NEWS -- 2008.08.01.Friday
- 1) Catholic Cardinal spreads homophobia in the name of Jesus and Benny the 14th
2) Wal-Mart warns managers about labor bill
3) Wal-Mart Warns of Democratic Win
4) Gay-Marriage Opponents Lead In California Fund-Raising
5) Scandal puts spotlight on Christian law school -- rightwingers doing their thing
6) United States Unfolding Financial and Economic Nightmare
7) America's Most Overpriced ZIP Codes
The Daily Show -- Jon Stewart -- Don't Ask, Don't Tell Hearing
ANOTHER EXTRA -- long Mormon read
Vatican Official Urges Anglican Bishops: Condemn Homosexuality
via - Gay news daily: Towleroad.com - "Hot blog"--Newsweek by Andy on 7/31/08
Walter Cardinal Kasper, president of the pontifical council for promoting christian unity, spoke at the Lambeth Conference in Canterbury, England yesterday and said the need for Catholics and Anglicans to be on the same page against gays is "sorely needed in the world today" and urged the more than 150 bishops gathered to condemn homosexuality:
Said Kasper: "This teaching is founded in the Old and New Testament and the fidelity to scripture and to Apostolic tradition is absolute. Homosexuality is a disordered behaviour. The activity must be condemned; the traditional approach to homosexuality is comprehensive ... A clear declaration about this theme must come from the Anglican Communion."
According to The Guardian, "Kasper was saddened that dialogue between the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church had been seriously compromised over the issues of women's ordination and homosexuality. These developments had also caused the Communion to enter into a period of dispute, he observed."
Added Kasper: "Many of you are troubled, deeply so, by the threat of fragmentation. In such a scenario, who will our dialogue partner be? How can we appropriately and honestly engage in conversations with those who share Catholic perspectives on the points currently in dispute, and who disagree with some developments within the Anglican Communion or particular provinces?"
Wal-Mart warns managers about labor bill
Reuters, Friday 01 August 2008
Wal-Mart Stores Inc said on Friday it has warned U.S. store managers in recent weeks about the possible consequences of a labor-friendly bill backed by Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama that would make it easier for workers to form unions.
But the retailer, which has kept its U.S. stores free of unions, stressed it was not telling employees how to vote.
The Wall Street Journal reported that about a dozen employees who attended meetings in seven states said executives had told them that unionization could force Wal-Mart to cut jobs as labor costs rise, and that employees would have to pay hefty union dues and get nothing in return.
The Journal said Wal-Mart human-resources managers who run the meetings do not specifically tell attendees how to vote in November's presidential election, but they make it clear that voting for Obama would be tantamount to inviting unions in.
"If anyone representing Wal-Mart gave the impression we were telling associates how to vote, they were wrong and acting without approval," Wal-Mart spokesman David Tovar said.
Wal-Mart opposes proposed legislation called the Employee Free Choice Act that would make it easier for workers to unionize, by signing a card rather than holding a vote.
Obama, a co-sponsor of the original bill, has called for passage of the act. Last June, presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain voted against it.
"We believe EFCA is a bad bill and we have been on record as opposing it for some time," Tovar said. "We feel educating our associates about the bill is the right thing to do."
Wal-Mart has long been the target of union-backed groups that criticize the retailer for everything from its pay practices to its health care benefits.
News of the store manager meetings drew the ire of Wal-Mart critic groups Wal-Mart Watch and www.WakeUpWalMart.com, as well as the AFL-CIO labor federation.
"Wal-Mart has once again been exposed for what it really is: a corporation that will go to any length to put profits ahead of its workers," Meghan Scott, spokeswoman for WakeUpWalMart.com, said in a statement.
"Wal-Mart has talked a lot about changing its ways on health care, the environment and workers rights, but this article shows that all that talk hasn't translated into action," she said.
(Reporting by Nicole Maestri; editing by Ted Kerr)
Nobody knows how to lie and bear false witness like a conservative religionist -- especially a Southern Baptist.
"But the retailer, which has kept its U.S. stores free of unions, stressed it was not telling employees how to vote."
That's the same as --
"We're not discriminating against anybody, we're restoring marriage to its original intent -- a man and a woman."
Here's the real problem for Democrats -- the Republicans will probably win in November because there are so many stupid gullible people in the U.S. Many with college degrees. Many following some self-serving theological mythology and a brooks brothers preacher.
("My preacher said so.")
Wall Street Journal
Friday 01 August 2008
Wal-Mart Warns of Democratic Win
By ANN ZIMMERMAN and KRIS MAHER
August 1, 2008; Page A1
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is mobilizing its store managers and department supervisors around the country to warn that if Democrats win power in November, they'll likely change federal law to make it easier for workers to unionize companies -- including Wal-Mart.
In recent weeks, thousands of Wal-Mart store managers and department heads have been summoned to mandatory meetings at which the retailer stresses the downside for workers if stores were to be unionized.
According to about a dozen Wal-Mart employees who attended such meetings in seven states, Wal-Mart executives claim that employees at unionized stores would have to pay hefty union dues while getting nothing in return, and may have to go on strike without compensation. Also, unionization could mean fewer jobs as labor costs rise.
The actions by Wal-Mart -- the nation's largest private employer -- reflect a growing concern among big business that a reinvigorated labor movement could reverse years of declining union membership. That could lead to higher payroll and health costs for companies already being hurt by rising fuel and commodities costs and the tough economic climate.
The Wal-Mart human-resources managers who run the meetings don't specifically tell attendees how to vote in November's election, but make it clear that voting for Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama would be tantamount to inviting unions in, according to Wal-Mart employees who attended gatherings in Maryland, Missouri and other states.
"The meeting leader said, 'I am not telling you how to vote, but if the Democrats win, this bill will pass and you won't have a vote on whether you want a union,'" said a Wal-Mart customer-service supervisor from Missouri. "I am not a stupid person. They were telling me how to vote," she said.
"If anyone representing Wal-Mart gave the impression we were telling associates how to vote, they were wrong and acting without approval," said David Tovar, Wal-Mart spokesman. Mr. Tovar acknowledged that the meetings were taking place for store managers and supervisors nationwide.
Wal-Mart's worries center on a piece of legislation known as the Employee Free Choice Act, which companies say would enable unions to quickly add millions of new members. "We believe EFCA is a bad bill and we have been on record as opposing it for some time," Mr. Tovar said. "We feel educating our associates about the bill is the right thing to do."
Other companies and groups are also making a case against the legislation to workers. Laundry company Cintas Corp., which has been fighting a multiyear organizing campaign by Unite Here, relaunched a Web site July 14 called CintasVotes. The site instructs visitors to take action by telling members of Congress to oppose the legislation.
"We feel it's important that our employee partners fully understand the implications that the Employee Free Choice Act could have on their work environment and benefits," said Heather Trainer, a Cintas spokeswoman.
Business-backed organizations are also running ads aimed at building opposition to the bill, including the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, which counts several hundred industry associations as members. Another group, the Employee Freedom Action Committee, is run by former tobacco lobbyist Rick Berman. The groups, which aren't affiliated with each other, say they have a total of $50 million in funding. Neither will disclose which companies or individuals have provided funding.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has made defeat of the legislation a top priority. In the past six months, it has flown state and local Chamber members to Washington to lobby members of Congress. On Thursday, the Chamber began airing a television ad in Minnesota and plans to run ads in other states as part of a broader campaign.
The bill was crafted by labor as a response to more aggressive opposition by companies to union-organizing activity. The AFL-CIO and individual unions such as the United Food and Commercial Workers have promised to make passage of the new labor law their No. 1 mission after the November election.
First introduced in 2003, the bill came to a vote last year and sailed through the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, but was blocked by a filibuster in the Senate and faced a veto threat by the White House. The bill was taken off the floor, and its backers pledged to reintroduce it when they could get more support.
The November election could bring that extra support in Congress, as well as the White House if Sen. Obama is elected and Democrats extend their control in the Senate. Sen. Obama co-sponsored the legislation, which also is known as "card check," and has said several times he would sign it into law if elected president. Sen. John McCain, the likely Republican presidential nominee, opposes the Employee Free Choice Act and voted against it last year.
Wal-Mart's labor-relations meetings are led by human-resources managers who received training from Wal-Mart on the implications of the Employee Free Choice Act.
Fine Legal Line
Wal-Mart may be walking a fine legal line by holding meetings with its store department heads that link politics with a strong antiunion message. Federal election rules permit companies to advocate for specific political candidates to its executives, stockholders and salaried managers, but not to hourly employees. While store managers are on salary, department supervisors are hourly workers.
However, employers have fairly broad leeway to disseminate information about candidates' voting records and positions on issues, according to Jan Baran, a Washington attorney and expert on election law.
Both supporters and opponents of the Employee Free Choice Act believe it would simplify and speed labor's ability to unionize companies. Currently, companies can demand a secret-ballot election to determine union representation. Those elections often are preceded by months of strident employer and union campaigns.
Under the proposed legislation, companies could no longer have the right to insist on one secret ballot. Instead, the Free Choice, or "card check," legislation would let unions form if more than 50% of workers simply sign a card saying they want to join. It is far easier for unions to get workers to sign cards because the organizers can approach workers repeatedly, over a period of weeks or months, until the union garners enough support.
Employers argue that the card system could lead to workers being pressured to sign by pro-union colleagues and organizers. Unions counter that it shields workers from pressure from their employers.
On June 30 the National Labor Relations Board ruled that Wal-Mart illegally fired an employee in Kingman, Ariz., who supported the UFCW and illegally threatened to freeze merit-pay increases if employees voted for union representation. The decision came eight years after the organizing campaign failed, and four years after the case was originally heard.
"We've always maintained the termination was not related to the union and that there was nothing unlawful about an answer provided an associate about merit pay," said Mr. Tovar, the Wal-Mart spokesman. "Following the decision, we were considering offering reinstatement, but that is on hold, since the [union] appealed the decision."
Unions consider the Employee Free Choice Act as vital to the survival of the labor movement, which currently represents 7.5% of private-sector workers, half the percentage it did 25 years ago. The Service Employees International Union said the legislation would enable it to organize a million workers a year, up from its current pace of 100,000 workers a year.
The business-backed lobbying groups are running ads in states where a win by a Democratic Senate candidate would boost support for the legislation in the Senate, saying the loss of secret ballots exposes workers to bullying labor bosses. In one, they use an actor from the "Sopranos" TV series about mob life to hammer home their point.
Business groups say they're the underdogs since they will be outspent by unions by a wide margin. Labor has pledged to spend $300 million on the election and securing passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, compared with under $100 million by business groups, according to Steven Law, chief legal officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber's strategy is to focus on the Senate, where labor needs eight more supporters of the legislation to reach the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster.
"This is a David-and-Goliath confrontation, but we believe we'll have enough stones in the sling to knock this out," said Mr. Law.
Wal-Mart is a powerful ally. Through almost all of its 48-year history, Wal-Mart has fought hard to keep unions out of its stores, flying in labor-relations rapid-response teams from its Bentonville, Ark., headquarters to any location where union activity was building. The United Food and Commercial Workers was successful in organizing only one group of Wal-Mart workers -- a small number of butchers in East Texas in early 2000. Several weeks later, the company phased out butchers in all of its stores and began stocking prepackaged meat. When a store in Canada voted to unionize several years ago, the company closed the store, saying it had been unprofitable for years.
Labor has fought back with a campaign to portray Wal-Mart as treating its workers poorly. The UFCW helped employees file a series of complaints about the company's overtime, health-care and other policies with the National Labor Relations Board. Dozens of class-action lawsuits were filed on behalf of workers, many of which are still winding their way through the courts.
Wal-Mart has been trying to burnish its reputation by improving its worker benefits and touting its commitment to the environment. On the political front, it's hedging its bets, spreading its financial contributions on both sides of the political divide.
Twelve years ago, 98% of Wal-Mart's political donations went to Republicans. Now, as the Democrats seem poised to gain control in Washington, 48% of its $2.2 million in political contributions go to Democrats and 52% to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan organization that tracks political giving.
Write to Ann Zimmerman at ann.zimmerman@... and Kris Maher at kris.maher@...
The Wall Street Journal
Gay-Marriage Opponents Lead
In California Fund-Raising
By MYLENE MANGALINDAN
July 31, 2008 11:20 p.m.
Opponents of gay marriage appear to have taken a lead in campaign contributions on a California referendum, according to filings from groups on both sides of the issue.
Proponents of Proposition 8, a ballot initiative that would ban same-sex marriage, raised about $3.7 million from Jan. 1 through June 30, according to state filings. In contrast, gay-rights activists who oppose the measure raised about $2.5 million through June 30.
The groups are battling over a divisive ballot measure slated for November that would amend the California constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman, thus barring same-sex marriage.
The measure was put on the ballot after the state's Supreme Court said in May that a ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. That paved the way for the legalization of gay marriage in California on June 17.
The voting on Proposition 8 will be close, pollsters predict.
Fifty-one percent of Californians are likely to support same-sex marriage and oppose the ballot measure in the November election, according to the most recent Field Poll in July.
Forty-one percent of voters said they would vote yes on the measure and oppose gay marriage, according to the same poll.
According to Thursday's filings with the Secretary of State, the Protect Marriage coalition, the biggest committee backing Proposition 8, raised approximately $2.6 million through June 30.
Other supporters of Proposition 8, including the National Organization of Marriage-California, raised about $1.1 million over the same period.
Gay-rights activists say they gained fund-raising momentum in July, which is not reflected in Thursday's filings.
"Just this month, we have raised approximately another $2 million," Dale Kelly Bankhead, campaign manager for No on Prop 8-Equality for All, wrote in a release.
Contributions in opposition to Proposition 8 have come from California labor unions and PG&E Corp., which donated $250,000 on Tuesday.
The filings disclose campaign contributions through June 30.
About 30% of the funds opposing Proposition 8 came from out of state. In contrast, about 22% of the funds supporting Proposition 8 came from out-of-state donors.
Write to Mylene Mangalindan at mylene.mangalindan@...
Scandal puts spotlight on Christian law school
Grads influential in Justice Dept.
By Charlie Savage, Globe Staff | April 8, 2007 (old news but still relevant)
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- The title of the course was Constitutional Law, but the subject was sin. Before any casebooks were opened, a student led his classmates in a 10-minute devotional talk, completed with "amens," about the need to preserve their Christian values.
"Sin is so appealing because it's easy and because it's fun," the law student warned.
Regent University School of Law, founded by televangelist Pat Robertson to provide "Christian leadership to change the world," has worked hard in its two-decade history to upgrade its reputation, fighting past years when a majority of its graduates couldn't pass the bar exam and leading up to recent victories over Ivy League teams in national law student competitions.
But even in its darker days, Regent has had no better friend than the Bush administration. Graduates of the law school have been among the most influential of the more than 150 Regent University alumni hired to federal government positions since President Bush took office in 2001, according to a university website.
One of those graduates is Monica Goodling , the former top aide to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales who is at the center of the storm over the firing of US attorneys. Goodling, who resigned on Friday, has become the face of Regent overnight -- and drawn a harsh spotlight to the administration's hiring of officials educated at smaller, conservative schools with sometimes marginal academic reputations.
Documents show that Goodling, who has asserted her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination to avoid testifying before Congress, was one of a handful of officials overseeing the firings. She helped install Timothy Griffin , the Karl Rove aide and her former boss at the Republican National Committee, as a replacement US attorney in Arkansas.
Because Goodling graduated from Regent in 1999 and has scant prosecutorial experience, her qualifications to evaluate the performance of US attorneys have come under fire. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, asked at a hearing: "Should we be concerned with the experience level of the people who are making these highly significant decisions?"
And across the political blogosphere, critics have held up Goodling, who declined to be interviewed, as a prime example of the Bush administration subordinating ability to politics in hiring decisions.
"It used to be that high-level DOJ jobs were generally reserved for the best of the legal profession," wrote a contributor to The New Republic website . ". . . That a recent graduate of one of the very worst (and sketchiest) law schools with virtually no relevant experience could ascend to this position is a sure sign that there is something seriously wrong at the DOJ."
The Regent law school was founded in 1986, when Oral Roberts University shut down its ailing law school and sent its library to Robertson's Bible-based college in Virginia. It was initially called "CBN University School of Law" after the televangelist's Christian Broadcasting Network, whose studios share the campus and which provided much of the funding for the law school. (The Coors Foundation is also a donor to the university.) The American Bar Association accredited Regent 's law school in 1996.
Not long ago, it was rare for Regent graduates to join the federal government. But in 2001, the Bush administration picked the dean of Regent's government school, Kay Coles James , to be the director of the Office of Personnel Management -- essentially the head of human resources for the executive branch. The doors of opportunity for government jobs were thrown open to Regent alumni.
"We've had great placement," said Jay Sekulow , who heads a non profit law firm based at Regent that files lawsuits aimed at lowering barriers between church and state. "We've had a lot of people in key positions."
Many of those who have Regent law degrees, including Goodling, joined the Department of Justice. Their path to employment was further eased in late 2002, when John Ashcroft , then attorney general, changed longstanding rules for hiring lawyers to fill vacancies in the career ranks.
Previously, veteran civil servants screened applicants and recommended whom to hire, usually picking top students from elite schools.
In a recent Regent law school newsletter, a 2004 graduate described being interviewed for a job as a trial attorney at the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division in October 2003. Asked to name the Supreme Court decision from the past 20 years with which he most disagreed, he cited Lawrence v. Texas, the ruling striking down a law against sodomy because it violated gay people's civil rights.
"When one of the interviewers agreed and said that decision in Lawrence was 'maddening,' I knew I correctly answered the question," wrote the Regent graduate . The administration hired him for the Civil Rights Division's housing section -- the only employment offer he received after graduation, he said.
The graduate from Regent -- which is ranked a "tier four" school by US News & World Report, the lowest score and essentially a tie for 136th place -- was not the only lawyer with modest credentials to be hired by the Civil Rights Division after the administration imposed greater political control over career hiring.
The changes resulted in a sometimes dramatic alteration to the profile of new hires beginning in 2003, as the Globe reported last year after obtaining resumes from 2001-2006 to three sections in the civil rights division. Conservative credentials rose, while prior experience in civil rights law and the average ranking of the law school attended by the applicant dropped.
As the dean of a lower-ranked law school that benefited from the Bush administration's hiring practices, Jeffrey Brauch of Regent made no apologies in a recent interview for training students to understand what the law is today, and also to understand how legal rules should be changed to better reflect "eternal principles of justice," from divorce laws to abortion rights.
"We anticipate that many of our graduates are going to go and be change agents in society," Brauch said.
Still, Brauch said, the recent criticism of the law school triggered by Goodling's involvement in the US attorney firings has missed the mark in one respect: the quality of the lawyers now being turned out by the school, he argued, is far better than its image.
Seven years ago, 60 percent of the class of 1999 -- Goodling's class -- failed the bar exam on the first attempt. (Goodling's performance was not available, though she is admitted to the bar in Virginia.) The dismal numbers prompted the school to overhaul its curriculum and tighten admissions standards.
It has also spent more heavily to recruit better-qualified law students. This year, it will spend $2.8 million on scholarships, a million more than what it was spending four years ago.
The makeover is working. The bar exam passage rate of Regent alumni , according to the Princeton Review, rose to 67 percent last year. Brauch said it is now up to 71 percent, and that half of the students admitted in the late 1990s would not be accepted today. The school has also recently won moot-court and negotiation competitions, beating out teams from top-ranked law schools.
Adding to Regent's prominence, its course on "Human Rights, Civil Liberties, and National Security" is co taught by one of its newest professors: Ashcroft.
Even a prominent critic of the school's mission of integrating the Bible with public policy vouches for Regent's improvements. Barry Lynn , the head of the liberal Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, said Regent is churning out an increasingly well-trained legal army for the conservative Christian movement.
"You can't underestimate the quality of a lot of the people that are there," said Lynn, who has guest-lectured at Regent and debated professors on its campus.
In light of Regent's rapid evolution, some current law students say it is frustrating to be judged in light of Regent alumni from the school's more troubled era -- including Goodling.
One third-year student, Chamie Riley , said she rejected the idea that any government official who invokes her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination could be a good representative of Regent.
As Christians, she said, Regent students know "you should be morally upright. You should not be in a situation where you have to plead the Fifth."
Bush and theological mythology on parade -- and in law.
The Market Oracle
United States Unfolding Financial and Economic Nightmare
Stock-Markets / Recession Jul 22, 2008 - 05:46 AM
Martin Weiss: This is the first stage of the dangerous bear market we've been warning you about. And just as we've warned, the market is being driven down by the single most important sector: Financial companies, the heartbeat of our economy.
Nearly every major bank, brokerage and lender you can name is up to its eyeballs in leveraged investments whose value is going up in smoke. They're borrowing hundreds of billions from the Fed. They're raising billions more from investors, diluting their shares. They're selling massive amounts of assets - scrambling any way they can to raise cash to survive.
Merrill Lynch, America's largest brokerage firm, has lost more than two thirds of its stock value. Citigroup, once America's largest bank by market cap, has lost even more. Washington Mutual has given up nine tenths of its value. On average, even including the strongest of the banks, half of the wealth of bank shareholders has been wiped out.
This is the first stage of the deep recession we've been warning you about. Banks have no choice but to deny loans to all but the most highly qualified borrowers; and as a result, corporations and consumers have no choice but to cut back on their spending.
Consumer confidence is the worst since 1980. Mortgage default rates are the worst since the 1970s. Even the government's highly suspect official numbers show that the growth of the U.S. economy is grinding to a halt.
This is also bringing the runaway inflation we've been warning you about, with oil and energy leading the way. This time, unlike the 1970s when we had artificial energy shortages created by OPEC or by Iran, the planet is confronting chronic, long-term energy shortages.
But at each step of the way, what truly angers me is that our government leaders - the very people we elect to protect our interests - continually minimize, downplay and sugarcoat this crisis.
First, they told us it would be limited to the subprime mortgage market. Then, they told us it would be limited to housing. And of course, every time the Fed pumped in more money for a new bail-out, they swore on a stack of Bibles that it would not re-ignite inflation.
The gap between what you see and what they say has never been greater. Today, we're going to show you how they're cooking the nation's books, distorting key economic data, and perpetuating the deception that things aren't nearly as bad as they really are. And we're going to show you why this great deception is, in itself, one of the greatest dangers of all.
As grim as the situation is, though, never forget: As a nation, we will get through this. We faced reality in the Great Depression and we created a stronger country as a result. We faced reality during World War II and we helped create a better world in its aftermath. And that's what we need to do again - face reality.
But right now, unfortunately, we live in two worlds. We live in a real world that average citizens experience each day - sinking home values, surging gas and food prices, the disappearance of easy credit. Plus, we live in a fantasy world that Washington bureaucrats have created - an American economy that they say is "still growing," inflation that they say is still "still moderate," a credit crisis that they repeatedly say has been "overcome."
How big is the gap between fiction and reality? Is it getting bigger? What are the real consequences for investors?
--- the article continues at the URL ---
America's Most Overpriced ZIP Codes
by Matt Woolsey
Thursday, July 31, 2008 Forbes
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