Category: Corruption

Unions, like the nation, must confront racism


March on Washington 1963

National AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka says that the unrest in Ferguson illustrates the need for a more vigorous national discussion on race and racism…And labor unions, which have had their racial problems, must be part of the conversation, he acknowledged.

Trumka was interviewed after he had addressed Missouri labor leaders at a convention at the downtown Crowne Plaza hotel.

In his speech, which was closed to the press, Trumka noted the labor connections on both sides of the unrest, which began with the shooting death of an unarmed teenager, Michael Brown, by a Ferguson police officer.

“Union members’ lives have been profoundly damaged in ways that cannot be fixed,” Trumka said, according to a transcript released later. “Lesley McSpadden, Michael Brown’s mother, who works in a grocery store, is our sister, an AFL-CIO union member, and Darren Wilson, the officer who killed Michael Brown, is a union member, too, and he is our brother. Our brother killed our sister’s son and we do not have to wait for the judgment of prosecutors or courts to tell us how terrible this is.”

Trumka emphasized that he was not taking sides on the particulars of the case. “We cannot wash our hands of the issues raised by Michael Brown’s death. That does not mean we prejudge the specifics of Michael Brown’s death or deny Officer Darren Wilson — or any other officer — his or her rights on the job or in the courts,” he said.

“But it does demand that we clearly and openly discuss the reality of racism in American life. We must take responsibility for the past. Racism is part of our inheritance as Americans. Every city, every state and every region of this country has its own deep history with racism. And so does the labor movement…”

In his speech and in the interview, Trumka tied the nation’s longstanding racial troubles to what he viewed as corporate greed and “playing the race card over and over and over again.”

“For years, the very elite and those in control want us to believe that the economy is like the weather,’’ he said. “That no matter what happens, you can’t change it…The economy is not like the weather. The economy is nothing but a set of rules. Those rules decide who wins and who loses.”

“Quite frankly, working people have been losing for years,’’ Trumka added.

Trumka includes some relevant history sharply critical of the history of racism not addressed by trade unions – though they are the only body directly representing working people.

Predictably, NPR in St, Louis is candyass enough to add copy from a separate interview with a right-wing politician from the Republican Party – for the usual reason I imagine. “Look at us, we’re safely in the middle of every issue.” Like every fence-sitter unconcerned about justice.

American trade unions – particularly those that rolled over and played dead during the McCarthy Era – were not only cowards about racism and other bigotries, they embraced it as central to their very existence.

In my lifetime as a proud member of a couple of trade unions, I will never forget – or excuse – one of the biggest I belonged to less than fifty years ago still had a constitutional ban barring Blacks or women from heading the national union.

There was hardly an organization associated with the needs and rights of working people that didn’t support or endorse MLK’s March on Washington in 1963 – with the glaring exception of the AFL-CIO. Many individual unions did participate, especially the UAW and the Hospital Workers’ Union, Local 1199. Not the suits at the top of the American Labor movement.

Thanks, Mike

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Surprise, surprise! Patient gets $117,000 bill from doctor he doesn’t know

Before his three-hour neck surgery for herniated disks in December, Peter Drier, 37, signed a pile of consent forms. A bank technology manager who had researched his insurance coverage, Mr. Drier was prepared when the bills started arriving: $56,000 from Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, $4,300 from the anesthesiologist and even $133,000 from his orthopedist, who he knew would accept a fraction of that fee.

He was blindsided, though, by a bill of about $117,000 from an “assistant surgeon,” a Queens-based neurosurgeon whom Mr. Drier did not recall meeting.

“I thought I understood the risks,” Mr. Drier, who lives in New York City, said later. “But this was just so wrong — I had no choice and no negotiating power.”

…In an increasingly common practice that some medical experts call drive-by doctoring, assistants, consultants and other hospital employees are charging patients or their insurers hefty fees. They may be called in when the need for them is questionable. And patients usually do not realize they have been involved or are charging until the bill arrives.

The practice increases revenue for physicians and other health care workers at a time when insurers are cutting down reimbursement for many services. The surprise charges can be especially significant because, as in Mr. Drier’s case, they may involve out-of-network providers who bill 20 to 40 times the usual local rates and often collect the full amount, or a substantial portion.

RTFA. It’s long, detail and difficult to stomach. So much of modern medicine – especially if you need specialized care and treatment to maintain what passes for a normal life – is extortion.

I’ve been fortunate to know a number of physicians in my life who are dedicated to the original tenets of the Hippocratic oath. I’ve met some greedy bastards like those in this article. They are as contemptible as Bernie Madoff or, say, a lawyer whose dedication to “providing constitutional rights” to the scumbags of the nation pays for a new Ferrari every four or five years to go with their country club subscription and greens fees.

They are thieves in the same class as Congress.

Why do you think Congress won’t end the NFL’s tax break?

Perhaps the most famous tax break in America is the one bestowed by Congress on the NFL. It’s famous for its seeming illogic — the NFL, hugely profitable, being called a “nonprofit.”

And it’s famous, along with the antitrust exemption for pro football, for the number of times members of Congress have threatened subtly or otherwise to take it away.

The occasions range from the anger of then-Sen. John F. Kerry in 2007 over a blackout of a New England Patriots game to resentment about the name of the Washington, D.C., football team to concern about concussions to anger over what Republican Sen. Tom Coburn and Maine’s independent Sen. Angus King called “tax earmarks…”

Now, in the wake of the domestic abuse controversies in the NFL, the rumbling has started anew. Congress must now investigate the league’s handling of the domestic abuse charges, Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier of California said in a press release, as well as its “tolerance of performance enhancing drugs, the impact of traumatic brain injury on players later in life, and the tax-exempt status the NFL enjoys thanks to a loophole Congress created in the ’60s.”

But don’t count on anything happening — ever — to the exemptions enjoyed by pro sports. The NFL remains a heavy hitter in Washington. Its officials and political action committee donated more than $1.4 million to members of Congress during the past two election cycles, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. It spends millions as well on as many as 26 lobbyists from top-tier Washington firms.

One of the essential perks of being a Congress-critter is free skybox seats to whatever is the hot sports event in town. Given the snug fit between the NFL and the All-American reliance on war games to keep our collective ego inflated – that match is often defined by the National Football League.

Icing on the cake – with the cake being the inevitable contributions to Joe Congressman’s re-election campaign.

Thanks, Mike — who added:

Two new bills have been introduced that would strip the NFL of its tax-exempt status:

1. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) announced Tuesday that she will introduce legislation to eliminate the NFL’s tax-exempt status.

2. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) has introduced legislation to strip several professional sports leagues, including the NFL, of their tax-exempt status.

Earlier this year, Senators Tom Coburn (R-Okla) and Angus King (I-Maine) introduced the PRO-Sports Act to address this issue on the premise that it is unfair to the American tax-payer.

A tax reform package sponsored by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R- Mich.) includes a repeal of tax-exempt status for professional sports leagues. It is languishing in committee.

Republicans, Blue Dog Democrats, rule that water ain’t part of the environment

libertyoila

The House passed legislation Tuesday that would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from implementing a proposed rule to define its jurisdiction over bodies of water…

The rule, proposed in March, sought to clarify which bodies of water, such as wetlands and streams, are subject to agencies’ authority under the act. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has said the rule does not significantly expand the agency’s existing authority.

Republicans said the rule would go too far and subject trivial bodies of water to federal regulation.

What passes for conservatism nowadays believes that wife-beating, lynchings, collateral murder in wherever is this year’s war – are all “trivial”.

Democrats largely dismissed the concerns as hyperbole…”We have departed from reality,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee.

DeFazio said that halting implementation of the proposed rule would prevent the EPA from simply clarifying which bodies of water are subject to federal regulation.

“Where do we end up if this cockamamie thing passes the House and becomes law, which it won’t?” DeFazio said. “Well, where we end up is back in the earlier era of the 2003 and 2008 guidance.”

The dimbulbs in the House of Representatives want the Army Corp of Engineers to help the develop new regulations on water. Their history along the Mississippi River leading up to the Hurricane Katrina disaster will stand them in good stead.

Who knows, maybe Congress can rehire the clown show inside the old Department of the Interior under George W, Bush that used to party with the Oil Patch Boys. Working for a living probably still doesn’t agree with them.

Thanks, Mike

Feds agree disaster coming to North American birds from climate change

A day after the National Audubon Society released a report saying that about half of North America’s 650 bird species will be threatened by climate change, a report released Tuesday by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and other federal agencies concluded that nearly one-third of American birds are in trouble.

The State of the Birds, a comprehensive study by nearly two dozen government agencies and conservation groups that tracks species loss and the effectiveness of conservation efforts, found species in moderate to steep decline across habitats and ecosystems. But it also highlighted that conservation projects could be successful, as with wetland species, like mallards and blue-winged teals, which saw a 37 percent bump in population since 1968.

“Conservation in one part of the country is not enough,” said Daniel M. Ashe, director of the Fish and Wildlife Service. “We have to see the larger picture of conservation.”

We must have more than one portion of the electorate, more than a coalition of the willing in Congress, coming together with the majority of our nation’s population in a serious effort to combat the effects of climate change.

That won’t begin to happen until a significant number of bought-and-paid-for politicians are removed from office. Most of them Republicans or Blue Dog Democrats. The sort of political hacks who make a career of power and policy directed by the almighty dollar.

I only hope folks will stand up for the world we live in before these greed-driven thugs cause irreparable damage.

Thanks, Mike

DOT sued over oil train copout rules

Advocacy groups said they filed a lawsuit against the Department of Transportation for not responding to calls to pull crude oil rail cars out of service.

The Department of Transportation in July published a 200-page proposal calling for the eventual elimination of older rail cars designated DOT 111 used to ship flammable liquids, “including most Bakken crude oil…”

DOT-111 rail cars carrying crude oil have been involved in a series of disastrous derailments, including the deadly incident in Lac-Megantic, Quebec in 2013.

Earthjustice, ForestEthics and the Sierra Club filed a lawsuit against the Department of Transportation for not responding to a petition filed in July calling for a ban on shipping Bakken crude using DOT-111 cars.

Matt Krogh, campaign director with ForestEthics, said DOT-111 cars are “tin cans on wheels.”

“We can’t run the risk of another disaster like Lac-Megantic,” Earthjustice attorney Patti Goldman said in a statement Thursday.

U.S. regulators in January issued an advisory warning Bakken crude oil may be more prone to catch fire than other grades.

“Eventual” somehow doesn’t sound like “timely” or any other term that puts human life at a higher priority than profits from shipping oil.

Canada – with a committed Conservative government – has already banned these archaic tin cans for the carriage of Bakken crude. Obama, his DOT and obedient head, Anthony Foxx, seem to have a problem coming to the same conclusion.

Elite Israeli veterans refuse to continue serving Apartheid government

boycott

Denouncing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians under occupation, a group of veterans from an elite, secretive military intelligence unit have declared they will no longer “take part in the state’s actions against Palestinians” in required reserve duty because of what they called “our moral duty to act.”

In a letter sent Thursday night to their commanders as well as Israel’s prime minister and army chief, 43 veterans of the clandestine Unit 8200 complained that Israel made “no distinction between Palestinians who are and are not involved in violence” and that information collected “harms innocent people.” Intelligence “is used for political persecution,” they wrote, which “does not allow for people to lead normal lives, and fuels more violence, further distancing us from the end of the conflict.”

The letter, revealed Friday in Israel’s Yediot Aharonot newspaper as well as The Guardian in Britain, echoes similar periodic protests by reservists over the years, including a group of 27 pilots who refused to participate in what Israel calls targeted assassinations, and 13 members of the vaunted commando unit known as Sayeret Matkal, both in 2003. But it is the first public collective refusal by intelligence officers rather that combat troops. Unit 8200 has a special role in Israeli society as a coveted pipeline to its high-technology industry.

“After our service we started seeing a more complex picture of a nondemocratic, oppressive regime that controls the lives of millions of people,” said one of the group’s organizers, a 32-year-old sergeant major who was on active duty from 2001 to 2005. He spoke on the condition of anonymity because the military prohibits Unit 8200 members from being publicly identified.

“There are certain things that we were asked to do that we feel do not deserve the title of self-defense,” he added in a telephone interview. “Some of the things that we did are immoral, and are against the things we believe in, and we’re not willing to do these things anymore.”

The new refuseniks said their group began a year ago and was not motivated by Israel’s battle with Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip this summer, which a member said was “just another chapter in this cycle of violence.”

RTFA. Please. A rare divergence from US/Israel foreign policy. Our own government exhibits no concern whatsoever for the lot of Palestinians living under the heel of brutal colonial repression – in the name of Lebensraum for Israel.

The 80-20 rule persists, whether discussing markets or military. Though the whole of participants may appear to come from a homogeneous population, there generally is a small percentage with perception and the ability to decide to wander away from the herd in search of something better. In this case, honesty, loyalty to a standard of democracy ignored by Israel’s government for decades, ignored by a United States government more than satisfied with a nation of legionnaires prepared to commit any crime to satisfy policies natural only to the greediest of elites.

Of course, as in the US military, fear of political and criminal retaliation reduces that percentage of those willing to act publicly, to speak out as citizens of decency. The pressure to live whatever passes for a normal life is usually sufficient to quiet most dissent. Especially in a time and place that treats dissent as the greatest enemy of governance.

These members of Unit 8200 deserve recognition for their courage.

Thanks, Mike

San Diego school system gets their own military assault vehicle – whoopee!

Cobb-County-APC
I don’t think San Diego rates something this big. This is the Cornfederate version.

The nation gaped at the sight of a military-grade Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle trundling through Ferguson, but it turns out that was relatively restrained policing.

Relative, that is, to San Diego, where police will use a similar steel behemoth for the city’s schools.

The San Diego Unified School District Police Department has acquired its own vehicle, known as a MRAP, and expect it to be operational by October.

“I can totally see people thinking ‘Oh, my God. Are they going to be rolling armoured vehicles into our schools and what the hell’s going on?’” Captain Joe Florentino told local media.

Police intended to use it to rescue children – be it from rampaging gunmen or natural disasters, he said. “When we have an emergency at a school, we’ve got to get in and save kids…”

San Diego’s school police obtained the MRAP in April and have been busy modifying it at a transportation centre in the east of the city. Details emerged only this week. Critics were not mollified by the fact the district got the vehicle, valued at $700,000, for free.

“We should not have got it in the first place,” Scott Barnett, a unified school district board trustee, told the Guardian on Thursday before a press conference announcing his opposition. “It sends a wrong message, a message contrary to what we are. We’re an educational institution…”

Barnett’s primary concern was not militarisation – “I would not use that term per se” – but utility and cost of use and maintenance. He proposed leasing it to another police force and using the revenue to replace the school district’s 10 ageing patrol cars. “Most of our vehicles are in serious disrepair, and we use them on a daily basis.”

Thrill-seeking, arrested-development coppers playing at class warfare foretell the end of civilization.

Who needs schoolbooks, anyway?

Republican whines about early voting – too many Black voters!

A Republican state senator in Georgia has vowed to end Sunday balloting in DeKalb County due to the fact that the area is “dominated by African American shoppers and it is near several large African American mega churches.”

…State Sen. Frank Millar rants that…”Now we are to have Sunday voting at South DeKalb Mall just prior to the election,” Millar wrote in an email. “Per Jim Galloway of the AJC, this location is dominated by African American shoppers and it is near several large African American mega churches such as New Birth Missionary Baptist. Galloway also points out the Democratic Party thinks this is a wonderful idea…”

Millar’s vow comes in response to news that DeKalb plans to reserve Oct. 26 for early voting…

“I have spoken with Representative Jacobs and we will try to eliminate this election law loophole in January. Galloway summed it up, ‘Democrats are showing their hand on how they might boost their numbers…”

This creep’s racist buddies may be callow enough to try to deny their bigotry saying they’d reverse their demand if there was the slightest chance Georgia Republicans might acquire a significant number of non-white voters.

Anyone holding their breath waiting for that to happen?

Thanks, Mike