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Philly band Dr. Dog:

Why we’re still in Afghanistan

The new piece in Vanity Fair arguably sheds light on why Barack Obama turned out to be a major disappointment to progressives who expected him to curtail growing economic inequality, crack down on banksters, put a lid on exorbitant “defense” spending, and so on. More here.

Tonight

Virtually Speaking Science | Wednesday May 2 | 9pm eastern | 6pm pacific –

Two of the biggest astronomical events of the year – May 20’s annular solar eclipse and June 5’s transit of Venus – are just around the corner. What’s the big deal, and how can you get in on the action?

Paul Doherty (a.k.a. Patio Plasma), senior scientist at San Francisco’s Exploratorium chats with MSNBC science editor Alan Boyle about; eclipse/transit angles; how and where to see this month’s eclipse and next month’s once-in-a-lifetime transit safely; and Explo activities and events and using virtual worlds – particularly Second Life – for outreach/education/science experiences. Follow @b0yle @exploratorium Read Alan’s show notesListen live & Later.

Digitally present studio audience — courtesy of MICA — here: http://slurl.com/secondlife/StellaNova/70/211/31

This week in TSA atrocities

Boing Boing:

• A terminal in Newark airport was evacuated because the TSA forgot to screen a tiny baby.
• TSA agents discovered an “anomaly in the crotchital area” of a 79-year-old woman.
• TSA agents at JFK harassed the family of a 7-year-old girl with cerebral palsy and developmental disability.
• TSA screeners in LA ran a drug ring and took bribes from drug dealers.
• The TSA’s anti-hugging squad caught a terrorist masquerading as a 4-year-old girl who loves her grandma.
• A 95-year-old US Air Force veteran from World War II and his 85-year-old friend were humiliated, searched and robbed at a San Diego TSA checkpoint.

Boo hoo

What Digby said. Jesus, these people have no souls.

Skilled Labor……

Driving in South Georgia the other day in the state’s agricultural belt, I heard an interesting interview on the radio with the president of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, Dick Minor, regarding the impact of HB 87.

Last year, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed into law HB 87, a law that was modeled after Arizona’s SB 1070. Beginning in July 2011 police may investigate the immigration status of “suspects.” The impact on the state’s harvest season was heavy. Losses were estimated at $390 million dollars and caused a loss of 40% of the spring harvest labor. There were 11,000 job openings in Georgia for farm labor as many migrant workers just skipped the spring harvest before the law went into effect. “It had an immediate impact of workers not wanting to come to Georgia out of fear of being targeted for immigration,” Minor said in the interview.

In June, 2011, the Governor approved a program that farm jobs would be offered to unemployed parolees. Governor Deal issued this statement from his office, “I believe this would be a great partial solution to our current status as we continue to move towards sustainable results with the legal options available.”

What could possibly go wrong?

The parolees didn’t work out well with most leaving these jobs within a week.

“I mean, you have to imagine being in 100-degree days for 10 hours, and, you know, very physically demanding work, stooping down, running, lifting. You’ve got to be, sort of, trained, almost like an athlete. You’ve got to be trained to be able to do it, and we offered open employment to them all summer long, and we had just a constant turnstile of people coming and going.

And nobody was excited about doing it. A lot of them did it for several days, but none of them lasted.”

This season prison labor will be tested.

“The Corrections department has sent ten transitional inmates from Smith State Prison to work in a packing and grading facility run by an onion grower in Glennville, which is near Vidalia.  Transitional inmates are in the process of completing their prison sentences.

Grower Wayne Durrance says he’s used transitional inmates, and says it’s been a success so far.  Durrance says they’re motivated and work hard.”

Part of the problem is that it is the perception that the migrant farmer labor is an unskilled workforce.

Minor speaking in the interview regarding the skills of the migrant worker:

“Well, first of all, the fallacy that we’re using cheap labor is not true. I mean, we pay these people pretty well. Also that just anybody can come do this job is also a misnomer. We consider these people skilled workers because they are pretty much professional harvesters, and they’re even skilled to particular crops.

So people harvesting watermelons may not be able to pick peaches, and people picking blueberries may not be able to pick peppers. So certain crews that work in certain crops, and they do that year-round, as you know it’s very tough work. It’s very tough conditions – long hours. You’ve got to be in really good physical shape. You’ve got to know the process of harvesting crops.

And in order to make good money, because so much of it’s done paid by the piece, and when I say good money, I’m talking about $15 to $20 an hour, you’ve got to be really proficient at the job. So we could offer locals or domestic workers more money. They still haven’t had a track record of being able to do the work in a timely manner and – nor do they want to do the work.

I mean, we have them come out here, but they usually don’t stay. They don’t stay more than a day or two, and they’re off to find another job.”

Well, I guess this throws out the argument that these migrant workers are taking away jobs from Americans. How many Americans are qualified to do this kind of work?

 

 

Young Barack

I found this Vanity Fair article to be enlightening. (For one thing, I wondered if Obama even wrote his memoir, since he had no track record as a writer. I assumed it was ghost-written. I was wrong.)

Lots here about the deepest parts of his personality. Very enlightening.

Dear sweet Jesus on a stick

Just when you think Our national politics can’t get any worse, you read something like this.

Supporting our troops

Bob Geiger has an upsetting piece at Huffington Post about something called the Widow’s Tax, a government practice that financially penalizes surviving spouses of soldiers killed in battle.

Kristen Fenty knows a thing or two about pain and struggle.

Like all Gold Star Wives — women whose spouses have died or been killed while on active duty in the U.S. military — she has learned to live with the grief of losing her life partner, the disintegration of the life she imagined and, like so many war widows, the burden of instantly becoming a single parent and shepherding a child through the loss of her father.

What Kristen Fenty didn’t expect was six years of getting raked over bureaucratic coals in simply trying to receive and keep the benefits to which surviving military families are entitled.

Fenty, whose husband Army Lt. Col. Joseph Fenty Jr. was killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan in 2006, is fighting just such a battle and has become an activist on behalf of other surviving military spouses grappling with a system that seems geared toward nickel and diming widows who have already sacrificed so much.

“It was a very difficult time,” Fenty said of the time immediately after Joe was killed. “And I had just had a baby 28 days before my husband’s death.”

At issue is a byzantine parsing of government programs that essentially eliminates one survivor’s benefit for another, despite the distinct purpose of each and their origin in entirely separate entities. Specifically, Fenty and Gold Star Wives are fighting a government practice that offsets payments from the Defense Department’s Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) — a survivor benefit collected through death in service or purchased through post-retirement premium payments — with the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) death benefit, paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs to spouses who have lost a husband or wife at war.

What Fenty and so many others have discovered is that, according to the U.S. government, receiving payments from both programs constitutes a kind of double-dipping and that a dollar-for-dollar offset must take place to prevent that.

To civilians, this is analogous to someone telling us after losing our spouse that we can have his or her retirement money or their life insurance — but not both. Of course, this would be considered an outrage and an earned-benefits rip-off, but for military families, this evidently makes complete sense to the government.

It really is a crazy system, and it’s even more infuriating when you see posturing politicians slashing programs for the poor to protect the military budget. I guess they just mean the part that goes to wastefully expensive military toys (and returned to them via campaign contributions), and not the very real human needs of the people who serve in the military. The part that really makes me angry? Congress says they “don’t have the money” to fix this. That’s baloney. Always money for war, always money for banks – but never enough money for those inconvenient people who get caught in the wheels.

Here’s the craziness of this system:

  • The annuity payment (for which you and your spouse paid premiums) is reduced by the amount of the monthly survivor benefit.
  • To qualify for the retirement program, the surviving spouse can only remarry if they are 57 or older. Widows who never remarry don’t see a dime.
  • Just to make it even more complicated, the government decided if you’re not going to get the annuity, they’re at least going to give you your premiums back. But if you then get remarried after you’re 57, and now you’re eligible for the benefit, you have to repay those premiums. Oy.

Supporting our troops – and their families? Doesn’t sound like it.

Bomb plot

Another successful entrapment by the FBI snares five Occupy members.

You don’t suppose the federal government is targeting dissenters, do you?

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