Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Union Blues, Email Blues, Baseball Blues

Union Trouble: A federal judge has ruled a large retail company violated federal labor laws and had intimidated workers seeking to become the first unionized store in the chain. He set aside the vote taken last June to deny unionization and ordered a second election be held.

Sacre bleu! Had Wal-Mart once again infuriated the populace, supplying more ammunition to those who would keep it out of the Big Apple while they happily shop in discount store heaven at Tar-jay? But wait. Zut alors! It was not Wal-Mart that incurred the wrath of Steven Davis, an administrative law judge with the National labor Relations Board. It was Target!

As I’ve said on numerous occasions, Wal-Mart and Target act essentially alike in most operational matters, such as hourly pay scales, benefits including health insurance, and a fervent anti-union bias. Wal-Mart bears the brunt of most objections because it is much larger than Target and, to be honest, the elites who govern municipalities and those who comment on it prefer the d├ęcor and merchandise inside a Target store to that of Wal-Mart. It’s only recently that union leaders, who allowed Target to gain a foothold in New York City without serious objection, have finally turned their sights onto the bullseye-logoed chain. 

"When Target tries to open stores in this city, we'll bring this decision to the City Council," said Pat Purcell, assistant to the president of Local 1500 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. "This is important information we need to disseminate. This is not the image people had of Target a year ago." 

Email Screeds: My retired friend Gary sent me a video of divers swimming around a coral reef. Beautiful video, but as you may know, coral reefs are dying because of too much pollution and intrusion by humans. So what's the solution—let them die off or place restrictions (yes, by government action) on their use so that they may be enjoyed forever and contribute to ocean life (and that of mankind, as well, through the food chain)? 

It's a tough choice. Do we care just about our pleasures and the here and now, or do we care about future generations? 

Being retired and recuperating from knee surgery, Gary has too much time on his hands, I believe. He’s always sending me right-wing screeds, most of which he doesn’t bother to vet through Snopes.com or some other source. In the last few days no fewer than 10 emails. 

One of the latest I received had two parts, the first citing an article reportedly from Investors Business Daily that compared medical statistics compiled by the United Nations for the United States, Canada and England. By wide margins the U.S. came out ahead in the following categories: percentage of men and women who survived a cancer five years after diagnosis; percentage of patients diagnosed with diabetes who received treatment within six months; percentage of seniors needing hip replacement who received it within six months; percentage referred to a medical specialist who sees them within one month; number of MRI scanners per million people;  percentage of seniors (65+), with low income, who say they are in "excellent health”.

All this by way of getting to the email’s central first point—England and Canada have national health insurance; the U.S. doesn’t, thus underscoring why we have better health care and should resist Obamacare.

Assuming the data was correct, I pointed out to Gary another United Nations study, this one of life spans among 194 countries. In that study, the United States came in 38th, with an average life span of 78.2 years for everyone, 75.6 for men and 80.8 for women. The United Kingdom (England is not broken out separately) ranked 20th, with an overall average of 79.4 years, 77.2 for men, 81.6 for women. Canada was number 12, with an overall figure of 80.7 years, 78.3 for men, 82.9 for women.

So I guess if you want to live longer the U.S. isn't such a good place to reside, compared to 37 other countries including England and Canada.

By the way, a Central Intelligence Agency study ranked Canada in 13th place, the United Kingdom 28th and the United States 50th!

The second part of Gary’s email focused on allegations President Obama’s cabinet lacks members with prior business experience (only 8%), as compared to previous administrations going back to that of Teddy Roosevelt. It’s another falsehood spread by right wingers, I told him, but even if we assume the numbers are correct, here are some interesting points to be extracted from the bogus data: 

Harding, Coolidge and Hoover each were said to have had more than 40% of their respective cabinets stocked with business experienced secretaries. Yet they failed to monitor excesses of industry and business and led us into the Great Depression and couldn't get us out of it; Reagan’s cabinet was said to have 56% with business experience, yet he raised taxes 11 times; George W. Bush supposedly had 55% with business experience, yet he led us into the worst recession since the Great Depression. 

In other words, having businessmen in your cabinet does not necessarily lead to having a smart cabinet, one that knows what to do with the economy or has compassion for the common man.

Baseball Redux? From my birth in 1949 until I was 16 years old, there was one constant in my sporting life. Except for 1954 and 1959, I could count on the NY Yankees being in the World Series. They won 14 American League championships in the span of 16 years, converting nine of those pennants into World Series victories. 

From 1995 through 2011, the Bronx Bombers displayed an equally prodigious appetite for post-season play. They participated in 16 out of 17 playoffs. They represented the American League in seven World Series, winning five. 

But this 2012 season has all the earmarks of 1965 when the Yankees collapsed after losing a seven-game World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals. Interestingly, St. Louis won the baseball title last year, again in seven games, this time over the Texas Rangers, the new powerhouse of the American League.

In 1964, the Yankees had a 99-63 record. In 1965, the Yanks tumbled to a 77-85 record as their stars, including Mickey Mantle, Joe Pepitone, Tom Tresh, Bobby Richardson and Tony Kubek, Clete Boyer, Elston Howard, Whitey Ford, Jim Bouton, Mel Stottlemyre, and Al Downing, all seemed to get old at the same time. 

After 42 games this year, one-quarter of the schedule, the Yankees record is 21-21. Age apparently has overtaken this year’s roster. I’m not going to pile on and relate the causes of their ineptitude. You can read about it on any sports page or listen to it on any sports radio or TV show. I’m just going to note I’m old enough to have enjoyed two exceptional periods of baseball productivity. When the first ended in 1964, Yankees fans suffered through a drought of 11 years of early season-ending good-byes. 

No Yankees baseball in October was especially hard given the pathetic play of the NY Football Giants during that era. I fear the Yankees have entered another baseball desert wasteland. I hope I’m proved wrong. I’ll check back with you in October (if not sooner), but at least the Giants appear to be on solid ground.