluting older workers’ resistance by preserving their status, while lowering earning power for new hires.
Two tiers is one tactic. Another is filling middle-income jobs with temporary workers earning less. Add outsourcing to the list, and the off-shoring of such middle-income work as computer programming and radiology. Then there are the manufacturers who close a union plant and shift production to a nonunion one, often in the South but also in the Midwest.
When Whirlpool, for example, acquired Maytag last year it closed a Maytag washing machine factory in Newton, Iowa, that had employed hundreds of workers at more than $20 an hour and shifted production to its plant in Clyde, Ohio, adding hundreds of workers at $17 an hour.
Put givebacks on the list as well. Tens of thousands of workers have accepted wage cuts pressed on them by embattled employers, cuts that in many cases pushed their wages below middle-class levels. Flight attendants are a notable example. And as each new group acquiesces, the standard for what constitutes an acceptable wage comes down in America.
“You can’t have an economy heavily invested in tradable goods and services that is completely oblivious to global wages,” said Ron Bloom, special assistant to the president of the United Steelworkers.
The decline is most significant in the data that the Bureau of Labor Statistics collects for the nation’s hourly work force, which totals 76 million, or 52 percent of all workers, and ranges from managers and professionals to factory and construction workers to technicians, educators and sales people. The wages of many salaried workers show a similar trend, although the bureau does not convert their pay into hourly amounts.
The trend in the hourly work force is striking. Take only the peak years in each business cycle, starting in 1979. The proportion earning at least $20 an hour declined from 23 percent that year, to 20 percent in 1980, to 18 percent in 1989, and to 16 percent in 2000. Manufacturing was hit the hardest.
The current business cycle brought some relief. It reached its peak last year, before plunging into what now appears to be the opening months of a stiff recession. In 2007, before the plunge, the percentage of middle-income hourly workers earning at least $20 an hour had risen, to 18 percent. The improvement came mainly from a rising proportion of women in higher-end hourly work.
Wages also held up in the public sector. Strip out that sector, and only 16 percent of privately employed hourly workers took home at least $20 an hour, just fractionally above the 2000 level.
10) Working Life (High and Low)
By STEVEN GREENHOUSE
April 20, 2008
WHEN Jean Capobianco was diagnosed for the second time with breast cancer, her doctors ordered a mastectomy. She first contracted the disease three years earlier and suffered through seven months of chemotherapy. After her cancer came back, her husband walked out on her. “He told me he wasn’t sexually attracted to me anymore,” she said.
For more than a decade, Jean and her husband had been a truck-driving team, driving hazardous waste. Now, with husband and truck gone, her career as a long-haul driver was gone as well.
After she recovered, Jean started looking for work. She spotted a help-wanted ad from Roadway Package Systems, which said it was looking for independent contractors to deliver packages.
“I needed a job,” said Jean. “They tell you, ‘You’ll make all this money working for yourself.’ ”
She soon discovered that her new employer had embraced a controversial strategy to squeeze down costs by millions of dollars each year: it insisted that Jean and the other drivers were independent contractors, not employees. The I.R.S., New York and many other states are investigating this strategy, convinced that many companies use it to cheat their workers and cheat on taxes.
Jean arrived at the Roadway terminal in Brockton, Mass., at 6 each morning and spent the next 90 minutes loading 100 to 140 packages into her truck. She usually left the terminal around 7:30 a.m. and returned after 6 p.m.
Jean had to leave her job for two years when she suffered a severe back injury while lifting a package. Before she could return to work, FedEx Ground, which had acquired Roadway, required her to purchase a truck. The list price was $37,800, with Jean having to make 60 monthly installments of $781.12 and a final, one-time payment of $8,000.
In Jean’s view, it was ludicrous for Roadway and FedEx to call the drivers independent contractors.
“We’re told what to do, when to do it, how to do it, when to take time off,” Jean said. “You have to wear their uniform. You can’t wear your hair certain ways. You have to deliver every single thing they put on the truck.”
Jean called it “a great deal for FedEx. They don’t have to pay for trucks, for the insurance, for fuel, for maintenance, for tires,” she said. “We have to pay for all those things. And they don’t have to pay our Social Security.”
By some estimates, this arrangement saves FedEx $400 million a year, giving it a significant cost advantage over U.P.S., which treats its drivers as regular employees. Moreover, FedEx Ground has sought to rebuff a Teamster organizing drive by arguing that its 15,000 drivers have no right to unionize because they are independent contractors.
“These drivers are more like business people,” said Perry Colosimo, a FedEx Ground spokesman. “They can set their own hours. They can buy routes. They can develop their business.”
In 30 lawsuits, FedEx Ground drivers have argued that they are employees, not independent contractors, and that the company should therefore pay for their trucks, insurance, repairs, gas and tires. In one lawsuit, a California judge ruled that FedEx Ground was engaged in an elaborate ruse in which FedEx “has close to absolute control” over the drivers. Last December, FedEx acknowledged another setback: the I.R.S. ordered it to pay $319 million in taxes and penalties for 2002 for misclassifying employees as independent contractors. FedEx could face similar I.R.S. penalties for subsequent years. FedEx said it would appeal.
To attract drivers, FedEx Ground often runs ads claiming that its drivers earn $60,000 to $80,000 a year. Many drivers say those ads are deceiving. Gross income can exceed $60,000, but Jean, echoing many drivers, said she had to pay nearly $800 a month for her truck, $125 a week for gas, $55 a week for business equipment, $4,000 a year for insurance policies, plus outlays for tires, maintenance and repairs. Some years, Jean calculated, her net pay was just $32,000, amounting to $10.25 an hour.
Many drivers find it hard to walk away because they have invested so much in their trucks. If they leave, they might still be stuck with years of monthly payments and the final payment of $8,000.
One morning in August 2004, Jean doubled over in pain. Three days later, her doctor informed her she had ovarian cancer.
“The doctor told me to stop working immediately,” Jean said. She not only finished her route that Friday but worked the following Monday and Tuesday as she struggled to find someone to cover her route. Her terminal’s two replacement drivers demanded unrealistic amounts, she said. “They knew they had me over a barrel.”
On Aug. 21, 2004, surgeons removed a large, malignant tumor and did a hysterectomy. The next week the doctors told her she had Stage 4 cancer that had spread to her lungs. She would need chemotherapy through late December.
Jean had twice beaten breast cancer, and she was intent on beating this, too. She fully expected to return to her job in January, and called FedEx Ground’s headquarters to request a leave of absence. Weeks later, a letter arrived saying she was terminated.
“I was crazy with anger,” she said.
Fired and with no income, Jean stopped making payments on her truck. She had already paid more than $40,000 on it, but now she was powerless to prevent it from being repossessed.
“Ten years of beating my brains out for them, and they throw me away like I was a piece of garbage,” Jean said.
FedEx Ground officials said they had sympathy for Jean but had to terminate her under company rules, because she was no longer covering her route and she hadn’t found a replacement driver.
Company officials said they were free to terminate her because in FedEx’s view she was an independent contractor and therefore not protected by the Americans With Disabilities Act. That law requires companies to make reasonable accommodations to keep employees who have cancer or other disabilities. Jean has sued FedEx, asserting that it violated the act.
“To this day, I still can’t understand how they can get away with it,” Jean said. “You work for a company for 10 years and you give 150 percent. I used to go above and beyond. And then I get sick, something totally out of my control. And then to get fired.”
Her voice dropped off, then tears streamed down her cheeks.
Just inside the door of the men’s room was a rack that held sweaty biking shirts, damp bathing suits and clammy running shoes. The aroma seemed to belong more to a high school locker room than to a corporate headquarters. But this was the house of Patagonia, the apparel company that prides itself on letting its employees take their play every bit as seriously as they take their work.
At lunchtime many days, Patagonia employees go surfing for two hours, while a half-dozen others take a 100-minute, 27-mile bike loop in the hills overlooking the Pacific.
One of the sweaty biking shirts belonged to Andy Welling, a sales manager at Patagonia’s headquarters in Ventura, Calif. At 41, Welling is a fiend about staying in shape — he bikes several days a week at lunchtime, and joins Patagonia’s weekly pick-up soccer game. He often makes up for his lunchtime cycling by working a few hours at home in the evening.
Patagonia is so mellow about flextime that the receptionist at headquarters, an 11-time world Frisbee champion, is allowed to take three months off each summer to run a surfing school. “I could make quite a bit more money working somewhere else,” Welling said. “But to have the quality of life and to remain physically fit, by cycling or going surfing, you can’t put a dollar amount on it.”
Welling has taken advantage of another Patagonia offering: the child care center at headquarters. He drops off his two boys, 5 and 3, at 9 and often has lunch with them. “Being able to have my kids a few feet away from me all the time is fantastic,” Welling said. “It is a bonding relationship I never would have had if I were working somewhere else.”
Patagonia is not like anywhere else. With 1,300 workers and $275 million a year in sales, it donates 1 percent of its annual sales to environmental groups. Four days a week at lunchtime, the company offers yoga and Pilates sessions; there are also occasional classes on fly fishing. Each year Patagonia lets 40 employees take paid two-month internships with an environmental group. The best spots in the parking lot are reserved for the most fuel-efficient cars, and above dozens of parking spots are solar panels that supply all the power for one of Patagonia’s administration buildings.
Patagonia has 900 applicants for every job opening at headquarters. It sponsors civil disobedience training for employees who want to participate in environmental protests. Its mission statement calls for making the best outdoor products while doing the least damage to the environment. Its Synchilla fleece vests are made from recycled plastic bottles.
At headquarters, 20 surfboards are tucked under the stairs to the second floor, and employees often work barefoot. “When you walk through the front door, we don’t want you to stop being the person you are,” said Lu Setnicka, Patagonia’s director of training.
This unusual blend of work, play, family and environmentalism grows out of the philosophy of Patagonia’s founder and principal owner, Yvon Chouinard. Born in Maine and raised in Burbank, he felt passionate about just one activity in high school: the Southern California Falconry Club. He learned how to rappel down cliffs to visit falcon nests, and out of that grew a lifelong passion for mountain climbing.
Dissatisfied with the era’s soft-iron pitons — small spikes that climbers drive into rock and attach ropes to — Chouinard set out to produce stronger ones. He bought an anvil, taught himself blacksmithing, and made his first pitons out of an old harvester blade. For several years, he lived on less than a dollar a day, selling pitons out of his car and pursuing his passions by climbing in Yosemite and Wyoming.
As demand for his pitons grew, Chouinard rented a metal shed in Ventura and hired a small staff. By 1970, his company had become the nation’s largest producer of climbing equipment. During an excursion to Scotland, he purchased a rugby shirt and concluded that the thick, sturdy shirt was ideal for rock climbing. When he returned to California, his climbing friends asked for shirts just like it, and soon Chouinard expanded into the apparel business, importing rugby shirts.
As the company grew, it had one unbending rule — the business closed whenever the waves in the Pacific were running six feet high, hot and glassy. “Since none of us wanted to be in business, we wanted to blur the distinctions between work and play,” Chouinard said. “That meant we had to break a lot of rules of business.”
Chouinard often jokes about his M.B.A. philosophy: management by absence. Many years he disappeared for six months to go ice climbing in the Alps or surfing, skiing and climbing in South America. His was the ultimate flextime.
Chouinard has a simple philosophy that he says ensures that employees don’t abuse their flextime. “Hire the people you trust, people who are passionate about their job, passionate about what they’re doing. Just leave them alone, and they’ll get the job done.”
Shannon Ellis, Patagonia’s vice president for human resources, says the unusual flextime policies yield increased productivity. “A lot of people recognize that what they have here is unique, and I don’t think they want to jeopardize that,” she said.
In addition to the child care center, Patagonia offers other family-friendly benefits like eight weeks of paid maternity and paternity leave. It also pays 100 percent of the health insurance premiums for its workers, even part-timers. Chouinard says this helps attract the gung-ho outdoors types Patagonia wants — workers who test the company’s products as they climb and surf and convey their expertise and enthusiasm to customers.
“All of these things I’m doing are not to have a socialist birth-till-death utopia here,” Chouinard said. “Every one of these things is good business.”
Lisa Pike, who oversees Patagonia’s environmental grants, said: “He’s proving Wall Street wrong. You can do the right thing and still have an extremely profitable company.”
This article is adapted from "The Big Squeeze: Tough Times for the American Worker," by Steven Greenhouse, a reporter for The New York Times. The book, published by Knopf last week, examines difficulties faced by workers at companies like Fed Ex and Wal-Mart, and points to Patagonia and Costco as models for corporate America.
Read Chapter One of the book.
Worked Over and Overworked
The New York Times
April 20, 2008
In the last couple of decades, corporate profits and executive salaries have soared. But for many workers, the only thing that has increased is insecurity. In “The Big Squeeze: Tough Times for the American Worker,” Steven Greenhouse, a labor and workplace reporter for The New York Times, examines the difficulties faced by workers at companies like FedEx and Wal-Mart, and points to Patagonia and Costco as models for corporate America. The book was published by Knopf on April 15. Chapter One is excerpted here.
Excerpted from “The Big Squeeze: Tough Times for the American Worker,” by Steven Greenhouse (Knopf, 2008).
In his job at a Wal-Mart in Texas, Mike Michell was responsible for catching shoplifters, and he was good at it, too, catching 180 in one two-year period.
But one afternoon things went wildly awry when he chased a thief — a woman using stolen checks — into the parking lot. She jumped into her car, and her accomplice gunned the accelerator, slamming the car into Michell and sending him to the hospital with a broken kneecap, a badly torn shoulder, and two herniated disks. Michell was so devoted to Wal-Mart that he somehow returned to work the next day, but a few weeks later he told his boss that he needed surgery on his knee. He was fired soon afterward, apparently as part of a strategy to dismiss workers whose injuries run up Wal-Mart’s workers’ comp bills.
Immediately after serving in the army, Dawn Eubanks took a seven-dollar-an-hour job at a call center in Florida. Some days she was told to clock in just two or three hours, and some days she was not allowed to clock in during her whole eight-hour shift. The call center’s managers warned the workers that if they went home, even though they weren’t allowed to clock in, they would be viewed as having quit.
Twenty-eight-year-old John Arnold works in the same Caterpillar factory in Illinois as his father, but under the plant’s two-tier contract, the maximum he can ever earn is $14.90 an hour, far less than the $25 earned by his father. Caterpillar, long a symbol of America’s industrial might, insists that it needs a lower wage tier to remain competitive. “A few people I work with are living at home with their parents,” Arnold said. “Some are even on food stamps.”
At a Koch Foods poultry plant in Tennessee, the managers were so intent on keeping the line running all out that Antonia Lopez Paz and the other workers who carved off chicken tenders were ordered not to go to the bathroom except during their lunch and coffee breaks. When one desperate woman asked permission to go, her supervisor took off his hard hat and said, “You can go to the bathroom in this.” Some women ended up soiling themselves.
Don Jensen anticipated a relaxing life of golf after retiring from his human resources post with Lucent Technologies in New Jersey, where he was in charge of recruiting graduates from Stanford, Cornell, MIT, and other top universities.
But when Lucent increased its retirees’ health insurance premiums to $8,280 a year, up from $180, Jensen was forced to abandon his retirement.
He took a job as a ten-dollar-an-hour bank teller.
As part of her software company’s last-lap sprint to get new products out the door, Myra Bronstein sometimes had to work twenty-four hours straight testing for bugs. She felt great loyalty to the Seattle-area company because its executives had repeatedly promised, “As long as we’re in business, you have a job.” But one Friday morning the company suddenly fired Bronstein and seventeen other quality assurance engineers. The engineers were told that if they wanted to receive severance pay, they had to agree to spend the next month training the workers from India who would be replacing them.
ONE OF THE LEAST EXAMINED but most important trends taking place in the United States today is the broad decline in the status and treatment of American workers — white-collar and blue-collar workers, middle-class and low-end workers — that began nearly three decades ago, gradually gathered momentum, and hit with full force soon after the turn of this century. A profound shift has left a broad swath of the American workforce on a lower plane than in decades past, with health coverage, pension benefits, job security, workloads, stress levels, and often wages growing worse for millions of workers.
That the American worker faces this squeeze in the early years of this century is particularly troubling because the squeeze has occurred while the economy, corporate profits, and worker productivity have all been growing robustly. In recent years, a disconcerting disconnect has emerged, with corporate profits soaring while workers’ wages stagnated.
The statistical evidence for this squeeze is as compelling as it is disturbing.
In 2005, median income for nonelderly households failed to increase for the fifth year in a row, after factoring in inflation. That is unprecedented in a time of economic growth. In 2006, median income for those households did finally rise, but it still remained lower — $2,375 lower — than six years earlier. That, too, is unprecedented. Even though corporate profits have doubled since recession gave way to economic expansion in November 2001, and even though employee productivity has risen more than 15 percent since then, the average wage for the typical American worker has inched up just 1 percent (after inflation). With the subprime mortgage crisis threatening to pull the economy into recession, some economists say this may be the first time in American history that the typical working household goes through an economic expansion without any increase in income whatsoever.
This, unfortunately, is the continuation of a long-term squeeze. Since 1979, hourly earnings for 80 percent of American workers (those in private-sector, nonsupervisory jobs) have risen by just 1 percent, after inflation. The average hourly wage was $17.71 at the end of 2007. For male workers, the average wage has actually slid by 5 percent since 1979. Worker productivity, meanwhile, has climbed 60 percent. If wages had kept pace with productivity, the average full-time worker would be earning $58,000 a year; $36,000 was the average in 2007. The nation’s economic pie is growing, but corporations by and large have not given their workers a bigger piece. The squeeze on the American worker has meant more poverty, more income inequality, more family tensions, more hours at work, more time away from the kids, more families without health insurance, more retirees with inadequate pensions, and more demands on government and taxpayers to provide housing assistance and health coverage. Twenty percent of families with children under six live below the poverty line, and 22 million full-time workers do not have health insurance. Largely as a result of the squeeze, the number of housing foreclosures and personal bankruptcies more than tripled in the quarter century after 1979. Economic studies show that income inequality in the United States is so great that it more closely resembles the inequality of a third world country than that of an advanced industrial nation. Many families are enjoying higher incomes, enabling them to buy a plasma-screen TV or take a vacation in Orlando, but this is frequently because fathers have taken on second jobs or more overtime hours or because mothers, even with toddlers, have opted for full-time paid employment. Millions of households have not slipped further behind only because Americans are working far harder than before. A husband and wife in the average middle-class household are, taken together, working 540 hours or three months more per year than such couples would have a quarter century ago, mainly because married women are working considerably longer hours than before. Viewed another way, the American worker’s financial squeeze has translated into a time squeeze. In a survey by the Families and Work Institute, two-thirds of employed parents responded that they didn’t have enough time with their kids, and just under two-thirds said they didn’t have enough time with their spouses. The typical American worker toils 1,804 hours a year, 135 hours more per year than the typical British worker, 240 hours more than the average French worker, and 370 hours (or nine full-time weeks) more than the average German worker. No one in the world’s advanced economies works more.
Aggravating the time squeeze is a phenomenon known as job creep in which our jobs have spilled increasingly into our leisure time. Americans are finishing work memos on their home computers at eleven p.m., they are reading office e-mails on Saturdays and Sundays, and they are using their cell phones and BlackBerries to answer their bosses’ queries while on vacation. The Conference Board, the business research group, found that Americans are less satisfied with their jobs — just 47 percent are satisfied — than at any time since it started tracking the numbers two decades ago. “The breadth of dissatisfaction is unsettling,” the Conference Board wrote, its director of research adding, “The demands in the workplace have increased tremendously.” Americans are going deeper into debt than ever before. Millions of households have supersized their credit card balances, and many have taken cash out of their homes by obtaining second mortgages, arguably unhealthy ways to try to maintain a comfortable lifestyle on a less-than-comfortable income. In 2005, for the first time since the Great Depression, the nation’s personal savings rate sank below zero, meaning that Americans were actually spending more than they were earning. As a result, among the bottom two-fifths of households, nearly one in four spends at least 40 percent of its monthly income paying down its debts. And foreclosure filings, spurred by the sub-
prime mortgage crisis, are expected to soar to as many as two million by the end of 2008. Two million would represent one in sixty-two households. Even as wages stagnated in recent years, many government officials triumphantly boasted that consumer spending had continued to rise. But this increase was largely due to soaring incomes at the top. From 1979 to 2005, a period when national output more than doubled, after-tax income inched up just 6 percent for the bottom fifth of American households after accounting for inflation, while it rose 21 percent for the middle fifth. For the top fifth, income jumped 80 percent and for the top 1 percent it more than tripled, soaring by 228 percent. A 2007 report by the Congressional Budget Office found that the top 1 percent of households had pre-tax income in 2005 that was more than two-fifths larger than that of the bottom 40 percent. (After taxes, the top 1 percent’s income in 2005 was still nearly 10 percent greater than the bottom 40 percent’s.) As Paul Krugman wrote, “It’s a great economy if you’re a high-
level corporate executive or someone who owns a lot of stock. For most other Americans, economic growth is a spectator sport.” The nation appears to be on the threshold of recession, and as a result, America’s workers are likely to be squeezed not just by stagnant wages but also by rising unemployment. One of the most worrisome — and puzzling — aspects of the economic expansion that began in November 2001 is that wages have remained stubbornly flat, after factoring in inflation, even though the jobless rate has been low by historical standards. That wages have gone nowhere in a tight labor market underlines the American worker’s declining ability to command higher wages, and now with unemployment increasing, workers’
leverage to push for higher wages is bound to grow even weaker.
The squeeze is of course worst for those on the lowest rungs, including millions of workers who are part of our everyday lives: fast food workers, cashiers, child care workers, hotel maids, and nurse’s aides. Nearly 33 million workers — almost one-fourth of the American workforce — earn less than ten dollars an hour, meaning their wages come to less than the poverty line for a family of four ($20,614 in 2006). Despite strong economic growth, the number of Americans living in poverty jumped by 15 percent from 2000 to 2006 — an increase of 5.4 million to 36.5 million. For millions of low-income workers, the promise of America has been broken: the promise that if you work hard, you will be rewarded with a decent living, the promise that if you do an honest day’s work, you will earn enough to feed, clothe, and shelter your family.
Not only do workers on the bottom rungs lack money, but they often lack basic benefits. Three out of four low-wage workers in the private sector do not have employer-provided health insurance, while eight out of nine do not participate in a pension plan. Three-fourths of low-wage workers do not receive paid sick days, so if they need to miss two days’ work because they are sick or their child is sick, they receive no pay for those days — and often risk getting fired. A study sponsored by the Ford, Rockefeller, and Annie E. Casey foundations, “Working Hard, Falling Short,” concluded, “More than one out of four American working families now earn wages so low” — defined as income of less than twice the poverty line for a family of four ($41,200 in 2006) — “that they have difficulty surviving financially.” The study continued, “While our economy relies on the service jobs these low-paid workers fill . . . our society has not taken adequate steps to ensure that these workers can make ends meet and build a future for their families, no matter how determined they are to be self-sufficient.” In her book Nickel and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich described these workers as “the major philanthropists of our society.” Ehrenreich wrote, “They neglect their own children so the children of others will be cared for; they live in substandard housing so that other homes will be shiny and perfect.” Across America more than 50 million people live in near poor households, those with incomes between $20,000 and $40,000 a year. Katherine Newman, a Princeton sociologist, has described this large but often overlooked group as “the missing class.” The mass of workers who are barely getting by is likely to grow only larger, because the Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts that low-wage jobs will account for six of the top ten categories in overall job growth between now and 2014: janitors, nursing home aides, waiters, home-health aides, retail sales workers including cashiers, and food-prep and fast food workers. America’s ailing health care system is a big part of the worsening squeeze.
From 2000 to 2006, the number of Americans without health insurance climbed by 8.6 million, to 47 million. One study found that more than two-fifths of moderate-income, working-age Americans went without health insurance for at least part of 2005. Not only that, for employees who want coverage, companies are requiring them to pay more for it, and as a result, the cost of family coverage has soared 83 percent in just six years. As health costs consume more and more of the nation’s economic output — they account for 16 percent of gross domestic product, or GDP, up from 5 percent in 1960 — that necessarily leaves less money for wage increases.
Pensions, the other pillar of employee benefits, are under assault as never before. In May 2005, a bankruptcy judge allowed United Airlines to default on its pension plans and dump them on the federal agency that protects retirement benefits. Because that agency guarantees pensions only up to a certain amount, many United pilots will receive only half what they expected when they retire. United’s move was the biggest pension default in American history, releasing it from paying $3.2 billion in obligations over the following five years. One of United’s lawyers predicted that more and more companies would use this “strategic tool” to increase their competitiveness. Since then, US Airways and Delta have followed suit. When Delphi, the auto parts giant, filed for bankruptcy in October 2005, its chief executive, Robert S. Miller, threatened to slash the company’s pensions unless the workers agreed to massive wage concessions.
As part of this assault on pensions, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Verizon, Sears, Motorola, and many other companies have embraced a riskier, far less generous type of retirement plan, 401(k)s, while turning away from the traditional plans that promised workers a specific monthly benefit for life after they retired. When Hewlett-Packard took that step, a company spokesman said, “Pension plans are kind of a thing of the past.” With pensions growing ever scarcer, more and more workers are convinced that they won’t have enough money to retire. Ominously, some economists have begun to warn that millions of Americans might have to continue working into their seventies.
Even though this is an era of increased economic volatility, the federal government has decided to let Americans fend increasingly for themselves. Just one-third of laid-off workers receive unemployment benefits, down from 50 percent a generation ago. And even though workers’ skills are becoming obsolete faster than ever because of new technologies and globalization, funding for the main federal program for retraining has been reduced by more than $10 billion in the last quarter century. “Americans increasingly find themselves on an economic tightrope, without an adequate safety net if — as is ever more likely — they lose their footing,” wrote Jacob S. Hacker, author of The Great Risk Shift. Business executives say they have been forced to tighten their belts on wages and everything else because they face ever-fiercer competition. That is true, but corporate profits have nonetheless soared, climbing 13 percent a year in the six years after the 2001 recession ended, while wages have remained flat.
(Employee productivity has also far outpaced wages, rising 15 percent from 2001 through 2007.) Corporate profits have climbed to their highest share of national income in sixty-four years, while the share going to wages has sunk to its lowest level since 1929. “This is the most pronounced several years of labor’s share declining,” said Lawrence Katz, an economics professor at Harvard. “For as long as we’ve had a modern economy, this is the worst we’ve seen it.” Very simply, corporations, along with their CEOs, are seizing a bigger piece of the nation’s economic pie for themselves, leaving the nation’s workers and their families diminished.
MANY AMERICANS ARE FEELING the squeeze as part of a growing wave of worker exploitation. Faster line speeds at the nation’s meat and poultry plants are causing workers’ bodies to break down and leading to more amputations.
Workers have died at construction sites when scaffolding or trenches collapsed because supervisors ignored the most elementary precautions. Inside some of the nation’s best-known retail stores, immigrant janitors have been forced to work 365 days a year.
Exploitation is of course nothing new, as Upton Sinclair’s writings, Lewis Hines’s photographs, and the Triangle Shirtwaist fire all made clear. In the decades after the Great Depression, exploitation declined as the United States created the world’s most prosperous middle class and as business, labor, and government often worked hand in hand to improve workplace conditions. In recent years, however, worker mistreatment has been on the rise, spurred by a stepped-up corporate focus on minimizing costs and by an influx of easy-to-exploit immigrants. Corporate executives, intent on maximizing profits, often assign rock-bottom labor budgets to the managers who run their stores and restaurants, and those managers in turn often squeeze their workers relentlessly.
A steady decline in workplace regulation has opened the door to greater exploitation. Even though the workforce has grown from 90 million to 145 million over the past three decades, the number of federal wage and hour investigators has fallen. Seven hundred eighty-eight federal wage and hour inspectors are responsible for ensuring compliance at the nation’s 8.4 million business establishments. George W. Bush’s labor secretary, Elaine Chao, signaled her ambivalent views about enforcement when she said, “Sometimes it’s not what you do, but what you refrain from doing that is important.” The infamous Sago Mine in West Virginia had been cited 273 times for safety violations in the two years before an explosion there killed twelve miners in 2006. But none of those fines exceeded $460, and many were just $60 — a minuscule amount considering that the company that owned Sago had $110 million in annual profits. In the five years before, the Mine Safety and Health Administration, then run by former industry executives appointed by President Bush, failed to collect fines in almost half the cases in which it had levied them. The rising tide of exploitation has taken countless forms. Target, Safeway, Albertsons, and Wal-Mart have all hired cleaning contractors who required janitors to work the midnight shift thirty days a month. These contractors systematically broke the law by virtually never paying Social Security or unemployment insurance taxes, and they almost never paid janitors time and a half for overtime even though the janitors often worked fifty-five hours or more each week. These contractors sometimes dumped badly injured workers in front of a hospital or at a bus station with a ticket back to Mexico.
At Taco Bell, Wal-Mart, and Family Dollar, many employees complained that managers forced them to work five or more unpaid hours off the clock each week. The workers who were cheated often earned just $12,000 to $18,000 a year. At an A&P in Westchester County, New York, Wilfredo Brewster, a customer service manager, said he worked from six a.m. to six p.m. Monday through Friday, sixty hours, but was paid for only forty. Managers pressured him to donate his Saturdays to the store as well, telling him it would help him earn a promotion. Under federal and state law, he, as an hourly employee, was supposed to be paid overtime for those Saturdays.
Stylists at SmartStyle, the nation’s largest hair salon company, said that pressure to minimize payroll costs was so intense that on days when there were few customers, managers often ordered stylists to clock out, then clean up the salon. Several hairdressers said they were occasionally paid for only half the hours they worked, their earnings sometimes slipping to $2.50 an hour, less than half the $5.15 federal minimum wage at the time. According to many workers and supervisors at Pep Boys, Toys “R” Us, Family Dollar, Wal-Mart, and other companies, some managers illegally tampered with time clock records to erase hours that employees had worked. Dorothy English, a payroll assistant at a Wal-Mart in Louisiana, said that if an employee had clocked forty-three hours in a week, her boss often ordered her to delete three hours from the worker’s time records to avoid paying time and a half.
“I told them this wasn’t right,” she said. “But they said, ‘This is how we keep people to forty hours.’ ” At dozens of upscale supermarkets in Manhattan, including Food Emporium and Gristede’s, deliverymen often worked seventy-five hours a week but were paid just two hundred dollars, or less than three dollars an hour. They were told they were independent contractors, a group that is not covered by minimum wage and overtime laws. Some call centers deduct pay for every minute a worker spends in the bathroom.
Workers at Wal-Mart and the Cheesecake Factory complained that managers often refused to give them the lunch breaks and fifteen-minute rest breaks that state law required. Bella Blaubergs, a diabetic who worked at a Wal-Mart in Washington State, said she nearly fainted several times from lowblood sugar because managers often would not let her take breaks. At numerous Abercrombie & Fitch stores, African American, Asian, and Hispanic workers complained that they were relegated to back-of-the-store jobs, doing stockroom work and inventory, while white employees were given jobs up front — all to promote Abercrombie’s preppy, fraternity, all-American look. Some cleaning workers at several of the hottest software companies in Silicon Valley earn so little that they live in rented garages in someone else’s home. Rosalba Ceballos, a divorced immigrant from Mexico, was one of them; she lived with her three daughters — ages one, three, and seven — in an absurdly cluttered, windowless garage just outside Palo Alto.
Middle-class workers have not been immune. On a day in 2003 that Circuit City workers remember as “Bloody Wednesday,” the retailer fired 3,900 senior commissioned salespeople — some earned $50,000 a year — having concluded that their commissions and wages were too high. Circuit City simultaneously hired 2,100 replacement salespeople who were to receive lower wages and far lower commissions. Then in 2007, Circuit City laid off another 3,400 employees because they, in the company’s words, earned “well above the market-
based salary range for their role.” Many of those laid off were earning around $29,000 a year. Circuit City announced that these workers could reapply for their jobs ten weeks later, but if rehired, they would come back at the lower “market rate.”
In her ten years at the Circuit City in Hoover, Alabama, Julie Godette was considered a model employee, assigned to train new hires and receiving repeated raises that brought her up to $16.40 an hour. She, too, was suddenly laid off. “To work that long for a company and to be let go because you did a good job really hurts,” Godette said. At JP Morgan Chase, Barbara Parkinson, a customer service representative in the global investment services department in New York City, said managers had repeatedly complained when workers submitted time sheets listing several hours’ overtime. To avoid management’s continued wrath, she and other workers decided to forgo the overtime pay due them. At RadioShack’s headquarters in Fort Worth, four hundred workers were fired by e-mail. “The workforce reduction notification is currently in progress,” the e-mail dryly informed recipients. “Unfortunately your position is one that has been eliminated.” Northwest Airlines gave laid-off workers a booklet entitled “101 Ways to Save Money.” But the booklet added insult to financial injury. “Borrow a dress for a big night out” and “Shop at auctions or pawn shops for jewelry” were among the tips it offered. And then it suggested, “Don’t be shy about pulling something you like out of the trash.” r=Rarely have so many economic and social forces been arrayed against the American worker. Downsizing, rightsizing, and reengineering have increasingly made job security an obsolete notion. Many workers fear pink slips so much that they are frightened to ask for raises or protest oppressive workloads.
Globalization, including the recent rush to offshore hundreds of thousands of white-collar jobs, has increased such fears. Layoffs have become a fact of life. Nowadays, on nearly a daily basis, some company announces that it is laying off several thousand employees, and except for the workers and their families, virtually everyone who hears about it ignores it.
America has lost one-fifth of its factory jobs since 2000, jobs that have long been a stepping-stone to the middle class. There has been a concomitant decline in the labor movement to its lowest point in decades, undermining the one force that, for all its faults, created some semblance of balance between workers and management during the second half of the twentieth century.
The massive influx of immigrants has created a huge pool of easy-to-bully workers that has given managers greater leverage — most visibly in construction and meatpacking — to squeeze wages and worsen conditions for all workers.
Many companies have embraced the just-in-time workforce — a mass of temps, freelancers, and on-call occasionals whose lower pay and unstable status often undercut the wages, benefits, and job security of the traditional year-round workforce.
The position of the American worker has been further undermined by the economy’s evolution from industrial capitalism to financial capitalism. Industrialists were once firmly in control, intent on maximizing production and market share, but now investment bankers, mutual fund managers, hedge fund managers, and, increasingly, managers of private-equity funds wield great power and are forever pressuring the companies that they’ve invested in to maximize profits and take whatever steps are necessary to keep stock prices at their highest. Companies, in response, often skimp on wages, lay off workers, and close operations.
Wal-Mart, founded in a small Arkansas town in 1962, has spearheaded the rise of a less caring, less generous, and often less law-abiding management style. Wal-Mart employs nearly 1.4 million workers in the United States, far more than any other company. With its phenomenal growth, it has become the world’s largest retailer, and its low wages and benefits — it provides health insurance to just half of its workers — have created a downward pull on the way that many companies treat their workers. (For that reason, we will examine Wal-Mart in great detail.) The Wal-Mart effect could be seen most starkly when the three largest supermarket chains in California — Safeway, Albertsons, and Ralphs — grew alarmed about Wal-Mart’s plans to open dozens of super-centers in California that would sell groceries in addition to general merchandise.
The supermarket chains demanded lower wages and far less generous health benefits for all future hires, and after a bitter four-and-a-half-month strike and lockout in 2003-4, the chains got their way. The California supermarkets said they couldn’t compete when their cashiers earned $17.90 an hour on average and Wal-Mart’s earned $8.50 an hour.
The squeeze on the American worker has been further exacerbated by corporate America’s growing sway over politics and policy, making it harder for beleaguered workers to turn to government for help. When investigators unearthed serious child labor violations at a dozen Wal-Marts, officials in the Bush Labor Department signed a highly unusual secret agreement promising to give Wal-Mart fifteen days’ advance notice whenever inspectors planned to visit a Wal-Mart store to look for more such violations. Wal-Mart officials had been major donors to the Republican Party.
As a result of business’s strong influence over President George W. Bush and Republicans in Congress, the federal minimum wage remained stuck at $5.15 for nearly a decade. A full-time worker who earns $5.15 an hour grosses $10,712 a year, far below the $16,079 poverty line for a family of three. In 2007, the $5.15 minimum wage, after adjusting for inflation, was 33 percent below its 1979 level. In 2007, the Democratic Congress raised the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour over two years.
Nor have the tax policies emanating from Washington been very friendly to workers. President Bush and Republicans in Congress pushed vigorously to minimize taxes on investors, that is, taxes on dividends and capital gains, while urging elimination of the estate tax. Bush’s tax cuts saved the average middle-class taxpayer $744 a year, while saving $44,212 a year for the top 1 percent of taxpayers and $230,136 for the top one-tenth of 1 percent of households. Even though the government has done little of late to ease the squeeze on American workers, there are plenty of things government can do to alleviate the difficulties that workers face. I will return to this subject later. Now, however, I want to examine in depth a telling instance of the big squeeze.
11) Medicare Plans Affected by Rising Drug Costs
By MILT FREUDENHEIM
April 19, 2008
Employers and patients in corporate health plans are not the only ones affected by the soaring prices of specialty drugs. Enrollees in Medicare drug plans are also feeling the pressure.
Many leading pharmacy benefit managers and drug insurers that oversee employer plans also offer coverage through the Medicare Part D drug insurance program, and so are profiting from federal spending on specialty drugs and from Medicare patients’ own high out-of-pocket co-payments.
Driven in part by specialty drugs, the prices of medicines heavily used by the elderly have risen more than 24 percent since June 2006, two senior health economists at Harvard reported in January in the policy journal Health Affairs.
In that article the economists, Richard G. Frank and Joseph E. Newhouse, said single-source unique drugs have the potential to present “important new pressures on the federal budget.”
Many Part D plans segregate specialty drugs in a special tier, where a Medicare enrollee pays 25 to 33 percent of the price, according to Jack Hoadley, a research professor at Georgetown University. At that rate, patients quickly reach the $5,726 cap on out-of-pocket spending, after which the patient pays only 5 percent. From that point, the drug plan sponsor pays 15 percent, while Medicare pays 80 percent of the cost.
The trend, the Frank-Newhouse article said, bodes ill for “the worrisome future financial health of Medicare.”
LINKS AND VERY SHORT STORIES
Coal Company Verdict in West Virginia Is Thrown Out
By ADAM LIPTAK
April 4, 2008
National Briefing | Mid-Atlantic
The State Supreme Court for a second time threw out a $50 million verdict against the coal company Massey Energy. The court decided to rehear the case after the publication of photographs of its chief justice on vacation in Monte Carlo with the company’s chief executive, Don L. Blankenship. The chief justice, Elliott E. Maynard, and a second justice disqualified themselves from the rehearing and were replaced by appeals court judges, but the vote was again 3-to-2 in favor of Massey. A third justice, Brent D. Benjamin, who was elected to the court with the help of more than $3 million from Mr. Blankenship, refused to recuse himself.
Utah: Miners’ Families File Lawsuit
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
National Briefing | Rockies
April 3, 2008
A lawsuit by the families of six men killed in August in a mine cave-in claims the collapse occurred because the mine’s owners were harvesting coal unsafely. The suit, filed in Salt Lake City, says the Murray Energy Corporation performed risky retreat mining last summer. It seeks unspecified damages. Three men trying to reach the miners died 10 days after the collapse in another cave-in at the Crandall Canyon Mine.
Regimens: Drug Samples Found to Affect Spending
By NICHOLAS BAKALAR
Having doctors distribute free samples of medicines may do exactly what drug companies hope for — encourage patients to spend more money on drugs.
A study in the April issue of Medical Care found that patients who never received free samples spent an average of $178 for six months of prescriptions. Those receiving samples spent $166 in the six months before they obtained free medicine, $244 when they received the handouts and $212 in the six months after that.
Researchers studied 5,709 patients, tracking medical histories and drug expenditures; 14 percent of the group received free samples. The study adjusted for prior and current health conditions, race, socioeconomic level and other variables.
The authors acknowledge that the study results could be partly explained by unmeasured illness in the group given samples.
The lead author, Dr. G. Caleb Alexander, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, said although free samples might save some patients money, there were other ways to economize. “Using more generics, prescribing for three months’ supply rather than one month’s and stopping drugs that may no longer be needed can also save money,” Dr. Alexander said.
April 1, 2008
Rhode Island: Order to Combat Illegal Immigration
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
National Briefing | New England
Linking the presence of undocumented workers to the state’s financial woes, Gov. Donald L. Carcieri signed an executive order that includes steps to combat illegal immigration. The order requires state agencies and companies that do business with the state to verify the legal status of employees. It also directs the state police and prison and parole officials to work harder to find and deport illegal immigrants. The governor, a Republican, said that he understood illegal immigrants faced hardships, but that he did not want them in Rhode Island. Under his order, the state police will enter an agreement with federal immigration authorities permitting them access to specialized immigration databases.
March 29, 2008
North Carolina: Ministers Say Police Destroyed Records
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
National Briefing | South
Three ministers accused a Greensboro police officer of ordering officers to destroy about 50 boxes of police files related to the fatal shooting of five people at an anti-Ku Klux Klan rally in 1979. The Revs. Cardes Brown, Gregory Headen and Nelson Johnson said an active-duty officer told them he and at least three other officers were told to destroy the records in 2004 or 2005, shortly after a seven-member panel that had been convened to research the shootings requested police files related to them. The ministers did not identify the officer who provided the information. On Nov. 3, 1979, a heavily armed caravan of Klansman and Nazi Party members confronted the rally. Five marchers were killed and 10 were injured. Those charged were later acquitted in state and federal trials. The city and some Klan members were found liable for the deaths in civil litigation.
February 27, 2008
Gaza: Israeli Army Clears Itself in 21 Deaths
By ISABEL KERSHNER
World Briefing | Middle East
The army said no legal action would be taken against military officials over an artillery strike in Beit Hanun in 2006 in which an errant shell hit residential buildings and killed 21 Palestinian civilians. An army investigation concluded that the shell was fired based on information that militants were intending to fire rockets from the area, an army statement said. The civilian deaths, it said, were “directly due to a rare and severe failure” in the artillery control system. The army’s military advocate general concluded that there was no need for further investigation.
February 27, 2008
World Briefing | Asia
Taiwan: Tons of Fish Wash Up on Beaches
About 45 tons of fish have washed up dead along 200 miles of beach on the outlying Penghu Islands after an unusual cold snap. News reports said 10 times as many dead fish were still in the water.
February 23, 2008
Zimbabwe: Inflation Breaks the Six-Figure Mark
By AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
World Briefing | Africa
The government’s statistics office said the inflation rate surged to a new record of 100,580 percent in January, up from 66,212 percent in December. Rangarirai Mberi, news editor of the independent Financial Gazette in Harare, said the state of the economy would feature prominently in next month’s presidential and parliamentary elections. “Numbers no longer shock people,” he said. Zimbabweans have learned to live in a hyperinflationary environment, he added, “but the question is, how long can this continue?”
February 21, 2008
GENERAL ANNOUNCEMENTS AND INFORMATION
Russell Means Speaking at the Transform Columbus Day Rally
"If voting could do anything it would be illegal!"
Stop the Termination or the Cherokee Nation
We Didn't Start the Fire
I Can't Take it No More
The Art of Mental Warfare
MONEY AS DEBT
http://video. google.com/ videoplay? docid=-905047436 2583451279
IRAQ FOR SALE
Port of Olympia Anti-Militarization Action Nov. 2007
"They have a new gimmick every year. They're going to take one of their boys, black boys, and put him in the cabinet so he can walk around Washington with a cigar. Fire on one end and fool on the other end. And because his immediate personal problem will have been solved he will be the one to tell our people: 'Look how much progress we're making. I'm in Washington, D.C., I can have tea in the White House. I'm your spokesman, I'm your leader.' While our people are still living in Harlem in the slums. Still receiving the worst form of education.
"But how many sitting here right now feel that they could [laughs] truly identify with a struggle that was designed to eliminate the basic causes that create the conditions that exist? Not very many. They can jive, but when it comes to identifying yourself with a struggle that is not endorsed by the power structure, that is not acceptable, that the ground rules are not laid down by the society in which you live, in which you are struggling against, you can't identify with that, you step back.
"It's easy to become a satellite today without even realizing it. This country can seduce God. Yes, it has that seductive power of economic dollarism. You can cut out colonialism, imperialism and all other kind of ism, but it's hard for you to cut that dollarism. When they drop those dollars on you, you'll fold though."
—MALCOLM X, 1965
A little gem:
Michael Moore Faces Off With Stephen Colbert [VIDEO]
LAPD vs. Immigrants (Video)
Dr. Julia Hare at the SOBA 2007
"We are far from that stage today in our era of the absolute
lie; the complete and totalitarian lie, spread by the
monopolies of press and radio to imprison social
consciousness." December 1936, "In 'Socialist' Norway,"
by Leon Trotsky: “Leon Trotsky in Norway” was transcribed
for the Internet by Per I. Matheson [References from
original translation removed]
Wealth Inequality Charts
MALCOLM X: Oxford University Debate
"There comes a times when silence is betrayal."
--Martin Luther King
YouTube clip of Che before the UN in 1964
The Wealthiest Americans Ever
NYT Interactive chart
JULY 15, 2007
New Orleans After the Flood -- A Photo Gallery
This email was sent to you as a service, by Roland Sheppard.
Visit my website at: http://web.mac.com/rolandgarret
[For some levity...Hans Groiner plays Monk
Which country should we invade next?
My Favorite Mutiny, The Coup
Michael Moore- The Awful Truth
Morse v. Frederick Supreme Court arguments
Free Speech 4 Students Rally - Media Montage
'My son lived a worthwhile life'
In April 2003, 21-year old Tom Hurndall was shot in the head
in Gaza by an Israeli soldier as he tried to save the lives of three
small children. Nine months later, he died, having never
recovered consciousness. Emine Saner talks to his mother
Jocelyn about her grief, her fight to make the Israeli army
accountable for his death and the book she has written
in his memory.
Monday March 26, 2007
Introducing...................the Apple iRack
"A War Budget Leaves Every Child Behind."
[A T-shirt worn by some teachers at Roosevelt High School
in L.A. as part of their campaign to rid the school of military
recruiters and JROTC--see Article in Full item number 4, below...bw]
"200 million children in the world sleep in the streets today.
Not one of them is Cuban."
(A sign in Havana)
View sign at bottom of page at:
[Thanks to Norma Harrison for sending this...bw]
FIGHTBACK! A Collection of Socialist Essays
By Sylvia Weinstein
"After God had finished the rattlesnake, the toad,
and the vampire, he had some awful substance left with
which he made a scab."
"A scab is a two-legged animal with a corkscrew soul,
a water brain, a combination backbone of jelly and glue.
Where others have hearts, he carries a tumor of rotten
principles." "When a scab comes down the street,
men turn their backs and angels weep in heaven, and
the devil shuts the gates of hell to keep him out."
"No man (or woman) has a right to scab so long as there
is a pool of water to drown his carcass in,
or a rope long enough to hang his body with.
Judas was a gentleman compared with a scab.
For betraying his master, he had character enough
to hang himself." A scab has not.
"Esau sold his birthright for a mess of pottage.
Judas sold his Savior for thirty pieces of silver.
Benedict Arnold sold his country for a promise of
a commision in the british army."
The scab sells his birthright, country, his wife,
his children and his fellowmen for an unfulfilled
promise from his employer.
Esau was a traitor to himself; Judas was a traitor
to his God; Benedict Arnold was a traitor to his country;
a scab is a traitor to his God, his country,
his family and his class."
Author --- Jack London (1876-1916)...Roland Sheppard
Sand Creek Massacre
"THE SAND CREEK MASSACRE" AWARD-WINNING DOCUMENTARY
SHORT FEATURED AT NATIVE AMERICAN FILM FESTIVAL:
(scroll down when you get there])
"THE SAND CREEK MASSACRE" AWARD-WINNING
WRITER/FILMMAKER DONALD L. VASICEK REPORT:
"THE SAND CREEK MASSACRE" AWARD-WINNING DOCUMENTARY
SHORT FINALIST IN DOCUMENTARY CHANNEL COMPETITION (VIEW HERE):
VIEW "THE SAND CREEK MASSACRE" AWARD-WINNING DOCUMENTARY
SHORT FILM MOVIE OF THE WEEK FOR FREE HERE:
On November 29, 1864, 700 Colorado troops savagely slaughtered
over 450 Cheyenne children, disabled, elders, and women in the
southeastern Colorado Territory under its protection. This act
became known as the Sand Creek Massacre. This film project
("The Sand Creek Massacre" documentary film project) is an
examination of an open wound in the souls of the Cheyenne
people as told from their perspective. This project chronicles
that horrific 19th century event and its affect on the 21st century
struggle for respectful coexistence between white and native
plains cultures in the United States of America.
Listed below are links on which you can click to get the latest news,
products, and view, free, "THE SAND CREEK MASSACRE" award-
winning documentary short. In order to create more native
awareness, particularly to save the roots of America's history,
please read the following:
Some people in America are trying to save the world. Bless
them. In the meantime, the roots of America are dying.
What happens to a plant when the roots die? The plant dies
according to my biology teacher in high school. American's
roots are its native people. Many of America's native people
are dying from drug and alcohol abuse, poverty, hunger,
and disease, which was introduced to them by the Caucasian
male. Tribal elders are dying. When they die, their oral
histories go with them. Our native's oral histories are the
essence of the roots of America, what took place before
our ancestors came over to America, what is taking place,
and what will be taking place. It is time we replenish
America's roots with native awareness, else America
continues its decaying, and ultimately, its death.
You can help. The 22-MINUTE SAND CREEK MASSACRE
DOCUMENTARY PRESENTATION/EDUCATIONAL DVD IS
READY FOR PURCHASE! (pass the word about this powerful
educational tool to friends, family, schools, parents, teachers,
and other related people and organizations to contact
me (firstname.lastname@example.org, 303-903-2103) for information
about how they can purchase the DVD and have me come
to their children's school to show the film and to interact
in a questions and answers discussion about the Sand
Donald L. Vasicek
Olympus Films+, LLC
"THE SAND CREEK MASSACRE" AWARD-WINNING DOCUMENTARY
SHORT FEATURED AT NATIVE AMERICAN FILM FESTIVAL:
(scroll down when you get there])
"THE SAND CREEK MASSACRE" AWARD-WINNING
WRITER/FILMMAKER DONALD L. VASICEK REPORT:
"THE SAND CREEK MASSACRE" AWARD-WINNING DOCUMENTARY
SHORT FINALIST IN DOCUMENTARY CHANNEL COMPETITION (VIEW HERE):
VIEW "THE SAND CREEK MASSACRE" AWARD-WINNING DOCUMENTARY
SHORT FILM MOVIE OF THE WEEK FOR FREE HERE:
donvasicek.com.Peace Articles at Libraryofpeace.org">