Friday, March 28, 2014

The Beginning of The End for the NCAA

Big, big news and a big first step to fairness in college athletics:
The National Labor Relations Board in Chicago has ruled that football players at Northwestern University are employees and can unionize, the board said Wednesday.

In a statement, Northwestern acknowledged the ruling and says it plans to appeal.

The players' petition was a way to get a seat at the bargaining table in college sports and could change the landscape of the NCAA model.

Northwestern University fought the petition by saying its players are students, not employees.

But the board's decision indicates that there was enough evidence presented that the athletes are employees of the university -- getting paid in the form of scholarships, working between 20 and 50 hours per week and generating millions of dollars for their institutions.

The athletes have said they're seeking better medical coverage, concussion testing, four-year scholarships and the possibility of being paid.
For more on the reaction check out Kari's post about this. While this is a huge deal, this is only the very first step in what is likely to be a very long journey. Ned Resikoff mad a really great chart for those that aren't familiar with our labor laws:

The NCAA's days of massively profiting on unpaid labor are numbered, and you can look back on this week as when it really started to unravel.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The World Cup Of Death

The most corrupt organization in the world's decision to award the world cup to a country with temperatures of 120 degrees in the summer continues to impress:
"Qatar is a country without a conscience," begins the International Trade Union Confederation's recent report on the working and living conditions of the 1.4 million migrant workers living in Qatar, many of whom are there to build stadiums and infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup. After reading through the report, it's hard to disagree.

The ITUC estimates that 4,000 migrant workers will die before the 2022 World Cup, an estimate based on mortality trends previously reported by embassies within the country.
Worse yet, the ITUC concludes that Qatar's recent efforts to improve the working and living conditions of its migrant work force are a sham. In the last year, Qatar set forth two charters—the Qatar Foundation Mandatory Standards (QFMS) and the Supreme Committee Workers' Welfare Standards (SCWWS)—that were supposed to ensure that migrant workers were treated properly and afforded basic human rights. It seems, though, that both charters are completely toothless and unenforceable.

The QFMS, for example, requires that contractors submit a "welfare adherence plan" with their bids in order to prove that workers will be properly compensated and treated. The adherence plan, however, is the result of a self-audit by the contractors. The Qatari Foundation will occasionally perform its own audits on construction companies, but companies aren't scrutinized by a truly independent organization that has the power to enforce laws.
So yeah the world cup is going to be held at temperatures so hot it will be unplayable but at least as a bonus we will murder many of workers that build the stadiums. FIFA, the absolute worst.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Duke Energy Caught Dumping Million Gallons Of Contaminated Water into River

Well this is just great:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- North Carolina regulators say Duke Energy illegally pumped 61 million gallons of contaminated water from a coal ash pit into the Cape Fear River, marking the eighth time in less than a month the nation's largest electricity company has been cited for environmental violations.
The pumping violated the terms of Duke's wastewater permit at its Cape Fear Plant, State Department of Environment and Natural Resources spokesman Jamie Kritzer said Thursday. Kritzer said the agency has issued Duke a formal notice of violation, which could result in hefty fines.

Regulators from the agency said the illegal pumping had been going on for months. It wasn't immediately clear if Duke's efforts to empty the pond were related to a crack in the earthen dam holding back the coal ash. Duke first disclosed the existence of the crack to regulators on Thursday.

Inspectors are trying to determine the cause of the crack, but the dike does not appear to be in imminent danger of collapse, said State Dam Safety Engineer Steve McEvoy.

Duke did not respond Thursday to requests for comment from The Associated Press.

A Feb. 2 pipe collapse at a similar Duke coal ash dump in Eden coated 70 miles of the Dan River with toxic sludge. Duke has nearly three dozen other ash pits spread out at 14 coal-fired power plants across the state.
Any negative attention Duke gets from this is important, mainly because it is likely the only meaningful consequence they will face for what they've done. Just like the banks and so many other major corporations, they do these things knowing they will eventually get caught and eventually have to pay some minor fine that is way cheaper than not breaking the law.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Iraq War Anniversary Day

We just passed the anniversary of going to war with Iraq. Although I lived it and protested against it at the time, going back and looking at the discourse at the time is simply jarring. This (via atrios), is probably the perfect example of the idiotic and soulless logic that led us into that conflict:

None of the people who gave us this war have paid any sort of price, the least we can do is make sure we don't forget what horrible destruction they brought into the world for absolutely no fucking reason.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Terrifying Comments From Pelosi On the CIA

For a former speaker of the house/current house minority leader to say this out loud is shocking:
“I salute Sen. Feinstein,” Pelosi said at her weekly news conference of the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “I’ll tell you, you take on the intelligence community, you’re a person of courage, and she does not do that lightly. Not without evidence, and when I say evidence, documentation of what it is that she is putting forth.”

Pelosi added that she has always fought for checks and balances on CIA activity and its interactions with Congress: “You don’t fight it without a price because they come after you and they don’t always tell the truth."
“You don’t fight it without a price because they come after you and they don’t always tell the truth."

She isn't talking about her electoral opponents, she is talking about an agency that works for her, and reports to an elected government. Holy crap.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Price of Solar Panels is Plummeting

This is obviously very good news:
The rest of this article is pretty interesting, discussing the possibility that it might mean people go off the grid in the long run and are no longer dependent on awful utility companies. Let's hope so!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Obamacare lowering the Number of Uninsured Americans

This is an interesting graph, and it will be fun to track over time after the ACA's implementation:

I'll be curious to see how low this number gets, and how close the ACA model can get to actual universality. As Jon Walker points out, it would also be interesting to know how many people are getting new access through the exchanges vs the medicaid expansion.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Local Famous Person that Murdered a Child

Just unreal:
George Zimmerman was shaking hands, smiling and signing autographs at a central Florida gun show Saturday.

Zimmerman greeted people and autographed photos of him posing with his dog. He appeared at a scaled-down version of the New Orlando Gun Show at the Arms Room store on East Colonial Drive.

The show was originally set to be held at the Majestic on John Young Parkway, but organizers said the venue canceled late Thursday after getting negative feedback about Zimmerman's planned appearance.
It's fairly incredible that neither Zimmerman (or the sociopaths asking for his autograph) can understand that EVEN if you thought he was innocent of murder and acting in self defense, that killing a child is nothing to celebrate or be celebrated for. Instead he's signing photos of himself at gun shows. What a world.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Individual Courage Matters: Jack Conway Edition

Much of our politics is determined by systematic factors that make it a big deal when someone breaks the mold and goes against those forces. While there is no denying the larger money and other forces that effect politics, it's become something of a catch all defense used to defend shitty actions by either President Obama or Democrats in general.

As powerful as many of these forces are, you can still do the right thing:
Kentucky's chief lawyer Jack Conway went against his governor and arguably the will of his constituents when he tearfully announced on Tuesday he wouldn't defend a Kentucky law banning recognition of out-of-state gay marriages.

"I felt like I would be defending discrimination," the Democratic attorney general told TPM in an interview on Tuesday. "And for me that's a line in the sand. I couldn't do it."

It was a rare and extraordinary move that split the administration of Gov. Steve Beshear (D), who revealed that he would appeal a federal judge's ruling against the statute after his top lawyer refused to do so.

"I've known for the last couple of days that's where he was headed. I respect Steve Beshear. I had a duty to defend the law ... and I read the [judge's] decision, I agreed with it, and I informed my client I agreed with it," Conway said, citing attorney-client privilege in refusing to divulge the details of their conversations.
If the Attorney General in Kentucky come out in favor of gay equality, I'm pretty sure some other politicians can step the fuck up as well on issues that are far more popular.