Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Crusade against Union Bargaining Rights in Republican Led State Capitols: the new challenge for American Middle-class?

Keywords or Terms: Union Bargaining Rights; Crusade; Republican Governors; State Assemblies; Workers' Rights; Union Power; Budget Deficits; Wisconsin; Ohio; November 2012 Elections;

Are Budgets in Republican led State Capitols necessarily more on the edge than those in Democratic Party led states? Are State workers in Republican led governor’s offices necessarily worse-off in terms of budget deficits than those in States with Democratic Party governors? What is it about the new movement and changes in Wisconsin and Ohio, and probably other Republican states, regarding restriction on Union bargaining rights or power? Will this new crusade set union member rights or power backwards, or will it enhance Republican Party chances come the next election cycle? These questions came out of the mouth of a bewildered union leader. For all the underpinnings in state budget deficits, why are Republicans so committed to turning back the clock of progress in about half a century in public employee unionism at State levels?

These questions should not be surprising, considering the new development from the State of Ohio today. Like Wisconsin about a month ago, the State of Ohio, one of the states in the federation with a huge public service or probably state workers, and a huge Republican led assembly, voted to restrain union negotiation rights of state workers. And baring any schism, the Republican Governor in the State of Ohio will likely sign this new dispensation into law, soon. Most states assemblies seem to be acting unilaterally regarding bills introduced to restrain public employee union negotiation rights in their various states; however, with the union bursting bills designed to restrain negotiating rights of states' workers surfacing mostly in Republican led state houses, one is tempted to perceive that there are some multilateral-isms or collectives going on in States with Republican majority assemblies. The larger the state budget deficit, the greater is the temptation, if you call the new crusade against public employees union negotiation right a temptation. Unfortunately, or fortunately, this new temptation for republican governors, are designed shuffle public workers that are supposed to help implement public policies in various state agencies into disarray of constituencies in the name of saving money and repairing budget deficits. Further, the temptation that is now permeating into many states’ assemblies, is more of an effort to engage in union bursting exercises to drive drive in subjective dispensation that Democratic party led state capitols are not frugal and not making efforts to address the issue of state budget deficits, a few of which have been grinding down business and enterprise expansion, hence, jobs creation.

Republican governors are releasing a momentum of discuss that shatters and probably will damage the standard and quality of life of many state employees; and, may probably muscle families that are already under stress due to the challenging economic environment. Even as this new reality of austerity in state budgets are playing out, the role of the state workers cannot be undermined for political ends; and, this seems to be what is happening in many states with Republican governors. Is there a justification for the new crusade? Are Republican led state capitols establishing a norm, designed to undermine the workers who are expected to make government work? Are Republicans advancing a new credo, meant to ignite a new public discuss on government budgets or is this just values or principles associated with being Republican?

While Democratic and Republican led governorship may learn from historical mistakes of prior budget management, it seems that current Republican governors have largely ignored the reason for the huge budget deficits: poor revenue base due to the recession and misinformed budget management practices found in virtually all states in the union. Why then are the Republican governors attacking state workers' salaries and benefits in order to close the gaps in their states' budgets? Politics?; Personal Preferences?; Changing nature of labor union power?; or making a statement that Republicans are better deficit hawks than Democrats? Democrats, for all their imperfections – real or perceived – reflect mostly a preference for bills and public policies that are geared towards safety nets for the poor and middle class. Are Republicans not ordered in this fashion; or are they so totally against any idea that affords a soft landing, even for State workers expected to implement state public policies?

That Republicans have often used politics to achieve their over national objective, even in state houses, is not often surprising. After all, acting in the name of their national political party interests is always preferably than condescending to public policies or bills that will make life easier for the working poor. Everyone within a state has some stakes in the budget of that state. When States with republican majority assemblymen and women or governors seems to be driven by myopic national political party's interest, even if it makes state employees worse off, it becomes clear that in contrast to Democratic led state houses, Republicans are threading on a direction to encapsulate their state workers. The ability of a state to attract and keep competent hands to ensure that the state can save money or manage its budget appropriately to prevent wastes, depends on its ability to retain efficient and effective workers. When states adopt policies that annihilate their public workers, why of course should they get the type of workers that can help them dig out of the current state budget mess? Rather than adopt reflective policies on good budget management practices, Republicans are relying on their dissuasive or coercive hard power to burst union negotiated agreements with their state workers.

The composition of state assemblies that pass bills designed to dump public employee negotiated benefits, roll back salaries and disadvantage state workers as against their counterparts in the private sector, is currently Republican. The relevancy of the Republican memberships of state assemblies may change come November 2012. Even though there are more democratic governor’s office in play come November 2012, the reality is, legislation implemented to destroy good harmony between the governor’s offices and the various state agencies may end up being the waterloo for majority of the Republican governors that retain or ascend into offices, as is the wishes of the National Republican Party. The apprehension regarding the republican led state houses’ crusade against state workers is about as universal as it can get; and, the impending changes expected to help some republican led states house cut down on their deficits, may actually not materialize because of the assault on the people who are expected to make the change come to fruition. The legitimacy of public union bursting or negotiated benefits rollback is probably in question; and no one must anticipate that all state unions will roll over and allow their respective governors to annihilate them without fighting back.

The separation of power also allow aggrieved state workers on their retracted benefits to bring up their grievances before the courts. Even if Republican governors and republicans dominated states assemblies are able to roll back negotiated benefits and salaries, are they going to be able to entrenched their myopic crusade forever? The inadmissible reality that poor budget management practices associated with various passed bills that have sometimes given tax brakes to private corporations without thinking about the consequences, in many state capitols, will probably end up interfering with the expected end result of the new aggression from republican led assemblies and governor houses. It is probably and practically impossible to balance all state budgets on the backs of the working state employees, who in many cases, hardly have anything to do with the cause of the state budget's deficits. This is precisely the reason why the ongoing crusade is not going to achieve the objective of the Republican governors in all cases or in some cases. When a Republican governor annihilates workers expected to serve the state and the interests of the public with respect to implementing public policies, no one should be surprised if some of the state workers intentionally sabotage the state governors who have chosen to come after their benefits and welfare. Only an unwise republican governor will assume that the words and chanting of Shame! Shame!! and Shame!!!, coming out of those state workers vehemently against the crusade on their benefits and salaries from Republicans governors, will only be for nothing; or, that they will soon subside. When governors act in defiance of the welfare of their employees, they must not be surprised, if the workers exhibit traits of non-committals to the goals and objectives of the State agencies. In addition, Republican governors must appreciate that these state workers are both humans and voters and can actually flex their muscle if they are able to get the sympathies of more of their state voters come the next election.

To suggest – as do some critics of the current crusade from Republican led states’ capitols against state employees- is irrelevant due to current budgetary shortfalls or state budget deficits, is to be overlooking the message of the handicapped employees, who have shown a lot of disdain for the new crusade moving across many states’ assemblies with republican majority. In calling on Republican Sate governors to be cautious, or to seize and desist, some of the soon to be impacted state workers, are sending a message that they know who has their back during these challenging times, and they know who they would hold responsible come election time. In deed, the current crusade against public employees' negotiation rights is at the heart of probably many deliberations in states’ employees union headquarters. Had it been possible to recall some governors or had the state employees had the votes to recall some Republican governors today, many of them would have done so. The fact that many of the state employees, including teachers, fire fighter, police officers, had taken some time off to carry placards in many state assemblies and capitols, says a lot about the current imbroglio.

Bills do not completely serve to correct for budget deficits; sometimes, a bill that disadvantages public employees' union may lead to a movement to actually change the future of state governors or assembly members. In fact, several states’ assemblies alumni can tell you that part of the reasons why they lost their office, was because they voted for a bill that became too over-burdening for a segment of the voters who decided to do something about it. The fact that many state workers do not agree with the current restrictions on that negotiated salaries and benefits, must mean something to this voters, and no one should expect that some of them will let it lie low come election time. The refusal of the republican governors leading the current crusade to appreciate where the public sector employees in some states are coming from, gives away any future support that these governors may expect, even if the budget of the states turn blue as the crusading governors expect. The current disaffection among many state employees is probably a recipe for a very active and participatory election exercise, especially from state employees, come the election of November 2012.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

PPACA: Right not Priviledge Vs. Worst Law Ever made?

Keywords or Terms: Patients Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), Youths & Parents' Health Insurance Policy; Elderly & Medicare Advantage Donut Hole; Health Insurance Premiums; Assumptions; Foundations; Republicans; Democrats.

When asked the above question in a quiet country club discussion session, I laughed and looked out through the window, assessed the gathering of the somewhat upper crust of the affluent in the country club and replied: You've got to be a wizard to know what is to come!

There is a certain hunger in America to find out what the Patients Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) actually means. It has been a year since President Obama signed the act into the law of the land, and the worlds of many middle income earners and the poor, who have suffered disproportionately under the former healthcare system, has shifted on their axis. The American healthcare system landscape would never be the same again; and, the health care opportunities available to millions of Americans, can only but improve from now on.

The mystery surrounding how Republicans have attempted to pull the law down is probably encapsulated in the demonization of the PPACA as the worst in American legislation. The unique contribution of the PPACA, if you ask those whose lives are being impacted by the sweeping changes in health care delivery since last year, with more to come, is the fact that since the phasing in of some provisions of the PPACA, the practice of medicine and the health care services offered to Americans, have improved and will only get better come 2014. More importantly, the era of free loaders at hospital emergency rooms are more likely to be a thing of the past!

What makes a great legislation is not the immediate reaction from the public or lawmakers who may be apprehensive of the worth of the law. The PPACA was long overdue with millions of Americans falling through the cracks with respect to health care services and ability to obtain reasonably cost health care insurance; especially with those in the high end health risk pull. The historical rational of letting the chips fall where they may was no longer holding water as many hospitals and clinics realized that providing health care services to millions without health insurance policy, and spreading the cost of such services to others carrying a policy, was not going to be tenable for too long. The kinds of criticism levied against the PPACA may seem genuine or firm to the unsavory eyes and minds, but for those who have known how difficult it is for leaders to bring about change in a system, or legislators, who understand what it takes to follow through on a promise to make a situation better in the country, nothing is more important than the Patient's Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA); and, current criticisms against the Act is just another incubation of malice, appropriately grounded in ignorance.

There are probably five factors to consider in assessing any issue, or legislation, if you like: What, where, who, when and how? You can't write a formula to effectively determine the success of a legislation, because it is partially a science and partially an art. However, looking at the immediate results of the legislation may effectively give you a bird's-eye view of what is to come from the passing of the legislation. One thing is certain as of now: since March 23, 2010 when President Obama signed the act into a law, Americans who could have been wasting away with the repeated number of unwarranted tests initiated by their provider can tell you things are now changing; and for anything in life, change is good. For once, Americans are paying for health care outcomes rather than the quantity and barrage of tests initiated or conducted on them by physicians playing the roulette game of volume for money!

Valuable feedbacks are necessary on the impacts of a new law. However, th PPACA is relatively new and some of its provisions are still scheduled for the future. Considering the popularity of the law with Democrats and many who are already benefiting from some parts of the law that have come into effect, it is safe to say that the future is bright for the American health care system. Nancy Pelosi, the former Speaker of the US House of Representatives, puts the potential impact of the act in perspective with the pronouncement that with the onset of the law, Americans can literarily say that their access to health care services is close to being a right rather than a privilege. Her comments comes out of four decades of work and experience by largely members of the Democratic Party who have served in position of power, either in the Whitehouse or the congress of the United States, and also worked tirelessly to see that the health care service received by Americans has a human face.

With efforts of past and present greats as Brother and Lion of the Senate, his most honorable Ted Kennedy, may his gentle soul rest tenderly, William (Bill) Clinton, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Speaker of Senate Harry Reid, President Obama and other Democratic lawmakers too many to mention, Businesses can now take tax credit of up to 50% of their investments in the healthcare of their employees and they can benefit from pulled risks in health insurance lowered premiums payments. Youths under the age of 26 years can remain on their parent's health insurance policy. The elderly on Medicare advantage can see their former donut hole as gradually shrinking until it will come to nothing; as lower rates are phased in Medicare advantage and relaxed lives of the masses are being torched for the better, as patients are now getting the type of service they deserve and would in the coming future, benefit from an health care system that truly cares about improving the quality of care delivered in our hospitals and clinics.

Republicans may derogatively refer to the PPACA as 'OBMAMACARE', but Americans who have seen or who will be seeing the choices available to them in terms of care and insurance coverage, limitless, and who will be able to take advantage of early health screening so that someone who has the potential or the biology to suffer from colon cancer, can easily be save that nightmare, because the health care system law require and encourage early screening of patients for potential problems; and, prescribe solutions to help Americans live a better and longer life: this is the preventive care provision of the PPACA.

The Kaiser Foundation that have attempted to measure people's opinion regarding the law came back with a spate of mixed reactions. No one knows how the foundation has defined the law and sought reaction, but what is known is that people are still somewhat confused about the law's offerings. Many of us who are in support of the law are somewhat apprehensive of the geocentric result from Kaiser Foundation and are very convenient with the reality that by 2014, when most of the important provisions of the law will be coming into effect, we will all see how a fantastic law this one is and how much health quality will have improved. The somewhat religiosity in support of the law comes out of the conviction that the old status quo can no longer meet the needs of Americans for better health care system.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Of Earthquakes and Nuclear Plants: learning from the Japanese Experience

Keywords or Terms: Earthquakes; Nuclear Radiation Contamination; Secondary Emergency Plan; Radio-Active Waste; Burning Nuclear Plants; Japan; Germany; Switzerland; Finland; Russia; Chernobyl; Three-man Island; Northwest, USA; Epidemiological damage; Public policy

In response to the recent earthquakes in Japan, many countries have begun to look over their plans regarding their nuclear plants. Because residents close to a nuclear plant may be exposed to radiation in the event of an earthquake and the failure of a nuclear plant's secondary emergency plan to activate, residents living in proximity of a nuclear plant may be exposed to nuclear radiation contamination.

Radiation contamination has been associated with health issues, including cancer and radioactive iodide poisoning. Although there are variations in the extent of epidemiological damage to the body chemistry and surface, people who have encountered radioactive poisoning have been determined to show initial disorders and in some cases long-term disorders that may impact health status, or result in early deaths.

For example, during the large Chernobyl radiation leaks in Russia, it was documented that twenty-eight workers of the plant died within twenty eight days of the disaster, while children who were exposed to radioactive iodide poisoning in their milk, suffered from health issues that lasted a life time. The anomalies that may arise from radioactive ingestion can lead to bronchus parenchyma that may descend towards the heart, and this is probably why many residents of the Northwest have been caught loading up on iodine or potassium iodide, in case the wind blows those dysfunctional nuclear radiators' waste from Japan our way. The potential and associated impacts of ingesting radioactive wastes have been associated with cardiac bronchus and this is probably the reason, why many countries in Europe are re-evaluating their plans for the use of nuclear energy. For those panicky residents of the Northwest, the Surgeon-General has stood up to reassure the public that things will not get that bad; or, it is unlikely that the doomsday scenario is anyway close by, considering the efforts being made by the authority in Japan to address potential radiation migration from the burning nuclear plants on their shores.

Three days ago, it was announced that Germany is holding off its plans to prolong the lifespan of its aging seventeen year-old nuclear power plants; and, similar re-evaluation has been announced in Switzerland, Finland and Britain. Today, Germany suspended electricity generation form seven of its plants and intend to keep them shut probably forever. Should America be concerned about the recent developments? If you were talking to men in the energy industry, you’ll probably hear, probably not! The plants we have here are relatively safer and our management are probably better than what obtains anywhere in the world.

When the Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission Gregory Jaczko was asked repeatedly by CBS-News about the safety of U.S. nuclear power plant, his response was not only unconvincing, it was close to bewildering! Mr. Jaczko responded: "NRC is always focused on the safety and security of nuclear power plants in this country." Is this being politically correct or disingenuous? People want to know if America is prepared for a potential disaster in the magnitude of what has just happened in Japan and all we get, is: we are always working on safety and security of nuclear power plant? Yesterday, in further questioning from a Congressional Committee, the head of the Nuclear Regulatory Agency, clarified some of the assertions credited to him; however, he did not back off from the reassurance that all is well with all the existing plants in the US.

After hearing the response of the Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, I became very apprehensive to the extent that I determined it was time to say something. My question to the Chairman of NRC, in case he missed something about the question from CBS-News or the US Congressional Committee is: If we get an earthquake of magnitude 8.9 occurred right this moment in the Northwest, are we prepared as a nation to evacuate American citizens to safety? What are our plans towards that? Please list for us, the steps you are recommending and tell us, if any nuclear plant in the region may be dislocated due to its age status or other natural factors from an earthquake? Can the failure of the cooling system from the truncation of electricity generating source hamper safety that may put a huge population in jeopardy?

What are the systems in place to manage a potential radiation leak after an earthquake? Can we rely on advancements in nuclear technology to address unexpected challenges of radiation levels that may directly impact human health and safety? Are we better prepared than the Japanese, who by all known accounts have been adjudged to be the number one emergency ready nation in the world, regarding disasters as earthquakes, tsunamis and floods? These looks like too many questions; however, it is better one is late than sorry, it is better one ask questions when in doubt rather than keep a sealed lips and end up dying an avoidable death. The public, especially those living close to Nuclear reactors, will like answers to these questions in simple and understandable language without any spin. The public will take answers to these questions in simple direct English understandable even to a first grader! That is how important the response from authorities in this nation regarding the running of nuclear plants.

The convoluted and somewhat bizarre experience in Japan shows that a nation cannot be ready enough, when the big one strikes; and, any precautionary arrangements to keep the public safe may fall into disrepair during events of multiple explosions and unexplained secondary accidents that can degenerate to more than one explosion at a nuclear plant. In the Northwest, there are at least three functional reactors and close to ten known ones scattered around California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho. There are speculations that there is a likelihood that the Northwest may suffer an earthquake similar to the one that just occurred in Japan. There are even historical data and information that points to the likelihood of a big one coming through the Northwest very soon, considering that the last one that was documented in this area was somehow dated for about 300 years ago. If geologists and scientists are correct in their speculations, the northwest is about due for the big one. What must Northwest residents be aware of? What will be done to ensure that fewer or no one dies or that we do not have a nuclear energy explosion in some reactors and containment vessels in our nuclear plants? Can we have a meltdown similar to the three mile Island? Is the experience at the Chernobyl Plant in Russia possible here in America? These questions may appear too inquisitive or demanding, however, don't we have a right to know?

To help us understand our chances, in case we had an earthquake similar in scale to what happened in Japan and we suffer nuclear emergencies that may lead to radiation releases from our nuclear plants, what are potential emergency plans that are in place right now and what must the citizens expect in case all the assumptions on the emergency plans fail? Would energy companies operating nuclear plants be forthcoming and not tight-lipped regarding developments regarding the accidents? If there is an issue of contamination, can we be sure of statements of credibility coming out of the government officials, operators of nuclear plants and site directors or engineers? What are the risks of nuclear radiation releases and what should the public know as the precautions for cooling down potentially exposed rods in the nuclear reactors?

It is known that respectable nuclear scientists exist in America and we probably hold the best advancements in nuclear technology compared to the rest of the world. However, we cannot expect the Nuclear industry to provide us with overall protection when the odds in an accident from natural causes may not be totally within our control; or the risk involved quantifiable; and or our nuclear scientists, who though are versatile may not be able to manage the gamut of data pouring in from an accident underway. The direction worldwide today is for governments to ask themselves real cogent questions regarding sourcing electricity or heat energy from nuclear technology. Many countries operating nuclear reactors within their shores, have in place some strategic plans and intend to facilitate internal and external communication within and without the establishment, in case an unforeseen act of nature like an earthquake destabilizes the operations of one of their reactors. Even at that, there could be other issues that are not readily foreseen in a double whammy of an earthquake and tsunami, as we have here! This is why many governments with nuclear plants are very pensive and looking forward to learning from the experience in Japan

When Japan experienced the big one, it probably never contemplated that a Tsunami was going to follow immediately; neither did it expect an inoperative nuclear plant to be the one that will first engender an explosion and nuclear radiation? With their experience, the Japanese operators of the nuclear plants probably expected that an accidental explosion can be centrally managed by workers on site without the public second guessing their pronouncements regarding the explosion. Today, we have had the government of United States and some nuclear scientists and technologists around the globe question the pronouncements of those on the ground in Japan, even as they attempt to dump sea water into the radioactive reactors that have gone kaput. The Japanese Scientists and operators of the nuclear plants probably did not expect some criticisms from outsiders, of their assessments or control over the radiation escaping from the crater of some of their nuclear plants. They probably felt that there is going to be a convergence of understanding regarding what was happening in the four reactors after the initial explosion and what other scientists in other countries listening to their pronouncements regarding what was happening on the accident site. However, their imagination and estimation is now out of whack with what experienced nuclear scientists believe is taking place on the ground with the nuclear plants and reactors. The managers of the subsequent explosions on the multiple nuclear reactors, hardly contemplated any differences of opinion regarding their radiation explosion readings and that of independent nuclear scientists assessments; many of whom have deeper knowledge of the science of nuclear technology and reactor plants operation.

Under normal circumstance and event, scientists and technologists who operate nuclear plants are expected to know their salt; however, in the event of an horrific accident, what is expected and may be happening may be at variance. That's why its difficult to cover all grounds during an accident. Further, absolute critical reasoning that drives management of disaster ameliorating technologies, may just fail, not because the thinkers are deficient or deceitful in their assessments but rather, the circumstance in which they find themselves, for example managing multiple disasters at once at an accident site, may be overwhelming or, hamper part of their critical thinking and assessments of events surrounding the accident. The latter is probably what is going on now in the damaged and compromised nuclear plants in North of Japan.

As you read this blog, I know you will have other questions or find inspiration in asking questions that seem simple but rather important to ask, in case of an earthquake that leads to a dislocation of a nuclear reactor and potential radiation leaks or meltdown. You might also discover some literature that point to how to better manage a damaged reactor and or, what not to do, when the source of electricity from a nuclear plant is out and it seems the source of water for cooling radiated rods are out of commission. These are trying times that need everyone to put on his or her thinking cap, whether he or she lives in Japan or not; and, whether he is compassionate with citizens in Japan who have suffered from this horrific accident, or not. Accidents do happen and sometimes we have no control over the accident; however, we may ameliorate the repercussions of the accident by looking very hard around the events taking place and asking questions about what are assumed to be given.

NB: Readers of this blog are asked to respond to this blog today. Write all you know about nuclear radiation safety and what not to do in an accident of this nature. Provide us with critical information that can help us understand what is going on with the damaged nuclear reactors at this time and what is probably being omitted by the numerous heroes and heroines managing the aftermath of the earthquake in Japan. Please attempt to be a brother's keeper at this time, as we all ache from this nightmare! Donate to a charity of your choice. I love the Red Cross.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Public Employees’ Union Concerns: Was there a lost translation in Wisconsin State?

Keywords or Terms: State Budget balancing, Union Bursting; Public Employees Union; Lost translation; Republican Governors; Employees’ Right; Salaries and Benefits

An enormous number of public employees have lost or about to loose their breadwinner to unemployment. As a result, children in the many households of public employees have lost or about to loose their health care insurance. As if that wasn’t bad enough, some American households who depend on public employment and who are facing some Republican Governors’ assault on union protected rights are being told whatever negotiation they once had under the umbrella of a union is no longer relevant; and, these people are wondering what is next.

Wisconsin Governor Walker won the distinction over recent weeks for yanking public employee unions’ rights to negotiation on salary, benefits and more. Many Labor Union experts expect other states with Republican governors to follow suit, with more heads of households in public sector employment loosing their union protect rights and probably employments. Should American household heads with public sector employment be worried about their future, considering that some Republicans Governors are out to undermine public employees’ right to negotiation on salaries, benefits and more; and, should they be concerned about the drive to balance State Budgets on the back of public employees and unions?

Knowing what is in the offing

First, American household heads with public sector jobs must now be worried about their chances of holding on to their jobs, as their union protected rights and privileges are being eroded or are on the way out, at least in the State of Wisconsin. This is a reality that can not be overlooked by many public employees in several states with governors who are bound on balancing their state’s budget on the back of public employees’ salaries, benefits and rights to negotiation. The current dynamics of union bursting demands that public employees in unions, who are heads of households, re-evaluate their family situation, understand the impending or forthcoming changes, attempt to hedge against potential loss of income, visualize the odds of their family loosing out on their health insurance and any other protected rights in the coming year due to the new aggressions from many State Houses, and prepare for the forthcoming onslaught on their standard of living and probably, quality of life.

Under previous circumstances, many heads of household, who serve or work in public sector employment, are able to rest easy with some sense of job protection and security. With the new or probably upcoming changes in many states with budget issues and Republican governors, public employees union bursting, no government employees and public employee union members can be sure of a job or associated benefits that were initially negotiated with union bosses. Does this mean the death of public unions influence as we used to know it? Probably not, but it seems we are getting close with the oncoming onslaughts and decisive changes. With the new dispensation or oncoming aggressive changes that have to come because of the actions from State capitols, some of which are already predicted in about half a dozen states, it is not unlikely that fewer heads of household who are members of public employee unions are going to have a job, despite the fact that they once chose to serve in public employment with its notoriously poor salaries and benefits when compared with what obtains in private sector employment.

What has followed the experience in the Wisconsin State legislature and the Governor’s office in recent weeks, is an evidence that the old status quo maybe on the way out; and, the lesson for other states where the State governor is contemplating balancing their budget on the back of public employee unions, is that the future is going to be challenging, if not rocky. The Republican dominated Wisconsin legislature and governor’s office have been able to pass and sign into law a bill that abridges the rights of public employees union to negotiate and vote on issues that affect their salaries, benefits and welfare. There is a temptation that the new changes will lead to very draconian public policies that may make it difficult for some heads of household to take care of their family or function as contented public employees. For example, no longer will some state employees, especially in states where public employees’ rights to negotiate on salaries and benefits are yanked or abridged, be able to effectively determine their contribution to health insurance premiums and transportation vouchers, or have the opportunity to negotiate within a reasonable margin the ratio of their salaries than will have to go into such services or benefits.

By having public employees subjected to the new realities or humiliation if you talk to some public employees, Republican State Governors can now go ahead with other previously nursed changes that they have regarding the complete annihilation of public employees. You may argue that this is an exaggeration and that the courts are there to provide a measurable evaluation of instituted public policies that adversely affect the welfare of public employees unions in totality; however, these are issues that will be subjected to litigation, a process that takes a number of years, by which time, more dislocations or havoc may have been wreaked in the lives of the public employees’ households.

The new onslaught from Republican governors, hopefully, will allow union leaders, public and private, to re-evaluate their relevance to the labor force or their membership; and, afford them the opportunity to glean insight to making informed decisions regarding union membership and welfare; and, what it means to be a public employee union member in current day America. Further, if necessary, union leaders may want to re-consider their participation in party politics, consult with their lobbyists regarding past contribution to candidates, and re-evaluate their support for candidates for public office that may do them harm, such as denying them the rights to negotiation on issues as mundane as their salaries. Union leadership will likely be in a more proactive mode in exploring the background or preferences of candidates seeking public offices; including evaluating if a candidate for a public office fits their membership goals and profile. Public Union leaders must now be in a candidature’s accountability mode, including assessing the potential that a candidate for public office may make or take public policies that will be at variance with public employee union members' objectives; and/or, impact the welfare of their membership and their households.

Over the years, public union activism has been on the decline and there are even indications that states and federal governments have never in the past suffered any repercussions for taking on public employees’ unions. President Ronald Reagan did it with the airport traffic controller and got away with it. Many more altercations with public employees’ unions have taken place over the years without an iota of reaction. Experience has shown that reactions or developments after a political official takes the initiative to take on public employees unions, have often been lukewarm because many public union leaders and members are beholden to the apparatus of public sector executives, an arrangement that gives political official the opportunity to deny their inner intentions on legislative or administrative actions that impacts the welfare of public employees unions. The current threats to the public union’s rights to negotiation must be understood in light of the leveraging power that someone in a high office as a governor or President has over public employees and their unions. Public Employee union members may have expected otherwise, however, the new reality probably points to the old cliché: elections results have consequences.

Next Step: Changing status of State’s Budgets and the impact on Public Employee Union

It is probably incontestable that Republican Governors are out to bulldoze unions, under the auspices of managing states’ budgets deficits; and, the chances of bursting union influence on public employee’s salaries and benefits negotiations are just too rosy in an under-performing economy environment. Further, the atmosphere in the country, where much of public’s attention is focused on getting the economy on the right footing or job creation, makes it somewhat acceptable for a governor to go after any budget reduction initiative. Republican governors may be able to balance their budget on the back of public employees for now, but can they be sure that public employees will be willing to live up to their potential after the humiliation they are being subjected to; especially with the abridgment of their rights to negotiate for increase or better working conditions? Probably Not!

Ensuring that State budgets are balanced in a budget cycle or year hardly guarantees future explosion of state government spending, considering the bureaucracy that is heavily associated with how government works. The argument that there are enough waste in government is often well taken; however, an all out assault on employees assigned to effect government policies may end up having a boomerang effect. While the private sector’s decision making process are swift and immediate with respect to profit-making, public sector and public employee’s decision making are often by the book, which makes efficiency, unattainable in many cases in government work, and which in turn impact waste in government and State’s Budgets. The challenge of the public work environment makes it difficult to atone for the inefficiency associated with public employees’ decision making, a variable that impact state budget’s efficiency or performance; and hardly has been appropriately addressed even with many ongoing reforms in states’ budgets. Until decision-making process in public service are at per with technology changes, no one is certain that states in the union experiencing current lopsided budget deficits, will overcome current conundrums associated with state’s expenditures and which some Republican governors have chosen to address by dismantling the public employees’ unions’ rights to negotiate on salaries, benefits and more.

While household heads and public unions members have reasons to be concerned about their future in light of the current aggression from some States’ Houses, it is probably difficult for a State Governor to outlast the public employees or their unions; or, able to make things happen once out of office. Seating Republican Governors may think, I’ve got to make thing happen and I know I can make this work by balancing the State Budgets on the back of public employees’ unions, experience however has thought us that while it may seem that the political office holder is winning on an issue as difficult as dislodging public employees’ right to negotiate on issues that affect their welfare, public employees know and understand the working environment of government and can trip or create events that can trip wasteful and aggressive government spending without the public official being able to make a difference. Republican Governors may attempt to undermine the union rights to negotiate; however, can they hold many government officials against unusual demands that may catapult into waste while being masqueraded as the implementation of public policies? Hardly so, we can identify a long list of examples of these in government programs and services. This however, does not say a governor should not attempt to cut waste, but there are areas that the governor may want to be watchful, because of the potential repercussions, especially when it comes to employees’ right that are readily available in the private sector.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

What about that Apology from British Petroleum CEO Robert Dudley?

Keywords or Terms: Bob Dudley; BP; Apology; Energy Conference; Ownership of mistakes; Disappointment; Organization and leadership failures

“You know, you never can expect remorse from arrogant and spineless executives of big corporations,” that was my observation after hearing the comments from British Petroleum CEO Robert Dudley. As I read his apology before the industry group at the energy conference holding Tuesday in Houston, Texas, I got this airy feeling that British Petroleum has not owned up to the responsibility for the Deep-water Horizon disaster. Not that I expected more from Bob Dudley, I once blogged that he was part of the problem and not the answer to British Petroleum's disjointed organizational failures immediately after the worst offshore oil spill in the history of the United States. However, I was mystified and angry when I realized that Mr. Dudley’s apology before the energy conference wasn’t meant for the thousands of Gulf Coast residents that suffered disproportionately from the huge oil spill from the Macondo well.

After about ten months, Bob Dudley, the public face of British Petroleum, if a CEO is meant to be that, has not realized what a public relations disaster his office has become; or, how his company has continued to be a source of shame to the industry. With a choice of peddling falsehood, the office of BP's CEO has become a lightening rod for so many industry members who feel the Deep-water Horizon explosion and deaths had become a public relations disaster for the whole industry. Many oil and gas industry members, who expected Dudley to bring a fresh look to the managerial problems beleaguering BP, or expected a more proactive sense of urgency to understanding the grievous fault of British Petroleum regarding the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, must have been disappointed after his speech in Houston. For me though, it wasn’t a case of disappointment when I learned BP CEO said, “...this is the first chance I have had to address such a large gathering of industry colleagues and the first thing I want to say is that I am sorry for what happened last year”; it was more like: “I told you so!” British Petroleum was never remorseful for its fault regarding the oil spill from the Macondo well. As a matter of fact, I do not believe that big oil ever cares about the welfare of people at the receiving end of their pollution mistakes, nor their greedy profits, either from sales or dirty future market on Wall street. There is just too much money to be made, or going around the industry, to care about welfare of Gulf Coast residents or others that may have been aggrieved by the last BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Mr. BP CEO, Bob Dudley, does not have a different mindset from Tony Hayward. Each in his own throne or delusion envisions that everyone around their drilling rigs has to bow down to their whims and caprices. How do you place Bob Dudley’s statement that that BP is not signing contracts with drillers whose rigs don’t meet BP standards? Plainly speaking, we are not taking responsibility for the failure of the Deep-water Horizon rig and we are not about to take such responsibility in the future. In the opinion of British Petroleum and its executives, blame for the failure of the blow-out preventer on the deep water Horizon rig must be laid completely at the doorstep of the contractors on the rig: Halliburton and Transocean. Through his statements at the industry group energy conference, taking ownership of the problems from the Deep-water Horizon disaster is not our cup of tea. Though we agree to make some restitution to the aggrieved residents of the Gulf Coast, it is still our position, that we are not responsible for the gross negligence at the Macondo well.

The oil spill in the Gulf Coast may have happened under the watch of Tony Hayward, the last British Petroleum CEO; however, the company is not going to be subsumed by the mistakes and faults associated with the oil spill, because it is not the tradition at BP to own up to organizational mistakes. Further, at this time when it seems the dust has settled and the public's attention has shifted to other issues, it’s time to re-assert our belligerence and espouse our convictions that we are not totally at fault for the Deepwater Horizon rig disaster!

With his speech at the energy conference, the new CEO at British Petroleum, demonstrates that the company is not going to own up to its fault and is not going to get into negotiations either with its contractors on the Macondo well or the US Department of Justice Officials. Bob Dudley is dramatically informing everyone that cast aspersions on the actions of British Petroleum prior to, and after the Deep-water Horizon explosion, that it is not going to be cowed down. The company is probably assuming that it is time to re-assert its dominance in offshore deep-water drilling and marketing despite the spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Choosing the venue of an industry conference on energy to make its ‘take notice’ comments, means a lot; and, says more than a mouth full regarding the integrity of the company and those who head it.

No matter who heads British Petroleum, the tradition of disasters and negligence in matters of work place safety and organizational integrity, seems secondary to the Board. Unless these issues are addressed though, we should not expect that another horrendous disaster is not going to occur at another British Petroleum's plant, refinery, rig or platform. Incidentally, the past disasters with the company are not going to go away, except the tradition within the hierarchy of BP's management changes. This necessary change is not going to happen, except a new and fresh executive comes in and cleans house at British Petroleum headquarters and satellite offices, in London, Houston, and elsewhere. The thinking at British Petroleum's Board room is probably warped, or at least suspect, with them allowing Bob Dudley to replace Tony Hayward. It is very difficult to expect someone who has always been part of the problem to profess solutions to the problems that are long standing with the organization or that can be be termed as endemic of the tradition at British Petroleum. Bob Dudley was part of the last BP disaster; he can hardly provide solutions to the problems that have beset the organization lately, especially the accidental disasters and explosions at BP's plant and drilling sites.

Interestingly, both Tony Hayward and Bob Dudley would have been in private communication regarding the accidental spill in the Gulf of Mexico, including the intricate nature of the problems and the probable avalanche of lawsuits waiting for the company. Both men also would have been commeasuring with attorneys and legal experts on liabilities and damages from huge oil spills. Bob Dudley’s comments that BP was not in discussions with the U.S. Justice Department on whether BP was grossly negligent with the Macondo well, is a ploy for denials and diversion from the main issue regarding the Deep-water Horizon explosions: Eleven American workers died from the failure of management at British Petroleum to do their work!

As with Tony Hayward, what the current BP CEO has in mind, differs from the public or the courts’ definitions of liability and culpability. Both CEOs, Tony Hayward and Bob Dudley, believe that the innocence and non-acceptance or refusal of responsibility for the failures at the Macondo well, must be preserved. Although, they led the company at different times, each sees his role in the leadership position as one to preserve the integrity of the company at all cost and the interest of the workforce marginal, even if the company woefully fails to maintain industry standard while attempting to extract oil and gas; and, must not be subject to second guessing. Each sees his leadership position as one won from competence; and granted possible failures, it is still the prerogative of anyone occupying the post of the CEO at British Petroleum, as non-negotiable.

In Bob Dudley past position with British petroleum, he was a complete failure at leadership; and, this was why he was sent running from the BP-TMX collaboration in Russia. This is the same position Tony Hayward is occupying after stepping down as British Petroleum Chief Executive Officer. When we talk about make a change at the helms of a corporation, we do not mean the switching of offices by the same old guard in the corporation. This is just what the Board at British Petroleum has just allowed, in the last re-organization at British Petroleum after the Deep-water Horizon disaster. As for the public that was taken aback after hearing Bob Dudley’s comments at theta Houston energy conference, I’ll say just wait, you ain’t seen nothing yet!

The expectation is that the change of CEO at British petroleum will bring about a different culture from what had obtained in the company before the Deep-water Horizon disaster. The significance of the disaster has not appealed to the executives at BP and their managerial rung does not appreciate the grievance of the problems of violations of workplace safety by the employees on the rigs, platform or workspace. British Petroleum may have introduced a new person to the corner office in London, but he is just one executive that will re-assert the old stance of the company, rather than acknowledge past mistake, introduce workable solutions to known safety problems and move the company away from its old rustic behavior. Some industry observers are watching how Bob Dudley is conducting himself since replacing Tony Hayward and are probably wondering, is this not an old wine in new skin?

The British Petroleum Board, for their part, are closely watching their new CEO and the impending liability lawsuits coming down the pipe. In an echo of the last experience with Tony Hayward, the comments of Bod Dudley in Houston at that energy conference, must be alarming; and if not, then something is definitely wrong with the whole establishment and a very good legal team should endeavor to put them out of their misery. An experienced and versatile civil attorney once informed me that big corporations are never apt to accept fault for poor business decision making or faulty mistakes that may cost them money. As difficult and obvious the mistakes at the Deep-water Horizon rig, British Petroleum would rather deny his culpability or guilt, because of the financial repercussions of accepting faults or guilt.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Defying Republican Assault on Women Health and Children Programs?

Keywords or Terms: Women Rights; Head Start; Peace Corp; Planned Parenthood; Budget Deficit; Union Boss; Wisconsin; Fallacious Advertisements, Corporate Greed and Welfare

For more than twenty decades in America, women have empowered themselves, fought decisively to gain the right to vote, challenged the glass ceiling to enter corporate board rooms, triumphed in academics and business with equal footing and held fort in the storm of political dynamics, but today, their dream to assert their right to their body is still in question. Due to aggression from self-styled conservatives who have been able to work themselves into main stream Republican Party stalwarts and occupy legislative positions and power in U.S. House of Representatives, these latter-day fiscal and social conservatives have not only laid ambush against federal and states’ budgets, but also, against safety net social programs that are meant to help establish somewhat of an equal footing for all children as they lounge into life time learning experience.

When Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson signed unto a war against poverty and announced the Head Start Program in January 1965 during his administration, it was at the plodding of a committee headed by Lady Bird Johnson, a woman, and Sargent Shriver, one of the most eminent diplomat and public policy experts of the 20th century, a man who was the driving force behind the creation of the American Peace Corps and Job Corps, programs that are now celebrating milestones and changing the lives of many Americans. Now, a crop of neophytes in the US House of Representatives, some whom today will be common illiterates, if they had not had the opportunity of benefiting from a program as the head start that they are choosing to underfund in the name of fiscal responsibility, just as they attack planned parenthood and the WIC programs. How people easily forget?

By this new assault from conservative Republicans on the hill, this blog is calling on all well meaning persons, Friends of Head Start Association and the National Head Start Association, to stand up and ask Republicans to back off. Nothing to me is more important in the life of a nation, than a program to help children learn and fine tune the skills for survival in a competitive and challenging world environment. Education and early-school learning are fundamental pre-requisites to a surviving democracy. They are the only equalizers for the rich and poor children, and when you take the sources of funding or reduce the amount of money that goes into these endeavors, you are throwing sand in the face of the public. In case you missed CBS 60 Minutes Program tonight, Scot Pelley just reported that one in four American Children are living in poverty because of the pains of the recession: take that to the bank as you attempt to underfund one of their safety nets!

Early-school head-start program is one government investment that many, if not all educators, will inform you is worth all the investment; and, it is one area of government budget that must be sacrosanct if we, as a nation, is not going to uphold our previous gains in educational accomplishments and do better in the coming decade in the effort to achieve equality of achievements among our various population groups. In a nation where the winner takes all, to be disadvantaged at the beginning of life, to be denied an opportunity to get an equal footing in preparing to learn is tantamount to early marginalization of our youths and disparate groups in our society.

Children who can benefit from the Head Start Program are not only being marginalized when this program is scheduled to be underfunded, they are being set back in the difficult terrain of life’s competition. When a child cannot get all the help he or she needs before lounging on the learning experience, it becomes even more difficult for them to catch-up at K-12 level environment. When a Republican governor or lawmaker threatens to lay-off teachers, cut health care to children and women and take milk away from the mouth of children, then something is going wrong, if no one is cautioning them of the implication of their actions. Any assault on funding or defunding the Head Start, the Planned Parenthood, and Women, Infant and Children programs borders on an assault on the sovereign rights of men and the fundamental decency protected in the constitution, including the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

From Coast to Coast, sea to shining sea, more children entering the primary schools would not have made it to college, nor wouldn’t have even made it past the sixth grade, if there wasn’t a support program like the head start for the low-income families. As the gap in learning between races, income groups and nations across the globe widens, as the United States continues to under-perform in standardized tests comparatively to the rest of the advanced economies, some rather ill-informed legislators in the Tea and Republican Party want to under-fund the few safety net programs designed to help women and their children get grips on life. As the number of people who are likely to benefit from improved health care service are about to increase, due to the reform to the American Health Care, another area of the national health system that helps women take control over their bodies is under assault: the Planned Parenthood. The new conservative agitators want to manhandle health care reform law, they want to deny a woman’s right to her body and they want to take milk from the mouth of poor children, after bank rolling Wall Street greed and crookedness. Will someone pinch me, I am lost in a dream land!

Paraphrasing the Protestant Pastor and social activist, when they came for the teachers, I remained silent, for I was no longer a teacher, they came for the trade unionists, I did not speak out, because I was not a resident of Wisconsin, Ohio or Indiana, when they came against a woman’s right to her body, I said nothing, because I was not a female, now they came for the women, infant and the head start program, and I said it is time to stand up and be counted, before they throw away the baby and the bath tub. As if to advocate for the poor underclass, the working poor and their families, fourteen Democrats in the State of Wisconsin stood up against Republicans are they charged against Unions and their state’s budget.

Just as the Republican State Governor in Wisconsin is being heralded on by the Republican National Congress as both attempt to demonize the Wisconsin Union bosses with fallacious advertisements, associating the current assault of Governor Walker on the ordinary workers in Wisconsin to the failures of Democrats to be fiscally responsible, many of us are wondering why kettle is calling the pot black! In case anyone forgets, the economy tanked under eight years of a Republican White-house; and, no amount of social program cutting will correct for the fiscal irresponsibility that has been lopsidedly Republican.

Under the Republican Whitehouse in the past decade, we have had financial budget busting, first for a tax cut, then fighting two foreign wars and then, relaxing the national financial regulations so that Wall Street can play casino with the lives of millions of Americans, including the issuance of mortgages derivatives that practically killed the economy and sent the housing market into the ditches. No one will ever forget that Republican President Bush initiated and advanced active argument for the bailout of AIG, Morgan Stanley and Chase, among other financial firms when the economy was tanking. All of a sudden Republicans are now likening the failures of their long administration on two years of Obama’s Administration. Gentlemen and Ladies, it is going to take more than two years to correct the anomalies created by Republicans for more than eight years in the financial market and the economy!

What all these discussions tonight have in common, is that they point out the major impacts of the Republican’s assault on the status of women’s health and children developmental programs. What is familiar with Republicans when it comes to managing the US Budget Deficit is the assumption – an assumption that is rapidly becoming as obsolete as petticoats and log cabins – that you can correct for the short comings of irresponsible fiscal budget management by cutting taxes for the rich, slashing government spending and assaulting the social safety net for the poor, including underfunding head start, planned parenthood, women infant and children programs, among others.

The position of this blog is not that fiscal responsibility regarding budget management is not in order; rather, it is to say that the traditional vision of Republicans for managing budget deficit is out of sync with reality. Republicans do not have the magic to fix the mess they have created in the past years. Tax cut and slashing government programs would not replace the huge budget deficit from fighting unnecessary foreign wars and allowing for the expansion of corporate greed and welfare on Wall Street. When Republicans resort to gimmicks like cutting funding for Head Start, Planned Parenthood and the WIC programs, you understand that increasingly the party is falling out of torch with reality!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Women Concerns: Impact of Cutting Government Spending on the Health of Women and Children?

Keywords or Terms: Women and Children’s Programs; Political Privilege; Strategic Decisions; Corporate Greed; US Budgets; Social Security; Medicare

How destructive is the new maître of downsizing government and cutting government spending to the health of women and children? Very.

The current Republican led House of Representatives is re-defining women’s relationship to the state. The new choice of legislation in the U.S. House of Representative, is hardly job creation for the teaming millions of Americans out of a job; but : 1) denying funding for planned parenthood, the nation’s largest provider of health and reproductive services to women; 2) cutting nearly $800 million from the women, Infant, and Children (WIC) program, which provides life-saving nutrition program for low-income families; and 3) slashing nearly one billion dollars from Head Start program that effectually eliminates pre-school program for more than 200,000 low income children and about 50,000 women teachers and instructors that service the program, among others (Office of Senator Murray, D-Washington). Tasha, times a--changing!

At a time when the recession is biting harder than you can imagine, Republicans are all out to gauge some of the remaining safety net program for the most disadvantaged groups in our society, women and children. Women, who are trying their best to hold it together in the face of the worst recession this nation has ever known, are being relegated to the medieval time experiences. They are being told they cannot have milk on the table for their children because their husbands cannot find a job in an economy providing 190,000 jobs a month for an anxious population of close to 16 million unemployed Americans.

Though few women in privileged political positions are wielding political influence on personal relationship, more than 200,000 low-income women without a place to turn to for nutritional supplement during the early years of their children’s lives, are being told, tough luck, you cannot have $800 million dollars for your women, infant and children program. This is in a nation spending 10 Billion dollars on a war started on lies. I’m I missing something? Mama, you said the Republicans and Tea Party members wouldn’t do us wrong, but they are! Republican Lawmakers are doing women wrong by taking away milk from the mouth of children. The lawmakers who engineered effort to slash the head start program are doing the whole America wrong. Those lawmakers who believe that cutting funding for planned parenthood is the ideal thing to do, need to direct their political power towards creating jobs; maybe that would ensure that fewer women would seek help from planned parenthood.

Too many important and strategic decisions regarding the economy that need to be taken due to the anecdotal evidence of the current recession are being set aside and Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives are jumping on the bandwagon of destroy the middle class and send children of the poor to their early graves! The economic predictor tools to correct for the cyclical slump in a market economy that needs to be discussed and addressed to ensure that the boom and bust cycle of our economy are ameliorated, are hardly being contemplated by the current House of Representatives. The mammoth data on economic indicator performance harvested and managed by several federal government agencies are hardly being looked over and a permanent solution prescribed to correct for many of those challenges of repeated recessions that we are probably about familiar with now. Are lawmakers or their economic advisers saying we cannot do anything about the cyclical recession in the nation’s economy? Is this very true or are people just ignoring the obvious?

Women and their children are tired of being used as football, whenever there is a down turn in the economy. The issue of women health and that of their children can no longer wait as the government caters for those huge Wall Street Banks, considered too big to fail. If Republicans cannot fathom the obvious information available in the government office of management and budget on how to trim federal budgets without harming the less privileged among us, maybe it is time to ask: on what side are Republicans on? Interested lawmakers can avail themselves of the real truth: the benefit programs, Social Security and Medicare, constitute a huge chunk of US budget and until something is done to either of them, it may just be difficult to talk about managing the government deficits.

As previous United States Congresses have found, streamlining government budgets, especially the line items of Social Security and Medicare, is the greatest secret to managing the deficit in Federal Budget. Just as discretionary and supplementary budgets add to the deficits, so do poor revenue collection, including reduced taxation, add to the challenges of the nation’s deficit. The process of stream lining both line items, Social Security and Medicare would be painful; however, the lawmakers from both aisle of Congress must just agree to address the issues surrounding these two programs, if they truly want to make a difference. Haphazardly cutting money from beneficial programs, whose returns on investments quadruples over r the years and life time of citizens, especially the Woman, Infant and Children program is not the right way to go.

Social welfare programs that are often criticized and sometimes bastardized by some who do not understand the extent of the implications of doing away with such programs on the quality of life of citizens, including women and children health, are probably the crème of the crop of investments from government budgets; these are investments that you can visibly count their impact and results. It is unfortunate that the interconnectedness of reduced funding for programs as Planned Parenthood, head start and WIC programs to the quality of life of many Americans are often ignored or denied, even by well-meaning and educated lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Example of the quality of life of an Americans in 1940 as compared to what we have today is a simple demonstration of how important these social programs have been to the overall life-span of an average American.

Planned Parenthood, Head Start and Women, Infant and Children programs are not charities as many Republicans and Tea Party members may want us to believe, they are the fundamental means of uplifting many Americans from poverty. The evidence of this assertion is found in public records and governmental registries that could be called for by any lawmaker. Adopting the rule of one jacket fits all and claiming that all people must partake in the pains of an under-performing economy, is failing to realize the human angle and dynamics of the current recession. Once the bread winner in a home loses a job in a recession, the first boot to fall is health care, next is the roof, then nutrition for the children. Are we not tired of being one of the most industrialized society in the world with the largest group of its citizens on the streets?

The initial difficulty of finding out where to get help for a new unemployed or one that has run out of his or her unemployment benefits, is not as easy as many people think; and, even when help is offered, it is usually at a level far lower than the standard of living the newly unemployed person, or out of unemployment insurance benefits person, is used to. Take this from someone who once worked as a Financial Services Specialist for Washington State Department of Health and Human Services. Working for Washington State Department of Health and Human Services opened my eyes to many things that I would have easily denied without the experience. Some families’ experience would draw you to tears and somehow, make you more humane. After reading a case file and interviewing a newly unemployed woman on a bright sunny day, I once went to the bathroom to cry. If in doubt, lawmakers wanting to cut the Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) program should volunteer one week at their State’s Department of Health and Human Services and call me once done.

Women and children’s health cannot take a back seat to corporate welfare. Single women heads of households have no confraternities of a golf club to turn to, when out of a job. Republicans, especially the Tea Party members who want to effect their newly found political power, must not sanction women and children’s health and welfare for the failures of the market forces due prominently from greed of corporate America. America’s economy may be in the gutters, but what is missing is the will of many men to act to manage the delicate balance between production and waste. Republican lawmakers must now work hard to turn America around by helping create jobs through legislation that will allow Americans work the delicate balance of savings and credit, want and need, and managing home-front crisis and the public persona of the average American.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Good Times Are Here Again: When the Federal Government issues the first permit to drill off-shore since the BP oil Spill?

Keywords or terms: Off-shore permits; Noble Energy; BP oil spill; Off-shore Drilling Moratorium; Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement

Full scale federal permitting system for off-shore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico may be few months down the road, but off-shore drilling in the Gulf is here as Noble Energy was given the first approval to drill in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. This is the first off-shore oil drilling permit that was issued to anyone or organization to drill in the Gulf of Mexico since the BP explosion at the Macondo well. Oil companies contemplating approval or who have submitted applications for permit to commence off-shore drilling in the Gulf can be rest assured that their day is here or is very close. State and municipal governments which have suffered adverse impact from the moratorium on off-shore drilling since the Deep-water Horizon disaster, can now rest easy as it’s most likely their lost royalties is about to be a thing of the past, and anticipated tax revenues and associated intakes are about to begin rolling in, once more. Hotels and restaurants and other leisure businesses which once bemoaned the moratorium after the Deep-water Horizon disaster, can now say, there is a silver lining at the end of this rainbow.

So, if you think the wait had been too long or felt the buzz of the lifting of the moratorium on off-shore drilling is a wishful thinking, think again. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement issued permit to Noble Energy of Houston on Monday, February 28, 2010, ten months after the explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico by British Petroleum. According to the head honcho of the Bureau, this permit represents a significant milestone for the bureau and offshore oil and gas industry and it is probably a first step towards safely developing deep-water energy supplies offshore. Many members of the oil and gas industry are however skeptical and wonder if the newly introduced stringent guidelines would not prevent companies seeking approval since the BP disaster from achieving a permit on time to commence drilling. It is known that Noble Energy was one of the applicants for permit approval prior to the BP explosion of April 20, 2010. The new guidelines for permitting ensures that companies seeking approval undergo a streamlined and objective process of qualification that ensures safe drilling off-shore in the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere in our national waters.

While skeptics may still be worried, many patient and reflective oil and gas companies are saying the wait is worth it. The American Petroleum Institute, an organization vehemently against the lengthy moratorium on off-shore drilling in the Gulf, believes that the effort of the Bureau is too late and just too minuscule. According to Jack Gerard, President of the institute, while every permit is welcome news, tightening the screws on domestic oil and natural gas production during a time of increased demand and global uncertainty is a formula for disaster. Is this really the truth? While associations as the American Petroleum Institute may question the essence of a long moratorium on off-shore drilling, assuming that the President of the Institute is speaking on behalf of the organization, must our attention be focused on increasing oil and gas production at all cost, even at the expense of life and public safety? Should we just relegate the issue of workplace safety to the background in the name of increased demand for oil and gas, or should we take the issue of public safety and workers welfare seriously, while harvesting oil and gas from the depth of the seas?

Industry insiders and large professional organizations in the business of off-shore oil and gas drilling have focused their attention on the perceived economic loss to the industry of the moratorium designed to help the industry and nation sort through the mess that the BP oil spill had become after the explosion at the Macondo well. hey have all concentrated on the bottom-line, profits, rather than a safe working environment; one of the problem that led to the Deep-water Horizon Explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. Many of these people and organizations who are saying this first permit is too belated, seems not to have sorted out or attempted to understand how the oil and gas industry can improve on its work place safety record; and if they had, some of them probably have failed to appreciate the magnitude of the Deep-water Horizon disaster. The onus of maintaining and ensuring that work place safety is as important as making profit in off-shore oil drilling, has just slide by them or escaped their mind.

Further, some of these apprehensive and probably short-sighted industry experts, seem not to understand that when an explosion of the magnitude at the Deep-water Horizon with the associated number of fatalities takes place, it is not only essential, it is compulsory, that the industry members, including oil and gas executives, governmental regulatory agencies, professional organizations and institutes, re-evaluate the process of drilling and extracting oil and gas, offshore. Now, if the steps for accomplishing this re-evaluation have to take nine months or a year, so be it. You will find it difficult to convince any member of the families that lost loved ones in the Deep-water Horizon disaster that it was just okay to go about business as usual after the BP oil explosion disaster at the Macondo well.

There were lot of rules and regulations regarding off-shore drilling and workplace safety that were contravened by British Petroleum and its associated contractors at the Macondo well that cannot just be swept under the carpet. These mistakes were not only operational or platform based, they involved fundamental engineering and technological processes that must not be overlooked, but were in the case of drilling off-shore at the Macondo well. The oil and gas industry may have discovered that British Petroleum took a very high risk drilling at a horrendous depth of about 15,000 feet below the sea level, but did they understand that the exclusions of some steps in the drilling and harvesting process or the failures of back up equipment and personnel led to the mayhem that the disaster at the Macondo well turned out to be? Can they attest to the fact that all blow-out preventer on existing rigs have been tested; or that, all existing oil and gas platforms have been tested for complete technical functionality? Can anyone one of these industry insiders or experts guarantee that by the time the next permit is issued to another company in the industry, over 100% of the industry members would have fine-tuned their safety hand books and made it available to all their workers, brought up-to-date guidelines regarding oil rig and platforms accidental explosions management and what to do in case of an emergency or unexpected failure of equipment?

The permit issued to Noble Energy of Houston is probably well deserved. Other oil and gas companies that had impending applications before the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, are wondering if they would be next. However, how many of these companies have considered re-evaluating each of their known processes or steps of operation, while exploring for oil and gas in the past, and how best to handle the thousands of eventualities that may take place on an oil rig or platforms, when their permit is issued. What are the logistic issues that may ground movement of equipment or deny access to some emergency safety apparatus that may consummate in another disaster, if care is not taken?

It was reported by Chron Energy that Helix Energy Solutions Group and Exxon-Mobile have developed processes, including vessels and equipment, to capture oil from runaway deep-water wells. Are these processes and equipment available to all companies with impending permits approval? These are genuine issues and factors that must be objectively considered. The cornerstone of off-shore drilling must now be an enhanced safety regulation and nitpicky oversight of the gas and oil extraction process. The Department of Interior and its agency saddled with the responsibility of overall site inspection, cannot afford to fail the industry or their department as they go about looking out for those inconsequential issues and processes that are easily overlooked, but end up in disaster as what we had with British Petroleum at the Deep-water Horizon site.

Noble Energy was at the depth of 13,585ft when it had to quit because of the moratorium, however the bypass drilling at the 6,500 feet designed to get around plugs in the original well, must still be certified as functional and ready to go, before subsequent processes commences. However, will Noble Energy share with all members of the oil and gas industry their learned experience with this impromptu process, in light of the experience of BP at the Macondo well? The wiliness to share learned experiences and capture important information on equipment and materials that will make the drilling process safer and more effective, must now be the consideration of all companies in the industry. No longer again can the industry afford the type of backlash from the Deep-water Horizon explosion.

The experience of the symbolic explosion at the Deep-water Horizon rig taught all of us in the industry, a very important lesson: we cannot take the issue of safety on rigs and platforms for granted, neither can we overlook the functionality of back-up equipment and processes, if we are to continue to drill and explore for oil and gas with workers’ safety at depths hitherto unfathomed, but made possible because of advances in oil and gas drilling technology. It is good news to know that the federal government is once again issuing permits to drill off-shore and that other permits will be issued in due course; however, it will also be wise, if we all work to prevent the type of mistake that befell British Petroleum at the Macondo well, in the Gulf of Mexico.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Political Compromise and the Impending Presidential Election of 2012: whither negotiation on PPACA?

Keywords of Terms: Politicking; PPACA; Health Insurance law; Republicans; 2012 Presidential elections; Compromise; Fiscal Budget; Budget Gap;

Compromise is an important part of politicking. Until recently, after a legislation is signed into law, compromises were unimaginable in American politics. Yesterday, some of us were taken aback when President Obama offered to back legislation that would enable states to request federal permission to withdraw from some of the Patient’s Protection and Affordable Care Act's (PPACA) mandates schedule for 2017 in 2014. Many of the central provisions of the law were expected to take effect in 2014, at which time most Americans are expected to obtain health insurance coverage; and, many employers of certain size, expected to offer coverage to workers or pay a penalty. As New York Times frames it, this august flair from the Whitehouse is meant to appease disgruntled governors! Today’s blog looks at the implication of this pronouncement on the Presidential election of 2012.

As contained in the Patient’s Protection and Affordable Care Act, waivers or exceptions on any of its provisions can only begin in 2017. With the new olive branch, Mr. President is accommodating the following for any state as long as it can prove that it meets the coverage and affordability options in the law by 2014: 1) introduce new options for coverage; 2) have some flexibility in choosing whether to make some Medicaid recipients purchase insurance through exchanges; and, 3) seek a waiver for individual mandate. To many of us, this looks like a first step in watering down the provisions and or, accomplishments of the Act. First, the President negotiated away the Public plan or option; second, he identified somewhat with denials of insurance coverage for women where issues of their life and death are concerned, even when public funds were not going to go into purchasing the health insurance on the proposed insurance exchange; and today, he is identifying with a legislation that would allow states to apply for waivers in 2014 instead of 2017.

Compromise of this nature is hardly contemplated by many past Presidents for several and probably legitimate reasons, including the need to maintain integrity of purpose, the need to encourage conviction in the provisions of the law and the intent of congress, and the essence of managing any criticisms from naysayers regarding the provisions in the law. No voter likes a flip flopper; it hardly works in tough economic environment. Notwithstanding the criticisms from the right, many reasonable Americans will tell you the provisions in the law are the right thing for this country at this time. In summation, the need for Presidents to be proactive on bills they have already agreed to most, if not all their provisions, and signed them into laws, are better left untouchable to maintain integrity of the law. When President Obama used the slogan, a change you can believe in three years ago while running for the Whitehouse, many of his supporters were not looking forward to, or seeking changes that seem to question the integrity of leadership of the office; or seem as if he is catting to the opponents because a couple of them are unsatisfied with the legislation, its provisions, or progressive stance.

When a leader wins at the game of politics, he is known or expected to take it all; all here, includes decks of political cards, expendable political capital, including raising legislation, passing laws and implementing their provisions without apologies. This is why voting and election results have implications, a concept that Mr. Obama is familiar with and has alluded to in the past. It includes ascertaining dominance of the opponent and making him or her walk with you or walk behind you, if necessary. Politics is a game of fundamental dynamics and reforms, dynamics that change things for the better or worse, depending on how a leader handles his or her choices in governance. Many supporters of the President are more convinced that the Patient’s Protection and Affordable Care Act is a suitable and necessary reform for the nation's health care system; and, the President is going to have to ‘talk the talk and walk the walk’ if he wants people to recognize, respect and appreciate his leadership. If Republican or some Democratic Governors have some reservations about the implementation of the Patient’s Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), the President can allow them to vent, but not capitulate to their preferences. To concede an inch or to show an accommodation of the opponents of the health care reform law, is to compromise on principle in a time when leadership and firmness are called for.

Apart from available apparatus of government, political leaders are known to use mass media and multiple techniques, to broadcast the inherent benefit of their sponsored laws. However, alternative technologies and techniques can be useful if a political leader determines that it is in his interest to send an olive branch to his opponents or, to pretend to be in a compromise mood, when in reality, he isn’t. This time, the President chose to use the venue of the nation's governors' annual meeting to bear out his heart. The choice of President Obama to want to appease the disgruntled governors does not seem to sit well with the left. Rather than declare war on Republicans who have consistently repudiated his leadership, the President is bending over on an act he signed into law barely two years ago. Many of us in the left have been working to solidify and enforce the leadership style of President Obama, but occasionally, he continues to frustrate us, by throwing some piece of meat to the Republicans in the name of playing middle stream. Why he does this, many of us do not know. For many of us, it is better the president is an effective and accomplished leader rather than a poodle of some rightist extremists. We want the president to assert his leadership and ignore criticisms that have no basis. We want him to annihilate the republican power base if possible. One thing we do not want him to do, is whimper to republicans anytime they start their crocodile tears.

It is estimated by the office of management and budgets that States face up to five billion dollars revenue shortfall in the current quarter alone because of the slumping economy, poor tax base, unemployment and inefficient tax collection apparatus. About 82 billion dollars of the impending State's budget gaps in the current accounting period has been adduced to the low revenue collection base and except there are some tax increases, the cost pressures that state governments will face may become too difficult for some states governors; and or, probably subsume many of them. The increasing cost of health care at the States' level has been determined to be one of the reasons of the budget gaps; however, rather than embrace the Patient's Protection and Affordable Care Act that will help cut the health costs and supplement shortfalls in Medicaid share that would have come from State coffers, governors, especially the Republican ones, are trying to exploit their state's poor fiscal health for their political agenda; and this makes it look like we are in a no win situation.

Some state governors have used the circumstance of poor fiscal health of their state to diminish barging rights of public employees. Some of the Republican governors are seeking means to reduce public employee pays by instrumenting union bursting and labor degrading public policies. Yes, many states budgets are in dire situation, however raiding state pensions, failing to pay state's government share of employees pension fund and using aggressive policies to achieve fiscal health of a state is not the appropriate route to take. Elected officials, governors, lawmakers, mayors, county executives are voted by their constituents to lead; and where they fail to lead, they are usually booted out. Under this scenario, the President has an upper hand to call state governors to do what is in the best interest of their state residents without making up stories regarding a law that has not completely gone into effect. There are several provisions of the Affordable Care Act that have not gone into effect, and this makes one to wonder where the state governors are finding the so-called shortcomings of this law, except for their dubious political interests.

What Mr. President could have evaluated or directed governors to achieve is how do we deal with the fiscal issues that have continued to challenge state budget gaps without antagonizing public unions and state employees. This is a crucial question that needed to be addressed and not catapulting on a law that has been determined, based on the few provisions that had gone into effect, has been doing greater good to the public. Like in many laws in the past, there are always parts of the law that a segment of the public will have issues with. This is why we have the courts and opportunities for amendments to such laws, where the provisions are perceived as somewhat draconian for the critics. It hardly seems any provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is draconian, except I am missing something. A few of us in the public are wondering if the President is not reading too much into criticisms from the governors; and or, if he is not setting a stage for his second term reelection with the new drive to be perceived as centrist rather than an accomplished leader on the issue of health care reform.

Our President needs to adopt strategies that are not overtly readable as being political or sequenced in line to the objective of a re-election, as he goes about managing the affairs of the state or administering and managing the executive power. The economic pressures on states is making some of the governors take what is considered in some sectors as underhanded actions regarding the handling of public employees unions in their states. Many of these governors and lawmakers will be held accountable for their actions come next year's election. 2012 Presidential election is around the corner, however, the President cannot afford to dilute his accomplishments in past two years of his governance just because we wants to go mainstream. Supporters of Obama's Administration has grown tremendously on the internet, so also are his critics; however, the President must still lead and not appear to be caving in or flip-flopping on issues of governance,  because he wants to pacify state governors or achieve centrist Plato in American politics!