In the USA..United Surveillance America..
September 19, 2013Conservatives Take Turns Standing Up to the Speaker
By ASHLEY PARKER and JONATHAN WEISMAN
WASHINGTON — Those in the circle of fiery House conservatives who are spearheading a fiscal showdown that threatens to shut down the government see themselves in vaunted company.
“It only takes one with passion — look at Rosa Parks, Lech Walesa, Martin Luther King,” said Representative Ted Yoho of Florida, one of the rank-and-file House Republicans who have risen up to challenge their party’s leadership over whether to confront the Senate and President Obama with their demands to cut off funding for the president’s health care law. “People with passion that speak up, they’ll have people follow them because they believe the same way, and smart leadership listens to that.”
Along with Mr. Yoho, a rotating cast of characters — often backbench newcomers whom few have heard of outside their districts, and who were elected on a Tea Party wave — has emerged to challenge Speaker John A. Boehner’s leadership at every turn.
Representative Justin Amash of Michigan, a libertarian-leaning sophomore Republican, led the revolt against the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance programs, which Mr. Boehner had strongly endorsed. Representative Scott Rigell, Republican of Virginia, complicated his leadership’s support for the use of force in Syria when he drafted a letter demanding that the president first consult Congress.
And on the current fiscal fight over financing the government, it was Representative Tom Graves, Republican of Georgia, who amassed 80 House supporters, enough to force his party’s leadership to tie the money needed to keep the government running after the end of this month to defunding the president’s signature health care law. Representative Thomas Massie, a freshman Republican from Kentucky elected with the help of Ron Paul supporters, had the temerity last week to question his leadership’s initial proposal, calling it a “hocus-pocus” gimmick that would have allowed the Senate to easily strip out the language defunding the president’s health care plan before sending Mr. Obama a clean financing bill.
The House is to vote Friday on the funding plan. In advance of the vote and the clash to come with the Senate, Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, a chief advocate of tying government funding to the health law, on Thursday thanked Mr. Graves and House conservatives in general — “for sticking their neck out.”
Maverick Republicans have taken on the leadership on other issues as well. In January, Representative Tim Huelskamp, Republican of Kansas, helped lead a failed attempt to remove Mr. Boehner as speaker, and Representative Steve King, Republican of Iowa, became an outspoken critic of any attempt to overhaul immigration laws — a priority for Mr. Boehner. Even the farm bill, with decades of bipartisan camaraderie behind it, fell to an emboldened Tea Party wing, this time led by Representative Marlin Stutzman, an Indiana Republican who demanded that the broad agriculture measure be stripped of its food-stamp provision, which has been part of the law since 1973.
“In the multitude of counselors, there is wisdom,” said Representative Mark Meadows, a freshman Republican from North Carolina.
This unruly and highly vocal group of conservative legislators has been empowered in the escalating fight by the fact that Republicans hold only a narrow majority in the House; depending on the issue, this core conservative wing can either be persuaded to vote with their party, or they can muster up enough of a coalition to block any legislation with which they do not fully agree.
The decision by the House leadership to mollify the most conservative members of its conference on the latest fiscal fight has created both tension between Tea Party members in the House and the Senate, and underscored the challenges Mr. Boehner faces this year from his party’s more conservative and libertarian wing.
“We’ve got a diverse caucus, frankly,” Mr. Boehner said, when asked at a news conference Thursday who, exactly, was running his conference. “Republicans, by their very nature, are a bit more independent than our colleagues across the aisle.”
Mr. Boehner added: “And so whenever we’re trying to put together a plan, you know, we’ve got 233 members, all of whom have their own plan. It’s tough to get them on the same track.”
Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leader, did not mince words Thursday in calling the group a bunch of “legislative arsonists” who had “hijacked” the Republican Party.
The ascendance of the Republicans’ Tea Party wing has in no way been smooth, nor is it guaranteed to last. Republicans in swing districts recognize that their party’s lurch to the right jeopardizes their own political futures — and the power of the party nationally.
“There’s no question that the biggest challenge to the Republican Party is dealing with our far right wing,” said Representative Michael G. Grimm, Republican of New York, a perennial target of the Democrats.
Senior Republicans say the Tea Party wing may have sown seeds of decline this week when Mr. Cruz, one of its brightest stars, released a statement Wednesday saying that Senate Democrats would almost certainly succeed in stripping language from the stopgap spending measure defunding the Affordable Care Act. “At that point, House Republicans must stand firm, hold their ground and continue to listen to the American people,” wrote Mr. Cruz, who almost single-handedly started the push to tie further government financing to gutting the health care law.
Mr. Cruz’s statement swept through Republican ranks like a wrecking ball. Representative Tim Griffin of Arkansas took to Twitter to declare that his Republican counterparts in the Senate were “good at getting Facebook likes, and town halls, not much else. Do something.”
Representative Sean P. Duffy, Republican of Wisconsin, said on Twitter that after the House had agreed to send the stopgap measure to the Senate, Mr. Cruz and Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah and Mr. Cruz’s partner in the drive to “Defund Obamacare,” refused to fight for the cause they had championed. “Wave white flag and surrender,” Mr. Duffy wrote.
“When push came to shove, he turned out to be a real coward,” Mr. Grimm said of Mr. Cruz.
That anger could prove to be a moment of self-reflection, senior House Republicans said, about who is leading the Tea Party wing and where. On Thursday, Mr. Boehner seemed eager to relinquish responsibility for the fight, at least briefly, telling reporters that after the House votes on Friday, “This fight will move over to the Senate, where it belongs.”
Mr. Cruz, in the wake of sniping by members of his own party, doubled down on his promises to fight for the bill in the Senate. “I will do everything necessary and anything possible to defund Obamacare,” he said, while acknowledging that, if Republicans prove victorious, “it is going to be because House Republicans have stood up and showed the courage that they are showing right now, and that they continue to stand up.”
September 19, 2013House Republicans Pass Deep Cuts in Food Stamps
By RON NIXON
WASHINGTON — House Republicans narrowly pushed through a bill on Thursday that slashes billions of dollars from the food stamp program, over the objections of Democrats and a veto threat from President Obama.
The vote set up what promised to be a major clash with the Senate and dashed hopes for passage this year of a new five-year farm bill.
The vote was 217 to 210, largely along party lines.
Republican leaders, under pressure from Tea Party-backed conservatives, said the bill was needed because the food stamp program, which costs nearly $80 billion a year, had grown out of control. They said the program had expanded even as jobless rates had declined with the easing recession.
“This bill eliminates loopholes, ensures work requirements, and puts us on a fiscally responsible path,” said Representative Marlin Stutzman, Republican of Indiana, who led efforts to split the food stamps program from the overall farm bill. “In the real world, we measure success by results. It’s time for Washington to measure success by how many families are lifted out of poverty and helped back on their feet, not by how much Washington bureaucrats spend year after year.”
But even with the cuts, the food stamp program would cost more than $700 billion over the next 10 years.
Republicans invoked former President Bill Clinton in their defense of the bill, saying that the changes were in the spirit of those that he signed into law in 1996 that set work requirements for those who receive welfare.
But Democrats, many of whom held up pictures of people they said would lose their benefits, called the cuts draconian and said they would plunge millions into poverty.
“It’s a sad day in the people’s House when the leadership brings to the floor one of the most heartless bills I have ever seen,” said Representative James McGovern, Democrat of Massachusetts. “It’s terrible policy trapped in a terrible process.”
The measure has little chance of advancing in the Senate, and Senator Debbie Stabenow, Democrat of Michigan and the chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, called it “a monumental waste of time.”
The bill, written under the direction of the House majority leader, Eric Cantor, Republican of Virginia, would cut $40 billion from the food stamp program over the next 10 years. It would also require adults between 18 and 50 without minor children to find a job or to enroll in a work-training program in order to receive benefits.
It would also limit the time those recipients could get benefits to three months. Currently, states can extend food stamp benefits past three months for able-bodied people who are working or preparing for work as part of a job-training program.
“This bill makes getting Americans back to work a priority again for our nation’s welfare programs,” House Speaker John A. Boehner said.
The bill would also restrict people enrolled in other social welfare programs from automatically becoming eligible for food stamps.
In addition, the legislation would allow states to require food stamp recipients to be tested for drugs and to stop lottery winners from getting benefits. The Senate farm bill also contains a restriction on lottery winners.
Critics of the measure said the cuts would fall disproportionately on children.
“Yes, the federal government has budget problems, but children didn’t cause them, and cutting anti-hunger investments is the wrong way to solve them,” said Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus Campaign for Children, a child advocacy group.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, nearly four million people would be removed from the food stamp program under the House bill starting next year. The budget office said after that, about three million a year would be cut off from the program.
The budget office said that, left unchanged, the number of food stamp recipients would decline by about 14 million people — or 30 percent — over the next 10 years as the economy improves. A Census Bureau report released on Tuesday found that the program had kept about four million people above the poverty level and had prevented millions more from sinking further into poverty. The census data also showed nearly 47 million people living in poverty — close to the highest level in two decades.
Historically, the food stamp program has been part of the farm bill, a huge piece of legislation that had routinely been passed every five years, authorizing financing for the nation’s farm and nutrition programs. But in July, House leaders split the bill’s farm and nutrition sections into separate measures, passing the farm legislation over Democrats’ objections.
The move came after the House rejected a proposed farm bill that would have cut $20 billion from the food stamp program. Conservative lawmakers helped kill the bill, saying the program needed deeper cuts.
September 19, 2013Administration Presses Ahead With Limits on Emissions From Power Plants
By MICHAEL D. SHEAR
WASHINGTON — A year after a plan by President Obama to limit greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants set off angry opposition, the administration will announce on Friday that it is not backing down from a confrontation with the coal industry and will press ahead with enacting the first federal carbon limits on the nation’s power companies.
The proposed regulations, to be announced at the National Press Club by Gina McCarthy, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, are an aggressive move by Mr. Obama to bypass Congress on climate change with executive actions he promised in his inaugural address this year. The regulations are certain to be denounced by House Republicans and the industry as part of what they call the president’s “war on coal.”
In her speech, Ms. McCarthy will unveil the agency’s proposal to limit new gas-fired power plants to 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per megawatt hour and new coal plants to 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide, according to administration officials who were briefed on the agency’s plans. Industry officials say the average advanced coal plant currently emits about 1,800 pounds of carbon dioxide per hour.
“New power plants, both natural gas and coal-fired, can minimize their carbon emissions by taking advantage of modern technologies,” Ms. McCarthy will say Friday, according to her prepared remarks. “Simply put, these standards represent the cleanest standards we’ve put forth for new natural gas plants and new coal plants.”
Aides said Ms. McCarthy would also announce a yearlong schedule for an environmental listening tour — a series of meetings across the country with the public, the industry and environmental groups as the agency works to establish emissions limits on existing power plants — a far more costly and controversial step. Mr. Obama has told officials he wants to see greenhouse gas limits on both existing and new power plants by the time he leaves office in 2017.
“We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations,” Mr. Obama said in January. But he acknowledged that “the path toward sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult.”
The limits to be unveiled Friday are a slightly more relaxed standard for coal plants than the administration first proposed in April 2012. Officials said the new plan, which came after the E.P.A. received more than 2.5 million comments from the public and industry, will give coal plant operators more flexibility to meet the limits over several years.
Still, environmental groups are likely to hail the announcement as an important step in targeting the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the country. Forty percent of all energy-related emissions of greenhouse gases in 2012 came from power plants, and most of that came from coal-burning power plants, according to the Energy Information Administration.
“We are thrilled that the E.P.A. is taking this major step forward in implementing President Obama’s climate action plan,” said Tiernan Sittenfeld, a senior vice president at the League of Conservation Voters, in anticipation of Ms. McCarthy’s announcement. “It’s a great day for public heath and a clean energy future.”
But Republican lawmakers and industry officials have already attacked the expected proposal. Opponents of the new rules argue that the technology to affordably reduce carbon emissions at power plants is not yet available and will drastically increase the cost of electricity.
Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate Republican leader and a fierce advocate for coal in a coal-dependent state, said in an interview Thursday that he expected “the worst.” Although he had not seen the administration’s latest proposal, Mr. McConnell said it was likely to alarm people in his state.
“It’s a devastating blow to our state, and we’re going to fight it in every way we can,” Mr. McConnell said.
Scott Segal, the director of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, which represents power companies, said the details he had heard about the rules suggested that the administration would drive investment away from a plentiful source of power.
“I’m afraid it’s going to be illegal, counterproductive from an environmental perspective and contrary to our long-range interest in creating jobs, holding down costs and producing reliable energy,” Mr. Segal said.
The rules on new power plants will soon face a 60-day public comment period, likely to be followed by intensive industry and environmental lobbying and possible court challenges. Officials said the rules could be finalized by the fall of 2014.
Once the rules are in place, coal power plants would be required to limit their emissions, likely by installing technology called “carbon capture and sequestration,” which scrubs carbon dioxide from their emissions before they reach the plant smokestacks. The technology then pumps it into permanent storage underground.
Industry representatives argue that such technology has not been proven on a large scale and would be extraordinarily expensive — and therefore in violation of provisions in the Clean Air Act that require the regulations to be adequately demonstrated and not exorbitant in cost.
“I think the agency has real problems” meeting both of those standards, Mr. Segal said.
But E.P.A. officials argue that the carbon capture technology has been used in several locations and that a review of the industry over the past year proves that owners of new coal-fired power plants can meet the new standards as required by the act.
Senator Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, said in a statement that the proposed rules would begin a new era in which the United States began real efforts to control “climate-altering pollution” from the nation’s power plants.
“These rules are reasonable,” Mr. Markey said. “They are feasible. And they should soon be expanded to include standards for existing power plants.”
In one concession to the industry, officials said the agency would provide some flexibility. Plants that could install the technology within 12 months would be required to meet the 1,100-pound limit, officials said. Owners of coal plants would also have the option of phasing in the limits over a seven-year period, officials said. But those plants would be required to meet a stricter standard of 1,000 to 1,050 pounds per megawatt hours, averaged over the seven years.
September 19, 2013U.S. Textile Plants Return, With Floors Largely Empty of People
By STEPHANIE CLIFFORD
GAFFNEY, S.C. — The old textile mills here are mostly gone now. Gaffney Manufacturing, National Textiles, Cherokee — clangorous, dusty, productive engines of the Carolinas fabric trade — fell one by one to the forces of globalization.
Just as the Carolinas benefited when manufacturing migrated first from the Cottonopolises of England to the mill towns of New England and then to here, where labor was even cheaper, they suffered in the 1990s when the textile industry mostly left the United States.
It headed to China, India, Mexico — wherever people would spool, spin and sew for a few dollars or less a day. Which is why what is happening at the old Wellstone spinning plant is so remarkable.
Drive out to the interstate, with the big peach-shaped water tower just down the highway, and you’ll find the mill up and running again. Parkdale Mills, the country’s largest buyer of raw cotton, reopened it in 2010.
Bayard Winthrop, the founder of the sweatshirt and clothing company American Giant, was at the mill one morning earlier this year to meet with his Parkdale sales representative. Just last year, Mr. Winthrop was buying fabric from a factory in India. Now, he says, it is cheaper to shop in the United States. Mr. Winthrop uses Parkdale yarn from one of its 25 American factories, and has that yarn spun into fabric about four miles from Parkdale’s Gaffney plant, at Carolina Cotton Works.
Mr. Winthrop says American manufacturing has several advantages over outsourcing. Transportation costs are a fraction of what they are overseas. Turnaround time is quicker. Most striking, labor costs — the reason all these companies fled in the first place — aren’t that much higher than overseas because the factories that survived the outsourcing wave have largely turned to automation and are employing far fewer workers.
And while Mr. Winthrop did not run into such problems, monitoring worker safety in places like Bangladesh, where hundreds of textile workers have died in recent years in fires and other disasters, has become a huge challenge in terms of monitoring workers’ safety. “When I framed the business, I wasn’t saying, ‘From the cotton in the ground to the finished product, this is going to be all American-made,’ ” he said. “It wasn’t some patriotic quest.”
Instead, he said, the road to Gaffney was all about protecting his bottom line.
That simple, if counterintuitive, example is changing both Gaffney and the American textile and apparel industries.
In 2012, textile and apparel exports were $22.7 billion, up 37 percent from just three years earlier. While the size of operations remain behind those of overseas powers like China, the fact that these industries are thriving again after almost being left for dead is indicative of a broader reassessment by American companies about manufacturing in the United States.
In 2012, the M.I.T. Forum for Supply Chain Innovation and the publication Supply Chain Digest conducted a joint survey of 340 of their members. The survey found that one-third of American companies with manufacturing overseas said they were considering moving some production to the United States, and about 15 percent of the respondents said they had already decided to do so.
“This is a completely different manufacturing paradigm than what we saw 10 years ago,” said David Simchi-Levi, a professor at M.I.T. who conducted the survey.
Beyond the cost and time benefits, companies often get a boost with consumers by promoting American-made products, according to a survey conducted in January by The New York Times.
The survey found that 68 percent of respondents preferred products made in the United States, even if they cost more, and 63 percent believed they were of higher quality. Retailers from Walmart to Abercrombie & Fitch are starting to respond to those sentiments, creating sections for American-made items and sourcing goods domestically.
But as manufacturers find that American-made products are not only appealing but affordable, they are also finding the business landscape has changed. Two decades of overseas production has decimated factories here. Between 2000 and 2011, on average, 17 manufacturers closed up shop every day across the country, according to research from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.
Now, companies that want to make things here often have trouble finding qualified workers for specialized jobs and American-made components for their products. And politicians’ promises that American manufacturing means an abundance of new jobs is complicated — yes, it means jobs, but on nowhere near the scale there was before, because machines have replaced humans at almost every point in the production process.
Take Parkdale: The mill here produces 2.5 million pounds of yarn a week with about 140 workers. In 1980, that production level would have required more than 2,000 people.
Curse of Long Distance
When Bayard Winthrop founded American Giant, he knew precisely what he wanted to make: thick sweatshirts like the one from the Navy that his father used to wear.
They required a dry “hand feel,” so the fabric would not seem greasy to the touch, and a soft, heavily plucked underside. Mr. Winthrop had already produced sportswear overseas, so he looked there for the advanced techniques and affordable pricing he needed.
He wanted to sell his hooded sweatshirt for around $80, between the $10 Walmart version, made in China, and the $125 Polo Ralph Lauren version, made in Peru. He was insistent on cutting and sewing the sweatshirts in the United States — a company called American Giant couldn’t do that part overseas, he felt — but wasn’t picky about where the fabric came from.
With the help of a consultant, he settled on a mill in Haryana, India, that could make the desired fabric. After several months of back-and-forth, Mr. Winthrop was ready to ship his first sweatshirts in February 2012.
But he was frustrated with the quality, and the lengthy process. By October of last year, Mr. Winthrop had moved production to South Carolina. Now it takes just a month or so, start to finish, to get a sweatshirt to a customer.
“We just avoid so many big and small stumbles that invariably happen when you try to do things from far away,” he said. “We would never be where we are today if we were overseas. Nowhere close.”
The problems in India were cultural, bureaucratic and practical.
Time was foremost among them. The Indian mill needed too much time — three to five months — to perfect its designs, send samples, schedule production, ship the fabric to the United States and get it through customs. Mr. Winthrop was hesitant to predict demand that far in advance.
There were also communication issues. Mr. Winthrop would send the Indian factory so-called tech packs that detailed exactly what kind of fabric he wanted and what variations he would allow. But even with photos and drawings, the roll-to-roll variance was big. And he couldn’t afford to fly to India regularly, or hire someone to monitor production there.
He also found that suppliers deferred to his wishes, rather than being frank about some of his choices, which weren’t, he conceded, always good ones.
“I’m a supporter of outsourcing when it makes sense,” he said. But it had stopped making sense.
Now that production has shifted to the United States, Mr. Winthrop says those problems have disappeared. Mr. Winthrop and his team visit Carolina Cotton Works and Parkdale whenever they want, check on quality and toss ideas around with the managers. And, he says, the cost is less than in India.
Where Mr. Winthrop relies on labor — the cutting and sewing of the sweatshirts, which he does in five factories in California and North Carolina — is where the costs jump up. That costs his company around $17 for a given sweatshirt; overseas, he says, it would cost $5.50.
But truth be told, labor is not a big ingredient in the manufacturing uptick in the United States, textiles or otherwise. Indeed, the absence of high-paid American workers in the new factories has made the revival possible.
“Most of our costs are power-related,” said Dan Nation, a senior Parkdale executive.
March of the Machines
Step inside Parkdale Mills, and prepare to be overwhelmed by machines.
The ceilings are high and the machines stretch city block after city block — this one tossing around bits of cotton to clean them, that one taking four-millimeter layers from different bales to blend them.
Only infrequently does a person interrupt the automation, mainly because certain tasks are still cheaper if performed by hand — like moving half-finished yarn between machines on forklifts. Beyond that, there is little that resembles the mills of just a few decades ago.
Tell people about a textile plant and “their image is ‘Norma Rae,’ and everyone’s sick and dirty and coughing and it’s terrible,” said Mike Hubbard, vice president of the National Council of Textile Organizations.
Not here. The air-cleaning room, where air is washed 6.5 times an hour to get contaminants out, could be a modern-art installation, with liquid raining into pools of water. Along the ceiling, moving racks like those at a dry cleaner snake throughout the factory, carrying the finished yarn to a machine for packaging and shipping. That machine has enough lights and outlets on it that it resembles a music studio soundboard.
For Parkdale, the new technology has been its salvation.
Founded in 1916, Parkdale is the largest buyer of raw cotton in the United States. In the 1960s, when its current chairman, Duke Kimbrell, took over, it was a single plant with a couple of hundred workers.
Seeing that other plants in the area were streamlining their businesses and ceasing to make their own yarn, Parkdale supplied yarn to nearby manufacturers like Hanesbrands. Business flourished, and Parkdale acquired competitors and soared until the 1990s.
That’s when its clients started fleeing the United States.
The North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994 was the first blow, erasing import duties on much of the apparel produced in Mexico. The Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s, when currencies collapsed, added a 30 to 40 percent discount to already cheaper overseas products, textile executives said. China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001 and quickly became an apparel powerhouse, and as of 2005, the W.T.O. eliminated textile quotas.
In 1991, American-made apparel accounted for 56.2 percent of all the clothing bought domestically, according to the American Apparel and Footwear Association. By 2012, it accounted for 2.5 percent. Over all, the American manufacturing sector lost 32 percent of its jobs, 5.8 million of them, between 1990 and 2012, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. The textile and apparel subsectors were hit even harder, losing 76.5 percent of their jobs, or 1.2 million.
“With all the challenges that we’ve had with cheap imports, we knew in order to survive we’d have to take technology as far as we could,” said Anderson Warlick, Parkdale’s chief executive.
The company began meeting with machine manufacturers, doing trial runs of equipment and offering feedback and debugging, so it got dibs on the newest technology. It looked for business opportunities in the countries where its customers were heading, those in Central America in particular, and now 75 percent of its business is in exports.
Over all, the company employs 4,000 people, its biggest work force ever, but it is technology that has made it competitive.
“We’ve been able to be effective here because we invested in our manufacturing to the point that labor is not as big of an issue as far as total cost as it once was,” Mr. Warlick said. “It’s allowed us to be able to compete more effectively with foreign countries that pay, you know, a fraction of what we pay in wages. We compete with them on technology and productivity.”
Back From the Dead
All that automation has made working in the mill — which once meant mostly dead-end jobs for people with no other options — desirable for many people.
Howard Taggert, 86, got his first mill job in 1948 after high school. “By being a color, yeah, you’ve got the worst jobs there was in textile,” said Mr. Taggert, who is African-American. “It was rough, but it was a living. We made a living.”
He started by opening cotton bales, which involved striking an ax onto a metal tie around the bales — a dangerous job, given that a spark from metal striking metal could ignite a room full of cotton. The dust was so thick that he couldn’t see to the next aisle, he said. He was paid 87 cents an hour.
“I had to. I didn’t have no other choice,” he said of working in the mills.
The work was so bad that Mr. Taggert refused to let his children go into mill work. He might be surprised to hear about Donna McKoy, who went back to work in a mill even after earning an associate degree in criminal justice.
Ms. McKoy, 47, lost her job at Continental Fabrics in North Carolina in the early 2000s, “when everything was downsizing and going over to China.” In 2001 alone, textile plants in the Carolinas eliminated 15,000 jobs. The sense of desperation was palpable, Ms. McKoy said.
“Now what?” she remembers asking herself before she decided to go to college.
After a headhunter contacted her in 2007, she became a supervisor at Parkdale, overseeing a night shift of 11 workers. The work — and the workplace — are barely recognizable compared with her job a decade ago. A couple of things struck her right away. First, the mill was clean. “Most open-end spinning plants that have the older model spinning frames in them are really dirty and dusty and not fun to be around,” she said. Thanks to the new technology, “my plant is always clean.”
Second, Ms. McKoy got training. For her first eight months, Parkdale paid for hotels, food, dry-cleaning and gas for trips home as she rotated around different factories and learned all of the jobs. And there were fewer people. Ms. McKoy now works at a plant in Walnut Cove, N.C., which she described as a smaller version of the Gaffney plant. On a typical 12-hour shift, Ms. McKoy said, two of the 11 people on her team fix the spinning machines about 4,000 times, with robots’ help.
She earns $47,000 a year and says the perks are good, like health care, an in-house nurse and monthly management classes for supervisors. She recently bought a three-bedroom house and owns a car.
“I have a comfortable life,” she said. “With this recession that we just had, I didn’t feel it.”
Still, some Parkdale employees worry about the future. They’ve seen too much hardship in the textile industry to be overly hopeful about a real turnaround.
Scott Symmonds, 40, of Galax, Va., works as a technician for two plants in the area. He never planned on manufacturing work, but after time in the National Guard in Iraq, his home went into foreclosure and he had trouble getting work because of his low credit score and lack of a college degree. As a teenager in rural Iowa, he knew people who worked in manufacturing and watched two plants go out of business.
“I saw how they would come home dirty, smelly and often injured,” he said. “I didn’t want that.”
But he needed a job, and Parkdale was hiring. Mr. Symmonds started as a spinner, then got a job on the packing line, and then snagged a technician’s job after a technical-aptitude test. He earns $15 an hour, which he says is better than what competitors pay. He fears, though, that his higher pay could become a liability.
“We are making far more money than our counterparts in China or other nations,” he said. “We can’t afford to take a big enough cut in pay to be on an even level with those places.”
**************Halliburton pleads guilty to destroying evidence in Gulf spill
By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, September 19, 2013 14:28 EDT
Halliburton pleaded guilty Thursday to destroying evidence relating to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, the Justice Department said.
Halliburton was sentenced to the maximum fine allowed, the department said in a statement.
The court statement did not disclose the amount, but Halliburton put it at $200,000 and three years’ probation.
The Justice Department also announced it had filed a criminal charge against a former Halliburton manager, Anthony Badalementi, accusing him of one count of destruction of evidence.
“These announcements mark the latest steps forward in the Justice Department’s efforts to achieve justice on behalf of all those affected by the Deepwater Horizon explosion, oil spill, and environmental disaster,” said US Attorney General Eric Holder in a statement.
Halliburton constructed the cement casing of the offshore deepwater Macondo well that exploded on April 20, 2010, killing 11 people.
The blast sank the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig, sending millions of barrels of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, the largest offshore oil leak in US history.
It took 87 days to cap the runaway well in a spill that blackened beaches in five states and crippled the region’s tourism and fishing industries.
Badalamenti, then Halliburton’s cementing technology director, ordered two internal computer simulations of the cementing job after the accident. The simulations were later destroyed.
Halliburton said the federal judge’s acceptance of its single misdemeanor guilty plea closed the investigation.
****************The Republican Party Collapses as John McCain Attacks Obamacare Defunders as Irrational
By: Jason Easley
Sep. 19th, 2013
The Republican Party is in full meltdown mode as John McCain has called Ted Cruz and all of the members of his own party who are trying to shutdown the government to defund Obamacare irrational.
McCain responded to Cruz’ I think Sen. Cruz is free to do whatever he wants to within the rules of the Senate. I will state again unequivocally that this is not something we can succeed in, that’s defunding Obamacare, because we don’t have 67 Republican votes in the Senate, which would be required to override the presidential veto.” McCain said that the people who are doing this are new, and they don’t have the experience that older Republicans had when Newt Gingrich shutdown the government.
McCain said he could not second guess why Boehner is going forward with this, but that it was obvious that he has problems within his caucus. McCain made it absolutely clear that there was zero chance an effort to defund Obamacare will not pass, “I can tell you in the United States Senate. We will not repeal or defund Obamacare. We will not, and to think we can is irrational.”
When John McCain is the voice of rational reason in the room, Republicans have a lot of problems. This is the same John McCain who still defends invading Iraq, but even he sees that there is zero chance of any bill that defunds Obamacare passing the Senate. Even if the bill did pass, Republicans don’t have enough votes to override the certain presidential veto. It is just not going to happen.
The Republicans who are pushing defunding are doing so for their own benefit. Ted Cruz knows that defunding Obamacare will never pass the Senate, but he sees a chance to boost his possible 2016 presidential campaign by threatening a filibuster. (This would also allow him to match Rand Paul’s filibuster, and even in the score in the hearts of Republican primary voters.) McCain’s right. If Republicans shutdown the government over the ACA, they may end up losing the House.
The bigger problem is that the Obamacare jihad that the far right of the GOP is on is tearing the party apart. Older and more experienced Republicans are lining up against their inexperienced colleagues in a battle to prevent the ideologues from destroying the party. The conventional wisdom was that the Republicans can at least agree on getting rid of Obamacare, but that’s not true. Republicans can’t agree on anything.
What Republicans are doing is not irrational, it’s downright stupid. The Republican Party is getting to close to a full on collapse, and Democrats are more than happy to cheer them on.
*************Republicans Call Ted Cruz Ball Less For Bailing On His Own Plan to to Defund Obamacare
By: Jason Easley
Sep. 19th, 2013
ted cruzRepublicans are outraged today after Sen. Ted Cruz withdrew his support for his own plan to shutdown the government unless Obamacare is defunded. One Republican said Wendy Davis has more balls than Cruz.
Cruz spent the entire summer paired up with former senator and current head of the Heritage Foundation, Jim DeMint pushing this plan to tie funding the government to defunding Obamacare. They ran negative ads against Senate Republicans around the country urging them to get behind the defund Obamacare movement. They pressured House Republicans, and Cruz’s campaign worked. At least 40 House Republicans refused to fund the government unless Obamacare was defunded. Boehner caved, and the House will vote on and pass what Cruz wanted tomorrow.
After Speaker Boehner announced that the House will be voting on a continuing resolution that will defund Obamacare, Sen. Cruz put out a statement where he refused to fight for his own plan, “Today’s announcement that the House will vote to defund Obamacare is terrific news. Just a few weeks ago, this was deemed impossible. We commend House leadership and House Republicans for listening to the people and for taking decisive action to stop Obamacare, the biggest job-killer in America. Harry Reid will no doubt try to strip the defund language from the continuing resolution, and right now he likely has the votes to do so. At that point, House Republicans must stand firm, hold their ground, and continue to listen to the American people. President Obama has already granted Obamacare exemptions to big corporations and Members of Congress; he should not threaten to shut down the government just to deny those same exemptions to hard-working American families.”
Cruz is now telling House Republicans that the Senate isn’t going to do anything, so the House needs to stand firm and listen to the American people. In other words, Cruz isn’t going to fight for his own plan in the Senate. House Republicans are on their own.
Sen. Cruz stabbed them in the back, and Republicans aren’t pleased.
One anonymous Republican legislative aide told CNN, “It is disappointing to see that Wendy Davis has more balls than Ted Cruz.” Another senior House Republican leadership aide said, “They said nothing is impossible if you fight hard enough, and the minute the House announces the vote, they give up the fight? It’s crazy. They should walk the walk.”
It seems that the Republican Party is finally catching on to the truth about Ted Cruz. Sen. Cruz is a coward who is only interested in his own self-promotion. He doesn’t care about anything other than getting Ted Cruz elected president someday.
Cruz isn’t the only Senate Republican to set up their House colleagues on Obamacare. Sen. Rand Paul spent the entire summer doing his own Chicken Little dance where he claimed that the Senate couldn’t pass anything, so the House had to do his dirty work for him on Obamacare. Paul never went as far as Cruz did, and now Canadian Joe McCarthy is facing a giant backlash within his own party.
House Republicans believed Ted Cruz, and now he has set them up for a disastrous failure. It really couldn’t happen to a more deserving group of people.
************Looking Like A Hostage Reading a Ransom Note, Boehner Knows He Has Lost on Obamacare
By: Jason Easley
Sep. 19th, 2013
Looking like a hostage reading the demands of his captors, Speaker John Boehner promised to win the already lost fight to defund Obamacare at his weekly press conference today.
In his prepared remarks, Speaker Boehner said, “Tomorrow we’ll pass a plan to protect the American people from the president’s health care law, while keeping the rest of government up and running. When it comes to the health care law, the debate in the House has been settled. I think our position is very clear: The law is a train wreck, and it’s going to raise costs, it’s destroying American jobs – and it must go. We’ll deliver a big victory in the House tomorrow. Then this fight will move over to the Senate – where it belongs. I expect my Senate colleagues to be up for the battle.”
The intrigue occurred when Boehner was asked by a reporter about Senate saying that his latest plan to defund Obamacare won’t work, and Republicans will get blamed for it. The speaker said, “Well guess what? We’re having the fight over here. We’re going to win the fight over here. It’s time for them to pick up the mantle and get the job done.”
Notice what Boehner did there? He sounded tough, but he was really trying to pass the buck and put the blame for the expected failure of his latest ploy on Senate Republicans. Boehner’s words said victory, but his eyes said help me.
It is impossible to watch video of John Boehner and not see a defeated man who doesn’t believe for a second the things he is saying about victory. Boehner knows that this plan that he has been pushed into by Sen. Ted Cruz and former Sen. Jim DeMint’s campaign to tie defunding Obamacare to raising the debt ceiling is never going to work.
Before Boehner even spoke, he knew that the Obama administration had already promised to veto the bill. Boehner may be the Speaker of the House, but he is also a hostage. His promise to win the fight on Obamacare has about as much credibility as a hostage reading propaganda at gun point.
The media will create lots of faux drama surrounding the debt ceiling over the next few weeks, but John Boehner already knows that he has lost.
***************Obama Promises to Veto the Latest Republican Harebrained Scheme To Defund Obamacare
By: Jason Easley
Sep. 19th, 2013
President Obama and the White House released a statement today telling Boehner and his House Republicans that he will veto their latest attempt to defund Obamacare.
In a statement of administration policy, the White House issued a short and sweet veto promise:
The Administration strongly opposes House passage of H.J. Res. 59, making continuing appropriations for fiscal year 2014 and for other purposes, because it advances a narrow ideological agenda that threatens our economy and the interests of the middle class. The Resolution would defund the Affordable Care Act, denying millions of hard-working middle class families the security of affordable health coverage.
If the President were presented with H.J. Res. 59, he would veto the bill.The Administration is willing to support a short-term continuing resolution to allow critical Government functions to operate without interruption and looks forward to working with the Congress on appropriations legislation for the remainder of the fiscal year that preserves critical national priorities, protects national security, and makes investments to spur economic growth and job creation for years to come.
With just a few working days left until the country faces a government shutdown, John Boehner is pursuing a strategy that is destined to fail. Despite what some in the Republican Party might believe, President Obama is never, ever going to sign anything that takes a single penny away from the ACA. It is not going to happen, but by caving again to the far right members of his caucus, Boehner is setting the stage for House Republicans to be routed again by Obama.
The President already won the public relations war when he deemed the Republican demands for spending cuts in exchange for paying the government’s bills extortion. The nation has seen the same script play out repeatedly over the last couple of years. It is so predictable that almost everyone knows where this latest Republican debt ceiling temper tantrum is going to end up.
Here are the 10 steps to resolving any Republican caused crisis:
1). House Republicans pass another crackpot idea that will never get through the Senate.
2). The deadline for the Republican caused crisis of the week arrives and passes.
3). House Republicans try to blame Obama.
4). The country doesn’t buy it, and blames Boehner and the House Republicans.
5). A group of Senate Republicans sit down with Harry Reid and the Democrats, and cut a deal.
6). Obama says, “Works for me.”
7). Senate passes the deal. Obama says he will sign it as soon as the House passes it.
. With the economy facing collapse, and right wing billionaires putting on the pressure, Boeher caves and allows a vote on the Senate bill.
9). Nancy Pelosi delivers the majority of the votes needed for passage. Just enough Republicans cross over to get the bill to 218.
10). Obama signs the bill. A crisis is avoided, and House Republicans are left humiliated and enraged.
This is how it has gone every single time that House Republicans have tried this. It is also the likely way that this latest Republican caused debt ceiling fiasco will be resolved. Obama’s veto threat is just a way for the White House to put the House Republicans on notice that they will never get away with this.
House Republicans never learn, which is why President Obama has to be there to tell them no. John Boehner is the Wile E. Coyote of American politics, and he is about to fall off of another cliff.