Tuesday, February 21, 2006

National Politics: Barrow, Veterans, and Labor

Your Congressman and mine, John Barrow, will be hanging out in Athens this afternoon.  Barrow will be kicking it with vets at the local VFW post on Sunset Dr. at 5:30 pm.  Tomorrow, Barrow heads south, to talk to vets in Waynesboro, Sylvania, Louisville and other towns.  

Y’all might recall the folks here at AthPo giving Barrow a little love some months ago for a bill he introduced to raise the mileage rate for vets who have to go to VA hospitals for treatments.  He’s probably going to talk a little about concurrent benefits, which is the golden goose of veterans policy.  

Anyhoo, as much as we bitch about Barrow for getting cozy with the NRA, voting for the Patriot Act, etc., he’s been a stand up guy on veterans’ issues.  It’s the right thing for the country, especially when you’ve got an administration that consistently cuts funding for the VA and other veterans’ benefits.  It’s also a smart move politically, given the large number of vets who live in the 12th District.  

Speaking of Barrow, I caught a little of him on the radio this morning.  He said some good things about the minimum wage, but he was a little vague on the whole having folks from the United Arab Emirates in charge of US port operations thing (he’s agin it).

Maybe the most interesting thing that Barrow said that I heard this morning, was in reference to the UAE port operations thing.  Tim Bryant mentioned that some folks are saying that Democrats are opposing this because the unions are pissed off about losing their high-paying port jobs.  

Said Barrow, “I don’t care what the unions think.”  

Hooboy.  Harsh words from JB, considering his hardcore kowtowing to the unions in 2004.  And we sort of speculate that, in retrospect, he’d kind of like to have that sound bite back.  It seemed that Barrow was a little flustered by Bryant, and not completely briefed on the whole port issue.  He might have engaged his mouth before his political instincts got into gear.  

Still, John Barrow could walk out and spit on Jimmy Hoffa’s grave (wherever that might be) without the unions getting mad at him.  The union leadership, politically impotent and toothless, just wants friends.  Of course, while the union leadership, especially in Georgia, is pretty bloated and corrupt, there are a lot of rank and file union members who actually care about labor, not about their own political agendas.  They might be a little irritated.  

Coming at some nebulous later date, we’ll talk about the sorry state of labor unions in the South, in Georgia, and across the country, why the labor movement is a good thing, spoiled by some bad folks at the top, and why labor has no juice anymore.  Feel free to get started on that below, if you’d like.


Adrian said...

When Barrow was county commissioner I got the feeling that he didn't care what anybody thinks.

Jmac said...

Well, I'm not really sure what labor unions have to do with ceding over control of the security of our ports to, potentially, foreign countries and/or companies which may or may not be harboring, assisting or what-have-you terrorists. If Barrow opposes it ... good, he should. Port security should be done by the respective country (and it should be done by a state agency and/or military, but that's another matter) and not contracted out.

Dawg Corleone said...

Couple points, JMac: as was pointed out this morning on the radio, the UAE won't be providing security. The Arab company will be handling operations (taking over, by the way, for a British company).

Security will be provided the same way it is now: by the Navy, the Coast Guard, the police, etc.

The only argument--and it might be a good one, I don't know--against this is that the UAE are Arabs.

But these are the same folks who handle operations at ports in China. And say what you will about the Chinese, but they are sticklers for security.

Publius said...

Dawg's right. I think the security concerns involved are that the port authorities won't have any say in who is hired by the UAE subcontractor. Thus, the alarmist viewpoint (which may be a credible view here) is not that we've got Osama and his boys guarding our ports, but that the door could, intentionally or unintentionally, be left open for terrorists to be unloading our ships, and have more or less unfettered access to the port facilities. Without hiring oversight, and more importantly, firing oversight, the folks in charge of the ports don't have any control over who walks in and punches the clock every day. That seems to be a reasonable point, but I'm still doing some reading to see how I feel.

To answer JMac's question, the cynical view is that labor unions oppose this thing because right now, a lot of those port operations jobs are held by union members, a condition which is likely to change if control over those jobs is outsourced. I would note however, that such would be the case if port operations were handled by any privately-held company, whether they picked up their mail in Abu Dhabi or Wichita.

I feel kind of weird about this whole thing. I don't like saying that because management shifted from the UK to the UAE, it's suddenly a big problem. It's the kind of cultural generalizing that makes me queasy. However, there's something stinky about this to me, and hopefully, after I do some more studying up - as well as hearing what the intimidatingly well-informed readers of AthPo have to say - I'll be able to figure out what it is.

hillary said...

Ummers... Wouldn't unions have to be a lot more prevalent in Georgia in order to be called bloated?

Ned said...

This is getting a little bit more time on the news up here but I think a lot of it is sensational tactics by news organizations trying to scare up some more listeners.

Unions are going to be against this because they are against anything that reduces their power and they resist change.

Personally I think new ownership isn't going to make a difference at all. If Americans aren't going to own it then what is the difference between the UK and UAE owning it if we are still going to be responsible for security?

DoubleDawgDareYa said...

There was an article in the Washington Post that seemed to indicate that regardless of the change in ownership, there was going to be little or no change in the union jobs for the port workers. I guess there's no guarantee of this, but the whole thing may be much ado about nothing. From a security perspective, I understand the negative gut reaction of many, but ultimately the safety of these ports is as much in the UAE company's economic interest as it was in the UK company's.

Publius said...

" Ummers... Wouldn't unions have to be a lot more prevalent in Georgia in order to be called bloated?"

Unions aren't bloated, union leadership is. Seriously, go to Atlanta and try to get an endorsement, and you're going to answer questions from an executive committee of 50 or 60 people, minimum.

Too many chiefs, not enough Indians in the labor movement here. That's a shame, because the concept of a labor movement is good. Historically, the labor movement has done good. But in 21st-century Georgia, labor is useless. Of course the bloated labor leaders in Georgia aren't suffering as much as the guys getting screwed by management.

hillary said...

Okay. You're right. I should have read that more carefully. But... the whole labor movement in Georgia? What about the teachers' union?

Publius said...

Ooh...good point. I was thinking more of the old-guard labor unions; steelworkers,(did you know we had steelworkers locals nearby? I didn't), UAW, machinists, boilermakers, transit workers, etc.

The teachers union is a horse of a different color. I think the teachers union does a pretty good job all around, but, I wouldn't be me if I didn't have some criticism to pass out for them too.

Like I said, by and large, the teachers union does good work. However, they are losing the PR war big-time, and I really wish that they'd wise up on that. Take the offensive against the GOP (who loves to paint them as the cause of everything wrong in our public schools), and stop playing defense.

Heck, just yesterday I heard Neil Boortz say (I'm paraphrasing) that, in the long run, the teachers unions are going to do more to destroy America than Al Qa'ida. Seriously. They've got a communications problem.

hillary said...

Why yes. They should be spending their money combatting lunatics.

Publius said...

If those lunatics have radio shows to get their message out, then they absolutely should.

You can hate on Boortz all you want (and I do), but he's got a legion of followers out there who listen to his ravings, and parrot them to others. It's viral messaging.

So yeah, I think the teacher's unions ought to be on the offensive against not just Boortz, but the pols who are actually, you know, elected to office, who beat up on the teachers unions as the cause of why nothing gets done on education.

Rhetorically, if Boortz was on the air saying to millions of people across the country, "Hillary is a greater threat to the security of this nation than Osama bin Laden," wouldn't you want to get your side of the story out, whether you think Boortz is a lunatic or not? I would, but I guess that's why they haven't asked us to run the teachers union.

hillary said...

Yes. But occasionally it still gets my back up: not over the fact that someone like Boortz can say whatever he wants, but over the fact that idiocy requires one to spend money and time responding to it.

Publius said...

Yeah, it sucks. You know though, just for once, I'd like to see a group I support, like the Democratic Party or the teachers union, or any labor union to really come out swinging against a Neal Boortz or a Rush Limbaugh or a Sean Hannity, just to see what would happen.

I think a lot of times there's this mindset among progressives that we should dismiss the Hannitys and Bill O'Reillys of the political landscape because they're somehow "beneath us." As a result, the Democrats we put on those shows are usually not the starting team, and it makes us look worse than we have to.

I don't pretend to be qualified to yammer on about a national strategy for communications, but we bring less than our A-game to O'Reilly and Hannity and Boortz (if he'd ever let someone else talk on his show) at our own peril. Middle America is listening to O'Reilly, and sadly enough they think he's on their side.

Dawg Corleone said...

Better we should listen to Dan Rather read us bogus memos? Better we should watch NBC blow up trucks, or scan the NY Times for the meanderings of Jason Blair? Perhaps the Washington Post, and the writings of Janet Cooke...

Or we could flip over to CNN, which--after the fact--told us it sat on the stories of Saddam's atrocities so it could get open its offices in Baghdad.

Maybe we should watch ABC, which circulated an internal memo telling its reporters to hold W to a stricter standard than Kerry.

Obviously, there's a difference between those news outlets and opinion radio of the sort you guys are griping about.

The difference is, the opinion guys tell you up front that they are opinion guys.

Publius said...

Irrelevant. The failings of the news "industry" is probably a good topic for a later post, but right now I've got to go finish watching tv...I hear there's a shocking new development in the Natalee Holloway case.

By the way, I absolutely love it when conservatives take any chance they can to turn anything into a referendum on the so-called "liberal media."

Dawg Corleone said...


Who objected to liberalism in the media?

I was talking about fraud and inaccuracy in the media.

Publius said...

Valid point. So we're agreed that there's no liberal media bias?

Dawg Corleone said...

I thought you were saying there is.

Of course there is. Good lord, why don't liberals just admit it: they monopolized the mainstream media for years. Now the mainstream is spilling over its banks; there's no monopoly, only a universe of Tom Paines and virtual pamphlet machines.

A mere 15 years ago, Dan Rather would've gotten clean away with his Kinko'd memos.

Now, the gig is up.

I would think all would agree, that's a good thing. Unless you have a problem with accuracy.

Publius said...

There we go...nice work. That's more or less what I was waiting on; I was just a skosh premature.

gap said...

"the mainstream media" is no longer a valid term. If I'm not mistaken, FOX News is the most watched media outlet right now. This makes them in effect the "mainstream media". If you're refering to the standard networks, NY Times, etc., it may be more appropriate to call them the establishment media.

Sadly, alot of people watch O'Reily or Hannity & Colmes and don't realize they are watching an opinion show. These people get the majority of their news content from these opinion shows and regurgitate the talking points.

Patrick Armstrong said...

As far as Barrow is concerned, he may get hurt by the soundbyte a little, but he isn't going to get hurt by the rank and file Americans who look at the deal with Peninsular and Oriental and say "we don't care [what the unions say] either."

You know why so many Americans, left and right, are concerned about an Arab country's state owned business running commerce and container shipping into U.S. ports?

You'd be absolutely bonkers not to. We all work in businesses where management can get away with anything. How hard would it be for one crazy guy to get into the company and get somewhere he can do real damage?

Yeah, the ownership thing is mostly symbolic, but port security is really important. Really important. 5,000+ Americans killed-so-far important. My boys in Iraq getting shot at important. And in the post-9/11 world, our port security has to be above reproach.

If the rank and file on the other half of the world can't deal with our cartoons, they can't deal with our shipping. It is as easy as that. Unions and jobs aren't even a part of this equation: American lives and blood are.

And I know cats from Abu Dahbi, UAE. They are good guys who would never do anything to hurt us.

It ain't them we worry about. All it takes is that one mid level manager to harbor secret plans and have a clean record or a phat bank account.

I don't understand why in the world ol' Dubya & Co. pick now, while riots are still raging in parts of the world over cartoons (no matter how tasteless and provocative those cartoons were), to announce that an Arab nation's state owned shippinng company will now be operating incoming and outgoing ships, containers and sea traffic in our biggest and most strategic ports.

I can't understand how right punditry plans to defend this since they were the ones, when the cartoon riots started, running around saying "Look, dirty hippie, that's how Arabs and Muslims really act!"

I can't understand how right punditry, who for years through the mouthpieces of Scarborough, O'Reilly, Limbaugh, Boortz, Hanninty, Coulter and Malkin, will talk about how 'common sense' should win out over 'political correctness' when searching airline passengers, and yet they're giving this decision a pass.

I mean, we need some company to run all our ports anyway? There aren't any American companies who can do that? Hellfire, were all the Canadian shipping firms too busy?

Publius said...

From the American Progress Action Fund's weekly (?) "Progress Report" mass email.

"HOMELAND SECURITY -- ARAB EMIRATES WOULD CONTROL MOVEMENT OF MILITARY EQUIPMENT ON BEHALF OF U.S. ARMY: There is bipartisan concern about the Bush administration's decision to outsource the operation of six of the nation's largest ports to a company controlled by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) because of that nation�s troubling ties to international terrorism. The sale of P&O to Dubai World Ports would give the state-owned company control over "the ports of New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia." The UAE was one of three countries to recognize the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan, was "a key transfer point for illegal shipments of nuclear components to Iran, North Korea and Libya," and money was transferred to the 9/11 hijackers through its banking system. A major part of the story, however, has been mostly overlooked. The company, Dubai Ports World, would also control the movement of military equipment on behalf of the U.S. Army through two other ports. According to the British paper Lloyd's List, "[P&O] has just renewed a contract with the United States Surface Deployment and Distribution Command to provide stevedoring [loading and unloading] of military equipment at the Texan ports of Beaumont and Corpus Christi through 2010." According to the journal Army Logistician, �Almost 40 percent of the Army cargo deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom flows through these two ports."

So think of it how you will. Just more food for thought.

Jmac said...

Sweet Lord, it has taken a while, but we finally reached the infamous liberal media argument. Listen, the media has lots of problems, but they're due to inaccuracies and poor reporting, not because of any false bias one way or another.

(s a quick aside, I have to point out that Fox News circulated several of its own internal memos designed to bolster President Bush and criticize Kerry and the Democrats, so there is plenty of blame to go around ... though Fox is nothing less than a mouthpiece for the right, and the sooner everyone realizes that, the better. I'm not saying that's good or bad, but if you want news told from a conservative perspective, then go to Fox.

Back to liberal media biases - the only bias exists in the viewer of said programming. Individual viewers are going to draw conclusions from what they watch and base their views from that. For instance, if all of us read the headline 'Fourteen killed as U.S. pushes toward Baghdad' you'd get a variety of responses:

- Some would say 'man, that's so unjust that 14 people died over this ... friggin' Bush';

- Some would say 'those 14 people gave their lives for a worthy cause';

- Some would say 'good, we're making progress toward Baghdad';

- Some would say 'we're at war?'

People make their own conclusions on how they interpret what they see. Aside from definitive proof - not poor reporting skills or simply bad news for your particular political party - that can suggest there is a larger plot to promote one set of views over another (as I believe there is with Fox, but that's a whole other debate), then any bias one perceives stems from their own personal beliefs.

Patrick Armstrong said...

What I've always found interesting is that if you sit a conservative down in front of the television set, he thinks the media is liberal. If you sit a liberal down in front of the same tv show, they'll say it is conservative.

I'd say the only bias in the media is the bias against doing work. That's not all media, but enough highly publicized bad apples have spoiled the bunch, and they whole barrell is difficult to trust these days. We have the lazy media, we have the knee-jerk media, we have a sensational media. (Laci Peterson, Natalee Holloway, Runaway Bride) We have the 'get the story first' tattle-tale style media. (Dan Rather & Memogate) We have the ask-the-same-question-140-times-to-get-one-slip media. (Dick Cheney hunting accident) We have the hold-the-bad-stories-for-more-access media. (CNN in Baghdad, New York Times & wiretapping) We've reduced big issues like Medicare and the War in Iraq to seven word sound bytes. That's why we get alarmist headlines blown out of proportion and later corrections done very, very quietly. (Why your spouse may kill you, film at 11)

A chunk of our media is a short step higher than tabloids. Both Fox and CNN just cut and paste from the Associated Press on important stories, while they send their anchors off chasing the latest celebrity trial. (Rebuild New Orleans coverage vs Michael Jackson)

The object of all media outlets is to increase readership/viewership and get more advertising dollars. While I'm not against them making some money, you'd think with a 24 hour newscycle, we'd get some real insight other than talking heads hollerin' at one another, and perhaps some real experts as opposed to stuttering sitting ducks (Hannity, O'Reilly). This is media as entertainment - not media as 'the public has the right to know.'

You know who this helps? The people who like us to remain uninformed. And we're too busy talking about "liberal media/Fox news" to demand better, 'cause readership and viewership is at an all time high.

Fishplate said...

"[I]t still gets my back up: not over the fact that someone like Boortz can say whatever he wants, but over the fact that idiocy requires one to spend money and time responding to it.

The media has plenty of idiots on both sides of the fence, which is why independent research is the only way to get your facts. I would argue that if your motives and subsequent actions are crystal-clear, then you need not spend a dime explaining yourself.

The problem is not Boortz and Franken or Limbaugh and Garafolo, the problem is with people who think one or the other is the only source of news. These guys are born of the same culture that makes celebrity couplings the most important news of the day, that makes a Runaway Bride front page news.

The problem is with opinion and entertainment masquerading as news, and folks too thick to see the difference.