Thursday, January 29, 2009

The ReRushlican Whiners


Whaaaaa......Whaaaaaa

That was the sound coming from the right wing ReRushlicans in the U.S. House of Representatives as they cried and whined as the Democrats passed the Economic Recovery bill.

That's after each and every ReRushlican voted no. Their ReRushlican party leader, Rush Limbaugh, wouldn't let even one of them do the right thing. Afterall, a ReRushlican, as you well know, would never vote for anything unless it would cause human pain, misery, suffering or death.

Then, today, President Barack Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Pay Equity Bill which will make it easier for employees to sue for wage discrimination, a measure he said is an important step toward "fundamental fairness" for U.S. workers. That made befuddled ReRushlicans cry even more knowing that now, women will get equal pay for equal work.

The State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) also passed without help from the ReRushlicans. How could they ever be expected to vote for a bill that provides medical insurance to children of low income families. The reason they gave was that the bill included pregnant women. That really blew my mind because they always claim they're "right to life" people. In this case it was, "the hell with the unborn". Go figure.

Wow..what a difference a Congress and President make
when we elect people who can think.



Wednesday, January 28, 2009

How the Economic Recovery Act would help seniors

House

1. COBRA - The House Ways and Means Committee approved COBRA health care continuation provisions included in its economic stimulus bill last week. In addition to a provision requiring the government to essentially pay 65% of the premium for up to 12 months for individuals laid off from September 1, 2008 – December 31, 2009, this bill would directly affect older Americans by allowing employees age 55 and older to retain COBRA coverage, without the subsidy, until they are eligible for Medicare.

2. Jobs for Older Americans - $120 million for the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) in order to create 24,000 jobs. The unemployment rate of seniors has increased 60% since last year and is at a 31-year high. The program’s unique community service component provides an additional benefit by helping to address pressing needs in communities across the nation.

3. Senior Nutrition - $200 million for the Senior Nutrition programs (congregate and home-delivered meals). A recent survey found that over 80 percent of states now have waiting lists for the senior meal programs.

4. Medicaid Temporary Increase - $87 billion to increase the Federal Medicaid match rate (FMAP) to provide much-needed relief to states. This is important so that states receiving funds do not cut back on critical services and eligibility, and an increased match for home and community-based services – cost effective, optional services that are in particular jeopardy of being cut and keep seniors out of expensive nursing homes.

5. Additional SSI Payment: $4.2 billion for a one-time additional SSI payment (an average of $450 for an individual and $630 for a couple). This investment for the most vulnerable seniors and disabled will have a significant stimulus effect by being quickly returned into the economy.

6. Prevention and Wellness Fund - $3 billion to fight preventable chronic diseases, including $50 million for injury prevention.

Senate

1. COBRA - Unlike the House, the Senate version of the stimulus package does not include the COBRA extension provision for employees 55 and older. Like the House, the Senate bill contains the 65% premium subsidy for recently laid off workers, but it is for 9 months (as opposed to 12 months in the House).

2. Social Security - Citizens receiving Social Security, SSI, Railroad Retirement and Veterans benefits would get a bonus payment of $300 under the Senate version of the economic recovery plan.

3. Senior Meals: $100 million to help senior meals programs cope with steep increases in food and fuel costs. Many programs are reducing meal deliveries to seniors or closing meal sites. The funding in the bill will result in an additional 30 million meals served.

4. Health Information Technology: $5 billion to jumpstart efforts to computerize health records to cut costs and reduce medical errors.

5. Research - $3.5 billion to conduct biomedical research in areas such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, heart disease and stem cells, and to improve NIH facilities.

Source: Alliance for Retired Americans

Pass the American Economic Recovery & Economic Reinvestment Plan


January 27, 2009

VIA FAX

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Speaker
United States House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Harry Reid
Majority Leader
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid:

The current economic crisis has shaken the economy to the core, destabilizing every sector and creating incredible hardship for millions of Americans, including over 100,000 United Steelworkers members who have been laid-off or lost their jobs. On behalf of the United Steelworkers (USW), I urge the Congress to pass this bold and far-reaching stimulus package that saves and creates good jobs for American workers and rebuilds our nation’s infrastructure as it rebuilds our economy while helping those most in need. USW is grateful for your leadership so far in this effort to craft effective legislation, is heartened by the emphasis on infrastructure improvements in the legislation currently under consideration, and hopes to continue to play a constructive role as the process moves forward.

Spent correctly, federal investment in new sources of clean energy, as well as the reconstruction and modernization of America’s roads, bridges, transit systems, waterways, schools, public buildings, and electrical grid can create millions of new jobs. Infrastructure projects stretching over several years will create not only construction jobs, but have the potential to create a huge expansion in manufacturing to meet the demand for materials. This increase in demand is sorely needed by a manufacturing base that has been battered by years of bad trade policy, undercut by unscrupulous acts by its international competitors, and dealt a harsh blow by the current economic climate. It should be the goal of Congress to insure that, to the extent possible, those projects are built with domestically-sourced materials.

Workers in staggering numbers are being laid off every day as businesses react to decreasing demand. The assurance of a market for goods that the Economic Recovery Package will provide is the incentive employers need to expand production to meet that demand, creating good manufacturing jobs. Further, that increased production and supply will allow American manufacturers to rebuild their economies of scale, allowing them to be even more competitive in the future, allowing more production increases and more good jobs. This sustainable industrial expansion should be the goal of Congress and the American people.

President Obama spoke last week of the capacity of Americans to, when faced with a common danger, rise to meet it. USW and millions of other workers stand ready to meet that challenge and rebuild our nation and ensure our long-term prosperity, we therefore urge Congress to swiftly pass HR 1, the American Economic Recovery & Economic Reinvestment Plan. American manufacturing built up the middle class once, and it can do it again. It just needs bold, forward-looking leadership to help make it happen. Again, I thank you for the leadership you have shown so far, and hope the USW can continue to provide a constructive and positive contribution in the weeks and months ahead.

Sincerely,

Leo W. Gerard
International President

c: U.S. House of Representatives

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Fair Pay for Women

The right wing in congress, still determined to undermine the American people, continue to be obstructionist. They haven't learned their lesson yet.

Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 providing equal pay for women.

Left wingers said, "Yes we can"

Thanks Senator Bayh for voting the right way.
Thanks Congressman Donnelly for voting the right way.

Right wingers said, "No we won't"

Shame on you, Senator Lugar.

Monday, January 26, 2009

CHOICE

Indiana Home Care Task Force
One North Capitol Avenue, Suite 1025
Indianapolis, IN 46204

For Immediate Release: January 26, 2009

Contact: John Cardwell, (317) 441-3812

CITIZENS CALL ON GOVERNOR AND THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY TO PROTECT AND GROW HOME CARE SERVICES FOR SENIOR CITIZENS AND PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES

(State House, Indianapolis, IN) Today, leaders of organizations representing seniors, persons with disabilities, family caregivers and other citizens called on Governor Daniels and the Indiana General Assembly to step forward to protect the CHOICE home care program. CHOICE, which stands for the Community and Home Options to Institutional Care for the Elderly and Disabled, has been serving people in Indiana who need home health care and related services in their communities since 1988.

John Cardwell, chairperson of the Indiana Home Care Task Force, which hosted the State House press conference, stated: "In 1987, the Indiana General Assembly passed the CHOICE home care law with only one dissenting vote before it was signed by Governor Bob Orr. Since that time the program has continued to serve tens of thousands of Hoosiers and their families with quality low cost care. Today, we are asking Governor Daniels and the Indiana General Assembly to work together to fully fund CHOICE, to halt a secret directive by the Division of Aging to keep people from enrolling in the program, and to stop other attempts by the state to suppress the utilization of CHOICE services. Such acts will not protect taxpayers. They will only drive up the cost of Medicaid in the state budget as more people are forced to use nursing home care. That is why we are here today. We are asking Governor Daniels and the General Assembly to join us in stopping these unwarranted actions against the CHOICE program, and to support positive solutions to the long term care needs of our fellow Hoosiers."

Elmer Blankenship, President of the Indiana Alliance for Retired Americans, stated: "The CHOICE home care program has been supported by the Alliance for Retired Americans since its beginning because it does some remarkable things. CHOICE provides high quality home care services. CHOICE funds home care services at a lower average cost than other publicly funded long term care programs. CHOICE keeps people out of nursing homes. So we must ask the Governor and the General Assembly to take some simple but important steps to protect Hoosiers with disabilities. Fully fund CHOICE and don't block access to the program. Work with us to implement positive solutions we can all be proud of. Those solutions include fully implementing SEA 493 and the Lessons from Home recommendations that have been crafted by home care consumers. And, for Pete's sake, talk to us before making shoot-from-the-hip decisions that can harm people. We all want the same thing: the best long term care possible for all Hoosiers. So let's work together to do that."

June Lyle, State Director of AARP, stated: "AARP Indiana has always supported the CHOICE program. For us it is a win-win-win program for everyone. Our members are well served by CHOICE as consumers and as taxpayers. Nationally, AARP strongly endorses the growth of home and community based services (HCBS). Our studies of all fifty states confirm that these services play a vital role in containing Medicaid costs and improving the quality of life for everyone. There is no secret that Hoosiers need more and improved long-term care options. Governor Daniels and the General Assembly have long recognized that. For that reason AARP believes all things positive are possible. We believe CHOICE can and will be fully funded as part of a long-term care program that smartly uses Medicaid and CHOICE dollars. We believe the wisdom of maintaining client access to all long-term care options will be quickly recognized. We believe the time exists between now and April 29th to find the best long term care solutions for the state of Indiana and its citizens."

Ann Latscha, Senior Policy Representative for the Service Employees International Union, stated: "SEIU has been honored to work with consumers, home care workers, legislators and the state to find solutions to the home care needs of the citizens of Indiana. Our members work each day with home care consumers throughout Indiana to help them get the best care possible. Sometimes that is very hard. Too many Hoosiers have too few hours of publicly funded home care services. That places a great strain on family caregivers and on home care workers, who are under constant pressure to do much in too little time. Unfortunately, when a senior citizen or a person with a disability fails to get the hours of care they need that person's health, independence, and life can be placed in jeopardy. So we are here today to plead to our elected officials: fund CHOICE and don't block access to its services."

Jim Wallihan, President of United Senior Action of Indiana, made the closing statement. "Throughout history, politicians and religious leaders have often noted that we will be judged in the future by what we do for the least among us. We are at one of those moments of judgment. For a generation the CHOICE program has served the citizens of Indiana very well. Lives have been saved and improved, families have been kept whole, and taxpayers have saved lots of money in avoided nursing home costs all because of the CHOICE program. CHOICE proves we can do things right in Indiana. So let's don't throw it away. United Senior Action emphatically endorses the call by the Indiana Home Care Task Force to say YES to full funding for the CHOICE program, and NO to the Division of Aging's secret directive to block access to the program. CHOICE is a great program that is needed more than ever during this time of economic crisis. To Governor Daniels, the General Assembly, and everyone who hears our words today, please heed this message: let's use CHOICE to show that we can do what is best and humane during a time of crisis in our state."

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Resource Guide for Newly Laid-Off Steelworkers

What Happens Next?
A Resource Guide for Newly Laid-Off Steelworkers


The upheaval in the economy is causing major distress throughout our union and in the lives of thousands of our members. The following resources can be used as a starting point for locals and individuals facing a layoff. While not specifically mentioned below, it is important to note that the emotional toll can be just as great as the financial toll. Turning to family, friends, professionals and others for support is both recommended and often critical to a person’s well-being in the event of a job loss.


1. Get Information & Ask Questions

Talk to your union officers and representatives. They should be able to help you find answers to questions like what happens to benefits, is there any salary continuance and other questions. They can also give you other information that might guide you through the layoff process.

For Local Union Leaders – Union Checklist: What To Do Once A Layoff Notice Arrives
http://www.workingforamerica.org/documents/unionchecklist.asp


2. Take Advantage of Any Dislocated Worker Sessions and Programs

Your employer or union can enlist the services of the state government to bring in dislocated worker experts to assist as workers lose their jobs in situations where a facility is closing or there is a substantial layoff. In order to initiate these services, your state’s Dislocated Worker Unit or state Rapid Response team will need to know of the impending layoffs (Note: This is not the same as the USW Rapid Response program). These sessions provide information and guidance on unemployment insurance, health insurance options, access to training and skill upgrading services and more and can be a critical first step for impacted workers in terms of qualifying for services going forward. State Rapid Response programs may also provide direct advice and assistance for laidoff workers.

If your local runs into any problem accessing these services, they should be aware that each state’s AFL-CIO has a relationship with these state agencies. The state AFL-CIO can be a helpful resource for guidance and assistance.

Listing of State Agency Contacts - http://www.doleta.gov/layoff/rapid_coord.cfm
State Labor Federations and Central Labor Councils: http://www.aflcio.org/aboutus/unioncities/
Note, also see Career One Stop Centers below under #7


3. Apply for Unemployment

Someone who has lost his or her job should apply for unemployment as soon as possible. The payments take time to process and the sooner the application is made, the sooner the checks arrive. Many states allow filing by phone or internet. The length of benefits is typically around 26 weeks for state benefits and the federal government can provide additional unemployment benefits (due to the economic crisis, the federal benefits currently extend an additional 20 weeks).

State Unemployment Insurance Information - http://www.servicelocator.org/OWSLinks.asp


4. Don’t Forget About Trade Adjustment Assistance

Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) was established in 1974 by the government to assist workers who lose their jobs or whose hours of work and wages are reduced as a result of increased imports or shifts in production to foreign countries. Workers, or other acting on their behalf, may petition the U.S. Department of Labor for a determination of eligibility. Within the Steelworkers, it is important that this process be coordinated through your local union leadership and USW staff representative. The USW point person for TAA at the International is Marsha Zakowski, who is reachable through the Civil Rights Department at 412-562-2492.

Workers who are certified for TAA may receive reemployment services, training in new occupational skills, a job search allowance when an employment search is outside a normal commuting area, a partial tax credit for health insurance costs, a relocation allowance if a new job is a certain distance away, and other benefits. It also provides for additional weeks of income in the form of a Trade Readjustment Allowance once unemployment is exhausted and certain conditions are met.

There is also a program called Alternative Trade Adjustment Assistance (ATAA) that may come into play if a group of workers is certified for TAA. ATAA pertains to individuals from the TAA-certified group who are age 50 or older and have obtained a new job with wages less than $50,000 within 26 weeks of their separation. These individuals may receive a wage subsidy of 50 percent of the difference between the old and new wages, up to $10,000 over a period of up to two years.

TAA and ATAA Information - http://www.doleta.gov/tradeact/fact.cfm


5. Explore Health Care Options

Family Coverage from a Spouse – Is a spouse eligible for a family plan through his or her job? If that spouse is already taking advantage of his or her company’s health care plan, a husband or wife can generally be added at times other than open enrollment.

Adult Low Income Health Care - Many states offer health care that you might be eligible for based on your income.

Children’s Health Insurance Program – Each state offers low or no cost health care for many children that are without health care and not eligible for Medicaid – even if members of the family are working or have some income. Each state sets its own income requirements and eligibility rules.

COBRA - COBRA is the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1986, a federal law that allows most workers to continue getting health insurance under a former employer’s plan. The key thing to understand about COBRA is that the entire burden of the premium plus administrative fees must be paid by an unemployed worker, so the monthly payments can be very substantial and oftentimes cost-prohibitive in unemployment. It has value, however, when the employee’s preexisting condition makes it impossible to obtain good coverage at any price.

Individual Plans – Younger, healthier workers may find that an individual plan is less expensive than the COBRA option. A broker or multiple web sites can help you compare plans. These policies generally require a medical exam, which could have a major effect on your eligibility (you may not be eligible at all with a pre-existing condition).

Explanation of COBRA - http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/faqs/faq_consumer_cobra.HTML
Children’s Health Insurance Program - http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/faqs/faq_consumer_cobra.HTML


6. Assess Your Finances

Gather all financial information (bank statements, financial records, etc.) and assess your situation as quickly as possible. Many people make the mistake of not adjusting a budget soon enough. Cutting back immediately may buy weeks of solvency.

Try to tap into any savings strategically. Checking and savings accounts earn little in interest, and don’t come with large tax bills at the end of the year. Keep tax-deferred retirement savings as a last resort. Oftentimes if they are pulled out early the money is fully taxable as regular income, which can be much higher than 15 percent and there is also a 10 percent federal penalty that can be assessed. There could also be state taxes and penalties.

If you were living paycheck to paycheck before being laid off, or have a limited amount in savings, a credit counseling service may provide some help on budgeting and credit managing for little to no cost. Steelworker members and associate members are eligible for a wide range of services like credit counseling through UnionPlus. UnionPlus is an organization created by the AFL-CIO that uses the buying power of union members to offer a variety of services and products at discounted rates. UnionPlus’ free and confidential credit counseling services can be accessed by calling Money Management International (MMI) toll-free at 866-490-5361 or 877-833-1745. MMI is one of the nation’s largest full-service nonprofit credit counseling agencies.

When the Paycheck Stops (AFL-CIO) – http://www.aflcio.org/issues/jobseconomy/unemployment/handbook/
UnionPlus Benefits for Union Members – http://www.unionplus.org
UnionPlus Guide for How to Manage Debt – http://www.uniondebthelp.org/


6. Keep Your House

For most working people, our homes are the single, largest investment we will make in our lifetimes. Losing a home can have a devastating impact on family. When there are large numbers of people in a neighborhood losing their homes, entire communities can be wiped out. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers a guide to avoid foreclosure. The Homeownership Preservation Foundation is a non-profit that provides a toll-free hotline (888-995-HOPE), as well as a website to guide homeowners who may be in danger of foreclosure.

HUD Guide to Avoiding Foreclosure – http://www.hud.gov/foreclosure
Homeownership Preservation Foundation – http://www.995hope.org


7. Tap into Community Resources

Services may be available in your community for additional aid. AFL-CIO Community Services Representatives, reachable through your local Central Labor Council, can be a link to these services in your area.

United Way has a network of over 1,300 local organizations. The services accessed through local United Way agencies may differ from location to location, but many can put you in touch with agencies that deal with training services, child care, food assistance, health services and other types of programs that could be helpful in unemployment. Depending on the community and its resources, churches and other non-profit agencies could be available for assistance as well.

Search for Your Local United Way Agency – http://www.liveunited.org/
Central Labor Council Search – http://www.aflcio.org/aboutus/unioncities/


8. Begin the Job Search & Receive Other Employment Services

With the high degree of uncertainty in the economy right now, even those whose workplaces have not permanently closed face an uncertain future of when work might return. The government has a network of career centers across the country that can help with the job search process. While exact services can vary from state to state and location to location, many centers provide information on job-loss services, jobseeker services, employment representatives (may require an appointment), free internet and computer access, resume assistance, etc.

It is also important to stay in touch with your local union. Occasionally job opportunities at other Steelworker-represented locations may become available.

Comprehensive Job Loss Centers - Career One Stop Centers – http://www.servicelocator.org

Source: USW website

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Generics Are Powerful Medicine

United Senior Action is pleased to announce the organization is one of only eleven organizations nationally named as recipients of a special consumer education grant by Community Catalyst and the Alosa Foundation. The Generics Are Powerful Medicine (GPM) program was created when two federal courts approved the use of funds from settlements of two lawsuits alleging that brand-name companies illegally attempted to keep more affordable generic drugs off the market.

You can read more about his program here

And then watch the this video.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Social Security is NOT a Ponzi Scheme

By NCPSSM | December 18, 2008

FDR once said, “Repetition does not transform a lie into the truth”. Even so, in their coverage of Bernard Madoff’s con of his investors, some business bloggers and journalists who should know better continue to equate Social Security with a Ponzi scheme. So we’ll say it again… Social Security isn’t a Ponzi scheme. It’s a pay-as-you-go social insurance system with very clear distinctions from the Madoff scheme or any other investment ruse.

We’ve written about this many times. Our own Social Security advisor and columnist, Mary Jane Yarrington, usually gets questions from her readers after yet another Ponzi scheme viral email campaign makes the rounds. Here’s a portion of her most recent response to a reader’s question:

“Anyone who tells you Social Security is a Ponzi scheme either doesn’t understand what a Ponzi scheme is or their mother’s didn’t teach them not to fib. This myth is a favorite of conservatives who just hate the idea of social insurance in general. The Social Security Administration has a good history describing why this is nonsense.

Social Security is not a Ponzi scheme. Social Security is a pay-as-you-go system with the contributions of today’s workers going to today’s retirees or into the reserve to pay benefits to future retirees. The ratio of workers to retirees has changed over time, but unless this nation allows the system to be abolished, there will never be a time of no workers paying into the system. The most recent report of the Social Security Board of Trustees forecasts that even with no changes in the system, reserves will last through 2041 and even after that, 75% of promised benefits could be paid with incoming payroll taxes.

And don’t give any credence to the nonsensical comparison that in 1940 there were 40 workers to each retiree and today it is only three to one. Of course, there were fewer beneficiaries. 1940 was the first year a benefit was paid so millions of then-retired workers didn’t have the opportunity to contribute payroll taxes and earn benefits. Many of those ineligible for benefits in 1940 then relied on public assistance or their children to survive their retirement years. Hardly the “good old days” those who hate Social Security should be so eager for us to return to.”

So when someone describes Social Security as a Ponzi scheme please take just a moment to consider this person’s understanding of economics or better yet, his agenda.

Israel has gone too far

Israel has gone too far.

They have turned into hateful, ruthless, killers. They are being expansionist and have misery of others on their minds. The United States should stop supporting this bunch until they get the Bush doctrine out of their minds.

There are better and smarter ways to protect the Israel homeland than indiscrimanately lobbing shells and bombs on the homes of innocent people and killing hundreds of innocent people while trying to kill a few terrorists.

Israel has become imperialist and should change their ways.

Conservative VS. Liberal

The House of Representatives is debating whether to expand the SCHIP program which would provide medical insurance to an additional four million children. The bill would make legal immigrant children also eligible instead of making them wait five years to be eligible as is now the case.

This legislation passed both the US House and Senate twice before but it was vetoed by Bush. President Elect, Barack Obama would sign the legislation.

Now if the bill does not pass, it will cause human pain, misery, suffering and possibly death for many children. As an excercise in understanding the difference between conservatives and liberals, I invite you to take a guess as to how conservatives will vote on this legislation.

Together we can rebuild our economy

Endorse the $900 Billion Main St. Recovery Program

Don't let the old politics of fear, timidity and gridlock in Congress undercut Obama’s bold vision and the change we need. Before Congress gets another chance to smother bold change, we can set a new tone. Let Congress know you're ready for solutions as great as the challenges we face. Endorse the $900 billion Main Street Recovery Program, and help pave the way for bold reform under President Obama. GO TO http://institute.ourfuture.org/mainstreetrecovery

As we all know, the failed policies of the Bush Administration have put our country into its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. As we look forward to January 20, 2009, it is critical that labor and other progressive organizations speak out about the need for a bold and comprehensive plan to get our economy moving again.

The Steelworkers, working with the Campaign for America’s Future and a group of progressive economists, have produced the document, A Main Street Recovery Program, which lays out the key elements of a plan focused on the government investing $900 billion over two years to create jobs and income for working families. It is consistent with the recently passed resolution of the Executive Council of the AFL- CIO and with the vision that President-Elect Obama has outlined. We see this a minimum program, and in fact the bigger the economic renewal program the greater the chance of the economy turning around.

It is important that we return to being a nation that makes things and creates real wealth — not more Wall Street illusions and Ponzi schemes.

It makes good economic sense to pass the Employee Free Choice Act if we are going to be a nation with an expanding middle class.

“This crisis is a direct result of the greed and irresponsibility that have dominated Washington and Wall Street for years… It’s the result of an economic philosophy that says we should give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else... This crisis is the final verdict on this failed philosophy – a philosophy that we cannot afford to continue.” President-Elect Obama

Times are as bad as we have seen in our lifetimes, but if we fight for the kind of economy we know is possible, we can turn adversity into opportunity. Let’s go to work and tell our story of economic potential so that we get the ball rolling to save our union, save our economy and save our children’s future.

http://www.fightbackamerica.net - United Steelworkers AFL-CIO.CLC

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

At Long Last, sir, have you left no sense of decency?

Even as President George W. Bush was packing up his knick-knacks and calling for the moving van, the White House spin machine was whirring along at Warp 6, doing its best to put a happy face on the sorry history of his eight years in the Oval Office.

The campaign is intended to write a first draft of history and thus forestall an inevitable judgment that the Bush presidency has made the presidencies of Ulysses S. Grant, Warren G. Harding and Herbert Hoover look good by comparison.

His acolytes cling to a fading hope that historians somehow will treat him much more kindly 20 or 30 years down the road, as they have Harry S. Truman. If historians only worked from White House press releases, that dream might have a chance.

The baggage Mr. Bush will carry home to Dallas and Crawford weighs a lot more than his boxes of presidential tchotchkes. The baggage he leaves behind for an incoming President Barack Obama and the nation is backbreaking.

The White House spinners have moved past mere distortion of the facts into plain old lying.

Take, for a prime example, two press releases titled “Highlights of Accomplishments and Results of the Administration of George W. Bush” and "100 Things Americans May Not Know About the Bush Administration Record.”

Take for just one specific example the claim that this administration provided unprecedented resources for veterans over the last eight years and, they say, more support than any other president in our history.

Say it ain't so, Joe.

OK: It isn't so. It isn't true. It's a bald-faced lie.

Those who try to rewrite history credit Bush with increasing veterans' benefits and transforming veterans' health care. They claim that he instituted reforms in the care of wounded soldiers coming home from his wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and expanded resources for mental health services for troops coming home with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injuries (TBI).

The truth is that Congress passed virtually every bill to spend more money on benefits for veterans over the opposition of the Bush administration. Reforms in the care of wounded soldiers came only after The Washington Post exposed the shameful warehousing of the recovering wounded at Walter Reed Army Hospital, less than five miles from the Oval Office.

Even as the Iraq War dragged on and the numbers of severely wounded troops began rising sharply, Mr. Bush's Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson, a former Republican National Committee chairman, was up on Capitol Hill delivering a budget with cuts in healthcare staffing at VA and cuts in nursing home care.

Nicholson, on White House orders, blocked four congressional attempts to streamline the VA's handling of a disgraceful six-month backlog in veterans benefit claims — a backlog that's only grown worse in subsequent years.

With its eyes on maintaining public support for Bush's war in Iraq, and not on those it sent to fight it, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's Pentagon pressured the Army and Marines to discharge their wounded as fast as possible with the lowest possible disability ratings.

As a result, those who had borne the battle were abandoned to the dysfunctional VA healthcare system, in which it takes six months just to get into the system and a month or more to get a doctor's appointment.

The Bush administration grossly underestimated the flood of post-traumatic stress disorder cases coming home from combat and, when confronted with the reality of more than 320,000 new veterans suffering from PTSD, major depression and TBI, it did little or nothing to expedite their care. In fact, of the 84,000 new veterans diagnosed with PTSD, only half, or 42,000 have managed to get their disability claims approved by the VA.

Some veterans committed suicide while they awaited medical and financial help, itself evidence of the abject and disgraceful failure of the system, and the nation and the administration of George W. Bush. The VA responded by understating the numbers of veterans' suicides and then covering it up. Only after a veterans group sued it did the VA establish a suicide hotline. A heckuva job.

President Bush proposed a half-percent increase in the VA budget for fiscal 2006 after his own appointees at the agency told Congress that they needed a 13 percent increase to meet — barely — the urgent needs for medical and mental health care for the wounded coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

While the budget scrimped on care for our troops, the administration somehow found room for $3.8 million in performance bonuses for the top executives of an agency that was failing to do its job and fulfill our obligation to those who served and suffered.

In 2007, Bush threatened to veto a bill to boost VA spending by 10 percent, or $3.2 billion. He said that was too expensive and countered with an offer of 2 percent. After Congress passed the bill almost unanimously, Republicans included, The Decider decided to swallow it and signed the bill.

His actions and those of his crony appointees toward our veterans is a blot on our consciences. To then turn around, as the door is about to hit them in their butts on their way out, and take credit for their “good work” on behalf of those they neglected is reprehensible.

Decent people would be tortured by their consciences, but these people apparently have none, and they have no shame, either.

Source: Posted on Fri, Jan. 09, 2009
Joseph L. Galloway | McClatchy Newspapers

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Thanks God - for Liberals

Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed two pieces of legislation designed to correct injustices for working women.

Remember Lilly Ledbetter? She was the lady who worked for Goodyear who was cheated by the company by being paid less than all the men who did the same job as she.

When she found out that the company had cheated her, she tried to get what was coming to her. The lousy company refused. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court.

Being comprised of mostly right-wing conservatives who only vote for those things that cause human pain, misery, suffering or death, the Supreme Court ruled against her saying she didn’t file her complaint within six months of her finding out she had been cheated by her bosses. This of course, has allowed other right wing conservative CEO’s to continue doing the same thing to other working women.

Well here’s the good news:

The first bill passed was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Act. This would overturn the Supreme Court’s hate filled decision.

The second bill passed was the Paycheck Fairness Act which should put stiffer penalties into broken laws by the worker hating companies.

Many thanks to Indiana’s liberal Congressmen Andre Carson, Joe Donnelly, Pete Visclosky, Brad Ellsworth and Baron Hill for knowing right from wrong and voting for workers on both of these bills.

Here’s the bad news:

Right wing conservative worker haters Mike Pence, Mark Souder, Steve Buyer and Dan Burton voted against workers. These are the four Indiana Congressmen who don’t deserve to be re-elected and instead need to be booted out.

Although the country has indicated that we want change in Washington, these two votes are an indication that the job of taking back our country hasn’t been completed. We’ve got more to do.

The right winger conservatives in the U.S. Senate will probably vote against workers and try to defeat these two bills. This indicates to me that the Employee Free Choice Act, which would help workers organize unions is in for a rough time from those who hate workers in our country. One reason for this is the fact that when workers have a union, employers wouldn't dare try to pay women less than men for doing the same job.

Fortunately we now have a good, smart, liberal, worker friendly president-elect, Barack Obama who is on the side of workers.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

One Way To Digitize Those Old Slides

There was a time when lots of photographers took slides. It was a great way to entertain family and friends.

Now, with a closet full of those slide trays, we find ourselves with families scattered and living in the digital age.

For a couple years now, I’ve wanted to get those slides into my computer but didn’t know exactly how to do it. After some research, it was decided that sorting and editing thousands of slides and then scanning them in and then editing the results would be just too time consuming.

The other possibility was to let someone else do it, but the cost for that just didn’t seem worth it, so I did it by simply photographing the slides.

I got out the slide projector and set it on the dining table. I set up the projector screen on the other side of the table and then set up a tri-pod behind the projector. We put up a piece of posterboard against the screen to make a white background. Our screen is grey in color and wrinkled from being rolled up. We then projected a slide, and turned on the digital camera. Zoomed in to fill the LCD, and took photos of one tray of slides.

I loaded the photos into iPhoto (I use a Macintosh) and took a look at them. Wow, what a great job it did on those old slides.

It took just a few hours to put 2,500 slides on my computer. They are now ready to be edited, and then emailed, put on a website, printed, or placed on DVD’s for safe keeping and for gifts.

We have just a few more to do, but it is a very worthwhile project and fun to do. If you have a bunch of old slides and want to put them on your computer, I recommend you give this method a try.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Enough of this eight years of baffoonery

Get out of Iraq.
Get out of Afghanistan.
Stop supporting the invasion of Palestine by Israel.
Pass the outline for investment and recovery package introduced by president-elect Barack Obama.
Include in this investment and recovery package the Employee Free Choice Act.
Seat the new Senators from Illinois and Minnesota.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Roland Burris Should Be The Next Senator from Illinois


When a U.S. Senate seat is vacated, it is the duty of the Governor of that state to appoint a replacement.

A Senate seat that was vacated by the election of President-elect Barack Obama is to be filled by an appointment made by Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.

Gov. Blagojevich appointed Roland Burris to fill this vacancy. Many in Congress are threatening to delay or refuse that appointment.

They shouldn’t do that.

Roland Burris should be seated like any other appointed U.S. Senator.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Why Bush now ranks as our worst president


January 1, 2009

By Michael Goodson

Post-Tribune columnist

For the past several months, we have listened to right-wing pundits trying to rewrite the legacy of President Bush. They moan and groan and say he wasn't so bad, bending the truth like a Texas pretzel. Since November, the president has gone through his talking points, placing his actions into a more favorable light and trying to build a proud legacy of his accomplishments. He has brought in Karen Hughes and Karl Rove to help him.

But we citizens have good reason to reflect differently on his eight years, and it would be wise of us to do just that. Right now the economic meltdown, with bailouts for big corporations at the expense of taxpayers, calls for us to look back. We've forgotten that Congress was planning to use the surplus to melt the deficit after President Clinton. We watched the surplus turn into a sea of red ink, and not because of the war in Iraq. That debt has been pushed off to future generations.

President Bush's only regret, however, was the "bad intelligence" about Iraq's WMDs. But it was the president who swallowed the nonsense of Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz and used Sept. 11, 2001, to frighten America into attacking Iraq. We've learned that his neocons were itching to do that the minute they took office.

In 19 days, President Bush will relinquish power to Barack Obama. Here is a list of 10 things to remember about President Bush that should be etched into stone somewhere so our descendants will see the truth about his administration.

He will be remembered for:

-- Ignoring the warnings of counter-terrorism adviser Richard Clarke about Osama Bin Laden's desire to attack the United States in August 2001.

-- Suspending the rights of American citizens by declaring them enemy combatants and suspending the right of habeas corpus under the Patriot Act.

-- Gutting FEMA, then appointing a political hack to mismanage, after Hurricane Katrina, one of the worst federal government responses.

-- Reinterpreting the Clean Air Act, allowing big business to pollute the air more than ever.

-- Sanctioning torture at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib and, thus, destroying America's reputation around the world.

-- Approving no-bid contracts to Halliburton, which cannot account for more than $1 billion wasted in Iraq.

-- Ending Warren G. Harding's claim to the title of worst president in U.S. history.

-- Declaring "Mission Accomplished" in 2003, before more than 4,100 Americans were killed and more than 30,000 wounded fighting for "Iraqi freedom."

-- Giving tax cuts to the richest Americans, then sinking our country further into debt to the tune of over $10 trillion, while overseeing our current economic meltdown.

-- Declaring a pre-emptive war in Iraq, an action never taken before in the history of our country, based on faulty, false and misleading information.

He will be gone. Back to Texas, and no longer ruling over the United States. Historians into the next century will decide his place in history. Fortunately, there is plenty of evidence on record to keep him near the bottom despite the writings and recordings of conservatives who see him differently.

What we'll need in the future is someone of the caliber of Doris Kearns Goodwin to sort it all out. Right now, about all we can say is, thank goodness it's over. Maybe we can all look forward to a happy new year.

Michael Goodson lives in Highland, Indiana.