Sometimes, you're just lucky. My good fortune, not the only one, but I savor it, is that I live two doors up the street from one of Hilda Solis's many sisters. Another one used to live two doors further down, but she and her husband managed to sell their their house just before the real estate market went belly up here in Los Angeles. That good fortune has meant I've gotten to rub elbows with Solis at a few private parties. I won't reveal any secrets. Everybody already knows she's smart, tough, and the most liberal member of President Obama's Cabinet. A friend of working Americans since before she was appointed Secretary of Labor. A friend of labor unions before she was a Congresswoman. A working-class woman from a working-class immigrant family who has neither forgotten nor forsaken her roots.
If the Chamber of Commerce and its biggest right-wing pals in the Senate had had their way, she wouldn't be where she is. Her open support for the Employee Free Choice Act was something that stuck in their craw. The prospect of that becoming law was what the CEO of Home Depot once called the "demise of civilization." Her foes managed to delay her appointment for nearly two months before finally surrendering.
They were not eager to see Solis heading what might as well have been renamed the Crush Labor Department under her Republican predecessor, Elaine Chao, who is married to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, named one of the 15 most corrupt members of Congress in 2009.
They were right to worry. Although EFCA stands little chance of passage in the near future, ever since Solis was confirmed, she's been putting working men and women into many of the federal regulatory positions that under the Cheney-Bush administration were assigned to union-busting foes of regulation.
Esther Kaplan writes:
Now, for the first time in its history, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), a division of the Department of Labor (DoL), is headed by a union man, Joe Main. Main began his working life as a teenager in 1967, doing the precarious work of sinking a coal mine shaft in West Virginia. By 19 he was a mine safety committeeman, later joining the United Mine Workers' health and safety department, where he worked for decades. He was working for the union at the time of the Wilberg fire and rushed to the scene. He recalls spending four or five days there during the grueling rescue and recovery operation. "It took us a year to recover the last miner," he recalls, "and I dealt with the families a lot during that time. It's something that's stayed with me my whole life." Main was confirmed by the Senate in late October; six weeks later he launched a major national initiative to end black lung disease.
During the Bush years, the Department of Labor became a cautionary tale about what happens when foxes are asked to guard the henhouse. But since California Congresswoman Hilda Solis became labor secretary last winter, she has brought on board a team of lifelong advocates for working people--some of whom come from the ranks of organized labor--and has hired hundreds of new investigators and enforcers.
President Obama calls Solis part of his economic team, but the truth is she's not part of the daily huddle at the White House with Summers and Geithner and Orszag. She's tapped instead as a lead voice in the "jobs, jobs, jobs" choir, advocating for Obama's latest stimulus package. She has tiptoed into the realm of financial regulation, organizing a joint hearing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on the abysmal performance of target date retirement funds during the market crash, and she doles out hundreds of millions of dollars in job training funds, a decent chunk of which she has used to shape policy by channeling it to green industries. But Solis understands that her real influence lies in her power to enforce the nation's labor laws--the primary mission of the DoL. It's a role she embraced with relish at her swearing-in, where she announced with a grin, "To those who have for too long abused workers, put them in harm's way, denied them fair pay, let me be clear: there is a new sheriff in town."
The deputies are a sight for sore eyes. Besides Joe Main and his policy director Greg Wagner, a physician who has treated miners with respiratory illnesses, there is Labor Solicitor Patricia Smith, former New York state labor commissioner, and heading the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is epidemiologist David Michaels, along with OSHA chief of staff Deborah Berkowitz, formerly of the United Food and Commercial Workers.
As Kaplan says:
Yes, capital may reign at Government Sachs, where the shrunken paychecks of working people are tithed to subsidize the very Wall Street institutions that forced the country into recession. But in one forgotten corner of the administration, over on C Street and Constitution, at a department whose entire $1.5 billion enforcement budget couldn't pay for a single B-2 bomber, Solis has formed a rump group that's fighting on the right side of the class war.
The business world will, of course, not be happy with the once toothless Department of Labor's new emphasis on enforcing safety regulations and taking on cases of wage and hour rip-offs. That's so even though when the laws are enforced, as Cheney-Bush calculatingly failed to do, the penalties are ridiculously low. The Protecting America’s Workers Act would help remedy that situation and add shields for whistleblowers. Introduced nearly a year ago by Rep. Lynn Woolsey, the act, H.R. 2067, got its first hearings recently.
That law should be just the beginning, however. The regulations themselves need serious upgrading. But as long as unemployment remains so high - and that appears likely for another year or two at least - the administration is unlikely to unleash Solis in this matter because of the barrage of flak it would inevitably encounter from those who would call any stiffening of the rules "job killers." Getting killed on the job they don't view with such alarm.
• • • • •
At Daily Kos on this date in 2005:
If you have been paying attention to cable coverage of the Schiavo case, you will see two major themes repeated over and over. First, the repeated bookings of and citings of "witnesses" and "experts" that have previously been debunked, claiming that among other things Ms. Schiavo is "alert and oriented". A neurologist who touts himself as a nominee for "The Nobel Peace Prize in Medicine", an utterly false claim regarding an award that does not exist, has been given apparent run of the airwaves in order to repeatedly assert that Ms. Schiavo is "not that bad", and would be able to "communicate verbally" and "use her arms and legs" under his treatment plan -- a miraculous treatment plan for which, according to Judge Greer, he has been able to offer "no names, no case studies, no videos and no test results". We have even, as many have pointed out, been treated to "psychic" John Edward asserting he was in contact with Terri Schiavo.
Against this background of exploitation and misinformation, the usual bevy of archconservative media pundits has in the last several days begun to increasingly endorse a premise that is, to any rational mind, remarkable: the notion that because the courts have ruled in this particular fashion, it is now time for individuals and government figures to disregard the courts, and take matters into their own hands.
From the great blog of BartCop.
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Since the start of the health care reform discussion last year, the Republicans have told us lie after lie. They have accused Democrats of perpetrating a huge government takeover of the health care system. The truth is that no doctor or hospital will be taken over or run out of business. What they will have is more customers with better insurance to pay for their services. And that insurance will be purchased from private insurance companies in the free market -- either directly or through health insurance exchanges.
They have accused the Democrats of creating death panels that will choose to kill off the elderly and disabled. This is one of the most scurrilous of the lies, because none of the proposed legislation or the legislation that was actually passed ever had anything even remotely close to this. The truth is that the elderly will still be covered by Medicare, and the disabled will be covered by either Medicaid or private insurance. And both Medicare and Medicaid have been enhanced to make them function better.
They have told Americans that the new health care bill will create enormous debt for our country. And they are still telling this lie, even though the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has reported the new laws will actually lower the government deficit by over a trillion dollars in the next ten years. It's funny how they swear by the CBO's numbers when those numbers agree with their position and ignore the numbers when they don't back up what they are saying.
They claim the new laws amount to a huge tax increase, and imply that this will apply to all Americans. It won't. There are some increases in Medicare and Medicaid taxes, but they only apply to those making more than $200,000 a year ($250,000 for a married couple). Frankly, if you make more than that in a year, you can afford a small tax increase (and that's what it is -- a small increase). It also imposes a small tax on the most expensive insurance policies -- the so-called "cadillac" policies. You can be sure this will not affect the huge majority of working Americans with private insurance.
Now they are telling us that the new laws will cost many thousands of jobs, because the businesses will not be able to afford buying insurance or alternatively paying a tax for the employees they have. Ridiculous! This argument has the same flaw as their lie about raising the minumum wage costing jobs. The fact is that there is only one reason a business hires workers -- because that business needs those workers to meet the demand for their products or services, and they will hire only the amount they need regardless of the wage scale or need for insurance coverage.
If they hire less than the number that is needed, then their business will suffer because they cannot meet the demand. If they hire more than needed, then it will needlessly cut into owner profits (and no businessman will do that). A business may raise it's prices to cover costs, but it will always hire only the amount of workers needed -- not more and not less. When demand goes up, more workers will be hired. When demand goes down, workers will be laid off. That's just the way it is in a capitalist system (and all costs are figured into prices and expected profit margin).
Now they are telling Americans that the new law will force doctors to refuse to accept Medicare and Medicaid patients. This is already a problem in many places, but it has nothing to do with the new laws. Do you know who is to blame? THE REPUBLICANS -- because in their years in power they repeatedly cut the payments to doctors for Medicare and Medicaid patients. They have always hated these programs and the cuts were an effort to destabilize the programs. Hopefully the Democrats will fix this inequity if the new laws don't.
But the biggest lie, the most outrageous lie, they are now telling is that they are in favor of health care reform (just not the reform passed by Democrats). Well if they were really in favor of health care reform, why didn't they do it when they were in control (and had a Republican president for eight of those years). They had a golden opportunity to enact reform on their terms, but did nothing. They spent billions on unnecessary wars and corporate giveaways, but did absolutely nothing to fix the health care system.
It was obvious (and frustrating to many progressives) that President Obama reached out to the Republicans for bipartisan action on reforming health care. Every time he was snubbed. The Republicans had made a decision that they would oppose any effort at reform, because they believed if Obama failed to deliver on health care reform that would help them at the polls. They were more concerned with party politics than helping Americans access needed health care.
These are only a few of the more egregious lies the Republicans have told to try to stop health care reform and protect the profits of Big Insurance and Big Pharma. There were many others. I had hoped the lies and obstructions would stop now that "Obamacare" is law, but if Senator McCain is to believed it looks like that won't happen. McCain said the Republicans were so mad about the passage of these two health reform bills that "There will be no cooperation for the rest of the year."
I really hope that is just another Republican lie, because important things remain to be done and Republican lies and obstructionism will just make it harder (though not impossible). Let me finish with an excellent quote I found on a friend's blog (a gal and her blog):
"In my life I've heard that: civil rights for people of color would destroy this country, Medicare would destroy this country, environmental protections would destroy this country. It must be indescribably horrible to live one's life in fear as these folks seem to be doing."
Now the Republicans are telling us that health care reform will destroy our country. Don't believe them as they try to spread fear. It's just another of their many lies.
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Political Cartoon is by Lloyd Dangle at troubletown.com.
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I was trying not to comment on the ridiculous reaction of the teabaggers to the passing of the new health care laws. I thought it was just sour grapes, but I can understand that. There have been political battles that I didn't feel good about losing, and I did my share of complaining. But now certain elements in the teabagger movement (if it can be called a movement) have gone too far.
Consider some of the things that have happened:
-Bricks were thrown through the windows of Democratic congressmen in Arizona and New York.-Black congressmen were called racial epithets and spit upon.-A homosexual congressman was called a vile sexual epithet.-Several Democratic congressmen were threaten with death.-A Missoura congressman had a casket placed on his front lawn.-In Virginia, someone tried to cut the gas line to a congressman's house (but had the wrong address and did it to his brother instead).
This goes far beyond political discourse -- even passionate political speech. This behavior has crossed the line into criminal behavior. It's political terrorism, reminiscent of al Queda-style politics. They lost a political battle, so they're trying to win that battle through threats and fear. That cannot be tolerated in a democracy.
I believe in free speech. People in this country have the right to demonstrate and put forth their views. They even have the right to do that in an offensive way. After all, if you've never been offended, then you don't live in a free country. But they don't have the right to behave in a criminal terroristic way, and anyone who does that should be arrested and punished.
Some Republicans have spoken boldly against this criminal behavior, while others seem afraid to make their teabagging base angry (or they agree with them). I have to think that some of them have fed into this unacceptable behavior with their over-the-top rhetoric -- "socialism", "Hitler", "the end of democracy", "government takeover", "death panels", "re-education camps", "return to slavery". None of these things are true, and they are used just to egg-on their followers.
Things have gone too far, and it's time to scale back the rhetoric. If not, there's going to be a tragedy somewhere. There's an element of the teabaggers who already think they can take the law into their own hands. They don't need any further encouragement.
In a democracy, it's just a fact of life that you'll win some battles and lose some others. That's the nature of the beast. But win or lose, we must keep the political discourse within the bounds of the law (and hopefully common decency). We live in a great country. Let's keep it that way.
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Political Cartoon is by Mike Luckovich in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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The Rolling Stones -- Far Away Eyes.[...]
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Today?s victim - David Frum, sent to the woodshed for actually criticizing Republican policies and calling the failure to stop health care Waterloo. No sympathy here for Mr. Frum but if Repubs don?t open themselves up to criticism, there is no hope for that party.
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From the March 2010 HRA Journal David Coffin & Eric Coffin, HRA Advisories The Chilean earthquake that has done so much damage in the southern area of the country also cut short the consolidation that copper’s price had begun. All reports indicate that there has been little damage at mine sites, most of which are in northern Chile. There is still a question of whether infrastructure disruptions resulting from the need to focus on the quake hit areas could reduce the country’s metal shipments. Mines have begun to restart in Chile after having suffered power outages, and there…
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The Diary Rescue rangers today are claude, jennyjem, shayera, srkp23, vcmvo2 and YatPundit, with ybruti editing.
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