Tag Archives: dhs

We are All Protesting in Hong Kong Now

Pearl River     The big reveal on protests now is an admission of what many have known or suspected for years:  domestic surveillance is real and it’s all around us.

According to press reports, the Department of Homeland Security deployed helicopters, airplanes and drones over 15 cities where demonstrators gathered to protest the death of George Floyd, logging at least 270 hours of surveillance, far more than previously revealed, according to Customs and Border Protection data.  The rationale for the huge budget of the department, especially after 9/11, was to protect the US homeland from foreign terrorists.  Now we find out that even low-level DHS operatives can call for air support to monitor domestic protests.  It is even hard to imagine the security rationale.  They claim it had to do with identifying arsonists and vandals, but that is actually the job of local police, right?  What’s the federal scope for domestic spying on that order?  Is this an antifa hunt or just standard operating procedure, now exposed.

DHS is quick to claim that they were not using facial recognition software and that their equipment was not up to the task of recording license plate numbers for example.  It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, that the march of technology will make that denial moot PDQ.  Of course, none of us were born yesterday, so it strains credibility to believe that they were using all of this airpower supposedly to identify arsonists and other miscreants but they can’t really identify them.  This is a vacuous head fake.  Presumably, if they did see something from the air, they could turn it over to the myriad local police departments that do in fact use recognition software to handle that part of the spying protocol.

The cities targeted by DHS included Philadelphia, Buffalo, and Minneapolis of course.  The longest flyover was in Detroit, where one administration after another has been scared to death that black rebellion could breakout at any minute for more than fifty years.  Not scared enough to actually solve any of the embedded and structural issues, mind you, but scared enough to spend billions over these decades to police problems governments have been unwilling to solve.

Now that the USA under Trump is on its way to becoming the new China, the pandemic is providing a small silver lining during this tragic and depressing time by making mask wearing mandatory.  We need to follow the lead of our brothers and sisters in Hong Kong and make masks, hats, and even googles semi-standard wear for protests and demonstrations.  We should do so not because we anticipate violence from the police and national guard, but to dissuade the chilling effect of mass surveillance for any wary of standing for justice in the streets.

For some of us, we can come as we are, now that any remaining doubt of all of such domestic spying has been confirmed as common knowledge in police and security circles at all levels.


Mr. President Don’t let Healthcare Coverage be Taken from Healthcare Workers

Obama signes Healthcare Reform Act

Obama signes Healthcare Reform Act

Tegucigalpa Before dawn in Honduras with the birds still loud and the sun still just a rumor, I was writing a petition for Local 100 members (www.unitedlaborunions.org) to be able to get out through our leaders and stewards throughout Louisiana, Texas, and Arkansas to demand that President Obama, DHS, Congressional Representatives, Senators and just about anyone who might listen would say no to the industry’s efforts to try and get a waiver from finally providing their workers healthcare under the coming law.  Reading the morning papers on-line, I was amazed at the gall and the bitter irony of healthcare industries trying to deny healthcare workers basic health insurance.

We represent a number of nursing home workers employed by different companies throughout Louisiana and Texas and community home workers providing similar health care support for the developmentally disabled in Louisiana, Arkansas, and Texas.  These are hard working, caring workers doing the jobs that families cannot do and that companies often pay little for them to do, despite the essential nature of the service.  It has long been an embarrassing blemish in our state and federal reimbursement systems that so much of these industries have been privatized under companies for whom profits are foremost and care is somewhere down the line, and the workforce often amounting to more than half of the care cost is always last on the list.

Reading the article in the Times of the nursing home association and the former governor of Kansas (is it a coincidence that the current head of DHS in DC is also a former governor of Kansas?) and its attempt to get a waiver from the President allowing them to not have to provide the now legally required healthcare for the millions of industry workers who currently provide healthcare but do not enjoy any healthcare themselves, was to put it mildly disgusting and enraging.  The gall!

Workers even in unionized homes such as hours are above minimum wage but still in sight of minimum wages with starting levels only a dollar or two above $7.25 and sometimes as little as $0.50 cents above.  When we first organized facilities in Louisiana almost 30 years ago they were all minimum wage, no vacations, no sick days, no holidays, no nothing, and certainly no health are or pensions.  Now with a union they are above minimum wage by a good number of steps, have regular raises and protections, do have vacations, do have sick days, do have holidays, but still don’t have any health insurance (or where they do have something it is so far out of their reach financially that it is almost an insult to claim it in the contract), and of course pensions courtesy of the Social Security Act.

It is unimaginable that the President or anyone recognizing the plight and paradox of healthcare workers without healthcare would even countenance for a minute giving a waiver, but in these days and times, nothing is certain.  As I write this, we are still writing the petition so we can post and circulate, but don’t hesitate to give a call and/or send a message to the White House and your elected representatives that doggone, don’t approve a waiver:  healthcare workers have to have healthcare, too!