December 20, 2005
Getting To No: The Inside Story of the New York City Transit Strike

A story rarely circulated in the behind-the-scenes coverage of the strike and the negotiations leading up to it is that of the book on which both parties relied in coming to the table: "Getting to No: The Art of Ridiculously Hardball Negotiation". Both the MTA and the TWU consulted the author, Professor Saul Apt, on positions to take during their talks. In yet another example of famously poor judgment, Apt shared some suggested "discussion openers" with us:

"What the hell is your problem?"

"I'll have you know that the author of the Taylor Law, John Taylor, is my next door neighbor."

"Pensions are so overrated. Look at Enron."

"My cousin retired at 55 and she's been bored to tears ever since."

"I understand we have a huge surplus -- but a billion dollars just doesn't go as far as it used to."

"I know the Mayor and he looks nothing like that."

"Paying for your own health care gives a person a real sense of accomplishment."

"Surpluses are overrated. Everyone knows you get better results by doing more with less."

"I have a friend who won the lottery and it only brought him misery."

"You know you're going to raise the fare soon anyway. This way, if you give in, you'll have a convenient excuse."

Also on the transit strike: I and some other folks provided the New York Times with some non-satiric views on the strike (subscription required).

Posted by Tom Burka at 11:53 PM in Commentary

December 16, 2005
Exporting Democracy Department
Iraqi Election Held; First Step Toward American-Style Democracy Taken

Powerful Lobbyists For Special Interests To Be Created Next Week

Iraqis hailed this week's Iraqi elections as a "good first step" step toward a representational democracy, but, with a mixture of sadness, hope, and courage, acknowledged that more needed to be done. "We have much to do before we can claim the kind of successful representative democracy that America has," said Fawad Ghreib, an Iraqi election official. "For one thing, in this election, sadly, we have a paper trail."

Ghreib was excited about the new democracy. "Soon we too may have secret laws, state-sanctioned torture, and unchecked domestic wiretapping."

Originally published, in slightly different form, here.

Posted by Tom Burka at 12:25 PM in NewsOld But Gold

Only You Can Help Fight the War on Christmas

The War on Christmas is running out of money.

That's why we urge you to contribute to your favorite liberal causes by making your online Christmas Holiday purchases through Progressive Depot. You use Progressive Depot as a gateway to the online shops (like Amazon.com) that you already use, and Progressive Depot gives a percentage of their profits to liberal causes like People for the American Way and whatnot.

It's easy and it's Scrooge-like.

Posted by Tom Burka at 11:53 AM in Notices

December 5, 2005
Tom Ridge and Bernard Kerik Join Brown to Form Ultimate Disaster Firm

Bernard Kerik and Tom Ridge are joining ex-FEMA head Michael Brown to form what they say will be the "ultimate" disaster firm in the United States, if not the world.

Tom Ridge was the first head of the Department of Homeland Security. Kerik was never the head of the Department but he was once nominated for the position.

"I almost was the head," said Kerik. "Almost is pretty good."

Kerik added, "Should a disaster force a client out of public office, I can help them to transition to a cushy partnership, consultancy, or patronage job in the private sector."

The firm will be called Brown, Kerik and Ridge Disaster Planning, Inc., and their motto is "We plan disasters -- so you don't have to." The three partners incorporated, they said, to limit their liability.

Brown has already said that he can advise clients to avoid some of the mistakes "some people" made in New Orleans. Said Brown, "The first thing I tell clients is, in the event of a disaster, erase all of the emails. That is key."

Kerik agrees. "Never write anything down. You can always deny a conversation."

Ridge said that he had plenty of useful advice to offer clients involved with disasters. As an example, Ridge said that a disaster gives homeowners and renters alike the opportunity to rethink their wallpaper and window treatments. "I can help with the colors," he added.

Posted by Tom Burka at 10:56 PM in News