Sunday, March 1, 2015

Last Call For Wrong To Work

Kentucky's not exactly a union state, far from it.  But it's not a "right to work" state either, what Republicans gleefully should call "right to destroy what few unions are left here"  There's still not enough support for a statewide right to fire people law here, but several counties are trying to make it a local issue, including the counties that border Cincinnati on the Ohio, where I live.

The state legislature has debated the issue for years and remains sharply divided along party lines. Now, an increasing number of Kentucky counties are acting on their own: Half a dozen have enacted local right-to-work laws, and at least a dozen more are considering them.

Kenton County held a first reading of its ordinance last week and is expected to enact it March 10. Boone County's will come up for a vote on March 17. Campbell County Judge-executive Steve Pendery said the issue could come up "relatively soon" there.

The ordinances would not affect existing labor contracts, nor public employees' unions.

All three counties are controlled by Republicans, who generally view the right-to-work issue as an economic development one. Many Democrats, however, view it as a union-busting move, and local labor unions have vowed to oppose the ordinances.

"We've heard for some time through Tri-ED that not being a right-to-work state costs us opportunities," said Boone County Judge-executive Gary Moore. "Now that there appears to be the ability for passing right-to-work on county basis, we want to take a serious look at it."

Knochelmann said he isn't sure how many Kenton Countians are unionized, but "I don't know that it really matters – if it's one or if it's 50,000, we are not getting the opportunities for businesses to locate in Northern Kentucky in particular – or the state as whole – because we're not right-to-work."

Think about that.  The argument is that union busting, making sure that workers get paid as little as possible, low enough that they have to rely on federal aid, is good for Northern Kentucky.  This is the chief argument: a job that pays a lousy wage is better than no job at all.  Specific employers won't bring jobs here unless they have the right to bankrupt unions.  Are those employers you would want to work for?

But is it?  More importantly, do Kentucky counties have the right to enact these union-busting laws on a county-by-county basis?

We're going to see, and expect these laws to be tied up for years in the courts.

Be Careful What You Wish For

Republicans, particularly governors and senators of red states who refused to create state insurance exchanges in protest of Obama's "tyranny", are realizing far too late just who is getting screwed here should King v Burwell turn into the end of subsidies for federal exchanges.

The loss of subsidies for millions of people would also put the Obama administration on the offense for the first time to protect its signature healthcare law.

A White House crusade against the GOP would mean a firestorm of accusations that the party is taking away care and endangering lives – building up for the 2016 election.

To avoid that situation, some Republicans are floating a stopgap that would keep the subsidies in place temporarily.

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) promised this week that he would introduce legislation extending the ObamaCare subsidies for 18 months after a court decision.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) hinted at a similar proposal earlier in the week, promising "a short-term solution” until a Republican can enter the White House.

The willingness to embrace the subsidies from two staunch ObamaCare foes is a major shift in tactics, signaling a growing sense of urgency within the party on the biggest court case of the year.

“I’m really, really shocked. We were all like, ‘whoa,’” one GOP Senate aide said of Hatch’s remarks about a short-term fix. “That is easily one of the most constructive things a Republican has said regarding King, ever.”

The problem, as always, the tea party hardliners in the GOP House who want to see their own constituent burn.

There’s no reason for us to stretch out the funding for an unconstitutional extension. There’s no reason to do that. It just puts more pressure on us to adopt more ObamaCare,” Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) told The Hill this week.

State lawmakers across the country, though, are seeking their own fallback plans. Nine states are in talks to keep subsidies by creating their own exchanges, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, which would make the state’s ObamaCare customers eligible for subsidies under the current law.

Democrats argue that Congress should simply tweak any language in ObamaCare that the justices rule unconstitutional. And the White House maintains that it has no plans to prevent the massive disruption that would be caused by the ruling.

With just four months until the Supreme Court’s ruling, some Republicans are warning that time is running out for the party’s long-sought alternative.

There is no Republican alternative to Obamacare.  There never will be.  8 million red state voters are going to lose their subsidies, lose their health insurance, and lose their peace of mind.  And they will only have the Republicans to blame.

Sunday Long Read: Adventures In Journalimisim

This week's Sunday Long Read is Ken Silverstein's amazing expose' of Glenn Greenwald and the clowns at The Intercept, who got high on their own egos and hired a bunch of crack journalists...and nobody who actually knew how to run a investigative news website.

Back when I was hired, First Look and The Intercept were just getting started. It seemed like it was going to be a fantastic opportunity for journalists. I was told that I could basically create my own job and write investigative stories about anything I wanted. I knew at the time little about Pierre Omidyar, the billionaire who founded and funded First Look, but he wasn’t a big part of my decision-making.

I assumed Omidyar must be a decent guy if he was going to pour $250 million into a new journalism venture, as he promised. Given that the organization had been founded in the wake of the NSA surveillance scandal that Snowden had launched, it was clear from the start that First Look Media would be a muckracking, confrontational publication with a libertarian streak—distrustful of government power and moneyed interests. To start it, Omidyar promised $50 million to get it off the ground. With resources like that, it had tremendous promise.

Plus, I figured, it couldn’t be worse than my last job.

How wrong I was—on both counts.

During the summer of 2013 I had been offered a job at Al Jazeera’s investigative unit, where I’d been promised full independence. I took the job because I was worried about the future of journalism—and especially my future in it. It hadn’t worked out as promised; I only lasted two months, quitting after I came to believe that the network’s political agenda in the Middle East compromised my ability to do journalism.

First Look couldn’t be any worse than that, right?

The selling point to those who were recruited to First Look was tremendous resources and tremendous freedom to pursue “fearless, independent journalism.” An editor I’d worked with before, Eric Bates, recruited me—asking me to write up a memo describing my dream job, an investigative position that combined long-form work with quick hit pieces oriented to the news. Then First Look hired me and told me to do exactly what I’d laid out.

That much happened—I was able to pursue all sorts of great stories. Where First Look faltered, though, was actually publishing my work and the work of the other journalists it hired.

Over the next six months, First Look became a slowly unfolding disaster, not because of editorial meddling from the top, but because of what I came to believe was epic managerial incompetence. What I observed was that the Omidyar-led management could not complete the simplest tasks—approving budgets or hires—without months of internal debate and apparent anguish. The Intercept didn’t even begin publishing until last February. (We weren’t supposed to call it “Glenn Greenwald’s The Intercept” because a lot of other people worked there, including me for a bit, but everyone knew Glenn was the anchor of the project.) After a pause ordered by editor in chief John Cook to address its internal dysfunction, the site relaunched in July with a good, complicated story about how the NSA and the FBI had been monitoring a few Muslim-Americans in the United States. Yet I saw how difficult the story was to birth for its chief editor, John Cook, and he didn’t end up lasting long—before quitting and returning to Gawker.

I was ready to start writing, too, but the day-to-day at First Look was anything but functional. I would find and begin researching stories that Eric approved, but there was no way to publish them—the organization’s editing structure was so lacking and insignificant, and on at least three occasions I saw stories that I had the inside track on get published in other outlets. (For example, this story about a New York hedge fund wrapped up with brutal African dictator Robert Mugabe. This was, as I recall, the first story approved by Eric—but we lost it many months later.) Not only did we produce virtually no work, but there was no real push to produce work from management. For all of the bean counting and expense account-approving that Omidyar’s organizational structure imposed on us, they were shockingly disinterested in the actual journalism.

But, as Silverstein goes on to point out, they were very, very interested in the cult of Pierre Omidyar and the massive egos of Glenn Greenwald and the fiercely anti-establishment, anti-government culture.  Everyone wanted to be the superstar that was going to somehow take down the "corrupt" US government.

Instead, these idiots took themselves down.  Read the whole thing.  At this point, Greenwald is a complete joke, more interested in petting Laura Poitras's documentary Oscar for their self-aggrandizing paean Citizen Four then real journalism.  And Silverstein is just the latest to come clean on the feast of ego where everyone leaves hungry.

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