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QUOTATION: People often say that, in a democracy, decisions are made by a majority of the people. Of course, that is not true. Decisions are made by a majority of those who make themselves heard and who vote - a very different thing. - Walter H. Judd

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2004-08-25 - 12:28 p.m.

While We Aren't Looking

There is so much to write about today, I hardly know where to start. Should I continue on with what I was writing about yesterday or move on to current events?

Yesterday I questioned the need for so many of our troops to be spread around the world. How can we as a nation justify the use of targeting high-flying bombers and cruise missiles on undefended civilian buildings and public infrastructure such as roads and buildings all in the name of humanitarian relief?

Today as the latest report of the Abu Ghraib prison debacle brings responsibility directly to Rumsfeld's door at the Pentagon, I am also questioning the privatization of its training activities. Whatever these companies do becomes private property, exempt from the Freedom of Information Act, thus shielding such companies from public scrutiny.

From Blowback..."One of the things this huge military establishment also does is sell arms to other countries, making the Pentagon a critical economic agency of the United States government. Militarily oriented products account for about a quarter of the total U.S. gross domestic product. The government employs some 6,500 people just to coordinate and administer its arms sales program in conjunction with senior officials at American embassies around the world, who spend most of their "diplomatic" careers working as arms salesmen...."

Sometimes those same arms get aimed right back at our soldiers. Duh!

We've now gone from Military-Indusrial Complex to Military-Security-Industrial. I suggest we follow the money! And I'd like to see an overhaul of not only the CIA, but the Pentagon!

Are you listening, President Bush?

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Out of Spotlight, Bush Overhauls U.S. Regulations

And while we've been distracted by the war in Iraq, a prison scandal, and constant wrangling of the presidential debate - not paying much attention - the Bush administration has been plundering the environment at the request of big business through regulations that do not have to go through Congressional review. Where have all the checks and balances provided by our Constitution gone?

The administration, at the request of lumber and paper companies, gave Forest Service managers the right to approve logging in federal forests without the usual environmental reviews. A Forest Service official explained that the new rule was intended "to better harmonize the environmental, social and economic benefits of America's greatest natural resource, our forests and grasslands." In March of 2003, the Mine Safety and Health Administration published a proposed new regulation that would dilute the rules intended to protect coal miners from black-lung disease. The mine workers union called the new rules "extremely dangerous," while a mine safety administration official contended, "We are moving on toward more effective prevention of black-lung disease."

In May 2003, the Bush administration dropped a proposed rule that would have required hospitals to install facilities to protect workers against tuberculosis. Hospitals and other industry groups had lobbied against the change, saying that it would be costly and that existing regulations would accomplish many of the same aims.

But workers unions and public health officials argued that the number of tuberculosis cases had risen in 20 states and that the same precautions that were to have been put into place for tuberculosis would also have been effective against SARS.

The next month, the Department of Labor, responding to complaints from industry, dropped a rule that required employers to keep a record of employees' ergonomic injuries. Labor unions complained that without the reporting, it would be difficult to identify dangerous workplaces. But the department, in a statement, argued that the records "would not provide additional information useful to identifying possible causes or methods to prevent injury."

The administration's 2004 budget proposed to cut 77 enforcement and related positions from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, while adding two new staff members whose jobs would be to help industry comply with agency rules. Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao explained to a House committee that the agency would "continue to target inspections based on the worst hazards and the most dangerous workplaces." As the budget proposal was announced, President Bush and other senior officials focused most of their remarks on the large increases proposed for defense and domestic security.

Still, the administration is pleased with its overall record of regulatory change. Mr. Graham, the budget office official, eagerly acknowledged that the regulatory tilt had been toward business. "The Bush administration has cut the growth of costly business regulations by 75 percent, compared to the two previous administrations," he said.

Representative Obey said he believed most Americans remained unaware of many of the changes."Most people are busy just trying to make a living," he said. "And with all the focus on Iraq and bin Laden, it gives the administration an opportunity to take a lot of loot out the back door without anybody noticing."

Saving Time and a Half

(another boon to business)
There is no doubt the nature of America's work force has changed a great deal since the enactment of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, but the Bush administration has cynically relied on this fact to overhaul the law's overtime provisions in a manner most likely to hurt millions of Americans. At a time of stagnant wages and a weak labor market - when workers need more security, not less - fewer people are likely to receive overtime pay when they put in more than 40 hours a week on the job. That is because new rules that went into effect this week take an expansive view of the nation's managerial class, which is ineligible for overtime pay. If you are a factory employee or a retail store supervisor who leads a small team of fellow workers, for instance, the new rules deny you overtime if you can merely recommend - not carry out - the hiring and firing of employees. Business groups want the new rules because they say they need to cut down on the litigation-inducing uncertainty of who is eligible for overtime. But the Bush administration could have provided more clarity without necessarily stacking the deck against working Americans. The administration goes so far as to say that its changes will expand the pool of people eligible for overtime, but research by liberal and labor advocates persuasively argue that the changes would cut the number, by as many as 6 million. When Congress returns from recess, it should override these rules and draft legislation that updates the 1938 law in a way that does not hurt hardworking Americans who struggle, as supervisors or not, to get by, hour by hour.
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When Congress returns from recess, seems to me there are a lot of things they should do. Guess I'd like to see a lot less campaigning and a lot more paying attention to business - the business of watching out for public interests.

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