Saturday, April 02, 2005

 

Dispatch edits, softens Perdue obit

Today, in the example of an obituary on chicken-made millionaire Frank Perdue, we have one more example of how the Dispatch's Business section is a cesspool of drivel, corporate press releases and sops to their advertisers (potential and real). We'll start with comparing how Dispatch and the Plain Dealer handled the same AP story by Foster King. First from the Dispatch:
To many people, Frank Perdue looked as if he was born to sell chickens. But it wasn’t until he put his face on TV commercials that his father’s backyard egg business rapidly grew into one of the world’s largest chicken companies.
Now from the PD:
With a beak- like nose, beady eyes and thin lips, Frank Perdue looked like he was born to sell chickens. It wasn't until he put his face on TV commercials, however, that his father's backyard egg business rapidly grew into one of the world's largest chicken companies. [emphasis added]
The difference is more than just a possibly funny intro being chopped off. Let us explain why editing the Dispatch business editors did is important and, we believe, done with more than a little thought.

Some people know the Perdue name and brand from buying chickens at the grocery. His PR agencies' have tried to cultivate a "down-home" soft and perhaps humorous image of the old man.

But down-home and humorous he wasn't. Far from it.

Perdue Farms got it start on Maryland's Eastern Shore, a territory that in its racial customs was more like Mississippi than Delaware. Perdue Farms created some of the first chicken mega-farms and factories in the US. Besides being stinking, horrible places for the chickens, Perdue's facilities were also stinking, horrible and unsafe workplaces for its overwhelming African American workforce. The Eastern Shore is primarily an agricultural area, and Perdue was one of the few "factories" that offered jobs - at barely subsistence wages. Workplace injuries were rampant and if you dared complained you were fired in an instant. Perdue also arranged for his employees to classified as "farm workers" which exempted them from a whole range of rights such as overtime pay.

Not surprisingly, the workforce was constantly interested in organizing a union, and in the late 1970s and 1980s we volunteered time in some of the organizing attempts. Eventually, we had to move on to other things, but we definitely recall that Frank Perdue was one mean m-f'er who would be all to happy to turn his goon squad on you. (He also tried, but reportedly failed, to hire some New York mob family to "take care" of his labor problems.)

During those organizing days, there were a group of us that would try to track Perdue's movements and would distribute information about the work conditions where he was making public appearances. It was about that time that we began to notice that as Perdue was aging, he actually began to look like the chickens he was selling! So, besides distributing literature, whenever Perdue was making a public appearance we have a big team that would start making clucking sounds so that he could hear us. At some point, we also made a costume of a chicken but with a face that looked like Perdue's. Eventually, reporters and the public began to catch on and soon everyone was making jokes and comments about Perdue looking like he had chicken DNA.

Some brave reporters even asked Perdue about the chicken references - and he would go ballistic, firing back curses and comments to the reporters that had to be bleeped. As we recall, he also nearly came to blows with reporters who would mention the resemblance. The point is that back then, he did not find any humor in the chicken references - at all!

When his company introduced their commercial's tag line, "It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken," it was initially said in seriousness and meant to capitalize on his hard-ass reputation. It was one of the first ad campaigns that had the CEO making the sales pitch in the ads.

Later, it appeared that some of his handlers eventually convinced him that it was better to at least appear to being going along with the joke because his meanness was confirming what his labor organizer detractors were saying about him. Thus, there were later rounds of Perdue commercials with the "It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken" tagline but done with irony, a smiling Frank Perdue and goofy music. In his later years, Perdue turned the reins of the business over to his son, Jim, who understood the power of humor and irony in advertising and took the I-look-like-a-chicken schtick to the extreme.

But, we know from friends in Maryland who kind of followed Perdue over the years that the old man never forgave the chicken appearance jokes.

Now, this is only one part of the Perdue being one evil son-of-a-bitch story. There's the mob connection (mentioned above), there's Perdue hiring Arlen Specter (yes, THE Arlen Specter) to get him off of involuntary murder charge stemming from an auto accident where Perdue was accused of speeding, there's 16 speeding tickets in 15 years, there's accusations of running slave-like camps, and so on. The Multinational Monitor named it one of the "Ten Worst Corporations of 1989."

Friday, April 01, 2005

 

A redistricting model for Ohio

If Florida can do it, so can we.

 

John Boehner: Guarding Social Security . . . from its supporters

From today's NY Times:
The nation's labor unions stepped up their campaign yesterday to stop President Bush's Social Security plan, staging demonstrations in New York, Washington, San Francisco and 70 other cities.

The protests are part of a huge effort that labor has mounted, packing congressmen's town meetings with union members, pressuring investment firms to stop backing Mr. Bush's proposal and collecting tens of thousands of signatures to denounce his call for personal Social Security investment accounts

[. . . ]

The president's supporters are firing back by accusing unions of using unfair, and possibly illegal, tactics. Representative John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio, who is chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, has urged the Labor Department to investigate whether labor's tactics violated the ban on secondary boycotts - boycotts against any party not directly involved in a labor dispute - and other laws.

"The debate over how to ensure the solvency of Social Security for future generations should be open and honest, but it shouldn't be influenced by special interests who may be breaking federal law," Mr. Boehner said in a letter he wrote along with Representative Sam Johnson, Republican of Texas, who heads the House Subcommittee on Employer-Employee Relations.

[ . . .]

Damon Silvers, the A.F.L.-C.I.O.'s associate general counsel, said the demonstrations did not violate the ban on secondary boycotts, since that involves job actions like strikes, while the Social Security protests concerned a public policy dispute.
Actually, we think Boehner is objecting to another effort where the unions are using the proxy voting power of their pension plans to initiate shareholder communications and initiatives targeted at companies supporting the phase-out of Social Security.

Regardless, Boehner - along with Deborah Pryce, Oxley, Portman and Gillmor - is finding himself more and more isolated. For example, of the two Republican congressman who agreed to be quoted yesterday, both sounded like they didn't want any part of the Bamboozlepalooza:
Representative John M. McHugh, a moderate Republican from upstate New York who has met with labor leaders, said, "They're right about their concerns about the cost of the plan and the fact that it doesn't fix the problem."

Representative Sherwood Boehlert, another Republican from upstate New York, said he had met three times with union leaders about Social Security. "I told them what I told the president: Count me as being skeptical about the plan," he said.
The most hypocritical comment, however, came from Tracey Schmitt, press secretary for the Republican National Committee:
"Today's theatrics once again reveal that many labor unions are more concerned with partisan politics than the interests of their own members. Recent activities to intimidate organizations that support the president's Social Security efforts amount to thuggery and do nothing to encourage public discourse." [emphasis added]
Uh, Tracey, is that in comparison to the thuggery and discouragement of public discourse in Colorado on March 21 when three non-Bush-loyalists were given the heave-ho at the Bamboozlepalooza event in Denver, or the 40 people who were banned from attending another Bush Social Security event in February in Fargo, North Dakota?

Thursday, March 31, 2005

 

Schwab lies


The Charles Schwab Corp., target of protests around the nation today, is trying to claim it is "neutral" in the debate over privatizing Social Security. From the company's latest press release:
At this time, the Charles Schwab Corporation is not an advocate of any specific political approach related to addressing Social Security. Claims by some organizations that Schwab is a 'supporter' of Social Security personal accounts are incorrect.
Really? We don't think so. It's been documented that:
The Schwab release also states:
The Company has contributed membership fees to a variety of organizations that have points of view on this issue. Those contributions have included groups that take both sides of the debate on the role of private accounts in a Social Security solution.
Really? Maybe so, but the Schwab representative we talked to refused to name any of the anti-privatization groups that they have supposedly given to.

Finally, the Schwab release tries to answer the direct question, does Charles Schwab, himself, support private accounts. Instead of a simple yes or no, here is the crap they offer:
Mr. Schwab has been a life-long and unequivocal advocate for the benefits of investing. He also has been vocal on the need for Americans to expand their retirement savings. He has said the he believes the long-term viability of Social Security should be a public priority. He recognizes these are his own thoughts and not the official views of the company.
We need a little Jon Stewart "wha? . . .wha? . . wha?" sound effect here. Again we have to ask, Really?
While Schwab seems desperate to lie low on this subject, we can't help but send our best wishes to the AFL-CIO and others that are trying to keep them in the spotlight.

Also, thanks to some of our labor friends for sending the photo from Columbus, above.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

 

Perz: "I get a little uncomfortable"

We get the sense that the Ohio Republican establishment has no idea who they climbed in bed with during the November election. As the recent New York Times article illustrates, the radical fringe of the GOP, the ones that even give conservatives a bad name, are making a serious move to consolidate their power in Ohio using such vehicles as the candidacy of the Kenny Blackwell for Governor. No doubt, too, that these folks would be the shock troops for issues like the LIE amendment.

The polarization within the Ohio GOP has been there for years. In the past, it was battles between moderate Republicans like Voinovich versus the cave-man caucus in the General Assembly. Voinovich, generally, held his ground. Taft, less the pragmatic manager, has fared much worse. And people like GOP chair Bob Bennett seemed to be willing to live with some extremist and fringe-element types be elected to the Statehouse as long as the Rs kept their majority.

Even as the cultural divisions with the GOP heightened, there were those who wanted to gloss over it turning periods when there seemed to be a greater common good - such as delivering Ohio for Bush in 2004.

But, now the Repubs are more polarized than ever with Betty Montgomery at one end and Blackwell at the other. Bennett, while apparently no fan of the strain of politics Blackwell represents, also sees the bigger picture and also knows that the theocons are undermining his efforts to keep the GOP from exploding. More importantly, Bennett must be looking at the budget mess in Colorado, the model state for the LIE Amendment, and seeing how easily Republican domination can be undone when these wacky proposals go awry.

Yet, word has it that Bennett has no idea how to keep the party from going down that track. And if Bennett lacks a map, his lieutenants are frighteningly naive and just now realizing that zealots are already flanking the GOP mainstream.

Take, for example, the comments from Sally Perz, a Statehouse veteran and Lucas Co. GOP chair in response to the theocons Ohio Restoration Project outlined in the NY Times piece. This is from a Blade columnist, Roberta deBoer:
"I know there's a lot going on locally in terms of Christian support for Blackwell. I just hadn't heard . . . that actual title [Ohio Restoration Project]," she said.

"In terms of them 'taking over' the Republican party, I'm not sure what they mean," she allowed. "I know our local Republican party is very open to all the different elements and beliefs."

"I have always said, you elect the whole person. You don't say, leave your religious beliefs and your values on the doorstep."

At the same time, "if it's happening from the pulpit, this kind of steering congregations one way or the other, mmm, I get a little uncomfortable."

When I note her fence-walking, Ms. Perz is blunt: "I'm just trying to be very honest, but make sure I'm not burying myself."
In terms of taking over the party, I'm not sure what they mean?!?!?!?! Bennett knows what they mean.

Now, the tough decision for GOP regulars is, do you fight 'em or do you do the Third Reich thing and join 'em?

 

Pat Dewine soft on Social Security

Cincinnati blog continues to do a good job of tracking the various candidates to replace Rob Portman in Congress and the controversies that swirl around them. Apparently, if Pat DeWine (is it Dewine or DeWine??) wants to run on family values, it will be with limp because of his affair with a lobbyist.

Interesting enough, but what caught our eye in an Enquirer profile of DeWine is he bamboozlelicious position on Social Security:
DeWine took a swipe at an issue that could be big for everyone: Social Security. Older folks' plans shouldn't change, DeWine said, but he supports President Bush's proposal to give younger workers options for investing part of their payments.
Now, his dad, U.S. Senator Mike DeWine is pretty well known as opposing the Bush administration proposal. We've documented some of it here, and Social Security maven Josh Marshall puts him in the opposition camp, too.

Dad has had to have explain to Pat that even the White House admits that the private investments do nothing to improve the risks and potential solvency problems of the current Social Security set up. So, it's puzzling that Pat is spewing garbage that any competent reporter or Democratic opponent could easily catch him on. We have to imagine that if he hopes to get the support of the GOP Congressional money handlers, the word is out that he better do a better job of tiptoeing around the issue than his father has.

With the polls showing the Republicans lose on this topic, there is an enormous opening for a Democrat to beat their opponents to death with the Social Security issue. Will there be any serious takers?

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

 

Schwab Social Security self interest to be targetted March 31 and April 1

The Ohio AFL-CIO and others are organizing protests at four Charles Schwab office in Ohio on March 31 and April 1 as part of a the unions' national day of action around Social Security:
Working families and groups concerned about retirement security will gather to demand that the Wall Street brokerage firm Charles Schwab withdraw its support for Bush's risky plan to privatize Social Security. Privatization would mean huge benefit cuts and enormous new government debt, and it would worsen the finances of Social Security.

The Charles Schwab Corp. is a major backer of the push to privatize Social Security accounts because it is well positioned to make huge profits managing private accounts. Schwab's support for privatization is a conflict of interest with the retirement security of its clients who have entrusted their savings with the firm.

Across the country, unite to tell Schwab: "Don't Pick Our Pockets to Line Yours!"

WHERE: Charles Schwab Office, 277 W. Nationwide Blvd., Columbus
WHEN: Thursday, March 31st, at Noon
INFO: Call Bret Benack at 614-886-1757

WHERE: Charles Schwab Office, 685 Lyon Road, Dayton
WHEN: Thursday, March 31st, at Noon
INFO: Call Leslie Smith at 937-259-9814

WHERE: Charles Schwab Office, 600 Vine St., Cincinnati
WHEN: Thursday, March 31st, at Noon
INFO: Call Alyson Steele at 513-421-1846

WHERE: Charles Schwab Office, 2211 Crocker Road, Suite 100, Westlake
WHEN: Friday, April 1, at Noon
INFO: Call John Gallo at 216-881-7200

Look, if you haven't got off your ass since last November, it's time to haul your depressed little carcus back on to the streets. People in Columbus have no excuse. Be there at noon!

 

Radical right newsmakers paths cross . . .

. . . in Ohio unfortunately. Russell Johnson, one of the leaders of the theocon's efforts to elect Kenny Blackwell, and Dave Daubenmire, in the middle of the Schiavo circus are apparantly colleagues. Daubenmire is known as the public school coach that couldn't tell the difference between preaching and punting. There must be fascinating meetings at that Fairfield church.

Monday, March 28, 2005

 

The Russell Johnson/Ohio Restoration Project watch

Yesterday, James Dao of the New York Times named Russell Johnson, the pastor of the Fairfield Christian Church, as the principle organizer of the Ohio Restoration Project that aims to organize the radicals of the far-right of Ohio's Christians in a political jihad to elect Kenny Blackwell.

We are starting to do some checking of Johnson. For example, the following comes from a report from BBC World Affairs Correspondent Humphrey Hawksley from Dec 19, 2004. It gives a taste of Johnson's ambitions as well as some of his syncophants (including Lancaster Sheriff Dave Phelan, Fairfield County Municipal Court Judge David Trimmer and apparently some school officials).

Hawkins was seeking to get Johnson to answer the question, "Given that so many in Europe and the developing world are appalled at the policies of President Bush, how far would his supporters actually let him go?":
"You want an answer to that, come to my breakfast meeting tomorrow morning," said Pastor Johnson.

[. . . ]

The next morning, Pastor Johnson's breakfast meeting was a cross-section of the pillars of Lancaster society.

On his left was recently re-elected Sheriff Dave Phalen - on his right, Judge David Trimmer.

Among the others were school principals, businessmen and doctors, gathering in a strip-mall hotel on a gloomy winter's morning, all with Bibles on the table in front of them.

I threw out the question.

"The president has been sovereignly decided by God to lead this country," said Matt Roberts, a head teacher.

"If we could see abortion come to an end," said Sheriff Phalen. "If the Supreme Court could end this tragedy, I would be elated."

"Would you still support Bush if he wasn't a Christian?" I asked.

"No," came the answer from Pastor Johnson.

"Abraham Lincoln took his faith to office and lived it out by freeing black slave boys and girls all over America. I believe that is what Bush is doing by setting the captives of terrorism free."

It turns out that Pastor Johnson's church has caused something of an upset in Lancaster.

In short, it is seen as too extreme, with Pastor Johnson pushing to get into government politicians who, he says, have a Biblical view of the world.
Max Blumenthal also has information he received from a broadcast email sent out apparently in mid March by Tony Perkins of the far right Family Research Council:
Today I joined Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell and former Ohio Congressman Bob McEwen as we spoke to about 70 key members of the clergy. We reflected back upon America's godly heritage and the key role that pastors played in this nation. The meeting, which was hosted by Pastor Rod Parsley at World Harvest Church, was organized by Pastor Russell Johnson of Lancaster.

Many of these pastors were instrumental in working with the president of Ohio's Citizens for Community Values, Phil Burress, in passing Ohio's marriage amendment over tremendous obstacles foes of marriage placed in their way. This was the first of a series of meetings designed to enlist hundreds of members of the clergy as "Patriot Pastors" to further organize the Church in Ohio for social engagement. What I see happening across the country with pastors is unprecedented - pastors and their flocks are not going back to life as usual after the election. Christians are committed to the battle not only for the heart and souls of people but for the heart and soul of this nation. [emphasis added]
These guys are girding for a serious values-oriented campaign, and the democrats better start getting prepared or they will face considerable pressure for a lesser-of-evils alternative that is liable to hand the election to Blackwell.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

 

Theocons organize for Blackwell

Our first reaction to this NYT scary, scary story was: Why are we reading this in the New York Goddam Times? Doesn't Ohio have its own press corps? Did they take the entire month of March off for spring break? Hello? Anyone there?

The sphincter tightening starts with the two first paragraphs:
Christian conservative leaders from scores of Ohio's fastest growing churches are mounting a campaign to win control of local government posts and Republican organizations, starting with the 2006 governor's race.

In a manifesto that is being circulated among church leaders and on the Internet, the group, which is called the Ohio Restoration Project, is planning to mobilize 2,000 evangelical, Baptist, Pentecostal and Roman Catholic leaders in a network of so-called Patriot Pastors to register half a million new voters, enlist activists, train candidates and endorse conservative causes in the next year.
We'll probably have more to say about this, but Jesse and Americablog should be checked out first.

Kudos to Jesse for this laugh-til-we-peed observation:
In the sort of addition-by-melanin that conservatives practice so well, Blackwell is a shining example of what happens when an unremarkable conservative, THROUGH THE SCIENTIFIC POWER OF BIRTH, becomes possessed of the strange and remarkable power of minoritism. Think of it like being invisible, except only in politics, and with better handshakes.

Blackwell can't win in '06, largely because his platform is that Republicans, who control every hall, room and broom closet of power at the state level, haven't been Republican enough. If the Republican platform is honestly so great, and the voters have, inarguably, given Republicans statewide leeway to pursue their platform...why is Ohio so screwed up? Do we need another injection of vitamin R to mix with the past decade of overdosing?

 

TABOR bites back - Colorado Repubs lose grip when amendment backfires

As part of our ongoing coverage of the Kenny Blackwell's Last In Everything Amendment, we bring you a link to a new story to the Washington Post. The facts are necessarily new, but the it contains a nifty synopsis of how the TABOR amendment ended years of Republican domination in Colorado:
During the boom years of the 1990s, with population and personal income soaring, the limits worked well. But the economic downturn and the reduction in federal support during the first Bush term proved disastrous for Colorado's finances. The state put off building roads and maintaining infrastructure. It reduced services and raised fees. Spending on higher education fell so sharply that the president of the University of Colorado declared the flagship state school a "private enterprise."

Voters grew increasingly angry and demanded changes from [Republican Governor Bill] Owens and the Republican-controlled legislature. But GOP leaders refused to act. "So long as I am governor, we will not raise taxes," Owens pledged in 2003.

Last fall, the Democratic Party launched a statewide campaign against the TABOR limits -- and scored a huge victory at the polls. While Bush was easily carrying the state, Democrats took control of the state House and Senate.

"We have a clear mandate," said Rep. Andrew Romanoff, Democratic leader of the state House. "The voters sent us here to do something about the TABOR roadblock."

Owens conceded the point. On St. Patrick's Day, he agreed to a plan designed largely by Democrats that will suspend the spending limit for five years, allowing the state to spend $3.1 billion that otherwise would have been refunded to taxpayers.

Because this is considered a tax increase under the TABOR rules, voters must approve the change in November, or it will not take effect. Owens says he will campaign with Democrats to win voter approval of the anti-limits plan. "This will put Colorado back on track," the governor said.

The striking turnabout by a onetime tax cutter has generated rage in some GOP circles. Republican legislators have rapped their governor as a "turncoat" and a "big spender." Owens has fired back. After Rep. Joe Stengel (R) announced his opposition to the proposal, Owens said: "When the next volume of 'Profiles in Courage' is written, there won't be a chapter on Joe Stengel."

While Republicans exchange insults, Colorado's Democratic leaders are exultant.

"Less than three months after they took over the legislature, the Democrats produced a solution and got a Republican governor to go along," said Democratic consultant Terry Snyder of Denver. "That's exactly what the voters put them in office to do."

 

Deters for Congress?

Hypothetically speaking, of course, imagine this conversation:
"You'd be great!"

"Naw, I just moved into Hamilton County."

"It would get you out of Ohio for awhile."

"But my kids are in school."

"You'd be great."

"But . . ."

"I said, you'd be great."
Instead of the latest step backwards, there are those who strongly think it would be very smart step forwards for Joe to go to Congress for awhile. Might put the ambition to be governor back on track.

 

Riskind: Lazy, lazy, lazy

We just don't get the Dispatch. Doesn't the paper want to have a good Washington bureau, or it content just to let the AP do the heavy lifting in DC? Does the bureau just act as a place to do a favor to super lobbyist Vic Goodman & family?

Case in point, again, is Washington bureau chief Jonathan Riskind's lastest column (Riskind is Goodman's son-in-law). In this column, he apparently wants to be seen trying to bring some of his heavy DC savvy to bear on the Social Security issue. But, what readers get is some warmed over stuff about how RNC chair Ken Mehlman is blowing smoke about how the public is warming to the Bush administration's non-proposal proposals on privatizing Social Security.

Riskind notes that two recent polls don't really show the support the Mehlman claims is there. This is all well and good, but not really very insightful. But it's all pretty pedestrian and readers could have picked up this same information from about 400 other sources - last week.

What should we expect from a bureau chief - either 1) the ability to bring some of his connections to bear on the issue to give some truly new information to readers, or b) the ability to bring an angle that might not be so obvious to the readers. Riskind has never shown he has a), so it would have to b) latter.

What are we talking about and what quality of insight should Dispatch readers expect? Definitely not just that the polls don't support Bush. The polls have never shown overall support for his plans. So that's not really news - unless Riskind has the balls to flat out call Mehlman a liar.

So, Jonathan, how about giving readers some valuable context?

Here's one context: the polls not only are bad for Bush, but they are dropping. They show that the more people know about the Bush plan, the more they are opposed. That's not a matter of the Republican wording versus the Democrat's wording. That's simply people seeing that they increasingly don't want what Bush is selling.

Here's another context: the polls show that support for the Bush proposals is in a free-fall among young adults. From the Washington Post, Jonathan!
Support for President Bush's plan to create personal Social Security retirement accounts which might include stocks or mutual funds has dropped over the last month among Americans under age 30, according to a poll released Thursday.

Young adults have been the strongest supporters of the proposal for months. Support among those 18-29 dipped from seven in 10 to just under half, according to the poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. A quarter of young adults now say they're not sure how they feel about such personal accounts.

The poll found that just over four in 10, 44 percent, of all those polled, support creation of the accounts, down from 54 percent in December, while 40 percent are opposed.
So, if you want to know why Bush is in deep trouble on this issue, it's not because Ken Mehlman is a pollyanna. And if you want to know why the Judd Greggs of the Senate are bailing out on private accounts its because of the plummeting support! The Republican phony "town meetings" have been a disaster and ultimately were the final nail in the coffin of the Dispatch's sweetheart, Deborah Pryce.

But don't ask Riskind that, because he apparently doesn't know. What are they paying this guy for?

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