Forget ACA and M4A. Shop Whole Foods.

Whole Foods CEO John Mackey.

Of late I have been posting about the privatization of Medicare and about health care in general.

Like I really think we need to move quickly to a system of national health care.

And quickly if the pandemic has taught us anything.

Being 72 and just going through a bout with cancer has made it very personal.

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods thinks about the problem of health care differently.

His solution is simple. Don’t get sick and don’t get old.

For Mackey the solution is eat organic and the hell with government programs.

“The best solution is to change the way people eat, the way they live, the lifestyle, and diet,” Mackey says. “There’s no reason why people shouldn’t be healthy and have a longer health span. A bunch of drugs is not going to solve the problem.”

Americans are not taking as good care of their own bodies as they ought to be, Mackey says: “71% of Americans are overweight and 42.5% are obese. Clearly, we’re making bad choices in the way we eat,” he says. “It’s not a sustainable path. And so, I’m calling it out.”

It’s not the first time Mackey has called for better lifestyles as a solution to expensive health care

In 2009, he penned a piece for the Wall Street Journal along the same ilk, “The Whole Foods Alternative to ObamaCare,” in which he advocated for less government control of health care in the United States.

“This begins with the realization that every American adult is responsible for his or her own health,” Mackey wrote. “We should take that responsibility very seriously and use our freedom to make wise lifestyle choices that will protect our health.”

I loved this response to Mackey on Twitter:

Welcome to Mackey’s America, 2021.

“I just want to find 11,780 votes.” Vote theft didn’t start with Trump.

Do we forget that James Cheney, Micky Schwerner and James Goodman died in Mississippi and were murdered by the Klan for trying to register Black voters there?

Donald Trump caught on tape trying to overturn the results in Georgia is just a dot on a straight line drawn from the end of Reconstruction to today to deny Black votes.

The turnout in November produced the largest number of votes in U.S. history.

This was in spite of continued Black voter suppression across the country.

We can imagine the number if everyone could vote.

Fascists in the Republican Party went after and continue to go after Black voters, city voters and suburban voters who are more than ever not white.

From the poll tax to murder in Mississippi to the seven hours many had to wait to cast a vote to Trump’s phone calls.

A straight line. Year after year after year.

In spite of the huge voter turnout to defeat Trump and in the midst of a pandemic, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott restricted each county in his state to one mail-in ballot drop-box location, regardless of population.

Texas counties with only a few thousand residents had the same number of locations as Harris County which includes parts of Houston, the third-largest county in America.

In Alabama, state officials stopped counties from implementing curbside ballot drop-offs in spite of the raging pandemic

In Florida, less than a month before Election Day, the secretary of state’s office issued new that added requirements for county election officials to meet for setting up ballot drop-off locations.

Charles Blow put it right.

Conservatives in America — whether they were acting under the banner of Democrats a hundred years ago or under the Republican one today — have engaged in a campaign for racial exclusion at the ballot ever since Black people — only Black men at first — gained access to the franchise.

Trump not only attempted to erase Black votes after they were cast, he attempted to suppress them before they were cast. This is nothing new among conservatives, but Trump has dragged the practice out of the back rooms and into the light of day once again, giving it a telegenic, digitally contagious persona.

Bernie filibusters the war budget with Georgia on my mind. I love Bernie.

Today Bernie plans to filibuster the war budget.

He wants the Senate to vote on adding the $2000 to the Covid relief bill before voting on Pentagon relief.

Not $2000 a month, by the way. That’s what many countries in Europe are doing during the pandemic.

We’re just fighting for a $2000 one time payment.

Bernie doesn’t really think the Republican Senate will pass it. Just as he doesn’t think he can stop the bloated war budget. But he wants a vote.

“McConnell and the Senate want to expedite the override vote and I understand that. But I’m not going to allow that to happen unless there is a vote, no matter how long that takes, on the $2,000 direct payment,” he told Politico on Monday night.

Sanders’ filibuster would not ultimately block the defense bill, but it could delay a vote until New Year’s Day, disrupting senators’ holiday weekend plans and keeping Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in Washington instead of campaigning in Georgia for next week’s runoff election.

Sources close to Sanders told Politico that it would also make the stimulus payments a front-and-center campaign issue in Georgia; neither Loeffler nor Perdue have explicitly supported the $2,000 payments.

Wouldn’t it be great if McConnell blocking a vote on the 2K were to hand the Georgia elections and control of the Senate to the Democrats?

I love Bernie.

The United States is the Marco Rubio of the world.

Like many Trumper hypocrites, Senator Marco Rubio jumps the line for the Covid Vaccine.

Sure. On a personal level it pissed me off to see Florida Republican Trumper Senator Marco Rubio jumping the line to get a Covid shot.

I’m 72 with underlying health issues. I’m not sure where my place in line is, but I know if it weren’t for Rubio’s privileged position as a U.S. senator, he wouldn’t be getting jabbed right now with a needle. And attacking Dr. Anthony Fauci while sitting there.

Of course, Rubio got blasted all over social media for his hypocrisy.

And the fact is that I will get my vaccine soon enough.

But that will provide limited safety.

To be really safe with the possibility of returning to pre-pandemic routines we need community immunity.

Dr. Fauci says that it may take a year or longer for enough people in the United States to be vaccinated to achieve community immunity.

I won’t be really safe until 90% of us are vaccinated.

Meanwhile, in typical first world fashion, the United States and the other wealthy nations have cornered the market on the vaccine.

The wealthy countries are the Marco Rubio of the world.

Just over half (51%) of these doses will go to high income countries, which represent 14% of the world’s population, say the authors. Low and middle income countries will potentially have the remainder, despite these countries comprising more than 85% of the world’s population.

The thing is that global hoarding of the vaccine, like Marco Rubio jumping the line, won’t make us safer.

That’s why it’s called a pandemic.

We need to see community as a global thing.

A teacher will head the department of education.

Like most educators around the country, I don’t know much about Dr. Miguel Cardona other than that he comes from four years of classroom experience and then as a local public school administrator and that he was the head of public schools in Connecticut.

I have always thought that the importance of having a teacher head the federal education department was overstated.

First hand teaching experience is valuable in setting policy, but not the only thing.

I have been in too many heated conversations among my teaching colleagues about what constitutes good teaching practice to believe that practice alone will get us to the right place. Or that being a teacher means we all agree.

To me, it is good news that Dr. Cardona doesn’t come out of the corporate education reform groups like those connected to Eli Broad or DFER, Democrats for Education Reform.

And Dr. Cardona is an educator of color, supported by the Hispanic congressional caucus.

He also has received good reviews from the national teachers unions. The leadership of both were angling for the job.

And it is very good news we will finally be done with Betsy DeVos.

Some have expressed concerns about his views towards testing, and that’s fair.

Yet in the wake of the pandemic and the need to get schools opened safely, public schools will need lots of federal support.

I’m talking cash.

If Dr. Cardona can get the Biden administration to provide the federal funding to public schools they desperately need to open safely, it will have proven to be a good start in rolling back the education disasters of several administrations, Democratic and Republican, which have pursued a policy of public school starvation.

Exclusive from Kentucky. A new drive-by attempt at pension theft.

Nina McCoy, a retired teacher from Inez, Kentucky, looks on as she and other 120 Strong protesters hold a rally outside the Capitol Annex on Wednesday as they protest teacher pension reforms. “Here they are again, trying to mess with our pensions,” McCoy said. “Nothing is going to work if someone isn’t paying into them.” Dec. 16, 2020. Photo: Louisville Courier Journal

By Randy Wieck, Kentucky teacher and pension activist. I asked Randy to bring us up to date in Mitch McConnell’s home state.

At a time when the Republican super majorities in the Kentucky Legislature would seem to have more pressing issues to face – Covid-shuttered schools and businesses, unemployment supplements, eviction waivers, universal Covid testing and tracing – they nonetheless carry on with a new drive-by attempt at teacher pension “reform” which, once again, is a thinly veiled attempt to dismantle (let us be honest and use the proper term – gut) the Kentucky teacher defined benefit pension plan; kill it once and for all.

The idea of properly funding the plan, according to relevant GASB accounting standards, and repairing the damage inflicted over several decades of underfunding – is one legislators choose to duck. Better to chisel Kentucky’s way out of the debt it has run up through using funds that should have gone to the teacher pension (known as the actuarially required contribution), and which were instead used for other purposes. Perhaps they are following the lead of Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell who refuses to allow federal aid to states beset with heavy, unforeseen expenses during a worldwide pandemic.

Rather than supply much-needed and adequate funding to TRS, (some $2 Billion per year for the foreseeable future) legislators instead prefer to “reform” the plan, placing new-hires into the old “beating-a-dead-horse” hybrid pension system.

Why not simply begin to pay back the missing funding and repair the damage inflicted by the legislature, and not by teachers who have dependably paid one of the highest pension contribution rates in the country (13%)? 

Teachers who question the current “reform” proposal have been met by cries, such as that from Representative Kevin Bratcher R-Louisville, that teachers should get out of politics and elections because it “poisons the well” when pensions are discussed.

The current proposal of “reform” or dismantling the DB pension – has a 90% funded “trigger” which, when the plan falls below that percentage – permits the board of trustees of TRS to cut benefits: “If funding is below 90%, the TRS Board of Trustees shall utilize the adjustments necessary to maintain the trust funding until restored to at least 90%.”  One major problem: TRS is currently funded at 40%, despite the pollyannaish propaganda of its current managers. TRS has not been 90% funded since the early 2000s.

This is, in its simplest form, another “sewer” bill; you may remember that: where many of the same legislators attempted to push through TRS pension reforms in 2018, late in the night, in a bill where the word “sewage” was suddenly replaced by “pension”.  Luckily, teachers caught wind of that – no pun intended – and staged sick-outs, and converged in their thousands on the state Capitol. The legislators backed down. (PBS Frontline recounted these events in the Emmy-nominated documentary “The Pension Gamble” – worth a view). 

This time, teachers are home-bound, avoiding crowds, and struggling to supply acceptable virtual instruction. Yes – just the right time to attempt to slip this new pension reform sewage into law.

Gingerbread houses and teacher unions.

When I see gingerbread houses this time of year I think about the teacher two doors down the hall who made making them an assignment each year as homework.

I imagine it was mostly done by parents – moms most likely. But they were great and festive. And a shared family thing. They filled the library display case. 

Pretzel log roofs. Jellies in the windows. Candied dripping icicles. Some small modest dwellings. Others quite like mansions.

And I remember when the teacher was diagnosed with cancer which made it physically impossible to take her class to PE or Music or recess. But she wanted to continue to teach and all she needed was assistance. 

Naturally, the district resisted. They pressured her to retire “for her own good.”

As the union president I had to have the discussion with the head of HR. “We can make this difficult or easy,” I explained to him. “She wants to teach, she can teach and it’s a good lesson for her students that people who may have an illness or disability can be productive. And it’s the law.”

There’s nothing like the threat of a lawyer.

She was able to finish out the year.

And gingerbread houses still remind me of her and why teachers need a union.

A tough 2020 for executives at Illinois’ Teacher Retirement System. Gone with no explanation. Has another one bit the dust?

TRS executive departures began with executive Director Richard Ingram.

It’s been a tough year for executives of our Illinois Teacher Retirement System.

And still nobody is talking about it. No explanations are being given.

When TRS board of trustee member Doug Strand appeared before our Illinois Retired Teachers Association chapter he refused to answer any questions about the departures.

Richard Ingram, director of the Illinois Teachers Retirement System, resigned after being placed on administrative leave by the TRS board. 

Ingram’s resignation came after the termination of Jana Bergschneider, the board’s chief financial officer. Bergschneider was paid $191,300 last year, according to Illinois comptroller records. Ingram was paid $303,000 per year, according to the comptroller. 

David Urbanek, TRS spokesman, refused to give details surrounding the departures of Bergschneider and Ingram, saying that they are personnel matters.

“However, I have been authorized to provide the media with one addition piece of information: The Board’s unanimous vote came after an investigation of issues relating to Mr. Ingram’s contract conducted by the Chicago law firm of King and Spalding,” TRS’ Dave Urbanek wrote. “Leading the investigation for King and Spalding was its managing partner, Zachary Fardon, the former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.” 

Asked whether the investigation found any evidence of criminal conduct or whether any law enforcement agency has been contacted, Urbanek refused comment. 

Now with no explanation, it appears that TRS’ head of Human Resources, Gina Larkin, has “resigned.” With no further explanation a notice has been posted on the TRS web site looking for her replacement.

Mr. Biden. Tear down this wall.

In thirty days Joe Biden becomes president.

He promised to reverse Donald Trump’s policies of children in cages, family separations, ICE raids and building the wall on our southern border.

It is a promise we cannot let him forget.

The U.S. government would save about $2.6 billion if President-elect Joe Biden halts construction on the border wall project on his first day in office, according to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates reviewed by The Washington Post.

The billions of dollars wasted on the wall are nothing compared to the human cost.

The Washington Post also reports that over the last two months wall construction has sped up in anticipation of Trump’s leaving office.

Construction crews along the border have been working round-the-clock in multiple locations to build the barriers as fast as possible before Biden takes office, anticipating that the project’s days are numbered. Environmental and conservation groups who oppose the project have expressed outrage that crews continue to bulldoze and dynamite through sensitive desert and mountain regions, altering the landscape as they clear a path for barriers they won’t have time to install.

This reminds me of the story I posted about a few weeks ago about how scientists blew up bigger and bigger nuclear bombs in the atmosphere in anticipation of an atmospheric test ban treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union.

As a result, millions were exposed to nuclear fallout causing untold numbers of cancer victims and death.

Joe Biden promised to stop wall construction on his first day in office.

He should tear it down on day two.