Posted Friday, Jan. 30, 2009, at 5:43 PM
Friday, January 30, 2009
Obama has issued a late Friday executive order requiring that when a government service contract expires--and there's a new contract to perform the same services at the same location-- the new contractor has to keep the old workers . Why ?
The Federal Government's procurement interests in economy and efficiency are served when the successor contractor hires the predecessor's employees. A carryover work force reduces disruption to the delivery of services during the period of transition between contractors and provides the Federal Government the benefits of an experienced and trained work force that is familiar with the Federal Government's personnel, facilities, and requirements.
But what if the contract got switched because the previous work force, you know, sucked? ... P.S.: For example, the Obama administration itself can be seen as having won a new contract to perform the same Federal services, at the same location, as the previous contractor, the Bush Administration. Did Obama keep all of Bush's employees in order to reduce "disruption" and enjoy "the benefits of an experienced and trained work force that is familiar with the Federal Governments ... facilities"? I don't think so! ... [ via Shopfloor ] 3:12 P.M.
Posted Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2009, at 10:21 PM
Thursday, January 29, 2009
The Fist Next Time: What if Obama's first foreign policy crisis is a new Tienanmen Moment in China ? Bob Wright and I discuss (after trying to figure out what it means, in Obama language, to "unclench your fist"). ... 11:23 P.M.
Geithner: I am not not not being eaten alive by Larry Summers! (Turns out Geithner's just been "exerting subtle bureaucratic influence"!) ... P.S.: For some reason I'm looking forward to the press coverage of mindlessly vicious bureaucratic infighting in the Obama administration. (That sort of ego-tussle can be productive--see Ickes vs. Hopkins .) Was there no domestic policy infighting under Bush, or did the press just not care enough about it to report? ... 10:50 P.M.
In Gambling, I Think They Call This A Lock: When Obama gives a rousing speech, it just shows what a brilliant wordsmith he is. When he gives a dull speech, it's "perhaps by design"--he's intentionally deflating excessive expectations!--and his " Spare Inaugural Rhetoric Signals Strategic Mastery ." ... Nice work if you can get it. ... 7:28 P.M.
Posted Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2009, at 7:59 PM
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
kf Energizes Its Automotive Vertical: Why did Honda design its new hybrid to look exactly like the Toyota Prius? I like the Prius' appearance, but a lot of people don't. This seems like a missed opportunity to create a new trademark design. Timid.** ... Meanwhile, Mercedes' styling isn't timid, it's vegetative. The new E-class looks exactly like you worried it would look, only drearier. Another reason not to be rich. ... Car & Driver 's Patti Maki offers a terse review of the Scion xB's stability in a crosswind: "Made my dog barf in his crate." ...
**--Various readers suggest that people buy hybrids in large part to advertise how environmentally conscious they are, so Honda had to make its car shout "hybrid." That's fine. But it still didn't have to ape the Prius. Come up with some freshly unconventional and distinctive shape that shouts "hybrid" and "Honda" at the same time. Why let the Prius define how hybrids have to look? ... 8:09 P.M.
The "Dear Colleague" letter on card check reveals labor-centric Dems' newest argument for ducking secret ballot elections in the workplace: they're "divisive"! ... So unpleasant, elections. People disagreeing with their union. Management saying nasty things. Why make all that trouble--all that ... what do they call it, "adversarialism"? That's not what today's unions are about! Why can't we just get along? Workers, organizers, employers. We can all ... I know, we can all apply for a bailout together! ... P.S.: What's that you say--aren't strikes "divisive"? That just shows you aren't paying attention. Under the Employee Free Choice Act, unions don't have to go on strike . If management doesn't come around, an initial agreement is simply imposed on them by an arbitrator. No fuss, no argument--and no strike. Everyone's on the same page! It's a new era. ... 6:00 P.M.
Dr. Elders, Call Your Office: I can't believe my colleague Will Saletan hasn't blogged on this yet. It's totally in his wheelhouse. Do the stats reflect just correlation or causation? The viability of a peculiar kind of theraputic, sexually permissive liberalism--most unfortunately symbolized by Bill Clinton's Surgeon General--hangs in the balance. (What if it's healthy to keep it all bottled up?) ... Plus, the cheap, hit-grabbing headlines write themselves! ... We do still want hits, don't we? 5:25 P.M.
Posted Monday, Jan. 26, 2009, at 8:23 PM
Monday, January 26, 2009
1) This smells too bad to be true--as if it were a hoax designed to drive me mad. But I got an email pointing to a Rhode Island blogger (Pat Crowley) who says that last week Harry Reid promised to pass both of kf 's must-stop bills :
I just left an amazing meeting with a number of members of the US Senate including Sherrod Brown, Debbie Stabenow, Bernie Sanders, Ron Wyden, Carl Levin and Majority Leader Harry Reid, ... Senator Reid promised to pass EFCA by the Summer, give Carl Levin more money for investigations of the Bush administration, and pass comprehensive immigration reform.
All he left out was confirming Chris Bangle as Minister of Culture. ... P.S.: Crowley has Reid on video proclaiming card check "fair" and dismissing worries about preserving the secret ballot as a "bunch of garbage." The audio is indistinct--maybe you'll be able to discern what, exactly, Reid promises to do by the summer. ... P.P.S.: And here you can figure out what exactly, he promises to do on this year on immigration. ...
2) Marc Ambinder continues to falll under the spell of a labor source who has him repeating bogus spin about the EFCA (the "card check" bill):
In effect, EFCA switches the choice to the workers; they can choose whether to hold a card check election or whether they want a regular secret ballot election.
As Jennifer Rubin notes , the EFCA doesn't provide for a worker "choice" of a secret ballot election. If the union gets 50% of its cards signed, the secret ballot election is eliminated . How does this let the workers choose to have a secret ballot? (The "cards" in question don't address the election issue at all--see sample here. ) Put it another way: The whole question is how we can determine what "the workers'" legitimate choice is--by a show of signed cards ("card check") or by secret ballot. It's circular for Ambinder to say, in effect, that it's OK to let 50% of the cards determine whether there's a union because, hey, 50% of the workers have signed cards and "chosen" that way to form a union! That only makes sense if you assume the "card check" process is fair and free of intimidation, which is the whole question at issue. If you think secret ballots are the more accurate way of determining individual "choice," for all the traditional reasons we have secret ballots, then there's not much of an argument for letting a non-secret ballot process "choose" to cancel having the secret-ballot process. ...
3) T.A. Frank's Washington Monthly account of the organizing drive at a Rite-Aid warehouse is being taken by many of my colleagues as explaining why "card check" is necessary. It's a good piece, but a) it doesn't argue for passing "card check." It argues for abandoning the "card check" and passing the rest of the EFCA, especially provisions to increase punishments when employers "undermin[e] the secret ballot process" by doing things like firing union sympathizers; b) Frank's discussion of the other big proposal in the EFCA--imposing a mandatory, arbitrated first contract settlement on employers--is cursory-to-nonexistent. What will it mean to the economy if wages and other contract terms stop being set by the push and pull of negotiation and come to be set instead by arbitrators operating in accordance with some sort of de facto non-market custom? c) Frank suggests fiddling with the election process in ways that would help unions: speeding up the votes, for example, or granting "union members equal access to the workplace during a campaign." But he doesn't acknowledge the ways in which the current Wagner Act unionization process--even the secret ballot process--already departs from common-sense democratic principles in ways that tilt the scale in unions' favor . (For example, an employer "cannot threaten to move or shut down if workers vote for the union . Nor can he promise higher wages" if the union is rejected. Why not? Why not let the workers decide, in each case, whether the employer is bluffing? Employers also aren't allowed to actually give raises in order to win worker support, or to find out what's bothering workers, lest that be interpreted as a promise to fix the problems). ... 6:07 P.M.
Posted Sunday, Jan. 25, 2009, at 2:38 AM
there would be
as part of the union's concessions to GM and Chrysler. Gettelfinger argued Toyota's workers actually make $2-per-hour more than UAW workers, if you count bonuses. But ... but. ...
. ... Toyota hasn't had to be rescued with $17.4 billion of taxpayer money. ... If Toyota can afford to pay its workers $2/hour more than UAW workers--perhaps because it doesn't have to build cars under the union's legalistic work rule system--that's great. It doesn't mean Gettelfinger's workers have a right to $28/hour if at that wage their employers can't stay in business without an ongoing multi-billion dollar subsidy. I'm sorry if this seems obvious. It's apparently not obvious enough. ...
So will promoters of greater unionization now boast that with unions, workers can earn $2/hour
The simplest solution would still seem to be to simply not give the Detroit companies more money. Let them keep the bailout funds they've gotten. Fine. A little gift. Beyond that, they have to work out amongst themselves--employers, union, creditors, bondholders, investors--how to survive. A car czar, or
, increasingly looks mainly like a way to provide cover for ongoing subsidies, no? ... [
Posted Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2009, at 8:01 PM
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Any club that won't have me... : I was surprised to learn that there were special VIP areas at several otherwise extremely enjoyable pre-inaugural parties. Talk about a violation of social equality: how can a party claim to want all Americans treated equally if, you know, the party doesn't treat them equally ? Why aren't these things stigmatized like skyboxes at ballparks? These events weren't even fundraisers, for the most part--it wasn't as if the VIPs had paid extra for exclusive first class seats. It was pure status rank--i.e., social inequality.
I see three possible policy initiatives that might restore American values to debauched celebrations:
1. Heap opprobrium on those who go to VIP areas in otherwise perfectly good parties. (It would be unfair to single anyone out. Like Jon Alter!) This might involve turning status striving on itself by suggesting VIP sections are where the losers go. Girls won't make passes at men who have passes, etc.
2. Create a second, tiny glass-walled V-VIP area within the regular VIP area--reserved for special VIPs who are above mingling with mere Alter-level VIPs. This would be a bit of performance art designed to emphasis the self-defeating, infinite-regress quality of mindless status differentiation.
3. Give an award--a sort of Social Egalitarian Oscar**--to celebrities who go to events but don't go to the designated "VIP" areas. ...
Pursuing option 3, kf honors ... Forest Whitaker and Natalie Portman!*** Also Jerry Yang, if he counts. ... I'm sure there are others. ... P.S.: I don't blame the organizers of these events. I assume it's some of the celebrities themselves who demand protection from annoyingly non-famous invitees. The system is to blame, I tell you. ... [ If they'd let you in, would you have written this?--ed What makes you think they didn't let me in? You really think they didn't let me in?] ....
**--Suggestions for names gratefully accepted. The Velvet Scissor? ...
***-- These distinguished celebs were spotted mingling harmlessly with mere attendees. Of course, it's always possible they snuck off to the VIP areas to talk to Alter when I wasn't looking! ...
Update: There apparently actually was a glass-walled V-VIP area for J.Lo. and Marc Anthony at ... Cafe Milano. It kept them from Jake Tapper. ... 5:34 P.M.
Good label! May it outlast the Israel-Hamas confilct. ...
For its use in context, see this
Marty Peretz post
Posted Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2009, at 7:18 PM
Quincy Jones campaigns for Minister of Culture by hitting on Soledad O'Brien on national television [ Emphasis added ]
JONES: My biggest dream is -- I know he's got his hands full with the economic fallout and with the Gaza, et cetera, and so (INAUDIBLE) long time.
And, on a parallel path, though, I'm going to -- as soon as it's feasible, to talk to him. We're getting a petition together for a secretary of the arts with a real Cabinet membership and all, because America is the only country -- whose music is probably most imitated in any country in the world -- the only country without a minister of culture or a secretary of the arts. And I think it's very important, could change this country...
O'BRIEN: I know you put that proposal forward before.
Quincy, Soledad O'Brien is here. She wants to talk to you as well.
JONES: Who is that?
O'BRIEN: I was going to ask you about the impact of Barack Obama, but actually...
BLITZER: Soledad O'Brien is here. And she's going to ask you a question.
O'BRIEN: Hey, Quincy. It's Soledad.
JONES: You're so cute, girl, Soledad.
O'BRIEN: I'm so cute?
O'BRIEN: Quincy, you know I love you right back.
JONES: You're so cute, good God. O'BRIEN: Who did you think should be secretary of the arts?
BLITZER: She's asking a serious question, Quincy, and you're trying to be not so serious.
O'BRIEN: I'm getting nowhere.
Who do you want to be the secretary of arts or the culture minister in the United States?
JONES: Who is that?
BLITZER: Who do you want to be secretary of arts?
JONES: Well, what we're doing before that is we're putting together a summit, so you will have the greatest minds on the planet, you know, that can be like an advisory board to that. ...
We want video. ... Wonkette , asleep at the switch! ... [ Thanks to alert viewer M. ] 4:50 P.M.
Posted Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2009, at 11:24 AM
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Speech : a) Fine. Much better than Bill Clinton's unmemorable inaugurals; b) Short. Or at least seemed short,** relative to what he could have gotten away with. Made three or four non-obvious points ("hard choices," "patchwork," foreign policy realism, service) and ended it. A Johnny Cash song; c) Creeping SOTUism : Clinton learned that while pundits want grand themes, voters like laundry lists of policy specifics. Now the lists even make an appearance on January 20th--e.g.,"raise health care's quality and lower its cost." Aren't Inaugural Addresses likely to be more powerful when they are pitched entirely at a higher level? d) As in, for example, what I thought was Obama's best paragraph, at least when I heard it:
For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.
Now that I'm actually reading it, as opposed to hearing it, the One-Worldiness of the last sentence seems more salient, and potentially controversial--not simply because of the implications for American "sovereignty," but also because it leaves undefined the terms on which this "common humanity" is revealed and expressed. The outgoing President Bush's wildly ambitious second inaugural ("ending tyranny in the world") made it clear whose terms they were --our terms, "liberty" and "self-government." Is Obama's ambition less "hegemonic," as the left would put it--or only less well-defined (which is not the same thing as 'nuanced')? That question was only partly answered by ... e) Best image (because it's trying to convey a potentially uninspiring concept, namely a fairly brutal foreign policy realism) :
To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.
f) "Programs will end." We'll see! g) You got the impression that the much-touted "service" portion of the speech was less prominent than anchors like Tom Brokaw would have wanted. That's a sign it was a serious speech, no? "Service" is the ultimate Neutral Story Line--a seemingly substantive idea you can push without seeming partisan (and losing potential customers/viewers/readers/advertisers). Who could be against service? (Not me.) ... Update: h) I suppose "remaking America" is a wee bit grandiose. But it's such a cliched grandiosity it's been drained of meaning. Standing alone, it hints at some deep flaw in the country that demands a makeover. But the context suggests Obama means only responding to the current "crisis" (a "new foundation for growth," etc.)--something like "rebuild" or "renew," not "refashion." The phrase is also followed by reassuring talk of a "return" to "values" that are "old." Yes, I'm making excuses! But they don't seem very upset by it over at The Corner (though Jonah Goldberg finds a few other annoyances ). ...
**--As Peter Robinson would predict , I was shocked to learn that Clinton's first Inaugural address was only 14 minutes long. Seemed like forever! ... 10:05 A.M.
Pre-Oath: Feinstein's little speech seems somehow inappropriate. Why does she get to try to set the tone and talk about "necessary" change? As if that's her role on this day, as opposed to the new President's--as if the audience needs that stage directions read to them. It doesn't help that her words are banal. ... 8:52 A.M.
Conservatives I've met in D.C. so far have been near-ebullient , not downcast or bitter. Why? a) They know how unhappy they'd be now if McCain had won; b) Obama has not fulfilled their worst fears, or even second-to-worst fears; c) now they can be an honest, straight-up opposition. .... 8:37 A.M.
Posted Sunday, Jan. 18, 2009, at 5:18 PM
Monday, January 19, 2009
Warning (from Politico 's Josh Gerstein) 'Be Alert. Be Very Alert': From a January 21, 2001 AP story, "Settling into White House, Bush welcomes the public"--
The president and Mrs. Bush stood at the door of the Grand Foyer to greet some of the 3,000 tourists lucky enough to snag a ticket for the afternoon tour. "I just want to remind everybody that this is not our house," Bush said.
"It is the people's house and one of the grand traditions in the White House is to share the people's house with people from all over the country."
The estimated 300 people greeted by the first couple during about an hour of handshaking had obtained their tickets in advance through the inauguration committee and were first in line. The president and first lady had gone by the time the people who got their tour tickets on a first-come, first-serve basis reached the door.
"I'm disappointed, but obviously he can't greet everybody," said Greg Packer of Huntington, N.Y., who camped out for 12 hours to be first in line when Park Service personnel started handing out tour tickets at 7:30 a.m. Sunday . [E.A.]
You know he's out there. ... It doesn't matter if there are 2 million people in Washington for the Inauguration. Greg Packer, the "entire media's designated 'man on the street' for all articles ever written," will not not be quoted. ... You cannot deny him. You can only hope to contain him. ... 2:08 P.M.
" Obama on the Auto Bailout: From the 1/15 Washington Post interview--
Reporter: Sir, you have a tough call coming up on the auto industry ..
Reporter: ... and I would like to ask you a little bit about how that's developing. In particular, some members of the party, as you know, feel that it is unfair to require as part of this TARP loan that UAW equalize its wages with the nonunion plants in the South. I would like to ask your view on that particular point. More broadly, how far you think we're going to have to go and how much money we're going to have to spend to rescue this industry or whether you have in your own mind some sense of an end point where it is sort of beyond salvation.
Obama: You know, I'm not yet enough of an expert on the auto industry to give you a detailed answer. We have-- Larry Summers has put together a working group to focus on autos in anticipation that they are going to be coming back with either a plan for sustainability or not. But either way we're going to have to make some decisions.
So I'm awaiting that report back from them. What I can say in terms of my general views--and this predates the current crisis-- is that we have to build a sustainable business model for these guys or they have to build it.
And I don't think an acceptable outcome is for us to just keep them on their lifeline through taxpayer dollars in perpetuity. So there is going to have to be a restructuring, and that restructuing is going to have to involve everybody from labor to management to creditors to shareholder, giving something up. ... [E.A.]
Obama goes on to say that the business model "has to anticipate" rising gas prices. ... Anti-UAW reading : He didn't agree with the 'no-equalization" position. He says everyone has to give something up. He says he doesn't want a subsidy "in perpetuity." How can they come up with a "sustainable" business model if they don't match Toyota on wage costs? ... Pro-UAW reading: He didn't disagree. More important, he didn't say he wouldn't support another round of subsidies, as long as they weren't open-ended. (A date certain for withdrawal! The auto bailout sounds more like Iraq every week.) ... kf reading: Another punt (similar to his card check punt ). Obama injects some pressure, but not the long-awaited fear of God, into the current Detroit-UAW negotiations. ... 1:57 A.M.
One of Henry Kissinger's problems at parties, I'm told, was that people used to come up to him and try to tell him personally how angry they were about his conduct of the Vietnam War. I would imagine that George Lucas, who's been seen at various inauguration parties,** has a similar problem. People are probably more scared of telling off Lucas, though. ...
**--Including at Maureen Dowd's remarkable party, where you had to elbow past Tom Brokaw to get to somebody famous. ... 1:22 A.M.
After four D.C. parties I'm in such a state of Washington/Hollywood disorientation that when I saw a handsome lantern-jawed man coming down the stairs, surrounded by fawning admirers, I couldn't figure out if it was Matthew Perry or Joe Scarborough. ... I'm still not completely sure. ... 1:10 A.M.
Posted Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2009, at 10:59 PM
Friday, January 16, 2009
Matt Yglesias defends his manhood! His site wasn't hijacked by Jennifer Palmieri! Rather, he assumed her proposed blog post
"represented her putting her foot d own, so I kind of didn't say anything more about it, and just stuck if up there ...."
Hmm. Does that make it any better? ...
The point is that until recently Yglesias had a nice perch at
, where nobody was going to put their foot down simply because he offended a Democratic interest group. But he opted for the joys of
"community," so now when a ranking politico like Palmieri puts her foot down, he rolls over. ...
Card Check Slow Track Watch: Labor strategists deny (to Mark Ambinder) that Obama's remarks to WaPo constitute a slow-tracking of "card check." And I know that some business groups still think there's no slow-tracking of "card check" (if it's not in fact already a done deal). So let's assume there's no slow-tracking of card check! ... But it sure sounds to me like the only bill Obama expects to pass soon would be a compromise (for example, retaining the secret ballot but speeding up various time limits or altering other provisions in ways that would still aid unionization drives). ... If you were Obama and you wanted to slow-track "card check," or force a "reform" compromise that feel short of eliminating the secret ballot, you would tell the Post what Obama told the Post, no? If you were a labor strategist and you were worried that Obama was slow-tracking card check, you wouldn't tell that to Ambinder. You'd tell him that there was "every reason to believe" that Obama would keep his "committment," in order to keep the heat on. ... Update: Anti-card checker Peter Kirsanow is still worried . "Unions understand that the planets won't align for them like this again. ... They won't back down." True. But that's also a reason to discount the bravado they show to Ambinder. They're not going to give up this early and say, "Gee, looks like 'card check's' not going to happen.' ... Not that they might not ultimately win. [ via Shopfloor ] ... See also Rubin . ...
P.S.: Obama's framework is admirably clear. (It's not mine !)
"[I]f the business community's argument against the Employee Free Choice Act is simply that it will make it easier for people to join unions and we think that is damaging to the economy then they probably won't get too far with me."
Of course, the issue isn't only whether it will get far with Obama, important as that is. It's also how far it gets with 41 senators. ...
P.P.S.: Obama says
Here's my basic principle: that wages and incomes have flatlined over the last decade. That part of that has to do with forces that are beyond everybody's control: globalization, technology and so forth. Part of it has to do with workers have very little leverage and that larger and larger shares of our productivity go to the top and not to the middle or the bottom. I think unions serve an important role in that.
The obvious initial question is whether, in a more fully unionized economy, the net productivity gains would be there to be "leveraged" down. Not a lot of gains being leveraged to UAW members these days. ... 2:59 P.M.
"You Call This a Downturn?" Well, it depends if that ugly red line keeps going in the direction it's going , no? ... P.S.: Keep in mind, the line measures how much employment has fallen versus all other recessions after x number of months. So the current recession started mild, but is now somewhere between "medium" and "harsh." Trending "harsh." ... 11:45 A.M.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
' We Had a Hat ': UAW workers rally against wage concessions to GM in Michigan. ... Old Rules: You demanded higher wages and held rallies against your employer. ... New Rules : You demand higher wages, help drive your employer into bankruptcy, and then you hold rallies against the government that bailed you out. ... P.S.: Shouldn't the mayor of Warren, Michigan be more worried about preventing GM from disappearing, taking all its jobs, than preventing a 10% or 20% pay cut? ... P.P.S.: I just took a 10% pay cut! Do you see me protesting? No! But I'm going to milk it for all its worth. ... P.P.P.S.: I see a parallel to the counterproductive Gran Marcha : A few more rallies like this and GM won't see another dime from Congress. ... [ via Brian Faughnan ] 10:19 P.M.
"I know as much or more than Cheney." Mr. Biden said. "I’m the most experienced vice president since anybody." Wow . a) Biden has no private sector experience after age 30, right? b) How insecure is this guy? Getting close to dangerously insecure, no? ... And here we we'd just succeeded in explaining away the "I have a much higher IQ than you do" aria of credentialist braggadocio. ... 9:45 P.M.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Inaugural Schmoozalism : kf discovers that the mood in Washington among veteran Beltway Dems is a lot more skeptical of Tim Geithner's innocence regarding his tax errors than public reaction by offical Dems (or some GOPs ) would lead you to expect. Maguire would feel right at home. ... 9:32 P.M.