Sean Palfrey is a Boston-based pediatrician who has been a long-time advocate for improving children's welfare through aggressive public health strategies, including the use of vaccinations to protect kids from all sorts of disease. His latest comment in this regard appeared last week in HuffPost, and while you might wonder what this has to do with guns, indulge me for a few paragraphs and let me explain.
The recent public spat over the efficacy of vaccinating children erupted after a measles outbreak was traced to an amusement park in Southern California, which then prompted the Republicans to try and score a few anti-immigration points by forecasting a potential catastrophe due to infections spread by unvaccinated illegal immigrants, which then led to the usual Republican pandering about why government should be getting into the vaccination game at all. And that a physician turned presidential candidate used to be against vaccinations but now isn't sure what he's for or against, has just muddied the waters a little more.
For a moment, let's put all that nonsense behind us and focus on what Sean Palfrey really says. The point he's making about vaccinations is they protect the human species against diseases for which there is no cure once the infection occurs. In this respect, vaccines become the cure for certain diseases through prevention, whereas we usually think of being cured as what doctors do to us after we get sick. We wouldn't need government-mandated vaccinations if everyone shared Sean Palfrey's belief about the positive effects of this proactive response to medical risk. But prevention of disease is simply too important to be left to everybody's individual choice.
One disease which continues to escape government-mandated controls is something called gun violence, which kills more than 30,000 Americans each year. And if the NRA and other pro-gun folks want to continue to debase this discussion by claiming that these deaths have nothing to do with guns, that's fine. But notice that I'm not casting blame on anyone for these gun deaths; I'm not saying that people with guns are good or bad. I'm simply saying that, at the end of the day, if someone puts a loaded gun to their own head or to someone else's head and pulls the trigger, I guarantee you that someone will be dead. And death from anything other than natural causes is a medical issue and if it is not brought under control, it constitutes a medical risk.
A recent study confirms what I have long suspected, namely, that most people who visit doctors really don't care, nor are they insulted or angered when the physician asks them whether they own guns. And while the study was based on a small sample of patients, it was conducted in Texas, where opposition to more restrictive gun laws ranges from fierce to worse. The fact is that nobody ever committed an act of gun violence, no matter how it's defined, without first getting hold of a gun. And since, by definition, none of the 31,000 Americans who will die from gunshots this year will die a natural death, physicians need to adopt, in the words of Sean Palfrey, the strongest possible defense in order to go on the offense regarding the medical risks of guns.
The billionaire Republican Governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner, injected himself into ceremonies in Chicago last week presided over by the city’s Democratic mayor and the nation’s Democratic president.
Rauner insisted on attending because he wrongheadedly thought the Democrats were honoring his idol, kingpin George Pullman, the guy who invented the luxury railroad sleeper car, oppressed his workers and suppressed their union.
Rauner, and other kowtow-to-the-rich Republican governors, adhere to the Pullman philosophy that rich people are better than everyone else and that gives them the right to control the lives of everyone else. They don’t comprehend the dreams and desires of the middle class and working poor. So Rauner couldn’t conceive that the ceremony in Chicago’s South Side neighborhood named Pullman by Pullman for his personal self-aggrandizement was not about placing the mogul on a pedestal but really about recognizing the people who ultimately prevailed despite his exploitation.
This 1943 image taken at Union Station in Chicago, Ill., by photographer Jack Delano of a sleeping car porter employed by the Pullman Company is from the U.S. Library of Congress.
At ceremonies designating the Pullman Historic District as a national monument, President Obama’s speech served as both a rebuke and history lesson for Rauner. The president told the tale of Pullman from the workers’ point of view.
Pullman constructed his first sleeper car three years after the Civil War ended and nine years later employed his first black porters for an expanded service. These black men and women were hired at low wages to work long hours to wait on wealthy white customers hand and foot. This was a Southern plantation travelling America on rails.
Porters, who had to pay for their own uniforms and equipment such as shoe shine boxes, depended on tips for much of their income. As a result, most kept silent as white passengers referred to them all by Pullman’s first name, “George.” This demeaning treatment inspired the 2002 Robert Townsend film 10,000 Black Men Named George.
The community Pullman built around his factory was a company town in all the worst ways. Pullman owned everything, the homes, the hospital, the shops, the hotel named for his daughter Florence, and, of course, the source of all income – the jobs.
Pullman believed he should decide what was best for all the residents. The town contained no taverns because he felt residents were better off without alcohol. He refused to allow workers to own their homes because he feared “the risk of seeing families settle who are not sufficiently accustomed to the habits I wish to develop in the inhabitants of Pullman City."
During the recession of 1893 and 1894, Pullman slashed wages for workers, but not his own pay. He refused to ease rents and grocery costs, which would have reduced his profits, even as his workers and their children suffered. His row house inhabitants, barely surviving on soup kitchen handouts from Chicago charities, sent a delegation to negotiate with him. He wouldn’t relent, contending, as if he were a benevolent parent and not a insensitive tyrant, that they were “all his children.”
Not willing to subsist as helpless inhabitants of a rich man’s dollhouse, the community’s workers, who believed in America’s promise of self-determination, organized a strike. It eventually spread across the country as the porters joined in. Pullman got the President to send in federal troops who fixed bayonets on the populace and killed more than 30 workers.
The workers returned to their jobs, but they’d experienced the power of collective action. And that couldn’t be repressed. The workers cheered in 1898 when the state Supreme Court ordered the company town sold. It would take decades longer, but the workers eventually secured their goal of collective action on the job.
In 1925, the porters established a labor union, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, and chose civil rights activist A. Philip Randolph to lead it. At that meeting, Randolph explained why workers’ concerted action was essential: “What this is about is making you master of your economic fate.”
Pullman refused to recognize the union and tried to squelch it, firing as many members of the brotherhood as his spies could find. It took the workers 12 years, but finally after passage of the National Labor Relations Act, which provided a clear legal path to unionization, Pullman was forced to acknowledge and negotiate with the brotherhood.
Standing in the Pullman Historic District Thursday, President Obama said, “So this site is at the heart of what would become America’s labor movement — and as a consequence, at the heart of what would become America’s middle class.”
"As Americans we believe workers' rights are civil rights. That dignity and opportunity aren’t just gifts to be handed down by a generous government or by a generous employer; they are rights given by God, as undeniable and worth protecting as the Grand Canyon or the Great Smoky Mountains.” President Obama said.
That, however, is not what Republicans like Bruce Rauner believe. They think, just as Pullman did, that workers’ rights should be circumvented, slighted and squashed for the benefit of the rich.
And they’re striving to accomplish that. In one of his first acts as governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker slashed the rights, pay and benefits of public sector union members. Republicans in Indiana and Michigan passed laws to ensure their citizens could work for less than what a labor union could bargain for them, and several other Republican-dominated states including Wisconsin, Nevada and West Virginia are considering measures to constrain the ability of workers to collectively seek better wages and working conditions.
The Republican governor of Ohio tried to restrict the rights of public sector workers to collectively bargain, but citizens overwhelmingly reversed him in a referendum.
In the weeks before the ceremony in Chicago, Rauner attempted by executive fiat to financially hobble labor unions representing state workers and urged the state’s cities and counties to ignore state and federal labor laws by creating zones where employees would have the right to work for less than the amount labor unions could negotiate for them.
Similarly, he proposed in the budget he offered last week that the middle class and working poor take all of the hits to mend the state’s finances. He plans, for example, to cut Medicaid for the poor and elderly, health insurance and pensions for government workers, mass transit used by the working poor to get to jobs, and services to vulnerable former foster kids.
Like Pullman, “Daddy” Rauner is intent on controlling Illinois’ “children.” He said as he issued his budget, “Instilling discipline is not easy, saying ‘no’ is not popular.” That is a budget requiring no discipline for billionaire private equity CEOs like Rauner. His aides said he never even considered new taxes on his country club buddies. Only workers are to endure austerity in Rauner’s Illinois.
Rauner is making a bid for a new film set in Chicago. This one will be called 13 Million Illinois Citizens Named Bruce. Already it’s a flop with the populace.
What's most dangerous about this flood of big money is that much of it comes from just a tiny number of large donors, who are able to drown out the voices of the rest of us. We've seen evidence of this on the federal level, where in 2012 just 32 mega-donors - giving $9 million each on average - contributed as much money to Super PACs supporting Barack Obama and Mitt Romney as the nearly 4 million small donors gave to their campaigns combined.
In Illinois, where campaign contribution limits were lifted in both the gubernatorial and Chicago mayoral elections, mega-donors don't even have to funnel their money into Super PACs to have an outsized influence on our elections.
There are also proven policies to amplify the voices of ordinary citizens. Tuesday, voters in Chicago have the opportunity to weigh in on an advisory question that asks whether we should reduce the influence of big donors by adopting small donor matching programs to finance elections. As members of Fair Elections Illinois, we encourage all voters to vote yes for a small donor democracy.
Programs to empower small donors with tax credits and matching funds have proven successful. New York City has such a program for its city council campaigns, and in 2013, small donors were responsible for 61 percent of participating candidates' contributions, when funds from the matching program are included. Compare that to less than 2 percent this year in Chicago. All but two winning candidates participated in New York City's small donor program, showing that candidates are able to raise the money they need to win without looking outside their districts for large-dollar contributions.
Incidents of police brutality and the use of excessive force continue to grab the headline news across the nation. This is totally shocking considering all of the outrage from the Michael Brown and Eric Garner incidents.
Do some police officers really care about the lives of people of color across the United States? The issue of police brutality is real and the people have scars that tell their stories. Recently, two Philadelphia cops allegedly beat a young man and filled out a report that did not represent what actually occurred. Police officers in Pasco, Washington shot and killed an unarmed man.
Will police brutality ever end in America? When incidents of police brutality or excessive force take place, some police officials brace themselves for protest and then suddenly the protests go away.
What will it take to end police brutality or at least reduce incidents of police brutality by fifty percent across the United States? Specific laws should exist in order to help deter acts of blatant police misconduct. This particular post is not about bashing all police. The majority of police officers are law abiding citizens that really care about people no matter the race, creed, or color. However, when you read stories of how the police in Miami were using photos of African American males for target practice then one would wonder why so many police appear to have no discretion in regards to taking the life of an African American male. There are so many problems and threats going on all across the world. Hopefully the fight to end police brutality will not get lost in transition because more attention is being placed on achieving world peace.
President Obama is in a unique position to help lead the way in regards to introducing solid policies that help to reduce police brutality and the use of excessive force by making this issue a national priority. This would be the only way that certain police jurisdictions will take this issue seriously. The numbers are staggering and it's time to put an end to this barbaric behavior before another person is harmed or killed.
There are so many mothers crying and people dying by the hands of police and gang violence. We must take a stand to be part of the solution and not the problem. By organizing group sessions with police officials and young people across the United States, this could serve as a starting point to help establish better relationship with police and community. We could save lives on both fronts. If police officials were to admit that problems exist with the current policing strategies in communities of color, then this would be the best dialogue in the world. Every positive movement for change starts with the admission of a problem. The entire world is watching how the United States will work on solving this age old problem. Let's come together to the roundtable of peace and set the stage for ending all forms of violence.