Sunday, January 31, 2010

Humans Found to Have Same Genes as Chickens



For Immediate Release
Bass Lake Herald
January 31, 2010

Humans determined to have same genes as chickens

An amateur psychologist in Northern Indiana today has announced his findings concluding many years of studying chicken behavior. Although his conclusions at this point are being met with some skepticism, Dr. Charlie Averill announced that his study concludes that human behavior is so like that of the chickens he has raised over the years, that human beings and chickens have the same genes.

Unlike other studies that simply look at various gene samples, Mr. Averill provides overwhelming evidence that the behavior of the two animals are so much alike that no other conclusion is possible.

By observation, Dr. Averill offered the following evidence which in no way should be taken as the total, but merely provides a snippet of his findings.

1. Many humans have medical insurance which takes care of their medical needs, but aren't willing to work towards passage of legislation allowing for their fellow humans to have the same medical care.

Healthy chickens peck their fellow chickens who aren't cared for by a caring hen or fellow chicken.

2. Many humans don't care enough about their elders to work towards prevention of the privatizing of their Social Security.

Younger chickens have the same disregard for senior chickens and often require them to fend for themselves.

3. Many humans are too cheap to help their fellow man in times of trouble or disaster.
Chickens always expect others to care for those chickens who are unable to protect themselves.

4. Many humans who make more or even substantially more than a fair wage/salary always fight an increase in the minimum wage or the possibly of a living wage. Walmart CEO $12,000 per/hour vs. Walmart worker $9-$10 per/hour would be a good example.

Dominant chickens when departing the coop in the morning immediately gobble up as much feed and water as they can before allowing weaker chickens to get even a few scraps.

5. Many humans allow male workers to get paid more than their female counterparts and discriminate against female workers as to treatment on the job and sometimes encourage disharmony by overlooking sexual discrimination.

Chicken roosters, invariable discriminate against hens in almost every way. Sex discrimination is rampant in the yard.

6. Many humans are bigots, discriminating against their fellows that have a different skin color, hair color, language, ethnicity, religion, etc.

Chickens who are in the minority as to feather color, beak color, crow sound, or breed, tend to be constantly pecked on.

7. Many humans disregard the needs of their fellows with disabilities by refusing to put out the necessary funding for the Americans with Disabilities act and those perfectly able to walk a few more feet into an establishment, invariably park in handicapped spaces.

Chickens will immediately peck to death any fellow chick or chicken that shows any sign of injury or handicap.

8. Many humans are against allowing their workers to organize themselves and work tirelessly to disrupt any overture of unionization.

Although chickens appear to understand the value of unionizing, dominant chickens interfere whenever they determine that other chickens are trying to organize.

"The above examples are just a drop in the bucket of similarities between chickens and humans", Averill said. The paper being written by Dr. Averill will soon be published and copies will be available at local bookstores.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Anti Union Union

Under President Clinton, the congress had a pay go rule requiring that legislation be paid for. This resulted in our country having a surplus of money.

When President Bush was elected, the republicans removed that requirement resulting in the deficit we had when President Obama took office.

In his state of the union speech a couple of days ago, President Obama asked the congress to reinstitute the pay go rule so we could get the deficit under control.

Each and every republican voted no.

Even those senators that applauded the pay go rule in the past, voted no. Republicans Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, George Voinovich and John McCain used to be in favor of the pay go rule but yesterday, they voted against it proving that they are indeed the party of no, no, no.

You have to give the republicans some credit at least. For a party that is anti-union, they have the most unified union in America.

All other unions have members that disagree with their leaders. Most unions are democratic in that the majority of the members run the union. The unions are run from the bottom up, regardless of what their leaders might want.

The republican party, on the other hand is run from the top down not allowing any member to object to decisions coming from their leadership. Now that's real power.

For elections to senate republican slots, you need not consider whether the candidate can read, or even think. They don't need to.

For a political party to be against unionism, they sure have a strong union themselves.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Retiree Reaction to State of Union

Retiree Reaction to State of Union:
Don’t Balance Budget on Backs of Seniors

The following statement was issued today by Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, in response to budget deficit proposals in tonight’s State of the Union address:

“Retirees support President Obama’s call to reduce the federal budget deficit. They are very uncomfortable with large debt, and do not want to leave behind such a legacy to their children and grandchildren.

“We cannot, however, balance the budget on the backs of America’s seniors. Vital programs such as Social Security and Medicare did not cause these large deficits. Reckless tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans and to large corporations bear much of the blame.

“Since their creation, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid have worked well to keep millions of America’s seniors healthy and out of poverty. 50 million Americans receive Social Security every month, and two in three seniors receive half or more of their income from Social Security. One in five receive all of their income from Social Security. Medicare has reduced senior poverty by two-thirds.

“The reason why Medicare costs are rising is our national failure to reform health care. We must pass a strong health reform bill immediately. It will improve not only our physical health, but also our nation’s fiscal health.

“Americans of all ages have seen their retirement savings badly damaged by Wall Street’s reckless behavior and unchecked greed. We must strengthen – not weaken – retirement savings in this country, including private pensions and 401(k) plans. As distrust in government rises, it is more important than ever that our government honors its commitments to Americans of all ages.”

“The Alliance for Retired Americans looks forward to working with Obama Administration and Congress to improve our nation’s economy and the quality of life for current and future retirees.”

# # #



The Alliance for Retired Americans is a national organization that advocates for the rights and well being of over 4 million retirees and their families.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Great Job, Mr. President

President Barack Obama hit the ball out of the park this evening in his State of the Union speech. Medical Insurance reform is not dead, and in the spirit of cooperation from even one republican in the Senate, the needs of the American people in this regard will be met.
Just one republican.
Is that too much to ask?
Cooperation from just one?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Trouble in the South

It appears as though Republican rightwing conservative activists have been at it again.

Remember that guy who posed as a pimp and along with a sidekick who posed as a prostitute took videos in one of the offices of ACORN and videotaped a dialogue with an ACORN employee that didn't have anything to do with business, but instead asked for advise on how to get out of paying taxes or something like that?

Well, the same guy along with three others has been caught trying to bug the telephone lines of Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu.

Kind of looks like we have another Republican Watergate type situation here.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Supreme Court Ruling

So the right wing stacked Supreme Court made some ruling allowing corporations to buy politicians at any cost.

Well, until the congress fixes that stupid ruling, I hope there will be some great unintended consequences such as:

When some stinking boss requires a worker to do something unsafe, against the safety rules or against OSHA rules and the worker dies because of it, then every person on the management team will be sent off to some terrible prison for the rest of their stinking lives.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Obama Record (January 20, 2009 - December 31, 2009)

Robert P. Watson, Ph.D.
Lynn University

There is a lot of misinformation circulating on talk radio, at town hall meetings, in the blogosphere, and around office water coolers about President Obama not accomplishing anything in his first year in office. It is time to set the record straight with a list of Obama’s initiatives for 2009.

Ethics
• Ordered the White House and all federal agencies to respect the Freedom of Information Act; Bush era limits on accessibility of federal documents have been overturned
• Instructed all federal agencies to promote openness and transparency as much as possible
• Placed limits on lobbyists’ access to the White House
• Placed limits on White House aides working for lobbyists after their tenure in the administration
• Signed a measure strengthening registration and reporting requirements for lobbyists
• Ordered that lobbyists must be removed from and are no longer permitted to serve on federal and White House advisory panels

Governance
• Held many more press conferences and provided the media with far more access than his predecessor
• Held more “town hall” events to inform and engage the public than previous administrations
• The White House website now provides information on all economic stimulus projects and spending, along with an unprecedented amount of information on our government
• Ended the Bush era practice of circumventing established FDA rules for political reasons
• Ended the Bush era practice of having White House staff rewrite the findings of scientific and environmental regulations and reports when they disagreed with the results
• The Obamas did not use the $100,000 authorized (to all First Families) for the refurbishment and redecoration of the White House’s private living quarters; they paid for it out of their own pockets
• The Obamas reused Christmas ornaments from previous White House trees rather than buy new ones
• Limited the salaries of senior White House aides (salaries cut to $100,000)
• Urging Congress to return to the pre-Bush practice of “Pay-Go” (whereby each dollar of spending is offset by a dollar in cuts or in revenues)

National Security
• Phasing out the expensive F-22 war plane (which wasn’t even used in Iraq/Afghanistan) and other outdated weapons systems
• Closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay
• Attempting to house terrorists at a new federal “super max” facility in the US
• Cut the expensive missile defense program, saving $1.4 billion in 2010
• Cancelled plans to station anti-ballistic missile systems in Poland and the Czech Republic
• Replacing long-range, expensive missile systems with more efficient smaller systems
• Increased US Navy patrols off the Somali coast in response to pirating
• Established a new cyber security office and appointed a cyber security czar
• Ordered the first nation-wide comprehensive cyber threat assessment

Iraq & Afghanistan
• Began the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq
• Authorized the use of more unmanned warplanes/drones (Predator, Reaper, etc.) in Iraq/Afghanistan
• Authorized the deployment of 17,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, which had been pending for months during the previous administration [March 2009]
• Changed the US military command in the Afghan conflict
• Tasked the Pentagon to reorganized US policy in Afghanistan; 30,000 additional troops are being deployed, the US is prioritizing the training of Afghan forces and civil government while developing agriculture and infrastructure, aerial bombing has been limited, etc.
• Ordered the Pentagon to send additional helicopters to assist marines and special forces in Afghanistan
• Increased special forces searches for, and unmanned drone strikes on, Taliban and al-Qaeda targets in Afghanistan
• Ended the Bush era “stop-loss” policy that kept soldiers in Iraq/Afghanistan longer than their enlistment date

Military & Veterans
• Ordered that families of fallen soldiers can have expenses covered to be on hand when the body arrives back in the US
• Ended the Bush era “blackout” imposed on media coverage of the return of fallen US soldiers; the media is now permitted to do so pending adherence to respectful rules and approval of fallen soldier’s family
• Ended the Bush era “black out” policy on media coverage of war casualties – full information is now released
• Ordered better body armor to be procured for US troops
• Funding new Mine Resistant Ambush Vehicles (needed because of susceptibility of hummers to roadside explosives)
• Increasing pay and benefits for military personnel
• Improving housing for military personnel
• Initiating a new policy to promote federal hiring of military spouses
• Ordered that conditions at Walter Reed Military Hospital and other neglected military hospitals be improved
• Beginning the process of reforming and restructuring the military (initiated by Bush but abandoned after the war in Iraq began) 20 years after the Cold War to a more modern fighting force… this includes new procurement policies, increasing size of military, new technology and cyber units and operations, etc.
• Ended the Bush era practice of awarding no-bid defense contracts
• Improving benefits for veterans as well as VA staffing, information systems, etc.
• Authorized construction for additional health centers to care for veterans
• Suspended the Bush-era decision to purchase an expensive fleet of Marine One (helicopters) from foreign sources
• Ordered a review of the existing “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays in the military

Foreign Policy & International Relations
• Closed the Bush era “secret detention” facilities in Eastern Europe
• Ended the Bush era policy allowing “enhanced interrogation” (torture) and the US is in compliance with Geneva Convention standards
• Restarted international nuclear non-proliferation talks (Bush withdrew from them) and reestablished international nuclear inspection protocols
• Reengaged in the treaties/agreements to protect the Antarctic
• Reengaged in the agreements/talks on global warming and greenhouse gas emissions suspended under Bush
• Visited more countries and met with more world leaders than any president in his first six months in office
• Banned the export of cluster bombs
• Overturned Bush era plans to increase the US nuclear arsenal
• Authorized the Navy SEALS operation that freed by force the US shipping captain held by Somali pirates
• Restored the US commitment to the UN population fund for family planning that was suspended during the Bush era
• Instituted a new policy on Cuba, allowing Cuban families to return “home” to visit loved ones
• Extended an offer of engagement (free from sanctions and penalties) to Iran through December 31, 2009 (Iran did not accept the offer)
• Sent envoys to the Middle East and other parts of the world, reengaging in multilateral and bilateral talks and diplomacy
• Authorized discussions with North Korea and the private mission by former president, Bill Clinton, to secure the release of two Americans held in prisons
• Authorized discussions with Myanmar and the mission by Senator Jim Web to secure the release of an American held captive
• Renewed loan guarantees for Israel
• Signed the USIFTA trade agreement with/for Israel
• Authorized a $550m advance for Israel (six months prior to the scheduled date) in order to accommodate Israeli’s economic and financial needs
• Continued agreements with Israel for cultural exchanges, immigration, etc.
• Spoke on Arab television, spoke at an Egyptian university, and met with Arab leaders in an effort to change the tone of US-Arab relations
• Ordered the US to finally pay its dues to the United Nations

Economy
• Increased infrastructure spending (roads, bridges, power plants…) years of neglect during the Bush era
• Authorized the US Auto industry rescue plan and two GMAC rescue packages
• Authorized the housing rescue plan and new FHA residential housing guarantees
• Authorized a $789 billion economic stimulus plan
• Instituted a new rule allowing the public to meet with federal housing insurers to refinance (in as quickly as one day) a mortgage if they are having trouble paying
• Authorized a continuation of the US financial and banking rescue plans initiated at the end of the Bush administration and authorized TARP funds to buy “toxic assets” from failing financial institutions
• Signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act which provides small tax cuts for 95% of “working families”
• Authorized the “Cash for Clunkers” program that helped stimulate auto sales (with the related environmental/energy benefit of getting old, inefficient, polluting cars off the road)
• Ordered the closing of offshore tax safe havens (for individual and business tax evaders)
• Convened a “jobs summit” to bring experts together to develop ideas for creating jobs
• Negotiated a deal with Swiss banks to permit the US government to gain access to records of tax evaders and criminals
• Ordered the FDIC to beef up deposit insurance
• Ended the previous policy of offering tax benefits to corporations who outsource American jobs; the new policy uses the savings to promote in-sourcing investments to bring jobs back to the US
• Convened an advisory board that is looking into simplifying the tax code
• Ended the Bush era policy of protecting credit card companies; in place of it are new consumer protections from the credit card industry’s predatory practices
• Authorized the federal government to make more loans available to small businesses and ordered lower rates for federal loans to small businesses
• After former presidents of both parties refused such action (George W. Bush refused four times), Obama placed a 35% tariff on Chinese tires and a few other products such as pipes after China was found to be illegally “dumping” exports below cost
• In November 2009, Obama extended unemployment benefits for one million workers
• In November 2009, Obama extended the Home Buyers Credit for first-time home buyers and expanded coverage for some existing homeowners who are buying again
• Reduced taxes for some small businesses to stimulate the economic recovery

Budgeting
• Ordered all federal agencies to undertake a study and make recommendations for ways to cut federal spending
• Ordered a review of all federal operations to identify wasteful spending and practices
• Established a National Performance Officer charged with saving the federal government money and making federal operations more efficient (the NPO reports to the director of the Office of Management & Budget)
• Overturned the Bush-era practice of not listing certain federal programs in the federal budget (in an effort to hide programs and make the budget look smaller); such “off budget” items are now included in the annual budget
• This includes appropriations for war
• This includes emergency appropriations

Healthcare
• Removed Bush era restrictions on embryonic stem-cell research
• Offering federal support for stem-cell and new biomedical research
• Expanded the SCHIP program to cover health care for 4 million more children
• Established an independent commission to make recommendations on slowing the costs of Medicare
• Reversed the Bush era restrictions that prevented Medicare from negotiating with pharmaceuticals for cheaper drugs; now the government can again competitively bid
• Expanding vaccination programs
• Issued new disease prevention guidelines and priorities for the CDC
• Authorized the FDA to finally begin regulating tobacco
• Tasked federal labs to prioritize research on and deployment of H1N1 vaccines
• Asked multiple congressional committees to bring forward a healthcare reform bill that attempts to increase coverage and affordability; he supported holding many hearings and town halls on the issue

Energy & Environment
• Removed a ruling that now allows individual states to enact automotive fuel efficiency standards above federal standards
• Offered attractive tax write-offs for those who buy hybrid automobiles
• Overturned Bush-era rule to weaken the Endangered Species Act
• Announced plans to purchase fuel efficient American-made fleet for the federal government
• Ended the Bush era policy of not regulating and labeling carbon dioxide emissions
• Signed a measure requiring energy producing plants to begin producing 15% of their energy from renewable sources
• The Obamas used LED energy-saving lights on White House Christmas tree
• Announced that the federal government would reengage in the long-delayed effort to clean up “Superfund” toxic waste sites
• Announced the long-term development of a national energy grid with renewable sources and cleaner, efficient energy production
• Proposed a new refuge for Wild mustangs
• Cancelled several Bush-era mountain-top removal and mining permits
• Reengaged in international treaties and agreements to protect the Antarctic
• Asked Congress for energy reform and “cap and trade”
• Developing plan to lease US coastal waters for wind and water current energy production
• Overturned Bush-era policies that allowed uranium mining near national parks such as the Grand Canyon
• Expanded the Petrified Forest National Park
• Signed the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act that protects millions of acres of scenic, historic, and recreational lands and trails
• Requiring that government buildings and facilities be retrofitted to save energy costs
• Authorized studies in several western states to determine how to support large-scale solar installations
• Attended the Copenhagen talks and, after the talks were stalled, negotiated an international (voluntary) agreement on reducing carbon emissions and raising funds to assist developing nations in offsetting carbon emissions

Rights
• Instituted enforcements for equal pay for women (Lilly Ledbetter Bill)
• Appointed the first Latina to the Supreme Court
• Held the first Seder in White House
• Appointed a diverse Cabinet and diverse White House staff
• Spoke at the annual dinner of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights organization
• Signed the first major piece of federal gay rights legislation that includes acts of violence against gays under the list of federal hate crimes
• Reversed the Bush era practice of politicizing Justice Department investigations and prosecutions against political opponents
• Allowing some of the 9/11 perpetrators to be tried in federal court
• Signed an extension of the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Bill to provide federal research and support for treating the disease
• Allowed the State Department of offer same-sex benefits for employees

Education Policy
• Authorized construction funds for high-speed, broadband Internet access in K-12 public schools
• Authorized new funds for school construction
• Increased student loans
• Expanded the national youth service program
• Streamlined the federal student loan process to save $87 billion over the next 10 years
• Changed the rule to allow students struggling to make college loan payments to refinance their loans
• Beginning discussions with Congress for education reform
• Initiated a “Race to the Top” competitive federal grant program for states who develop innovative policies
• Instituted a “judgment review” allowing families with student loans to petition to have their current financial status determine the loan rather than the previous year’s finances
• Launched “Educate to Innovate,” a public/private partnership making $236 million available for science, mathematics, and technology education programs

Other Domestic Policies & Initiatives
• New federal funding for science and research labs
• Signed national service legislation; expanded national youth service program
• Increasing opportunities in AmeriCorps program
• Ordered a review of hurricane and natural disaster preparedness
• Instituted a new focus on mortgage fraud
• Beginning discussions for comprehensive immigration reform
• Ordered that funds be released and red tape be streamlined for the ongoing Hurricane Katrina recovery effort in the Gulf Coast
• Demonstrated an immediate and efficient response to the floods in North Dakota and other natural disasters
• Ordered the DEA to stop raids on medical marijuana usage
• Ordered a review of existing “mandatory minimum” prison sentencing
• Signed an order to limit airport tarmac delays and the time passengers had to sit in the plane/on the tarmac during delays
• Restored the EPA to “Cabinet level” status (this was the case under Clinton but not Bush)
• FEMA once again reports directly to the president (this was the case under Clinton but not Bush)

P.S. A swing set was installed for the Obama girls outside the Oval Office and a garden was planted for the White House’s vegetables and flowers

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Don't Give Up on Health Insurance Reform

As we start a new decade, I want to say thanks for all you did this last year. Thanks to your hard work SOAR is growing and becoming the activist organization the Steelworkers intended it to be when it was created 25 years ago!

2009 has not been an easy year. The fight for good quality health care for all has been difficult. Retirees have been hit with a whirlwind of lies and scare tactics from insurance companies and political opportunists. Too often the truth gets lost in all the hype and made for TV sound bites, seniors have much to gain from health care reform.

Because of your great work in 2009, we have a chance to pass a law that will help Americans of all ages better afford to see a doctor or get a prescription filled. As we go to press, we are rapidly approaching the finish line. But in this marathon health care debate, the last mile may be the hardest. We cannot stop now.

This year we will need to finish health care reform, keep a watchful eye out for those who want to “reform” Social Security, pass the Employee Free Choice Act and get ready for next fall’s elections. Older voters will make up over one-third of the turnout in many states, so it will be more important than ever to educate our fellow retirees on the issues and where the candidates stand.

Again, thank you for all you do. SOAR will continue to be in the forefront of the legislative and political battles that lie ahead. We will continue to inform and educate our members on the important issues of the day. The experience, energy, and passion you bring to our work, is what makes a difference.

Connie Entrekin

Monday, January 18, 2010

Keep Your Eye on Social Security and Medicare


By Jim Centner, SOAR Director

Congress is at it again. They recently proposed the creation of an Entitlement Commission to fast track cuts to Social Security and Medicare. The commission idea certainly isn’t new; however, fiscal hawks are now using the economic mess created by years of failed borrow and spend policies as an excuse to balance the budget on the backs of Social Security and Medicare. SOAR members know that these vital programs have provided the only stable and reliable retirement for millions of Americans during this current economic recession. These programs didn’t cause our nation’s economic woes; they have reduced the suffering for millions of seniors and their families.

The problem with a “commission” is that the proposals will be considered by a small working group of current Congressional Members and members of the Administration. This group would draft legislation affecting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and their recommendations would be pushed through Congress in an extremely short timeline with no opportunity for amendments. This process would disenfranchise voters and hurt the political process. Congressional Committees of jurisdiction, which have cultivated detailed knowledge of the programs and thoroughly understand the needs of beneficiaries over decades, would be relegated to being bystanders in the process. Instead, the future of Social Security and Medicare would be placed in the hands of 15 people who may or may not have significant knowledge or experience dealing with these complex issues.

This entitlement commission proposal is fatally flawed. Restrictive timelines, no amendments and limited debate is not the way to address programs touching virtually every family in America. Our nation is paying the price for many years of failed economic policies and Americans want Washington to have the fiscal discipline and courage needed to clean it up. However, Congress should not contract out it’s responsibilities to an appointed body to make what are likely to be difficult and unpopular choices. This is a tough job, but this is what we elected them, all of them, to do, isn’t it?

Call your Senators at 1-800-998-0180 and urge them to oppose the Conrad-Gregg amendment. Let them know that you are watching to make sure that they do not vote for secret cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

Source: SOAR Chapter Connection newsletter

Sunday, January 17, 2010

How to Save on Health Care Costs

I read a short article in the voice of the people suggesting that since the airlines are starting to require body scans before boarding an airplane that they could at the same time provide medical x-rays for people and that this might lower medical costs.

Taking this a step further:

Since they sometimes are wanting to conduct body cavity searches, maybe they could provide colonoscopys while they're at it. They could have podiatrists on hand to examine feet and maybe even clip toe nails while people are waiting.

Heck, why not require passengers to be at the airport 24 hours in advance. Dentists could be on hand to scope out bridgework and caps for hidden whatever.

Every airport could have a health clinic.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Progress made in health insurance reform

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Jan. 14, 2010

Contact: Connie Mabin, 412-562-2616, cmabin@usw.org

Health Reform Tax Changes: Good Progress for Workers; Union to Keep Working for Better Bill

PITTSBURGH -- Leo W. Gerard, International President of the United Steelworkers union, today said that the union is pleased with the progress that has been made to make health insurance reform legislation fairer for working families.

Gerard said: “Let’s be clear, no legislation is ever perfect. But for generations we’ve been fighting for health care for all in the United States, and we are too close to reaching a historical milestone on this long journey to turn back now.

Our union and others in the labor movement have worked hard to fight for reform that helps working families and that will lower the cost of health care for all Americans. It appears we’ve been able to improve reform for all working families – not just those in a union - with several significant changes to the proposed excise tax on expensive health care plans. We’re pleased with the progress but that doesn’t mean we’ll stop working to make this bill better.”

Some of the proposed changes include:
Raising the level at which plans would be taxed to $24,000 for a family; $8,900 for singles and exempting dental and vision costs from these amounts. These thresholds would be raised for retirees 55 and older and for workers in high-risk professions.
Raising the tax threshold for plans in certain high-cost states as well as plans with high numbers of women and older workers that require more expensive plans, allowing for more gender, age and geographic equity in health care.
Exempting plans negotiated through collective bargaining for five years, providing critical time for employers and employees to transition.
Allowing collectively bargained plans into the Exchange in 2017, giving workers more bargaining power.

The USW represents 850,000 workers in the U.S., Canada and Caribbean employed in the industries of metals, rubber, chemicals, paper, oil refining and the service sector. For more information: www.usw.org/.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Wednesday is National Healthcare Call-In Day

Wednesday is National Healthcare Call-In Day

Tell Congress: Don't Tax Our Benefits

Status Update: The Senate recently passed their version of healthcare reform. While containing some positive reforms, it also gives us cause for concern, particularly over a new tax on healthcare benefits to finance the proposal. Now that the bills from the House and Senate will be merged into one, we need to make sure our Members of Congress know that the excise tax is a big problem, and that we don't want it in the final bill.

What is the excise tax: This would be a tax on higher-cost benefit plans. Many USW members have health insurance plans that qualify for the tax ($23,000 for family and $8,500 for individual coverage). That's because plans covering older workers, workers employed by small businesses, workers with worse than average health histories, workers from higher-risk workplaces, etc. all have higher healthcare costs. Many of us have bargained on other things up along the way to maintain high-quality benefits.


WE ARE STRONGLY OPPOSED TO THIS TAX ON BENEFITS.

Action Instructions:

Many of you have already called your legislators. We are asking for you to call ONCE AGAIN this Wednesday, January 13, to register your opinion on healthcare reform.

1 - Dial Toll-Free, 866-203-4960.

2 - Ask for each Senator and your Representative.
Note: Make three calls total, one to each Senator and one to your Representative. You can call all three on the same day, or spread the calls out over a couple of days. The important thing is that each person gets the message!

3 - Tell him or her that you are a voter and that we need healthcare reform that:

  • DOES NOT TAX BENEFITS,
  • Ensures employers provide care or pay into a system to ensure everyone can get care, and
  • Has a strong public option.

Monday, January 11, 2010

So Called Right to Work Hurts Everyone

Here's the Truth contrary to what Indiana State Representative Jerry Torr, Republican in Indiana District 39 would have you believe:

Workers in states with right to work laws have a consistently lower quality of life than in
other states—lower wages, higher poverty and infant mortality rates, less access to the
health care they need and poorer education for their children.

Lower Wages

The average worker in a right to work state makes about $5,333 a year less than workers in other states ($35,500 compared with $30,167).1 Weekly wages are $72 greater in free-bargaining states than in right to work states ($621 versus $549).2

Fewer People with Health Care

21 percent more people lack health insurance in right to work states compared to free-bargaining states.3

Higher Poverty and Infant Mortality Rates

Right to work states have a poverty rate of 12.5 percent, compared with 10.2 percent in other states.4 Moreover, the infant mortality rate is 16 percent higher in right to work states.5

Lower Workers’ Compensation Benefits for Workers Injured on the Job

Maximum weekly worker compensation benefits are $30 higher in free states ($609 versus $579 in right to work states).6

More Workplace Deaths and Injuries

According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the rate of workplace deaths is 51 percent higher in states with right to work, where unions can’t speak up on behalf of workers.7

1. Average Annual Pay, 2001 from Bureau of Labor Statistics, State average annual pay for 2000 and 2001
and percent change in pay for all covered workers. URL: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/annpay.t01.htm.
2 Bureau of Labor Statistics.
3 Percent of population lacking health insurance from Current Population Survey, March 2002. Table HI06.
Health Insurance coverage status by state for all people: 2001.
4 Poverty Rate in 2001 from U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, March 2002. URL:
http://ferret.bls.census.gov/macro/032002/pov/new25_001.htm.
5 O'Leary Morgan, Kathleen, and Scott Morgan, State Rankings 2001. Morgan Quitno Press, 2001.
6 Workers' Compensation data from the AFL-CIO Department of Safety and Health.
7 Workplace Fatalities from Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect. AFL-CIO. April, 2002.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Truth About Right to Work for Less

After reading some anti-union articles on some blogs and then reading the web site of Indiana State Representative Jerry Torr, Republican Indiana District 39, I was inspired to give everyone the truth about so called Right to Work legislation which Representative Torr seems to take some pride in having introduced for the past several years.

What’s at Stake for Unionized Employers?

Unionized employers have a lot to gain by standing up for workers’ rights and opposing right to
work laws:

• Right to work makes it harder for unionized employers to compete for business.
Many unions retain their membership in right to work states, although adding new
bargaining units is made more difficult. This means that while unionized employers stay
unionized, nonunion firms can remain unorganized and gain an even greater competitive
advantage based on low-wage, no-benefit jobs.

• That’s especially true in construction. Unionized construction companies may have the
most to gain from opposing right to work and other attacks on union membership.
Unionized construction companies compete largely on the basis of better quality work
because they provide more training, have fewer injuries on the job and are more
productive. All these competitive advantages are threatened when low-road companies
can drive down wages because of anti-union legislation.

• Right to work reduces consumer spending. Because union membership means higher
wages, higher unionization within a community means consumers have more to spend.
That’s good for local companies, especially those in retail sales and services.

• Right to work brings government interference to private enterprise. A right to work
law takes union security off the bargaining table. In effect, government limits the right of
employers to set the terms and conditions of employment by telling companies and their
workers what they can and can’t bargain over. Labor and management should have the
freedom to agree upon the conditions of work—without the government dictating to them.

Source: AFL-CIO

Are These Guys Nuts?

Friday, January 08, 2010

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert

Friday, January 8, 2010

(Alliance for Retired Americans)

Senate and House Iron Out The Differences in Their Health Reform Bills

Senate passage of its version of health reform legislation on Christmas Eve completed a historic year in Congress and in the nation's domestic policy debate. The House and Senate will still have to resolve important differences in their bills this month before they can send a final bill to President Obama. Whether to tax health benefits to fund coverage for the uninsured; whether to create a public insurance health plan option to hold down health costs and keep insurers honest; and how to address the "doughnut hole" gap in prescription drug coverage are three top issues. Instead of a formal conference committee, the process will involve leaders shuttling the measure back and forth, until both chambers have agreed to the same text. Democratic leaders believe that many Senators and Representatives would use a formal conference to delay, not improve, health care reform. Both the House and Senate bills provide more affordable coverage for retirees and seniors. They each provide cost relief for early retiree coverage: a new re-insurance program will pick up 85% of the cost of treatments between $15,000 and $90,000 for retirees ages 55-64. They also offer a $500 immediate increase in the Medicare drug allowance; a phased closing of the doughnut hole, during which seniors have to pay 100% of drug costs; and a 50% cut in the price of brand name drugs for seniors in the doughnut hole until the gap is eliminated. On Monday, the Alliance signed onto a letter from the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations, a broad coalition of seniors groups, urging Senators to close the gap as quickly as possible.

Both bills would also contain costs in a variety of ways. For instance, they would reduce over-payments to private Medicare Advantage plans by $135-$170 billion over ten years; eliminate co-payments for preventive care, thereby lowering the odds of a more expensive, catastrophic illness down the line; and ultimately reduce the federal deficit by approximately $130 billion over ten years. Both bills prohibit denial of coverage or higher rates due to pre-existing conditions and ban annual or lifetime limits on claims payments by insurers. They also reduce age-based variation in premium rates. Differences between the bills include whom to tax and how many people to cover. The Senate wants to tax higher-end health plans valued at over $8,500 for most individuals and $23,000 for couples, raising $150 billion. For retirees, the amounts are higher: $9,850 for individuals and $26,000 for family coverage. However, the House wants to increase income taxes on the wealthiest Americans; a plan the Alliance considers fairer. "While the final version is unlikely to include all that we have been fighting for, I believe our grassroots efforts have helped immensely in building political support," said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Proud To Be Liberal

Proud To Be Liberal
Why Liberal values are American values
By Brian Elroy McKinley

"You are a contentious person....and probably a Liberal," started a recent response to an article I published on abortion rights.

Contentious? Possibly.

Liberal? Absolutely.

Seems these days Conservatives have convinced themselves, and some of the American public, that being a Liberal is akin to being a card-carrying member of the Communist Party. While this may be a great smear tactic for an election year, to believe such a notion proves that the believer is uneducated in the fundamentals of the American political system. Our nation was founded on Liberalism. Embodied in the Declaration of Independence are its three tenets: "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness." The very term, itself, is taken from the same root as the second of these precepts. To be a Liberal is to defend the freedom - the Liberty - of all people who make up our great nation. To be a Liberal is to trust individuals and families to run their own lives as they see fit. To be a Liberal is to create a nation where anyone can excel if they are willing to do the work.

In order to understand the true nature of Liberalism, and to dispel the misconceptions fomented by those whose agenda is counter to our freedom, I will detail the tenets of Liberal thought and dispel the misconceptions so often put forth by Conservative rhetoric.

Liberalism is "Life." It is freedom from physical dangers that can kill or disable us. The Liberal believes it is a nation's job to protect its citizens from physical harm, whether from external sources, such as hostile nations, or internal ones, like crime, disease, or hunger. Without the solid ground of physical wellbeing, our nation and its citizens cannot enjoy the benefits of being free. Liberals believe in a strong military, well suited to defend the nation. Liberals believe in good laws, hard-working police, and a just legal system to protect its citizens from crime. Liberals believe in affordable health care for everyone, to keep our people strong. And Liberals believe in the availability of food and shelter for its needy, not as a hand out but as a reasonable step in moving all Americans toward self-reliance and the freedom that comes with it.

Liberalism is "Liberty." It is the freedom to do as your conscience dictates without impeding another's rights. Fleeing oppression in mother Europe, our founders established a nation where personal belief and self-determination are protected, not persecuted, where hard work is rewarded, not demanded, and where each person is bestowed with the ability to better his or her life because of citizenship, not class. Liberals believe in freedom of speech to protect us from political oppression. Liberals believe in sound regulations to protect us from economic oppression. Liberals believe in just laws to protect us from social oppression. And Liberals believe in quality education to protect us from the oppression of ignorance.

Liberalism is "The Pursuit of Happiness." It is the freedom to create an environment where the individual can excel. What is freedom if it cannot be used to better our lives? A truly free society must be one where its members can rise above their limitations and expand their futures. We call it "The American Dream," and it's alive and well in the heart of the Liberal. Liberals believe in equal opportunities for all to rise above our means. Liberals believe in equal opportunities to rise above our education levels. Liberals believe in equal opportunities to rise above our social status. And Liberals believe each and every family should have an equal opportunity to make this world better for their children.

Based on these tenets, we can see that Liberalism is not the monster it's made out to be by the opposition. It is pro individual and pro family. It is pro community and pro country. Liberalism is, by its very definition, the heart and soul of what it means to be an American. It stands against tyranny of any kind, whether international or domestic. It works to remove abuse and fight crime. And it strives to eliminate the idea of a wasted life by not wasting resources and opportunities.

By this time someone might ask, "if that is a Liberal, then what is a Conservative?"

Liberals and Conservatives received their names for good reasons. Just as Liberals get their label by standing for Liberty, Conservatives get their label from the desire to "conserve" a style of living. They, too, claim they are fighting to conserve our personal rights and our economic opportunities, but they do it with a different ideal than the Liberal. The term they use for the difference is "values." Values are norms or codes by which people live their lives. While most Americans share some common values, such as the right to own property and the right to protect our families, we also have many divergent values with which we raise our children. So if we try to impose values into the political framework of the nation, we are forced to ask, "whose values?" And in the search for such absolutes, we must also ask, "which generation's values?"

As the nation ages and new generations take over leadership, the values of its population change. Where once a woman was valued for how well she cooked, cleaned and entertained, today's women are gaining recognition that they offer as much, if not more, to the work force than men. Where once African Americans were forced to live as second-class citizens, now they have a legal status equal to that of whites, even if we still have a ways to go in actual practice. Changing values brings confusing times for many - especially for those who believe that America was better with an older set of values. These people want to "conserve" a style of American living they believe once existed, what they call, "traditional family values." They want to conserve the system that they believe made America wealthy and strong. Unfortunately that also means they want to force all of us to live according to their values.

Conservatives don't really fight for our rights - they fight for what they think our rights should be - putting limits on our freedom of speech in order to "conserve" an older, more traditional norm of what should be said. Conservatives don't really fight for our family values - they fight for what they believe our family values should be - putting limits on our behavior, even behavior between consenting adults, in order to "conserve" an older, more traditional view of acceptable personal activity. Conservatives don't really fight for our income - they fight for little or no regulations - putting limits on our ability to be treated fairly by large companies, who if left without restriction, can form monopolies that choke out competition and drive down wages.

Conservatives are willing to curb our freedom of speech if it clashes with their interpretation of "traditional" values, values from an older time where woman were in domestic servitude to men, where child abuse, sexual abuse, wife abuse, and homosexuality were all kept locked in closets, where minorities were second-class citizens and discrimination was free from incrimination, and where the inability to plan a family's growth meant an explosion of mouths to feed - a population explosion that today threatens to bankrupt our nation's retirement funds. The Conservative position, therefore, is inherently contradictory. You cannot be for legislating away freedom in the name of "family values" and also claim you are protecting individual and family rights.

As new generations have placed their own values into the laws that govern our land, Conservatives have sought to fight back by limiting the size and power of the government. Conservatives are willing to give away the very power needed to protect our liberties in the work place. Their idea of a smaller, less-intrusive government means a return to the days where business decisions and profits were more important than clean air and clean water, where a business could abuse its employees without incrimination, and where minorities and women could be passed over for jobs or paid less then white males for the same jobs. Again the Conservative position is at odds with itself. You cannot claim you are fighting for families at the same time that you allow the family bread winner to be overworked and underpaid and allow neighborhoods to be overrun by non-regulated big business. The Conservative would effectively shift power away from the people, who can elect public officials to fight for their rights, and into the hands of private businesses, who need not answer to the public when making decisions that affect us all.

Because Liberals fight to protect every citizen from having other people's values imposed on them, Conservatives like to label Liberals as being evil. The following list shows what Conservatives like to say against Liberals, and then goes on to show why such assertions are false:

  1. Conservatives say that Liberals are anti-family.
    However . . .
  2. Conservatives want to define what your family should be
  3. Whereas . . .
  4. Liberals put you in charge of your family
  5. Liberals support your right to define what your family will be
  6. Liberals fight for your family's rights against economic and political oppression
  7. Conservatives say that Liberals are anti-business.
    However . . .
  8. Conservatives are pro-money, but that often translates into monopolies, which hurt small business and competition, which hurts us all
  9. Whereas . . .
  10. Liberals protect small businesses by regulating the larger ones and by breaking up monopolies
  11. Liberals protect workers in order to create a healthy workforce that will help businesses grow
  12. Conservatives say that Liberals are anti-religion.
    However . . .
  13. Conservatives are often for one dominant religion, and are, therefore, against others
  14. Whereas . . .
  15. Liberals support complete freedom of religion and from religion so that all citizen are free to choose the manner in which faith is a part of their lives
  16. Liberals strive to keep government completely out of a family's religious choices
  17. Conservatives say that Liberals are anti-freedom.
    However . . .
  18. Conservatives want to stop homosexuals, stop abortions, stop the women's movement, and stop freedom of expression through the use of censorship
  19. Whereas . . .
  20. Liberals leave it up to the parents to teach such values to their children
  21. Liberals believe each person or family should be free to choose how to behave as long as it does not interfere with another's rights
  22. Conservatives say that Liberals are anti-morality.
    However . . .
  23. Conservatives are for one specific kind of morality
  24. Whereas . . .
  25. Liberals are for the morality of free choice, where each person or family decides their own values
  26. Liberals want the government to protect our freedom to choose what is important to us rather than to impose the laws and codes of another's morality
  27. Conservatives say that Liberals are anti-military.
    However . . .
  28. Conservatives see the military as a means to impose their values and standards on others
  29. Whereas . . .
  30. Liberals see the military as a vital protection of our freedoms and our liberties, giving us a space in which to pursue happiness

Liberalism's Stance on Specific Issues

With the desire to promote Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness as the central motivation, the Liberal always defends these tenets when deciding how to stand on a particular issue. The following will show why Liberals often take the stance they do:

Abortion/Contraception - Liberty means the freedom to control your body, your reproductive system, and your future.

Affirmative Action - Liberty means having fair opportunities for those in society who are discriminated against.

Education - Liberty means the freedom to learn in order to build a better future for yourself, your family, your community, and your country.

Environment - Liberty means the fair use of our nation's natural resources for all citizens. Where possible, without unreasonable restriction to private enterprise, the government should strive to protect our natural environment so all can enjoy its bounty.

Gun Control - Liberty means the freedom to protect yourself, your family, and your property, with deadly force if necessary. People have a right to keep guns for such a purpose. People also have a right to use guns in sporting activities and in the event that citizens should be called on to form a citizen militia. We do not, however, have a right to own all the latest people-killing technology. The People, through the government, can restrict some of the more deadly weapons being sold today.

Health - Liberty means the freedom to overcome physical limitations in order to better yourself, your family, your community, and your country.

Regulations - Liberty means the freedom to live and work in an environment that best allows individuals and families to grow in the pursuit of happiness. Bad air, bad water, bad living and working conditions only stifle that liberty.

Sexuality - Liberty means the freedom to share mutual intimate affection with the person of your choice, regardless of gender.

Substance Abuse - Liberty means the freedom to decide what you put in your body. Unless the use of a substance is a danger to unwilling victims, its use should be kept legal. In situations where use of a substance may or may not effect bystanders, regulations - such as in the case with tobacco - should be enacted to protect the bystander without denying the individual's choice to use the substance. Smoking and non-smoking areas in public places are a prime example of this.

Taxation - Liberty is found within a system. That system does not happen by itself. It is created and supported by us, the People, and it is funded by our labors. The money we pay in taxes is what allows us to thrive in Liberty and work in fairness. Reasonable taxation is necessary because without it, many of us would find it difficult to get paid even a fraction of what we are paid now. And those who benefit more from the system should expect to pay more to help support it.

Women's/Minority Rights - Liberty means the freedom to be valued and judged on talent and work, not on the physical characteristics over which we have no control.

In closing let me state that freedom sometimes brings situations we don't like. Some people will choose to use their freedom to engage in activities that go against our personal values. It is a great temptation to use our democratic rights to try and enshrine our own personal values - whether they come from religious or humanistic origins - in the laws of the nation. The inherent problem with this is that when Liberty is restrained by any one group's values, even if that group represents the majority of the population at the time, it can easily be changed from one generation to the next, meaning that you could be forced to live under someone else's values as easily as you might force someone to live under yours.

The only true defense of our values is the defense of our liberties.

If you don't want to be forced to live under a foreign set of values, don't force others to live under yours. Instead, fight for the freedom to believe as you want while others believe as they want. Freedom of choice, as long as it does not infringe on another's rights, is the foundation upon which this nation was built. Liberalism is the ideology that strives to defend that freedom for everyone. And for that reason it pleases me to no end to state that I am proud to be Liberal.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Right Wingers - Help Bail

The past decade began with the right wingers putting a big hole in our boat.

President Obama has plugged that hole.

For the past year, Democrats have been bailing like crazy while Republicans have watched.

Hopefully, Twenty Ten will be bring a change of heart with right wingers and they will begin to help with the task. That would bring our country back to normal a lot faster.

A very good, short article explaining what needs to be done can be found HERE.

Bass Lake Weather Report

Weather report for Bass Lake, Indiana.

Quiet
Peaceful
Cool
Tranquil
Perfect

Friday, January 01, 2010

Twenty Five in Twenty Ten

This year, the Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees (SOAR) will mark its twenty fifth year.

SOAR was initiated in 1985 by former President of the United Steelworkers of America, Lynn R. Williams.

Congratulations, S.O.A.R. !