Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Things That Suck’ Category

On the eve of Thanksgiving, are we witnessing the Requiem For American Democracy?  I do not ask this question flippantly either.  It is something that we need to answer this holiday season, or we will certainly face the real possibility of our freedoms and liberties going the way of the dodo bird.

Two days ago, in Ferguson, MO. the county prosecutor made his announcement that Officer Darren Wilson would not face any charges for the shooting death of Michael Brown.  This announcement, unfortunately, was totally anticipated by anyone who has been watching the tragedy playing out for nearly four months.

The also anticipated rioting happened within hours of the announcement.  Depending on what network you watch, these riots are either the result of a few “outsiders” who went to Ferguson to cause trouble, or it is the result of an entire race of people who do not believe in law and order.  I think you can guess which networks are saying what without even turning on the TV.

The riots in Ferguson are deplorable.  I have always believed that protests are the only way that ordinary people have to get their voices heard.  However, I have always deplored violence.  Violence, as they say, begets violence.  Additionally, in such circumstances, it is extremely hard to determine who is actually causing the violence.  For example, on the first night, I was watching and saw the police firing smoke bombs at protesters.  I don’t know why they were firing smoke bombs either.  It appeared that the protesters at that point were peaceful.

As the confrontation continued, violence became more of the norm and the situation escalated out of hand.  That is the problem with rioting.  You don’t know how it all starts.  Plus, you don’t know which tactics are helping or hurting the situation.  As Mayor Richard J. Dailey said during the 1968 Convention Riots in Chicago: “The police are not there to cause the riots.  They are there to preserve the riots.”

But, it isn’t the rioting in Ferguson that makes me ask the question.  There have been riots before, and I believe there will probably be riots in the future.  What makes me ask the question, is the way the county prosecutor handled it from the beginning.  A Grand Jury hearing is NOT a trial.  It is only used to keep control of the prosecutorial process.  In a Grand Jury, they are supposed to look at evidence to see if there is sufficient evidence to charge a person with a crime.

In normal Grand Jury hearings, the whole process is controlled by the prosecutor.  The prosecutor is using the Grand Jury to support his belief that a crime was committed and that there should be a public trial of the case.  Defendants, or the accused, are usually not present, and do not testify at the hearing.  Again, this is not a trial.  It is a secret hearing to protect the Jurors and allow them to make a fair judgement of whether or not there is sufficient evidence to press charges.

Unfortunately, in this case, the Grand Jury hearing was not a Grand Jury hearing.  It was basically a “secret trial” of the accused.  And, that is very troubling to me.  If you don’t believe it was a “secret trial” just listen to the noise from those who supported Wilson.  They are calling this decision an acquittal.  How can it be an acquittal if there was no trial?

The prosecutor said that he would release all of the transcripts of the hearing to prove his point.  I find that extremely dubious at best.  Let’s face facts.  Whenever a person reads anything, they add their personal biases in their readings.  Plus, you do not hear the voice inflections of the person testifying or the person asking the questions.  Verbal testimony at trials is critical because we can hear those inflections and see the body language of the people involved.

Those inflections and body language often allows us a visual to help determine if the person is telling the truth.  It also allows us to determine if the question is a “softball” intended to help the witness or a “hardball” intended to poke holes in their testimony.  Nor, are we able to tell which witnesses were treated as “friendly” or “hostile” which can make a lot of difference as well.  Simply reading the transcript will not give us those “signals” of truth or fabrication.

I know, for example, that anyone reading this article, will determine whether or not they agree with me based on their biases.  If someone is prone to “lean left” there is a real possibility they will agree with me.  If the reader is more prone to “lean right” I doubt this article will sway them.  And, that is fair enough.

As a result, we are still faced with the fact that this was a “secret trial” which the prosecutor did not want to go public.  Which makes me wonder why the prosecutor did not want to take the trial public.  I once lived in the area near Ferguson for three years.  I had a few police officers as friends.  Most were honest hard-working officers in the true pursuit of protecting the public.  Others were simply driven by their power over certain “classes” of people.  I suppose that is true everywhere.

By allowing the county prosecutor to hold his “secret trial” the Judicial System has another chink in its armor of being “equal” for all.  History also shows that “secret trials” are the beginning of the end of the democratic process.  By denying the family of the real victim in this case to have an open and public trial to determine the guilt or innocence of the shooter, the system has failed again.

It may have turned out that Darren Wilson would have been found not-guilty of any charges brought against him.  It is also possible that he would have been found guilty.  We shall never know because the county prosecutor did not want the real truth to come out in the open.  He wanted to control the narrative and the justice system in defense of a police officer.  This same prosecutor has taken four other similar cases of police officers shooting unarmed civilians to the Grand Jury.  In all of those cases, not one single charge against a police officer was handed down.

As we sit around the table this Thanksgiving we should be asking the real question.  Does this case signal a Requiem For American Democracy?  Some call this case justice.  Most call this case a charade.  If we continue to allow prosecutors to hold “secret trials” we will never know the truth.  “Secret trials” could be the real beginning of the end for our democratic way of life.

 

Read Full Post »

Conservatives are still crowing about their victory.  Although, the infighting has already started within the Republican Party.  The ACA is in the crosshairs of the Tea Party wackos.  They want a total repeal of the law.  McConnell is starting to talk about “fixing” parts of the law but apparently realizes that a total repeal is not going to happen anytime soon.  Especially with President Obama still in office with his veto pen.

Yet, on the horizon is a case that the Supreme Court has announced it will hear.  The case is King V. Burwell.  The plaintiffs in this case say that the law, as written, only allows for government subsidies to the poor if those people signed up via a state-run exchange.  Since 36 Republican controlled states did not set up an exchange, their citizens had to use the Federal Exchange.  According to the plaintiffs, that means those citizens in those 36 states are not supposed to get subsidies to help pay for their insurance.

On Friday, SCOTUS agreed to hear the case.  This has set off a firestorm on the right that “Obamacare” is doomed.  Just about every “legal expert” says that the challenge is bogus.  I am not a lawyer, so I don’t know if it is or not.  Frankly, I get just as lost in legalese as most people.  I do know for certain that all laws and their wording are subject to interpretation.  One professor I had once took out his pen.  He gave us a simple example of how legalese can be so misleading.

First he said that you may say, “I give you this pen.”  But, if you later decide to take it back, you have the right to do so because you didn’t say “I give you this pen forever.”  He then put up a full-page of legalese that would be required to say if you actually gave a pen to someone.  It was maddening and frustrating to see a simple act of giving a pen to someone can be so tedious in legalese.  That put me off on wanting to become a lawyer.

But, that is what the plaintiffs in King v. Burwell is looking for SCOTUS to rule.  In their mind, the simple fact that Republican Governors and Legislators decided not to participate in the exchanges, that their citizens are not legally allowed to get these subsidies. That is their “silver bullet” to help kill the ACA.

If SCOTUS rules in favor of the conservatives on this, it is estimated that over 5 million people will have their insurance ripped from them because they won’t be able to afford the payments.  All of them live in Republican controlled states.  Many of them have health insurance for the first time in their lives.  But, without the subsidies, they will not be able to afford that insurance anymore.

Everyone has not fully accepted the ACA yet.  There are still millions of people who are being denied coverage because these same Republican controlled states refuse to expand Medicaid.  So, those who cannot afford to purchase insurance, even with the subsidies, are still doing without.  The conservatives in King v. Burwell want to add another 5 million people to the uninsured ranks.

Why are they so crazed to put more people on the uninsured lists?  They want to use them as hostages!  We have heard that slogan before.  Hostages, they believe, will help them gain control and force their policies onto the American People.  They have used the ACA before when they shut down the government.  Problem was they took the hit for that.

What are Republicans going to say to their constituents who will lose health coverage if SCOTUS rules that they are not allowed to get the subsidies?  How is it even possible to believe they will have an answer to 5 million people losing their health care?  Apparently, they don’t care if those 5 million people lose their health care.  How are they going to explain to their citizens that the citizens in neighboring states can get the subsidies and remain covered while they cannot?  Do they really want their citizens to fall into a “second class citizenship” status when it comes to health care?

What they want is to do away with the ACA once and for all.  There have been over 50 votes in the House of Representatives to repeal the ACA.  Speaker Boehner has promised at least 20 times to lay out what the Republican plan would be to replace the ACA.  No plan has ever been laid out.  That is probably because the Republicans don’t have a plan.

Should SCOTUS rule in favor of the plaintiffs in this case, total chaos in the health industry will ensue.  Look at the simple facts.  If you take 5 million people out of the health care market, that means health companies will begin to lose money.  That means the rest of us who can afford insurance will be forced to pay more for it.  More hospitals will be forced to close.  Doctors will lose patients and thus income as well.  And, worst of all, people will die because they cannot get the health insurance and treatment they need.

We already know before the case is even heard that 4 conservative members of the court will vote in favor of the plaintiffs.  We know this because it takes 4 justices to vote to even hear a case.  That leaves Chief Justice Roberts as the swing vote.  He has been somewhat hesitant in previous cases from overturning the ACA outright.  He may do the same again and vote against the plaintiffs.  But, if he does vote with his fellow conservative justices, chaos in the health care industry is just around the corner.

The Republicans are still shouting how they are going to end gridlock and “get things done.”  If the conservatives win this case, the full ACA may fall apart simply because costs will skyrocket.  The Court will do the Republicans dirty work for them.  Conservatives will be overjoyed because they see millions of people losing their health insurance as a victory.

However, if the howling from their states becomes too great, McConnell and Boehner will be forced to come up with a plan.  But then, Mr. Cruz will raise his ugly head and scream about any plan to fix or replace the ACA and the internal war will boil over.  Rooting for a favorable ruling in King v. Burwell may put McConnell and his conservative cronies in a conundrum.

Then again, it just might show whether or not the Republicans are really ready to govern.  The health of average Americans should be too great a price for these stupid games.  That seems to be what Republicans are best at.  Playing stupid games with the American People as pawns.

Read Full Post »

In 2008 the economy crashed around our ears.  Many Seniors who invested in the stock market saw their life savings and retirement funds go down the drain.  Many were unable to retire because of the crash.  Since then, we have gone through political battles to help recover from the worst recession since the great depression of the 1930s.

The economy has grown steadily since President Obama took office.  We have seen over 56 straight months of private sector job growth.  We have seen the stock market recover even to the record highs.  The rich are getting richer.  The housing market in many areas seems to be recovering, though it is still sluggish in other parts of the country.  Unemployment is below 6%, the lowest since early 2008.  Even productivity is up.  No one is talking about the economy as a real problem anymore.

Yet, there is one aspect of the economy that the Democrats seem not to be talking about enough.  We are facing the largest income inequality since the 1920s.  If you don’t remember you history, that was before the unions began gaining strength.  The economic recovery we are currently seeing has not been equitable.  Meaning that the rich are getting richer and the rest of us are maintaining the status quo.  Over 95% of all income gains in this recovery has gone to the top 1% of income earners.  That doesn’t leave much for the middle class to see their income increase.

For the last few years there has been a major push to raise the minimum wage.  Especially by those who are forced to labor at the minimum wage.  The Republicans are naturally against raising the minimum wage.  That is part of their basic DNA.  We have heard the same arguments about the minimum wage as we heard every time the subject came up in the past.

The first argument is that it will cost jobs.  The Republicans have even put a number of 500,000 jobs lost if we raise the minimum wage.  However, some places have already raised the minimum wage on their own and they have not seen any job losses.  To the contrary, they have seen job growth as a result.  Higher wages means more people are spending money.  That means the economy grows and more demand means more jobs to meet that demand.

That caring Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin says the minimum wage is not necessary.  Though he claims he wouldn’t repeal it, he feels it doesn’t mean anything.  Then you have the felon and current Governor of Florida, Jim Scott who says that private business determines wages.  When asked about what he thought the minimum wage should be during his last debate, he saidhe doesn’t know what the minimum wage should be, it is up to business to determine it.  So, as usual, he won’t answer the question even during a debate.

Republicans like Chris Christie try to make it sound like only young people work for minimum wage.  To paraphrase him, he said that he doesn’t know of families sitting around the table talking about how if their children got a raise all of their dreams would come true.  Problem is that the vast majority of minimum wage employees are about 30 years of age.  They are mostly single women trying to support their families.  I guess Christie doesn’t care if these women and their families’ dreams come true.

Republicans are continuously complaining that too many people are on government assistance.  They claim that everyone is just lazy and won’t get a decent job and that is why government assistance programs are spending too much money.  Well, if the minimum wage is raised to just 10.10 per hour as the President wants, approximately 1.7 million low-income workers will go off of government assistance.  How is that for reducing government assistance spending?

Another side effect of raising the minimum wage is that the tax base increases.  Since people will be making a living wage, they will pay more taxes meaning more revenue for local, state, and federal governments.  Thereby helping to reduce budget deficits.

Republicans claim that they are the voice of “real Americans” and only vote their interests.  Well surveys show that almost 70% of the American People want the minimum wage increased.  That number includes 54% of registered Republicans.  If the Republicans really are interested in doing the people’s will, they would leap at the opportunity to raise the minimum wage since even the majority of their own party want it raised.

The unfortunate aspect in all of this is that the Democrats are not running with this topic.  There are few races like in Wisconsin and Florida where the opponents of the Republicans are making hay of it, but not many more.  That is a real shame.  The real problem I have with the Democratic Party is their lack of a backbone.  They seem to run races on the basis that they know they are right on most items, and believe they will get elected simply by being right.  They won’t attack their opponents on things that matter.

They don’t take the poll numbers on things like raising the minimum wage and let everyone know that their Republican opponent won’t support it.  They don’t mention how it will reduce government assistance.  No, they simply believe that people will just vote their way because they are right.  If the Democrats don’t retain the Senate this mid-term, they will have themselves to blame.

If the Democrats ran with just half of the passion that their right-wing opponents have, this would have been an easy mid-term election for them to win.  I remember a time when Democrats ran with passion.  They were quick to point out the differences between them and their opponents.  That passion has been lost somewhere.  Too many Democrats are basically afraid to get into a real fight for principles that would help the American People.  America would listen if they would just speak up.

Read Full Post »

So far, the Ebola Virus has only come up in urban areas.  On the surface it may not seem like it, but that is really a good thing.  If Ebola should raise its ugly head in rural America, I am afraid that a whole lot of people will die because of it.  Over at Fox News, the hysteria machine is in full swing.  They are complaining that Ebola is a terrible threat to us all.  Of course, they are pointing their finger at the present administration.

One thing they are not talking about at Fox News, or anywhere else for that matter, is the danger that faces Rural America should Ebola ever show up there.  You see, hundreds of hospitals in Rural America are closing their doors.  They are shutting down their services to areas where there isn’t a big choice of medical treatment to begin with.  Republicans in those areas are blaming “Obamacare” for the closures.  They are partly correct.

The major reason Rural America is losing their hospitals is because these same Republicans have refused to expand Medicaid in their states.  This refusal is in the face of not having to pay for the expansion for the first three years, and then only picking up ten percent of the costs after that.  This refusal to expand Medicaid has resulted in millions of people going without health insurance.

As a result, a lot of hospitals, especially in Rural America have had to treat uninsured people pro bono.  Meaning they don’t get any money for treating the poor.  This has resulted in hospitals across the country, especially in Rural America, to lose money.  As a result, they have no choice but to shutter their hospitals.

There are many places in rural areas where people need to drive up to 150 miles to get to a hospital.  On top of that, most rural hospitals are not equipped to handle infectious diseases like Ebola.  That means if Ebola creeps into Rural America, the treatment of the patients is questionable at best.  Plus, since they are not equipped to handle such cases, there is a real possibility of the virus spreading due to lack of proper equipment and protocols.

What has been the Republican response to this very potential disaster?  Nothing!  The real terrible thing about this, is that their strongest base lives in Rural America.  Yet they are doing nothing about it.  The normal government agencies that could help Rural America are having a harder time helping because of all of the budget cuts that the Republicans have placed on them.

Furthermore, since many of Rural America are the people who have been most affected by the refusal to expand Medicaid in Red States, they are much more hesitant to go to the hospital if they should get a sudden rise in temperature, which is one of the first indicators that you may have Ebola.  That means that they won’t drive the 150 miles to get to a hospital because they can’t afford the treatment.

If a major outbreak of Ebola should break out in the U.S., the Republicans who refused to expand Medicaid will be mostly responsible for it.  These fear mongers are very willing to tell America that we face elimination from the virus, yet they are very willing to allow millions of their constituents to be exposed due to lack of health care.

Lack of affordable health care has always been a major contributor to the spread of infectious diseases.  Because of political barbarity, millions of Americans still lack affordable health care.  That has resulted in the closing of hundreds of hospitals, the lack of ability to prepare for such infectious disease outbreaks, and the very lives of people they are supposed to represent.

That is not just bad politics.  It is criminal!

Read Full Post »

The right-wing media and several Republicans are trumpeting the Ebola Hysteria meme.  According to them, we are all facing the imminent threat of being wiped off the face of the earth by the Ebola Virus.  We have seen the hysteria grow to such lengths that schools are either being shut down, or children from certain countries are being refused attendance.  Not because they have Ebola or any symptoms, but simply because they are from a West African country where Ebola has broken out.

Senator Rand Paul is calling for travel bans to West African nations.  He says that it is “only reasonable” that such travel bans be put into place.  On the other hand, his own father says that a call for travel ban is a politically motivated talking point.  Actually, Ron Paul, Rand’s father, says that we would be better off banning people with colds from flying because their colds could actually be the flu and more people will die from the flu than Ebola in the U.S.

The Republicans called on President Obama to appoint an “Ebola Czar” to oversee our response to the virus.  So, President Obama appointed an administrator to the position of “Ebola Czar” to oversee our response.  The Republicans went nuts over the appointment.  The first cry was that the new Czar wasn’t even a doctor!  Well, guess what, if you want someone to oversee our response and form coordination plans so varying organizations can better share information, you need an administrator not a doctor.

Then again, if the Republicans had confirmed President Obama’s Surgeon General cabinet post nominee, there would be a doctor in place right now.  But, since the Republicans don’t like his views on various topics, they refuse to even vote on his appointment or even hold hearings on it.  If we actually had a Surgeon General, maybe we wouldn’t need a Czar in the first place.

But all of this doesn’t matter to the Republicans and their wing-nut base.  When you have networks like Fox News stating clearly that the reason there is no travel ban to West Africa is because President Obama wants Ebola to kill off Americans, you get the idea that this has nothing to do with Republicans or conservatives caring about national health.  They are simply trying to use the Ebola Virus for political points.

If the Republicans had truly cared about the health of Americans, they would not have slashed the budgets for the CDC and NIH by billions of dollars over the last several years.  They would have recognized that something like this would eventually come up and that properly funding these agencies was the only way to prepare for a possible outbreak of any type of infectious disease.

Hell, they might have even been willing to let the ACA do its thing and let millions of uninsured Americans get insurance.  But, that couldn’t happen.  If people don’t have insurance, there is no way they can take preventative measures to protect themselves.  And the Republicans wouldn’t be able to use hysteria as a vote getting measure.

Another problem in all of this nonsense, is that the panic they are trying to stir up will hurt the economy.  There are already internet survivalist nuts telling people not to fly because you “might be sitting next to someone with Ebola.”  As a result, people are likely to stop traveling.  That means the travel industry will hurt economically, and your stocks may even go down.  Already airline stocks have taken a hit because of the fear of a travel ban.  If you own airline stocks, you have already seen a hit to your bank account.

We have gone through these hysteria events before.  I was in the Coast Guard when Haitians tried to enter the country in the 1980s.  That was one of the countries with the biggest outbreak of AIDS.  We had to intercept them, and take them to GITMO before any of them were allowed to enter the country.  Many were sent back to Haiti.  Funny, but Ronald Reagan, who was president at the time, didn’t call for a travel ban to Haiti!  Maybe it was because like Ebola, AIDS was only transmitted via body fluids and not breathing the air.

Throughout history mankind has faced outbreaks that threatened people’s lives.  The Plague, Polio and the Spanish Influenza are just a few that come to mind.  We don’t eliminate infectious diseases by starting hysteria and blaming “others”.  We end them by properly funding our agencies that look for cures.  In the meantime, we isolate those affected, and take proper steps to limit exposure to the rest of us.  That is the “only reasonable” way to fight infectious diseases.

I understand that Ebola is a very frightening disease.  But, as Ron Paul said, more people die from the flu each year than Ebola.  However, since the flu is not new, it appears less frightening than Ebola.  We understand the flu.  We do not understand Ebola.  Unscrupulous politicians know this and are willing to use Ebola to scare you to death.

The Republicans and their right-wing nuts are not interested in fighting infectious diseases.  They are only using the Ebola Virus as a means to put everyone at their mercy.  Lock down the borders.  Set up travel bans.  Make sure we keep all of those “others” out of the country.  I firmly believe that if Republicans had their way, not only would there be a travel ban, but a “papers” law would soon follow.

No, Ebola has become nothing more than political talking points for the Republicans.  That is all it can be.  They have no plan to talk about.  How very sad for all of us.

Read Full Post »

As usual, in an election year, we are faced with an onslaught of political ads on TV and Radio.  These ads don’t necessarily “support” a candidate, they just go after one of the candidates in the race.  Meaning the ad is something for the other candidate.  However, the ads aren’t being run by a political party.  They are being produced and paid for by Political Action Committees.  The biggest problem with a PAC is that they don’t have to say from where or whom they get their money.

As we all know, this is called “dark money.”  In fairness, both sides use PACs to help their candidates.  However, there are far more “conservative” PACs than “liberal” ones.  Of course, most leaders of corporations are Republican because they want the “free market” system.  As a result, Democratic candidates are usually at a disadvantage in raising money because they have to fight their opponent and the PACs.

The Citizen United decision by the Supreme Court has made it extremely easy for corporations and/or other rich business people to literally “buy” an election.  And, they can do it in total anonymity.  The PACs don’t have to list their donors.  My question to this is why?  Why is it so important for people to be able to donate money without saying who they are giving to?  Is it possible that they are hiding something?

Now we get to an interesting thing.  The SEC has been looking into a new rule that would make it mandatory for all publicly traded corporations to release to their shareholders their political spending.  The rule first came up in a petition in 2011.  The SEC has held the rule open for public comment.  As of this month  more than 1 million comments — most of them in favor of the mandate have been received.

Thanks to that pressure, the Center for Political Accountability reports “almost 70 percent of companies in the top echelons of the S&P 500 are now disclosing political spending made directly to candidates, parties and committees,” and “almost one out of every two companies in the top echelons of the S&P 500 has opened up about payments made to trade associations.” The center calls that a dramatic increase from a decade ago when “few, if any, companies disclosed their political spending.”

However, the new rule would make such disclosure mandatory not voluntary.  This brings us to another question.  The Republicans have already passed laws that allow union members to “opt out” of having their dues used for political activity by the union.  If unions cannot use money from members who “opt out”, why can’t shareholders have the same option of opting out?  Why is it okay for corporations to hide their political activities from shareholders, and unions cannot?  Would the answer be because unions generally support Democrats and corporations generally support Republicans?

Let’s take this another step further.  Suppose you are a very good customer of a business.  If this SEC Rule becomes law, you discover that the business you have supported with your spending supports political issues that are against your beliefs.  Shouldn’t you have the right to take your business elsewhere to a business that more reflects your beliefs?  If dark money is allowed to continue, how can we make such decisions?

There has been a huge backlash against Burger King recently.  It has nothing to do with politics, but rather their intention to move their corporate headquarters to Canada in order to avoid paying U.S. taxes.  That type of business decision is made public by law.  Shouldn’t the political choices of corporations also be made public?

I know that most people do not make their purchase decisions based on political beliefs.  If that were the case, WalMart would probably be out of business.  But, the fact that these corporations are allowed to hide their political activity flies in the face of open democratic governance.  If the Supreme Court says that money donation is a form of free speech, there is no reason to hide who is donating it and to whom they are donating.

Of course, there are a lot of people opposed to this new rule.  Mostly groups like the American Petroleum Institute and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  Those lobbying groups represent corporations that would have to disclose their political spending under the new rule — including the budget spent on those lobbying groups themselves.   As a result of pressure from these groups, the SEC has taken the new rule off of their agenda.  Meaning it will be a lot longer before any decision is made, if any.

The reason this rule is important is because it could be the first shot to end dark money.  The right is full of conspiracy theories.  The one conspiracy theory they seem to ignore is the fact that “dark money” allows billionaires to purchase candidates without being caught.  What could be more un-American than holding shady elections where candidates are for sale?

This new rule should become law.  Furthermore, I believe that this rule should apply to all companies whether or not they are publicly traded.  Customers have a right to know who the company is donating money to as well.  Whether you are a large corporation like Koch Industries or a small mom and pop shop on the corner.  After all, history has shown that only those trying to overthrow a government need secrecy!

Read Full Post »

There was a time just a short fifty years ago when the middle-class prospered.  It was a time when workers were protected and safety regulations were put in place.  Middle-class wages were rising, and injuries and death at the workplace went down.  The reason was very simply the unions.  Unions gave workers a voice at the table.  They helped usher in safety regulations.  They actually benefited the middle-class.

Then the Republicans started their campaign against unions.  They argued that it was the unions that were shipping jobs overseas by demanding a fair and livable wage for the workers.  They argued that all of the safety restrictions were actually hurting companies and keeping them from making money.  They said companies know what’s best for everyone.

So, what happens when corporations are allowed to regulate themselves?  We often hear Republicans complain about too much regulation on the part of the Federal Government.  They argue that companies and industries should be allowed to regulate themselves since these companies and industries “know better what needs to be done.”  As a result, there are a lot of industries that have fallen under the radar when it comes to regulations.

One example is the Electric Industry.  Specifically those companies that burn coal to make their electricity.  The by-product known as coal ash is mostly unregulated by the Federal Government.  As a result, the companies handle the coal ash as they see fit.  Mostly they are held in ponds, or empty mines.  The unfortunate side of coal ash is that it contains many toxic agents including arsenic.  These toxins have been proven to be hazardous to individual health.

In Ohio, 77 workers for American Electric are suing the company for failing to provide proper safety equipment while working with coal ash.  They state in their complaint:  “Repeatedly, individuals were not provided with protective equipment, such as overalls, gloves or respirators when working in and around coal waste,” the lawsuit says. “These working men and women, already exposed to the contaminants at the job site, then, in turn, carried the coal waste home to their families on their clothes and shoes, thus even exposing family members to the deadly toxins.”

In the complaint, the plaintiffs claim that they asked supervisor Doug Workman whether or not it was safe to work with coal ash. “By sticking his finger into the coal waste and then placing his fly-ash covered finger into his own mouth,” the lawsuit reads, ” [Workman] then misrepresented to the working direct claim plaintiffs that coal waste was ‘safe enough to eat.’”

Workers at the Gavin landfill in North Cheshire, Ohio were allegedly told that coal ash was only a mixture of “water and lime,” and that it contained “such low levels of arsenic, it made no difference.” The workers were allegedly told that “lime neutralizes the arsenic,” according to the [West Virginia] Record’s report.

The lawsuit offers a different argument.  “Coal waste contains a multitude of contaminants that are dangerous to human health, and individuals can be exposed through contact on skin, inhalation and ingestion,” it reads. “These toxins have been shown to be directly related to incidences of cancer, respiratory disease, heart disease, chromosomal abnormalities and birth defects, among others.” In addition, the physician-led organization Physicians for Social Responsibility states that coal ash toxics “have the potential to injure all of the major organ systems, damage physical health and development, and even contribute to mortality.”

In North Carolina this year tons of coal ash were dumped into the Dan River.  A few months later another “dumping” took lace in another river in North Carolina.  Since the state has control over the clean up, there are still tons of coal ash that have never been cleaned up and never will be.  The State argues that everything is just fine.  I wonder if that is because the current Governor is a former employee of Duke Energy who was responsible for both spills.

So as we can see, self-regulation does not work.  In Ohio, workers were refused the proper safety equipment needed to protect themselves and their families from these toxins.  In North Carolina millions of people are wondering if their drinking water is really safe to drink.  Yet, Republicans tell us that everything is just fine.  All we need to do is allow these companies to continue regulating themselves, and the world will be peachy!  That is one of the biggest problems we will face should the Republicans gain control of both houses of Congress.

The Republicans are marching us swiftly back to the 1890s when companies ran the country.  When workers were simple pawns of the rich to make more millions for themselves.  When it was just fine to allow millions of workers to die making money for their bosses.  These are the kinds of things that unions helped eliminate.  Plus, middle-class Americans prospered more when unions helped protect workers.  Why do you think  Republicans hate unions so much?

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 187 other followers