WASHINGTON -- In one of the biggest successes in the history of organized labor in the South, the 4,700 janitors working for Houston's four largest cleaning companies recently joined the Service Employees International Union. The janitors, mostly immigrants, currently earn an average of $5.30 an hour -- 15 cents over the minimum wage -- without health care benefits. The mobilization of the janitors is one sign of why Andy Stern, head of SEIU, is today's most important -- perhaps the only really important -- labor leader.
To be born black in Okolona, Miss., in 1935 was to have two strikes against you and a fastball coming at your head. Unless, that is, you are William Raspberry, the syndicated columnist who has announced his retirement from column writing after 40 years, but not retirement from life after 70 years. Raspberry tells me his greatest inspirations were his parents.
For all of us that drive Minnesota Highway 23 through Spicer, I have an idea that will improve our commute times.
George Bush's problem is that Washington is not a courtroom. If it were, he or his lawyer (Dick Cheney?) could rise and object to the mention of his "previous convictions." That way, every offense against custom, law, international agreements and common sense could be treated in isolation. Too bad for Bush, he has a rap sheet. It is his record of non-stop belligerence to anything that would limit his powers that works against him as he tries to make a case for what in shorthand is called domestic spying.
Minnesota's beloved Vikings are once again out of the playoffs -- for the fourth time in five years.
BOSTON-- So it comes down to September 11, 2001. Again. The president has drawn a great dividing line through the country, separating his supporters from his critics. Again. This time, those who see a presidency run amok are not just labeled "defeatists." They are considered amnesiacs. This time, those who oppose torture are diagnosed with short-term memory loss. Those who are outraged at domestic snooping are people who have forgotten to be afraid.
I have been receiving phone calls from various law enforcement causes soliciting funds. I would like to look at crime in a different light. I think the police are doing their job by arresting criminals. The problem, as I see it, is in our judicial system. I read the paper daily and I read officers are arresting people and they are charged with multiple offenses and by the time the plea bargaining is watered down, these criminals plead guilty to picking their nose in public. Receiving no more than a slap on the wrist, they are usually placed on probation with terms they must follow.
WASHINGTON -- With indicted super lobbyist Jack Abramoff reportedly ready to cooperate with prosecutors and his partner, Michael Scanlon, already singing, 2006 is expected to be the year of congressional scandals. Lord knows, a housecleaning in the Capitol is definitely in order. But the Abramoff scandal is just part of the corruption of our political system. There is another level of special-interest influence that cannot be handled by prosecutors: Only the voters can render a judgment on a politics of favoritism that has created a new Gilded Age.
Iraq's huge voter turnout recently was a clear step forward for the Bush administration's policy and for a stable Iraqi government, if all sides can learn to live together. But what happened in Washington recently will undercut the war on terror and encourage those who want to reprise Sept. 11, 2001 on a much grander scale.
Christmas weekend has arrived in west central Minnesota just in the nick of time. The snow outside is delightful and the temperatures are warming with Christmas cheer. It is a wonderful time of year to be with family and friends. It is also a time to remember what Christmas is all about. Americans are fortunate to live in a democracy where they may live and worship as they choose.