Low-wage federal workers still want their shutdown pay, please

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The government shutdown ended almost two months ago. Its financial toll on contractors lingers like a bad hangover.

It will take Lila Johnson months to rebound from the financial hit she endured earlier this year, going for weeks without pay during the federal government shutdown.

A contracted custodian who has worked for the past 21 years at the Department of Agriculture, Johnson still has not been reimbursed for her lost income, and her rage at President Donald Trump — who forced the shutdown in a bit to procure funding for his border wall — continues to grow. “It was just ridiculous for him to act the way he did as a leader,” Johnson told ThinkProgress.

“He punished the people, held us hostage because of something that he promised his voters. He promised his voters that he was going to build the wall. He’s the one who promised Mexico was going to pay for the wall,” she said.

“And when he couldn’t get his way, he was like, ‘I’m going to shut everything down.’ And that is not leadership of running the United States.”

A great-grandmother in her seventies, Johnson cleans bathrooms four hours per night, five days a week. Two months ago, for 35 days — the longest U.S. government shutdown in history — she went without pay.

The hit on her income has left Johnson in a financially precarious position, scraping, scrimping, struggling more than ever to get by. She is holding out now for her tax refund. “Maybe that will pull me up more than I am now,” she said.

While 800,000 federal workers were either furloughed or forced to work without pay, Trump held a nation captive over his border wall, the construction plans for which read like scribbles from his dream journal: it is to be a “powerful wall,” perhaps a “steel barrier,” or maybe, actually, a “smart wall” utilizing drones and sensors.

Needless to say, the wall has not arrived, in any form. Nor, for federal contractors like Johnson, has back pay. Although federal employees were eligible for and ultimately received back pay, the federal contractors who were also affected by the shutdown have not. (Since they are privately hired, estimates about just how many federal contractors there are range pretty widely, with some estimates putting the number nationwide at more than a million.)

The government pays third-party companies for contractor work, which means contractors don’t get paid unless their services are actually used.

Last month, Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN) introduced a bill to ensure back pay for federal contract workers: the Fair Compensation for Low-Wage Contractor Employees Act, which “aims to help low-wage federal contractor employees—including janitorial, food, and security services workers—who were furloughed or forced to accept reduced work hours as a result of the recent government shutdown.”

Since it was engineered for low-wage workers, the bill had its limits: payments would be capped at $965 per worker per week. But Trump refused to sign a spending package that included back pay for contractors.

“It’s not fair for the American people to live the way they’re living because [Trump] is selfish,” Johnson said. “He only thinks about what he wants. That’s the mind of a child, to me. That’s not leadership.”

“There is an important piece of unfinished business from the past government shutdown that we still need to resolve: providing back pay for the employees of federal contractors who lost over one month’s pay,” Smith said in a statement to ThinkProgress.

“These thousands of Americans work shoulder to shoulder with federal employees for all of us — many as security guards, cafeteria workers, and people who clean office buildings—and they must be made whole. Several of my Republican colleagues and the entire Democratic caucus supports this effort, so we should be able to find a solution.”

During the shutdown, stories about these contractors — who overwhelmingly are immigrants and people of color —  made headlines. There was a Smithsonian museum security guard whose car was repossessed, another who rationed her children’s asthma medicine, still others applying for food stamps and fearing eviction. The shutdown’s financial toll on contractors lingers like a hangover the country can’t shake.

In a statement, Jaime Contreras, a vice president at 32BJ SEIU, the guild which represents over 600 federally-contracted workers, said the union “will not rest until federal agencies pay the men and women who clean and secure federal buildings the back pay they deserve and need for bills they still can’t afford to pay.”

These workers “live paycheck to paycheck and faced eviction, power shut off and hunger among many hardships during the Trump shutdown,” Contreras said [. . .]

via Low-wage federal workers still want their shutdown pay, please – Mar 20, 2019, 2:12 pm — Just Sayin’

Recycle Crisis Sweeps Across America After China Halts Plastic Waste Imports, by Tyler Durden

In the book The Zero Waste Solution, Paul Connett writes that recycling was a scam dreamed up by soft drink bottling companies to head off mandatory deposit/return schemes. See https://stuartbramhall.wordpress.com/2014/03/22/zero-waste-were-closer-than-you-think/

STRAIGHT LINE LOGIC

The economics of recycling don’t work out if nobody wants your recyclables. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:

The green movement of the 1970s formed the modern American recycling industry, although there is some concern today that it could be collapsing in many parts of the country, The New York Times warned.

“The sooner we accept the economic impracticality of recycling, the sooner we can make serious progress on addressing the plastic pollution problem,” said Jan Dell, an engineer who leads Last Beach Cleanup.

The report cited Philadelphia, Memphis, and Sunrise and Deltona, Florida, as metropolitan areas where the economics of recycling are not feasible anymore.

“We are in a crisis moment in the recycling movement right now,” California state treasurer Fiona Ma told the Times.

The major dilemma, per the Times, is China’s ban on imported plastic waste.

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Who Killed Janis Joplin?

Janis Joplin: Little Girl Blue

Directed by Amy Berg (2015)

Film Review

This documentary is a mushy, pop psychology version of the life of late blues singer Janis Joplin. It makes an unsuccessful (in my view) attempt to tie her alcohol, amphetamine and heroin abuse (and ultimate heroin overdose) to her troubled adolescence in conservative Arthur Texas. The film is based on interviews with her sister Laura, friends and band mates; letters to her family and vintage footage from her concerts and recording sessions.

Berg paints Joplin as a somewhat geeky outcast who participated in civil rights protests during her last three years of high school – leading to bullying and harassment by fellow students, many of whom belonged to the Ku Klux Klan. The filmmaker makes the case that her unhappy adolescence left a gaping hole in Joplin’s psyche that could only be filled by alcohol, drugs and promiscuous sex.

The film acknowledges that Joplin had been clean for nearly a year at the time of her  heroin overdose. It was during this period she recorded her biggest hit, Me and Bobby McGee, which signaled a totally new direction for her work.

What the film doesn’t mention is that several people close to Joplin (including her sister) suspected foul play in her alleged overdose, especially given the deaths of many of her contemporaries (activist rock stars) in similar circumstances. A book her sister Laura published in 2005 (Love, Janis IT Books), refers to persistent rumors  the CIA arranged her death.

The film also fails to mention that shortly before her death Joplin helped organize several huge anti-Vietnam War concerts for the peace movement. Or the FBI surveillance she experienced (like John Lennon). Or her 1974 affair with FBI operative Michel Raymond, who introduced her to amphetamines and encouraged her to use them regularly, leading to her amphetamine addiction. Or that members of the Grateful Dead introduced her to heroin to help her come down from speed. The Grateful Dead introduced many California rock musicians to heroin (as documented in a 1971 book, Living with the Dead, by their first manager Rock Scully).

As John Potash documents extensively in Drugs as Weapons Against Us (see MK-Ultra, LSD and the CIA War Against Musicians and Activists ), CIA MK-Ultra agents were aggressively pushing speed, heroin and LSD in the San Francisco rock scene in the sixties and early seventies.

The film can’t be embedded for copyright reasons but can be viewed free at the Maori TV website for the next 10 days: Janis Joplin: Little Girl Blue

Surveillance Capitalism: Threat to Democracy? — WhoWhatWhy

Surveillance capitalists run massive amounts of behavioral data through complex mathematical models. Using multiple sources of data on each individual, algorithms create detailed personality profiles that can reliably predict specific responses, such as voting patterns, based on given stimuli, such as targeted ads and fake news items.

Aisle C

ARTHUR O’CONNOR

The rule of Big Brother has begun, and we are all enabling this new authoritative regime, critics charge.

We are empowering “surveillance capitalists” by revealing our every thought, word, and deed through our networked devices — our cars, cell phones, laptops, notepads, sensors, and voice-activated speakers (which do as much listening as speaking) such as Google’s Alexa and Amazon’s Echo.

So say certain politicians including Canadian Member of Parliament Charlie Angus and academics such as Harvard Business School professor Shoshana Zuboff. They foresee a new type of business model, referred to as surveillance capitalism. They claim it is currently practiced by tech giants Amazon, Google, and Facebook, and that it is threatening the social compact that underlies democratic capitalism.

But their concerns go far beyond data privacy and identity theft.

Mass Manipulation

In this brave new world, where the Internet of Everything enables the capture of…

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Ending climate change requires the end of capitalism. Have we got the stomach for it?

We will simply have to throw the kitchen sink at this. Policy tweaks such as a carbon tax won’t do it. We need to fundamentally re-evaluate our relationship to ownership, work and capital.

The Extinction Chronicles

Policy tweaks won’t do it, we need to throw the kitchen sink at this with a total rethink of our relationship to ownership, work and capital
Firefighters tackle a bush fire in Sydney.
 ‘The need to keep the wheels of capitalism well-oiled takes precedence even against a backdrop of fires, floods and hurricanes.’ Photograph: Fire & Rescue NSW/AFP/Getty Images

Climate change activism is increasingly the domain of the young, such as 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, the unlikely face of the school strike for climate movement, which has seen many thousands of children walk out of school to demand that their parents’ generation takes responsibility for leaving them a planet to live on. In comparison, the existing political establishment looks more and more like an impediment to change. The consequences of global warming have moved from the merely theoretical and predicted to observable reality over the past few years, but…

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Misguided Spying and the New Zealand Massacre

By Suzie Dawson

Guest blog at The Daily Blog

Now that the bodies of 50 innocent human beings are lying in a Christchurch, New Zealand, morgue — gunned down by a heavily armed terrorist — New Zealand media are asking the obvious questions: why didn’t our intelligence agencies know there were xenophobic, murderous, white supremacists on the loose in Christchurch?

“Questions are being asked of the nation’s security services in the wake of a mass shooting described as ‘one of New Zealand’s darkest days,” Stuff.co.nz reports and quotes a University of Waikato professor of international law, Alexander Gillespie, as saying: ‘If it’s a cell we need to ask why weren’t they detected, because that’s why we have security services and it may be that those services have been looking under the wrong rocks.’ ”

According to the same article, in response to the terrorist attack, “A crisis meeting of national security agencies was held at Police National Headquarters in Wellington after the shooting.“

In the NZ Herald, veteran intelligence reporter David Fisher asked many pertinent questions in an opinion piece titled “Christchurch massacre – what did we miss and who missed it?”
“We need answers,” says Fisher. “The NZSIS [New Zealand’s equivalent of the FBI] – and its electronic counterpart, the Government Communications Security Bureau – have more funding than ever, and almost double the staff numbers they had six years ago. They also now have the most powerful legislation they have ever had.”

We know thanks to the findings of an inquiry by the State Services Commission last December that as many as a dozen government agencies, including the NZ Police, were too busy squandering their resources spying on NGOs such as Greenpeace NZ; political parties such as the New Zealand Green Party and then-Internet Party aligned Mana Movement, as well as on anti-TPP protesters and activists such as myself.

As if that weren’t egregious enough, they were even spying on Christchurch earthquake insurance claimants and historical victims of institutional state child abuse [. . .]

Read more at Guest Blob Suzie Dawson

 

UN Works with Intelligence Contractors to Destabilize North Korea Dialogue

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By William CRADDICK | Disobedient Media | March 15, 2019

Just a few days after NBC News and National Public Radio (NPR) launched propaganda attempts to undermine the peace process between the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), the United Nations has waded into the fray with a new attempt to build a case for retaining sanctions that have proven to be a sticking point between the negotiation teams.

Much like previous reports, the United Nation’s Panel of Experts (PoE) on North Korea utilized misleadingly interpreted satellite footage provided by private firms who have contractual connections to the CIA and Pentagon. The panel’s findings will ultimately be used to support policies that are aimed at playing on North Korean fears and make them more likely to withdraw or engage in counterproductive behavior.

I. Continued Misleading Interpretation Of Satellite Footage

The PoE’s claimed that the DPRK has been using an “underwater pipeline” at an oil terminal in Nampo, North Korea to offload fuel it receives by sanctioned methods. Much like with previous attempts to “prove” North Korean behavior with satellite imagery that did not actually show evidence of claimed activity the UN’s contentions are similarly based on shaky grounds.

Image: UN Panel of Experts

A second photo run by NKNews.org from private defense contractor Planet Labs purports to also show the “underwater pipeline.” NK News claimed that the underwater pipeline had been used since 2018 solely based on the fact that ships moved in and out of the area, which is obviously designated for mooring.

Vessel docked in the area connected by an alleged “underwater pipeline.” Image: Planet Labs

There are a number of problems with both the photos provided by the Panel of Experts and the Planet Labs image published by NK News. These issues are outlined below.

  • None of the images shows where the “underwater pipeline” comes ashore. It is not visible under the water’s surface, even where the shoreline is shallow.
  • None of the cables connecting to the ship are pipelines. They are cabling used to moor the ship in place.
  • All of the buoys are in place to mark either mooring cables or the ship’s anchor which would have been dropped alongside it once it came to a stop. The UN PoE labeled the anchor buoy as an “offloading buoy” misleadingly in one of their images.
  • An “underwater pipeline” creates a huge risk for salt water contamination of gasoline being pumped through it. This is why all such transfers are done above the surface of the water.

Additional markings on the UN PoE’s images discuss the storage capacity and location of the oil terminal in Nampo but provide no evidence of an “underwater pipeline.” Even more damning, the image provided to NK News by Planet Labs shows a very clear shadow running down its center. This indicates that either two photographs were laid on top of each other and copied, or the original image was creased to hide some detail that would have otherwise been visible.

The use of an underwater pipeline is not the standard method by which ships refuel. Previous reports discussing sanctions evasion display photographs showing how ships will commonly lash together before exchanging gasoline above the water line. When ships to take on fuel from land, they will pull up along a dock. These kinds of details might be obvious to anyone with a degree of maritime knowledge but not a layman.

Image showing customary method by which ships dock to take on fuel.

II. Satellite Footage Of Nampo Docks Is Sourced From Intelligence Contractors

Much like with previous attempts to undermine the Korean peace process, the UN PoE has sourced their imagery from private contractors who primarily work with the CIA and Pentagon. The PoE’s satellite footage is attributed to DigitalGlobe. As Disobedient Media has previously reported, DigitalGlobe is an American vendor of satellite imagery founded by a scientist who worked on the US military’s Star Wars ICBM defense program under President Ronald Reagan. DigitalGlobe began its existence in Oakland, CA and was seeded with money from Silicon Valley sources and corporations in North America, Europe and Japan. Headquartered in Westminster CO, DigitalGlobe works extensively with defense and intelligence programs. In 2016, it was revealed that DigitalGlobe was working with CIA chipmaker NVIDIA and Amazon Web Services to create an AI-run satellite surveillance network known as Spacenet.

DigitalGlobe is a subsidiary of Maxar Technologies, a private conglomerate which boasts contracts with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). Some subsidiaries of Maxar derive as much as 90% of their annual revenue from government contracts with the Department of Defense and U.S. Special Operations Command.

Planet Labs, whose imagery was cited in NK News reports of the UN PoE’s findings, is a private satellite imaging corporation based in San Francisco, CA that allows customers with the money to pay an opportunity to gain access to next generation surveillance capabilities. In February 2016, Federal technology news source Nextgov noted a statement from former CIA Information Operations Center director and senior cyber adviser Sue Gordon that Planet Labs, DigitalGlobe and Google subsidiary Skybox Imaging were all working with the NGA to provide location intelligence. Planet Labs’ own website also lists press releases detailing past contracts for subscription access to high resolution imagery with the NGA.

The pervasive involvement of companies providing satellite footage with the CIA in particular is deeply inappropriate. On March 13, 2019 Spanish paper El País reported that the CIA had been implicated in a shockingly violent attack on the North Korean embassy in Spain during the week before the Hanoi Summit. The attack was speculated to be an attempt to gain intelligence on former ambassador to Spain Kim Hyok Chol, who had been appointed by Kim Jong Un to spearhead negotiation efforts with their American counterparts. The involvement of such contractors in a UN panel responsible for overseeing sanctions put into place against North Korea suggests the very real possibility that the entire process is designed to undermine any hope of a denuclearization agreement.

III. The UN PoE Touts Sanctions At A Highly Inappropriate Time

The UN’s decision to continue to tout sanctions in the aftermath of the Hanoi Summit can only be interpreted as an attempt by internationalists and American neoconservatives to scuttle President Donald Trump’s attempts to seek denuclearization for the DPRK. Hugh Griffiths, a British national heading the Panel of Experts, was widely quoted by the media as being of the opinion that Chairman Kim Jong Un had only come to Hanoi to try and relieve the pressure of created by sanctions. It apparently did not bother the international and American press that Mr. Griffiths’ mandate does not include giving his opinion about unrelated peace talks.

Griffiths finds himself in agreement with a number of GOP neoconservative hardliners such as former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley who stress the importance of sanctions with the ostensible goal of cutting off revenue to the DPRK. Some such as John Bolton have openly called for an increase in sanctions in clear opposition to President Trump’s clearly stated desire to seek further dialogue. North Korea has explicitly mentioned the actions and comments of Bolton as endangering the health of negotiations while continuing to maintain that personal relations between Mr. Kim and Mr. Trump were “still good and the chemistry is mysteriously wonderful.”

While the stated objective of sanctions is to deprive North Korea of revenue that can be used to finance purchases related to its nuclear program, it is undeniable that they contribute majorly to economic hardship and starvation for the civilian population of the DPRK. In 2018, UNICEF noted that sanctions create severe issues with the delivery of humanitarian aid and put the lives of tens of thousands of children in danger alone. While North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons was certainly what landed them in the situation they currently find themselves in, it is the callous disregard of human welfare by the United Nations, internationalist and certain American interests which causes an increase in such needless suffering.

Considering that nations such as Japan have recently moved to suspend efforts to condemn and punish the DPRK for their rights abuses in light of progress made during the negotiation process, the UN’s move to shift the spotlight back onto sanctions is incredibly poorly-timed. The same can be said for US agencies such as the Department of State who have interfered with talks by openly welcoming the Panel of Expert’s report.

IV. Media And The UN Ignore Actual Evidence Of Sanctions Evasion

Despite all the efforts of international media, the UN and other factions to foment conflict between the DPRK and United States they been curiously unable to identify real evidence of parties who are trying to smuggle goods in and out of North Korea to dodge sanctions.

Footpaths being used to move goods to and from China along the border near Kusong-Dong, North Korea. Credit: DigitalGlobe, detail added by Disobedient Media

With a search of just a few minutes on Google Earth along the Chinese-North Korean border, Disobedient Media was able to identify pathways being used by smugglers to move goods in avoidance of sanctions near Kusong-Dong, North Korea. The ease with which this verifiable information could be found shows just how inept and uninterested monitoring bodies and international media organizations are in finding actual evidence of any potential sanctions violations. The failure of these institutions suggests that their efforts are made solely with propaganda in mind.

The current drive to highlight supposed bad faith behaviors by the DPRK has absolutely nothing to do with promoting peace or encouraging North Korea to abandon their nuclear arsenal which is as dangerous to them as it is any of their enemies. The increase with which such disingenuous reports have been promulgated since the Hanoi Summit shows the increasing desperation with which certain factions are seeking to maintain hostilities which create a benefit for some but which are ultimately dangerous to the entire world. It seems that there is no low to which such parties will not stoop in order to prevent peace from being realized.

Perhaps the United Nations should spend more time focusing on preventing their officials and peacekeepers from committing a plethora of sex crimes while on the job.

via UN Works with Intelligence Contractors to Destabilize North Korea Dialogue