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White Privilege Shows as Owners of Oxycontin Settle Bankruptcy Case

Does crime pay? Maybe if you’re white.

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Petition to File for Bankruptcy, Photo courtesy of Melissa Gimpbell via Unsplash

You may have overlooked this bit of news last week. The ultra-rich Sackler family, the people who founded Purdue Pharma, makers of the addictive painkiller OxyContin, had its bankruptcy settlement approved.

The Sacklers will pay $4.5 billion in nine-year installments to states, local governments, hospitals, tribes, and individuals. But the settlement also absolves the family from any liability, in criminal or civil court. In other words, no one can sue and go after the Sacklers’ fortune, estimated at around $13 billion.

The U.S. bankruptcy court in White Plains, N.Y., has protected the Sacklers who now must figure out how to get by in life. Their mega-vast fortune, now simply vast, was spared by what  can only be viewed as the white privilege of capitalism.

No one got locked up. And the Sacklers get to leave with the majority of their $13 billion intact.

And what, again, did the Sacklers do? They simply addicted and killed more than 500,000 people over two decades with their gift to the world, OxyContin.

If any of you have friends or family who have paid a much higher price compared to their net worth by doing time, incarcerated for drugs, then ponder the different treatment received by the Sacklers.

By death count, the Sacklers aren’t as evil as say the coronavirus, which has killed more than 663,000 people in the U.S.

But make no mistake. They’re evil. And yet, they get special treatment. It’s the self-preservation of the 1%. There were thousands of lawsuits brought by plaintiffs hoping to make the Sacklers pay.  Now, bankruptcy’s shield makes it all go away. It’s painful to even talk about the settlement. Worthy of an OxyContin.

Labor Day Week for the Working Class

Here’s a good news/bad news note for Labor Day Week from Wal-Mart. It’s raising minimum wage to $12 an hour for 565,000 of its 1.6 million workers, which includes any checkers and stockers in its three East Bay stores. Too bad they’re not discounting store prices by 20% at the same time.

Wal-Mart could have set the raise to a “livable” $15, as has Target and Amazon.  Wal-Mart said it’s “average hourly wage” for all workers works would be $16.40. But averages are all for show. You don’t average out your shopping cart in the checkout line.

Add our economy’s reaction to the Delta variant, and the country is not doing as hot as global warming.  August had weak job growth–only 235,00 jobs added, with the service jobs in restaurants, bars and hotels taking the biggest hit. Were you hoping to pick up a job? You didn’t in August.

Add to that the cut last week of federal unemployment benefits for 7.5 million people in the nation. Continuation? This time even Democrats said it’s not likely to be extended.

And they wonder why some desperate people consider a life of crime. Yes, it doesn’t pay. You shouldn’t consider it for a moment. Not unless you’re white like the Sacklers.

All that OxyContin killing more than 500,000 people? And now shielded from criminal and civil liability? That’s all from dealing the right drugs.

These super rich people balance their evil by starting foundations that further protect their assets by funding beautiful art exhibits, museums and galleries around the country in places like Wash., DC and Harvard.

Not much different from all the other evil capitalists who hide behind foundations and try to do good philanthropically. But wouldn’t it be easier just to skip the evil and do good in the first place? Sure, but then what about the  obscene profits and individual gain at the expense of society? That’s what you’d call the capitalistic way. And now you know the ugly in their method.

Emil Guillermo is a veteran and award-winning Northern California journalist and commentator. He vlogs at www.amok.com and on Facebook at emilguillermo.media.

Barbara Lee

OPINION: Rep. Barbara Lee Urges Constituents to Take Advantage of Opportunities to Get Health Insurance

Special enrollment is underway and lasts through December 31. Any eligible Californian can sign up without needing to have a qualifying life event – for example, losing your job, recently getting married, or having a new child.

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Stethoscope on Bed; Photo courtesy of Hush Naidoo Jade Photography

The past 18 months have shown, more than ever before, the fragile, precious, and priceless nature of our health.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on our economy, our ability to educate our children and our general wellbeing.

There is an important  tool to help us stay safe and vibrant. That’s health insurance. With the pandemic far from over, having affordable, high-quality health coverage is more important than ever.

The economic stimulus package known as the American Rescue Plan (ARP), signed into law in March, is helping to lower health insurance premiums to levels never seen before.

Covered California, the agency that administers the Affordable Care Act in this state, has been working hard to get out the word about the new increase in the financial help available to ensure millions of Californians can get quality health insurance coverage.

Covered California estimates the new financial assistance available through the ARP can directly help more than 450,000 people in the Bay Area by significantly lowering their monthly premiums.

New data shows that an estimated 103,000 people in the Bay Area are uninsured and eligible for health insurance coverage through Covered California, with an additional 89,000 eligible for no-cost Medi-Cal. Under the ARP, most of those eligible for Covered California would be able to get a high-quality plan for as little as $1 per month, or a plan that offers additional benefits for less than $100 per month.

The new law is already helping about 280,000 people in the Bay Area currently enrolled through Covered California by lowering their premiums and making coverage more affordable than ever before. Covered California consumers statewide have already seen their net premiums decrease by an average of $190 per household per month.

Hush Naidoo Jade Photography

Affordable, accessible, high-quality healthcare is a fundamental human right. As chair of the Congressional Black Caucus during the drafting of the Affordable Care Act, I worked to ensure strong provisions that expand health care access, address health disparities and create incentives for people to live healthy lives.

While citizens and leaders in the greater Bay Area, including the 13th Congressional district which I represent, reacted quickly to slow the spread of the virus, our communities have still been hit hard, especially communities of color.

With the help of vaccines and ARP, we are making positive steps forward. We can hug our grandchildren again. We can go to restaurants again. We are returning to school and to work.

But the pandemic is not over. As the Delta variant continues to spread, it is now just as important as ever that we continue to get vaccinated.

Last November, I spoke on the House floor emphasizing the need for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing, and the disproportionate impact the pandemic was having on Black, Brown, Latino, Asian and Indigenous people – communities that historically have been left behind in times of crisis.

We can’t allow that to happen again this time.

Vaccines are readily available, and they are proven safe and effective. Please don’t hesitate. Let’s not lose the ground we have worked so hard to gain.

Vaccinations and affordable health insurance are invaluable tools that can help us get back to normal. We must use them.

To find out how much financial assistance you can get and enroll for coverage, go to: https://www.coveredca.com/.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee represents the 13th District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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Bay Area

The Tragic Sports Abuse of Oakland

All 3 teams leaving?

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Spalding Basketball on a court; Photo courtesy of Sabri Tuzcu via Unsplash

Oakland is the most victimized sports city on the planet, and there is no close second.

And it’s not Oakland’s fault. Pirates, highwaymen and carpetbaggers have unified their heartless souls to rob Oakland of its championship, and fan-supported, sports existence. Under high crimes and misdemeanors, this is the highest crime in sports pilfering.

The Raiders are the only sports franchise to leave the same American city twice, despite sellout crowds before skipping off to Los Angeles, and sellout crowds again after their inglorious failure in Tinseltown. And now they’re off to Las Vegas, which, in time, might prove a worse investment than playing craps.

But, at least, the Raiders were homegrown, Oakland’s own. The Warriors came to Oakland from San Francisco, where the franchise was going broke, and built themselves up financially, with capacity attendance, as by winning three NBA championships in the short space of five years. After that, it was back across the Bay Bridge to San Francisco, where this one-time dynastic bunch has found itself in serious slippage.

And, lastly, Oakland is one fleeing franchise short of a hat trick — all three of its teams taking flight. The last team still with an Oakland zip code, the Athletics, are looking at Las Vegas or — who knows? — the moon for a new home. This is the same franchise that bottomed out in Kansas City, after burning out in Philadelphia, and now is seeking to bury Oakland among its dearly departed.

It isn’t failure on the field of play that’s driving these teams elsewhere. Despite becoming a major-league sports town in 1960, a late start in sports economics, Oakland has produced 10 national championships. The A’s and Warriors have four titles apiece, and the Raiders have won two Super Bowls.

And it isn’t disappointment at the box office that these teams can use as an alibi. The Raiders and Warriors filled their facilities despite having long stretches of losing seasons, built on horrific draft picks. Jamarcus Russell, anyone? Joe Smith? The A’s haven’t drawn nearly as well as the other two tenants at the Oakland Coliseum Complex, but when you’re constantly trying to move to Fremont, Santa Clara, and now Las Vegas, why should local fans display loyalty?

I’ve been observing the Oakland sports scene closely since 1964 after gaining employment at the Oakland Tribune, which has left Oakland, too, with no relocation, no nothing. My arrival coincided with the building of the Coliseum and adjacent Arena in 1966, which was large-scale planning since the Raiders were the only team in town back then. The A’s moved here in 1968, and the Warriors in 1974. The Coliseum and Arena, over time, would be the last of the dual sports complexes in the country, but let it be known that it was the absolute best of its kind.

First, it was built in the middle of six Bay Area counties, with Contra Costa to the North, Santa Clara to the East, San Mateo to the South, San Francisco and Marin to the West, and Alameda County where the first shovel of dirt was dug for the complex itself.

Fortuitous still, the complex would be abutted in time by rapid transit (BART), a freeway, and railroad tracks, with an airport five minutes away. The Father of the Coliseum, the late Robert Nahas, was Einstein-like in his blueprints for the complex, and for Oakland’s future as a big-league, big-time sports town.

Adding to that image were the most loyal, passionate and, well, loony crazy fans. Oakland has the most abused fans in the universe in spite of fanaticism that couldn’t be rivaled anywhere. Who gets stepped on not once, but twice, by the black-attired, blackhearted Raiders and still professes loyalty. If the Raiders fail in Las Vegas, and they might eventually, the Coliseum in Oakland would fill up again. Nobody loves a team like Raider fans, bless their ravaged souls.

You mean the Raiders could come back to Oakland for a third go-around? If the Davis family is in charge, of course. Al, the father, was a user, and Mark, the son, a loser. Neither one of them, in all this time, has stuck their nose out for Oakland. They advertised little if all, they gave to charities nil, and they expected deference regardless throughout their penuriousness. There have been traitors replete throughout the history of organized sports, but nothing like the Davises, father and son: Benedict Arnold and Benedict Arnold Junior.

But as bad as they were, Oakland’s biggest problem, sadly, is Oakland itself. Oakland’s sports owners look at Oakland as a place to run from, rather than to grow with. Being situated across the Bay from San Francisco always has been Oakland’s detriment, dating back to early last century when Oakland native Gertrude Stein said of Oakland: “There’s no there there.” She said that after returning home from Paris and finding her old neighborhood changed, but historians took it as a slight on Oakland.

So the Warriors’ new ownership of Joe Lacob and Peter Gruber began packing up right away for San Francisco, but like other sports ownerships, myopically. Because, at that same juncture, Oakland suddenly came alive as a city commercially, more so than at any other time in history. New businesses, new buildings, new daytime choices, and new nighttime adventures suddenly spurted. Oakland had become, of all things, a boomtown.

Imagine that, while the thinking of the Raiders and Warriors ownerships could go “boom” in their faces. There is no rapid transit or railroad tracks abutting the stadium in Las Vegas, and there is limited parking next to the stadium, which means most fans will tailgate a mile away and take transit to the stadium. The Warriors have no rapid transit close by, no parking to speak of, and game tickets cost high-roller prices.

What was there in Oakland has been lost in franchise-and-fan togetherness in Las Vegas and San Francisco. And if the Raiders and Warriors start losing, which is immediately possible, who will want to mortgage homes and businesses to pay those exorbitant ticket prices? And if the A’s follow the Raiders to Las Vegas, it gets costlier because the A’s will need a domed stadium. You see, you can’t play baseball in 115-degree heat, for there’s nothing cool about that.

It just might turn out, for all three Oakland teams, that “there’s no there there” in their new digs.

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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City Government

A New Mayor in 2022 Must Take Major Steps in Their First 100 Days

In 2022, the voters of Oakland will have an opportunity to elect the next mayor for our city.  The Mayor of Oakland is the head of the executive branch, in charge of implementing actions and laws that have been passed by Council and community.

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Hands place ballot envelope into a ballot box/ Arnaud Jaegars via Unsplash

In 2022, the voters of Oakland will have an opportunity to elect the next mayor for our city.  The Mayor of Oakland is the head of the executive branch, in charge of implementing actions and laws that have been passed by Council and community.

The mayor also selects and hires the city administrator, appoints members of key boards and commissions and sets the direction for the administrative branch of government, thus having a major impact on what action gets taken.

In recent years, the City Council has adopted numerous laws and funded positions and projects – many of which have not been implemented, such as providing gun tracing and cracking down on illegal guns, civilianizing special events, providing pro-active illegal dumping remediation, a public lands policy to prioritize affordable housing, direction to provide healthier alternative locations to respond to homelessness, and many more.

In order to ensure that we build a safer and healthier future for Oakland, it is vitally important to ensure that we elect leadership for the executive branch with the dedication and commitment to take the actions needed to fulfill the needs of our communities.  

With serious struggles facing our communities, it is vital that the next mayor take immediate action in their first hundred days – and so, I am undertaking to provide proposals regarding what the next mayor can, and should, do in their first 100 days in office.  

These efforts will need to include recruitment and retention for the workforce, effective relationships with county government and neighboring cities to solve common problems, working with stakeholders including to expand equitable economic development and housing for all income levels, presenting and passing proposals at Council and bringing in and properly stewarding the finances needed.  

Even within the first 100 days, a mayor can accomplish a great deal, including taking action to implement vitally needed services that already have Council authorization and thus can be brought about more quickly.

This is the first installment, listing of some of the first items that the next mayor can and should do to build a healthier Oakland, and which should be factors in our decision-making in the year ahead.

 

1.     Ensure implementation of the directive to prioritize stopping the flow of illegal guns and stopping gun violence, including implementing gun tracing, tracking and shutting down sources of illegal guns, and providing immediate response to shooting notifications.

2.     Remove blight and illegal dumping, implement pro-active removal of blight rather than waiting for complaints, incorporate blight removal throughout city efforts (rewards program, summer jobs program, etc).  Clear up backlog and establish a new normal that it is not okay to dump on Oakland.

3.     Provide healthier alternatives for homeless solutions, including safe parking/managed RV sites and sanitation/dump sites, to reduce public health risks. Partner with the County and others.

4.     Implement previously approved Council direction to switch to the use of civilians (rather than sworn police) to manage parades and special events.  Help ensure community and cultural events can go forward without excess costs undermining them. Strengthen the arts and economy and equity of event permitting system and ensure that expensive police resources are directed where they are needed, rather than wasted on watching parades.

5.     Implement previously approved public lands policy to ensure using public lands for public needs, with a priority for affordable housing.

6.     Make it easier for local residents and small businesses to grow, build and expand by providing coherent and simplified permitting and by implementing the Council-funded direction to provide evening and weekend hours and easy online access, to allow people to do projects like adding Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) and make other renovations and construction projects more timely.

7.     Work with stakeholders and community to advance effective and equitable revitalization of the large public properties at and around the Oakland Coliseum, including with housing for all income levels, jobs and business development, sports and entertainment, conventions and hotels.

8.     Work to speed the filling of vacancies in needed city staff positions and improve recruitment, retention and local hiring, to help provide vitally needed services, including for cleanup, parks upkeep, gun tracing, and other needs.

9.     Fire prevention and climate resiliency.  Our region is facing growing dangers from climate change and fire risk, and we must take action to reduce and remedy risk and protect our communities with a more resilient future, including by planning for and starting fire prevention and brush remediation activities earlier in the year, improving brush removal on public land as well as private, fully staffing the fire department and improving public infrastructure to protect cleaner air and reduce risks.

10.  Job training and pathways.  Some industries face challenges finding enough prepared workers while many in our community also need access to quality jobs.  Support and connect job training programs and quality job policies with growing sectors and ensure Oaklanders are prepared for vital openings in needed jobs while allowing our community to thrive.

 

 

 

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