Democratic Republicans

If I was making the big money at The New York Times, I might give even my blog entries a second look over. Then again, maybe Adam Nagourney (reacting to last night’s McCain/Obama debate) knows something we don’t:

Throughout the 90-minute debate tonight, Mr. McCain offered voters what amounted to a reprise of all the attacks that have been lodged at Mr. Obama over the past year, by Mr. Obama’s Democratic Republican opponents, Ms. Palin, Republican leaders and, at times, Mr. McCain

No period at the end of that sentence, either.

Bad Choice, McGovern

Anyone who reads this blog (I mean, the both of you) knows that I’ve devoted a fair amount of space to 1972 Democratic presidential nominee and former South Dakota Senator George S. McGovern. Here and elsewhere, I’ve defended his policies &mdash particularly his foreign policies — because I truly believe they would have been a far more rational path to American success for the past four decades instead of the long, militaristic road we’ve trod since the Vietnam War. I went to last year’s McGovern Conference to meet him and some of the others who participated and wrote about his run for the White House 36 years ago. And I did a fair amount of research and writing on a book project on McGovern’s foreign policy that will probably never see the light of day at this point.

However. As with anyone you might admire, there are always points of disagreement. Last fall, when I met him, McGovern was supporting Senator Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination this year. Couldn’t really see how that meshed, apart from his lon association with the Clintons. And, of course, for at least a couple of months, he’s been speaking out against the Employee Free Choice Act. Then, last week, commercials against the EFCA featuring McGovern started appearing across the country.

I’ll let my dad, the retired managing business representative for a trade union take it from here.


I know you’ve been an admirer of George McGovern. I have been, too (and I voted for him in 1972, when you were still a bit young to vote). So I was really disappointed this morning when I saw him appearing in a commercial sponsored by the groups opposing the Employee Free Choice Act. The same sponsors are bashing those Democrats like [Jeff] Merkely who support this labor-sponsored proposed legislation.

McGovern said in the ad that he came to his position opposing the proposal after studying both sides of the issue. But I think he and others fail to understand that under current law, employers can recognize a union which gathers authorization cards from a majority of employees without going through a secret-ballot election. Currently, however, the choice on whether or not to grant such recognition is completely up to the employer, not the employees. I think that, at least in this case, our old friend McGovern may be suffering from the same syndrome that afflicted Elizabeth Furse when she endorsed Gordon Smith for the U.S. Senate.

Opponents of the Employee Free Choice Act claim that union organizers may high-pressure employees into signing authorization cards and that the only way to make sure employees really want union representation is to have a secret ballot election held by the NLRB.

At my local union meeting today, one of the reps told a story that illustrates where the pressure on employees actually comes from. The union organizers were handing out flyers to employees entering the company’s parking lot, and planned to leaflet the exiting employees as they left. Soon, supervisors informed employees in the plant not to accept any flyers as they left. The supervisors then stationed themselves near the exit to observe whether these instructions were followed (and probably to take down the names of those employees who disobeyed). I’ve had exactly the same thing happen in years past when I was helping to organize.

When it comes to coercion of employees on the question of union representation, employers hold vastly more power over employees than do union organizers. George McGovern ought to know that.


Unimpeachable Source

With character witnesses like this guy you know you’re going to get off the hook:

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell on Friday praised Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens’ sense of honor at his trial on corruption charges, calling his reputation for honesty and integrity “sterling” in the quarter-century they’ve known each other. “As we say in the infantry, this is a guy you take on a long patrol,” said the retired four-star Army general and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

[W]hen defense attorney Brendan Sullivan asked Powell to describe Stevens’ reputation for honesty and integrity, Powell’s answer was simple: “In a word, sterling.”

“There was never any suggestion that he would do anything that was improper,” said Powell, who told jurors he knows Stevens “extremely well” after having worked with him on military appropriations issues for decades.

Stevens has always been honest and upfront — “someone whose word you can rely on”— when he worked with him on Capitol Hill, Powell said.

“I had a guy who would tell me when I was off base,” Powell said. “I had a guy who would tell me when I had no clothes on.” And as people in the courtroom started to chuckle, Powell smiled and added, “Figuratively.”

Powell added that Stevens has always put his country first, even when Powell had to go to him to explain that the military needed to draw down some of the forces in Alaska. Stevens didn’t like the idea, Powell said, but listened to the arguments and finally agreed to support it for the good of the country.

“He fights for his state, he fights for his people but he always has the interests of his country at heart,” Powell said.

The Hazard of Duke

Since I got a mention in Mike’s Blog Roundup at Crooks & Liars yesterday, I checked in on my server logs to see a respectable increase in traffic for the day, but as is often the case, some of the other items in the report were disturbing.

Most particularly that the top search term associated with people who have come to the site so far this month is former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard and politician “david duke.” (I hadn’t realized that Duke’s successor in the Louisiana House was Sen. David Vitter.) I wonder if there’s any connection to the tenor of the McCain campaign’s recent days? Not only is “david duke” the top term, it’s been clicked through more times in just the first nine days of October than my usual top terms (the seemingly-dormant game engine otoy and the late Ugandan dictator Idi Amin) usually get in an entire month.


Making a Killing on eBay

Nicole Belle at Crooks & Liars notes Sen. John McCain’s float of former eBay CEO Meg Whitman as a Treasury Secretary in a McCain/Palin administration during the debate last night.

I like Meg Whitman. She knows what it’s like to be out there in the marketplace. She knows how to create jobs. Whitman was CEO of a company that started with 12 people and now, 1.3 million people in America make their living off eBay.

I’ve commented elsewhere about the validity of that 1.3 million figure, but Daniel Gross took a more in-depth look at it at Slate back in May, after McCain had claimed that “1.3 million people in the world make a living off eBay.”

The number can be traced to a 2006 study conducted by ACNielsen on behalf of eBay. The company surveyed eBay sellers around the globe, including 2,000 in the United States. And it concluded that “approximately 1.3 million sellers around the world use eBay as their primary or secondary source of income,” with an estimated 630,239 in the United States. Take careful note of the phrasing, however: primary or secondary. That could mean 50,000 use eBay as a primary source and 1.25 million as a secondary source. Or it could mean the split is closer to 650,000-650,000.

EBay doesn’t break out the numbers, but it’s a safe bet the reality is closer to the former. Even the minority of sellers who meet the company’s “power seller” requirements aren’t coming close to “mak­ing a living” selling on eBay. To reach the lowest level, bronze sellers must rack up $12,000 in sales (sales, not profits), or move 1,200 items over the course of a year. “A bronze-level power seller isn’t making a full-time living on eBay,” says Cindy Shebley, who began selling on eBay in 1999. “They have to really crank it up and get into higher tiers, like titanium.” Levels rise from silver ($3,000 or 300 items per month) to Titanium ($150,000 or 1,500 items per month). Shebley is a silver-level seller (mostly photography and lighting equipment) but says most her income comes “from supporting sellers as a consultant and a teacher.” Shebley teaches classes and is working on a new book, How To Market an eBay Business.

It’s an astounding tribute to the strength of the eBay model that in the face of the looming worldwide recession the number of Americans making a living off of selling stuff on the Internet has gone from “most” of 1.3 million in the spring to an actual 1.3 million as of yesterday, at least in the telling of John McCain.

Then again, if Gross’ analysis is closer to the actual truth, it’s just another example of McCain’s tenuous grasp of economic reality.


The Oregonian published a self-centered article by writer (and — of all things — journalism student) Becky Ohlsen on Sunday, another installment in their long-running series of opinion pieces hewing to the conservative line that Portland is a homogeneous bastion of elitist liberals.

A few letters in response appeared in today’s paper, including one by me, although it was somewhat truncated (material they cut appears in bold below, editorial additions appear in italics).

Every couple of years, the Oregonian runs a column like Becky Ohlsen’s on Sunday, making the claim that “With few exceptions, Portlanders inhabit perfect liberal values.”

Perhaps that was the case for Ohlsen when she lived in Portland. I guess it’s taken a trip to beyond her bubble here to realize that there are people of different stripes in the world. But really, she could have managed the same feat at home if she’d been paying attention.

Becky Ohlsen’s opinion piece reiterates a stereotypical view of Portland that every large city — including her current vantage point of New York City — receives from self-appointed moralists promoting The Big City as a cesspool of sex, drugs, and liberalism. The problem is, in NYC or Portland, [But] you don’t have to go any further than, say, the letters and opinion page of The Oregonian to find people espousing views diametrically opposed to the Prius-driving, arugula-eating, hipsters Ohlsen seems to have surrounded herself with here.

Ohlsen says “This is not a call for Portlanders to start roaring down their bike-laned city streets in SUVs.” Is that a serious claim? Has she somehow missed SUVs and trucks on the streets of Portland in her time here? Is she truly unaware that not everyone working in the center of the city, riding MAX from Gresham or driving in from Lake Oswego might not fit her pigeonholes on politics, religion, or other topics? Does she know that The Oregonian publishes Dave Reinhard? She seriously thinks Portlanders don’t argue?

Apart from fixing the question mark after “topics,” I’m not sure that the edits improved the text here.

A Forgotten Demo

#35 – Pot Heads

Not many people remember that Richard Nixon preempted network television on November 7th, 1972 for a full day marathon of “Mr. Ed.”

It was a brilliant strategy, because just as polls were closing, they aired “Ed the Witness.” SPOILER ALERT…In “Ed the Witness,” Wilbur ends up in Mexican jail after refusing to pay a repair bill to a mechanic who damaged his trailer. Mr. Ed has to gallop across the border to come to the rescue….

Wait, what were we talking about?

Oh, right.

What Pot Head hasn’t dreamed of being sprung from Mexican jail by a talking horse? Anyway, Nixon’s people knew this, and used it to defeat George McGovern in a landslide.

To this day, George McGovern asserts that he lost the Election due to the striking resemblance between Wilbur and Thomas Eagleton.