Joe Kenehan Center

Wednesday, September 11, 2002
JKC on Hold

The Joe Kenehan Center staff is away. Posting will resume around September 18.

What’s Missing From The Debate

David Kusnet on America post 9/11, post-Enron:

“When will public debate reflect the new national spirit that says America is about more than making money? Only when our leaders show courage comparable to the everyday Americans whose heroism they honor but whose interests they ignore.”

Close To You

The New York Times’ Steven Greenhouse on Bush and the Carpenters.

Tuesday, September 10, 2002

A list of the union members who died, including all the public employees.

Why again exactly is the Bush White House so determined to keep public employees out of unions?

Will Tivo Save the Republic?

Politicians spend too much time fund-raising, because campaigns are expensive. Campaigns are expensive largely because they’re driven by television advertising. TV advertising can be staggeringly expensive.

So what would happen if voters stopped watching the commercials?


South Dakota Republican Senate candidate Jim Thune seems determined to run the most intellectually dishonest campaign of 2002.

First there were his ridiculous attacks on pro-Social Security Democrat Tim Johnson, where Thune portrayed Johnson as a “privatizer.” (For anyone who cares about things like integrity, a let down. But for those of us who want a workable retirement system, it’s certainly heartening to see conservatives suddenly demand that we juice up the third rail of American politics again -- and quick!)

But then Thune’s supporters started this kind of stuff.

Monday, September 09, 2002
Just-In-Time for Leverage

What if Wal-Mart didn’t have all that stuff from China to sell?

In an interview in Sunday’s New York Times, David Olson, a professor at the University of Washington‘s Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies, explains how sophisticated “just-in-time” inventory schemes leave corporations like Wal-Mart vulnerable to seemingly small disruptions in shipping.

As Olson says, “The container box is the warehouse for modern-day business.”

If the containers stop moving, there isn’t much other inventory around. That means that a strike by the port workers in the International Longshore and Warehouse Union could have an enormous impact on American retailers.

The Auto Workers recently showed how a relatively small group of workers can suddenly become very powerful if everyone else in the company is waiting for the parts they produce to arrive just in time.

The managers who invented just-in-time in recent decades probably saw a declining labor movement and figured that strikes would soon be an anachronism. Let’s hope that an unintended consequence is that port workers, UAW members, and other workers gain a louder voice for creating good jobs.

Music Is My Savior

I Am Trying To Break Your Heart -- a documentary about the making of Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot album -- finally arrived in Seattle this weekend.

I love Wilco, so it’s hard to imagine how I wouldn’t have liked the film. But while I watched it, I tried to imagine how I would’ve reacted to the film if I wasn’t a fan, or if I wasn’t aware of the details surrounding the struggle to get Yankee Hotel Foxtrot released.

In the current issue of No Depression, critic Geoffrey Himes trashes the movie for failing to tell a story to the non-fans. (His review isn’t online yet.) Himes feels it doesn’t place Wilco in context, not explaining how their music grows from the larger alternative country movement, or Jeff Tweedy and John Stirratt's past work in Uncle Tupelo, or other developments outside of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

The film is much better than the Himes gives it credit for, but he has a point in that it does focus a little exclusively on YHF, leaving even recent important events out. The firing of longtime drummer Ken Coomer is almost completely overlooked.

Jay Bennett, who was fired from the band while the film was being made, comes off very poorly. A long scene where he insisted on arguing with Jeff Tweedy and everyone else in the band over a mixing detail -- and then pouts that Tweedy is “making a big deal” out of it -- is devastating. And just about everything he says in a his post-Wilco interview is whiny and self-centered.

Bennett’s subsequent solo record is pretty good, although I saw him play in Seattle a few months ago and it may have been the worst show I’ve ever seen. I was so embarrassed for him I left about half way through.

In the film, Wilco manager Tony Margherita predicts that it would be difficult for Jay Bennett to get used to playing tiny shows again after being in Wilco. Unfortunately, that’s what I witnessed. Bennett just didn’t seem to get it that he was starting from scratch, and personally he’s not quite charming enough to pull off the smartass remarks that Tweedy gets away with.

At any rate, I Am Trying To Break Your Heart does succeed in giving us a firsthand look at a music industry that's largely baffled by the commitment that Tweedy and Wilco bring to the music.