John McCain Won’t Be Looking for the Union Label

It’™s hard to understand how a member of any union could support the GOP. Yet, even though voting for a Republican candidate goes against every economic interest of union membership, when the curtain comes down in the voting booth, many union members vote God, gays, and guns.

Commentary By: Walter Brasch

Don’™t expect any labor union to endorse John McCain for president in the general election. The wounds from the Bush’“Cheney Administration are just too deep. But, their reasons aren’™t because of social justice issues that once pervaded the labor movement, but on bread-and-butter issues that have dominated unions the past five decades.

‘œOur economy is in crisis after years of failed Bush Administration policies that Sen. McCain has adopted as his own,’ says Karen Ackerman, AFL-CIO political director. McCain, says Steve Smith, AFL-CIO senior media outreach specialist, ‘œassails working families from worker health care and safety to trade policies.’ McCain, in agreement with Bush, has voted against protecting overtime pay and for trade deals that consistently send American jobs off-shore, often to countries where sweat shop labor is common. McCain has also voted against health insurance for children and worker safety and health. American labor also opposes his votes to privatize Social Security. McCain, who has cultivated a media image as a straight-shooting maverick, during the past seven years supported Bush 89 percent of the time, with a record high of 95 percent support last year, according to data published in the Congressional Quarterly. The only reason McCain ‘œhas some appeal to working class voters,’ says Smith, ‘œis because they haven’™t had a chance to learn about his policies.’

The 56-union federation, which represents about 10 million workers, intends to change that perception. It has developed a $53.4 million education campaign, largest in its history, to give its members information about McCain’™s policies. The ‘œMcCain Revealed’ campaign includes more than 425,000 flyers, a massive door-to-door canvas on May 17, a strong worker presence at all McCain events, and a website ( with information not only about McCain, but also about the political beliefs of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Ron Paul.

The AFL-CIO itself has not endorsed any candidate’”two-thirds of its unions must endorse a specific candidate for the federation to make an endorsement’”but several member unions have already supported candidates.

Hillary Clinton has endorsements from 12 major national unions, representing about 4.9 million members. Lined up behind the New York senator are the Amalgamated Transit Union; American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees; American Federation of Teachers; International Alliance of Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians and Allied Crafts; International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers; International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers; International Union of Painters and Allied Trades; National Association of Letter Carriers; Office and Professional Employees International Union; Sheet Metal Workers International Association; United Farm Workers; and the United Transportation Union.

Although Barack Obama has endorsements from only seven major unions’” with most endorsements coming after the Feb. 5 Super Tuesday election that pushed him into both popular vote and delegate leads’”they represent about 6.3 million members. Only the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Transport Workers Union, and the United Association of Plumbers and Pipe Fitters are affiliated with the AFL-CIO. Obama’™s other support comes from powerful independent unions’”the 1.3 million member United Food and Commercial Workers Union; the 1.9 million member Service Employees International Union; the 500,000 member Unite Here, which represents workers primarily in the hospitality, gaming, textile, foods service, and laundry industries; and the 1.4 million member International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

The Teamsters’™ endorsement may seem unusual’¦


Wednesday, April 30th, 2008 by Richard Blair |

Tom Friedman on the Gas Tax Holiday

The New York Times’™ Tom Friedman might make heads explode all around the progressive blogosphere, because for once, he’™s right: The McCain proposal to suspend the federal gasoline tax is (at best) tactically shortsighted, and strategically, a huge loss for American taxpayers. It’™s time to stop this movement in its tracks.


Let’™s put this one in the ‘œeven a broken clock is right twice a day‘ file. Tom Friedman returns from an extended hiatus at the New York Times with a barnburner of a column. He takes on the gasoline tax holiday being proposed by John McCain, the concept of which is now also apparently being embraced by Hillary Clinton.

Friedman writes:

It is great to see that we finally have some national unity on energy policy. Unfortunately, the unifying idea is so ridiculous, so unworthy of the people aspiring to lead our nation, it takes your breath away. Hillary Clinton has decided to line up with John McCain in pushing to suspend the federal excise tax on gasoline, 18.4 cents a gallon, for this summer’™s travel season. This is not an energy policy. This is money laundering’¦

It’™s nice to see Friedman jumping on the bus. Two weeks ago, on ASZ, I wrote:

John McCain is proposing a temporary cessation to the federal gas tax, which would save consumers about 19 cents per gallon at the pump. Unexplored in all of the breathless media reports on his bold proposal is an examination of how much further that such a move would drive the federal deficit into the red. Let’™s also make sure we understand: the federal gas tax is primarily intended to build and maintain the American national highway system. If McCain suspends the federal gas tax, we’™ll have many more bridges collapsing, more potholes unfilled, and road construction projects put on hold.

Let’™s also stipulate that an ill-advised cut in the federal gas tax isn’™t meant to help the average ‘Murican. Any call to eliminate this tax is being driven by lobbyists for companies who rely on transportation to get their goods to market. Neither McCain nor the GOP gives a rat’™s ass that it’™s now costing you $50 or $60 to fill up your tank. This is all about lowering embedded costs for the GOP’™s corporate sponsors.

There are two ways to instantly drive down the price of oil: immediately suspend contributions to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and begin a controlled drawdown of the SPR. There is nothing – absolutely nothing – that is more strategically important to the United States than the economic health of the country.

With oil companies once again reporting record quarterly profits, we should probably add a third incentive for oil companies to get behind a reduction in prices: a windfall profit tax.

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008 by Richard Blair |

Commander Limbaugh Calls for “Operational Pause”

What could be worse than the draft dodging commander-in-chief of an undead zombie army acting like he’™s a Field Marshall?


Rush Limbaugh sets me off just by opening his fatuous mouth. But then, I guess that’™s what he’™s supposed to do.

The last we visited with the EIB kingpin, he was calling for riots in Denver during the Democratic National Convention. Apparently, Commander Oxy’™s clarion call to the dittohead contingent didn’™t concern the Colorado Attorney General, DHS, FBI, or anyone else in the Bush Crime Family.

However, it could be that someone got to him, and told him his rhetoric was careening over the top. Today, the fat pilonidal cyst draft dodger is emulating his mentor, Commander-in-Chimp McFlightsuit, and calling for an ‘œoperational pause’ in his Operation Chaos:

Ladies and gentlemen, I am calling an operational pause in Operation Chaos’¦just wanted you to know your commanding officers are eagerly, diligently, and effectively planning the next strategy here’¦

Commander Oxy is as delusional as his undead zombie followers.

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008 by Richard Blair |

Bush Ruins the Dreams of Young Girls and Boys

Mr. Bush has stated, flatly, that there are no magic wands, this in his latest press conference. But he’™s trying to have it both ways, claiming if there were magic wands, he’™d use them. Meanwhile, he’™s not denied the existence of the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, or of Voodoo Witch Doctors with specialities in Economics.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

magic wand Yes, there are millions of girls around the country who are going to go into mourning if they hear Mr. Bush’™s words. He said there is no ‘œmagic wand.’ Indeed, one can imagine all sorts of Harry Potter fans feelsing let down, both girls and boys. How cruel! And this is no minor repudiations of magic wands on Mr. Bush’™s part. He mentions the (ugly) news, at least for children everywhere, THREE TIMES in his news conference yesterday. Here’™s a bit of Mr. Bush’™s statement from that press conference yesterday, via the Philadelphia Inquirer:

And so I firmly believe that, you know, if there was a magic wand to wave, I’™d be waving it, of course. It’™s – you know, I strongly believe it’™s in our interest that we reduce gas prices – gasoline price.

. . .

No, I think that if there was a magic wand to say, OK, drop price, I’™d do that.

And so part of this is to set the psychology right that says to the world, We’™re not going to become more beholden on your oil, we’™re going to open up and be aggressive and have an aggressive energy policy.

Secondly, we’™re going to be sending a signal we’™re going to be building new refineries.

But there is no magic wand to wave right now.

Perhaps the consistent aspect is that if there were a magic wand, some kind of secret weapon against this Bush-engineered inflationary surge in gas and food prices, then he would use it. That should surprise us not one little bit. This is, after all, the President who thinks voodoo economics is the only kind of economics, who insists, despite the surge he has engineered in economic deficits, that the only solution is to cut taxes to the rich.

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008 by Richard Blair |
Category: Bush Arrogance

I Will Remember Albert Hoffman Lying on his Lawn

Albert Hoffman died at 102 years old. He’s the one who discovered LSD. I’m not here to say it is a wonderful thing, but it certainly changed our world. Tune in, turn on, drop out. He had Aldous Huxley and Timothy Leary as disciples. Man, what a life!

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

The New York Times has Albert Hoffman’s obituary in today’s paper. He has an odd place in history, the inventor of LSD. Hmm. That’s controversial, isn’t it?

I remember first reading about Albert Hoffman in Adam Smith’s Powers of Mind. It’s out of print nowadays, but you can still find used copies on Amazon. Smith, the economist for a long time on PBS, took a break in the early 70′s to explore alternative medicines, realities. . . whatever. What I remember of the book is that the part about Hoffman began with his discovery of LSD. He wasn’t wearing gloves when he discovered it, and it soaks into one’s skin, with the same effects. So he left his lab in Switzerland, Albert did, on his bicycle. And on his way home he took a trip. The next morning he discovered himself and the bike on his own lawn.

What’s odd about the story is that Albert Hoffman, who made his discovery in the 40′sw, supposedly took LSD as a recreational/experimental drug, about once a year throughout his life. At least that’s what I remember from the Adam Smith book I read about 20 years ago.

“Through my LSD experience and my new picture of reality, I became aware of the wonder of creation, the magnificence of nature and of the animal and plant kingdom,” Dr. Hofmann told the psychiatrist Stanislav Grof during an interview in 1984. “I became very sensitive to what will happen to all this and all of us.”

Dr. Hofmann became an impassioned advocate for the environment and argued that LSD, besides being a valuable tool for psychiatry, could be used to awaken a deeper awareness of mankind’s place in nature and help curb society’s ultimately self-destructive degradation of the natural world.

No, I’m not an advocate of this stuff, but I’ll attest to Albert Hoffman as a pioneer who changed lives. I wonder sometimes how many people who were reared in the 60′s and 70′s tried his drug, once, twice, several times. I certainly tried it a few times, and it was a whole lot of fun, though I can’t attest to any long-term intense discoveries as a result. I was a child of my times, and I partook.

There’s no deep meanings in this post, just a remembrance. Albert Hoffman surely meant a lot to the “baby boomer” generation, and perhaps more. Someone ought to put his bicycle in a museum or something.

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008 by Steven Reynolds |

Delicate Flowers

McCain. Wright. Wrong. Obama. Race. Clinton. It’™s hard to understand America’™s legacy media anymore – or more particularly – their motivation. When a story of deceit and government manipulation gets buried, at the expense of piquing our more prurient interests, there’™s something inherently wrong with the fourth estate.


Glenn Greenwald has recently covered two stories that, on the surface, have no commonality. Scratch below the surface layer, though, and there is much to consider.

Yesterday, Greenwald wrote about the amazing, disappearing military analysts. While this story should have been capturing headlines for the past week, it’™s been virtually relegated to the legacy media slug file of unimportant (or embarrassing) reports on the symbiotic relationship between the fourth and first estates. Every single one of the complicit news networks have studiously avoided covering the story, for reasons that are fairly clear: they (the network bosses) are really the centerpiece of the story. The airwaves were abused by the Bush administration like a bad dog, yet the narrative dies from benign neglect by those who were used and abused.

Does this sound familiar? It should. You can read stories in your daily paper every day about abused spouses who dropped charges against the one they thought loved them. And then a week later, you can pick up the same paper and read about the abuser being hauled in again after a particularly raucous alcohol-fueled Saturday night.

Greenwald hits the nail on the head:

‘¦The military analyst story is far more about the corruption of our establishment media outlets than it is about Pentagon improprieties (though both are implicated). That’™s why protests and demands for information of the kind sent by Rep. Rosa DeLauro are being directed to network executives. As Rep. DeLauro pointed out, these networks served as an outlet for ‘œa domestic propaganda program.’ It is hard to imagine an accusation against their integrity and core function more serious than that’¦

Here’™s where I depart from Glenn – because yes, yes it is very easy to imagine an accusation against their core function that’™s more serious than the military analyst kerfluffle. In that particular instance, they’™re merely burying the story. With the Jeremiah Wright story, however, the media is going for the most base, racist angle in a white hot political contest. It’™s almost as if the boyz on the buz have decided that they’™ve given Barack Obama enough of a free ride, and now it’™s time to tear down the strawman that they’™ve so carefully constructed over the past six months.

From Greenwald:

‘¦So it isn’™t as though we really have anything else to talk about besides Jeremiah Wright. There are some countries in the world ‘” probably most ‘” which have so many big problems that they could ill-afford to devote much time and energy to a matter of this sort. Thankfully, the United States isn’™t one of them. I believe it’™s critical that we keep that in mind as we discuss him for the next seven months’¦

Obviously, Glenn is engaging in a bit of snark. But his point is valid, particularly juxtaposed against what arguably should be one of the biggest stories of the 2008 election: the co-opting of the fourth estate by the Republican Party.

Bear in mind: I’™m not just talking about Barack Obama’™s problem with the Rev. Wright or military analyst stories. I’™m talking about the fourth estate ‘œtaking a BBQ‘ with the McCain campaign. I’™m talking about the McCain campaign receiving a total and complete pass on Alzheimer’™s moments for the presumptive GOP nominee. I’™m talking about the media lovefest with a ‘œstraight shooter’, and the high school newspaper heather-ish treatment of both Democratic Party candidates. I’™m talking about the media portrayal of Hillary Clinton as a shrewish, calculating bitch (not that there’™s anything wrong with that, at least in politics), and the clutching of journalistic pearls when Barack Obama is characterized as an elitist, effete snob.

I’™m talking about your brain, and how you process the inputs that you receive through the TV tube, and through the ‘œtubes’ of the internet. It doesn’™t matter who you support. I’™m willing to venture that most people who visit ASZ have never taken the time to explore exactly where the candidates land on the issues that are important to any of us. The vast majority of people are working off of gut instinct, rather than bold-faced positions and fact.

We should all be incredibly tired of the extended presidential campaign season. Hell, it started nearly two years ago. It would make sense that all of us who support a particular candidate at least know (or have a rough idea) of where our chosen candidate stands.


It all comes back to Presidential Idol. That’™s all that matters. PI pulls in the ratings, and that’™s about all that anyone in a position of authority at any of the news networks cares about. Issues? They don’™t need no stinkin’™ issues, particularly when they have so many irrelevant incidents to spark our collective outrage and/or prurient interest. And the networks then feed into what they know we want: an echo chamber for our preconceived notions and thoughts.

Glenn Greenwald gives us food for thought: a very important report on the propagandizing of the situation in Iraq is buried, while a tabloid-style story of faux outrage takes center stage.

I used to think we could do better. I guess that’™s no more than the eternal optimist in me.

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008 by Richard Blair |

Karl Rove Offers Barack Obama Advice

This is rich: Karl Rove offering campaign tips to Barack Obama’™s camp via a Newsweek column. Never mind that Rove is advising the McCain campaign, and that Newsweek totally ignores the potential conflict of interest in publishing Rove’™s column.


As Atrios might say, ‘œTime for another blogger ethics panel?’

Now, this is just too much. Seriously. Karl Rove offering advice to the Obama camp via a Newsweek opinion column? As Wolfrum at Shake’™s Sis points out, Rove shows GOP ‘œconcern trolls’ around the globe how it’™s done. And even worse, Newsweek completely fails to point out that Rove is acting as an advisor to the McCain campaign.

My advice to Barack Obama?

Do the absolute opposite of everything that Karl Rove is recommending, keep your head on a swivel, and watch your back. Closely.

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008 by Richard Blair |

Annual NALC Food Drive – 5/10/08

Donations to food banks and pantries are way down at a time when demand for services is skyrocketing. On Saturday, May 10th, the National Association of Letter Carriers is conducting their 16th annual food drive. Please mark the date on your calendar – because every can of non-perishable food helps, and you never know when you might need the good karma for yourself…

Commentary By: Richard Blair

Have you ever gone to bed hungry at night (other than by choice during your latest bikini / speedo season diet)? Or been in a position where you didn’t know how you were going to put the next meal on the table for your family? It sucks the very life force right out of a person, when every waking hour is reduced to “hunting and gathering”.

I managed the logistics at a large inner city food bank for a couple of years, so I saw the true human impact etched in the faces of the clients every single day. There are many of us who are one missed paycheck or an unexpected illness away from needing assistance.

One thing I can tell you from experience, it doesn’t matter what socioeconomic space you occupy – I can almost assure you that you know someone who is using (or has used) a food bank or food pantry to make ends meet. It’s just one of those things that most people don’t run and tell mom, dad, or the friends about.

2008 has brought a myriad of challenges to charitable organizations that distribute food. At a time when the national economy is tanking, donations are way down and demand for the services of food banks and pantries are way up. A recent article in the Charleston (SC) Courier – Post describes what is by no means a unique situation:

East Cooper Community Outreach, which operates a food pantry, reports dramatic increases in people coming in for help – 73 percent – during the first three months of 2008, compared with the same period last year…

In January, rice cost the Food Bank 23 cents a pound. Three months later, the price was 40 cents a pound, a 74 percent increase. Now the food bank is seeking cheaper alternatives, such as potatoes, she says.

The Food Bank serves 154,000 people in 10 coastal counties in South Carolina. In 2007 it distributed 9.3 million pounds of food. The organization estimates another 100,000 people need but don’t use its services. About 40 percent of Food Bank clients have at least one working adult in their household, Kosar says.

And now middle-class families are part of the mix, she says. Forced to choose between necessities such as medicine, food, gas and childcare, they are increasing the demand for free or subsidized food.

“It’s tragic, it really is,” Kosar says. “That’s not a decision that we should have to make.” …

It is indeed tragic.

On Saturday, May 10th, you can help. You don’t even have to leave your house, sign an online petition, call your Senator, write a check, or any of the other actions that we at ASZ normally ask of our readers.

Just put a few cans of food by your mailbox.

The National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) is sponsoring their 16th annual nationwide food drive. You put the food out, your postal carrier will take it away, and it ends up – most importantly – back in your own community at a local foodbank, pantry, or shelter. Want to save the mailman’s back? Take a sack of food down to your local post office.

You’ll help fill someone’s belly, and maybe even feed your own soul a little bit.

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008 by Richard Blair |

Near Riot at Nevada GOP Convention

I often refer to Republicans as organized, though I mean ‘œorganized crime.’ In this case, it’™s Keystone Kops, as they run the most disorganized and incompetent state convention possible. They’™ll fix it up, I’™m sure, stripping Ron Paul of delegates and further alienating the libertarian wing of the GOP.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

You see, some Republicans forget that Ron Paul is still running, and that his followers are the kind of geeks who memorize stuff like Roberts Rules of Order. Seems the Paul team got through a couple rules changes that gave them a bit of an edge in getting Nevada delegates. Then, just as the voting was about to start, Nevada GOP Chair Bob Beers made some whiney excuse about having an early curfew. . . then the booing and hissing started. From the Reno Gazette Journal:

Early in the day, state delegates supporting Paul’™s continued pursuit of the Republican nomination voted through a rules change that forced the state party to abandon its preset ballot of potential national convention delegates and open up the race to the rest of the state delegates.

The vote followed a rousing speech by Paul of Texas, who said his presidential campaign will continue as long as he has support.

But as the convention continued into the evening, chairman Bob Beers said the party’™s contract for the hall at the Peppermill Resort Casino had expired and the event would be rescheduled.

‘œDue to a rules change that left us on an overtime basis, we will recess the convention until a date that we are going to announce next week,’ Beers told a shocked crowd, which stood silent for a few seconds before erupting in boos.

As Beers was escorted out of the building, a short-lived effort to rescue the convention was launched by party activist Mike Weber. Although several hundred Paul supporters stayed, they weren’™t strong enough to make a quorum to continue the convention.

Sounds like chaos to me. I particularly love this part, where a McCain supporter sounds a whole lot like Rodney King doing a ‘œcan’™t we all just get along’ sort of schtick:

Throughout the confusion, hecklers battled for the attention of delegates who supported U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

‘œMcCain supporters leave!’ one man shouted.

‘œMcCain supporters stay!’ a woman answered.

‘œWe’™re supposed to be on the same team!’ another woman shouted.

As usual, what this really comes down to is a bad case of incompetence. You see, the Republicans decided to allow people who attended to self-nominate themselves to go to the National Convention. Just imagine how the Paul people must have smiled when they heard about that. It’™s important to note that with Republicans, anything that resembles Democracy is immediately to be messed with, or perhaps just suspect. So Paul’™s folks mess with it, and now the powers that be in the Nevada GOP, GUARANTEED, are going to make sure that Paul’™s people don’™t get to represent Nevada in Minneapolis.

I like this quote: says it all about Republicans and their attitude towards Democracy:

‘œMcCain won fair and square,’ Boulder City delegate Daniel Hancock said to thunderous boos and cat calls. ‘œSo, at this point we are electing delegates not to fight out the nomination in Minneapolis, but probably rewarding people loyal to the party.

‘œWe need to strike a compromise between perfect democracy and getting things done.’

Yes, he said that Democracy can be compromised. And it seems like it will be in Nevada. But you have to admire those Ron Paul kooks for trying, don’™t you?

Monday, April 28th, 2008 by Richard Blair |

Elizabeth Edwards Discusses “Presidential Idol”

As this season’s installment of Presidential Idol continues, Elizabeth Edwards checks in with a New York Times op-ed that laments the superficial media coverage of the real issues that confront Americans. While Mrs. Edwards hits the nail squarely on the head, and will be applauded on both the left and right, her frustration comes out about 8 months too late…

Commentary By: Richard Blair

If there’s one great lamentation that I have about John Edwards no longer being in the Democratic Party primary sweepstakes, it’s that we don’t get to see or hear much from his wife, Elizabeth. She’s a true national treasure, and would have been a wonderful First Lady.

This morning the NYT published an op-ed from Mrs. Edwards which blasts the legacy media coverage of the 2008 presidential campaign. And though her words will certainly ring true with progressives (and even many conservatives), unfortunately, she’s not covering any new ground.

For the most part, press reporting on campaigns in both the Democratic and Republican parties has been as shallow (and as annoying) as a bad bowling score. While I think that we’re all conditioned to expect the 30 second soundbite in candidate commercials, anyone who truly wants to make a more informed decision based on actual policy positions will simply not get the information they need from either print or broadcast legacy media outlets.

There are three key issues on which most Americans will be basing their decisions when electing the next president:

- Healthcare (Obama, Clinton, McCain)
- The U.S. economy (Obama, Clinton, McCain)
- The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (Obama, Clinton, McCain)

The above links provide more information on each of the candidate’s positions on these three top issues than anyone will receive in 18 months of campaign rhetoric and press coverage. And yes, Elizabeth, it’s indeed depressing. She writes:

News is different from other programming on television or other content in print. It is essential to an informed electorate. And an informed electorate is essential to freedom itself. But as long as corporations to which news gathering is not the primary source of income or expertise get to decide what information about the candidates “sells,” we are not functioning as well as we could if we had the engaged, skeptical press we deserve…

“Engaged”? The legacy media controllers have been infinitely more fixated on Presidential Idol. “Skeptical”? How can the legacy media be skeptical when they’re snarfing down BBQ and beer at John McCain’s place?

While we can certainly appreciate Mrs. Edwards’ concerns, and applaud her for raising the issue of superficial press coverage on the New York Times op-ed pages, it would have been a whole lot more strategic (and impactful) had she spoken out back when the heathers in the media were spending more time on the phony issue of her husband’s haircuts than his positions on healthcare. But of course, had she spoken out when John was still in the race, no doubt she would have been characterized as “shrew-ish” on those same op-ed pages.

Sunday, April 27th, 2008 by Richard Blair |
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