I was driving south on I-25 through Denver during the morning rush hour. It had been raining on and off, so sections of the highway were completely wet, though traffic was moving almost as fast as it ever does. I was in the #2 lane, assuming the fast lane is #1. I saw a blue Subaru coming up fast, but instead of traveling in either #1 or #2, it was traveling directly over the lane marking between them. I quickly changed lanes into #3 and watched the car just in case I needed to move over into yet another lane. As it passed, still straddling the two lanes, though it had moved a little more into #1, I saw that the driver was a woman in her early 20s. She was holding a smartphone over the center of the steering wheel, with her eyes glued to its display.
* * * * * * * * * *
The day before had seen some snow. By this time, snowplows had done as much as they could on I-25, though there were still some snowy patches where the sun was blocked by the median fence. I was traveling in lane #2, keeping about five car lengths behind the car in front of me. Traffic started to speed up a little, but something told me that I should not follow the herd. Perhaps I was remembering past snow days. I maintained my speed, with the increased herd speed resulting in the distance between me and the car in front doubling. The car traveling behind me did exactly the same thing, maintaining the previous speed, with his car being five or more car lengths behind me.
All of a sudden I saw brake lights flash red on the ten or so cars in front of me. Then I saw the pavement disappear and a snowy patch take its place. Those cars slowed abruptly, meaning that many of them were being involved in accidents. I hit the brakes, but the extra distance I had left enabled me to stop a few car lengths behind the car in front of me. The guy behind me did the same thing. After I came to a complete stop, I looked around and waited patiently for a chance to change lanes. The guy behind me must have thinking exactly the same thing, as he and I changed lanes at the same time and left the pileup behind. After I changed lanes, I glanced in the rear view mirror and saw a number of people emerging from their cars both behind and in front of where I had been. The two of us had been an island of calm in a sea of twisted metal.
Those who believe that self-driving cars will always be able to safely draft each other like stock cars are just fooling themselves.
* * * * * * * * * *
Millennials are officially the worst driving generation, with 59.3% of them texting while driving, compared with 31.4% of other drivers. 12% of them said it was acceptable to speed 10 mph over the speed limit in a school zone, compared with 5% of other drivers.
I know some people who work in auto dealerships. They told me that in years past, the summer was a slow time for body shops, as there were no accidents due to snow, though there were sometimes many cars damaged because of hail. But now summers are just about as busy as winters.
There were around 6,000 pedestrian deaths in 2016, the highest number in more than 20 years. Over the past two years, there has been a 14% increase in traffic fatalities, the largest in more than a half a century.
Millennials have no idea what cars were like 50 years ago, but here's a few clues. Cars had basic seat belts, with few having shoulder belts. Airbags were barely on the drawing board, as they were introduced in the 1970s, becoming widespread in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Dashboards were made of metal and often had protruding edges for people to hit when flying forward during an accident. Steering columns often impaled drivers. Many people did not even wear seat belts, insanely believing that it would be better to be "thrown clear," with that usually resulting in one's head breaking the windshield, with either the head being split open like a ripe melon thrown against a brick wall or the person being decapitated after the head broke through the glass and the body settled back.
Cars get safer every year, so the only reason for the fatality increase is cellphone use, especially texting while driving.
Donald Trump promised that he would eliminate H-1B visa abuse on his first day in office, though that never happened, with him being a major user of business users. He ordered that no quarter be given to illegal immigrants from Mexico and further south, deporting even those who have made a substantial contribution to this country.
Yet he, like his predecessor, has a soft spot for immigration fraud committed via EB-5 visas, used for immigrant investors, with green cards (permanent residence) being the carrot. They are given to those who promise to hire at least ten employees, but they do not have to be Americans: "A qualifying employee is a U.S. citizen, lawful permanent resident or other immigrant authorized to work in the United States including, but not limited to, a conditional resident, a temporary resident, an asylee, a refugee, or a person residing in the United States under suspension of deportation."
There is no minimum salary, so the required ten employees can be paid minimum wage, with them only required to work at least 35 hours per week, i.e. benefits are optional.
Required minimum investments are $1 million with no restriction or $500,000 "within a high-unemployment area or rural area in the United States."
A green card is a "permanent resident card" and is the usual step before citizenship. Naturalization can occur if one has "been a permanent resident for at least 5 years and meet all other eligibility requirements" or has "been a permanent resident for 3 years or more and meet all eligibility requirements to file as a spouse of a U.S. citizen."
According to Iowa Senator Charles Grassley: "Jobs created are not 'direct' and verifiable jobs. They instead are 'indirect' and based on vague estimates and economic modeling ... Investment funds are not adequately vetted, and there are no prohibitions against foreign governments owning or operating regional centers ... background checks aren't required for anyone associated with a regional center ... the minimum investment level hasn’t been raised in 25 years."
Senator Grassley and Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy wrote a letter to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a major cheerleader for EB-5 visas and outsourcing in general, and the Real Estate Roundtable, a major cheerleader for and user of EB-5 visas, informing them that the two Senators are well aware of their backroom deal which was "aimed at pre-empting the new rules."
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is "limited in its ability to prevent fraud or national security threats that could harm the U.S." due to the abuse of EB-5 visas because its hands have been tied by Congress and lobbyists thereof.
Jared Kushner, top White House adviser and husband of Ivanka Trump, is waist-deep in Trump's swamp, having facilitated the issuance of EB-5 visas to Chinese businessmen -- in FY2015, 93% of EB-5 visas were given to investors from Asia, with 84% given to ones from China -- who invested in Kushner Companies' real estate ventures, assisted by his sister, Nicole Kushner Meyer. One previous property was Trump Bay Street, a 50-story luxury apartment building in New Jersey.
Kushner sold his stake in One Journal Square project, which is less than three miles from Manhattan, though he and his wife still benefit from other projects. His sister is intentionally conflating the many Kushner Companies projects to fool investors. Brochure and posters for One Journal Square read, "Invest $500,000 and immigrate to the United States" and "Supported by the government, created by a star developer," and touted EB-5 immigration as "peace of mind."
"Nicole Meyer, when she stood in that room, made sure that people knew that she was part of this Kushner family, that her brother was in the administration," said Javier Hernandez, the New York Times' China correspondent. Hernandez and other reporters were ejected from the event.
The event's organizer, immigration agency Qiaowei, also known as QWOS, made note of Meyer's relationship to Trump and called her the event's "heavyweight honored guest."
Senator Grassley noted that during Obama's two terms in office, "there [was] a remarkable increase in the amount of foreigners using this visa program." Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and Hillary Clinton's brother, Tony Rodham, also benefitted from EB-5 visas.
Senator Grassley and California Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced legislation to kill the EB-5 visa, with the latter calling it "inherently flawed" though Congress renewed it through Sept. 30.
"It says that U.S. citizenship is for sale. It is wrong to have a special pathway to citizenship for the wealthy while millions wait in line for visas. I agree that the time has come to end EB-5," said Senator Feinstein.
This is what we saw with Hillary Clinton, selling favors to foreigners via the Clinton Foundation. Trump needs to make good on his promise to clean-up the swamp, starting with his own family.
While working for a telecommunications company, I met an Indian women who was out of her element. She was in a software group but did not understand the language used. I had an older copy of a reference book for the language and lent it to her.
She told me some stories that at first I did not believe. She told me that she had worked until midnight the previous day. And the previous week, she worked until 2 am. I thought this was insane, given how productivity drops after too many hours are worked. We were not paid for overtime, so she was not motivated by money.
Our manager told us that one of the direct reports for her boss, an Indian man, was his wife, in clear violation of company policy. She told us that all of his direct reports, except for his wife, told him that the arrangement was a really bad idea. But nothing changed.
More and more Indian workers appeared in the company, though I did not appreciate at the time that all of them were being brought in under H-1B visas which did not allow them to switch employers. All of them were in the office when I arrived in the morning and still there when I left at the end of the day. I started looking for another job.
She never did return the book.
* * * * * * * * * *
"Why can't Wisconsin manufacturers, why can't small businesses, find enough people to work?" Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson rhetorically asked during a speech in a Senate hearing room. He is a member of the Tea Party Caucus, along with Marco Rubio.
Johnson touted his State Sponsored Visa Pilot Program Act of 2017, S.1040, as being able to solve the problem, with Colorado Congressman Ken Buck being a fellow traveler. Their dog and pony show was held in conjunction with the Cato Institute, the temple of social Darwinism. The bill would give each state 5000 new visas, plus a population-based share of another 245,000 visas, as well as being able to share visas not used by other states.
Funny how American workers at Disney, Southern California Edison, the University of California, Northeast Utilities, and many other companies were replaced by Indian workers -- after training their replacements. This did not happen because Wisconsin or any other state's firms were unable to find suitable workers. It happened because those firms were allowed to import de facto indentured servants via H-1B visas.
Johnson raved about a "new plague [of opioid addiction] in our country," blaming it for a lack of qualified workers, with Medicaid giving out free opioids like candy on Halloween. It is true that drug overdose deaths are the leading cause of injury death in the United States, but that's a predictable consequence of the outsourcing relished by many of the elites, with suicide rates for Native Americans and middle-aged whites going through the roof.
Johnson and Buck are simply calling for more corporate welfare.
And the latest spending bill includes an increase in H-2B visas of almost 79,000, with these visas being used for blue-collar workers for seasonal jobs.
"But this is what it does: it takes jobs away from American workers and abuses the immigrants that come into this country ... In the past 10 years, the Department of Labor has found 800 employers, 800, who have abused 23,000 guest workers ... It is a new-fangled form of indentured servitude," wrote Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, who is not voting for the bill.
Not surprisingly, the Washington Post is in favor of the H-2B increase, with its owner, Jeff Bezos, having outsourced Amazon's customer service to India: "The country's $25 billion dollar horse racing industry relies on a majority Hispanic immigrant workforce ... The policies could have a significant impact on the racing industry, and many employed in it. Without enough visas, horse trainers would face a labor shortage."
Why should the horse racing industry receive federal subsidies so it can avoid hiring Americans?
If we prevented corporations from importing cheap labor, they'd be forced to hire Americans. Sure, prices for those products would increase, but those workers would then have money to spend. Consider it trickle-up economics.
Instead of Johnson and Buck's gift to multinational corporations, we should pass Iowa Senator Charles Grassley's H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2017, S.180, including these common sense remedies:
- The bill requires completion of a U.S. degree (or an equivalent foreign degree) as a qualification for "specialty occupation" eligibility, eliminating experience in a specialty as an equivalent to the completion of such a degree.
- The Department of Labor may issue subpoenas and seek appropriate injunctive relief and specific performance of contractual obligations to ensure H-1B employer compliance.
- The period of authorized admission for an H-1B nonimmigrant is reduced from six to three years, with a three-year extension available for aliens with extraordinary ability or with advanced degrees or professors.
- Labor may investigate applications for fraud and conduct H-1B compliance audits.
- The bill increases certain employer penalties, including the penalty for displacing a U.S. worker.
- An employer that violates any H-1B requirement shall be liable to the harmed employee for lost wages and benefits.
- No employer may replace a U.S. worker with an L-1 worker.
Because the bronze plaque in the Statue of Liberty does not read:
"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
They will be indentured servants and visa whores,
So CEOs and politicians can live on street easy."
Former Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz breathlessly declared: "I look more at the public record of someone like Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. And their public record is pristine. They both fought back against the big banks and their practices and I have every confidence in the service they both provided."
On the contrary, there is no evidence whatsoever that Barack Obama fought against Wall Street and the banking sector.
Obama said shortly after he took office at a meeting with the heads of Wall Street: "My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks."
The problem is that pitchforks were far too tame. Tarring and feathering, followed by setting them alight, was more of what we had in mind.
Late in 2011, Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes told Obama that "there’s not been any prosecutions, criminal prosecutions, of people on Wall Street." But as David Cay Johnston noted, Kroft failed to ask Obama the obvious follow-up question, "And why not?"
In September 2013, Bill Moyers asked Bill Black, a hero to those of us who are tired of the lives of the rich and famous, not to mention corrupt, Wall Streeters, why there was no concerted effort to prosecute the people responsible for the 2008 Wall Street crash:
"The savings and loan debacle [of the 1980s] was one-seventieth the size of the current crisis, both in terms of losses and the amount of fraud. In that crisis, the savings and loan regulators made over 30,000 criminal referrals, and this produced over 1,000 felony convictions in cases designated as 'major' by the Department of Justice. But even that understates the degree of prioritization, because we, the regulators, worked very closely with the FBI and the Justice Department to create a list of the top 100 — the 100 worst fraud schemes. They involved roughly 300 savings and loans and 600 individuals, and virtually all of those people were prosecuted. We had a 90 percent conviction rate, which is the greatest success against elite white-collar crime (in terms of prosecution) in history."
Johnston asked Black if anyone from the Obama administration contacted him, with the predictable answer being, "No."
Instead Obama hired three Clinton stooges, Timothy Geithner, Larry Summers, and Eric Holder.
Johnson noted that Geithner "not only failed to stop the looting, he actually shut down investigators who were onto the frauds because he said he worried that the institutions he was supposed to regulate were too fragile to withstand scrutiny." Neil Barofsky, special inspector general in charge of oversight of TARP, documented in his book how Geithner repeatedly undermined his authority. After his time at Treasury, Geithner became president and managing director of Warburg Pincus, a private equity firm.
Summers was one of the gang of three, along with Alan Greenspan and Robert Rubin, who prevented Brooksley Born, the head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, from regulating derivatives, what Warren Buffett termed "financial weapons of mass destruction." The abuse of derivatives was a major factor in the 2008 Wall Street crash.
Summers declared in a July 2011 Reuters editorial that "there must be a clear and unambiguous commitment that whatever else happens, the failure of major financial institutions in any country will not be permitted." Throw women and children overboard, but save the banks at any cost!
Holder was Clinton's right-hand henchman in securing the pardon of Marc Rich in the last hours of the Clinton administration, with Rich being a notorious international criminal. The National Law Journal noted that Holder had only been filling his Rolodex during his time with the government.
Schultz was right on the money -- $400,000, to be exact -- with her comment regarding the "service they both provided."
For a number of years, I had a credit card on my parents' account, mainly to buy items from the hardware store that they needed. When I got it, I did not have to tell the bank anything, because my parents were on the financial hook for any charges.
But then my sister switched our parents' accounts to Wells Fargo. I accompanied my mother into Wells Fargo and spoke with Kelly Looman, a personal banker. We discussed the extra credit card, but then she started asking me personal questions. When she asked for my DOB and SSN, I should have told her to cram it, because she was obviously opening an account in my name even though I had specifically told her that I had no intentions of becoming a Wells Fargo customer. But I didn't because I did not want to upset my elderly mother. Looman told me that the data she collected was not stored, which of course was nonsense.
Another annoyance was that Wells Fargo's credit cards are not handled in-house. They are handled by a separate company, probably a firm which Wells Fargo bought after Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich unleashed the hounds of banking hell via the repeal of Glass-Steagall and the reintroduction of bucket shops. We had to tell the other firm the same data we told Looman.
My credit union's website displays my credit score, though the credit pull is only done a few times each year. One month after my visit to Wells Fargo, I noticed that my credit score had dropped 12 points, even though I have not been late on or missed a payment in years. I contacted Looman via email and she tried to convince me that Wells Fargo had nothing to do with it.
I knew that Wells Fargo had opened millions of accounts without permission. Shockingly, four executives were actually fired over the company-wide fraud. I filed a complaint with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). I specifically asked that the credit card be canceled, my data be expunged from Wells Fargo's computers, the credit inquiry be reversed to restore my credit score, and that Wells Fargo be removed as a party to my account so it could never again make a credit inquiry.
The OCC contacted Wells Fargo. Jennifer Rasnick of Wells Fargo's executive office called twice, each time leaving a message telling me to call Annie Fieger at 1-855-267-6141, extension 45606. She also sent two letters with the same message. However, when I called that telephone number, no one ever answered, with the voicemail mentioning a number of people, none of them Rasnick or Fieger. I left a general message, but it was never returned.
Then I called the Des Moines office listed on the letterhead of Rasnick's letter. I spoke with someone who gave me an entirely different telephone number for Fieger, 1-844-576-6424. I left a message at that telephone number, but no one returned my call.
In the middle of this, Fieger sent a letter explaining that Wells Fargo would delete the trade line from my credit profile. This was confirmation that an account had indeed been opened without my permission. She also included the same telephone number that Rasnick had given.
After sufficient time has passed, I will obtain a free credit report to see if Wells Fargo actually did anything.
Bernie Sanders is correct: too big to fail is too big to exist. Large banks are out of control. We need to bring back Glass-Steagall, something Donald Trump recently hinted at. We also need to give the banking industry the Standard Oil treatment, i.e. disallow banks from doing business in more than one state. Start with Wells Fargo.
Republicans attempted to exclude themselves from future medical insurance restrictions, exempting members of Congress and their staff from the planned reintroduction of denials due to preexisting conditions.
Only after word got out did Congressman Tom MacArthur (R-NJ), the author of the amendment, announce that it was all a mistake. In other words, he got caught before anything passed.
Barack Obama proved himself to be the hypocrite that we always knew he was by accepting a $400,000 speaking engagement with a Wall Street firm, Cantor Fitzgerald. Obama's speech is especially egregious given the Obama administration's complete lack of prosecutions for the 2008 crash. He's got a long way to go to match the pile of loot garnered by the Clintons, $25+ million, but he's off to a great start.
Obama created the Home Affordable Modification Program which was touted as a way for homeowners in trouble to modify their mortgages and avoid foreclosure. But Timmy Geithner made sure that the program was 100% voluntary, with less than 80 out of almost 7000 banks participating. Not to mention that homeowners do not have veto power over banks that buy their mortgage.
Obama's first set of thirty pieces of silver constitute his Marc Rich moment.
The Trump administration proposed the biggest tax cut ever, including fewer income tax brackets.
"So this is going to be the biggest tax cut and the largest tax reform in the history of our country and we are committed to seeing this through," declared Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
We tried this twice since 1980 and both times the debt skyrocketed -- 40% of the debt is due to Bush II's tax cuts which were continued by Obama -- while the number of jobs created was substantially less than from administrations which raised taxes. The job creation of Bush the Younger -- he of tax cut renown -- was the worst since WWII. And Reagan's job creation paled in comparison to Clinton.
Contrary to libertarian and Republican fairy tales, tax cuts do not pay for themselves, as they only return between 10 and 48 cents on the dollar.
The national debt is a few lobbyist campaign contributions short of $20 trillion, while GDP is a few CEO golden parachutes over $18.5 trillion. A debt / GDP ratio exceeding one was only previously seen in our history at the end of WWII. Which enemy are we fighting now? Will we see television ads depicting sad Republicans who do not possess the largesse to buy a new Bentley?
Both Republicans and Democrats are eagerly shoving us toward economic doom. The former often complains about the latter's profligate ways, but the last Republican president to have a budget surplus was Eisenhower (Trump's administration deleted historical OMB data from the White House website, but it's available at the archive).
China should be stripped of PNTR, with it being a parting gift from the Clinton administration, and we should depart the WTO.
90% of jobs being created are in services, with most of them in low-paying retail and restaurant industries, hardly the path to strengthening our middle class.
Instead of giving tax cuts to wealthy people and multinational corporations without conditions -- remember how well that tactic worked with Wall Street firms after 2008? -- corporate taxes should be made inversely proportional to the percentage of Americans a company employs, because companies rarely do the right thing without coercion.
Ajit Pai, new Chairman of the FCC, blogged his thoughts on reducing the amount of robocalling Americans are forced to endure. He proposed that providers "could block calls that purport to be from unassigned or invalid phone numbers" and noted that the list of unused telephone numbers is available for anyone to reference. He continued by saying, "There is no reason why any legitimate caller should be spoofing an unassigned or invalid phone number."
This is all valid. But what does he think will happen when robocallers cannot use unassigned numbers. Does he really think these parasites will simply find an honest job? Hardly. They will start using assigned numbers.
Using assigned numbers is already a problem, with swatting, where an anarchist-child calls the police pretending to be someone else, being downright dangerous. We need a robocalling solution that will eliminate swatting as well.
Robocallers and swatters use VOIP phones because they can be spoofed.
We need to improve the accuracy of Caller ID data. My Caller ID unit allows for 16 digits. We need to change the name field of calls originating from VOIP to start with "SPOOF?" This would enable 911 services to know that a call may not be what it appears to be and notify responding police officers to not assume that a life and death situation exists. And for international calls, if the call originated in or passed through an untrusted entity, it would be treated as VOIP.
And we need to require telephone companies to offer two new services to customers. The first would block all VOIP calls, with a facility to whitelist known good numbers (we'd need to make the selling or providing numbers in whitelists by telephone company employees a felony). The second would be the reverse, blocking calls by number, area code and prefix, area code, the first six digits of Caller ID data, or by country prefix (this would be for international calls originating in recognized telephone companies). These products would be similar to ones offered by CenturyLink: No Solicitation, which gives customers the ability to block a single number, block an entire area code and prefix, or block an entire area code, and Call Rejection, which give customers the ability to block specific numbers.
Many of us would simply block all VOIP calls and never look back.
During the debate for the Affordable Care Act, Lou Dobbs, while he was still at CNN, featured a series of stories on healthcare around the world. While conservative news outlets offered non-stop stories regarding Britain's awful NHS, Dobbs regaled us with narratives concerning Switzerland, Japan, and other Western countries. Switzerland's healthcare system is a multi-step one, offering basic and emergency care for everyone and optional plans for those who need more coverage. Swiss hospitals never have to worry about turning someone away who might die without treatment.
Of course, Switzerland thoroughly examined all medical conditions, placing some in the basic category and the remainder in optional categories. Sarah Palin said at the time that this sort of categorization was tantamount to "death panels," though she's apparently okay with people dying for lack of coverage.
This is the type of plan we should have chosen. And still can choose.
Republicans have always declared that the ACA was an affront to freedom, just another step on the road to socialism, but these people live in a fantasyland of their own making. Many of them believe that motorcycle riders should be allowed to ride without wearing helmets, yet riders who also decry mandatory medical coverage somehow never wear dog tags with the message, "I'm a libertarian; please leave me by the roadside to die."
Republicans are doubling-down with the odious H.R. 1313, which would allow corporations to extort their employees to accept genetic testing via the wellness program loophole already existing in the ACA. Layoffs would be the vehicle for reducing costs, banishing people destined to develop genetic diseases, similar to how layoffs today always manage to include mostly those over 40 and especially over 50.
The U.S. Congressional Budget Office forecast that 52 million people would be uninsured by 2026 if the Republican alternative to the ACA was adopted. But that's only the start, because many of those people would not be able to treat communicable diseases. The Census Bureau projects that the population of the U.S. will be just under 350 million by 2026, making the number of uninsured people about 15% of the total.
The CBO is simply wrong, however, in its estimate of the number of uninsured after a repeal of the ACA, significantly lowballing the number. It assumes that insurance companies will not revert to their old practice of denying those with preexisting conditions, but capitalism would reign supreme once again. The situation would be much worse than before the ACA because insurance companies would know which customers were likely to cost them more than the average.
Only someone who has been forced to live without medical insurance understands the reality. Prescriptions often cost ten times more. Doctors, labs, clinics, and surgery centers charge the full retail price. It's an à la carte nightmare.
But why should you care? The trivialities of the unwashed are not your concern.
There are many reasons, but the best one is drug resistant TB. According to the CDC: "TB is spread through the air from one person to another. The TB bacteria are put into the air when a person with TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs, sneezes, speaks, or sings. People nearby may breathe in these bacteria and become infected ... Drug-resistant TB is caused by TB bacteria that are resistant to at least one first-line anti-TB drug. Multidrug-resistant (MDR) TB is resistant to more than one anti-TB drug and at least isoniazid (INH) and rifampin (RIF). Extensively drug-resistant (XDR) TB is a rare type of MDR TB that is resistant to isoniazid and rifampin, plus any fluoroquinolone and at least one of three injectable second-line drugs (i.e., amikacin, kanamycin, or capreomycin)."
The CDC stated with a good deal of understatement that "treating and curing drug-resistant TB is complicated." And the people most likely to have TB are the poor, the same ones who likely won't have healthcare coverage if the social Darwinists have their way with us.
A number of years ago I traveled home via a commercial airline. One self-important man sitting in first class was the sickest I have ever seen, violently sneezing and coughing every few minutes. Not surprisingly, a few days later I became very sick as well, even though I never went near him. Recirculated air and all that. Or maybe it was the hardware he touched, with us touching it later. The first class passenger, like the Americans who returned home with Ebola, shouldn't have traveled. But they did.
Next time you ride an airplane, subway, bus, or light rail, look around you and estimate how many of your fellow riders would fall into the 15%.
Republicans continued their corporation-friendly crusade with H.R. 1313, with the number being appropriate.
It would allow companies to require genetic testing of employees by means of a loophole in the ACA, which allows companies to demand that employees participate in so-called wellness programs, e.g. take part in cholesterol and other screenings, with the penalty for noncompliance being as much as a 50% increase in their health insurance costs. Some of this made sense, because employees who smoke are hurting themselves and the company. However, asking employees for their pregnancy plans went too far. And any shrewd couch potato simply lied on the form asking for "regularly of exercise."
H.R. 1313 would extend that loophole with respect to genetic testing, expressly forbidden in Public Law 10-233 -- "A group health plan, and a health insurance issuer offering health insurance coverage in connection with a group health plan, shall not request, require, or purchase genetic information for underwriting purposes ... A group health plan, and a health insurance issuer offering health insurance coverage in connection with a group health plan, shall not request, require, or purchase genetic information with respect to any individual prior to such individual’s enrollment under the plan or coverage in connection with such enrollment." Genetic testing would now be added to the list of things companies could extort from their hirelings.
It doesn't require an HR manager to figure out what would happen.
Someone with cystic fibrosis would probably be able to make it through the often grueling series of interviews for a plum corporate position, but as soon as genetic testing was completed, that employee would magically fall off the vitality curve.
Employees who know they have a genetic disease would be confronted with a Hobson's choice: pay more for medical insurance or let their employer gain serious leverage over them. And even if they refused to pay the corporate devil, the company would assume that dark secrets resided in that person's genetic closet, possibly leading to an early career demise.
Once the policy is established, the next shoe would drop, with companies outsourcing the storage of genetic data, via servers in foreign countries, of course. After one's genetic data was obtained via a cyber-breach, one might find it difficult to find a job -- any job. One can always obtain another credit card, but one cannot obtain a new genetic identity. Companies would skate away from such negligence after contracting for the usual paltry remedy, i.e. one year's worth of credit monitoring.
Given the push to repeal and then replace the ACA, it's likely that crafty social Darwinists yearn to return to the days where insurance companies could -- and did -- deny applicants for pre-existing conditions. Many people would find it impossible to obtain insurance.
Silicon Valley groupies might assert that eventually the problem will be moot, with science progressing to the point where genetic diseases are easily remedied. But be careful what you wish for: "We saw on your genetic testing results that you have Proboscis Halitosis. We scheduled an appointment to have that corrected, at 7:00 pm, right after the company-supplied meal. Then you can return to work until your hot-bunk slot becomes available at midnight."
Buffy, please report for duty.
The part of the Communications Decency Act (CDA), itself actually Title V - Obscenity and Violence of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, that most people reference is one sentence from Section 230: "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider."
This has been used as the legal vehicle for allowing online comments that might ordinarily be construed as defamatory. However, many magazines and other entities which offered free commenting in the past have changed their position due to the catty nature of the comments, with some, e.g. Bloomberg News and Computerworld, having eliminated comments altogether. Many newspapers, e.g. the Washington Post, have employees censoring comments if they do not meet with the politically correct view of management.
But the original intent of the CDA was to limit obscenity and pornography, not surprising given its name. Other sentences not given the same press include:
1) "It is the policy of the United States -- to ensure vigorous enforcement of Federal criminal laws to deter and punish trafficking in obscenity, stalking, and harassment by means of computer."
2) "Nothing in this section shall be construed to impair the enforcement of section 223 of this Act, chapter 71 (relating to obscenity) or 110 (relating to sexual exploitation of children) of title 18, United States Code, or any other Federal criminal statute."
3) "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be held liable on account of any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected."
It's clear that Internet entities not only have a duty to prevent the sexual exploitation of children as per title 18, chapter 110, of the United States Code, but they will not be held liable for actions taken in good faith relating to same.
Facebook must believe itself above the law, as it often refuses to remove material reflecting a morbid interest in sex, nudity and obscene or pornographic matters, including photos of a subway dragging death, a dead girl following an accident, kittens on fire, and a naked 14-year-old girl.
BBC News journalists found 100 images of child porn on Facebook and notified the company. Facebook only removed 18 of them. The journalists also found five accounts belonging to pedophiles. Facebook did not remove them.
Facebook's director of policy Simon Milner asked the journalists to send him copies of the child porn, but then he or someone at Facebook reported the journalists to the UK's National Crime Agency for dealing in child porn.
"Facebook's failure to remove illegal content from its website is appalling and violates the agreements they have in place to protect children," said a spokeswoman for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. "It also raises the question of what content they consider to be inappropriate and dangerous to children."
It's not acceptable for Facebook to claim that its child porn detectors are automated and therefore not reliable. Facebook makes plenty of money to police itself, as founder Mark Zuckerberg is currently worth $57.7 billion and #5 on Forbes list of billionaires. Even a small slice of that would pay for a truckload of American workers to sift through the slime.
Zuckerberg has been trying to convince us that he is donating his fortune to charity, when in truth he only created a limited liability company. The media has turned him into a saint, probably to replace their lamented Saint Steve, and largely ignores his anti-social behavior, e.g. buying the four houses next to his Silicon Valley one to create a secure compound. It does seem appropriate that he was born in 1984.
Facebook should be shuttered until it conclusively demonstrates that it can prevent child porn from being shared via its service.