On the COVID vaccine roll-out.

Amber Smock on Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers podcast.

My friend Amber Smock is a long-time activist for disability rights here in Chicago.

I want to share some of her observations on the state of the Covid vaccine roll-out that she shared on her Facebook feed.

1. Early vaccination status does NOT guarantee you a vaccine, given that there is still a vaccine shortage, and given that appointment systems vary widely.

2. The appointment or line system is very flawed. Some places offer online appointments, other places do phone-only; neither is ideal and neither is actually accessible in a cross-disability way.

3. It is critical for public health departments to provide clear, easy to follow instructions to employers, disability providers, and the general public. There have been instances of total miscommunication that don’t help.

4. First-come, first-served is terrible when there is still a shortage because there are many people willing to travel a long way to get a shot, only to be told there’s nothing available and to have to turn around and go home.

5. Government really needs to partner with labor unions, disability networks, community groups to offer guidance, space, and mobilization.

6. Disparities are gonna happen (at least short term for sure, which is terrible). In Oregon the most noticeable disparity was that people living in smaller towns seemed to have better access than those in urban settings. This is not dissimilar to Illinois where Chicago has a high population and it will take longer to get 3 million people vaccinated.

7. Disability support workers and interpreters need to get vaccinated unless their own disability prevents it.

8. The entire process for vaccination is unnecessarily stressful and triggering to people’s mental health.

9. Placing the burden on disability folks to find a vaccine/get an appointment is pretty disgusting when you consider that hospitals/medical centers took it upon themselves to organize their staff/contractors to get vaccinated. Rolling this out in an organized way that doesn’t force people into a weird pinata party FOMO situation is key. We don’t HAVE to do it that way.

10. People are so desperate for vaccination that they may be willing to bend the rules to get one.

Are hospitals posting their prices, as required?

Not much transparency.

Reposted from Just Care.

By Diane Archer

Beginning this year, hospitals are required to be transparent about the prices they charge different insurers for their services. But, Samantha Liss reports for HealthcareDive that hospitals are not being transparent about their negotiated prices. Why would they post their prices when the potential penalty is a mere $300 a day or a corrective action plan, a flick on the wrist?

As of January 1, all hospitals across the country must make their negotiated prices public, online. Until this year, virtually all hospitals claimed this information was proprietary, a business trade secret. There was no requirement for price transparency.

Hospitals that are complying with the transparency policy are burying information about their rates on their web sites or are not providing complete information. Researchers cannot find it. There is no single designated place for this information.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is overseeing this effort. But, CMS does not post the information. It is not even collecting it; hospitals are not required to send CMS the information. There is no simple way to know which hospitals are complying and which are not.

When the hospital price information is available, it is not likely to help individuals compare prices right now. Over time, if you’re shopping for insurance, you might be able to see which insurers are able to negotiate the best rates from the hospitals you want to use. Of course, that does not tell you whether the insurer has inappropriately high denial or mortality rates, two other factors that people should be able to consider when choosing a health plan but for which there is no information.

The hospital price information currently available reveals what we already know. The prices vary tremendously for the same service. According to Niall Brennan, head of the Health Care Cost Institute, one insurer might pay $5,000 for a C-section and another $55,000. Neither Congress nor president-elect Joe Biden is even talking about fixing this huge problem that drives up insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs and jeopardizes access to care.

The American Hospital Association fought hard against hospital price transparency. But, it ultimately failed. A federal appeals court wouldn’t intervene to block the policy from going into effect. The American Hospital Association tried to say that some prices are unknowable. Really? Do the hospitals make them up as they go along?

Why won’t the IEA retract their endorsement of the Confederate Insurrectionist, Republican Mike Bost?

State Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro. IEA endorsed.

I’m admittedly cynical about the growing list of corporations who suddenly were shocked when they discovered that they were contributing campaign money to the white supremacists who sit in Congress.

But okay.

I even scoffed out loud when I read that New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio was ending the city’s contracts with Donald Trump.

He waited until now?

But compared to these corporations, the Illinois Education Association is beyond cynicism.

The IEA endorsed the downstate Republican, former previously a member of the Illinois General Assembly, against a pro-labor Democrat and have so far not said a word about his vote in Congress to overturn the election results, a vote aimed at ginning up the violent white supremacists

Companies like StarbucksAxe, and Chevron all released statements on social media condemning the insurrection.

But nothing form the IEA about ending their relationship with Bost.

The National Association of Manufacturers, a business lobbying group that has long been an ally of the Trump Administration, even released a statement calling for the President to be removed from office by invoking the Twenty-fifth Amendment.

But nothing from the IEA about endorsing Bost.

An ever-increasing list of business groups and companies—including the Blue Cross Blue Shield AssociationBest Buy, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Verizon—have cut ties with both the Trump Administration and the 147 lawmakers who voted to contest the results of the 2020 election.

But not the IEA.

How do they sleep at night?

Illinois takes steps towards criminal justice reform and constraining abuse by police.

When the police killed Laquan McDonald.

On Wednesday the Illinois General Assembly passed a criminal justice reform bill that is now waiting for Governor Pritzker’s signature.

Initiated by the GA’s Black Caucus the bill will end cash bail in our state.

Under the bill, criminal defendants no longer would be required, with limited exceptions, to post any cash bail to be released before trial. 

The system of cash bail has served to keep poor people locked up, often for long periods of time, without ever having been convicted of a crime.

I have argued for a while that the GA should have acted to remove due process language as issues of bargaining in police contracts. Studies have shown that left to collective bargaining, groups like the Fraternal Order of Police have forced the city to give in on language that protects cops from criminal prosecution.

I believe it is wrong to put the Mayor in the position of having to bargain with the cops over how the city responds to criminal acts by the police.

The bill doesn’t go as far as eliminating due process language from bargaining. But it takes steps to curtail the FOP’s power.

James Franczek, the attorney who represents the city, says the bill will strengthen the hand of the city in bargaining with the FOP that has gone on since 2017.

Franczek said that, at a minimum, (FOP President) Catanzara must accept the city’s economic offer — 10% over four years, nearly all of it retroactive — along with the disciplinary and accountability changes Lightfoot won from an independent arbitrator in a separate contract for police supervisors. 

That award allowed anonymous complaints against police supervisors to be investigated whenever the inspector general, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability or the Chicago Police Department’s Bureau of Internal Affairs determine there is “objective evidence” to support the claim.

To end the code of silence that former Mayor Rahm Emanuel famously acknowledged after court-ordered release of the Laquan McDonald shooting video in 2015, the city also is seeking language encouraging police officers to report wrongdoing by fellow officers and allow CPD to reward them for doing so. 

The Lightfoot administration also wants it noted in the official record whenever a police representative or attorney for the accused “interferes with or interrupts” interrogations. 

The city also wants to change the “lie-or-die” edict, known as Rule 14, to allow the city to consider all statements made by an accused officer — before and after he or she views a video of the incident — in determining whether that officers lied under oath.

For more on the new package of laws go to Injustice Watch.

Liz Cheney, regime changer.

This morning the U.S. House of Representatives will vote to impeach Trump a second time.

They should impeach him.

They should arrest him and his co-conspirators.

Early on there was debate over whether the coup attempt was the rogue work of some inept boogaloo boys. The evidence is mounting that the coup conspiracy reaches to the highest levels of government, Congressional members and to those in the White House including the President.

A Confederate Insurrection.

I have heard some praise for the fact that Republicans like Congresswoman Liz Cheney have decided to vote for impeachment.

I am not so full of praise.

Cheney is part of that minority of Republicans who for the last four years have wished for a more aggressive foreign policy from Trump.

Like in the Bush days.

Esquire’s political writer, Charles Pierce, reminds us that Liz Cheney is the spawn of Satan – Dick Cheney.

They never liked Trump. Some split off to become Never-Trumpers and Lincoln Republicans and some even supported Biden.

And when Biden won the overwhelming vote, they rejected Trump’s claims of fraud and Trump’s attempt to illegally overturn the results of the popular and electoral vote.

Apparently Cheney and her comrades are in favor of illegal regime change everywhere but here at home.

Liz is like her father Dick Cheney.

Dick organized the letter signed by all the living former Secretaries of Defense warning the military not to interfere in the transfer of power. Dick and his neo-conservative allies long for a restoration of the early 2000s Bush/Clinton foreign policy of regime change and so-called nation building.

What the past four years has revealed is a deep split in the Republican Party over past wars like those in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of those regime changer neo-Conservatives have left the Republican Party entirely and hooked up with Biden’s administration.

Despite being given a high level job in the minority Congressional Republican caucus, Cheney’s folks have mainly been on the outside looking in.

Bill Kristol, David Frum, Jamie Kirchick, Steve Schmidt, and Max Boot – all supporters of a regime change foreign policy during the Bush years – have all distanced themselves from Trump and want to restore the Republican Party to the old days, start something new or join with the neo-cons inside the Democratic Party.

I can’t see how progressives have any interest in their success.

How is it that the IEA and other unions endorsed Mike Bost for Congress, a Confederate Insurrectionist?

Illinois Congressman Mike Bost.

For nearly 40 years I have scratched my head at many of the political decisions of my teachers’ union, the Illinois Education Association.

A search of past blog posts will illustrate a number of past examples.

Endorsing Congressman Mike Bost is just one example of why I long ago stopped donating to the IEA’s political action fund, IPACE.

In the case of Bost, the IEA was not the only union who endorsed him.

The IEA support for Bost was particularly offensive because aside from being a Republican Trumper, on education issues Bost supported Betsy DeVos’ education agenda.

DeVos was an unrelenting opponent of public education and teacher unions.

Now a petition is calling is calling for the expulsion of Bost from Congress.

Bost pissed off many of his local constituents, including IEA members, for his votes to reject the results of the presidential election by Congress and sympathy for the Confederate Insurrectionist that stormed the national Capitol.

“We ask that the House Speaker and Majority Leader expel Mike Bost for voting to approve the seditious objections to the election of Joe Biden for President,” the petition reads.

The petition adds that Bost’s decision to support rejecting election results “further demonstrates how out of touch he is with the will of the people in this district.”

So, why would the IEA and other union leaders push support, raise money and get out the vote for this guy?

As of Sunday morning, the petition has more than 1,200 total signatures.

Bost joined Congresswoman Mary Miller in pushing for rejection of the electoral results. Miller has garnered attention recently for quoting Hitler.

The two also supported a lawsuit led by Congressman Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) in December. The lawsuit didn’t get far in the court system, with the U.S. Supreme Court saying that the motion had a ‘lack of standing‘.

Following Wednesday’s Capitol insurrection, Bost said that President Trump and his team should not be held culpable of inciting Wednesday’s violence.

“Many people have never liked how Donald Trump Speaks. He’s a New York business guy and he kind of just lets it fly out there,” Bost said. “Remember, he’s never claimed to be a politician.”

Bost is IEA’s guy.

90% of all people in jail in Illinois are there on pretrial detention. End cash bail.

Illinois State Senator Robert Peters sponsor of the bill ending Illinois cash bail.

In March, pre-pandemic, when Mike and I were still doing our radio show/podcast at Lumpen Radio, our guest was State Senator Robert Peters.

You can hear the podcast here.

Senator Peters on Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers podcast last March.

We wanted to talk with Senator Peters about his bill to end cash bail in Illinois.

Now, almost a year later, Senator Peter’s bill to end cash bail is coming to a vote in the Illinois legislature.

From the website of The Appeal.

The Illinois legislature will soon vote on a package of policing and criminal justice reforms, including the Pretrial Fairness Act. Introduced by Senator Robert Peters, the Act will tie pretrial release to public safety instead of money. It will require judges to release people charged with crimes before trial with the exception of a narrow set of felony offenses or if someone poses a specific harm to another individual. In all exceptions, the bill requires judges to impose the least restrictive conditions possible. The impact will be huge: data from 2016 revealed that 90% of all people in jail in Illinois were there on pretrial detention.

The evidence is clear from the experience of other jurisdictions that ending cash bail reduces the jail population with no increase in crime.

A poll by The Lab shows overwhelming voter support for ending cash bail.

Chicago States Attorney Kim Foxx has led the way on implementing cash bail reform in Cook County. A 2020 study of Cook County’s 2017 bail reform, which doubled the number of pretrial releases in its first six months, found no resulting increase in crime.

The Party of white supremacy and reactionary insurrection.

The Republican Party is a white supremacist reactionary insurrectionist Party. Its storm troopers are in the streets outside and inside the capitol. Its political representatives sit in the halls of Congress. Its leader is in the White House, momentarily banned from Twitter and Facebook but with his finger still on the nuclear button. His toadies heading the Defense Department and other government agencies.

Hours after the white supremacists in Georgia were defeated by Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Osoff for seats that gave Senate control to the Democrats, Trump gave his storm troopers orders to march on the Capitol and “go wild.”

Some claim elections have consequences.

But not to the white supremacist reactionary insurrectionist party.

They have no interest in elections, because the future of true representative voting does not favor them.

For them the election of Joe Biden by an overwhelming popular majority means nothing more than a call to arms.

For them the election of a Black preacher from Martin Luther King’ s home church and a southern Jew to the Senate from Georgia is the future and a call to go wild.

Four million votes in Georgia in an open and fair election simply provided the excuse for an attempt at a coup d’etat.

So far it has failed.

But they are not done.

Coup attempts don’t always succeed on the first try.

The white supremacist insurrectionist party organized insurrectionary actions in state capitals across the country.

Springfield included.

In the national Capitol, police opened the barricades to let the insurrectionists in.

Their are videos on the internet of Capitol police showing the insurrectionists the way in.

A few dozen reactionary rebels were arrested.

Chicago’s head of the Fraternal Order of Police, a committed Trumper, dismissed concerns about the insurrection.

In less than two weeks we may see a new president.

But even if we do, the white supremacist reactionary insurrectionist party and its followers will still be here.

There will be talk of reconciliation. Reaching across the aisle.

That’s all nonsense.

We should be talking about a new Reconstruction.

Vote suppressing. One in 16 African Americans cannot vote.

Donald Trump is attempting to overturn the results of the presidential election.

His claims are preposterous, his phone calls are probably illegal and the support he has received from the Authoritarian Party is a clear and present danger, a repudiation of any claim to their belief in a democratic process.

But that is not the same as suggesting the current voting process is fully democratic and that voter suppression doesn’t broadly exist.

A report from the The Sentencing Project.

  • As of 2020, an estimated 5.17 million people are disenfranchised due to a felony conviction, a figure that has declined by almost 15 percent since 2016, as states enacted new policies to curtail this practice. There were an estimated 1.17 million people disenfranchised in 1976, 3.34 million in 1996, 5.85 million in 2010, and 6.11 million in 2016.
  • One out of 44 adults – 2.27 percent of the total U.S. voting eligible population–is disenfranchised due to a current or previous felony conviction.
  • Individuals who have completed their sentences in the eleven states that disenfranchise at least some people post-sentence make up most (43 percent) of the entire disenfranchised population, totaling 2.23 million people.
  • Rates of disenfranchisement vary dramatically by state due to broad variations in voting prohibitions. In three states – Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee – more than 8 percent of the adult population, one of every thirteen people, is disenfranchised.
  • We estimate that nearly 900,000 Floridians who have completed their sentences remain disenfranchised, despite a 2018 ballot referendum that promised to restore their voting rights. Florida thus remains the nation’s disenfranchisement leader in absolute numbers, with over 1.1 million people currently banned from voting – often because they cannot afford to pay court-ordered monetary sanctions or because the state is not obligated to tell them the amount of their sanction.
  • One in 16 African Americans of voting age is disenfranchised, a rate 3.7 times greater than that of non-African Americans. Over 6.2 percent of the adult African American population is disenfranchised compared to 1.7 percent of the non-African American population.
  • African American disenfranchisement rates vary significantly by state. In seven states – Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wyoming – more than one in seven African Americans is disenfranchised, twice the national average for African Americans.
  • Although data on ethnicity in correctional populations are still unevenly reported, we can conservatively estimate that over 560,000 Latinx Americans or over 2 percent of the voting eligible population are disenfranchised.
  • Approximately 1.2 million women are disenfranchised, comprising over one-fifth of the total disenfranchised population.