Friday, November 11, 2011
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Wednesday, November 09, 2011
Tuesday, November 08, 2011
The remarks were part of what the American and French leaders believed to be a private chat after a news conference in Cannes last week, during the G20 economic conference. The pair were still wearing microphones, and some journalists who still had their headphones on for translation caught the remarks, which were first reported by the French photo agency Arret Sur Images.
A Reuters news agency reporter who was also present has since confirmed the exchange.
As the two leaders discussion turns to Israel and the Palestinians, Sarkozy is first to express his distaste for the conservative Israeli Prime Minister.
"I cannot bear Netanyahu, he's a liar," the French president was heard to say.
In response, according to the account by Arret Sur Images, Mr. Obama sympathizes with Sarkozy's frustration, saying, "you're fed up, but I have to deal with him every day."
There is no immediate indication as to whether a recording of the private conversation exists.
I have no doubt it does. Journalists-- not the sheepish kind we have here in America who bleat whatever their corporatist overlords tell them, but the real ones that report overseas-- tend to be sticklers for on the record accuracy, and on-the-fly translations are not always the most accurate available. Someone's dictaphone was running.
Netanyahu seems to have an issue when it comes to honesty. At least once, he's had to drop out of politics due to a scandal involving corruption, including charges of infidelity. In 1997, Israeli police recommended his indictment for influence peddling, and again in 1999, on charges that he accepted $100,000 in free personal services from a government contractor. Neither time was an indictment handed up.
But it seems clear that Netanyahu has some familiarity with lying.
So now we have an influential European leader, president Sarkozy, calling Netanyahu out for his lies, and the most powerful leader in the free world, President Obama, sort of off-handedly agreeing with him.
I'm not completely convinced there isn't some political theatre involved here. As recently as September, Sarkozy offered up a proposal to grant the Palestinians observer status in the United Nations, a sort of half-hearted, ham-handed proposal that marked Sarkozy as the de facto mediator in that Middle East dispute.
It's conceivable that Obama has ceded the traditional American leadership role with respect to Israel to the French, and that Sarkozy was merely commenting on his frustrations with Netanyahu. It's also conceivable that Obama has Sarkozy acting as a figurehead in the dialogue to remove himself as a target of the right wing neo-con yammerheads for whom Israel = God.
After all, although raised strictly Catholic, Sarkozy can claim Jewish heritage (his mother is a Greek Jew by birth, which automatically confers Jewish status on Sarkozy by Talmudic law,) which gives him some credibility in these matters.
And as a conservative politician, for whatever that means in terms of French politics as opposed to American, he quiets the right wing who are too quick to defend him after his attempts to remake the French labor force more in the image of America.
Monday, November 07, 2011
Ginny Townsend, 41, took a job in January as a nursing assistant in the state-run home for veterans here. Technically, she works for a private company that supplies some employees to the veterans home under a [Michigan] state contract. She makes $10 an hour, about half the wage of the public employees working at the facility.
“I love my job, and I appreciate the opportunity to be here,” Ms. Townsend, a former home health care aide, said on a recent afternoon as she cheerfully delivered fruit and a newspaper to an 85-year-old resident in a sun-drenched solarium.
With the national unemployment rate at roughly 9 percent, Ms. Townsend says she feels lucky just to have a job. But on her low wages, she is barely scraping by. She said she was raising four grandchildren under 11 with her unemployed sister and could not support them without the $300 in food stamps she collects every month.
Do a little math here: $10 an hour works out to less than $23,000 a year, so $20 an hour works out to a little over $45,000 a year. Undoubtedly, with benefits and insurance costs, and of course profit, her employer is being paid about $20 an hour for each full-time equivalent (not all employees would work a full time shift). The average private care worker in Michigan is paid $12.25 per hour.
On top of this, she takes down $300 in food assistance each month or $3,600.
In other words, the state pays $55,000 or so for a $50,000 employee. OK, the state incurs other expenditures like pension contributions and other benefits mandated by collective bargaining, but the differential is clearly not as grand as Teabaggers would have you believe. call it $55,000 for a private contractor's employee versus $60,000 for a public worker.
But Townsend's case highlights the real danger in offsourcing jobs to contractors: Contractors are going to hire the cheapest, underpaid workers, which means they will hire less qualified workers, since even average workers will earn $12.25 per hour, which means that the quality of care will diminish while also draining state resources in other ways (unemployment benefits, food assistance, and so on.)