Tag Archives: New York Times

Living Wage, Fast Food?

As fast food workers take to the streets across the nation, we ought to reflect on just what the Republicans’ cut first and ask questions later ideology has wrought in American society. The New York Times has run a couple of stories profiling people who for years were part of the nation’s middle class who now find themselves staring at their 60s working low wage jobs. That’s also happening in fast food. We also need to consider the fact that the average age of an American fast food worker is now 29.

 

cartoon-living-wage-mcdonalds

That’s hardly the fresh faced teenager trying to save up for college, or someone who needs a little supplemental income. Fact is, times have changed. That’s why their demand for $15 dollars an hour sounds entirely reasonable to me. Especially in light of what moneymen in expensive suits are getting ready to do to the city of Detroit. How are they connected, you ask? The city is now able to declare bankruptcy (not necessarily a bad thing), and at the same time cut retiree pensions (an awful thing). The rationale? Things have changed. Detroit is broke. It can’t pay an average $19,000 a year to people who’ve worked for their city, no matter what the state constitution says.

Times have changed.

So if that’s true in Detroit, why does the fast food industry cling to an old, timeworn view of who their employees are? Haven’t times changed in fast food? Burgers don’t cost a quarter anymore. The head of McDonald’s makes more than $8 million a year. The industry pushes back against demands for a living wage by threatening to bring in automation. Don’t buy it. Automation costs lots of money. Besides, would you want your burger flipped and packaged by Uniblab?

Long story short, I support fast food workers, even though I rarely eat fast food. The days when the big fast food operators can alibi and excuse their low wage-no benefit behavior are coming to an end. After all…..

Times have changed.

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Sex & Lies. Can a Scorned Husband Bring Down a US Senator?

In the television series “The Good Wife”, a woman has to deal with her politically powerful husband going to jail for sexual impropriety. But what happens when in real life the shoe is on the other foot?

Some of you may remember the tawdry affair involving Nevada Republican Senator John Ensign and his dalliance with a staffer. Well, the staffer’s husband in on the warpath, apparently in an effort to shame him into resigning.

Darlene Ensign and Senator John Ensign
Darlene Ensign and Senator John Ensign

Doug Hampton has been interviewed by, among others, the New York Times and ABC’s “Nightline”, and he shows no sign on slowing down. I’m not sure you can blame him. His wife Cindy carried on the affair with Ensign despite the fact that they were family friends. Both worked for him, even as he was a member of “The Promise Keepers”, that group of ultra-religious conservative men who purport tolive more pious lives than the rest of us.

Hampton alleges that Ensign may have engaged in illegal conduct in paying his wife $25,000 in severance after the affair ended. If that money wasn’t properly reported to the Federal Election Commission, Ensign could face a felony charge. Beyond that, it must be downright embarrassing to have this guy dogging your every move.

It also creates a bit of a problem for the Republican Party. Five months after the Ensign affair was exposed, the GOP thought the whole thing was pretty much done with. They’ve since trained their sights on deposing Ensign’s Democratic counterpart, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. It looks like they think if they don’t say anything about Ensign, the whole thing will just blow over.

Some will argue Doug Hampton’s crusade is nothing ore than that of a cuckolded husband getting even. After all, he and Cindy (or is it Cynthia?) remain married, as do Ensign and his wife. However, John Ensign was the guy who led the charge after fellow Republican Larry Craig was caught up in that bathroom sex sting. Craig stuck around as well.

Funny, you don’t hear the same chest thumping about John Ensign that you hear about Charles Rangel. Like Rangel, Ensign is being investigated by his body’s ethics committee. Almost no one is demanding he step down from the Finance or Homeland Security committees. In fact, the only person making a fuss is Doug Hampton. The question now is whether the Republicans’ wall of silence will make his quest a moot point.

What do you think? Will Doug Hampton, husband scorned, have any impact on the career of Sen. john Ensign? You tell me.

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More Troops to Afghanistan?

As a person who detests war in all its forms, my short answer would be, “I hope not!” Yet it looks like President Barack Obama is toying with the idea. There’s a new report from the top US commander in Afghanistan, one the New York Times describes as detailing the deteriorating situation there.

The Times says the classified report, by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, didn’t ask for additional US troops, but that request could be coming soon.

Afghansitan.troops

If and when it does, it will come at a time when Americans are increasingly asking the same questions that were being asked about Iraq just a few years ago. What exactly is the mission? What constitutes victory? How much longer will US troops fight and die for a regime that many here see as hopelessly corrupt?

President Barack Obama has a dilemma on his hands. For many of his supporters, sending more troops to Afghanistan, regardless of rationale, isn’t “Change we can believe in”.  The recent Afghan elections are alleged to have been rife with fraud, fraud on behalf of the guy the US is backing, Hamid Karzai. Reports say his government only controls one third of the country, about the same as it did four years ago.

The Taliban, America’s clear enemy in the region, seems to materialize and vanish at will, making President Obama’s possible call for more troops look like an exercise in futility. There are rising references to Afghanistan being “Obama’s Vietnam”, a quagmire that will only deepen no matter how many more troops are sent.

And now conservative columnist George Will, of all people, has an op-ed in Tuesday’s Washington Post calling for the US to get out, and soon. His rationale is telling. From his WAPO piece:

“U.S. forces are being increased by 21,000, to 68,000, bringing the coalition total to 110,000. About 9,000 are from Britain, where support for the war is waning. Counterinsurgency theory concerning the time and the ratio of forces required to protect the population indicates that, nationwide, Afghanistan would need hundreds of thousands of coalition troops, perhaps for a decade or more. That is inconceivable.

So, instead, forces should be substantially reduced to serve a comprehensively revised policy: America should do only what can be done from offshore, using intelligence, drones, cruise missiles, airstrikes and small, potent Special Forces units, concentrating on the porous 1,500-mile border with Pakistan, a nation that actually matters”.

To which we can only say, whoa! Certainly a substantial reduction in US troops poses some potential political problems for the president. Yet the facts are clear. More US military personnel died in August in Afghanistan than at any time since the beginning of the war. The war is now eight years old, twice as long as World War II.

So the question is this. Should President Obama commit more US troops to Afghanistan, or should he start a gradual reduction with an eye toward withdrawal? You tell me.

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