Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Walker’s Policies Are Working

From the Weekly Standard:
Emily Koczela had been anxiously waiting for months for Wisconsin governor Scott Walker’s controversial budget repair bill to take effect. Koczela, the finance director for the Brown Deer school district, had been negotiating with the local union, trying to get it to accept concessions in order to make up for a $1 million budget shortfall. But the union wouldn’t budge.

“We laid off 27 [teachers] as a precautionary measure,” Koczela told me. “They were crying. Some of these people are my friends.”

On June 29 at 12:01 a.m., Koczela could finally breathe a sigh of relief. The budget repair bill​—​delayed for months by protests, runaway state senators, and a legal challenge that made its way to the state’s supreme court​—​was law. The 27 teachers on the chopping block were spared.

With “collective bargaining rights” limited to wages, Koczela was able to change the teachers’ benefits package to fill the budget gap. Requiring teachers to contribute 5.8 percent of their salary toward pensions saved $600,000. Changes to their health care plan​—​such as a $10 office visit co-pay (up from nothing)​—​saved $200,000. Upping the workload from five classes, a study hall, and two prep periods to six classes and two prep periods saved another $200,000. The budget was balanced.

“Everything we changed didn’t touch the children,” Koczela said. Under a collective bargaining agreement, she continued, “We could never have negotiated that​—​never ever.” Koczela, a graduate of Smith College and Duke University Law School, is no Republican flack. She says she’s a “classic Wisconsin independent. I vote both parties. I voted for Senator [Russ] Feingold but I voted for [Republican state] Senator Alberta Darling too.”

In Brown Deer and school districts across the state, Walker’s budget repair bill, known as Act 10, is working just as he promised. To make up for a $2.8 billion deficit without raising taxes, state aid to school districts (the largest budget line) was reduced by $830 million. Act 10, Walker said, would give districts “the tools” needed to make up for the lost money as fairly as possible.

But union leaders argued that the fight over the budget repair bill had nothing to do with balancing budgets. It was all about stripping public employees of their “collective bargaining rights.”

“We have said all along that this isn’t about pay and benefits,” Mary Bell, president of the state’s teachers’ union, said in February. “We are prepared to implement the financial concessions proposed to help our state in these tough times. But .  .  . we will not be denied our right to collectively bargain.”

Acceding, at least rhetorically, to higher benefit contributions​—​5.8 percent of salary for pension (up from nothing) and 12.6 percent of health care premiums​—​looked like a smart tactic. It made teachers seem reasonable and focused the fight on collective bargaining “rights.”

What few people may have understood, though, is that these are “rights” that most people, including federal employees, don’t have. But Americans don’t like taking away anybody’s rights. The polls in Wisconsin showed voters overwhelmingly opposed to “weakening” or “stripping” or “eliminating” collective bargaining rights. President Obama called the bill an “assault on unions.” Democratic state senator Lena Taylor compared Scott Walker to Hitler.

But as the abstract debate over collective bargaining collides with reality, it is becoming clear just how big a lie the Big Labor line was. Now that the law is in effect, where are the horror stories of massive layoffs and schools shutting down? They don’t exist​—​except in a couple of districts where collective bargaining agreements, inked before the budget repair bill was introduced, remain in effect.

In Milwaukee, nine schools are shutting and 354 teachers have been fired due to a drop in state funding and the end of federal stimulus funding. But if teachers there agreed to the 5.8 percent pension contribution, the school district says it would rehire 200 of those teachers. (Other changes could offset the rest of the layoffs.)

Despite the promise from Mary Bell that all teachers would contribute something toward their pensions, Milwaukee teachers’ union president Bob Peterson won’t agree to the change. In doing so he’s made it clear that “collective bargaining rights” is code for “union veto power.”

“You have a choice: layoffs or pension contributions. Do you see that choice?” a local Fox News reporter asked Peterson. “Why did you make a choice of layoffs?”

“I didn’t lay off anybody,” Peterson replied. He thinks Milwaukee teachers have conceded enough and blames Walker’s budget cuts for the layoffs. But a year ago​—​before Walker was elected and when Democrats controlled all branches of government​—​there were also layoffs.

Given the choice between fewer benefits and layoffs, the Milwaukee teachers’ union chose the latter. In 2010, 482 teachers, including Megan Sampson, a young educator named an “outstanding first year teacher” by the Wisconsin Council of Teachers of English, got the axe. CNN reports that this year “Milwaukee teachers are offering meals and moral support to 354 fellow educators who will be laid off.” Meals and moral support? The union’s got your back. A job? Not so much.

The only other district seeing such massive layoffs is Kenosha, where 212 teachers will be fired this year. “Kenosha is in the same boat as [Milwaukee], with a collective bargaining agreement signed before Walker took office that lasts until June 30, 2013,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on July 16. “But most other Wisconsin districts have avoided layoffs and massive cuts to programs.”

One striking feature of Walker’s budget repair bill is the flexibility it has given school districts to balance their budgets. For example, things are looking up in the tiny town of Pittsville in the heart of the state, where the district balanced its budget mostly through increased pension contributions and not replacing four retiring teachers.

“We didn’t change anything in our health care at all,” Superintendent Terry Reynolds told me. “If Act 10 hadn’t passed,” he said, “I don’t think the teachers’ union would have wanted to approve the 5.8 percent contribution” to pensions. “That would have been a hard battle to fight. I’m not sure we would have saved dollars there.” Enough money was freed up that Pittsville property taxes will decrease by 9 percent next year.

While class sizes increased slightly in Pittsville, they’re going down in the Kaukauna school district, where the school board used the budget repair bill to turn a $400,000 deficit into a $1.5 million surplus. In addition to the 5.8 percent pension contribution, the board pared back personal days from ten to five, increased the deductible for a family health insurance plan from $250 to $500, and required middle school and high school teachers to teach six classes instead of five. Any or all of these changes could have been vetoed by the union under a collective bargaining agreement.

The reforms will allow Kaukauna to spend $300,000 in merit pay for teachers next year and offer more Advanced Placement classes and languages like Chinese or Arabic in the future, according to board president Todd Arnoldussen. Bringing down class sizes “was a win for the kids and a win for everybody,” he told me.

But as Patrick Meyer, the head union negotiator in Kaukauna, says in a video, “morale has been terrible” in the district. Might teachers be spread too thin now? “Elementary teachers already teach seven hours a day,” says Arnoldussen. “That’s a horrible argument. I mean, come on. Six classes at 50 minutes.”

If morale is down, interest in teaching at Kaukauna isn’t. An opening for an elementary teacher attracted “over 500 applicants,” says Arnoldussen. “So you obviously have a huge amount of people that really want to work for Kaukauna .  .  . under our noncollective bargaining agreement.”

Just three weeks after Walker’s budget went into effect, its sweeping success is already apparent. But will it be enough to spare the six Republican state senators who face recall elections on August 9? Whether or not the Democrats gain the three seats they need to take over the senate, Walker’s collective bargaining success won’t be undone anytime soon. But a victory could embolden Democrats, who are gearing up for a recall election against Walker as early as the spring of 2012.

“I don’t think they think the sky’s going to fall,” says Emily Koczela of Brown Deer residents, who will vote in the recall election of Republican state senator Alberta Darling.

As for the teachers, “some of them will feel better in a year or two.” Koczela says the union told them that “this is all a sham. There isn’t really a budget shortfall. If we just all stop giving tax breaks to wealthy corporations you’ll all be fine.”

“They didn’t know who was lying to them.” But soon enough they will.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Obama’s Pandering to the Muslim World Has Done No Good

The idea that if we just are more “sympathetic to Arab concerns” and more “balanced in our approach to the Middle East” Arabs (and presumably, Muslims generally) will be more favorable to the U.S. has been shot to hell by a pollster of Arab heritage.

From the Arab American Institute:
With the 2008 election of Barack Obama, favorable attitudes toward the U.S. more than doubled in many Arab countries. But in the two years since his famous “Cairo speech,” ratings for both the U.S. and the President have spiraled downwards. The President is seen overwhelmingly as failing to meet the expectations set during his speech, and the vast majority of those surveyed disagree with U.S policies.

In five out of the six countries surveyed, the U.S. was viewed less favorably than Turkey, China, France—or Iran. Far from seeing the U.S. as a leader in the post-Arab Spring environment, the countries surveyed viewed “U.S. interference in the Arab world” as the greatest obstacle to peace and stability in the Middle East, second only to the continued Palestinian occupation.

While the vehemence of Arab reaction to the U.S. was startling, the general sentiment echoed points made in AAI President James Zogby’s 2010 book Arab Voices, in which he reflected on Arab opinions of both the U.S. and our foreign policies. “American democracy [seems] a lot like damaged goods to many Arabs… U.S. policy in the region has increasingly undermined Arab attitudes toward America as a global model.”

Executive Summary

• After improving with the election of Barack Obama in 2008, U.S. favorable ratings across the Arab world have plummeted. In most countries they are lower than at the end of the Bush Administration, and lower than Iran’s favorable ratings (except in Saudi Arabia).

• The continuing occupation of Palestinian lands and U.S. interference in the Arab world are held to be the greatest obstacles to peace and stability in the Middle East.

• While many Arabs were hopeful that the election of Barack Obama would improve U.S.-Arab relations, that hope has evaporated. Today, President Obama’s favorable ratings across the Arab world are 10% or less.

• Obama’s performance ratings are lowest on the two issues to which he has devoted the most energy: Palestine and engagement with the Muslim world.

• The U.S. role in establishing a no-fly zone over Libya receives a positive rating only in Saudi Arabia and Lebanon, but, as an issue, it is the lowest priority.

• The killing of bin Laden only worsened attitudes toward the U.S.

• A plurality says it is too early to tell whether the Arab Spring will have a positive impact on the region. In Egypt, the mood is mixed. Only in the Gulf States are optimism and satisfaction levels high.
You can read the full poll here.

And the following graphic makes the failure of the policy clear:


Obama, of course, it a standard liberal, and standard liberals believe that if people dislike the U.S., it must be our fault.

But sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes it’s their fault. Those Muslims who sympathize with terrorism are at fault. Those Muslims who want Israel wiped off the map are at fault. Those Arabs who blame the failure of nations in the Middle East to create free and democratic governments on the West are at fault. Those who blame the U.S. for their economic backwardness are at fault.

Sometimes, it’s best to take to heart Machiavelli’s famous dictim that “It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.”

Thus we have trouble believing that killing Bin Laden really harmed attitudes toward the U.S. If it didn’t engender the warm fuzzies, it probably engendered attitudes a lot more beneficial to us.

Sometimes, of course, it doesn’t matter much whether a country is feared or hated. If you are big enough and powerful enough, they have to deal with you.

The bottom line of this issue is that America should be America: a friend of Israel, and an enemy of terrorism. Willing to intervene when vital national security interests are at stake -- and being a democracy, there will always be a vigorous debate about whether they are.

As for Arabs: if you insist on disliking us, so be it.

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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Sure, We Are Solving the Problem

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Yuppie Rap / Whole Foods Parking Lot

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Public Sector Unions Are a Bad Thing

From a column by Jeff Jacoby, a discussion of why even very liberal Massachusetts has (if only half-heartedly) limited the power of public sector unions:
So unlike their counterparts in the private sector, public-sector unions are rarely constrained by market forces. There are limits to the wages and benefits that labor can demand from private employers. Corporations have to make a profit to stay alive, and both sides know that if costs rise too high, the results may be lost sales, eliminated jobs, or -- if worse comes to worst -- bankruptcy. Consequently, union negotiators cannot insist on the moon, and corporate managers dare not lose sight of the company’s bottom line.

But that check and balance doesn’t exist in public-sector collective bargaining. Teachers’ or firefighters’ or library workers’ unions don’t have to worry about jeopardizing the government’s profits or driving away its customers: Government agencies can’t go bankrupt, and their “customers” can’t switch to a cheaper brand. So why not insist on the moon? Especially when the government managers on the other side of the table generally have little incentive to keep costs down. After all, if the pay, perks, and pensions of public workers send budgets through the roof, what choice do taxpayers have but to foot the bill?

At bottom, collective bargaining in the public sector is profoundly antidemocratic: It denies voters final say over the public they must live under, by forcing their elected representatives to shape those policies in concert with unions. In effect, it transfers to union officials -- interested parties not chosen by the people -- decision-making authority that they have no legitimate right to. That is why until just a few decades ago, it was universally understood that collective bargaining was incompatible with government employment.

Gradually it is becoming clear that throwing the door open to public-sector unions was a serious and costly mistake. It will take years to undo that mistake, but the process has begun. Even, if ever so slowly, in Massachusetts.
This, of course, is why private sector unionization has been shrinking, while public sector unionization has prospered. Unions are simply what economists call “rent seekers,” parties which get money and goodies without giving something of commensurate value in return.

Of course, an increasingly globalized vigorously competitive market economy drives out rent seeking. But people who are comfortably ensconced in the public sector aren’t subject to market forces.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

What Books Would People Like to Ban?

Monday, July 11, 2011

James Harris: Telling the Truth About Riverwest Violence

Marquette Students Attacked Last Night, One By a Mob

From a “Public Safety Alert” time stamped Monday, July 11, 2011 1:58 AM.
Two robberies were reported to the Department of Public Safety tonight (July 10), both occurring around 11:30 p.m. July 10.

In the first instance, a student was approached near 17th and Kilbourn, where two males attempted to hit him and tried reaching into his pockets. The victim punched the perpetrator and flagged down a Milwaukee Police Department squad that was in the area. The perpetrators fled south on 17th Street and got into a dark-colored sedan driven by a third person. No weapons were used, and no property was obtained. The victim was not physically injured.

The second incident occurred near 18th and State. A Marquette student and a friend were approached by approximately 10-15 young males and shoved to the ground. A wallet was stolen from the student’s friend. The student suffered minor abrasions but declined medical assistance. The friend was not physically injured. No weapons were used during this incident, and the perpetrators fled the area.

Both DPS and MPD are investigating.
What is missing here? The race of the attackers. It is reported they were male, and even that they got into “a dark-colored sedan,” but nothing about the color of those guilty of the assault.

In the past, Marquette has reported the race of offenders who are still at large. We have a call in to Marketing and Communications asking whether this is a change in policy, or just an oversight.

Our suspicion is that it will be reported to be an oversight, but perhaps only because a source of ours noticed it.

[developing . . . ]

[Update]

We just got a call from Kate Venne of Marketing and Communications, who claimed that the reason the race of the offenders was not included was that they “didn’t have a very specific description.” Did the students fail to notice the race of their attackers? Did Public Safety fail to get a good description?

The argument seems to be this: if not enough information was available to identify a particular suspect, the race of the offender won’t be given. But of course, they gave the sex of the offenders (male) and an extremely vague description of the car (dark-colored sedan). This looks for all the world like back-door political correctness. They are unwilling to say that the attackers were black, although literally everybody reading the Public Safety Alert (even the most politically correct readers) would assume that.

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Liberals Don’t Really Believe in a “Right to Privacy”

From Front Page Magazine:
One of the great lies of the latter half of the twentieth century is that there is a Constitutional right to privacy. The right to privacy was established by the Supreme Court in Griswold v. Connecticut (1965), in which the Court ruled that the state could not restrict the use of contraceptives. That law hadn’t been enforced in nearly a hundred years when it was challenged, but that didn’t stop liberals from trying to strike it down.

Why? They wanted to make a point, and make it they did: according to the Court, the Constitution guaranteed a “right to privacy.” Where did this right to privacy come from? “[S]pecific guarantees in the Bill of Rights have penumbras, formed by emanations from those guarantees that help give them life and substance,” wrote Justice William O. Douglas, in one of the silliest and least substantive lines of reasoning in legal history.

Later, the “right to privacy” would be extended to unmarried sexual activity in Eisenstadt v. Baird (1972); abortion in Roe v. Wade (1973); and homosexual activity in Lawrence v. Texas (2003). Justice Kennedy ’s opinion in Lawrence is one of the most insulting opinions ever, stating that just because a state legislature finds something immoral doesn’t mean it can ban it and that the Constitution requires that Americans “respect” the private lives of homosexuals. “The State cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime,” Kennedy wrote — announcing a bizarre standard if the Constitution is designed to prevent federal overreach.

Let’s leave aside Kennedy’s logic here — the state constantly demeans the existence of consensual bigamists, prostitutes, incestuous families, bestiality practitioners, and adulterers, and in most of those cases, controls the destinies of those involved in these activities. Let’s focus instead on the basic point, which seems intuitively right to so many Americans: what we do in the bedroom should be our business alone.

I agree with that. You agree with that. We all agree with that. Libertarianism’s impact has been felt by us all — we know that we don’t want cops knocking on our door based on what we do with our sexual partners.

There’s only one problem: the left isn’t truly interested in the right to privacy. What starts in the bedroom doesn’t stay in the bedroom for the left. It ends with government pushing their bedroom agenda-of-the-day.

Now, it’s not enough that a woman has a right to choose to abort her baby – we have to publicly fund it. Now, it’s not enough that people have the right to have unmarried sex – we have to pay taxes to fund their child-rearing.

In California the courts have recently ruled that the right to privacy now requires that the state make no distinction between heterosexual relationships and homosexual relationships. Marriage is not a privacy issue — it is an issue of people’s relationship with the state. But the radical gay movement has not restricted itself to worrying about non-interference in the bedroom. It wants societal acceptance and legitimacy. By the same token, homosexual adoption isn’t a privacy issue — it impacts a child. But the left has sought to extend the right to privacy to cover the right to raise children without a mother or father.

As if that weren’t enough, California, spurred by the powerful gay lobby, has passed legislation changing the Education Code to require that children be instructed “on the contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.” This is privacy turned on its head. What particular figures do in the bedroom has nothing to do with their contribution to American society. What does Leonardo di Vinci’s preference for boys have to with his historical import? The answer: nothing. But that’s not what the left cares about. They care about exposing children to homosexuality as early as possible in order to legitimate their anti-traditional values morality.

So what happened to the “right to privacy”? It expanded to include public approval of private sexual activity – which returns us closer to the anti-libertarian mold than the libertarian mold. After all, what if society shifts and decides to change its relationship with certain sexual activity again? Libertarianism provides a bright-line: government shouldn’t be involved with sexual activity. By getting the two intertwined again, liberal sexual activists actually bring themselves closer to the brink. Government-sponsored libertarianism is no libertarianism at all.
A genuine libertarian, of course, would no more want to use government to impose on the citizens the idea that homosexuality is perfectly moral and acceptable than he would want to use government to impose on the citizens the idea that homosexuality is immoral and unacceptable.

But a lot of “libertarians” are not really libertarians. They are merely secular social liberals who happen to be economic conservatives. Human liberty, to them, does not include the right to opt out of the gay agenda.

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Wednesday, July 06, 2011

That Gaza Flotilla

From Slate, an informative article about who these folks are, and what they are really up to.

Of course, Marquette’s Center for Peacemaking is lobbying for these folks.

Calling flotilla people part of a “peace movement” is as much of a sham as saying organizations that have “peace” in their name actually believe in peace.

What they believe in is surrender for America and America’s allies, and war waged by America’s enemies.

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Friday, July 01, 2011

Anti-Israel, Pro-Terrorist Lobbying From the Marquette Center for Peacemaking

We are on the email list of the Marquette Center for Peacemaking, a leftist activist program at Marquette. We got an e-mail today from that organization that contained this message:
Senator Wants US-Israeli Op Against Flotilla

June 29, 2011
Military.com | by Bryant Jordanhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif

Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., says the United States should “make available all necessary special operations and naval support to the Israeli Navy to effectively disable flotilla vessels before they can pose a threat to Israeli coastal security or put Israeli lives at risk.”

[Read More]

1.) Please call Senator Kirk’s office and encourage him to rethink his position regarding using US Navy forces to stop the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza. Instead, ask him to protest the flotilla so they can deliver aid and goodwill to the people of Gaza.

Contact Senator Kirk

2.) Midwest activists please call and e-mail the Greek Consulate in Chicago at (312) 335-3915 and tell them (in a civil manner): LET THE BOATS IN THE FREEDOM FLOTILLA SAIL! If you do not live in the Midwest you can find the nearest Greek Consulate by doing a search on Google.

You may also send them an e-mail using this link
Of course, the purpose of the “flotilla” is to aid the terroist regime of Hamas, which controls Gaza.

Which shows something (not that this hasn’t been obvious for ages) about “peace” as a political slogan.

The people who cry “peace” really mean that the side they don’t like should quit fighting and surrender. During the Cold War, they wanted America to disarm, but showed only slight and pro-forma disapproval of Soviet arms buildups.

And here, “peace” is interpreted as support for Hamas. For these folks, peace does not mean that Hamas should stop lobbing rockets into Israel. To them, it has never meant that Palestinians should stop terrorist acts against Israel.

They aren’t about peace at all, but about leftist politics, and their use of the word “peace” is absurdly hypocritical.

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