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  Progressive Political Blog

Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

Forcing Congress to Face the Issue

Category: US Politics
Posted: 02/05/07 17:42

by Dave Mindeman

The first rule of holes: when you're in one, stop digging. -- Molly Ivins

As Iraq continues to spiral downward, it is a little demoralizing to watch the United States Senate continue its pointless chattering. The administration continues to move forward with failed policies while the Senate debates resolutions that will stop nothing and solve nothing. A non-binding resolution....worthless paper for a worthless debate.

So, while the President pushes on, and the Democrats in Congress look like a rudderless boat, the people are left without representation. As in the Vietnam era, it looks like the people will have to put a stop to the digging and climb out on their own.

On Tuesday, a number of allied Peace Groups are going to push the issue to our Congressional representatives. A sit-in, sponsored by the Twin Cites Peace Campaign, is being planned for each Tuesday in February at our Congressional offices. How they will be received will give us a glimpse into what we can expect from our Congress people when the real votes come down.

My own quick assessment (and this is not coming from any official positions) of Minnesota's delegation looks like this:

Norm Coleman: His positions (and with Norm you have to use position in the plural) are still "evolving".... but in the end, he looks to side with the GOP version of things.

Amy Klobuchar: She is much more cautious about Iraq than I would have expected. I would hope that she is still persuadable to lean more toward doing whatever is needed to get the troops home.

Keith Ellison: He will support getting our troops home...whatever it takes.

Jim Oberstar and Betty McCollum and Tim Walz: I expect they will support getting the troops out, but will hesitate when it comes down to how to cut off funding for the war.

Jim Ramstad and Colin Peterson: Even though one's a Republican and one's a Democrat, the positions they hold are similar. It will be tougher to sell them on a wholesale pullout; they will be sticklers for how any changes in policy are worded.

Michelle Bachmann and John Kline: Bachmann is still in Disneyland after her November win but it is a lock that she will support the President. John Kline is simply a Bush rubberstamp.

So what's the value of a "sit-in"? Well, it is important that our representatives know that real people are involved here and real people want them to act. We need them to regain the full understanding that they work for us and our opinion matters....and that "opinion" matters more when real voices talk rather than statistics from the latest opinion poll.

Can this change any minds? Maybe not, but it will draw attention to the urgency of the problem. This constant posturing on details costs lives, prolongs the separation of families, and still gets us no closer to any solutions.

Down in the Second District, you may also ask... "why John Kline? He's not going to change his position no matter what we do".

There is one answer to that. John Kline is best symbol of Bush policy we have in Minnesota. He is a stronger symbol of the Bush failures than Michelle Bachmann because he has participated in, and supported, the run up to war, as well as its implementation. He is fully culpable in the mistakes and choices that have led us to this war -- standing up to him is confronting Bush's choices directly.

And Kline's reaction is important, too. If past history is any indication, it will probably be dismissive or derisive.... it is just his way. But it is the type of reaction that everyone needs to see. The Kline/Bush method will not get our troops back any time soon. And if forcing the issue directly can stimulate some real debate...then it is all worth it.

If you are interested in showing your support for peace tomorrow, head for John Kline's Congressional Offices:
101 W. Burnsville Parkway #201, Burnsville, MN (times are from 9am to 5pm)
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DFLer's Call-Center Legislation Misses Broader Point

Category: Minnesota Politics
Posted: 02/04/07 10:09

By Christopher Truscott

A few weeks ago even the most committed reader of the metro dailies would've had trouble identifying State Rep. Joe Atkins.

The former Inver Grove Heights mayor is of course well known in his district and has emerged as a major behind-the-scenes player within the House DFL Caucus, but he didn't make big headlines until he unveiled his "call-center disclosure bill" last month, a day before hinting at a possible 2008 U.S. Senate run.

Atkins told the Star Tribune he dreamed up the call center legislation after a somewhat-awkward conversation with a computer company's customer-service representative based in New Delhi, India.

Under the call-center disclosure bill, customer-service employees would have to give their location if asked and Minnesotans could request the phone number of a U.S.-based operator if personal or financial data will be discussed.

"My bill is designed to protect private financial and medical data and prevent identity theft," Atkins said in an e-mail distributed by local DFLers.

Makes sense on the surface, but it's largely a solution in search of a problem.

As documented by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman in his book "The World is Flat," U.S. call center work is moving overseas at a startling rate. But for foreign businesses to effectively compete for American contracts, they have to demonstrate that extensive security measures are in place. Imagine the backlash an American company would face if customer data was compromised because jobs were outsourced to a low-wage country.

In many of these foreign call centers, Friedman notes, employees can't even carry paper or a writing utensil to their workspace. What are the chances an operator who handles scores of calls a day is going to memorize foreign names, Social Security numbers and home addresses?

This isn't a security issue and Atkins shouldn't frame it as one. The debate should be about globalization and its effect on American workers.

In the early 1990s, as he was pushing for congressional approval of the North American Free Trade Agreement, President Bill Clinton and his allies ? Democrats and Republicans on this issue ? told American manufacturing employees they needed to train for the jobs of the new economy. We're going to lose some old jobs, the NAFTA backers admitted, but they'll be replaced with better, higher-paying work.

Now we're losing those jobs, too ? and not to Mexico and Canada, but instead to places like India and China.

Atkins wasn't speaking to an assembly line worker in the conversation that inspired his high-profile proposal. He was working with a well-educated computer expert capable of talking someone 11.5 time zones away through technical problems. That's the kind of job Americans trained for in the second half of the 1990s.

Call-center jobs are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to outsourcing. Taking legislative pot-shots at foreign workers might make some people feel good, but it doesn't address the cold reality facing blue- and white-collar workers in Minnesota and many other states. We need real policies that reduce the incentive for U.S. companies to send jobs like customer service, computer programming and accounting abroad. The State Legislature can play an important role in this national issue by defining the terms of the debate and encouraging other states (and eventually the federal government) to act.

Hopefully an Atkins for Senate campaign will feature a far more substantive discussion of the issues, rather than headline-grabbing ploys that do little to address the root of serious problems facing our country.

Christopher Truscott can be reached at chris.truscott@gmail.com. It's too bad we can't outsource gasbag authors of dopey legislation to places like Vostok, Antarctica.
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Political HodgePodge...Minnesota and the World

Category: Minnesota Politics
Posted: 02/03/07 14:48, Edited: 02/03/07 14:53

by Dave Mindeman

It's Saturday... time for another look around at the odds and ends.

Here is an item that seems to be about 4 election cycles too late...

Every wonder what it takes to get Norm Coleman's attention?
Open For Business!

Paul Krugman really captured the essence of Molly Ivins in his NY Times column... the Liberal Values blogger captures the highlights
God...are we going to miss her!...especially that keen wit and insight.

You know when you get the backing of a company like Exxon, you can come up with a lot of "facts"..... my question is, if you have a profit year of over 35 billion dollars, $10,000 dollars for fact fabrication seems a little chincey, doesn't it?

There is a guy waging a persistent campaign to draft Al Gore for President... It is the Ostroy Report and his latest open letter has some great excerpts from a story in Rolling Stone by Tim Dickinson...it makes some particularly good arguments.....

all for now...

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