Friday, December 12, 2008

Maverick News: Coping with Recession

ECONOMIC SHOWDOWNS. On December 5, workers at Republic Windows and Doors, members of UE Local 1110, occupied their factory, which was due to close after the Bank of America, just weeks after getting $25 billion in bailout money, refused to continue extending credit to the company. In case that wasn’t sufficiently ironic, Republic makes energy efficient doors and windows in Chicago. B of A also told the company to refuse workers compensation pay, vacation pay or severance. But this story has a happy ending. After six days, the standoff ended Wednesday when the bank and other lenders had a change of heart and agreed to provide about $2 million in severance, vacation pay, and health insurance. That’s one for the workers.


In other not-so-happy, jobs-related news: Sony has announced plans to cut 8000 jobs, and the Screen Actors Guild said it will ask members to authorize a strike over a new contract. The guild represents 120,000 people. The results of a strike vote will be announced at the end of January. About a year ago Hollywood screenwriters went on strike for 14 weeks, bringing prime-time TV production to a halt and costing LA $3 billion.


The big sticking point is how much actors should be paid for content on the Internet. The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the big studios, says the actors are being asked to "bail out a failed negotiating strategy by going on strike during one of the worst economic crises in history."


Also in job news, leisure time for American workers took a dive this year. On average Americans worked 46 hours a week, while playing only 16 hours.


And now, some political follies…


EXORTIONIST-IN-CHIEF. Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was arrested on criminal charges Tuesday, including trying to sell the US Senate seat being vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. He’s also accused of threatening to withhold state help to the Tribune Company in connection with the sale of the Chicago Cubs' baseball home Wrigley Field unless the company fired members of the newspaper’s editorial board members who have criticized him. What else did the governor want? To head a multi-million dollar foundation, become an ambassador, or take the Senate seat himself – before running for president in 2016. Obama isn’t implicated in the scandal – so far – but it’s likely to cut his political honeymoon short.


SENATOR MATHEWS? TV Host Chris Matthews is considering a run for the US Senate in Pennsylvania. He’s shopping for a house and may quit MSNBC to prove his interest, according to his colleagues and friends. But some NBC insiders think it's just a negotiating ploy to jack up his contract.


Writer David Sirota said recently, “I really hope Chris Matthews runs for the US Senate in Pennsylvania, and is humiliatingly obliterated in a Democratic primary (preferably by a good progressive like, for instance, former Rep. Joe Hoeffel). The sense of entitlement that this blowhard personifies is truly stunning. He's spent his entire life as a principle-free political gossip in Washington… and yet, he really thinks he can just parachute into one of the largest states in the country, buy a mansion in Philadelphia and be a senator on sheer celebrity alone.”


A new Rasmussen survey shows Sen. Arlen Specter, whose seat Matthews would go after, "is potentially vulnerable" in his 2010 bid for re-election. In early polling, Specter leads Matthews by just three points, 46% to 43%.


CANADA: DEMOCRACY ON HOLD. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has suspended Canada's parliament to avoid a challenge from opposition parties that want to oust him. A 3-party coalition – the Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois — decided to remove Harper because of his strong opposition to a stimulus package that was designed to minimize the effects of the financial crisis. They also opposed his proposed elimination of subsidies for political parties, a three-year ban on the right of civil servants to strike, and limits on the ability of women to sue for pay equity. Governor General Michaelle Jean helped Harper by using her authority to close the legislature for seven weeks. The country is in an uproar.


Harper is a conservative ideologue and was president of the National Citizens Coalition (NCC), a conservative advocacy group that opposes national healthcare and supports privitization and tax cuts. Its motto is "more freedom with less government." He’s been a loyal supporter of Bush and the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. His critics says he’s in bed with the Council on Foreign Relations and the Bilderburg Group. He also allegedly supports plans for a North American Union, a scheme to merge Canada, the US, and Mexico into a superstate.


Closer to home…


NOW HE TELLS US. George W. is apparently having an attack on candor. During an interview on ABC's Nightline, he revealed that his belief that God created the world isn’t incompatible with scientific proof of evolution. He also admitted that he’s not a literalist when reading the Bible.


SHRUB’S LAST STAND. One casualty of Bush’s departure from Washington is a talented comedian who played George Shrub, the singing CIA agent. He’s currently on his Shrub’s Last Stand Tour. He recently offered these words of wisdom:


“Now that the country is bankrupt, we’ve given it to the black guy… Our leading Financial Citizens are working hard to rescue their economy while some near-Americans are whining about their 4 - make that 201Ks, and other mental recessionary issues. But the bailout is misunderstood. Some say it’s socialism, but it’s not: it’s partial, temporary, side-door nationalizing, not socialism. Sort of a temporary national socialism kind of thing.”


LOCAL CURRENCIES. Speaking of the economic crisis, residents of two Milwaukee neighborhoods may begin printing their own money. The idea is to encourage local spending, using local cash at neighborhood stores and businesses. The local currency couldn’t be spent at Wal-Mart or Home Depot, but an incentive being considered is to let people trade $100 US for $110 local, essentially meaning a 10 percent discount at participating stores.


It's not a new concept. There are at least 2,000 local currencies around the world, including Burlington Bread, but it could gain some ground during troubled times. During the Depression, scores communities relied on their own currencies.


And it's legal. As long as communities don't create coins or print bills that resemble federal dollars, they can print their own money.


And finally…


SPREADING LAUGHTER. We say that laughter is contagious. Turns out, so is happiness. And it’s not an individual but a collective phenomenon, according to a study in the British Medical Journal. The researchers followed almost 5,000 people over 20 years, and found that happiness can spread through three degrees of separation within social networks. That means the happiness of a friend, a friend’s friend, and even a friend’s friend’s friend can infect you with a good mood.


The study suggests that the happiest people are those at the center of a social network, comparing the contagion of emotions to catching a sexually transmitted infection. Luckily, the study says sadness doesn’t spread as easily.


Maverick News will return in 2009.

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