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Our crumbling nation, ferry snafu, pass the pitchfork…

Wednesday, July 2, 2014




crumbling-infrastructure► From McClatchy — Feds to limit road, transit payments to states — The U.S. Department of Transportation said Tuesday that it would start limiting payments to states for road and transit projects next month in an attempt to conserve the federal Highway Trust Fund’s rapidly diminishing cash balance. Usually, the department reimburses states for transportation projects upon request. But beginning Aug. 1, the states will have to live paycheck to paycheck, receiving funds only once every two weeks as money is collected through federal gasoline taxes.

► In today’s NY Times — Obama urges Congress to fund infrastructure projects — President Obama called on congressional Republicans on Tuesday to take quick action to fund infrastructure projects throughout the country, arguing that failing to do so could mean huge layoffs for Americans this year.

► At Daily Kos — Obama to push closing corporate tax loopholes to fund highways — Republicans are suggesting that roads could be paid for by eliminating Saturday mail delivery or by pushing the states to crack down and collect more online sales taxes. In other words, collecting more taxes from corporations to pay for roads is out of the question, but collecting more taxes from people when they order diapers online is just fine.




port-of-seattle-hanjin► In today’s Oregonian — Longshore contract with West Coast ports expires, sides say they will keep talking — Longshore workers at West Coast ports, including Seattle and Portland, are working without a contract, as the old one at expired Tuesday afternoon. While shippers have expressed fears about a potential work stoppage, the ILWU and the Pacific Maritime Association, a coalition of port operators, issued a joint statement Tuesday afternoon vowing to keep the ports operating normally.

► In today’s Seattle Times — Signature gatherers accused of lying about minimum-wage law — Supporters of a $15 minimum wage in Seattle have asked King County prosecutors to investigate allegations that signature gatherers for a business-backed referendum that would put the measure to a vote in November are lying.

► In today’s Yakima H-R — Didier leads in his poll, but electorate far from decided — Internal polling by congressional candidate Clint Didier says he’s leading the race to replace Doc Hastings, but details in the documents suggest it’s anyone’s race to win.

► In today’s Yakima H-R — Yakima County commissioners OK deputies’ new contract — A new labor agreement between Yakima County and sheriff’s deputies will do one thing for certain: give deputies a 6.5 percent pay increase over three years.

► In today’s Tri-City Herald — State appeals court rules against Hanford whistleblower — The Washington State Court of Appeals has upheld a ruling that dismissed the case brought by Hanford whistleblower Walter Tamosaitis against Bechtel National.

kane-joe► In today’s Seattle Times — Seattle Fire Department mourns lieutenant who drowned on rafting trip — Joseph Kane, 50, of Poulsbo, who drowned during a rafting trip in western Idaho Friday was a 23-year veteran of the department.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Point of personal privilege: Joe was a friend and my sincere condolences go out to the wife and sons of this kind, funny and warm-hearted man. As Kenny Stuart, president of the Seattle firefighters’ union put it, “This is a tragedy, not just for the family, but for the Fire Department and for the citizens who are losing him.” R.I.P., Joe.




► In today’s Seattle Times — Call for probe of vehicles scraping on new ferry’s ramps — In what’s being called a design flaw on Washington’s newest ferry, the Tokitae, some long or low vehicles bottom out and scrape on the side ramps.

► In today’s (Everett) Herald — Time for a ferry system review (editorial) — Preventable design headaches (with “preventable” double-underlined) are dampening reception of Washington’s newest ferry, the 144-car Tokitae, which began the Mukilteo-Clinton run Monday. While it’s not a public safety concern — Washington ferries have a stellar track record — it is emblematic of a culture of arrogance, if not incompetence, among WSF’s upper management. Zero will change until there’s a comprehensive review and ferry muckamucks are held accountable.




protect-our-pensions► In the NY Times — Insurer warns some pooled pensions are beyond recovery — More than a million people risk losing their federally insured pensions in just a few years despite recent stock market gains and a strengthening economy, a new government study said on Monday. The people at risk have earned pensions in multiemployer plans, in which many companies band together with a union to provide benefits under collective bargaining. Such pensions were long considered exceptionally safe, but the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation reported in its study that some plans are now in their death throes and cannot recover.

► In today’s NY Times — Deadlock in Congress appears to worsen as mid-terms loom — With immigration legislation dead for the year, Congress has a very short must-do list as relations between the two parties, already miserable, seem to be getting worse in the buildup to the midterm elections.

statue-of-liberty-shame► From ABC News — Protesters turn away buses carrying migrant families — Homeland Security buses carrying migrant children and families were rerouted Tuesday to a facility in San Diego after American flag-waving protesters blocked the group from reaching a suburban processing center. Many protesters held U.S. flags, while others held signs reading “stop illegal immigration,” and “illegals out!” Many of the immigrants were detained while fleeing violence and extortion from gangs in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

► Today at The Hill — Immigration reform advocates to Obama: Go big — In the wake of Obama’s Monday Rose Garden speech vowing unilateral action, some reformers want the president to go far beyond a limited expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, to essentially legalize the millions of undocumented immigrants who would be eligible for work permits under the bill passed by the Senate last summer.




► At Think Progress — Meet the people, and the families they care for, whose lives just got harder thanks to the Supreme Court — When Dorothy Glenn and Flora Johnson, two home care workers who belong to the SEIU Healthcare Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Kansas, first started out in their line of work, both made just $1 an hour. By the end of this year, thanks to the collective bargaining agreement reached by their union, they’ll be making $13 an hour. They also now have health care and paid training opportunities thanks to agreements obtained by the union. Such benefits could now become harder to secure.

► In today’s Olympian — U.S. Supreme Court charts a worrisome course (editorial) — The U.S. Supreme Court’s disturbing decision on Monday to exempt two companies from the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate continued the conservative majority’s slide down the slippery slope of extending constitution protections historically reserved for people. No for-profit corporation should stand between a person and medicine that is legally prescribed by a doctor. This court has charted an unsettling course. When the court allows companies to claim religious freedoms that should belong exclusively to individuals, can violations of employees’ civil rights be far behind?

► And even the conservative Seattle Times — Justices put mistaken faith in Hobby Lobby contraceptives ruling (editorial) — This Taliban-light ruling (Hobby Lobby) targets females by letting employers’ religious values dictate what is right and proper for their female employees’ health care — this, but not that. The majority opinion said the ruling does not provide a shield for employers who cloak illegal discrimination as a religious practice… (but) the invocation of religious offense is a litany only limited by the imagination of defense attorneys.




corporate-immunity► In Washington Monthly — Thrown out of court — Two recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings — AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion and American Express v. Italian Colors — have deeply undercut centuries-old public rights, by empowering businesses to avoid any threat of private lawsuits or class actions. The decisions culminate a 30-year trend during which the judiciary, including initially some prominent liberal jurists, has moved to eliminate courts as a means for ordinary Americans to uphold their rights against companies. The result is a world where corporations can evade accountability and effectively skirt swaths of law, pushing their growing power over their consumers and employees past a tipping point.

The court decisions that birthed this brave new world coincided with a rising conservative legal movement that advocates judicial restraint and a corporate lobby that has successfully pushed the idea that America is an excessively litigious society in dire need of “tort reform.” The result, lawyers and scholars say, is that thousands of cases that individuals once had a shot of winning can no longer even enter a courtroom, jeopardizing enforcement of laws spanning consumer and employee protection, civil rights, and antitrust.

EDITOR’S NOTE — So, even as the U.S. Supreme Court grants corporations new rights (like unlimited political spending in the name of “free speech”) and freedoms (like exemption from laws for “religious reasons”), the Court has also taken away one of the only ways to hold corporations accountable for illegal actions. Pass me a pitchfork.


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