Monday, July 30, 2007

What Is Wrong With This Picture?

Roy Blunt doesn't think people earning the minimum wage of $5.15 deserved a raise, but he has no problem with approval of a hefty annual pay raise for congress.

From today's Turner Report:

Blunt: Nothing wrong with Congressional pay increases
Some members of Congress are putting themselves on the record as opposing their upcoming $4,400 pay increases, but not Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt: Defending the raise, Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said, "Every member has some obligation to the institution for the compensation to, as much as possible, keep pace with inflation. I think this should be as good a job when I leave it as it was when I took it."

Here is Blunt's view on the minimum wage 1/10/07 from the Columbia Tribune Politics Blog:

House Minority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Springfield, who came out today against the minimum wage increase.

"The last thing Congress should do is pass legislation that imposes an unfunded mandate on small businesses that employ millions of American workers and are the backbone of our economy," Blunt said in a news release.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Fairness Doctrine

We have two radio stations in our listening area that have 24 hours a day of Republican sponsored programming that ranges from obnoxious and misinformed to hate-filled invectives against the Democratic party and any viewpoint other their own. Anyone who disagrees is generally shouted down or ridiculed, with no effort to have a meaningful exchange of ideas.

I listen to those radio stations, and take note of sponsors so I can choose not to patronize them. My eye doctor was advertising on one particularly awful program, so I changed doctors. That's the only fairness I can derive from this hi-jacking of the air waves by right-wing loud mouths.

When people are unwilling to listen to each other and attempt to reach a middle ground, then the democratic process goes by the wayside. When one side has carte blanche to denigrate the other and present only their own viewpoint, no one is benefited.

I know most of the media people are not in favor of the Fairness Doctrine because they have to work harder to be inclusive of all view points. It's a "free speech" issue, they say. When one political party commandeers the airwaves, it would seem to me that the rights of the other party to speak are disregarded.

Some version of the Fairness Doctrine could help to remedy this situation.

Friday, July 20, 2007

News-Leader Omits Address of New Democratic Headquarters

The News-Leader noted today that the Greene County Democratic Central Committee will hold a grand opening and open house Sunday, July 22 from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm to celebrate the move to its new headquarters.

They failed to mention the location for those who wish to attend. According to their website,, that location is 1764 S. Fremont Ave. in Springfield.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Blunt Staff Misuses Highway Patrol Spokesman to Criticize AG Nixon

From Howard Beale at Fired Up Missouri:

Blunt Takes Page Right Out of Bush's DOJ Playbook

Today's KC Star has a fantastic story by Tim Hoover about the Blunt administration's misuse of state government in pursuing its own partisan political goals. The nut:

Gov. Matt Blunt’s staff last month pressed the Missouri Highway Patrol to issue a public statement criticizing Attorney General Jay Nixon, Blunt’s likely Democratic challenger in 2008.E-mails obtained by The Kansas City Star through an open records request detail how deeply Blunt’s office was involved in crafting a June 7 patrol statement that bolstered Republican criticism of Nixon for deciding not to file criminal charges in the December 2005 Taum Sauk reservoir collapse...

The story goes on to excerpt various emails that show Blunt's office leaning hard on law enforcement agents to alter public statements in a way that would make them more critical of Attorney General Nixon...

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Nike, Sweatshops and Slave Labor

A Running Commentary is a new blog from a local journalist Matthew Lemmon. He and his wife are training for the Nike Women's Marathon, which will benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Each person entering the marathon must raise $3800 to be eligible. I've been approached for contributions by two young women from the area who are also scrambling to raise the money to enter this race.

Nike, along with mega-retailer Wal-Mart, have been deservedly criticized in reports of human rights abuses in their factories in third world countries. People who create the shoes and other products for Nike are virtual slaves. They work long hours, often 7 days a week, for a few cents per hour.

From a 2005 report from the New Zealand Herald, Nike Admits Sweatshop Conditions:

In a 108-page report the company, based in Beaverton, Oregon, presented a surprisingly frank audit of labour conditions at 569 of 830 factories worldwide where Nike-branded footwear, apparel and sports equipment are made.

Nike's "corporate responsibility" report doesn't make for a pretty picture. From excessively long work weeks and wrong wage calculations to verbal abuse and curbs on toilet visits, the findings confirm a pervasive culture of exploitation. At risk are as many as 650,000 workers in factories located from Australia and China to the US and Vietnam. Most of them are women aged between 19 and 25.

In 2006, Nike spent $476 million dollars on celebrity endorsements, and CNBC reported Investors Fret About Nike Endorsements. The total Nike advertising budget for 2006 totaled $1.7 billion. A perfect picture of corporate greed and disregard for basic human rights, because, after all is said and done, profits count more than people.

Maybe Mr. Lemmon and his wife have not seen the PBS programs about sweatshops. Mainstream media seldom bothers to report on the inhumane working conditions in third world factories. The two young girls who asked me for a contribution for their Nike Marathon have never considered what happens to their counterparts who fall asleep on the job, like these two young girls in the documentary China Blue.

Before free trade agreements allowed the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs, many of the shoes and clothing in U.S. retail stores were made in local factories. U.S. workers were protected by our labor laws and many of them also had unions looking out for their interests. U.S. factories were also required to abide by OSHA safety standards and prevented from large scale pollution of the environment. Third world countries have none of these impediments to profit.

Perhaps Nike is trying to brush up it's tarnished image by getting well-meaning people like these local marathoners involved in a charitable cause. Maybe, as they laboriously train for this marathon, in the far recesses of their memory bank, they know that their wonderful and charmed life is subsidized by human misery on a vast scale.

These people with good intentions are the ones who could and should say no to Nike, demand transparency and accountability. By all means, give to the deserving Leukemia and Lymphoma Foundation. But why not channel that energy used in marathon training into bringing attention to much needed change. These human rights abuses allow our stores to be filled with cheap merchandise, and companies like Nike to give people like Tiger Woods $20 million for an endorsement, while giving virtual slave laborers 20 cents an hour to produce their goods.

I already give yearly donations to several cancer charities. So, after considering these requests for donations to Nike marathoners, I have decided to give instead to a group called Educating For Justice who have produced a film (soon to be released) called SWEAT.

SWEAT is the athlete’s version of Erin Brokovich, The Insider and Serpico. In 1997, a soccer coach at St. John’s University said no to taking part in a $3.5 million dollar deal to endorse Nike products because of Nike’s use of sweatshop labor. He was forced out of his job and outcast from the coaching ranks. People told him that he didn’t know what he was talking about, that work in a Nike factory was a “great job for those people.” He went to find out for himself. In the summer of 2000, he and a friend took off to live with factory workers in a slum in Indonesia and they lived on the workers’ wages, $1.25 a day. They lost 40lbs collectively in the month, but more importantly, by living in solidarity with workers, they built bonds of trust. Over the course of three research trips, workers shared the real human suffering behind the Nike success story. Together with workers, they have spent the past four years educating tens of thousands of people about this issue and fighting to end the injustice that Nike’s workers face each day.

It's difficult to find a running shoe that isn't made in a third world country by slave labor. Nike is the leader in the field of athletic shoes. If they make changes for the better, the industry as a whole will be challenged to follow. Hopefully this film will make an impact, but basically it like a voice crying in the wilderness of sweatshop factories.

Think, Nike marathoners, with every step you take, if your energy and determination could truly be channeled to making a major difference in the world.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Eight Things

Eight things you don't know about me:

1. I wanted to be a concert pianist.

2. I'm a very poor correspondent. Before starting this blog, I had not written more than a brief note or business letter since graduating college in the 60's.

3. My eyesight is bad, so I have difficulty reading blogs with black or navy background, even at 150 magnification.

4. I have never baked a pie.

5. I do not own a cell phone or digital camera.

6. About half of my friends do not own a TV, but all of them have the internet.

7. Since Dan Rather pointed out that CBS has "dumbed it down and tarted it up" I now watch the CBS evening news exclusively.

8. Every room of my house is populated with stacks of books.

I think most everyone in my local blogosphere has completed this little exercise, so I'll let the tag rest.

Hate Radio Is A Part Of Republican Strategy

In an interview in Mother Jones, GOP media strategist David All talks about his efforts to boost the right's utilization of the internet as a campaign tool. He confirms, once again, that hate radio is considered an integral part of GOP strategy:

... We've never needed the Internet before. When talk radio emerged in '94, it was a very taboo thing, and it wasn't until Newt Gingrich brought talk radio hosts into the Capitol that people started to engage talk radio. Now there's an entire strategy focused on it. The White House has a talk radio person, the RNC does, and it's seen as an effective medium. But the Internet-we haven't needed to run around the mainstream media like we do now.

As noted in my post from 9/18/06:

President Bush summoned several hate radio talk show hosts to the White House this past Friday for a 90 minute off-the-record chat.

According to Neil Boortz, " the subject matter ranged through domestic policy, immigration, the war on terror, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Jordan. President Bush talked of the leaders of countries ranging from Great Britain to China to Japan to Iran."

Also in attendance were Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Mike Gallagher and Michael Medved. Rush Limbaugh was invited, but was unable to attend.

As someone recently remarked about the Fairness Doctrine - "Fair is Foul, and Foul is Fair".

HT: Missouri Politics

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Race to the Bottom

From Think Progress:

The economic American dream “that children would be more prosperous than their parents, is in question as perhaps never before.” Since 1973, “median family income has been essentially flat,” and men in their 30s “earn roughly $5,000 less than their father’s generation.”