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ND-Dem's Journal
ND-Dem's Journal
February 23, 2015

Lord Freud (Sigmund's g-great grandson & welfare 'reformer') says disabled should work for £2/hr

The prompt for this piece is of course Lord Freud’s musings on whether people with disabilities should work for £2 an hour....The comments are just the smallest injury Freud has dealt disabled people. Under the benefit reforms and spending cuts brought in by Freud and his colleagues Iain Duncan Smith, George Osborne and David Cameron, people with disabilities have been hit harder by austerity than any other group you might think of.

To be disabled in post-2010 Britain is to be unsure when and whether your benefits will be paid because the new system keeps chopping and changing and growing historic backlogs – so that even a parliamentary select committee describes the switch-over as a “fiasco”. It’s to be constantly monitored on whether you really are disabled, because the Department for Work and Pensions is animated by only one idea: that someone, somewhere, is claiming something to which they’re not entitled.

It’s also to hear that the private firm doing the assessments declares as fit for work people on the verge of death, such as Linda Wootton, whose employment and support allowance (ESA) was cut off while she lay in a hospital bed, drowning in her own body fluids. It’s to rely on social care, which is now just someone popping by on a flying visit, forever on their way to the next “client”. It’s to see your benefits slashed and to hear of more cuts to come. And it’s to be classified as a scrounger – for the cardinal sin of not being as well as other people.

Anyone who relies on public services and welfare – the unemployed, the young and very elderly and the low-paid – will recognise some of the above. But the point about people with disabilities is that they often rely on a range of services from the welfare state. The worse your impairments, the more you’ll need public support – not just specific disability benefits such as ESA, but housing benefit and social care too...

A relatively small group is being whacked again and again by Cameron and co. Researchers at the thinktank Demos last year observed that 120,000 faced a “triple whammy” of losing a number of core disability benefits all at once...the Centre for Welfare Reform estimated that, compared with the average, people with disabilities would be hit nine times harder by austerity; the total hit for those with severe disabilities would be 19 times greater.

Going by GDP data, this country has never been so wealthy... Indeed, just a few weeks ago, the PM announced that, if re-elected, he would find the cash to cut tax bills for high earners.

Which leads me to the conclusion that the reason coalition ministers don’t mind slashing entitlements for disabled people, are quite happy to use them as guinea pigs for new benefits that don’t work, and to chuck them at incompetents such as Atos, is because they couldn’t care less. That’s also the most generous interpretation one can put on the comments made by Freud...

The coalition has so thoroughly vilified “scroungers” that hate crimes against people with disabilities are rising year on year: up 13% since 2011. Forty per cent of incidents are violent. Take the visually impaired man walking in Brighton last year, who was asked by a stranger what it was like to be blind – before being set on fire. Campaigner Paula Peters tells me she’s been spat at in the street, while friends in wheelchairs have been shoved into oncoming traffic...


Oh, no, assisted suicide could *never* be used to force or coerce people into killing themselves. Never, never never....

February 23, 2015

Libertarian CEO says the 'mentally retarded' should be happy to work for $2 an hour

A financial services CEO worth $70 million told the Daily Show on Tuesday that he opposes the minimum wage because workers are simply 'worth what they're worth.'

'I'm not going to say that we're all created equal,' Peter Schiff, CEO of Euro Pacific Capital and outspoken libertarian, told correspondent Samantha Bee. Schiff said some people are only worth $2 per hour, specifically the 'mentally retarded.'

'If we eliminated the minimum wage law then individuals would be free to accept jobs at whatever pay they're able to get,' said the millionaire Beverly Hills High School alum...

Last month, he posted a video online in which he protested Wal-Mart workers who were demonstrating outside a store as part of a campaign that would raise the retail giant's--and largest employer in America's--hourly wage.

The U.C. Berkeley grad, who's (sic) father Irwin Schiff is serving a 13 year prison term for tax evasion, made it clear on Tuesday's Daily Show that he believes that workers are too often painted as hapless underdogs. 'They don’t seem desperate and hungry to me,' he said of fast food workers after admitting he never really eats at such chains.

'It's socialism that creates scarcity, that creates famine,' Schiff said. 'In a free market, there's plenty of food for everybody, especially the poor.'

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2548492/Youre-worth-youre-worth-Libertarian-CEO-worth-70M-says-mentally-retarded-happy-work-2-hour.html#ixzz3SXD6jU9K

February 22, 2015

Developer curses at man on subway, meets him again in job interview

The London subway isn't the most elegant of places...One man got on the subway train last Monday morning and wasn't in the mood for politeness or pleasantries. As another man stood in his way, he shoved him and, so that there was no doubt as to his intent, told him to "F*** off."

Perhaps the curser thought nothing more of it. He went about his day. He even had a job interview later in the afternoon.

He walked in and, within seconds, began to curse himself. For his interviewer turned out to be the very man he'd cursed at on the subway. Being a Python developer, and therefore a man of some rational bent, he might have attempted to work out the chances of such a serendipitous event. However, as Matt Buckland told the BBC: "It was totally awkward."

Buckland, you see, was the interviewer. He's the head of talent and recruiting for Forward Partners. This is a VC company that offers money to fledgling entities. You'd imagine he might have been tempted, in this job interview, to reciprocate the developer's morning greeting.

Instead, he admitted to the BBC: "I approached it by asking him if he'd had a good commute that morning. We laughed it off and in a very British way I somehow ended up apologizing."

The story emerged before millions of eyes, because Buckland garlanded his Twitter feed with it. His now-classic post read: "Karma - the guy who pushed past me on the tube and then suggested I go F myself just arrived for his interview...with me..."

The developer didn't get the job because he wasn't, according to Buckland, quite right for it... The job, though, is still available.


February 21, 2015

Churches are beginning to embrace their LGBT congregants

From the outside, Eastlake Community Church looks like a lot of other evangelical mega-churches. It boasts 13 weekly services at six locations in the greater Seattle area; the head pastor is a bearded hipster; and the main campus is a warehouse turned sanctuary where greeters serve coffee, a tattooed band rocks out beneath colored lights and attendance swells whenever the Seahawks are not playing. On a rainy Sunday in early January, William Paul Young, the author of the evangelical best seller The Shack is piped in via a pretaped video to preach about trusting Jesus and a campus pastor prays to ask God to make their hearts open to change. It is almost enough to make you miss what is …


Eastlake home church is actually in Bothell, WA. an Eastside (think Bellevue-Redmond-Microsoft) bedroom community.


February 21, 2015

Etsy success story not all that: cheap imported goods marked up = "success"

Here's the original feel-good story:

California Mom Says She Grosses at Least $70K a Month on Etsy

Alicia Shaffer started her site on Etsy, selling homemade headbands and socks, in November 2011 just hoping to make a few bucks...Shaffer told "Good Morning America" special correspondent Becky Worley.

Now, nearly four years later, Shaffer's site, "Three Bird Nest," is one of the top five-grossing stores on Etsy, grossing anywhere from $70,000 to $80,000 per month.


Here's the rebuttal:

How to make a million dollars on Etsy — buy from Alibaba and run your store like eBay

Shaffer claims her store, ThreeBirdNest, earns her just shy of a million dollars a year. The second-most successful store on the entire site, Shaffer's store sells clothing and accessories — socks, headbands, boot cuffs, and T-shirts with slogans such as "Feed me and tell me I'm pretty." ThreeBirdNest advertises its products as "handmade boutique" fashion, but Shaffer...employs a team of 15 women who help sew some of the items in her store, and controversially, a number of the other products are bought wholesale from retailers in India.

The resale of wholesale items is common for sellers on eBay, Amazon, and other e-commerce sites, but Shaffer's business model has attracted criticism from other Etsy sellers and shoppers who argue that the site, with its focus on homemade crafts, is not the place for such tactics. The site's struggle is one of handcrafted idealism versus cut-throat capitalism...

ThreeBirdNest might not follow Etsy's projected philosophy, but it does make money — profit margins for such items, Shaffer told Fast Co. Design, are around 65 percent. There are examples with even higher markups: a pair of lace socks appear in her store for $28. The same socks are also available from Chinese retail giant Alibaba's eBay-esque marketplace Aliexpress for around $6 a pair.

...By buying cheap wholesale items... wholesale goods are turned from cheap socks into boutique must-haves. Certainly it's a commercial approach that has allowed Shaffer to climb to the top of the table while others have a trickier time.

Etsy made $895 million in 2012 alone, but the spread of that wealth was uneven... Etsy said 65 percent of its sellers reported making less than $100 a year from their stores....

February 21, 2015

"Their austerity program, which has failed miserably, is no longer politically enforceable”

Washington, D.C.- A deal reached between the Greek government and European authorities represents a “significant retreat” by the so-called troika and “shows that their austerity program, which has failed miserably, is no longer politically enforceable,” Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) Co-Director Mark Weisbrot said today.

Greek government officials reached a deal with European authorities earlier today to allow bailout funds to be extended to Greece for another four months. As The Guardian and other outlets have reported, the new Greek government agreed to submit a list of reforms to the European authorities on Monday. But the agreement gives Greece fiscal flexibility, lowering previous fiscal surplus constraints. Bloomberg cited a Greek official as saying that tax increases and cuts to pensions were not part of the agreement. The accord forestalls the immediate threat of Greece being forced out of the eurozone through a loss of support from the European Central Bank (ECB).

“European officials had a gun to the head of the Greek government, and they just pulled it away – at least for now," Weisbrot said. "This is a significant retreat and shows that their austerity program, which has failed miserably, is no longer politically enforceable. The Greek election has been shown to be a turning point for Europe.”

Weisbrot was referring to European officials’ threat to collapse the Greek financial system by cutting off needed credit. On February 4, the ECB announced that Greek government bonds could no longer be used as collateral for the least expensive loans from the ECB. Greece was still eligible for Emergency Liquidity Assistance, but last week European officials indicated that this too would be cut off if Greece did not agree to continue implementing the terms of previous governments’ agreements.

“Today’s agreement will allow the new Greek government some fiscal space to increase employment and economic growth, and undo some of the damage of years of troika-induced depression,” said Weisbrot. “That is the most important thing. The details of what to do about the debt can be worked out later.”


February 20, 2015

One years' increase in wealth of a single pharma billionaire could pay for the Ebola crisis x3

To put the funding for the Ebola crisis in perspective, the World Bank estimates that the economic costs to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone was $356m in output forgone in 2014, and a further $815m in 2015 if the epidemic is slow to be contained.21

The largest increase in wealth between 2013 and 2014 by a single pharma-related billionaire could pay the entire $1.17bn cost for 2014–15 three times over.

Stefano Pessina22 increased his net worth by $4bn, from $6.4bn to $10.4bn in a single year; the largest single increase in wealth of all the billionaires listed with pharmaceutical and healthcare interests.


February 20, 2015

Nationwide coal strike to begin in Poland 2/2

Poland’s coal mining industry has ground to a halt, as miners plan to go on a nationwide strike on Monday February 2.

Unionised workers from the largest coal mining nation in Europe will strike in support of employees of JSW (Jastrzebska Spolka Weglowa SA), the largest metallurgical coal producer in the European Union.

Talks between Polish unions and JSW have failed to reach agreement about company plans to scrap social benefits and the dismissal of union leaders,” World Coal reported...Polish unions have demanded the resignation of JSW’s management board.


Photos: Coal strike in Poland intensifies


Polish coal miners start hunger strike to protest wage cut, restructuring plan

Hundreds of coal miners in southern Poland have staged a sit-in while dozens of others started a hunger strike to protest their company's restructuring plan and to demand the chief executive be fired.

Tuesday's actions were undertaken by a section of the nearly 9,000 miners who have been on strike since Jan. 28 when Jastrzebie Coal Company's management announced a plan to improve its finances that meant a longer work week and fewer bonuses.

The striking miners, which represent about a third of the company's 26,000 employees, have demanded the dismissal of chief executive Jaroslaw Zagorowski, saying he is a poor manager.

Negotiations have broken down, which prompted the sit-in and hunger strike. Managers say the stoppage is adding to the company's precarious financial situation.


Strikers return to work at Polish coking coal miner JSW

Workers at Europe's largest coking coal miner. Jastrzebska Spolka, Weglowa returned to work Monday after union leaders suspended a strike following a statement by the company's CEO that he would resign if they did so.

"Work has started at all the mines. We do not have signs of any problems," union spokesman Piotr Szereda told reporters.

Union leaders suspended the strike late Friday following an announcement by CEO Jaroslaw Zagorowski that he would submit his resignation to the company's supervisory board if workers returned to work Monday.

After the crews returned to work Zagorowski submitted his resignation to the board, which is due to meet on Tuesday to decide whether to accept it or not. JSW said the reason for Zagorowski's resignation was because his relations with the unions had become so poisonous.

On Friday union leaders reached an agreement with management on cost- cutting measures. Under the agreement half of the miners' annual bonus would be linked to the company's earnings.

This bonus would be abolished for administrative staff. A six-day working week would eventually be introduced and miners agreed to work on Saturdays to make up the shortfall in production caused by the strike. JSW said the measures would bring annual savings of Zloty 280 million ($76.4 million


February 20, 2015

Rauner asks for 7 billion in cuts to health, pensions, universities, transit and cities

epublican Gov. Bruce Rauner on Wednesday dubbed his first spending plan a “turnaround budget” for a financially shaky state, but Democrats rebuffed his proposed cuts to health care for the poor, government worker pensions, state universities, mass transit and cities across Illinois..

“This is our last, best chance to get our house in order,” the governor declared during a speech that drew tepid applause from the lawmakers he addressed. “Let’s get it done, together.”

Rauner went after some of state government’s political sacred cows: Medicaid; money for Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s beleaguered city budget; the CTA and Metra; public employee health insurance and retirement benefits; and the University of Illinois.

All of those interests sounded dire warnings and geared up their powerful lobbying operations to fight the proposed budget. Some Democratic leaders reacted angrily to the rookie governor’s address, harking back to his days as a partner in a private equity investment firm.

“One of the things Gov. Rauner has to learn is the Illinois Constitution refers to the General Assembly and the governor as partners,” said Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie. “He wants to run the government like it's a business, we're middle management, and he's the CEO, and we must take orders. That's not going to work.”

But Senate Republican leader Christine Radogno said Wednesday that Rauner’s call to cut the budget should not have come as a surprise.

“I think people understand that Illinois is in dire circumstances and we absolutely need to change the way we do things,” said Radogno, of Lemont. “This is the starting gun, not the checkered flag.”

The governor also wants to hire 473 more guards at state prisons...The biggest and perhaps most controversial item on Rauner’s budget agenda was his call to shift current public employees on July 1 into a lower-tier pension classification for new hires that provides vastly reduced retirement benefits...


Rauner v. Jerry Brown: Which state do you want to live in? Which country do you want to live in?

What world do you want to live in? The world of slaves, or the world of free people?

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