The Democratic Convention, September 5, 2012: Sandra Fluke, Elizabeth Warren, Sister Simone Campbell of the Nuns on the Bus, and the Former Employees of Companies Controlled by Bain Capital

Sandra Fluke was wonderful that night.  It was probably the first time the nation saw her full form; we always see her face or a quarter or half her body on media newscasts.  It was nice to see her as she is.  And she had enough verve and confidence to brush off a former president as well as the attacks of the nattering right-wing mob.

So after her prime-time speech on Wednesday at the Democratic National Convention here, the fusillade of ridicule started up again. Political strategy gadfly Roger Stone tweeted that he “wish[ed] Ted Kennedy could have taken her for a ride.” Jonah Goldberg wondered if she had “ ‘Birth Control Martyr’ business cards.”

She was a known name only because Rush Limbaugh called her a “slut” after she was denied a chance to testify at a congressional hearing to advocate for birth-control coverage in the Affordable Care Act.  She was the ruination of feminism. Ann Coulter tweeted, “Bill Clinton just impregnated Sandra Fluke backstage.”

The former president did ask to meet Fluke backstage after her address, she said Thursday.

He told her she did a great job, asked if she had been nervous, then volunteered:

“I’m nervous. I’m nervous about going out there and getting it right for the president,” Fluke said. To which she responded, “Sir. Please.”

Whether Clinton was really trying to make small talk or whether he was actually putting the make on the young woman, this girl knows how to handle herself.  Fluke is old enough to have been aware of Clinton’s peccadilloes during the 1990s.

Fluke just got engaged this spring to Adam Mutterperl of JibJab fame, her longtime boyfriend.  To those idiots who think that all feminists must be dykes, or who assume that Mutterperl is one put-upon male—and he isn’t, this development must have been a further slap to their thwarted sensibilities.   The more Fluke speaks, the more poise she exhibits, and the more admiration and respect she garners for her sensible and mature points-of-view.  No doubt that she is being groomed for bigger and better things within the party.  I wish her well in translating this one issue—reproductive rights—into many ones confronting Americans.

Elizabeth Warren is one of the queens of the party.  When I see and hear her, I think of the late Ted Kennedy, and how close the Dems are to recapturing his seat from Tea-Publican Scott Brown.

But for all of her many attractions and strengths, she brings one disturbing demerit.  It stems from a claim of Cherokee ancestry when Warren probably has little or none.  Harvard Law School was being criticized two decades ago for a lack of diversity in its student body; but Warren was listed as being Native American in their student directory.  In a clear case of the pot calling the kettle black, the Tea-Publicans and the Brown campaign pounced on this development, which in their view proves that either Warren has a penchant for lying or for claiming superiority for being a minority.    Unfortunately, even at the Convention, Warren  ignored Native American  delegates’ pleas that she meet with them and explain herself regarding this issue.  For Native people, blood trumps everything.  Otherwise, you’re merely ripping off Native people as they have been for over 500 years.

“I would like to have confronted her why she used the Cherokee affiliation even though she’s not an enrolled member,” said Harlyn Geronimo, great grandson of the legendary Apache warrior. He and others here for the convention told the Herald this week they wanted Warren to come to their caucus meeting yesterday. Warren ignored Herald questions about it. Several disappointed Indian delegates and attendees said they wanted to hear why she listed herself as a minority in law school directories based on “stories” from her family of a great-great-great-grandmother who was Cherokee — which if true would make her 1⁄32 Native American.

“One thirty-second (Indian) is very small,” Geronimo said. “It don’t get you nowhere. That’s what I’m upset about.”

Jim La Point, a Rosebud Sioux, said, “A lot of people will take advantage of maybe a small degree of Indian ancestry when it suits their purpose. I’m not going to judge anyone, but at the same time my concern is for the Indian people, how they’re represented.”

I love the Nuns on the Bus, and Sister Simone as well.  She and some 14 other Catholic nuns rode a bus 2700 miles this summer, through nine states, and visiting several cities along the way including Janesville—Paul Ryan’s hometown—and Milwaukee, WI.  Their mission was to publicly criticize the representative and newly-minted GOP vice-presidential candidate’s draconian budget plan as being outside of  Catholic doctrine about helping the poor.  Sister Simone Campbell and the nuns are a part of Network, a Catholic social justice group, comprised of religious who minister to the poor and indigent.  Indeed, the Catholic Conference of Bishops have questioned Ryan’s admiration for Ayn Rand, an atheist who promoted a philosophy of selfishness, and died on Social Security and Medicare.  It was in her name that Ryan became a politician and promoted his budget.

But don’t think that the Church hierarchy is entirely behind the Nuns on the Bus.

Sister Simone has been on the road a good deal lately, traveling to explain why the Vatican is so angry with America, and to argue that it shouldn’t be. I’ve written elsewhere about the conflict, which involves Rome sanctioning the Leadership Council of Women Religious for not submitting enough to the judgement of American bishops and for working too hard on issues of poverty and health care and not hard enough fighting abortion and gay marriage.

But Sister Simone wasn’t in Charlotte to fight the hierarchy. She framed her presence as an act of obedience to the Church’s teachings: “The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops stated that the Ryan budget failed a basic moral test, because it would harm families living in poverty. We agree with our bishops, and that’s why we went on the road.”

Esquire had a piece on the aftermath of Sister Simone’s appearance at the Convention:

Campbell’s brief but powerful appearance at the podium was so compelling — “You have to walk a long way! Then you have to ‘enjoy the house.’ That’s what I was told before I went out, ‘Enjoy the house’ — that people may have may have missed a couple of the most powerful things about it. First, during the most pro-choice night of the most pro-choice political convention in history, Campbell talked about a sick woman named Margaret, and she said that our mutual responsibility for caring for the Margarets of this world was “part of my pro-life stance,” and everybody cheered anyway. And, also, it was the only speech from the podium that did not specifically endorse the Democratic ticket. It was a simple plea for what used to be called the social gospel, and why the budget proposed by Paul Ryan and endorsed by Willard Romney is a violation of both the social gospel, and the most important parts of the four actual ones.

(Naturally, the whole business set the conservative Catholics ablaze on the Twitter machine. Kathryn Jean Lopez of the National Review may be lighting so many candles under her portrait of Pius IX that you can see it from space, and Bill Donahue probably felt compelled to give himself an extra couple of lashes, although that may have been just for fun.)

But Sister Simone’s Nuns On The Bus tour started before the house went quiet, and before she brought the house down. The bus started moving in June, and her movement has been running the line, from the zombie-eyed granny-starver from Wisconsin’s “budget” on down to Catholic churches like this one, since well before then. “We started opposing it from the beginning,” Campbell told me. “We follow this stuff. That’s our mission — to follow federal policy. I am totally puzzled by it. It’s the craziest hill in the world to plant your flag on, because it undermines our nation. It’s all about individualism, and that’s not who we are. It’s not who we are as people of faith and it’s not who we are in the Constitution. The Constitution makes it abundantly clear that it’s We, The People.”

Lastly, the Bain employees.   They were supposed to be former employees of companies bought and later liquidated by Bain Capital.  But in reality, two did work for those companies while the third was a union organizer at another of those companies at the time.  Naturally, the union organizer, David Foster, got hits from the right-wing as well as the fish eye from other mainstream media sources, like ABC News.

“David Foster was never an employee of GST Steel’s Kansas City plant. He was employed by the United Steelworkers of America as their regional union director to represent GST Steel, but was not employed at our facility,” according to B.C. Huselton, who was head of HR at GST.
Instead, Foster was a union organizer, who negotiated for workers that did work for the company.
Foster explained in his remarks that he was an organizer during his dealings with GST Steel.  But it is not clear from the remarks that he never worked for a company controlled by Bain.
Foster was prominently featured in an Obama campaign video, “Romney economics,” where he is identified as lead negotiator for workers at GST Steel. In the video he explains that Bain executives took bonuses even as the company flailed.  Politifact rated that Obama video “mostly true.” Read their assessment.

“I’m not bashful about it,” Johnson told The Huffington Post in a phone interview. The father of two says after years of tough jobs and hard work he’s proud to be doing well — now earning more than $80,000 as an organizer for the United Steel Workers Union and accepting reimbursement for his expenses on the campaign trail. Johnson says about 20 percent of his time is spent stumping and the remainder helping union members manage disputes.

“When I see members out there, I see my own family,” he says. “Sometimes it’s the employer’s fault. Sometimes the union people get wound up. Sometimes I become the voice of reason.”

Johnson also hasn’t been bashful about his personal story. In 1992, Bain purchased American Pad & Paper and proceeded to roll up similar firms. Sales exploded but so did debt and after a labor dispute at Johnson’s Marion, Ind., plant, more than 350 workers got the ax. Some were hired back under lower wages. Regardless, six years later, the company went belly up but Bain and its investors made millions anyway, according to The New York Times.

Romney’s direct role is less clear. At the time, he was both the CEO of Bain Capital and running for the Senate. Johnson says he wrote to Romney, who eventually met with plant workers and wrote Johnson back claiming he was unable to get involved.

Cindy Hewitt, who also spoke Wednesday night, definitely had a ring side seat regarding the actions her Bain company took against its workers.  She was an HR manager at Dale Behring, based in Miami, Florida.  She helped them to fire employees, many of whom had worked there for decades.  It was not a happy time.

News of the latest layoffs trickled down to the Dade company cafeteria. The room could seat more than 1,000, and it had been enough of a draw that it even offered breakfast.

But as the layoffs hit, the mood in the cafeteria could be as somber as a funeral, Hewitt recalled. Multiple members of the same family might be gathered to commiserate over being laid off one by one by one. Some of them had worked for the medical diagnostics company for more than a decade.

Hewitt saw her colleagues crying on a daily basis and loudly celebrating on the rare occasion that someone found a comparable new job. “There was a tremendous sense of loss and this kind of outpouring of grief and mourning as every day they waited for the announcement of who was going next,” she said. “People were on pins and needles. Who’s going next? They’re worried for themselves, worried for their co-workers, worried for their families. They’d talk about how they were going to send their kids to college. It was an incredibly depressing and demoralizing environment.”

Since the Republican presidential primary, Dade Behring, which made blood-testing machines and conducted animal tests at its Miami plant, has become something of a focus. Bain Capital, GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s firm, had bought Dade and shuttered its factory in Puerto Rico in 1998. The closings continued under Bain’s management.

It”s a familiar tale with anyone who has heard or read about Mitt Romney’s dealings with his acquisitions.  I don’t fault Johnson for moving up in the world and becoming an organizer.  He and his family had to eat.  David Foster, on the other hand, should have been more clear about his non-affiliation with GST Steel.  However, he was a witness to what occurred there, as was Hewitt at Dade, as well as Randy Johnson at Ampad.  All of these testimonies have credence.

~ by blksista on September 10, 2012.

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