Saturday, August 14, 2010

Indentured Servants via TDOT Contractor

I added the following post at KnoxViews yesterday and am reprinting it here today.

Workers for a Smyrna company TDOT contracted for landscaping say they are being treated to horrible conditions, according to this report from the Daily News Journal. One worker, here on a work visa, was "rescued" this week by a group based in New Orleans. It's a truly grim tale - TDOT is trying to distance itself from the company's actions.

From the report:

A Mexican guest worker says a landscaping company with Tennessee state contracts and a federal stimulus loan guarantee held him and fellow workers like indentured servants, confiscating their passports and subjecting them to constant surveillance by managers who were often armed.
At the company housing in Smyrna, 13 or 14 people are lodged in a small house with one bathroom and no beds, Jimenez said. Workers built their own beds, he said. They each pay $100 a month rent, which is deducted from their pay.

They routinely were driven to the office at 6 a.m. and sometimes did not return until 8 p.m., but were not paid for any of the time spent waiting for assignments, going between the office and worksites or cleaning and maintaining the equipment, Jimenez said. Paychecks were often for only about 25 hours of work a week.

TDOT spokeswoman Julie Oaks said in an e-mail that most of the claims made about Vanderbilt Landscaping were outside the purview of the Transportation Department, but it was preparing to review the company’s payroll records

Full story here.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Abbey Faces Criminal Charges For Making Wooden Coffins

Even though St. Joseph's Abbey in Louisiana has been making and selling wooden caskets, by hand, for over 100 years to earn income, the state of Louisiana (at the urging a state board) says they are criminals and are demanding the group must now:

" ...
apprentice at a licensed funeral home, learn unnecessary skills and take a funeral industry test. They would also have to convert their monastery into a "funeral establishment" by, among other things, installing equipment for embalming human remains."

Keep in mind, all these monks do is make the caskets and sell them to individuals.

And this LA claim seems to fly against Federal Law:

Before making a trip to a funeral home or casket showroom, you should be aware of the Federal Trade Commissions Funeral Rule. Central to the Funeral Rule is the General Price List (GPL). Directors of funeral homes are required - by this law - to provide a copy of the GPL to anyone who makes a request in person for information about goods and/or services of the establishment. This information is not merely shown to the individual in a bound folder in the office of the funeral home but a GPL copy must be given to the consumer to take home.

Additionally, the funeral home may not refuse to use a casket purchased elsewhere. Nor are they allowed to add a “handling fee” if you order a casket on your own. By Federal Law, you have the right to purchase your casket anywhere you choose. However, it is possible that you will meet with resentment at the funeral home since they will be losing a large percentage of profit on this transaction.

More background here at Institute for Justice.

Tennessee Republicans Vote No on Funding for Teachers, Police, Jobs

All of Tennessee's congressmen and senators voted NO for receiving millions of dollars in funding for Tennessee teachers.

This despite the fact the monies would be taken from a program which eliminates a loophole which allows for U.S. multinational firms to receive foreign tax credits. Some Congressional members called this a 'bailout for special interests'.

Tom Humphrey writes:

Under a $26 billion "state aid" package given final approval by the U.S. House on Tuesday, Tennessee's share of K-through-12 assistance funding is shown as $195.8 million.

A second part of the package provide money to states based on Medicaid spending. Tennessee's share of that portion is pegged at $240 million and the state budget for the current fiscal year, as enacted, included a "contingent" plan for spending that money. In fact the final figure is less than the $341 million in "contingent" spending envisioned in the Tennessee budget as possible in new federal aid.

The education aid portion was added - and the Medicaid-based portion reduced - after earlier attempts at passage in Congress failed. The final version was opposed by both of Tennessee's Republican U.S. senators and all Republican members of the House who voted. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville, joined the Republicans in voting no.


"If $240 million is received, it would apparently cover $100 million for new and improved buildings at community colleges and state technical schools, $9.6 million toward preparation of a West Tennessee industrial megasite, $10 million for "critical access" hospitals, $10 million for a "jobs opportunity fund" and $90 million for a new Highway Patrol radio communications system.

Steve Benen writes:

In a statement, DNC Chairman Tim Kaine raises a noteworthy point: "There could not be a better example of the differences in priorities between Republicans and Democrats than this legislation. While Democrats are working to help preserve the jobs of hundreds of thousands of teachers, firefighters, police officers and others, Republicans continue to obstruct legislation while supporting tax cuts that would only benefit Wall Street CEOs and other wealthy Americans. Even after Democrats made every effort to reach out to GOP lawmakers, Republicans fought tooth-and-nail against this critical legislation -- refusing to help those who continue to struggle because of the failed Republican economic policies of the past. This stark difference in priorities could not be more clear to the American people, who now have yet another reminder of which party is on their side."

WVLT has more, including some spread sheets on the program.

UPDATE: My Congressman, Phil Roe, defends his No vote, saying more jobs for teachers and police is an example of wasting money.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Pop-Tart Sushi?

I did not ask for it. Did anyone ask for Pop Tart sushi?

Why not just grab a 5-pound bag o' sugar and chomp into it?

Next Wasilla Mayor - Levi Johnston??

Ah, the Palin Tragi-Comedy Entertainment Machine just never, ever stops.

So what's next for the PTCEM??

Spin-off celebrity Levi Johnston says he wants to run for Mayor of Wasilla, yes, the same town where Sarah herself gained the ability to become a half-term governor and failed V.P. nominee, and it will be a TV show too!!

Stone and Co., which describes Loving Levi as a "real inside look into who he is as a father, a skilled hunter, an avid dirt biker, and his journey down the road of small-town politics... right after he gets his high school diploma," has already started shooting the pilot, according to Variety.

And though Johnston didn't look as if he was kicking off a political campaign last night at the 2010 Teen Choice Awards, he says that he will fulfill his duties as mayor if elected.

"It's hard to figure me out," he said. "You've got to follow me around. I'm very different. I lead a crazy life. But it will basically be both worlds, my life in Hollywood and back home, the real country boy that I am."

Well, you don't have to follow him around, but apparently somebody's going to.

The 22-year-old father of one ... said that he and Bristol were indeed looking for the right reality-show opportunity during the brief time they were back together, but that they "weren't thrilled with any of the ideas. We got a lot of offers. But the fact is we didn't want to do it."

Too bad "Love Boat" and "Fantasy Island" are off the air ... but I'm kinda thinking none of the PTCEM crew knows that. Or maybe they just think they are all on both shows now.

Monday, August 09, 2010

High School Grad Shreds Public Education System

A valedictorian speech at a New York high school is gaining national attention:

And now here I am in a world guided by fear, a world suppressing the uniqueness that lies inside each of us, a world where we can either acquiesce to the inhuman nonsense of corporatism and materialism or insist on change. We are not enlivened by an educational system that clandestinely sets us up for jobs that could be automated, for work that need not be done, for enslavement without fervency for meaningful achievement. We have no choices in life when money is our motivational force. Our motivational force ought to be passion, but this is lost from the moment we step into a system that trains us, rather than inspires us".