Republicans Say Troops Not Patriotic

Republicans voted down benefits for veterans, saying if there are benefits, current troops will leave the military. Seriously, that’s their argument.
See Senate Guru:: Senate Republicans Call Our Troops Unpatriotic,

As most of us know, twenty-two Senate Republicans voted against Senator Jim Webb’s new G.I. Bill. The most frequently cited excuse given by these Republicans for trying to shortchange our brave fighting men and women was that Senator Webb’s bill would “hurt retention.” In other words, these Senate Republicans suggested that our soldiers would bolt the military if the benefits they were given for putting their lives on the line in service to our country were too generous.
Yes, it’s both as disgusting and as illogical as it sounds.

Today’s Global Warming Post – Wildfires In May

I live in the San Francisco Bay Are, a ways north of the Santa Cruz Mountains wildfire that you may or may not have been hearing about. The air here is smoky and my asthma is bad. It’s a big fire and is nowhere near controlled. (A house my wife lived in for nine years may have burned down, and is very close to where the fire started.)
Here’s the thing about this fire — It is MAY! From the story, Summit fire burns into Santa Clara County after wind shift,

“There have been several fires here, dating back to the ’50s. What is shocking this year is that it’s so early,” said Steve Peterson…

Yes, shocking. Wildfires in May. And even though we had plenty of rain this year the mountains have insufficient snowpack to provide water through the year because of warmer temperatures.

Blogs Brought Attention To The Security Guard Strike

Over the last few weeks I have been writing about the plight of security guards working for a company called Inter-Con, a contractor at Kaiser Permanente Hospitals in California. One post I wrote on this was titled, Why Don’t We Hear About Labor Issues Anymore? and I want to get to that subject some more here. But first, I want to go over what was covered.
The security guards went on strike because their employer was interfering with their right to form a union. The first post, Security Guards Striking for the Right to Have Our Laws Enforced

This strike is not against Kaiser and is not to ask for money or benefits; it is not even to form a union in the first place. This strike is just to ask that our laws please be enforced. This may be a lot to ask for in today’s corporate-dominated system, but they’re asking for it anyway.

The second post, Why They (And You) Need A Union, asked,

How else are workers going to get back their rights, get health care, get pensions, and get paid? If you see a better idea out there, please let us all know because this strike and the things happening to these security guards shows that it is very very difficult to form a union. In today’s environment where workers are afraid of employers moving their jobs overseas – or even just laying them off and telling everyone else to work harder – and then giving their pay out as raises to the executives and multi-million-dollar bonuses to the CEO, this is a very brave action to take.

Then, in Unions: Sticking Together to Fight Corporate Power,

You and I are individuals, alone. But corporations have the ability to amass immense power and wealth and influence. You and I as individuals must stand alone against this power and wealth. What can you or I or anyone else do on our own? The average person in our society has very little ability to stand up against this kind of power and wealth.
Over time people discovered that there are some things they can do that will work. One of these has been to form unions. By joining together the workers in a company can amass some power of their own. The company needs the workers in order to function so the workers — if they stick together — have the ability to make the corporation obey employee/employer laws, provide decent pay, and all the other benefits that the unions have brought us. This is why they are also call “organized labor.” By organizing into a union and sticking together people have the ability to demand respect and compensation for their work.

There were also some other posts with news about the strike itself.
In the post Why Don’t We Hear About Labor Issues Anymore? I wrote,

A few local TV news broadcasts covered the story, and there were a few newspaper articles announcing that there was going to be a strike. But there was almost no actual coverage of the strike except on progressive sites and labor outlets. What’s up with that?

This is a significant problem with today’s corporate media. There is overwhelming coverage of business issues like the stock market, investment, mergers and CEO personality profiles. There is story after story pushing new products, cars, bigger houses, consumption, even listings of which movies are making more money than other movies – as if that was a concern to ordinary people.
But there is very little coverage of issues that might help regular people live their daily lives. And in particular there is no, none, nada, negatory, zero coverage of ordinary working people fighting back against the corporate domination of our democracy and other decision-making, including the commercialization of everything.
Labor issues are a big part of that equation. Organized labor is the vehicle that enables regular people to fight back against domination by the big corporations. Big corporations are able to aggregate immense wealth and power. Individuals have no change standing against such wealth and power on their own. But banding together they do. And the more that band together, the better the chance to stand up to the wealth and power of the corporations.
But not if people don’t find out that they can’t do this. And that is where the blogs come in. I was able to post the stories about the security guards’ strike at Huffington Post, MyDD, Seeing the Forest, and in DailyKos and Calitics diaries. Other sites like AlterNet picked up these stories and passed them along to their readers. In this way literally millions of people were able to learn about this strike, which helped raise awareness of the situation as well as apply more pressure to Inter-Con, the employer as well as to government agencies responsible for enforcing the labor laws. If stories like this can be kept entirely quiet strikes like this would be completely ineffective. But if the blog-readers and other progressives start demanding that laws be enforced and workers be allowed to organize, we can start to make a difference.
Please visit StandForSecurity.org.
I am proud to be helping SEIU spread the word about this strike. sfs-234x60-animated-v2

Private Greed vs. Public Good

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California
As I wrote the other day, the California Chamber of Commerce has come out with their annual list of “job-killer” bills. The list only targets bills by Democrats, and the bills are all acts that would help the people of California by improving the environment, worker wage and safety, public health, etc.
The California Chamber of commerce is a lobbying association. They represent their members: businesses, many of which are large corporations. This is about private greed vs. the public good. The Chamber’s job is to convince the legislature to pass laws that enrich the owners of the corporations that fund them. Nothing more, nothing less.
If that involves convincing the public of something, then they do that. Hence the label “job killer.”
But the companies represented by the Chamber are the real job killers. They outsource jobs to other countries. They lay people off when they calculate it will maximize their profits. They employ as many people as needed to maximize the income to and wealth of their owners. Nothing more, nothing less.
The very idea that the Chamber of Commerce would care if something is a “job killer” is ludicrous when you understand their function. They are a lobbying association that represents the interests of companies that eliminate as many jobs as they want to, at their discretion, and then use some of the money that would have been paid in salaries to pay the Chamber to convince us to support their interests — and the rest of it to enrich themselves, which is their primary interest.
That is how corporations work in the modern, “free-market” world that we find ourselves in since the Reagan era. Not for the public benefit, not necessarily even for the company’s benefit, but for the financial benefit of the executives and (some of) the owners of the company.
Private greed vs. public good. Nothing more, nothing less.
So there isn’t really an argument about whether the “job-killer” bills on this year’s list really do or do not “kill jobs.” That is not the point of the label. Instead it is up to us to understand who we are hearing from. If we get caught up in arguing about whether these bills create more jobs than they might cost, we’re missing the point. Their arguments are propaganda with no basis in reality, designed to do nothing more than sway opinion. The point of the “job-killer” label is to make people afraid for their jobs, not to actually argue that these bills will or will not actually “kill” any jobs.
For example, a bill to require energy efficiency in new housing construction obviously creates many new jobs in the new, innovative “green” industries. But such a bill might lower the profits that go into the pockets of the executives and owners of some of the companies that the California Chamber of Commerce represents. (The LA Times on Wednesday said the Chamber’s agenda “seems dominated by development and energy interests”.) And, again, it is irrelevant whether the bill might or might not really cost jobs in some of those companies. The Chamber doesn’t care. That is not their function.
The use of the label “job killers” is about scaring the public. Nothing more, nothing less. It is about fear. It is about creating a climate in which people who are afraid for their jobs will go along with measures designed to enrich the owners of the companies that the Chamber — a lobbying association — represents.
So please don’t be fooled. Don’t be swayed by propaganda designed to make you afraid. As I wrote above, it is up to us to understand who we are hearing from.
Click through to Speak Out California

Security Guard Strike Interview – Learning To Be Proud

I had the honor of interviewing one of the Inter-Con/Kaiser security guards who went on strike to demand their right to form a union. I will identify him as E so there is no opportunity for Inter-Con to retaliate.
I asked what was it like to decide to join a strike?
E: It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever experienced. I got to know my coworkers more than I already did. Knowing that more than one location was going through this, that Inter-Con wasn’t screwing over one location only, but was a statewide thing, helped me. It was good to meet other officers from other locations and know that we are in this together.
I asked if E feels like the strike accomplished anything.
E: After the first strike, that was the new experience. After this second strike it felt like what do we do now, nothing is happening, but after going to the last meeting and seeing the third wave of tactics I feel like we will have a union. After the last strike it felt like, how long are we going to fight, until Kaiser and Inter-Con acknowledges our union? Now that is my feeling that we are going to win.
I asked why are you doing this? Why do you want a union?
E: We want better wages, sick pay, paid vacations. A lot of our officers have to have two jobs. There is no longevity. Any company wants employees to stay for a long time but when you get paid $10 you are in and out pretty fast. We want a union. Having a union is unifying all of us so we have that one voice, we are not standing alone.
We are striking because the company is not letting us have a union and we have a right to have a union. They are spying on us, things like that.
After the first strike I was afraid to go back to work, afraid I wouldn’t have a job. But after the second strike I walked in with my chest out.
I asked what is it like for people making $10 an hour.
E: I make more than that but a lot of them are on call, no fixed schedule. They walk parking lots. There are rovers who walk around. They get calls from the hospital site – code grey, that’s a security incident, a patient or an employee. Or code blue is someone going cardiac arrest, they call out to one of the rovers. Some codes all of the security guards have to go to that location. They’re there to do crowd control. You have some emotional patient families. Then after that whole ordeal we write reports…
There are people who do injury to themselves or others, a lot of them are alcoholics, brought in by the cops. We stand by them, hopefully they won’t lash out at us. We also do standbys at the morgue.
Me: You don’t get sick pay.
E: We call off, we lose money.
Me: So do people go to work sick?
E: I don’t. I’ve heard people go in sick.
Me: What about other people getting sick? You work in a hospital, doesn’t making people work sick endanger the patients?
E: I wouldn’t go in if I was sick. I just lose the money.
I encourage you to visit StandForSecurity.org.
I am proud to be helping SEIU spread the word about this strike. sfs-234x60-animated-v2

Job Killers — Or Just More Fear?

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California
The California Chamber of Commerce has released its annual list of what it calls “job-killer bills.”
Why is it that the Chamber’s job-killer bills hit-list seems to only target Democrats? Not a single targeted bill belongs to a Republican. “Bad bills”, like those designed to protect public health, climate concerns or consumer rights legislation, are all authored by Democrats. The chamber has always been a lobbying organization, but it has gotten so bad that the Chamber seems to have devolved into little more than just one more fear-mongering Republican Party front group.
The “job killers” on this list are any laws that protect consumers, reduce energy use, require worker protections or anything else that might hinder a very few corporate executives from reeling in another several-hundred-million dollars a year. The jobs that are “killed” are those of lobbyists for the energy industry.
The first group on the “job killer” list is bills that ask for any kind of energy or water conservation or environmental standards for new housing construction. For example, AB 1085. The bill describes itself as undating,

“building design and construction standards and energy conservation standards for new residential and nonresidential buildings to reduce wasteful, uneconomic, inefficient, or unnecessary consumption of energy.”

But the Chamber’s job-killer list says this

Substantially increases the cost of housing and development in California by implementing significant energy efficiency measures

Now, think about this — if it costs less to heat and cool your house, this saves you money. If you want to add energy-saving technology like solar electric or water-heating on your house this creates good jobs. Maybe Exxon won’t benefit as much from this as the new, upcoming solar industry, but heck, the solar companies aren’t coughing up the big bucks and providing the good jobs to the Chamber of Commerce’s lobbyists!
The next group of “job killers” is “workplace mandates” like paid sick leave for employees, disability pay for on-the-job injuries or providing California’s citizens with health insurance.
Ah yes, the money businesses pay out to provide sick leave and disability pay for those pesky employees “kills jobs.” They could hire so many more people if they didn’t have to actually pay them and keep them from getting injured! This is one of the oldest arguments in the books. Slaves are always cheaper. But why do we have an economy if not to provide US with good jobs and other benefits? Do we have an economy so a very few corporate CEOs get all the money and benefits, or do we have an economy so the people can also get good pay and benefits and safe working conditions? The evidence (this, for example) is clear that good wages and benefits do not hurt jobs or the economy.
Then there are “economic development barriers” like asking online retailers to collect the same sales taxes that you local business owner collects, asking the wealthy to help pay for our schools, raising fire standards in high-risk fire areas and protecting our environment. I guess the online retailers must be paying the Chamber more this year than the retailers who have to actually rent storefronts and pay wages in your town. I can’t think of any other reason why SOME retailers should collect sales taxes and others should be exempt. Doesn’t this change the playing field waaayyy in favor of online retailers and harm the prospects of businesses that actually set up in our local communities? God forbid we ask them to help pay for our schools and police and fire protection!
This “job killer” list is nothing more than the use of fear to scare us into allowing a few rich corporations to have their way. By saying that protecting workers or the environment might “cost jobs” they are trying to make us afraid to ask these big corporations to live up to their responsibilities to our communities. How long will we let these lobbyists make us afraid?

Pat Buchanan Goes After Bush Idiocy

Bush Plays the Hitler Card. Read the whole thing, but here is an excerpt:

In that same speech to the Knesset, Bush dismissed the idea we could ever successfully negotiate with Hamas, Hezbollah or Iran:
“Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them that they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before.”
But did not Ronald Reagan’s negotiations with the Evil Empire, as he rebuilt America’s military might, bear fruit in a reversal of Moscow’s imperial policy and an end to the Cold War?
Richard Nixon went to China and toasted the greatest mass murderer of them all, Mao Zedong, when Maoists were conducting a nationwide purge: the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Yet, Nixon ended a quarter century of implacable U.S.-Chinese hostility. Was Nixon’s trip to China useless?
Three years after Nikita Khrushchev drowned the Hungarian revolution in blood, Ike had him up to Camp David. John Kennedy ended the most dangerous confrontation of the Cold War, the Cuban missile crisis, by negotiating with that same Butcher of Budapest.
Were Ike, JFK and Nixon all deluded fools? For the dictators they negotiated with — Khrushchev and Mao — were far greater mass murderers and enemies of America than is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Bush’s father negotiated with Syria’s Hafez al-Assad, the Butcher of Hama, and made him an American ally in the Gulf War.
Was President Bush’s father a deluded fool?

And remember, McCain took Bush’s side of this.

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All You Need To Know about Republican Accusations

When you are deciding whether to listen to a Republican when they talk about Democrats as “appeasers,” consider this. Crooks and Liars has the story of Oliver North on Fox News backing up Republican accusations that Democrats are “appeasers.”
So who is Oliver North? Oliver North is the guy that Republican President Ronald Reagan sent to provide weapons and missiles to Iran.
Let me repeat that because many people today are either too young or don’t remember what happened in the 1980s. Not long after the Iranians stormed the American embassy in Tehran and took several American diplomats hostage for 444 days, Republicans gave them missiles and other weapons. Oliver North, hero of the American Right and Fox News pundit, gave advanced weaponry to Iran.
And now they call Democrats “appeasers.”
It’s called the Seeing the Forest Rule: When Republicans accuse others of something, it usually means it is something they are doing. (See also.)
Is there anything else you need to know about Republicans?