Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Race to the Bottom


Toward the end of an important speech in Washington last month, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, said to her audience:

Bob Herbert
“Think of a teacher who is staying up past midnight to prepare her lesson plan... Think of a teacher who is paying for equipment out of his own pocket so his students can conduct science experiments that they otherwise couldn’t do... Think of a teacher who takes her students to a ‘We, the People’ debating competition over the weekend, instead of spending time with her own family.”

Ms. Weingarten was raising a cry against the demonizing of teachers and the widespread, uninformed tendency to cast wholesale blame on teachers for the myriad problems with American public schools. It reminded me of the way autoworkers have been vilified and blamed by so many for the problems plaguing the Big Three automakers.

But Ms. Weingarten’s defense of her members was not the most important part of the speech. The key point was her assertion that with schools in trouble and the economy in a state of near-collapse, she was willing to consider reforms that until now have been anathema to the union, including the way in which tenure is awarded, the manner in which teachers are assigned and merit pay.

It’s time we refocused our lens on American workers and tried to see them in a fairer, more appreciative light.

Working men and women are not getting the credit they deserve for the jobs they do without squawking every day, for the hardships they are enduring in this downturn and for the collective effort they are willing to make to get through the worst economic crisis in the U.S. in decades.

In testimony before the U.S. Senate this month, the president of the United Auto Workers, Ron Gettelfinger, listed some of the sacrifices his members have already made to try and keep the American auto industry viable.

Last year, before the economy went into free fall and before any talk of a government rescue, the autoworkers agreed to a 50 percent cut in wages for new workers at the Big Three, reducing starting pay to a little more than $14 an hour.

That is a development that the society should mourn. The U.A.W. had traditionally been a union through which workers could march into the middle class. Now the march is in the other direction.

Mr. Gettelfinger noted that his members “have not received any base wage increase since 2005 at G.M. and Ford, and since 2006 at Chrysler.”

Some 150,000 jobs at General Motors, Ford and Chrysler have vanished outright through downsizing over the past five years. And like the members of Ms. Weingarten’s union (and other workers across the country, whether unionized or not), the autoworkers are prepared to make further sacrifices as required, as long as they are reasonably fair and part of a shared effort with other sectors of the society.

We need some perspective here. It is becoming an article of faith in the discussions over an auto industry rescue, that unionized autoworkers should be taken off of their high horses and shoved into a deal in which they would not make significantly more in wages and benefits than comparable workers at Japanese carmakers like Toyota.

That’s fine if it’s agreed to by the autoworkers themselves in the context of an industry bailout at a time when the country is in the midst of a financial emergency. But it stinks to high heaven as something we should be aspiring to.

The economic downturn, however severe, should not be used as an excuse to send American workers on a race to the bottom, where previously middle-class occupations take a sweatshop’s approach to pay and benefits.

The U.A.W. has been criticized because its retired workers have had generous pensions and health coverage. There’s a horror! I suppose it would have been better if, after 30 or 35 years on the assembly line, those retirees had been considerate enough to die prematurely in poverty, unable to pay for the medical services that could have saved them.

Randi Weingarten and Ron Gettelfinger know the country is going through a terrible period. Their workers, like most Americans, are already getting clobbered and worse is to come.

But there is no downturn so treacherous that it is worth sacrificing the long-term interests — or, equally important — the dignity of their members.

Teachers and autoworkers are two very different cornerstones of American society, but they are cornerstones nonetheless. Our attitudes toward them are a reflection of our attitudes toward working people in general. If we see teachers and autoworkers as our enemies, we are in serious need of an attitude adjustment.

Readers' Comments

From:Stephen B

Chicago has hit a mark it would have preferred to miss: 500 homicides for 2008 with more than a week to go in the year.
Monique Bond, a Police Department spokeswoman, said the 500th slaying unofficially had been Monday night, but she wouldn't immediately identify the victim.
This would mark the most homicides in the city since 2003, yet homicides remain historically low compared with the last four decades.
For the first 11 months of 2008, slayings rose 16.4 percent over the same period in 2007. Yet last year's total of 443 was the lowest since 1965.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Disciples of Hatred,

In Their Own Words and Images


Nazi hunters have made an art of exposing war criminals through photographs taken in the death camp era. This strategy would have worked well against Southern lynch-mob killers who posed for the camera while murdering African-Americans in a campaign of terror that persisted into the mid-20th century.

Black American lives were viewed as expendable in the pre-civil rights South. The murderers who hanged, dismembered or burned black victims alive — before crowds of cheering onlookers — knew well that the law would not act against them. These savage rituals were meant to keep the black community on its knees.

The white men and women who flocked to these carnivals of death sometimes brought along young children, who were photographed no more than an arm’s length away from a mutilated corpse. These photos were often turned into grisly postcards that continued to circulate even after Congress made it illegal to mail them.

A particularly vivid lynching postcard depicts the charred and partially dismembered corpse of Jesse Washington, who was burned before a crowd of thousands in Waco, Tex., in 1916.

The card, which appears to have been written by a white spectator to his parents, is signed “your son Joe.” He refers to the horrific murder — in which the victim’s ears, fingers and sexual organs were severed — as the “barbecue we had last night.” He identifies himself in the crowd by placing a mark in ink about his head.

By permitting images like this one to move through the mail at all, the government tacitly endorsed lynching, along with the presumption that African-Americans were less than human. The mailings also aided a propaganda campaign that was intended to terrorize the black population in the nation as a whole, not just in the South.

Joe from Waco is no doubt long dead. But many of the people who attended lynchings as children in the 1930’s and 40’s must be still alive and walking the streets of the principal states of the lynching belt. They include Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas, all of which voted against the first black president.

The nearness of the past was fully evident not long ago in Atlanta, when the collectors James Allen and John Littlefield were trying to mount an exhibition of lynching images that had drawn a huge audience and international attention when shown at the New-York Historical Society’s “Without Sanctuary” exhibition of 2000.

Influential Atlantans equivocated. As a person familiar with the issue told me recently: “There were concerns that people in crowds were still alive. And of course, family members and relatives of those people might come in and have to say, ‘That’s my dad’ or ‘That’s my mom.’ ”

“Without Sanctuary” was shown in Atlanta in 2002 at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site and drew more than 175,000 people, three times as many as viewed it in New York. But the tension surrounding the exhibition made it seem unlikely that the images and the accompanying documents would find a permanent home in Georgia or any other lynching belt state.

So it came as a surprise earlier this year when the collection was acquired by Atlanta’s Center for Civil and Human Rights, an ambitious cultural and historical institution that has yet to break ground for its building and plans to open in 2011. The center aspires to emulate the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington in method, linking the civil rights movement to national and international issues of the day.

The notion of housing the lynching material in the same institution as, say, Martin Luther King’s sermons and speeches strikes some as jarring. But this is just as it should be. The civil rights movement can only be properly understood in the context of the reign of terror that gripped black Southerners.

The victims of those public hangings and burnings were sometimes accused of crimes. But they were often guilty of nothing more than seeking the right to vote, speaking truth to white power. Black business owners who challenged white supremacy in the marketplace were favorite targets.

The victims were sometimes killed after they had been marched through the black section of town — with a stop at the school for the colored — and fully exploited as a testament to black powerlessness. Lynching, in other words, was a method of social control.

When visitors to the Center for Civil and Human Rights confront these realities, they will know what the civil rights pioneers faced — and what they feared — when they took those first, perilous steps along the path to freedom.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Beware of Garbage Trucks

Rhonda Washington Campbell (aka Thomas Paul's momma)
"God may not always give us answers, but He always gives us grace."

Impact your life and your peace:

How often do you let other people's nonsense change your mood?
Do you let a bad driver, rude waiter, curt boss, or an insensitive employee ruin your day?

Unless you're the Terminator, for an instant you're probably set back on your heels.

However, the mark of a successful person is how quickly they can get back to focus on what's important.

Sixteen years ago, I learned this lesson. I learned it in the back of a New York City taxicab.

Here's what happened:

I hopped in a taxi, and we took off for Grand Central Station. We were driving in the right lane when, all of a sudden, a black car jumped out of a parking space right in front of us.
My taxi driver slammed on his brakes, skidded, and missed the other car's back end by just inches!

The driver of the other car, the guy who almost caused a big accident, whipped his head around and he started yelling bad words at us.

My taxi driver just smiled and waved at the guy. And I mean, he was friendly.
So, I said, "Why did you just do that? This guy almost ruined your car and sent us to the hospital!"
And this is when my taxi driver told me what I now call, "The Law of the Garbage Truck."

Many people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage, full of frustration,
full of anger, and full of disappointment. As their garbage piles up, they need a place to dump it.
And if you let them, they'll dump it on you. When someone wants to dump on you, don't take it personally.
You just smile, wave, wish them well, and move on. You'll be happy you did.

So this was it: The "Law of the Garbage Truck."
I started thinking, how often do I let Garbage Trucks run right over me?
And how often do I take their garbage and spread it to other people: at work, at home, on the streets?
It was that day I said, "I'm not going to do it anymore."

I began to see garbage trucks.
Like in the movie “The Sixth Sense," the little boy said, "I see Dead People."
Well, now "I see Garbage Trucks."
I see the load they're carrying.
I see them coming to drop it off.
And like my Taxi Driver, I don't make it a personal thing;
I just smile, wave, wish them well, and I move on.

One of my favorite football players of all time, Walter Payton, did this every day on the
football field.
He would jump up as quickly as he hit the ground after being tackled.
He never dwelled on a hit. Payton was ready to make the next play his best.
Good leaders know they have to be ready for their next meeting.
Good parents know that they have to welcome their children home from school with hugs and kisses.
Leaders and parents know that they have to be fully present, and at their best for the people they care about.

The bottom line is that successful people do not let Garbage Trucks take over their day.
What about you?

What would happen in your life, starting today, if you let more garbage trucks pass you by?

Here's my bet: You'll be happier.

Life is too short to wake up in the morning with regrets, so..
Love the people who treat you right.
Forget about the one s who don't.
Believe that everything happens for a reason.
If you get a chance , TAKE IT!
If it changes your life , LET IT!
Nobody said it would be easy...
They just promised it would be worth it! J
Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.
I don't worry about tomorrow, TODAY IS A BLESSING!
Time is a dressmaker, specializing in alterations.
Any place that anyone can learn something useful from someone with experience is an educational institution.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Senate to Middle Class: Drop Dead

From: "Michael Moore"
They could have given the loan on the condition that the automakers start building only cars and mass transit that reduce our dependency on oil.
They could have given the loan on the condition that the automakers build cars that reduce global warming.
They could have given the loan on the condition that the automakers withdraw their many lawsuits against state governments in their attempts to not comply with our environmental laws.
They could have given the loan on the condition that the management team which drove these once-great manufacturers into the ground resign and be replaced with a team who understands the transportation needs of the 21st century.
Yes, they could have given the loan for any of these reasons because, in the end, to lose our manufacturing infrastructure and throw 3 million people out of work would be a catastrophe.
But instead, the Senate said, we'll give you the loan only if the factory workers take a $20 an hour cut in wages, pension and health care. That's right. After giving BILLIONS to Wall Street hucksters and criminal investment bankers -- billions with no strings attached and, as we have since learned, no oversight whatsoever -- the Senate decided it is more important to break a union, more important to throw middle class wage earners into the ranks of the working poor than to prevent the total collapse of industrial America.
We have a little more than a month to go of this madness. As I sit here in Michigan today, tens of thousands of hard working, honest, decent Americans do not believe they can make it to January 20th. The malaise here is astounding. Why must they suffer because of the mistakes of every CEO from Roger Smith to Rick Wagoner? Make management and the boards of directors and the shareholders pay for this.
Of course that is heresy to the 31 Republicans who decided to blame the poor, miserable autoworkers for this mess. And our wonderful media complied with their spin on the morning news shows: "UAW Refuses to Give Concessions Killing Auto Bailout Bill." In fact the UAW has given concession after concession, reduced their benefits, agreed to get rid of the Jobs Bank and agreed to make it harder for their retirees to live from week to week. Yes! That's what we need to do! It's the Jobs Bank and the old people who have led the nation to economic ruin!
But even doing all that wasn't enough to satisfy the bastard Republicans. These Senate vampires wanted blood. Blue collar blood. You see, they weren't opposed to the bailout because they believed in the free market or capitalism. No, they were opposed to the bailout because they're opposed to workers making a decent wage. In their rage, they were driven to destroy the backbone of this country, not because the UAW hadn't given back enough, but because the UAW hadn't given up.
It appears that the sitting President has been looking for a way to end his reign by one magnanimous act, just like a warlord on his feast day. He will put his finger in the dyke, and the fragile mess of an auto industry will eke through the next few months.
That will give the Senate enough time to demand that the bankers and investment sharks who've already swiped nearly half of the $700 billion gift a chance to make the offer of cutting their pay.
Fat chance.
Michael Moore

Monday, December 8, 2008

Good Morning Dunbar Family and Friends: Let's help our school and the children to attend this historic event. I will pick up your donation if you desire or you can send it to the school: 3000 S King Drive, 60616. The faculty and administration and certainly the students appreciate your support.
Tommie L. Williams, Comptroller
Community Mental Health Council, Inc.
773-457-2078 cell

Hello Mr. Williams,

The Dunbar Vocational Mighty Marching Band will be going to the Inauguration in Washington DC. We are in need of donations to help defray costs for the students. Would you please assist us in getting the word out? Donations can be made payable to Dunbar Vocational Career Academy. Memo section should state: donation for band. We are leaving Sunday, January 18, 2009 and returning on Wednesday, January 21, 2009.

I am in the process of having new bleachers installed in the gym. When the project is complete, I am inviting all alumni to return for the ceremony. Details to follow.

Dr. Hall, Principal

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Hello everyone,

My sorority, Delta Sigma Theta, will be conducting a two part work shop to assist individual with,

Preparation of individuals in our community to pursue work;
Assistance in resume preparation;
Participation in interview workshops;
Communication of positive customer service skills.
If you know of anyone who could benefit from this workshop please forward this email on. If you can't think of anyone right of send it to all your friends and family as them may know of someone.

Lisa Adams

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

'Crash taxes' add hefty fees for aid

If this tax is ever proposed in Illinois or Chicago it should be opposed by every taxpayer in the state and city. What the hell do we pay taxes for in the first place!?!
Tommie L. Williams, Comptroller

It's bad enough to be in a car accident, but getting billed for the police and/or fire department response can make matters worse. And your insurance may not cover that.

Published Dec. 2, 2008

By Peter Lewis

Imagine you're cruising down the road when you hit a patch of black ice and slide into a guardrail. A passing motorist calls 911. Soon firetrucks and police arrive.

Weeks later, a $1,400 bill does, too -- for the cost of the police and firefighters who answered the call. What's worse, it's not covered by insurance, and it might scar your credit if you ignore it.

Sound implausible? It's happening in a number of towns, cities and counties in at least 24 states. And given today's cratering economy (and property-tax revenue), more strapped local governments may be tempted to authorize so-called accident response fees.

Private vendors that promote such programs show up at city council meetings and police and fire chief conventions with model ordinances and fee schedules in hand. The vendors typically take a 10% cut of what's recovered.

Though five states (Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Tennessee) have banned "crash taxes" outright, insurers, lawmakers and vendors are squaring off elsewhere, even setting up warring Web sites such as Municipal Fee Facts and Who's caught in the middle? Drivers like you.

That'll be $2,200
Two years ago, Luke Gutilla lost control of his motorcycle along a road in Richland Township in Cambria County, Pa. He suffered a leg injury and was taken by ambulance to get treatment, which his insurance covered.

Several months later, Gutilla received a bill for nearly $2,200 for the services of seven firefighters, an assistant chief, two fire vehicles, three police cruises and three officers. The bill also itemized things like "brooms and mops and things that were just kind of strange," he recounted recently.

Gutilla, 26, a cable-company technician in Johnstown, Pa., said he started receiving a string of demand letters from a third-party vendor. "I threw away the papers they sent me and just ignored them," he recalled.

He never paid the bill -- sent "inadvertently," according to the vendor -- and nothing showed up on his credit report.

Insurance trade groups estimate the typical bill for nonmedical accident response fees at between $100 and $300, although some run considerably higher. Ordinances establishing crash response fees typically distinguish between resident and nonresident, who's at fault and who has insurance. They usually go after the out-of-towners, especially if there's an interstate highway nearby that spurs the bulk of accident responses.

A sampling of fees from across Florida:

$28 an hour for a police officer.

$200 an hour for a fire chief.

$435 for a fire/rescue response to no-injury accident.

$1,000 for complex accident extrication.

Why doesn't insurance cover this?
Medical services, including ambulance transportation, have always been covered under medical payments, personal-injury protection and no-fault provisions, according to Jessica Hanson, a spokeswoman with Property Casualty Insurance Association of America.

But Joe Thesing, an industry lobbyist with the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, said the typical policy does not cover accident response fees because "it is our belief that local taxes pay for those."

It's up to each company to determine, based on policy language, whether to pay the fees. "But most instances that we learn of do not provide coverage," Hanson said.

The insurance industry contends that if accident response fees catch on, it will drive up everybody's rates. Without a consistent fee structure, it's impossible to estimate how much higher policies might run, according to Mary Bonelli, an Ohio Insurance Institute spokeswoman who has been tracking the issue for five years.

"You wouldn't get something for nothing," she said. Or, she said, a carrier might place a cap on such coverage, similar to the $500 allowed under homeowners policies for fire department runs.

Some examples
To get a broader sense of the kinds of accident response bills its customers have received, State Farm provided MSN Money with some edited summaries of incidents that took place in Ohio since 2004. The company said it never paid any of them, except for legitimate medical charges:

"$350 Billed -- This accident happened in front of a fire station. Our insured driver was at fault. He reports no fire vehicles left the station. He recalls five firefighters walked from the station to the accident scene. The fire department run sheet indicates they were on scene for 20 minutes, which calculates to $1,050 per hour."

"$593 Billed -- Our insured rolled into the rear of another car. There was no damage to either car. The fire department was at the scene for less than 15 minutes."

"$350 Billed -- This accident was at an intersection controlled by a traffic signal. Both drivers claimed to have a green light. There were no witnesses. The police investigation could not determine fault. The municipality decided to bill the insured driver $350 for scene response."

"$600 Billed -- The fire department billed $300 per person to take the vital signs of the driver and passenger. Neither was transported. They were not injured and didn't have any medical treatment after the accident. The fire department reduced the bill to $100 per person. The bills were paid under the medical payments coverage."

The case for fees
Fire Chief Chad Croft in Live Oak, Fla., says his small department would continue to exist without the $2,000 to $3,000 a month it gets from accident response fees but that its service would be diminished.

The additional revenue has made it possible to afford a new $600,000 ladder truck and saved local residents from tax increases. The new truck has also improved the community's overall insurance rating, reducing commercial and residential premiums, Croft said.

He said his department has done business with Cost Recovery, an Ohio company that collects fees on behalf of municipalities, for about two years. Croft said the money "has helped us keep the standard of care that we need." He said the additional money amounts to "10% to 15% of our budget on the operations side."

A lot of tourists pass through the area en route to Disney World or Florida's beaches, and the chief estimates that 75% of the calls his 25-man department (including 10 volunteers) responds to each year are vehicle accidents on interstates.

No charges are assessed unless blame can be attributed to a particular driver, and the department seeks to collect only from at-fault motorists who don't live in the county, he said. Among motorists fitting those criteria, the department collects 30% to 40% of the time, he said.

The outlook
Cost Recovery President Regina Moore said she collects on behalf of "hundreds" of local governments across the country and said her business is "growing exponentially."

Her largest customer is Toledo, Ohio, with a population of more than 300,000. Recently, her company has been picking up smaller cities in rural parts of Florida, and it just entered Kansas, she said.

Even the insurance industry sees more growth ahead.

"There's going to be more and more pressure on cities as their budgets are tightened or cut and on fire and police departments who obviously never have enough money to run their departments," predicted Mark Lane, a lawyer and lobbyist for State Farm who opposes accident response fees. "If they can do it and earn a little extra, more are more likely to try it."

But political pressure can be just as powerful. Dozens of cities have begun the process, only to back away or later repeal.

Do you really have to pay?
How many customers or carriers actually honor these bills is unclear. Moore asserted that more than half the insurance companies she bills -- 56% -- pay up.

By contrast, a survey conducted by the Ohio Insurance Institute indicated that more than 82% of carriers reject bills for uncovered accident response services.

Bob Brown said most folks have paid when, as fire chief in the Denver suburb of Castle Rock, he established such a program. "We might have gotten $25,000 a year" for services such as mopping up hazardous materials and putting out vehicle fires on a nearby interstate, he said.

Castle Rock handled the billing internally and charged only those who weren't local, he said. And even then, it didn't bother billing if it was "only a fender bender and we didn't do anything," he added.

The majority of ordinances aim to collect only from insurance companies, but that doesn't mean you won't receive a bill. In fact, Moore's position is that while payment from carriers is "voluntary," individuals are ultimately responsible because they benefited directly. Even so, she said "less than 5%" of bills get referred to collection agencies when individuals refuse to pay.

If you get billed for accident response, you should:

Contact your insurer and forward the bill.

Get a copy of a police report detailing what medical assistance, if any, was required.

Check into any criminal liability. In at least one municipality -- Lauderdale Lakes, Fla. -- nonpayment is a misdemeanor.

Consider contacting the consumer-protection division of your state attorney general's office if you and your insurance carrier determine the bill is not warranted.

Consider disputing the charge with credit reporting agencies if the bill is sent to a collection agency.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Anonymous Responds..."Black Men Missing"

Being a black male I have but one question to ask: what part do African American women play in these numbers, because when I was in high school the girls were more likely to go with the "THUG" than the would a brother that was cool, fun, and was an all around good guy.

The burden of proof is on both men and women. Let us not focus on blame or difficult or disagreeable obligation; the task at hand, is to begin focusing on that disconnect. When, Where, and How did this disconnect occur, and how can we begin to rebuild and correct our wrongs. Let us just agree that we have failed our black men and we (male and Female) must initiate correcting our wrongs.Cheech Ref: Feb 08'Black Men Missing on this blog page

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