Joe Kenehan Center

Thursday, October 10, 2002
What If We Put the Whiner In Charge?

Tim Eyman finally takes a shot at responding to the taunts that all he does is bash government but never puts forward his vision for how things should change. (Eyman is a leader of a ballot initiative movement in Washington State. For the past several years he’s led annual campaigns to put anti-tax initiatives on the ballot, and he’s been wildly successful. He’s operating under a bit of cloud this year, however. After years of claiming that he made no money from the campaigns, he was forced to admit that he was secretly paying himself a comfortable salary from the campaign’s donations. He paid a fine to settle campaign finance charges.)

In a Seattle Weekly cover story, Eyman tries to explain how things would be “If I Ran Seattle.”

Once you get past the wooden writing, it’s dismaying to see just how little substance there is to Eyman’s politics. Given this opportunity to make a new statement, he says nothing new. It's just more of his familiar complaints against various government projects, (including some that everyone agrees are indeed off course.)

And that’s about it. No solutions other than Smaller Government.

According to Eyman, politicians are obsessed with “BIG projects.” Fine. But how exactly is knee-jerk opposition to major change going to help Seattle solve some problems that are indeed rather BIG?

Sadly, a lot of cities have moved towards Eyman’s vaunted Smaller Government, with lousy results. My friend Jim McNeill makes that clear in this review in The American Prospect of Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago, a book by Eric Klinenberg that recounts a terrible heat wave that killed 700 Chicagoans in 1995. The city of Chicago had privatized much of its social service safety net for the elderly, and the leaner and meaner private agencies failed dismally when put to the test.

Eyman is correct on one count. Washington’s tax system is appallingly unfair. Washington has no income tax and as a result the tax burden hits middle class working people extra hard. It’s important that our state fixes this problem, but Eyman is exploiting people’s frustration at a flawed system to make things even worse.

Longshore Fallout

Regarding the political fallout of Boy George’s move against the ILWU:

This USA Today piece speculates that it’ll provoke a backlash with union voters.

Steven Greenhouse reports that White House is indeed concerned about that result.

This post on The New Republic’s blog (unsigned, but my hunch is that it’s from John Judis) wonders how this will affect Bush’s relations with the Teamsters and Carpenters.

For what it’s worth, the Teamsters endorsed Jeb Bush’s opponent today.

Also: Max Sawicky crunches the numbers on West Coast dockworkers' pay.

Neutral for One Side

The Washington Post reports that Bush huddled up with corporate America to give them a heads up on his game plan against the longshore workers, but didn’t communicate in good faith with the workers.

And Joshua Micah Marshall points out that Bush’s mediator between the parties, Eugene Scalia, has a blatant conflict of interest: the shipping employers were his clients when he was a corporate lawyer.

Wednesday, October 09, 2002
Battle on the Docks

As I came home from work tonight Seattle’s Elliott Bay was crowded with container ships waiting to catch up on lost time.

Nathan Newman has already written persuasively about the larger consequences of Bush’s decision to invoke Taft-Hartley, so read him if you haven’t already.

This Seattle Post-Intelligencer piece has good background on the inglorious history of the law Harry S. Truman called the “slave-labor bill.”

A few more thoughts:

It’s not surprising, but still disappointing, that the White House clumsily exploits the international crisis as an excuse for intervening. Bush claimed that the port shutdown jeopardizes “our military” -- never mind that both the ILWU and the employers had offered to move military cargo, the same as they made exceptions for supplies for Alaska. (And now that the ports are open there apparently isn’t any special effort underway to move military cargo first.)

Another puzzler: this NY Times piece co-bylined by Steven Greenhouse has unnamed White House figures arguing that “labor itself was divided over the issue.” Huh? Which unions are applauding this? The Teamsters strongly condemn Bush’s move in the same story, and Hoffa himself called Bush’s decision “open union-busting.”

The “liberal” media continues to botch key points of the story. I frequently hear that the ILWU is “opposed to new technology,” which isn’t true. Most media accounts seem to accept at face value the shipping companies’ accusations that working safely is really slow-motion sabotage -- without reporting on the five on-the-job deaths at West Coast ports this year.

Tuesday, October 08, 2002
Being Big Pharma

Washington Post columnist Sebastian Mallaby on what happens when a pharmaceutical lobbyist’s Power Pointed rhetoric about innovation and intellectual property runs into real world accounts of health care in the Global South.

When it’s too uncomfortable for the industry to demand higher profits outright, there's always pretend support.

More on the GOP, Unions, and Strange Bedfellows

The infant New York Sun weighs in here and here.

Sunday, October 06, 2002
Labor History in Action

This Seattle Times article highlights how International Longshore and Warehouse Union members’ reverent, serious treatment of their union’s history helps maintain unity and purpose during the current lockout. New ILWU members are required to learn about the union’s history and the longshore workers have won a paid holiday for Harry Bridges' birthday. It’s enough to make Lynne Cheney proud.

Steven Greenhouse’s overview of the lockout shows how longshore workers in the U.S. and around the world are using their strategic position in the global economy to protect good jobs.

The More They Stay The Same, II

One year after the scandals started to ripple across corporate America, things are pretty much business as usual.

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Americans are paying more and getting less for their health care.

Meanwhile, Richard Scrushy, the CEO of for-profit health care provider HealthSouth is in good shape. He can relax at his $3 million weekend mansion and get back to work on HealthSouth’s private airline (7 planes, 1 helicopter) manned by 14 full-time pilots.