Saturday, March 04, 2017

Bernie Sanders goes to the mat for Nissan autoworkers

He's doing the jobs the Democratic Party won't do.

Senator Bernie Sanders is leading a protest Saturday against what activists are calling civil rights violations by Nissan.

Sanders will join actor Danny Glover, NAACP President Cornell William Brooks, politicians and activists at a Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi.

The activists cite "a pattern of civil rights abuses by Nissan against its predominantly African-American workforce in Mississippi," according to a statement from the march's organizers.

The automaker's efforts to stifle its workers range from the typical to the outrageous.

One of Nissan's first Canton employees, Chip Wells, told Sanders the harassment he received in response to taking his pro-union views public was so extreme — he described being targeted for unreasonable discipline — the stress caused him to take medical leave. When his physician cleared him, though, Nissan wouldn't let him return, he said. Wells' story is just one of many that some employees say illustrates a culture of distrust at Nissan, where supporters of unionizing efforts say workers have little voice and little of their superiors' respect.

Wells ultimately filed an unfair labor complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, and Nissan settled in 2014.

More on today's protest rally.  The grievances have gone across the pond.

Earlier last year, members of the French Parliament questioned Carlos Ghosn, chairman and CEO of Japan-based Nissan and CEO of France-based Renault, which partners with Nissan, about the conditions at the Canton plant. The French government owns 19.7 percent of stockholder voting shares in Renault, which controls more than 40 percent of Nissan's voting shares.

In an effort to take its concerns international, UAW filed a complaint in December with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development in three overseas countries.

"Everything has been done to prevent the formation of a union. Even efforts by the OECD and all other undertakings have not made a difference," said French politician Jean-Luc Laurent, according to a translated video of the February 2016 hearing. "So you may say that this may not be of concern because it is Nissan, not Renault, and it's not in France. However, France is attached to a social model, to workers rights because it is a component to industrial success."

Be sure and read this article about the Kelly Service temps hired by Nissan at lower-than-Nissan wages, who were promised full-time jobs after six months, some of whom have been there three years without having been converted.  It's Mississippi, after all, where 80% of the workers are African American and are easily intimidated by that "be thankful you have a job " crap.

This effort checks a lot of boxes for Bernie's Revolutionary mission: coming to the aid of black working class Americans getting beaten up by a foul multi-national corporation.

While Alex Acosta is no Andy Puzder, and with Trump and the GOP Congress' efforts to stamp out unions via a national "right to work" (sic) law the goal, let's see how long it takes for a few weak-kneed Democrats who want labor's support in 2018 to get on this bandwagon.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Speech honeymoon over; Russians are back

Sessions lied about talking to the Russians during his confirmation hearing.

Democrats escalated their demands late Wednesday that Attorney General Jeff Sessions recuse himself from overseeing an investigation into contacts between the Trump campaign and the Russian government after a disclosure that Sessions himself spoke with the Russian ambassador last year, seemingly contradicting his testimony at his confirmation hearing.

And some Democrats went further, suggesting that Sessions had perjured himself and demanding that he resign.

Just yesterday I posted the link that indicated there was still nothing but circumstantial evidence that the Kremlin influenced the 2016 election.  It's been clear for a long time that they tried to do so... but not that they succeeded in doing so.  This dribbling out of details that Trump's people have lied about what they know about the Russkies and how long they have known -- to Congress, mind you, an offense people usually go to jail over -- tightens the noose somewhat.  Once more, it's not the crime but the coverup.

At the confirmation hearing for attorney general in January, Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, asked Sessions about a CNN report that intelligence briefers had told Barack Obama, then the president, and Trump, then the president-elect, that Russian operatives claimed to have compromising information about Trump.

Franken also noted that the report indicated that surrogates for Trump and intermediaries for the Russian government continued to exchange information during the campaign. He asked Sessions what he would do if that report proved true.

Sessions replied that he was “not aware of any of those activities.” He added: “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign, and I didn’t have — did not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it.”

But the Justice Department acknowledged on Wednesday that Sessions had twice communicated with the Russian ambassador last year. The first time was in July, at the Republican National Convention, after he gave a speech at an event for ambassadors sponsored by the Heritage Foundation. The second time was a visit to his office by (Russian Ambassador Sergey) Kislyak in September. The Washington Post earlier reported both encounters.

Kisylak already has Michael Flynn's ass in his briefcase.  And you may recall that Elizabeth Warren was "silenced" by Mitch McConnell for "impugning the character" (sic) of Sessions when she questioned him aggressively during his hearing.

Vox gives Sessions some room to wiggle off the hook.

A word of caution: Benjamin Wittes, editor in chief of the blog Lawfare, said on Twitter that there’s probably not enough for a perjury charge. He argued that there is enough ambiguity about whether Sessions, at his hearing, meant he had no communication with Russia as part of his work as a campaign surrogate versus his work as a senator. If he was speaking exclusively about his work on the behalf of the campaign, Sessions could argue that his work as a US senator was a separate matter.

“There was absolutely nothing misleading about his answer,” Sessions spokesperson Sarah Isgur Flores said. “Last year, the senator had over 25 conversations with foreign ambassadors as a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, including the British, Korean, Japanese, Polish, Indian, Chinese, Canadian, Australian, German and Russian ambassadors. He was asked during the hearing about communications between Russia and the Trump campaign — not about meetings he took as a senator and a member of the Armed Services Committee.”

Sessions, for his part, made a similar argument in his statement: “I never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign. I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false.”

Sessions seems to misunderstand the allegations in his statement. It’s not whether he met with Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign, but whether he spoke with them in any capacity despite telling Congress he had no communications with Russians. His spokesperson’s statement and his own statement only deny that he spoke with Russian officials as a campaign surrogate, but he still apparently communicated with a Russian official as a senator.

The Post report suggests that Sessions’ contact with Kislyak, even as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee at the time, was unusual. Among the 20 (of 26) members of the committee who responded to the Post, none of them met with Russia’s ambassador last year.

However this goes in the days ahead, Sessions is damaged goods.  Even if he just recuses from any Russian investigation or appoints a special investigator, he's still there to lean on it, keeping Trump's massive ass covered as best he can.

Maybe Trump will blast out some Tweets soon, make everything worse.

Update, 3 pm CST: Sessions recuses himself.  Relevant passage from The New Yorker:

At a news conference on February 16th, when Trump was asked if anyone in his campaign had been in contact with Russia, he said, “Nobody that I know of.” He also said, “I have nothing to do with Russia. Haven’t made a phone call to Russia in years.” In fact, Trump spoke to Vladimir Putin less than three weeks before that—an event that the White House announced at the time, on January 28th. So how are we to understand the President’s plainly false statement? If he doesn’t acknowledge the calls that his office has announced, what are we to make of his categorical declarations that he had no contact with Russian representatives during the campaign? Now that he knows that Sessions, one of his earliest supporters, was in contact with the Russian Ambassador, will he take steps to reassure members of Congress that he is taking the matter seriously and has been honest about his own actions?

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Getting your ashes on

For those of you who aren't Catholic, don't try to wipe off that schmutz you'll see on some people's foreheads today.
 -- The normalization campaign has begun.  "Softer Trump storms Capitol":

A disciplined President Trump stormed Capitol Hill late Tuesday bearing a few olive branches for Democrats, some red meat for conservatives and a softer tone that surprised members in both parties.

Republicans cheered the president both for his policy vision and an unusually restrained delivery –– one they hope marks a turning point in a presidency plagued by early missteps. Democrats, meanwhile, welcomed Trump’s calls for unity and vows to bolster civil rights, hike infrastructure spending and prioritize education.

Van Jones became a believer, but two Texas Democrats made the (nearly) ultimate sacrifice: Sheila Jackson Lee did not post up on the aisle to shake the president's hand, and Al Green wasn't in the chamber at all.  Hope he had some mudbug and daiquiris somewhere.  Resistance!

For those who did attend, the response to Trump’s message was largely a study in contrasts in the divided House chamber, where the theme was established early: Republicans stood frequently and cheered enthusiastically; Democrats sat sullenly and exuded resentment. And the disparity foreshadows the likely difficulty surrounding the fights to come as Trump and the Republicans try to enact their ambitious agenda under a unified government.

Reading quickly, Trump thrilled the Republicans with vows to bring jobs home, rejuvenate inner cities and put America first. But on those and countless other themes, the Democrats sat motionless and un-clapping. On numerous topics, the only Democrat standing was Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).

I wonder if LieberManchin will have a primary opponent from his left.

'Short on specifics'.  The AP fact-checks, finds the speech long on unearned credit-taking.  Blame avoidance is the man's more practiced game, so I suppose this can be gauged an improvement.

Meanwhile, his travel ban is still being massaged to try to pass constitutional muster, but there remains no evidence that Russians hacked, conspired, or colluded to throw the election.  Trump's business relationships with Russia are the issue, which is why the Republicans in Congress don't want to force his tax returns out in the open.  But some people still need to get over November 8 and focus on the issues that will bring him down... before he brings us all down with him.

This was going to be a longer post, but I'm out of time again.