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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?

Beat the gay out of your kids

Well, of course you should!

Win a scholarship to Netroots Nation

I love Netroots Nation. It’s hard to be depressed when you’re around so many bright, passionate people who are working so hard to make our country better, and it’s always fun to meet people face to face when you only know their online personas. So I’m happy to tell you about this great opportunity to win a NN scholarship:

Want an opportunity to win a scholarship for Netroots Nation 2012, the country’s biggest gathering of progressive activists?

Netroots Nation is teaming up with Rally.org for the first-ever Raise the Future contest, which invites people from around the country to fundraise for progressive causes for the chance to win an all-access pass to Netroots Nation this June in Providence. Ten winners will receive an all-access pass to the conference, hotel accommodations and invitations to VIP events (a $1200 value).

Sign up at rally.org/raisethefuture.

It’s easy to participate: just recruit the most donors for one of the six featured causes—or choose one of your own—using the Rally.org fundraising platform. This contest is unique because it’s not about how much money you raise, but the number of donors you engage.

The featured causes include Elizabeth Warren for Massachusetts, National Wildlife Federation Action Fund, NARAL Pro-Choice America, Washington United for Marriage, Truman National Security Project and New Leaders Council.

There’s still plenty of time to sign up (and win!). The contest runs through May 15, with finalists announced May 17th.

It takes less than four minutes to get started. Sign up at rally.org/raisethefuture.

Dream

Somehow or other, I stumble across a large house full of artsy hippies who are putting on various performances, all at the same time. Literally, right next to each other. They’re singing, playing music, performing street theater, etc. and there’s also a sumptuous spread of food. The hippies are all wearing outrageous and colorful costumes. “So all this was here, all this time, and I didn’t even know it?” I ask one. “Every Sunday,” he replied.

An old woman was in some kind of distress, so we all rushed over and helped her. Then everyone went right back to what they were doing.

Who could have guessed

What a surprise. File this one under the Department of Duh, because anyone who’s been following the history of Taser use (524 Taser-related deaths so far) has figured out there can’t be that much smoke without some fire.

The electrical shock delivered to the chest by a Taser can lead to cardiac arrest and sudden death, according to a new study, although it is unknown how frequently such deaths occur.


The study, which analyzed detailed records from the cases of eight people who went into cardiac arrest after receiving shocks from a Taser X26 fired at a distance, is likely to add to the debate about the safety of the weapons. Seven of the people in the study died; one survived.


Advocacy groups like Amnesty International have argued that Tasers, the most widely used of a class of weapons known as electrical control devices, are potentially lethal and that stricter rules should govern their use.But proponents maintain that the devices — which are used by more than 16,700 law enforcement agencies in 107 countries, said Steve Tuttle, a spokesman for Taser — pose less risk to civilians than firearms and are safer for police officers than physically tackling a suspect.


The results of studies of the devices’ safety in humans have been mixed.


Medical experts said on Monday that the new report, published online on Monday in the journal Circulation, makes clear that electrical shocks from Tasers, which shoot barbs into the clothes and skin, can in some cases set off irregular heart rhythms, leading to cardiac arrest.


“This is no longer arguable,” said Dr. Byron Lee, a cardiologist and director of the electrophysiology laboratory at the University of California, San Francisco. “This is a scientific fact. The national debate should now center on whether the risk of sudden death with Tasers is low enough to warrant widespread use by law enforcement.”


The author of the study, Dr. Douglas P. Zipes, a cardiologist and professor emeritus at Indiana University, has served as a witness for plaintiffs in lawsuits against Taser — a fact that Mr. Tuttle said tainted the findings. “Clearly, Dr. Zipes has a strong financial bias based on his career as an expert witness,” Mr. Tuttle said in an e-mail, adding that a 2011 ificant risk of cardiac arrest “when deployed reasonably.”


However, Dr. Robert J. Myerburg, a professor of medicine in cardiology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, said that Dr. Zipes’s role in litigation also gave him extensive access to data from medical records, police records and autopsy reports. The study, he said, had persuaded him that in at least some of the eight cases, the Taser shock was responsible for the cardiac arrests.

There are a lot of problems with Tasers that Taser International would rather we didn’t talk about. One of them is that the voltage can go a lot higher than the manufacturer says it can. Then there’s that interesting habit the company has of suing medical examiners who list Tasers as the cause of death – or otherwise persuading them.

They don’t spend much money on lobbying, so I guess the legal threats do the trick.

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