Friday, September 19, 2008

Other Items

Two days ago there was a session for the parliament to assess what they had achieved and done for the Iraqi people whom they represent. Even this point they didn't reach a point on it.

The above is from an Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy's "Parliament's work" (Inside Iraq) and, in four telling paragraphs, the post captures not only how little is done for the Iraqi people but how little progress (on any front) is being made. Add in, how there is not check -- not even a self-check -- on the supposed representation of the Iraqi people. At the Los Angeles Times's Bush blog (Countdown to Crawford: The Last Days of the Bush Administration), James Gerstenzang promotes one of the paper's print articles in "What surge? In Baghdad, they just turned out the lights and left:"

To hear President Bush tell it, there is one reason, overall, that violence has fallen in Baghdad: The surge.
It was the surge, he said last week, that allowed the U.S. to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq. "Since we launched the
surge last year, violence has fallen to its lowest point since the spring of 2004," he said in his radio address last Saturday. And just two days ago, he said of the surge: "The United States and the world is better off because of it."
Not so quick, according to a team of UCLA researchers.
Studying satellite imagery of night light in Baghdad neighborhoods dominated by Sunni residents, they came up with an alternative conclusion: The Sunni Muslims and Shiite Muslims had largely stopped killing each other by the time the "surge" of U.S. troops arrived in 2007.
In other words, the remaining Sunnis, defeated, turned out the lights and left. And then the U.S. troops came in.
The report, being published today, is "
Baghdad Nights: Evaluating the US Military 'Surge' Using Nighttime Light Signatures."

Independent journalist David Bacon latest book (just out this month) is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press). Bacon also explores migration in "Displaced People: NAFTA's Most Important Product" (NACLA Reports):

Since the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1993, the U.S. Congress has debated and passed several new bilateral trade agreements with Peru, Jordan and Chile, as well as the Central American Free Trade Agreement. Congressional debates over immigration policy have proceeded as though those trade agreements bore no relationship to the waves of displaced people migrating to the United States, looking for work. As Rufino Domínguez, former coordinator of the Indigenous Front of Binational Organizations (FIOB), points out, U.S. trade and immigration policy are part of a single system, and the negotiation of NAFTA was an important step in developing this system. "There are no jobs" in Mexico, he says, "and NAFTA drove the price of corn so low that it's not economically possible to plant a crop anymore. We come to the United States to work because there's no alternative."
Economic crises provoked by NAFTA and other economic reforms are uprooting and displacing Mexicans in the country's most remote areas. While California farmworkers 20 and 30 years ago came from parts of Mexico with larger Spanish-speaking populations, migrants today increasingly come from indigenous communities in states like Oaxaca, Chiapas, and Guerrero. Domínguez says there are about 500,000 indigenous people from Oaxaca living in the United States, 300,000 in California alone.
Meanwhile, a rising tide of anti-immigrant sentiment has demonized those migrants, leading to measures to deny them jobs, rights, or any pretense of equality with people living in the communities around them. Solutions to these dilemmas-from adopting rational and humane immigration policies to reducing the fear and hostility toward migrants-must begin with an examination of the way U.S. policies have both produced migration and criminalized migrants.

Bacon has several events this month including:

Sept 21 Presentation at REFORMA Conference, 10AM National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking, El Paso, Texas

Sept 22 Book presentation, Illegal People,12:30PM Fall for the Book, Grand Tier III, Center for the Arts, Photography exhibition, Johnson Center's Gallery 123, 9/21-26 George Mason University, Fairfax, VA

Sept 29 Book discussion, Illegal People, 6PM World Affairs Council, 312 Sutter St., #200, San Francisco

Sept 30 Book discussion, 7:30PM Illegal People and The Accidental American, by Rinku Sen Modern Times Bookstore, 888 Valencia St., San Francisco

Turning to public television. This weekend (Friday in most markets), NOW on PBS will offer a look at women and politics:

How have women in politics changed America and the world? NOW on PBS investigates with an hour-long special hosted by Maria Hinojosa: "Women, Power and Politics: A Rising Tide?"See the show on television this weekend or watch online STARTING SATURDAY
[. . .]
Show Description: Given the hoopla surrounding Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton's historical political ascendance, why does the U.S. rank so low among countries for percentage of women holding national office? On Friday, September 19 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), in a one-hour special, NOW's Maria Hinojosa talks to women leaders around the world and here in the United States for an intimate look at the high-stakes risks, triumphs, and setbacks for women leaders of today and tomorrow. Among these women are President Michelle Bachelet of Chile, the first woman leader in Latin America who did not have a husband precede her as President, and former New Hampshire Governor Jeanne Shaheen, now in a tight race for a seat in the U.S. Senate.We also travel to Rwanda, where, 14 years after a horrific massacre left nearly one million people dead, women make up nearly half of parliament; and to Manhattan, where ambitious high school girls are competing in a high-stakes debate tournament."Women, Power and Politics," is also about the personal journey of mother and award-winning journalist Maria Hinojosa as she strives to answer the question: "What does to mean to be a woman in power?"Watch a preview and excerpt of this special program at
this web address:Use this directory tool to find out where the show is airing in your area:
The NOW website ... will feature web-exclusive commentary from noteworthy women including Maria Bartiromo, Sandra Cisneros, and Tina Brown; a personal essay from Maria Hinojosa; an interactive debate over Sarah Palin's candidacy; as well as opportunities for all women to post and share their stories of ambition, success, and discouragement.(The "interactive debate" over Sarah Palin's candidacy is live now ...)

Bill Moyers Journal (check your local listings, begins airing on PBS in most markets tonight, it also streams online -- transcript, video, audio) guests will inclue Gretchen Morgenson (New York Times) will be on to discuss the economic meltdown and Kevin Phillips (whose most recent book is Bad Money). PBS' Washington Week finds Gwen sharing opinions with David Wessel (Wall St. Journal) and John Maggs (National Journal) along with two others who are desperately trolling the streets currently in an attempt to purchase an opinion from someone, anyone, so they don't arrive empty handed.

Jill notes this from Team Nader:

In the Public Interest: Statement on Auto Industry Bailouts


In the Public Interest: Statement on Auto Industry Bailouts .

In the Public Interest
Statement On Auto Industry Bailouts
by Ralph Nader

The Big Three are in big trouble, and they have themselves to thank for it.

Ford and General Motors have reported substantial losses in the second quarter amounting to $15.5 billion, and $8.7 billion, respectively, while Chrysler, which was bought off last year by a private equity firm, Cerberus, refuses to reveal its financial standing.

It is no wonder why their lobbyists were spotted schmoozing with members of Congress at the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, liquoring up in their plush suites and private parties while they made their case for direct government loans which, if approved, would likely add to our federal deficit.

Last December, Congress approved a $25 billion loan to automakers and their suppliers under the Energy Independence and Security Act, though it has yet to be funded. That bill includes a modest requirement for automakers to increase their average vehicle fuel efficiency to 35 mpg—a benchmark we should have set decades ago, and would allow the companies to have their way with virtually no oversight or accountability.

This corporate Congress cannot be expected to issue serious demands, set tough conditions, or impose strict rules on the auto companies to ensure their workers receive fair pay and benefits, and prevent their fat-cat executives from making off big while leaving their companies in shambles.

Such blatant giveaways have become the norm in Washington since the corporate stranglehold of Congress and the White House have smothered the forces seeking worker, consumer and environmental justice.

But this recent example should not discount our long history of dealing with corporate failures in more public and effective ways than just ponying up billions on demand at any big corporation’s whim.

In 1979 when Chrysler was on the verge of bankruptcy, the automaker came crying to Congress for a bailout, which they eventually got, but Congress wasn’t as much of a pushover.

Back then, at least the corporate chieftains were grilled by Congress and had to agree to give something back for Uncle Sam bailing them out—good jobs and pensions for their workers, and more efficient cars to reduce reliance on foreign oil and reduce prices at the pump.

Now the CEOs don’t even have to leave Detroit and they get much more money for almost no return commitment to America, while they outsource jobs and pollute our environment.

During discussion on a proposed loan bill to bailout Chrysler in October 1979, Senator William Proxmire (D-WI) who chaired the Senate Banking Committee issued his opposition to Chrysler’s request and noted: “We let 7,000 companies fail last year—we didn’t bail them out. Now we are being told that if a company is big enough… we can’t let it go under.” He went on to call the proposed deal "a terrible precedent."

Raising the government’s demand for performance standards, President Carter’s Treasury Secretary William Miller told Chrysler officials, "it’s going to be so awful, you’ll wish you never brought the whole thing up."

Today, we rarely hear such candid opposition to corporate orders shouted at their congressional servants who lack the fortitude to put serious restraints and conditions on mismanaged, reckless big business and their overpaid CEOs seeking tax-payer salvation.

As a part of the Chrysler deal in the late Seventies, the government took out preferred stock warrants and after the company turned itself around and repaid its loan seven years early, the government ended up cashing out, receiving $400 million in the appreciated stock.

And Congress made clear to Chrysler that it had specific conditions the company had to meet before receiving the loan guarantee. It forced the company to contribute $162,500,000 into an employee stock ownership trust fund geared to benefit at least 90 percent of its employees, design more fuel efficient autos to help reduce consumption of foreign oil, and prohibit wages and benefits from falling below a level set three months before the legislation was passed.

Today, congressional actions to grant multi-billion dollar loans to the corporations lack the reciprocity some in Congress demanded 30 years ago. Before Congress irresponsibly dips into the public piggy bank, this time it would be wise to look back at how the government once dealt with Chrysler’s dilemma, require clear benchmarks to deliver on the next generation of green collar jobs, improved fuel efficiency and gain a substantial return on its investment, not just in monetary value, but in the long-term viability of the domestic motor vehicle fleet.

Congress needs to call on the auto industry to innovate their way out of this morass into which they’ve engineered themselves. A sensible strategy would be to issue stock warrants to the government, like in the 70s, which would create an incentive for Congress to keep pressure on the auto industry to improve. Public Congressional hearings are a must.

Will Congress echo its actions of 30 years ago when it scrutinized corporate demands, grilled company executives, and imposed conditions to ensure fair compensation and safety for workers? Or will Congress continue down the road of corporate servitude, refusing to stand up for workers, consumers, taxpayers and the environment in its session-ending stampede and flight away from auto industry accountabilities?


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