From Joannelandy@igc.[email protected] comes news about a "healthcare fiasco unfolding before our very eyes in the name of ‘feasibility’." She writes on July 24 that the proposals before Congress:
Will keep millions uninsured; while the "public option" proposed in the House "tri-committee" bill might insure 10 million people, it would leave 16 to 17 million uninsured
- Will be expensive, unaffordable, and unsustainable
- Will not restore the right to choose our own doctor and hospital
- Will burden states with paying for millions of new Medicaid patients (states pay roughly one-third of Medicaid costs)
- Will mean that most people will continue to get their coverage through private insurance companies and will be forced to buy insurance of questionable value
- Will mean that employer-based insurance will continue unchanged, with employers free to change coverage at any time, insurers free to change their physician and hospital networks
- While the uninsured will be mandated by law to purchase health insurance, the Congressional bills place no limit on what the private insurance companies can charge for premiums, or how great their deductibles and co-pays can be
- Will cut Medicare
- May even tax health benefits for those who are decently insured
Landy reports that a single payer system would insure everyone, give people the right to choose their own doctor and hospital, and save $400 billion a year in administrative costs.
On August 10 www.nukewatch.com emailed news of nine activists arrested at the end of a three-day peace walk to Fort McCoy in Tomah, Wisconsin. The activists were protesting U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the continued U.S. possession of nuclear weapons. Five of the nine were ticketed and released after being permanently banned from entering the base. Four of the group were taken to Madison where they face federal trespass charges. The four had previously been banned from the base for earlier protests.
The walk for peace that began August 7, near Camp Williams, Wisconsin was also a commemoration of the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima, August 6, and Nagasaki August 9, 1945, and an appeal for a moratorium on the use of armor-piercing shells made from waste uranium-238 known as "depleted uranium" munitions. Ft. McCoy plays a key role in mobilizing Army National Guard and Army Reserve units to the two U.S. military occupations. Several units are undergoing mobilization training this summer at the Fort prior to their deployment. The 32nd Brigade Combat Team is currently deployed to Iraq, the largest combat deployment of the Wisconsin National Guard since WWII.
U.S. Bases in Colombia
The article "US military base plan fuels Latin American tensions" by Bill Van Auken of www.wsws.org was emailed on August 5 from [email protected]. Originally announced as a pact covering four bases, it was revealed that U.S. Army, Air Force, and Navy forces would be granted access to a total of seven installations scattered across Colombia for a period of at least ten years. The largest of these facilities is Palenquero Air Base, located north of the Colombian capital of Bogota. It is reportedly suitable for the landing of large troop and equipment carrying planes. Another is the air base in Malambo, near the Caribbean city of Barranquilla, not far from the Venezuelan border. The U.S. Navy is being given access to two bases, one in the Caribbean port city of Cartagena and another in Bahia Malaga on the Pacific Coast. Another of the bases is in the southern city of Florencia, near the border with Ecuador.
The U.S. military already operates in Colombia, with hundreds of U.S. military personnel and military contractors providing aid to the Colombian military, which has fought a protracted war against the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) guerrilla movement that has claimed the lives of some 40,000 people and displaced 2.5 million. Under Plan Colombia, initiated in 2000, Washington has poured approximately $5 billion in military aid into Colombia, making it by far the largest recipient of such assistance in the hemisphere.
On a similar issue, we received an email from the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign reporting on the July 18, 2009 edition of the Economist, which asserted that "Venezuelan troops helped quell a rebellion in Bolivia in 2007." The Venezuelan Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Samuel Moncada, responded to the allegation with letter to Michael Reid, the Economist’s Latin American editor, demanding "a correction of such fallacy." After further letter writing, in its July 25, 2009 edition, the Economist published "Clarification: Bolivia and Venezuela," stating: "We are happy to clarify that this footage does not prove Venezuelan troops played an active role in quelling the rebellion."
Uprising at Hartmarx
On July 7, [email protected] forwarded an article, "Worker Uprising Against Wells Fargo Spreads After Major Victory To Keep Factories Open" by Mike Elk, Huffington Post, July 1, 2009. Hartmarx, a maker of men’s apparel and an employer of nearly 4,000 people, had filed for bankruptcy after Wells Fargo refused to extend them a line of credit. Wells Fargo then pushed for the company to be liquidated and for laying off the 4,000 workers, despite the fact that there were proposals by several groups to purchase the company and keep it running. The workers, members of SEIU, refused to accept the bank’s ruling and, inspired by the worker-occupation at Republic Windows and Doors in Chicago, voted to occupy the plant, drawing national media attention to their story.
As a result, the workers received political and community support. Over 43 members of Congress signed a letter calling on Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner to investigate Wells Fargo’s use of bailout money. Congressperson Phil Hare, a former worker at Hartmarx, promised to be Wells Fargo’s "worst nightmare" if they closed the plant. Finally, State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias threatened to cut off $8 billion worth of business that the state does with Wells Fargo if they closed the plant. Wells Fargo backed down.
The fight then moved to a plant across town from Hartmarx in Moline, Illinois where Wells Fargo had cut off credit to the Quad City Die Casting factory. Workers at the plant, members of the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers (UE), began engaging in direct action against Wells Fargo, which refused to even sit down with the union. Nonetheless, the union has promised to support the Quad City workers and to continue fighting the "banksters" of Wells Fargo, beginning with UE protests in over 20 cities throughout the country.
War Resister Limbo
From truthout.org comes news of war resisters who had gone AWOL being held in limbo at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, detained for months under difficult conditions. Dustin Stevens, who was arrested on January 15, 2009, is one of about 50 soldiers being held, while awaiting likely desertion charges.
In May 2002, after five months in the Army, Stevens refused to stand in formation at his Airborne graduation and declared that he no longer wanted to serve. Seven years later, during a routine traffic stop, Stevens was told that there was a warrant for his arrest and he was whisked off to military custody. "This whole time, I’ve been living my life. I’ve been working, paying taxes, had a car and apartment," he says. These months of detention will not count toward his sentence.
The unit is overcrowded and filthy, the command verbally abuses the soldiers, with one officer proclaiming, "We should just shoot you all," according to Stevens. Troops are not receiving the medical and mental health care they need. "People around me are literally going crazy. I hear people threaten suicide on a daily basis," says Stevens. The command offered the soldiers a free pass if they agreed to deploy to Afghanistan. About ten people took up the offer. "Every single person here should not be here…. This place is hell," says Stevens. "And in my mind, I didn’t even do anything wrong."
On July 3, 2009, [email protected] forwarded the following: "Brazil’s Lula Scolds Rich Nations on Migration" (AFP) in which the Brazilian president issued a law giving tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants legal status and criticized rich nations for taking a tough stance against illegal migrants. Lula also accused European countries of toughening immigration rules, which he deemed "unjust," adding that, "Illegal immigration is a humanitarian question that should not be confused with criminality." The new law allows all undocumented foreigners who entered Brazil before February 2009 to obtain two-year provisional residency permits that can eventually be made permanent. All recipients will be entitled to work and receive public education and health care. Brazil’s Justice Department says there are around 60,000 undocumented foreigners in the country, but non-governmental groups believe the number could be as high as 200,000, with most coming from Latin America and China.
Sessions on Race
Chris from southernstudies.org sent (on July 14) an analysis by Sue Sturgis of Senator Sessions’s questioning of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. Sessions’s questions concerned race and impartiality, based on Sotomayor’s comment in a 2001 lecture that "a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life."
"That’s troubling me," Sessions (R-AL) said during the hearings. "That’s not impartiality." Responding to Sessions, Sotomayor said she made the remark in the context of "a speech to young Latino students and lawyers that aimed to make them believe their life experiences were valuable."
Sturgis looks at Sessions’s racial "impartiality." It seems that his 1986 nomination by President Ronald Reagan for a federal judgeship was killed by the Senate Judiciary Committee over his history of racist actions and comments. A year before Reagan nominated him, Sessions—then serving as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama—was involved in a controversial and unsuccessful voter fraud prosecution of three civil rights workers, including a former aide to Martin Luther King Jr. Civil rights groups charged that Sessions had been looking for voter fraud in the black community…at least partly to help reelect his friend Senator Denton.
Comments by Sessions that came to light during his nomination hearings for a federal judgeship included:
- Criticism of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the American Civil Liberties Union as "un-American" and "communist-inspired" and they "forced civil rights down the throats of people"
- Calling a white civil rights attorney a "disgrace to his race" for litigating voting rights cases
- Saying he used to think Ku Klux Klan members were "OK" until he found out some of them were "pot smokers"
- Calling Thomas Figures—a black former assistant U.S. Attorney in Alabama—"boy" to his face and, after hearing Figures criticize a secretary, warned him to "be careful what you say to white folks"
Sessions went on to be elected Alabama attorney general in 1994. Two years later he was elected to the U.S. Senate. On July 14, 2009, five major U.S. newspapers reported on Sessions’s opening statement at Sotomayor’s confirmation hearing without any mention of his 1986 rejection by the Senate Judiciary Commission for his racially charged comments.
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