All set to strike: Hollywood writers will be walking off their jobs, most likely next week. It'll be the first strike in almost 20 years, and judging by the lack of progress at the negotiating table, we could be talking months, not days. As with many labor disputes, this one is really about the past - specifically a misguided decision by the Writers Guild in 1985 to not fight for a better share of the profits from home entertainment (cassettes and DVDs). Now, with content available on computers, MP3 players and cell phones, there's an urgency among guild members not to get taken a second time. Another point: negotiators on both sides really dislike each other. A final decision on whether and when could come later today. (Variety, Deadline Hollywood Daily)
Angry writers: Around 3,000 writers showed up at the Convention Center last night to gripe about their bosses and to cheer on their leadership. No media allowed inside, of course, but all the reports indicate a very united front - what you might expect at this early stage. Here's more color from Nikki Finke's DHD:
Not only did everyone show up right on time, but by 7:30 pm the meeting was in full swing. WGAW president Patric Verrone and company got a 5-minute standing ovation when they entered. Attendees counted more than 20 standing ovations during the meeting, with more applause breaks than anyone could keep track of as well as a steady stream of clapping as WGA Negotiating Committee toppers John Bowman spoke first, saying, "If there's a strike, it's because eight CEO's want one," referring to the moguls who run Hollywood and Big Media. Cheers and applause rose from the crowd when the WGA's negotiating committee's Dave Young announced its recommendation to strike. There were also big laughs, a huge gasp, and even one round of boos all aimed at the producers. This Guild leadership is often described as hardline, but tonight's membership at the meeting appeared even more hardline than their leaders. (Of course, anyone willing to trek down to the downtown LA Convention Center in rush-hour traffic must be a militant.)
Plenty of work: So if the housing downturn and the credit crunch have eaten into the general economy, how come 166,000 jobs were added nationwide last month? That number was about twice as much as had been expected, which tells you something about how hard it is to figure out this economy. What's not hard to figure out is that the Fed will want to keep interest rates as they are for a while. Much of the hiring in October was in the service sector, with manufacturing and construction showing declines. That's not great news, but it's not a surprise. (AP) Here's some reaction to the numbers, courtesy of the WSJ:
The economy may be slowing into the fourth quarter, but from what base? … The Fed is concerned about the economy’s ability to absorb the financial shocks that turned severe over the summer. Hard evidence on the economy meanwhile, continues to show amazing resiliency. Growth in the fourth quarter is likely to slow from the fast pace, but we do not see the slowdown as a crisis. Employment gains will be supportive of consumption activity. – Societe Generale
The only area of unexpected weakness is the 22,000 decline in retail employment (although some of that may be recaptured in the growth in temporary help). This decline, in combination with the weak average hourly earnings growth, suggests some possible weakness in the holiday shopping season and is compelling evidence that there is a real risk of a sharp consumption slowdown. – Drew Matus, Lehman Brothers
Market recovery?: You would think so, given the job news and yesterday's overreaction to a bunch of bad but not horrible news. Of course, the prospect of no additional rate cuts for a while could put a damper on trading. So far, stocks are actually down a bit. (AP)
Ban on dirty trucks: Well, maybe. The L.A. Harbor Commission approved a proposal that would phase out older big rigs entering the Port of Los Angeles, beginning late next year. The first stage of the program would eliminate trucks built before 1989, with a goal of meeting 2007 federal emissions by 2012. Long Beach Harbor Commissioners are expected to approve a similar plan next week. The trucking industry isn't thrilled with the phase-out, and it's been making noises about going to court. From the Daily Breeze:
"While I commend the harbor commission for tackling the issue of dirty trucks, I am disappointed that they did not go further and also provide a solution to the unstable trucking workforce," Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn said. "I want to remind the commission that there is a human element to the goods-movement industry and that element is the truck drivers that keep the goods at this port moving," Hahn said. "Every one of us relies on these drivers to get us the goods that we need every day."
More questions for Nuñez: Now here's a slick way of connecting to big-wigs: Set up a small charity for all the companies and organizations that can help you politically. They'll be able to contribute more than the $7,200 maximum allowed under the state's fundraising rules - plus it's tax deductible! That's the scheme by which Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez received $300,000 from Zenith Insurance, AT&T, Verizon, the California Hospital Assciation, the state prison guards union, etc., etc. Here's more - if you can stomach it - from the LAT:
The money was used for events including "Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez's Toy Drive," "Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez's Soccerfest 2006," "Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez's Inaugural Legislative Youth Conference" and airplane flights for 50 children from Nuñez's district for "Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez's Sacramento Student Summit," according to state documents. That arrangement may have violated federal tax laws, according to experts. The Internal Revenue Service has a strict policy against charities serving as a pass-through for funds. In addition, experts say, a plan under which a politician solicits a donation to a charity and then directs how it can be used may violate state ethics rules.
Nuñez insisted that his solicitation of donations was not intended to benefit himself. But when asked why events featured his name, he said that "when you're doing good things like this, nothing wrong with letting people know that you worked on it or made it happen." Donors, most of whom had already given money to his campaign accounts, got nothing in return, Nuñez said, an assertion echoed by donors interviewed by The Times.
Cayne denies smoking pot: It wasn’t quite Bill Clinton saying he never inhaled – but it was damn close. Responding to an unflattering WSJ profile, the Bear Stearns CEO told his employees in an email that he hadn't "engaged in inappropriate conduct" – as in smoking weed after a game of bridge. He also said he was "intensely focused" on the firm's business during the heat of the credit crisis last summer. "I stand by the record of success the firm has had over the 14 years that I have had the privilege of leading this great organization," he wrote. (WSJ:)