Beto campaign staffers pay their (union) dues


Beto O’Rourke speaks at a rally in 2018 in his

U.S. Senate campaign. Photo by “Crockodile.”

Creative Commons/Wikipedia.

The Beto O’Rourke campaign for governor has added at least one twist rarely seen, at least in Texas.  Ed Sills of the Texas AFL-CIO reports that the O’Rourke team has ratified a union contract. The unionizing of some 129 staffers includes organizers, canvassing staff, press people, schedulers, and other staff.

The contract introduces overtime pay, a five-day work week, paid time off to vote early, severance pay, gas stipends and an additional week’s salary as a bonus if O’Rourke wins in November, said the Sills article on the state AFL-CIO website. It also includes important clauses on safe working conditions, parental leave, protections for immigrant workers, and establishes arbitration and grievance procedures and other positions. The political campaign union affiliations are a first in Texas for a statewide campaign. 
The contract was bargained through the Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 277. 
“We want to send a message that every worker in this state should have the right to demand better wages, benefits, and working conditions. We want to join them in that fight,” said Rocio Durney, union campaign organizer. 
I don’t know how many professional politicians will like such a development, as political staffers are notoriously well, well-not-so-well paid. I will say, as well, that I am an unapologetic liberal and a current dues-paying member of a federal worker’s union even though I am retired from the U.S. Department of Labor. I also am a member of the International Association of Fire Fighters Alumni, having been a charter member of a firefighters local in East Texas. I was a vice president of both labor organizations although I like to tell people I was more nice than vice. Most of the time, that is. 

49 or 8 to 4

Like that old Chicago Transit Authority (the band now known as Chicago to you young whippersnappers,) song of yore, I am talking about the time in the early morning. I am not trying to write a song or whatever those band hippies of the 60s were doing, as chronicled in the Chicago hit “25 or 6 to 4.” The time I started writing this was 49 or 48 minutes until 4 a.m. No, what I am doing is known as “messing with my blog.”

I’ve been struggling with loading a “comments plug-in” on my blog. It was a whole lot easier doing things in the olden days. I’m talking about when Blogspot was around for free. But folks figured out how to make money with this damned interweb thing. Why my TV is even internet and there are some channels free but not a whole tortilla stack of them. I was discussing with a Facebook acquaintance watching live-stream major league baseball when in reality all I really care for is the Houston Astros. But here is the shenanigan, even if you pay $60-100 a year to watch live-stream baseball game, your Astro game may be blacked out, not only here in Beaumont, Texas, some 85 miles away from the “Juice Box” a.k.a. Minute Maid Park where Houston plays. You may get a blacked-out game in Baltimore or as I did in Oakland.

Time to do some or the joys I had in life as a writer, even though I’m not being paid for it. I’m retired and mostly disabled, at least for the time being. So I have the Comments connected below the blog post, something I got tired of with people bitching when all I wanted to do was have a couple of adult beverages and enjoy the afternoon. Now, if I get tired of people saying nasty things about me or my writing, I will just respond in kind or make them disappear into the blogosphere.

Got to go, it’s now 42 or 3 t0 4.

GOP tax hysteria runs rampant nowadays

Nuclear-powered carrier Gerald R. Ford. Get cooking that chili and catfish. This monster isn’t printing money itself.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ridge Leoni/Released

To speak in Congress-ese, my friends on the right side of the aisle are seemingly freaked out over the IRS funding by the Manchin-Schumer bill.

Some of the hysteria touted by the far right media includes the more than 80,000 employees the agency will hire. The right-winger people imply the IRS will hire these folks in one fell swoop. That is not the case.

 “The administration has estimated the IRS needs to hire about 86,000 new employees over time, at least 50,000 of whom would replace those who are expected to retire or leave the agency in the next six years,”according to a National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) press release.

And after serving 13 years as a regional Vice President of an American Federation of Government Employees Union local for Department of Labor employees, yes, I tend to believe the NTEU. I am retired from the DOL but still a dues-paying member of AFGE/National Council of Field Labor Locals.

The IRS is not hiring 86,000 agents or creating a “military force.” The Criminal Investigation (CI) division has a law enforcement arm of some 2,000 special agents. Two IRS agents have died in the line of duty in recent times. Michael Dillon was killed on September 23, 1983 at the private residence of a former IRS employee while trying to collect a debt. Most recently an agency law enforcement supervisor, Vernon Hunter, was killed when a man crashed his small plane into an Austin, Texas IRS facility.

More hysteria is over the IRS buying ammunition for its law enforcement officers. Consider what the agency’s CI division stockpiled under the Trump administration:

 “Currently, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) owns 4,600 guns and has stockpiled 5 million rounds for use by its 2,159 special agents. These figures include 621 shotguns, 539 long-barrel rifles and 15 submachine guns,” says a GAO report on guns and ammo purchasing by federal law enforcement entities.

Those figures pale in comparison to what the typical Texas gun owner possesses. Lighten up! That’s a Texan joke built by a Texan.

Trump signed an executive order to hire 5,000 new Customs and Border Protection as well as 10,000 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers. No telling how many of the border patrol were actually hired. The last I heard, some 600 new employees were authorized. A border patrol union president had said both CBP and ICE surveys indicate that those two agencies are among the worst places to work in the federal government. About 1,000 employees of those agencies leave each year. 

Who knows how many CBP serve within 100 miles from the Mexico and Canadian borders such as at the checkpoint at Sierra Blanca, Texas, on Interstate 10, east of El Paso. Also, if you are within those 100-mile areas in which the border patrol can operate, don’t be surprised if you are speaking Spanish and the agents ask for your papers.

As for hiring new IRS personnel, you may not like paying income taxes. I don’t know many taxpayers who do. I paid more this year after retiring at 65 than I have since I was 18. On the other hand, I was grateful to have the extra money to spend during the prior year. I don’t know how folks really think we can fund our government with its huge military and weaponry and platforms. Why a F/A 18 Super Hornet Navy fighter can cost up to $50 million each. The Air Force F-35 stealth fighter originally between $221 million each, according to Reuters. Newer versions will cost between $100-$150 million apiece. The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier the USS Gerald R. Ford, commissioned five years ago cost $12.8 billion plus another $4.7 billion for research and development.

I would have to ask some expert — and I doubt an expert that I need would answer a question from the blog eight feet deep —how difficult it would be to change or dissolve the federal income tax. The 16th Amendment, ratified in 1913, allows Congress to enact such a tax. Hence:

 “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.”

Maybe some folks think nationwide fish fry dinners or chili suppers will raise the funds. Having been to both types of fund-raisers in my native East Texas, I’d start catching a bunch of catfish (watch the limits!) and rounding up some beef.

Maybe it’s time …

Where the hell have I been? Mostly at home when I am not going to see doctors or am not in the hospital. Last year pretty much sucked. No need to dress up a pig with lipstick. I didn’t have COVID but I did have a pretty indecent case of pneumonia. I’m not even totally sure how I got it other than likely ingesting some vomitus in my lungs. I think I fell backward on the floor and stayed there for eight hours I managed to crawl the short distance between my kitchen and living/dining area. The door had been left open and the lady in the next apartment saw me and managed to hand me my cell phone.

The paramedics came that Wednesday morning and proceeded to intubate me. I don’t know what kind of shot they gave me but I remember only bits and pieces and shapes until I woke up that Friday night in ICU. That was one of about three extended hospital stays last year. I had surgery on my foot earlier in the year to remove a piece of infected bone. And all the while my left foot continued to worsen in its deformity.

I have what is called Charcot’s arthropathy, named after a French neurologist from the late 19th century. Called the “Father of modern neurology,” Jean-Martin Charcot researched this arthropathy known more informally as Charcot foot. The disease is one of the most misunderstood and frequently overlooked complications of diabetes, according to an abstract from a historical perspective of the disease published in, the national library of medicine.

What I find bizarre is that I was what is known as “morbidly obese” when I began having diabetic wounds on the bottom of my feet. The food in both hospitals in which I stayed was godawful, so I just wouldn’t eat it. As a result I ended up losing 40-60 pounds and now am merely obese. But I became less and less dependent on all the diabetes medicine I was on. My last two A1C readings from blood tests showed that I was actually no longer in what are high blood sugar readings for diabetes. One reading in December and another in January showed 5.1 and 5.4 respectively.

I have continued to have one diabetic wound being treated. My podiatrist says it’s no more larger than a dime. Yet it shrinks in what seems like geological time. The outside edge of my left foot is parallel with the floor. I can’t totally avoid stepping on it when I have to get out of my wheelchair. That fact could be what continues to slightly irritate the wound. I am waiting on the Department of Veterans Affairs to approve a CT Scan an orthopedic surgeon I have seen has ordered in order to determine whether attaching an external fixator to my foot to eventually put the foot back the way it belongs will help.

There are no guarantees. Some folks who have had reconstructive foot surgeries ended up with infections that required foot or below the knee amputations. A Facebook group with whom I subscribe has a lot of people who actually tired of the pain and inconvenience of Charcot and opted for the latter type of amputation. I will do all I can do to avoid amputation. I can get prosthetic legs through the VA but the entire process is something I don’t want.

So that, my friends, is why I have been absent. With all that said and now this terrible war that Vladimir “The Terrible Rooskie Asshole” put upon its Ukrainian neighbors depresses me. Being stuck in a wheelchair and having no reliable personal transportation depresses me. Hell, Will Smith slapping the dogshit out of Chris Rock at Sunday’s Oscars depresses me. The fact no deserving Texas team made the Final Four, well, that just pisses me off.

That said, I remind you to look at the featured picture I took in 2004 or so. Like the late Waylon Jennings sang: “Maybe it’s time we get back to the basics of love. Let’s go to Luckenbach, Texas, with Waylon and Willie and the boys. This successful life we’re living got us feuding like the Hatfields and McCoys … ” Of course Waylon’s gone, as is Mickey Newbury, whom Waylon mentions later down in the lyrics. (My favorite song penned by Newbury is “Just Dropped In” (to See What Condition My Condition is in.)

Well, I sure as hell would like to go back to Luckenbach although I doubt it has any wheelchair ramps. But it’s fun looking back on the good times when not a lot of good times have been happenin’ lately. Here is to good times to come.

2020: Pick your poison

It’s been awhile.

I’ve been staying mostly in the great indoors due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. Texas was mostly okay during the “stay-at-home” phase. But our s***head of a governor followed Trumpster’s lead, boot-licking all the way, opening most businesses so the president can look as if he was actually helping the economy.

Also, I have spent time in three hospitals in the last three months. This included one night at St. Luke’s at the Texas Medical Center for esophageal surgery.. Best hospital experience ever.

Back in July I had a two-fer. I noticed a big hole in my left foot and had to go to the ER at Beaumont’s Baptist Hospital. The ER had me admitted. I had debridement surgery the next day. This was a procedure in which the doctor ream the wound and clean in up good. The wound extended from my instep to the side of my foot. I had a bit of infection in my fifth toe bone so the doc shaved off the bottom of my toe. I was knocked out, thankfully.

I stayed nearly a week where I was given massive doses of IV antibiotics which would come back to haunt me. I was out of the hospital two days and I started having problems standing up. Since my weight had ballooned up to 325, I had difficulty getting off the floor. I had to call 911. Three firefighters from the local fire station came to help me but the door was locked and the firefighters had a hell of a time just getting to me. They finally got in and helped me up.

The next night I had a similar problem. I called the VA tele-nurse who told me, assessing my symptoms of difficulty standing up and remaining up, said I needed to call for an ambulance. Beaumont EMS took me to Baptist where the doctors said I needed to go to my own hospital, meaning the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Hospital in Houston. So I took a ride in an Acadian Ambulance Service unit for the 90-mile drive to Houston.

It turns out, I was having acute kidney failure, no doubt caused by the massive IV antibiotics I spoke of as well as the dye from a CT Scan back at Baptist.

Almost a month later, I still have a hole in my foot. I do receive a nurse visit three times a week. She wraps my foot after cleaning the wound and applying a collagen-type medicine. I supposedly will see a wound specialist here in Beaumont through the Choice program for which Trump claims for his own, even though it was passed and signed by President Obama.

Meanwhile, here on the Uppermost Texas Coast we stand to feel the effects of not one, but two tropical weather system.

When Tropical Depression 14 first sprung up it’s “warning cone” had a dead-center path to Sabine Pass which is in my county and partly in Cameron Parish, Louisiana. As meteorologists are quick to point out, those warning cones means the storm might go anywhere on one side or the other.

Tropical Depression 14, named Marco, is actually forecast to hit before Tropical Depression 13, which is Laura. Marco is now a hurricane while Laura is a tropical storm. You got that?

At one point the forecast track for Marco was to make landfall in the Central to Eastern Louisiana parishes. The storm is tracking on a western turn forecast to hit Central and Southwest Louisiana. That track puts us in the middle of the cone once again.

And Laura? It is predicted to land between Southwest Louisiana and Southeast Texas. Which is where I live.

Weather two tropical storms or one TS and one hurricane? That’s insane. However, there is a hope that Marco may stall out after hitting wind shear, CNN weather guy Tom Sater just said. Of course it could also meander off the coast as Tropical Storm Harvey did. Imelda, a former tropical storm, was stuck in a holding pattern in my area that produced flooding. I know I didn’t expect flooding where I live. I know it was raining like hell. But I woke up and stepped in about ankle-deep water. That wasn’t a good feeling.

I was on what was like an island during Harvey. Everywhere *flooded. But Imelda was even more insane.

So far the U.S. has had 5.6 million cases of Covid-19 which has caused more than 170,000 deaths. What more than hurricanes do we need?

Well it seems there is this asteroid that is supposed to come near the earth the day before the General Election.