Friday, April 28, 2017

H.R. 1180 Working Families Flexibility Act of 2017 (Comp Time Scam)

H.R. 1180 would "allow" employees to bank up to 160 hours of overtime pay (4 weeks at time-and-a-half pay), to be used when taking time off at an approved and non-work-disruptive period as allowed by the employer.

How this is supposed to give working families flexibility is not explained. Although such banking of overtime is supposedly subject to prior approval by both employee and employer, in practice the employee would have no power to refuse to be paid at some future date instead of the next payday.

Such banked hours would be subject to possible employer bankruptcies and fraud, and relies on the fairness and honesty of the employer. Also, no interest would be paid to the employee for funds banked by the employer.

"Under current law, an employer that honestly wants to give an employee time off to compensate for the sacrifice of working extra hours can do so. No legislation is required. The employer simply pays for the overtime when it’s worked and then gives the employee unpaid time off when the employee requests it. The employee gets the money first and the leave later.

"The comp time bill turns this around — to the detriment of the workers. It gives employers the right to hang onto their employees’ overtime pay for months and months without paying interest on it or necessarily ever giving compensatory time off. Calling this a scam is being gentle."

"...Imagine a Wal-Mart sized employer with a comp time bank holding 100 hours of overtime pay for each of 100,000 employees paid $10 an hour. That’s a $100 million loan, interest-free from the employees to Wal-Mart."

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Why Oppose Universal Healthcare?

Republicans are opposed to universal healthcare because their philosophy is personal responsibility alone, not social responsibility. Any program or policy which interferes with taking care of one's own is something which must be eliminated. Conservatives want to cut the part of government that helps its citizens, because that violates individual responsibility and therefore is against their "moral" code. The fact that their policies mean that too many people cannot fulfill their own individual responsibilities (such as income, healthcare, protecting their family) doesn't register. It is always the victim's fault, whether it is lack of decent healthcare or being ripped off by predatory companies and individuals.

The Republican philosophy is all about greed and how to justify it. In their minds poor people are lazy and undeserving. The fact that social responsibility might help their bottom line is not part of their reality. And they have crafted so many ways of conning people into believing that their way is best, including messaging, word choices (tax "relief"), lies ("death panels"), and fear-mongering. That plus dirty tricks (gerrymandering, voter restrictions, Citizens United) keep them in power.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz Malfeasance

Concerning Aaron Swartz and Justina Pelletier, a response to mis-characterizations of the people involved.

Aaron Swartz was never convicted. He was, however, hounded to death. Mr. Pelletier was given no alternative but to commit his crime in order to free his daughter from her 13 months of torture. If the actions of the Boston U.S. Attorney's office don't seem egregious to you, perhaps you have not understood the details of these two cases. Their office is hardly alone in their malfeasance and their disregard for judicial standards, common sense, ethics, and legality. I have personally experienced too many examples, including as a victim of crime, of this level of incompetence and indifference from our justice system.

Carmen Ortiz was overseeing prosecution efforts against Aaron Swartz [see note] for a crime which caused no physical harm and no economic harm. Further, the institution involved declined to press charges, and their attorney asked the lead prosecutor to drop the charges. Instead, more charges were added with the potential for 50 years in federal prison and $1 million in fines. Shortly after a counter-offer for a plea deal was rejected, Mr. Swartz committed suicide.

In the case of Justina Pelletier, Boston's Children's Hospital misdiagnosed her as having a psychiatric problem, then essentially kidnapped her and took her off of the medications she needed. Carmen Ortiz was the Boston U.S. Attorney who refused to investigate the hospital, dismissing numerous attempts by other people and organizations to get her to act. Her father's efforts on Justina's behalf were thwarted, and in desperation he knocked out the hospital's internet service. His action was successful in generating media attention and freeing his daughter from her 13 months of torture. In return, the same Boston U.S. Attorney's office is vigorously prosecuting Justina's father after having refused to investigate the hospital.

Huffington Post - "Senator Rubio And Governor Scott – Please Help: He Dead, She’s Paralyzed, And I’m Imprisoned"
The Guardian - "Aaron Swartz stood up for freedom and fairness – and was hounded to his death."
Wikipedia - Aaron Swartz

Aaron Swartz was a computer genius who crafted software solutions such as RSS which are still widely in use. He was an activist who made it his mission to make public documents available without charge. He was charged for attempting to download academic articles from JSTOR which were behind a pay-wall at Boston's MIT. There was no physical harm and no economic harm done, and JSTOR declined to press charges. JSTOR's own lawyer had asked the lead prosecutor to drop the charges. Instead, even more federal charges were added so that he was looking at 50 years in federal prison along with $1 million in fines. A 6-month plea deal was offered and declined, and a counter-offer was rejected. Carmen Ortiz was the U.S. Attorney overseeing the prosecution efforts.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Rich Freeloaders

People who work hard for a living are tired of freeloaders - the rich who pay less as a percentage of taxes, corporations that pay little or no taxes and companies with record profits that receive subsidies. The wealthy have abandoned the principle of social responsibility and subscribe exclusively to the concept of individual responsibility. That concept is based on the myth that poor people are lazy and have made bad choices, and it is their own fault that they are poor. The wealthy send their money to work and are taxed only on the profits, while taxes are levied on most of the income of people who actually work.

At the same time, the radical conservatives want to eliminate worker protections, discrimination protections, environmental protections, and free K-12 education. They want bigger banks, bigger tax cuts for the rich (including dropping capital gains taxes to zero), no financial or consumer safeguards, privatized Social Security and Medicare, no Pell grants for students, no minimum wage, no heating assistance for the poor, no Head Start for preschoolers, no community block grants, no infrastructure spending bills, no healthcare insurance assistance and insurance protections, and a budget increase for our ridiculously massive military (with little going to soldiers).

Congress decides on the budget; the president only proposes an outline. Trillion-dollar deficits are the GOP's method of choice for an excuse to cut social spending. Conflating the federal budget figures with Social Security (with its own revenue stream) gives them an excuse to raise retirement ages and cut benefits (which has no impact whatsoever on the federal budget and its deficits), and gives them reason to privatize Social Security and gain access to profits from administrative overhead fees.

Want smaller government and lower taxes? Try living in Somalia.