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A few posts below you will find one that tells the story of Pope Francis and his business acumen as told in the current edition of Fortune magazine.  It seems some businessmen aren’t impressed.  In fact some like the founder of Home Depot are threatening to withhold donations to the church if Pope Francis insists on doing as scriptures require and make the poor a priority.  This was brought to light in this story running on the Yahoo intro page.

Evidently this person is also a big donor to the Republican party and has friends that feel the same way, including a native of Southeast Missouri that calls the Pope’s comments “pure Marxism.”

During a speech in Brazil this past July, Pope Francis appealed “to those in possession of greater resources,” saying that they should “never tire of working for a more just world, marked by greater solidarity. No one can remain insensitive to the inequalities that persist in the world.”

A number of people, from Republican Sen. John McCain to conservative radio commentator Rush Limbaugh, have weighed in on Francis’ statements, with the latter calling it “pure Marxism.”

Dolan calls the Marxist label “hyperbole,” telling CNBC that the pope thinks “money in itself is morally neutral. Money, our wealth, is a gift from God. And the morality comes in the way we use it.

Considering Home Depot and Rush Limbaugh’s record on worker right’s it isn’t surprising the Pope’s emphasis on workers and the poor are upsetting.  What is surprising is how much these guys sure are losing their religion.

Let’s commemorate these rich folks threatening the Pope with a version of REM and their classic Losing My Religion.

Thanks to The Guardian.com for the picture of Karl Marx.

 

The Hill has this story on Unions and this election cycle.  It’s important to note these dollars are voluntary contributions given by union members to support those that support workers.  Personally, I donate $25 a month to the UAW Voluntary Community Action Program. With firepower like that no wonder the Koch Brothers spend billions, we’re all equal right?  While I don’t agree with every decision this program makes, the vast majority of resources are used to advance the interests of both union and nonunion workers.

Among the biggest Spenders is the powerful AFL-CIO, a federation representing scores of unions. The group has spent more than $5.7 million to date, according to CRP.

AFL-CIO officials say their support is linked to candidates’ positions on labor and workforce issues, not party affiliation. But the vast majority of candidates backed by the group are Democrats.

“We wish that the Republican Party were not an enemy of working people, but too often — and too much of it — currently is,” AFL-CIO spokesman Jeff Hauser said.

Hauser said the federation intends to play an influential role in several races that could decide Senate control, including contests in Iowa, Colorado, Michigan and Alaska.

While he acknowledged that Republicans are increasingly optimistic about their 2014 chances, Hauser stressed that the electoral map looks to be far more favorable for Democrats two years from now, with more  “purple state” Republicans up for reelection.

“2016 is going to suggest to Republicans that they need to get right with working people on minimum wage and other issues,” he said.

 

Yesterday’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch carried this piece from Bloomberg News, Today’s jobs show shop class isn’t just for slackers anymore.

Those prejudices are even more prevalent now that many parents expect their offspring to attend a four-year college.

While many parents agree that more students should attend vocational training, the prevailing attitude is: not my kid.

“For a lot of parents, and policymakers, it’s easier to say we need to send more kids to college,” Stone said.

“Parents go, ‘Yes, that’s what I want to do. My kid will be successful.’ Then after four or five years, they come back with a lot of bills and they’re sleeping on the couch.”

Yet businesses can’t find enough people to fix cars and work in factories. Mike Hughes, the service manager who hired Fischbach, finds himself competing with rival dealerships to recruit kids right out of high school. If he can’t find candidates there, he has to train them from scratch.

“Nobody wants their kid to be a mechanic,” said Hughes, who estimates Fischbach eventually will pull down $60,000 a year. “They just don’t know how good of a living it is.”

The current edition of Fortune is carrying This Pope Means Business.  This in-depth look at the administrative skills of the Pope Francis reveals a series of challenges that would make any CEO sweat.  Unlike the modern CEO, Pope Francis keeps the goal of serving constituents on top of the priority list.

Francis declared that sound financial management was a pillar of his greatest mission: aiding the poor and underprivileged. That mission was endangered by volatile, unpredictable budgets that careened from modest surpluses to steep deficits. The Vatican’s inept practices had inhibited giving, he explained, and had to stop. “When the administration is fat, it’s unhealthy,” he said. Francis wanted a leaner, more efficient Vatican administration that would be solidly “self-sustaining.” That, he said, would free up more money for his charities. “You are the experts,” the pope said, “and I trust you. Now I want solutions to these problems, and I want them as soon as possible.” With that, Francis left the group to figure out the details.

There was no ambiguity about the job ahead. “The Holy Father’s message was crystal clear: ‘Let us make money to go to the poor,’” recalls Joseph Zahra, chief of the panel, a pontifical commission known by its acronym, COSEA. Zahra, a former chairman of the Bank of Valletta, Malta’s largest bank, says of Francis: “In finances, he’s not a micromanager but an inspirational leader.

Does he practice, preach, or practice what he preaches?

Pope Francis has a complex but pragmatic view of money. “Money is useful to carry out many things, for works to support humanity,” he has said. “But when your heart is attached to it, it destroys you.” His humble lifestyle follows those precepts. He resides in a one-bedroom, second-floor suite in Casa Santa Marta overlooking the entrance. (Benedict, the former pope, lives nearby in a converted monastery called Mater Ecclesiae and occasionally sends Francis notes with feedback on his interviews.) Visitors say the pope’s lights go on at 4:30 a.m. He’s frequently spotted in the buffet line, tray in hand, at the Santa Marta dining room, where the cuisine isn’t fancy—it offers a choice of two main courses for lunch and dinner, and features Italian specialties such as pasta con pomodoro and pollo arrosto. He takes no holidays, explaining that if the poor can’t take vacations, why should he?

In the next segment which describes his business practices, the starkness of the contrast with our supposedly bible thumping leaders in the Missouri legislature is hard to miss…

One of his rules is that big donors and companies that do business with the church should get no special treatment. Before he took charge in Buenos Aires, the archdiocese was a large shareholder in Argentine banks, and the banks regularly granted their ecclesiastical investor loans on easy terms. As cardinal, Francis denounced the arrangement as a blatant conflict of interest and sold all the archdiocese’s bank holdings. He also refused to attend fundraising dinners, usually regarded as one of a cardinal’s top jobs. His aversion to catering to the wealthy didn’t stop with his ascension to the papacy. It’s a Vatican tradition that the Secretariat of State, which receives donations from the rich on the pontiff’s behalf, would reward big donors by arranging special audiences and masses with the pope. Pope Francis ended the practice.

Pope Francis is a strong believer in workers’ rights. But that view is highly nuanced. He has famously denounced the excesses of capitalism and firmly believes that the rich get too much from the market economy while regular workers often don’t receive enough. In contrast to his readiness to ax high-ranking officials who block his agenda, he doesn’t believe in firing rank-and-file employees.

Stay tuned, the next session of the legislature will reveal if Tim Jones, Paul Curtman, and Dining Doug Funderburk can emulate the lessons of Pope Francis.

 

Obamavacationtime

Steven Colbert shares his take on the events in Ferguson, MO.  This skit is significantly more fun and respectful than the Ferguson police allowing their dogs to urinate on the memorial for Michael Brown.

Soon, police vehicles reappeared, including from the St. Louis County Police Department, which had taken control of the investigation. Several officers emerged with dogs. What happened next, according to several sources, was emblematic of what has inflamed the city of Ferguson, Missouri, ever since the unarmed 18-year-old was gunned down: An officer on the street let the dog he was controlling urinate on the memorial site.

For another view, check out Jon Stewart’s rant on Ferguson.

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Katrina vanden Heuvel has penned Building a progressive alternative to ALEC...

When it comes to moments in history, 1973 was not exactly a banner year for the Republican Party. The Senate Watergate Committeebegan its televised hearings in May. Spiro Agnew resigned in October. And President Nixon used a pre-Thanksgiving news conference at Disney World to unconvincingly assure the country that he was not, in fact, a crook. A tough year, indeed, for the grand old party.

But if you were a corporate conglomerate who dreamed of lower taxes and lax regulations and lesser rights for workers, 1973 was, ironically enough, a well-spring of new opportunity. That’s when a group of conservative activists joined together to engineer a different kind of burglary — one that involved forcibly entering cities and states with the intent to loot their working and middle classes.

The mechanism? A new organization dubbed the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. The idea? Don’t just lobby state and city governments; write the actual laws you want them to pass and then hand it out as model legislation. In the decades since its inception, ALEC hasdismantled environmental regulationspushed for school vouchers, compromised public safety by backing “stand your ground” laws andcrippled unions with right-to-work legislation.

ALEC remains the ubiquitous conservative puppet-master; its fingerprints and that of its most well-known supporters (the Koch brothers, Exxon Mobil, Pfizer, AT&T, etc.) can be found all over right-wing legislation that has made its way through the state and local legislative process. To understand the magnitude of its influence, consider that of the more than 100 bills introduced between 2011 and 2013 to repeal or weaken minimum wage laws, 67 of them related back to ALEC. And in 2009, 115 of ALEC’s 826 model bills were enacted into law.

 

Editor’s Note: Republican State Representative for the Eureka-Pacific area – Tim Jones is Co-chair of the Missouri chapter of ALEC.

Last year we featured a post describing the problems with the practice of many employers using the Body Mass Index (BMI) as a method of determining employee’s health care premiums.

It was found to be useless to the point of humorous for athletes whose weight is due to muscle mass rather than body fat. The most commonly used example is that Arnold Schwartzenegger’s BMI was 30.8 during his peak years, which would categorize him as obese.

Mother Jones‘ Why BMI is a Big, Fat Scam will hopefully help put this practice where it belongs – in the compost pile.

There’s just one problem: A higher BMI doesn’t necessarily mean you’re less healthy. In fact, patients with heart disease and metabolic disorders whose BMIs classify them as overweight or mildly obese survive longer than their normal and underweight peers. A 2013 meta-analysis by the National Center for Health Statistics looked at 97 studies covering nearly 3 million people and concluded that those with overweight BMIs were 6 percent less likely to die in a given year than those in the normal range. These results were even more pronounced for middle-aged and elderly people. This is known as the obesity paradox. “The World Health Organization calls BMIs of 25 to 29.9 overweight,” says Paul McAuley, an exercise researcher at Winston-Salem State University. “That is actually what is healthiest for middle-aged Americans.”

And get this: While epidemiologists use BMI to calculate national obesity rates (nearly 35 percent for adults and 18 percent for kids), the distinctions can be arbitrary. In 1998, the National Institutes of Health lowered the overweight threshold from 27.8 to 25—branding roughly 29 million Americans as fat overnight—to match international guidelines. But critics noted that those guidelines were drafted in part by the International Obesity Task Force, whose two principal funders were companies making weight loss drugs. In his recent book Fat Politics: The Real Story Behind America’s Obesity Epidemic, political scientist Eric Oliver reports that the chairman of the NIH committee that made the decision, Columbia University professor of medicine Xavier Pi-Sunyer, was consulting for several diet drug manufacturers and Weight Watchers International.

What would be a better predictor that BMI?

But there’s an even easier way for docs to gauge their patients’ risk level: Ask them how much they exercise. “It’s much more important to avoid low fitness than it is to avoid fatness,” Lavie says. Research supports this: McAuley and his team, for example, followed 831 veterans with type 2 diabetes for 10 years and found that the ones who exercised rarely and performed poorly on treadmill tests had a 70 percent higher death risk than those who got regular exercise. Fitness, it turned out, beats BMI as a predictor of mortality. Yet many physicians still don’t prescribe exercise: In a 2013 study, Lavie and his colleagues found that only a bit more than half of diabetes patients—and just 44 percent of those with hypertension—reported being counseled to exercise more.

Of course, exercise requires no prescription. So the next time you find yourself obsessing about BMI, maybe it’s time to stop crunching numbers and go for a walk.

 

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