Saturday, July 25, 2009

a disappointment

waking up to news like this makes me want to climb back into bed.

and i will.

White House eases stimulus lobbyist restrictions
By Roxana Tiron
Posted: 07/25/09 01:25 PM [ET]

In a significant change, the Obama administration will now allow lobbyists to meet and have telephonic discussions with government officials regarding economic recovery projects.

The lifting of the ban comes after K Street has cried foul for months and has challenged the White House on its restrictions.

In March, President Obama announced that government officials would not be allowed to consider the views of lobbyists regarding specific stimulus projects unless the requests are put in writing. The materials also had to be posted on an agency’s website within three business days of receipt. Lobbyists have said that the policy was one more example of the administration's disdain for their industry.

Now, the just-revised rules will allow government personnel to accept meetings and calls from federally registered lobbyists on the implementation of stimulus projects. The head of the Office of Management and Budget, Peter Orszag, issued a new guidance late Friday regarding the administration's communications with registered lobbyists about economic recovery funds.

Lobbyists can make their cases -- and agency officials can listen to them -- at "widely attended gatherings." Government officials have to ask whether the person they are talking to at such events is a federally registered lobbyist speaking on behalf of a client.

Agency officials are required to promptly disclose on the Internet all oral and written communications with lobbyists concerning policy or projects funded under the recovery act. They also have to disclose any written communications with lobbyists regarding pending applications for competitive funding.

The one caveat, however, is that lobbyists can talk to agency representatives only about logistical issues or general questions regarding stimulus grants. Agency officials have to document any discussion with a lobbyist that veers toward advocacy of stimulus policy or a particular project.

Government officials are still banned from talking to lobbyists representing companies that have already applied for grants and are awaiting a competitive decision. In those cases, agency officials are allowed to accept "oral communication" only if the matter is purely logistical.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the American League of Lobbyists (ALL) joined forced to advocate that the White House revise its rules.

ALL informed its members Saturday morning of the changes.

"Essentially, you will be able to once again meet and have telephonic conversations with personnel in charge of the projects and be able to provide your subject matter expertise to them to help them make the best "merit based" decisions possible for the stimulus projects," Dave Wenhold, the president of ALL, wrote in an e-mail message to members.

"Getting us back to the table and ensuring that we are treated equally has been the main goal for ALL. We are also thankful to our partners in this effort, especially the Citizens for Responsible Ethics in Washington (CREW) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Between the main three groups and others, we made a diverse and strong coalition that advocated for these revisions."

there is also the news that my family has just arrived at our favorite beach resort in new hampshire for a week of instant memories and laughter. i will be drinking from one of the resort's cups that i swiped from my aunt all week. it's close, but not close enough.

good night.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

a campy weekend

san francisco offers a lot. one day you're out enjoying the park watching performance art while eating organic ice cream, the next day you're at cafe du nord watching an electrified performance from natalie portman's shaved head.

there's always a lot of energy and the festivals and street fairs can expose you to sights and experiences that you never thought you'd see, like a party that stretches for blocks under a disco ball the size of a building, for example.

what i've described was over the course of a few days time, and there was plenty of activity in between.

so every so often, a boy and 11 of his closest chums needs a break from all of the city's offerings.


a napkin filled with car shifts and an hour or two of packing later we children drove to guerneville to get away from it all and celebrate francisco and nakhter's birthdays.

i was one of the first to arrive, so i helped set up camp and accepted the idea of "roughing it" for the weekend.

i soon learned how californians camped...

1. seating is limited

2. the lack of seating leaves plenty of space for tents, however it is best to conserve warmth by convincing everyone that sleeping in one of the many available tents is the best idea

there were 12 of us in that pile, somehow...i'm not sure i was in the corner

3. always camp five minutes away from town, so that swimming pools and frozen beverages are plentiful.

4. sunglasses... a necessity for small town travel, sunny days,.....

...and the perfect accessory for swimwear...keep in mind we were camping

5. food ...




no one ate anything. nevermind, californians don't camp with food. that's what beer is for.


5. when the camp owner says, "zip line's fixed, i think."... ALWAYS be the first one down the line... it's as empowering as much as it is a death wish

i survived!

so i did it another 9 or 10 times, of course

once the crash test dummy successfully returned, everyone else made it up and over

... wait a minute, i'm not letting natalie get away with this. sure, she made it down, but it took a bit of encouragement from her friends aka yelling at her for ten minutes while she debated whether she could do it at the top of the ladder

she did make it down... on the next day once ratalie, some 13 year old with the worst name in the world successfully zipped...and after another few minutes of shouting from her friends, of course

we barely slept, we barely ate...we barely camped.

we definitely laughed.

we most certainly enjoyed each other's company.

of course, we all gave a fond farewell to guerneville and hoped to see it's campy self in the near future.

loved every second of it.

o wait!

6. always make sure b.b. buckles his seat belt, even on the ride home.

love and loyalty

Thursday, July 16, 2009

a long time coming

in my never ending quest for actual employment i came across an advertisement for an available position via craiglist. it was a job that promised a moderate level of importance with the human rights campaign, an organization i've worked with previously as a volunteer. upon realizing that the organization was actually the fund for public interest, i immediately bailed and had a pretty tough time getting them off my back:

well it turns out i wasn't the only one who realized that this was a terrible organization.

The Liberal Sweatshop
by Luke Rosiak via The Daily Beast

The Fund for the Public Interest raises money for all kinds of liberal causes, but a lawsuit has forced it to pay millions of dollars in overtime to its legions of idealistic door-knockers.

The nation’s largest fundraiser for progressive causes issued checks to thousands of former workers in the last several weeks after settling a $2.15 million class-action suit alleging it subjected workers to grueling hours without overtime pay.

The nonprofit Fund for Public Interest Inc. was set up in 1982 as the fundraising arm of the network of Public Interest Research Groups, which was founded by Ralph Nader. It deploys legions of door-to-door and street canvassers—and once counted a young Barack Obama as one of its New York City organizers—to solicit contributions for the Human Rights Campaign, the Sierra Club, Environment America, and other groups that together spend millions of dollars each year lobbying Congress.

Those organizations often battle with deep-pocketed corporations; the money raised by canvassers is an important source of funds. In many cases, however, the employees collecting those donations made an hourly rate that worked out to less than minimum wage.

The abrupt shuttering of its Los Angeles office after employees took steps to unionize also brought allegations of illegal union-busting from many, including Christian Miller, an L.A. employee from 2002 to 2006 who filed the suit on behalf of 12,000 canvassers and directors.

The Fund reported collecting $25 million in contributions in 2007—the most recent year for which data is publicly available. The fundraising done by the canvassers makes up the bulk of that money. Indeed, the Fund’s Web site touts the work done by its youthful employees: "If you ask anyone who’s canvassed for the Fund in the last 25 years, they’ll probably give you a thoughtful dissertation on the value of canvassing."

That's probably an understatement. Former canvassers, often college-educated progressives attracted to the Fund for the chance to do good, are all too sensitive to the irony of the situation.

"They're the Wal-Mart of nonprofits in every way imaginable," Miller said. "They basically look at the next generation of social change as the next source of cheap labor."

The Fund did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

The idea that their work supported causes they believed in pushed some canvassers to tolerate the often-difficult working conditions. Other would-be world changers had little in the way of real-world experience and assumed all workplaces were run like the Fund.

"I thought it was poorly organized and that it's a pretty crummy job to be standing in New York asking strangers for their bank account info, but I was all of 19 and didn't have any real concept of whether the labor environment was fair," said Mary Murphy, who worked for the Fund for a summer in 2001 and was taken by surprise when she learned she was part of the class-action suit earlier this year. She received her check weeks ago.

The Fund maintained a massive recruiting program and hired new canvassers daily to replace the many who quit or simply stopped showing up after a few weeks; much of the reason the workday was so long was that each day began with a training session, necessary with a perpetually new staff.

"Half the people I started with were also in their first week," said Jarrod Parker, who canvassed for the Fund in New York for three days before quitting when he began suspecting that much of the money he was raising simply covered overhead rather than benefiting the cause. "Both girls I started with quit the first day."

Some said they were never told explicitly what the job entailed until they had already accepted: walking in strange neighborhoods in the sweltering heat, knocking on doors and asking for money for a variety of causes that could change as the Fund, a third-party fundraising group, picked up new clients.

Managers pushed employees to work long hours by repeatedly stressing that they were taking part in a campaign to better the world, not a traditional job. Federal and state labor laws do not recognize the distinction. Some said their experiences led them to give up on activism altogether, which troubled those behind the lawsuit. "I was getting tired of seeing people leave the movement," Miller said.

In the summer of 2005, the activists tried to unionize their Los Angeles office. The canvassers voted to organize with the Teamsters, Miller said.

"Management basically started changing office policies to try to systematically fire all union employees, while stalling the contract," he added. Eventually, Rep. Hilda Solis (D-Calif.), now Labor secretary, wrote the Fund pressing it to negotiate with workers, to no avail.

Then suddenly, Miller said, "they changed the locks on the doors and they were gone. We were shut down overnight."

In a separate case in 2006, the office of the Labor Commissioner of the State of California determined that the Fund had denied rest breaks to a worker, awarding a cash payment. The Fund subsequently changed its policies to provide overtime pay. In 2009, it agreed to settle the class-action suit.

justice is served

Friday, July 10, 2009

a body of water owned by putin

my closest friends and i are taking a mini-vacation this weekend: we're goin' campin'.

that's right, the baker's dozen is heading off to the land of port-o-potties and bathing in rivers...and no, im not going back to arkansas.

the russian river is located a short drive from bay area and sacramento. for over a 100 years it has been the preferred getaway for these cities.

"come for the wine, river, redwoods and coast. come to relax in the grandness of nature."

..i'm going to see how 12 of my closest friends survive life outside of the city. now, i'm not necessarily claiming that i'm the top outdoor fact the last time i went camping with friends it cost quite a pretty penny (let's not get into details, let's just say the security guards didn't like how rowdy 19 years olds without parents could get on a public camp ground).

this time will be different. (fingers crossed)

not only is the campground on private property, but there isn't security and we're right next to an abandoned amusement park. all we need is a talking great dane and we could solve mysteries to upbeat 60s music! ... or it's the setting for a slasher flick. eek

i've got to get to packing, i've got a few hours to recover from an allergy attack, do some quick laundry and say farewell to san francisco.

love and loyalty

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

a very exciting piece of news

dear new jersey,

i will see you from july 17-20. this summer class/internship/job hunt/pollen explosion/bronchitis/etc. has been rough. i'm coming back to relax.

see you soon!

love and loyalty

Saturday, July 4, 2009