Tag Archives: Obama Administration

Target, NSA, the House of Reps, and Life in a Land with no Irony

Snapchat-1New Orleans   Let’s get this straight, ok? 

            So, it’s clear that the NSA has trolled through all of our telephone calls and likely has stored most of our emails on metadata back-up servers somewhere 50 to 100 feet below ground in Kansas or Nebraska or North Dakota or somewhere. 

            Now Target has come forward and said the hackers didn’t get just a couple of million credit card and pin numbers so that they could power up the cards for purchases, but that the number is more like 70 million or one for almost every five people living in the USA.

            And, this Snapchat thing that somehow claims it’s cool if you post wild photos of yourself and your friends because your folks and future employers don’t bust you, because the messages disappear within minutes of posting, despite all kinds of warnings about its lax security then sees 4 million of its users info hacked through the egg dripping on their face.

            The moral seems to be that we should go back to cash in our pockets, masks on our faces, and maybe some discretion in our personal lives, while using hand signals to communicate sensitive information to our work colleagues, family, and friends.  And, of course never shop at Target, but since I didn’t in the first place, no reason to start now.

            At least those are the lessons I was drawing and you probably were as well, but it turns out that just proves we are not elected Congressman who are part of the majority party of Republican electeds in the House of Representatives.   They looked at the Target problem, the NSA mess, and all of this and decided after almost nonexistent debate that they would best serve the citizens of the country by passing a measure to require the Obama Administration to quickly report any breach in the www.healthcare.gov site where people enroll for Obamacare.

            Huh? 

And, this action was also taken in the wake of sworn testimony that rightwing hackers have tried to break into and shutdown www.healthcare.gov more than a dozen times in “denial of service” attacks where you try to overwhelm the site with mass email blasts.  So, in effect these distinguished Congressmen in the wake of all of this mayhem and attendant assaults on privacy, want to make sure that the Administration quickly reports to them and the rest of the country, if their associates on the rightwing fringe are successful to hacking the insurance site.

            There’s a level at which all of this is almost beyond hilarious, but perhaps more troubling than the lack of good governance and realistic public policy considerations, is the horror that in our modern lack of self-reflection, we may have all woken up to find that we now live in a world that has lost any sense of irony or embarrassment at the ridiculousness of our situation

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Federal Contractors: Money First, Workers Last

moneyLittle Rock       It seems straightforward.   If you are going to ask for and, if fortunate, receive government money, then you are going to have to follow the law.  Some Senators though had their staff undertake a study of federal contractors only to find that many of these big business were delighted to get the dollars, but somehow believed that they only had to follow whatever laws they felt like, especially when it came to their workers’ wages and health and safety:

“The report found that 32 federal contractors were among the leading companies in the amount of back pay assessed for wage violations between 2007 and 2012.  ‘Overall, the 49 federal contractors responsible for large violations of federal labor laws were cited for 1776 separate violations of these laws and paid $196 million in penalties and assessments.  In fiscal year 2012, these same companies were awarded $81 billion in taxpayer dollars.”

You know, that’s just plain wrong, but equally appalling is the obvious conclusion that when the federal government is giving out these contracts it really doesn’t care whether or not the laws are being followed, especially when it comes to the tens of thousands of workers involved.  I would almost bet money that this is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to real violations, especially on wage issues, since the work of really monitoring whether or not something like the Service Contract Act was being followed to the nickel on assuring that workers were receiving proper amounts under area wage determinations would have been exhausting and difficult.  

The whole point of prevailing wage statutes like SCA or Davis-Bacon or the McCarran shipbuilding act is to make sure that the federal government sets the standard as a fair and safe employer.  An Obama administration plan to give preference to bidders that provided what they determined to be “good wages and benefits” was shelved, according to Times’ labor reporter, Steven Greenhouse, so perhaps this is another pipe dream, but it shouldn’t be, should it?  Frankly, I think they should establish themselves and their contractors as “model” employers and provide the benchmarks in these areas, but even if not that, the least we should expect is fairness and attention to the letter, if not the spirit, of laws that are meant to protect worker-citizens.  

Bad actors like Tyson Food, Imperial Sugar, and British Petroleum are legendary in these reports, yet it seems the feds don’t even keep a database up to date on compliance and infractions.  Maybe we need to ask the NSA with its vast computing and database capacity to take this on to keep them out of mischief and provide real worker protections as part of the package on the $307 billion in federal contracts awarded.

In the meantime it’s all about the money for these folks while the workers take the risks and we all get the hindmost.

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