I’ve spent the last few years watching Republican Governor Bobby Jindal enact the ALEC agenda down here and gut our state’s public education and health system to the point where it’s marginally functional. All the while, he’s been taking state assets and selling them to the lowest bidders–who also represent his donor class–in the name of expensive privatization. Any one with one of these Republican governors in office right now are watching many legislative agendas rammed through that have nothing to do with what the voting populace wants or needs. Florida, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio and now Michigan are being plundered by today’s Privateers.
None of this privatization drive has anything to do with quality of service or cost savings. Its purely away to transfer public wealth and the rights of people to corporations. Cuts to medicare and destruction of the social security program will not improve market outcomes, do not control costs, and do not benefit the stakeholders. Facts and other practical decision variables are not at the root at these moves. They are naked, political plays by plutocratic power brokers who are trying to recoup their losses in investments like Mittens who didn’t pay. They’ve turned their sights to vulnerable states and populations. Private insurance is expensive and cost-inducing.
According to the Council for Affordable Health Insurance , medical administrative costs as a percentage of claims are about three times higher for private insurance than for Medicare. The U.S. Institute of Medicine reports that the for-profit system wastes $750 billion a year on waste, fraud, and inefficiency. As a percent of GDP, we spend $1.2 trillion more than the OECD average .
That’s an amount equal to the entire deficit wasted on private medical care companies. One out of every six dollars we earn goes to doctors, hospitals, drug companies, and insurance companies.
Ending social security for its less effective and more expensive private counterparts benefits no one but Wall Street.
It would be difficult to find, or even imagine, any short-term-profit-based private insurer that is fully funded for the next 25 years .
At the state level, we have wars on unions, women, and public servants. No where has the naked political aggression against working people and voters been more obvious this month than Michigan. The Lame Duck House Legislature is shoving through a “Right to Work” Law that is pure union busting. It will not increase jobs. It will not provide better outcomes for work or state budgets. What it will do is decrease the political clout of unions in key states that Republicans cannot win.
The Michigan House has approved one out of two right-to-work bills Tuesday. According to the AP, “The Republican-dominated chamber passed a measure dealing with public-sector workers 58-51 as protesters shouted ‘shame on you’ from the gallery and huge crowds of union backers massed in the state Capitol halls and on the grounds.”
A vote is still to come today on a second bill focusing on private sector workers.
Moreover the symbolism of Michigan’s pending right-to-work legislation cannot be overlooked. Michigan is the birthplace of the powerful United Auto Workers union–the state is practically synonymous with auto workers and other union jobs. Furthermore, Snyder’s support for the bill represents a shift in views for the Republican governor in his first term. Since he took office in January, 2011, Snyder has maintained that a right-to-work bill is not part of his agenda, and if he signs the legislation today, as is expected, he will likely face a harsh political backlash.
While Democrats lost their battle in Wisconsin, Democrats argued that the battle helped to energize the base for what turned out to be a decisive win for President Obama in the state.
And in Ohio, despite the recovering economy, Gov. John Kasich, who had his own losing battle with labor earlier this year, has approval ratings much lower than President Obama in Ohio. The latest Quinnipiac poll shows Kasich with 42 percent job approval rating–his highest of his tenure, but is still 12 points below that of President Obama’s 54 percent rating.
With all three Governors up in 2014, the success for labor will ultimately be judged by whether or not these three are re-elected.
Fox News host Gregg Jarrett on Monday advised a woman who thought Michigan’s so-called “right to work” law was unfair because it allowed some workers to benefit from unions without paying dues to just “go get a job elsewhere.”
Speaking to Fox News host Martha MacCallum, Michigan state Sen. Arlan Meekhof (R) defended the legislation by saying that workers “will be able to choose how they spend their money.”
After her interview with Meekhof, MacCallum noted that Fox News had featured a woman who was angry that the anti-union law would allow workers who didn’t pay union dues to unfairly receive benefits.
“One woman, in a soundbite we had earlier, said ‘I don’t want to work somebody who doesn’t have to pay what I have to pay.’ That is part of the outrage there,” MacCallum explained to Jarrett.
“I mean, if she doesn’t like that, she can go get a job elsewhere, I suppose,” Jarrett opined in reply. “But the point here is, it seems anathema to democracy to force somebody to join a union, to force somebody as a condition of having a job to join a union.”
People that benefit from the services provided by a Union should pay for them. Most people will free ride on union benefits. The true benefit to Republicans is that Union Dues will not fill Democratic political coffers while Billionaires will continue their Citizens United Funding Fest.
As usual, the name “right to work” itself is a term meant to mislead the public. The Fox reporter played into that completely. It’s really about open and closed shops.
Law enforcement officials said they wouldn’t let Michigan become another Wisconsin, where demonstrators occupied the state Capitol around the clock for nearly three weeks last year to protest similar legislation.
Armed with tear gas canisters, pepper spray and batons, State Police officers guarded the Capitol as protesters shouted “No justice, no peace!” and “Shut it down!” NBC station WILX of Lansing reported. State Police confirmed that one of their troopers used pepper spray on one protester. No details were immediately available; the agency said it was still gathering information.
On the lawn, four large inflatable rats were set up to mock Snyder, House Speaker Jase Bolger, Senate Republican leader Randy Richardville, and Dick DeVos, a prominent conservative businessman who union leaders say is behind the bills.
This is just so obviously the work of wealthy corporate donors who are insisting their agendas be passed despite public outcry and votes. The Republican led legislature is also attack women’s rights in a last minute attempt to shove right wing legislature through after losing at the polls.
Republican Senator Mark Jansen was the main sponsor of S.B. 613. This bill passed the state Senate and has been referred to the House Insurance committee. It prohibits abortion coverage in qualified health plans offered by the state insurance exchange in accordance with the Affordable Care Act unless a rider is purchased. So unless a female pays extra, she has no coverage in the case of an emergency. That would include an abortion needed to protect her life. How on earth is any woman supposed to look into the future and see if she would need to purchase such a rider? And one would wonder at the cost of such coverage.
Mr. Jansen didn’t stop there, though. He also sponsored S.B. 614 which requires any woman purchasing any insurance in Michigan to purchase a rider for abortion coverage. It’s sneaky about it, though. It prohibits any licensee, health care agency or facility from accepting reimbursement from any health plan for elective abortion services unless it’s from one of the aforementioned riders. Additionally, insurance providers won’t be required to even offer these riders. Again, women are expected to be able to predict the future and buy one of them. If they can even find an insurance company that offers one. And be able to afford it.
The Michigan House jumped right on board with these policies, passing H.B. 1293 and H.B. 1294, both sponsored by Rep. Joseph Hune and containing the same provisions. These were given “immediate effect.” These bills essentially ban any health care policy issued in Michigan from providing abortion coverage, making it almost impossible to obtain a medically necessary procedure.
This should show every one exactly how extreme and right wing Republican politicians have become recently and how detached they are from the will of their voters. This should be an outrage and a warning to every concerned voter in the country. This amounts to trying to overturn election results. The governor of Michigan has caved to plutocratic privateers and should be removed from office. The legislature was tied to a spending bill so it cannot be removed by voters like a similar bill was treated in Ohio.
Michigan can’t go the way of Ohio, where a referendum last year reversed legislation that would have restricted collective bargaining. Michigan’s right-to-work legislation is attached to an appropriations bill, meaning it can’t be reversed by referendum. Also, it may be too risky to wait and go the way of Wisconsin, where litigation continues after a judge struck down parts of a collective bargaining law.
However, in Michigan, there is an option of a “statutory initiative,” which would be permitted if opponents of the bills can collect enough signatures to equal 8% of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election, union leaders say. A so-called veto referendum could be triggered by collecting signatures equal to 5% of the votes cast.
A statutory initiative would allow voters to cast a ballot on right-to-work legisation in November 2014, when Gov. Rick Snyder, who has said he would support the legislation, will be up for reelection.
“There are multiple options for a referendum,” a senior labor leader said Tuesday. “All options are on the table. This fight is far from over.”
It’s unclear whether unions are promoting a referendum now to warn Snyder of the repercussions that signing the legislation would have.
Democrats including Sen. Carl Levin and Rep. John Dingell met with Snyder on Monday to urge him to veto the legislation. The governor promised to “seriously” consider their concerns, but Democrats remained worried that he would sign the bills.
“The governor has a choice: He can put this on the ballot, and let the voters make the determination, or he can jam it through a lame-duck session,” Dingell said Monday.
I don’t know if it’s simply the election cycle or what, but more and more frequently the world seems to be spinning out of control. Problems and/or issues everywhere. Which one to prioritize? How to “fix” what is going wrong? Is it leaving you with an overwhelming sense of helplessness? It does me, all too often.
Here is a list of the serious issues that are bombarding my senses:
- The economy
- Wall Street’s continuing abuses
- Wealth inequality
- Offshore oil drilling
- Renewable energy
- The condition of our oceans
- Climate change
- Endangered species
- Pesticides, herbicides
- Food safety
- Pollution of our air and water
- Violence against women throughout the world
- Pay equity
- Abortion rights
- Access to contraception
- ALEC’s legislative initiatives
- ALEC’s co-opting of our political process
- The need for campaign finance reform
- Voting rights
- Union busting
- Health and health care
- The dismantling of our educational system
- The privatization of the prison system
- Hate speech & hate crimes
- Gun rights & gun control
- The billions of non-human animals killed each year worldwide, not only for food, but on our streets, in our homes and in our shelters
- Wars, seemingly everywhere
- The aftermath and attempted recovery following both natural and man-made disasters
There is little doubt in my mind that most people have shut down and they have chosen to ignore many, if not all of these critical issues. For so many others they don’t have a choice. They don’t even have the time or energy to think about them because they are struggling to survive, to put food on their tables, to pay the bills and keep a roof over their heads. Their focus is on their personal problems, not the bigger issues that are taking a heavy toll on their day to day lives, their future and the future of their families.
What can we do? How can the majority of the people on the planet, especially those whose personal resources are sorely limited make a difference, not only in their own lives, but for the future of all life on our planet? Here are a few simple each of us could try:
- Educate ourselves so we make conscious decisions that will benefit our finances, our health and the impact we have on our environment, whether it’s our home, our community or the planet.
- Reduce the amount of plastic, especially disposable plastic, that we buy. For example, opt for fresh foods over processed, prepackaged foods when possible. Use refillable containers instead of individual bottles of water. Avoid individually packaged food items – opt for a full size bag or container. Separate into individual servings at home. Don’t buy disposable plates and cups. Recycle and/or reuse plastic – and don’t forget to cut up those plastic rings that hold bottles and cans together – and return plastic bags to the stores for recycling. Take reusable bags when we shop, instead of the store’s plastic bags.
- Donate unused items to community groups or thrift stores.
- Pick up trash when we see it: in our yards, in the parking lots, on the beach, or participate in an annual beach or waterway cleanup in our area.
- Volunteer our time in schools, nursing homes, soup kitchens, for non-profits or wherever our time and expertise can be used.
- Eat lower on the food chain. It’s good for our health. It’s good for the planet, and it’s good for the animals.
- Write letters or send emails to our local media, to our elected officials, and to policy makers. Sign up for the action alerts of groups who address issues of concern to us.
- Adopt a homeless animal from a shelter or local rescue group. It will save a life and the animal will enrich ours. And if you can’t adopt, consider volunteering for a local rescue group or even fostering an animal until he/she is ready to be adopted.
Many of you are probably already doing some or all of these, or you may be doing others that I haven’t mentioned. By all means, if you have additional personal solutions or tips, please add them in the comments. Most of these ideas will only cost a bit of your time. Many of them will actually save money. I know that even doing what seems like something small, I feel better. I feel like I am doing my part, however little it might be. We rarely know the full impact of the choices we make on a daily basis, or how our actions might influence others. Even if we can’t always make waves, we can, at least, generate some ripples.
Good Morning!! There’s quite a lot of news happening, so I probably won’t be able to cover everything. I’m hoping you can help me out in the comments. Anyway, here are some stories that caught my eye.
The Guardian UK: 2 US airmen killed in Frankfurt airport shooting
Two U.S. airmen were killed and two others were wounded at Frankfurt airport when a man opened fire on them at close range with a handgun, the first such attack on American forces in Germany in a quarter century.
The alleged assailant, identified as a 21-year-old Kosovo man, was taken immediately into custody and was being questioned by authorities, said Frankfurt police spokesman Manfred Fuellhardt.
Family members in Kosovo described the suspect as a devout Muslim, who was born and raised in Germany and worked at the airport.
The attacker got into an argument with airmen outside their military bus before opening fire, killing the bus driver and one other serviceman, and wounding two others, one of whom was in life-threatening condition, Fuellhardt said. He said the attacker also briefly entered the bus.
The suspect has been identified as “Arif Uka, a Kosovo citizen from the northern town of Mitrovica.” There is quite a bit more information about him at the Guardian link. The victims had not yet been identified when I wrote this.
I’m sure you heard that yesterday the Supreme Court decided that the Wesboro Baptist Church is within their First Amendment Rights when they protest homosexuality at servicemen’s funerals. However, there are some limits on the decision, according to USA Today.
The court majority made plain that states may regulate funeral protests in some situations. Roberts observed that since the 2006 Snyder funeral, the Maryland Legislature has enacted a law prohibiting picketing within 100 feet of a funeral. Roberts also noted that Westboro’s picketing would have complied with that restriction.
The chief justice said demonstrations may be regulated as long as laws are neutral — that is, not aimed at any particular views — and narrowly crafted.
In recent years, Congress and 46 states have enacted laws to minimize picketing near cemeteries during a funeral, according to a brief filed at the court by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and 40 other senators who sided with Snyder. They said state personal-injury laws, such as the Maryland one Snyder invoked to sue Phelps, supplement government picketing restrictions.
From the news reports, it sounds like the protests in Libya are starting to turn into a full-fledged war. Late last night Voice of America reported serious “clashes” in eastern Libya:
The fighting included ground clashes and airstrikes by Libyan military planes.
Witnesses said pro-Gadhafi forces stormed into the town of Brega on the Gulf of Sirte and briefly seized its oil installations and an airstrip. Opposition fighters say they recaptured both sites. Later, Western media reported loud booms that they linked to at least two bombings from Libyan aircraft.
Witnesses say military forces carried out an airstrike in the nearby town of Ajdabiya. Both towns are on the western edge of the region of eastern Libya that is now largely under opposition control.
Gadhafi is still delusional:
The fighting occurred on the same day that Gadhafi delivered a televised speech to supporters in Tripoli. He said he could not resign because he holds no political office in a system that he said puts all power in the hands of the people.
There is a lot of pressure on President Obama to do something other than mumble meaningless cliches. At CNN, they seem to be rooting for military intervention (h/t Minkoff Minx). I’m sure CNN has visions of improving their ratings by presenting lots of carnage live and in color, like they did during the two Iraq wars. But Secretary of Defense Gates is doing his best to stifle such talk.
With rebels in Libya calling for Western airstrikes on forces supporting Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates warned Congress on Wednesday that even a more modest effort to establish a no-flight zone over Libya would have to begin with an attack on the country’s air defenses and would require “a big operation in a big country.”
Mr. Gates’s caution illustrates the chasm between what the rebels and some leading members of Congress are calling for and what President Obama appears willing to do in Libya. Mr. Obama and his aides have argued that it is not yet clear that the insurgents need the help — and they have warned that the use of American airpower could fuel the arguments of those in the Middle East who see a Washington conspiracy behind homegrown uprisings.
But others disagree.
…even some members of the president’s own party sounded unconvinced on Wednesday. Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat who is the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and one of the president’s chief foreign policy allies in Congress, argued that “a no-fly zone is not a long-term proposition” and warned that other nations and NATO should not be “on the sidelines” as Colonel Qaddafi’s jets begin to attack the antigovernment insurgents.
“We ought to be considering a wide range of responses, and a no-fly zone ought to be an option,” Mr. Kerry said late Wednesday. “We have a number of tools, and we should not remove any of them from the table.”
Of course no one is screaming about the deficit now or about how much all this military action would cost–that only happens when there is talk of helping pregnant women, children, the elderly, and other powerless groups.
Here’s an article by a law professor that explains the legal implications of the U.S. getting involved in military action in Libya.
It’s possible the situation in Wisconsin could continue for months with ongoing protests and the Democratic State Senators remaining in exile. This is what happens when you elect a governor who doesn’t believe in compromise and simply wants to behave like a tyrant.
The governor isn’t budging. AWOL Democrats aren’t planning to come back. And, despite talk of deadlines and threats of mass layoffs, the state doesn’t really have to pass a budget to pay its bills until at least May. Even then, there may be other options that could extend the standoff for months.
“This is a battle to the death,” said Mordecai Lee, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. “Unless one party can come up with a compromise that the other party will buy, which I doubt, this really could go on indefinitely. I could see this going on until the summer.”
We have a union contract dispute going on here in the Boston area with a lot of parallels to the one in Wisconsin. The local PBS/NPR station, WGBH, which produces much of the best content for public TV stations around the country, is playing hardball with their unionized employees, who have been working without a contract since October.
Managers of the giant Boston-based public broadcast operation and officials of the Association of Employees of the Educational Foundation, Communications Workers of America, Local 1300, have been seeking a new three-year contract to replace an agreement that expired at the end of October.
WGBH employs 850 people; Local 1300 represents 280 writers, editors, production workers, and marketing employees who enjoy using automated out reach software like Apollo.
Management has been seeking concessions that include cutting in half the company’s match for employee retirement plans and is demanding authority to redefine job descriptions. That would allow WGBH to assign employees to work across various media platforms, including TV, radio, and the Web.
Union officials said they are willing to make some concessions to preserve jobs and WGBH’s financial health, including cuts in company contributions to retirement plans. But they are not willing to go along with such provisions as allowing WGBH to outsource work without negotiations, or to terminate on-air talent without cause. Union officials said they do not want WGBH to be able to assign members to perform work outside their job description.
“If they retain the ability to outsource anything and everything, it would tend to make moot all the gains we made in other areas of the contract,’’ said Jordan Weinstein, president of the AEEF/CWA, Local 1300, and local host of public radio’s “All Things Considered,’’ the weekday news program. “This is not the warm and friendly way to deal with your employees.’’
That’s all I’ve got for now. What are you reading and blogging about today?
Good Morning politics junkies!! I’ve got a few juicy reads for you today, so let’s get right to it.
First up, the ongoing protests against Gov. Scott Walker’s attempted union-busting in Wisconsin. There already have been a couple of polls showing that the majority of Americans support the fight for workers’ rights, and specifically the right of public employees to bargain collectively.
Public Policy Polling (PPP) announced last night that if Wisconsin voters could have a “do over,” Walker would not win the election for Governor.
if voters in the state could do it over today they’d support defeated Democratic nominee Tom Barrett over Scott Walker by a a 52-45 margin.
The difference between how folks would vote now and how they voted in November can almost all be attributed to shifts within union households. Voters who are not part of union households have barely shifted at all- they report having voted for Walker by 7 points last fall and they still say they would vote for Walker by a 4 point margin. But in households where there is a union member voters now say they’d go for Barrett by a 31 point margin, up quite a bit from the 14 point advantage they report having given him in November.
It’s actually Republicans, more so than Democrats or independents, whose shifting away from Walker would allow Barrett to win a rematch if there was one today. Only 3% of the Republicans we surveyed said they voted for Barrett last fall but now 10% say they would if they could do it over again.
Fascinating, huh? In addition, the results of the latest NY Times/CBS poll shows majority support for public employee unions.
Americans oppose weakening the bargaining rights of public employee unions by a margin of nearly two to one: 60 percent to 33 percent. While a slim majority of Republicans favored taking away some bargaining rights, they were outnumbered by large majorities of Democrats and independents who said they opposed weakening them.
Those surveyed said they opposed, 56 percent to 37 percent, cutting the pay or benefits of public employees to reduce deficits, breaking down along similar party lines. A majority of respondents who have no union members living in their households opposed both cuts in pay or benefits and taking away the collective bargaining rights of public employees.
A couple of days ago, the Los Angeles Police Protective League blog urged support for Wisconsin publish employees who have been protesting in Madison for more than a week now.
An attack on the collective bargaining process in any of the 50 states is an attack on every unionized worker in America. California, long a pro-labor state, is no exception. Following the Wisconsin governor’s lead, a Republican state assemblyman from Costa Mesa has announced legislation to eliminate collective bargaining for pension benefits by California’s public employees. While Assemblyman Allan Mansoor’s bill – aimed at addressing the increasing costs of retired public employees – stands little chance of passage in the Democrat-controlled Legislature, it serves as a reminder that we must remain vigilant and prepared to take action whenever our basic union rights are threatened.
President Obama actually spoke in vague terms (does he ever get specific?) about union workers. I won’t bother to quote his meaningless words; I just want to note that Scott Walker responded to Obama’s remarks–and, if anything, he was more vague and meaningless than Obama. What a pair!
In Libya, vicious tyrant Muammar el-Qaddafi (or Gadhafi, or Gaddafi–or however the heck you spell it) is getting more out of touch with reality with each passing day. From The New York Times:
Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya is deep into a fantasy world. In an interview with ABC News, he insisted that his people “love me,” blamed the courageous uprising against his rule on “terrorists” and refused to take responsibility for his many crimes.
Only if you believe the old saw, “you only hurt the ones you love.” More details from CNN:
Embattled Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi flatly denied Monday the existence of the protests threatening to end his 41-year rule, as reports of fighting between government forces and rebels raged another day.
In a joint interview with ABC News’ Christiane Amanpour and the BBC, Gadhafi also denied using force against his people, Amanpour reported. Excerpts of the interview were posted on the networks’ websites.
“No demonstration at all in the streets,” he said, speaking at a restaurant in Tripoli.
Told by the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen that he had seen demonstrators in the streets that morning, Gadhafi asked, “Are they supporting us?”
“They love me, all my people with me, they love me all. They will die to protect me, my people,” he said.
Now those are truly spectacular delusions!
At Al Jazeera, there’s a great article on revelations about the Gaddafi family drawn from cables released by Wikileaks.
For my fellow conspiracy buffs, here’s a fascinating story from Salon about the latest appeal for parole by RFK assassin Sirhan Sirhan.
More than four decades after Sen. Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated, his convicted murderer wants to go free for a crime he says he can’t remember.
It is not old age or some memory-snatching disease that has erased an act Sirhan Bishara Sirhan once said he committed “with 20 years of malice aforethought.” It’s been this way almost from the beginning. Hypnotists and psychologists, lawyers and investigators have tried to jog his memory with no useful result….
“There is no doubt he does not remember the critical events,” said William F. Pepper, the attorney who will argue for Sirhan’s parole Wednesday. “He is not feigning it. It’s not an act. He does not remember it.”
Of course he doesn’t remember it. He’s a “Manchurian Candidate.”
Pepper also suggests Sirhan was “hypno-programmed,” turning him into a virtual “Manchurian Candidate,” acting robot-like at the behest of evil forces who then wiped his memory clean. It’s the stuff of science fiction and Hollywood movies, but some believe it is the key.
I’m going to leave you with this video of an enraged husband yelling at Christian Taliban pickets outside an abortion clinic where he and his wife went for help with a terrible medical problem. Thanks to Dakinikat who sent this to me last night.
What are you reading and blogging about today?