Labor Battle in Wisconsin

posted Mar 25, 2011, 10:44 PM by Golden Knight   [ updated Mar 25, 2011, 10:48 PM ]

By Christian Romo


Photo Credit: CNN

In the past two weeks, not even the United States avoided the rebellious mentality that has swept the Middle East. As a result, the center of the American political world is currently in Madison, Wisconsin.

Thousands of pro-union demonstrators have flooded the state capital in protest of newly elected governor Scott Walker’s proposal to curb union power to cut the state’s deficit. His proposal calls for the end of all public union collective bargaining rights, significant cuts to healthcare for lower-income residents, and the ability for private-sector organizations to take over public utility plants. The governor’s office claims the reduction in spending will save the state $165 million over the next fiscal year.

In what is considered the largest demonstration since the passing of Arizona’s controversial SB 1070, Wisconsin workers, mostly teachers and factory employees, have come out in droves to bear the bitter cold and support union rights. The demonstrations have been mostly peaceful, but some rhetoric and signage bears an uncanny resemblance to the presentations of the Tea Party during their rallies in late 2009 and early 2010.

In response to Governor Walker’s proposition, 14 Wisconsin Senate democrats fled the capital when the vote was set to take place. Many of the hiding Senators have been found in Illinois, and this tactic, though strange, has been successful in blocking an attempt to vote for Walker’s legislation. The Governor threatened a layoff of nearly 1,500 state employees if the bill wasn’t passed by Friday, but Walker has yet to declare whether or not he will fulfill his end of the ultimatum.

Many conservative leaders have placed the blame, if not the explanation, on the Wisconsin voters themselves. Wisconsin, traditionally a blue state, experienced some incumbent distaste in the 2010 midterms by voting in the conservative Walker and voting out the 17-year democratic senator Russ Feingold. Walker’s office has said the voters should not be surprised by the policies endorsed by Walker and that any blame should be placed on the voters.

Many on the left disagree with Walker’s sentiments. Although it is true the voters should be held responsible for a dramatic change in policy to the right, they claim Walker lied in his campaign by claiming he would negotiate with unions to decrease benefits and salaries to avoid massive layoffs. His proposal, they say, would be historic in that it would revoke any power unions have accumulated over decades of existence.

It’s safe to say the clashes will not get violent, but it would be unreasonable to assume the hostility will be limited to Wisconsin. Many states are considering similar pieces of legislation and many pro-union lobbies in Washington are scrambling to give support to the nervous labor organizations they represent. It may not be as dramatic as what is currently happening in North Africa, but the tremors in Madison may give organized labor in the United States a facelift.

President Obama Returns From Asia

posted Mar 25, 2011, 10:42 PM by Golden Knight

By Marc Magallanes


Photo Courtesy: Associated Press

To President Barack Obama, there is no place like home. He wrapped up a 10-day Asian tour on November 12, starting in India and ending with a two day summit in Seoul, South Korea with the Group of Twenty. There, he hoped to assist in turning the ailing world economy around while promoting American interests, but instead faced a tough job to ensure economic security while playing nice with other nations.

 President Obama spoke bluntly on America’s trade imbalance with big exporters, most notably China and Germany. He accused the Chinese government’s policy to artificially devalue its currency as “an irritant to the United States, a lot of China’s trading partners and those who are competing with China to sell goods around the world.” China’s policy to devalue its currency is seen as insensitive to the global community due to its effect of making Chinese goods cheaper and effectively making American goods less competitive in the global market. Mr. Obama said it is a mistake to think that “their path of prosperity is paved simply with exports to the United States.” China countered by saying that the United States artificially devalues its currency through the stimulus packages injected into the economy. This tough language spoken by both nations adds tension to Chinese territorial disputes between its East and Southeast Asian neighbors that the United States is supposed to mediate.

The leaders of the Group of Twenty economies agreed to curb “persistently large imbalances” in trade, saving, and spending. The group agreed that it is no longer feasible for the United States to constantly consume and China and Germany to consume very little. The compromise did not meet American goals on trade surpluses and deficits with the leaders deciding to leave much of the work on future meetings. Mr. Obama acknowledged that, “Instead of hitting home runs, sometimes we’re going to hit singles. But they’re really important singles.” The leaders agreed to “move toward market-determined exchange-rate systems,” to avoid trade and currency wars.

President Obama is glad to be back in the United States, where he will have face down the new Republican dominated House of Representatives. There’s no place like home.

The Propositions and Races

posted Mar 25, 2011, 10:41 PM by Golden Knight

By Marc Magallanes


Halloween came a bit late for the Democrats throughout the nation. But in California, it seems that the Tea Party never came.  

After months of arduous campaigns, the senatorial and gubernatorial elections happened on November 2. A red tide flooded the country resulting in 239 Republican seats in the House and 46 Republican seats in the Senate. Voters indicated a strong desire to change the country’s leadership after President Obama’s perceived lack of success reviving the economy, the issue most voters care for. The Tea Party spearheaded the Republican sweep with calls for smaller government, fewer taxes, reducing spending, and reducing the deficit. With support of the Tea Party, new senatorial and gubernatorial candidates were swept into power such as Senator-elect Rand Paul and Governor-elect John Kasich.

In California however, the Republican Party did not gain any traction in this historically blue state. Former CEOs Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina failed to gain the job of governor and senator for California, respectively. Whitman (R) spent $163 million of her personal fortune made from being CEO of eBay for almost ten years towards her campaign, a record for a gubernatorial campaign. Her opponent, Jerry Brown (D), spent only a fraction of that amount yet won comfortably in the gubernatorial election, 54% to Whitman’s 41% of the votes. Carly Fiorina (R), former Hewlett-Packard CEO from 1999-2005, campaigned against incumbent Barbara Boxer (D) for one of California’s senate seats. Boxer beat Fiorina by 9%.

There were nine propositions up for approval. Proposition 19, the legalization of marijuana in the state, was the most controversial of the nine. The results of the propositions:


Proposition 19 (Legalization of Marijuana)-Failed

Proposition 20 (Redistricting of Congressional Districts)-Passed

Proposition 21 (State Park Funding, Vehicle License Surcharge)-Failed

Proposition 22 (Prohibit State from Taking some Local Funds)-Passed

Proposition 23 (Suspend Air Pollution Control Law)-Failed

Proposition 24 (Repeal Allowance of Lower Business Tax Liability)-Failed

Proposition 25 (Simple Majority Vote to Pass Budget)-Passed

Proposition 26 (2/3 Vote for some State/Local Fees)-Passed

Proposition 27 (Eliminate State Redistricting Commission)-Failed

Mr. Colbert Goes to Washington

posted Mar 25, 2011, 10:40 PM by Golden Knight

By Marc Magallanes


Photo Credit: Reuters

Stephen Colbert visited Washington D.C. this Friday not as a comedian, but as a witness to the plight of migrant farm workers. Invited by California Representative Zoe Lofgren (D), Colbert “testified” on the topic after he and Lofgren challenged the United Farm Workers “Take Our Jobs” campaign, a campaign that offers Americans to experience the menial work immigrant farm workers perform.

Lofgren stated early in the hearing that America is increasingly relying on foreign undocumented labor sources to harvest crops. She hypothesized that it may be due to America’s greater educational level that Americans today are refusing to work in the fields compared to decades earlier (about 95% of Americans currently working hold a high school degree). According to the Department of Labor, over 50% of seasonal agricultural workers are undocumented, but it is speculated to be around 75% due to a lack of accurate information. Critics of the use of underprivileged undocumented workers argue that the problem may be solved through higher wages and better working conditions.

This is often hard to achieve, however, because it will increase the price of produce, thus making American crops less competitive with the world. This in turn will create a ripple effect where American farms will move elsewhere while losing jobs connected to farming, according to Lofgren. She further argues that an ample supply of workers harvesting food is crucial to America’s food security because America is reluctant to rely on foreign food services. She stresses that the migrant workers help run the economy and keep the United States humming.

Lofgren was countered by Steven King (R, Iowa) from the beginning of King’s speech. He stated that she may just be exaggerating the potential effects of farming without the aid of low earning farm workers. He continued by saying that Americans are hard workers and will take any job, no matter how lowly or difficult. After King’s comments, the political rhetoric continued back and forth between both parties. The eight representatives each spoke with their own points and counter-points to their political counterparts.

Colbert was not warmly welcomed by the committee and some accused Lofgren of mocking the integrity of Congress.  Others said Colbert helped bring attention to a crucial issue as Angelina Jolie and Kevin Costner have recently done. What surprised the court was how Colbert stayed in his trademark character during his testimony eliciting some chuckles from the mostly subdued audience. Representative John Conyers (D) said that Colbert should just submit written testimony and leave, but Colbert reminded him that Lofgren invited him and would leave only if she wanted him to. Conyers relented. Representative Jason Caffetz (R) disapproved of Colbert.

Colbert did have one serious, out of character moment. When asked by Judy Chu (D) why he used his star power for this issue, Colbert replied, “I like talking about people who don’t have any power, and it seems like one of the least powerful people in the United States are migrant workers who come and do our work but don’t have any rights themselves. Migrant workers suffer…and have no rights.”

California’s Choice 2010: Brown vs Whitman

posted Mar 25, 2011, 10:39 PM by Golden Knight

By Sean McCreary


With the November 2nd election date more than a month away, a heated gubernatorial campaign is already underway between Democratic candidate Jerry Brown and Republican candidate Meg Whitman.  So far the election has been rated as a toss-up, with neither candidate having a clear advantage. 

Each has a widely different background from the other. Brown made his debut in politics as the Secretary of State of California and used his previously weak position to bring about lawsuits against various oil conglomerates.  His career took off with his 1974 election to the governor’s office of California, taking over for Republican icon Ronald Regan, who had defeated his father Edmund G. Brown in 1966.  After taking office, he gained a reputation as a liberal Democrat who had a proclivity to fiscal conservatism.  During his two terms as governor, he campaigned twice for the Democratic nomination for President in 1976 and in 1980 where he suffered a famous loss by winning no state primaries.  After declining to run for a third term in 1982, Brown traveled abroad away from the political spotlight. After ten years of being out of public office, he ran against then-Governor Bill Clinton during the 1992 Democratic Presidential primaries.  He emerged as the future President’s greatest challenger until he lost the Wisconsin and New York primary elections.  He remained out of office until he successfully ran for mayor of Oakland, then he became the California state Attorney General in 2006.  After he announced his candidacy for the 2010 election for governor, he had no serious primary challengers on the Democratic side.  For the November election, Brown has principally touted fiscal conservatism and investment in renewable energies as methods for rescuing California’s troubled economy, an economy that suffers with a 12.5% unemployment rate.  

Opposite Brown stands former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, a political novice with a distinguished background in business.  A graduate of Princeton and Harvard business school, Whitman served at executive positions at various firms including the Walt Disney Company, Procter & Gamble, DreamWorks, Hasbro, and most famously at internet titan eBay from 1998 to 2008.  Leaving eBay with a personal worth of over $1.3 billion, she announced her candidacy for governor in 2009 and has since campaigned aggressively in the primaries where she defeated Republican nominee Steve Poizner and now faces Jerry Brown in the general election.  With a self-defined “atrocious” voting record, Whitman says that her business background will bring a practice of fiscal restraint long-needed in Sacramento. 

She has levied heavy criticism on Brown through a blitzing ad campaign (through which she broke the record for a personal financing of a state election campaign with $119 million) for being a political insider and raising taxes during his tenure as governor. Brown counters that the allegations of raising taxes are false.  As the election approaches, Whitman is stepping up her campaign even further with a tremendous monetary advantage. Brown hopes to defeat his opponent with his much greater name recognition and the support of California’s labor unions.  Whatever the talking points of the debates, Whitman and Brown will be in non-stop self-promotion mode until November 2nd when Californians will weigh the facts and make their final decision.

Stewart and Colbert to Hold Competing National Rallies

posted Mar 25, 2011, 10:38 PM by Golden Knight

By Marc Magallanes


In response to Glenn Beck’s “Rally to Restore Honor” on August 27th, Comedy Central mainstays Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert plan to conduct rallies of their own  in the Washington Mall only days before the November elections.

Jon Stewart called on his viewers and the 80% of the rationally thinking population to join a “million moderate march” on the Washington Mall this October 30th. His aptly named “Rally to Restore Sanity” aims to proclaim to the world that the rational among us deserve a voice in a country that is being increasingly dominated by the other 15-20% of people who are vocally radical. His announcement came midway through “The Daily Show”, a platform where he frequently pokes fun at Glen Beck and other political pundits. Some comically reasonable slogans that he has incorporated include “9/11 was an outside job” and “I disagree with you, but I’m pretty sure you’re not Hitler”. He hopes to turn the tide of increasing insanity, which he believes is infiltrating America, in time for the elections.

Not to be out done, the “Colbert Report’s” Stephen Colbert plans to hold his own rally in response to Stewart’s “million moderate march”. This rally, or the ominously named “March to Keep Fear Alive”, will compete with Stewart’s rally and will employ Colbert’s trademark satire of right-wing political punditry. On his show, he reminds the Colbert Nation that the “reason” Stewart advocates for is only one letter away from “treason”. His “march” boasts to fight against Stewart’s rally and to restore “truthiness”.

If it’s true that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Glen Beck will certainly be flattered.

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