Free Markets, Free People

Monthly Archives: February 2011


So what’s happening in N Africa and the ME?

All sorts of fun stuff … but has anyone noticed how the coverage of Egypt had all but ceased?  What’s up with that?

Uncovered by most of the media has been the return from exile of the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood who has, for years, hosted one of the most watched talks shows on Al Jazeera. 

And this:

Some of the young activists who launched the Egyptian uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak say they are skeptical about the military’s pledges to hand over power to a democratically elected government.

They also warned Western diplomats in Cairo Monday that the remnants of Mubarak’s regime that still hold positions of power could overturn the uprising’s gains.

Nah … that can’t be true can it?  And who do those who ran through the streets denouncing Mubarak, Israel and the US want to help ensure the military keeps its word?

The seven activists – representatives of a broad coalition of youth groups – also called on the international community to support Egypt’s transition toward democracy, and asked for help in tracking down Mubarak’s assets – rumored to be in the billions of dollars.

The activists spoke as senior U.S. and European officials, including British Prime minister David Cameron, were to arrive in Cairo for talks with the country’s military leaders.

Why us, of course.

Meanwhile in Gadaffi land, things have gone from bad to worse.  The old boy has managed to get a fatwa issued against him.

‘Whoever in the Libyan army is able to shoot a bullet at Mr Gaddafi should do so,’ Qaradawi, an Egyptian-born cleric who is usually based in Qatar, told Al-Jazeera television.

Qaradawi also told the Libyan army not to fire on protestors.  And there are reports in some areas of Libya that those instructions are being followed.

Probably most interesting about the collapse going on in Libya are the words of Gadaffi’s son about what may follow:

"Libya is not Tunisia or Egypt. Libya is composed of clans and tribes. There are alliances. Libya does not have a civil society with political parties. No, Libya is composed of clans and tribes. [...]

"There will be civil war in Libya. We will return to the civil war of 1936. We will kill one another in the streets. Libya is not Tunisia or Egypt. Libya has oil, and that is what united the country. An American oil company played a pivotal role in the unification of Libya.

"We have a single source of income – oil. It is found in central Libya – not in the east or the west. It is in central and south Libya. That is what all five million Libyans live off. If secession takes place – who will give us food and water? Who will control the oil wells? Who is capable of managing the oil sector in Libya? [...]

"We will be forced to emigrate from Libya, because we will not be able to divide the oil between us. There will be war, and all of Libya will be destroyed. We will need 40 years to reach an agreement on how to run the country, because today, everyone will want to be president, or Emir, and everybody will want to run the country.

"Libya is not Tunisia or Egypt. Libya is not Tunisia or Egypt."

Interesting points about Libyan society (lack of political parties meaning lack of democratic institutions/tribes and clans – Afghanistan in N. Africa, except it has oil.) Of course he also said:

"There is no alternative other than to adopt a firm stand. I tell you that the army will play a central role in this, and the Libyan army is not like the army of Tunisia or of Egypt.

"Our army will support Libya and Mu’ammar Al-Qadhafi to the last moment, and it will be victorious, Allah willing. Matters will be set straight. We will destroy all the dens of strife. [...]

"In any event, our morale is high. The leader Mu’ammar Al-Qadhafi is here in Tripoli, leading the campaign. We stand by him, and the armed forces stand by him. Tens of thousands of people are on their way to Tripoli. We will not sell Libya short. We will fight to our very last man, woman, and bullet. Under no circumstances will we leave our country.

"Let Al-Jazeera TV, Al-Arabiya TV, and the BBC laugh at us. Let those bullies and those traitors, who live abroad, laugh at us, and say that we are destroying our country, but we will not leave it." [...]

And he’s considered the “reasonable” one in the Gadaffi family.  My guess is our State Department has no clue about the societal implications and probable outcome of this particular revolution – so I expect sunny, moon-pony pronouncements about “democracy advancing” in Libya to be their stock answer to everything.

Morocco, Bahrain and Yemen are also undergoing disturbances and protests in some form or fashion  – and some of those are being met with violent government crackdowns.

Meanwhile in Iran:

Antigovernment protesters gathered throughout parts of Iran on Sunday, most concentrated in the capital Tehran, to mark the deaths of two men killed during demonstrations last Monday. The government mounted a stultifying security presence in the capital, with the police making arrests and using tear gas to try to prevent the unrest from escalating.

[…]

The security forces seemed prepared for them, and in some locations, witnesses reported that police officers and baton-holding mercenaries outnumbered the protesters. There were reports of police officers firing on the crowds, although those could not be confirmed, because most foreign journalists were not allowed to report in Iran.

Opposition Web sites and witnesses said that ambulances were driven into the crowds. Security forces, including riot-control units on motorcycles, deployed tear gas to disperse crowds in several places, including near Valiasr Square and Vanak Square.

Plainclothes officers stopped and frisked people on the streets and removed people from vehicles, witnesses said.

Business as usual.  And if not busy enough at home, Iran has decided now was a good time to provoke Israel by sending two warships through the Suez canal for “exercises” with Syria – the first time in 30 years Iranian warships have transited the canal.

Finally, something else to keep an eye on:

BEIJING—Chinese authorities detained dozens of political activists after an anonymous online call for people to start a "Jasmine Revolution" in China by protesting in 13 cities—just a day after President Hu Jintao called for tighter Internet controls to help prevent social unrest.

Only a handful of people appeared to have responded to the call to protest in Beijing, Shanghai and 11 other cities at 2 p.m. Sunday, a call first posted on the U.S.-based Chinese-language news website Boxun.com and circulated mainly on Twitter, which is blocked in China.

Yeah, probably not happening — yet.

Not a good week for authoritarians it appears.  Of course be careful what you wish for – while we may see one crop of authoritarians shunted to the side, there is no indication that anything other than a different type of authoritarian regime would replace it in many of these places.  Change is definitely in the air.  But whether that’s finally a “good thing” remains to be seen.

~McQ


NYT: Blogs “wane” as young set moves to sites like Twitter

In another example of how little the NYT knows about blogging (but fervently wishes for the day they’d just go away and the Times could get back to the good old days of deciding what is news or just flat making it up), it reports today that blogs are on the “wane”.  Check out this paragraph:

Like any aspiring filmmaker, Michael McDonald, a high school senior, used a blog to show off his videos. But discouraged by how few people bothered to visit, he instead started posting his clips on Facebook, where his friends were sure to see and comment on his editing skills.

“I don’t use my blog anymore,” said Mr. McDonald, who lives in San Francisco. “All the people I’m trying to reach are on Facebook.”

This is the lead for the story.  It is clueless.

Some 17 year old who likes to make videos doesn’t use his blog to show them off anymore, but instead uses Facebook – and that sounds the death knell of blogs?

What this youngster wanted to do was show his vids off to a few (tens? hundreds?) friends at most.  Facebook is a much better venue for that.  In fact, it’s an even better venue than YouTube because your friends have to go to YouTube to find your vids vs. having them delivered to their Facebook page via your posting.  It. Makes. Perfect. Sense. 

But … it says more about the misapplication of blogging (for what the young man wanted to accomplish) than the demise of blogging.

Twitter – same thing.  For some things it’s perfect.  For others, a blog is perfect.   Depends on what you want to do.   Like say anything  that takes more than 142 characters. Blogs, Twitter and Facebook are all networking tools that provide an application that helps accomplish what the user wants to accomplish.

The case the NYT is trying to make is blogs will die out as the younger demographic moves to different venues:

The Internet and American Life Project at the Pew Research Center found that from 2006 to 2009, blogging among children ages 12 to 17 fell by half; now 14 percent of children those ages who use the Internet have blogs. Among 18-to-33-year-olds, the project said in a report last year, blogging dropped two percentage points in 2010 from two years earlier.

Well here’s a news flash – I don’t read “children” or their blogs and they most likely don’t read mine.  But note the next demo – 18-to-33 year olds – suffered a whole 2% decline from two years earlier.

As of Feb. 16th, 2011, according to Wikipedia, there were 156 million blogs in existence.  A two percent drop in two years is simply statistically insignificant.  And, blogs aren’t just for “social networking” as the Times would like you to believe.  Nor do they require writing “lengthy posts” unless you want too. 

Blogs went largely unchallenged until Facebook reshaped consumer behavior with its all-purpose hub for posting everything social. Twitter, which allows messages of no longer than 140 characters, also contributed to the upheaval.

No longer did Internet users need a blog to connect with the world. They could instead post quick updates to complain about the weather, link to articles that infuriated them, comment on news events, share photos or promote some cause — all the things a blog was intended to do.

Phenomenal – I never had to blog to “connect with the world”. Nor was any blog I was a part of “intended” for comments on the weather or to just share photos. 

I hadn’t waited on blogs to “connect with the world” – that had been available for years via email, first through bulletin board systems, then through Usenet and Google Groups.  Blogs are just another method of doing so and may someday be supplanted by something else.  But on the wane because of Facebook and Twitter? 

All I can say is if Twitter is now the first choice of someone who was once blogging, they were never a serious blogger to begin with.  And, if Facebook is now the choice of a blogger, they’ve greatly narrowed their outreach to only those who subscribe to them.  The fact that they’re on Facebook, even with an open page, doesn’t mean anyone is going to read them any more than when they had a blog.

Obviously things are going to change and evolve in the online media and social networking world, but as much as the NYT would love to declare the blog dead and gone, it’s not even close.

And a little note for the editors and publishers of the Times – when blogs have finally gone the way of the dodo bird, the NYT will most likely have predeceased them by a substantial amount of time.  My guess is Hot Air has as many or more readers than the Times does.    HuffPo just went for 300 plus million to AOL.  Point me toward the last major newspaper that sold for that much.

~McQ


Who is winning the public relations fight in Wisconsin?

Rasmussen says it’s Republican governor Scott Walker:

A sizable number of voters are following new Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s showdown with unionized public employees in his state, and nearly half side with the governor.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 48% of Likely U.S. Voters agree more with the Republican governor in his dispute with union workers. Thirty-eight percent (38%) agree more with the unionized public employees, while 14% are undecided.

Additionally:

Thirty-eight percent (38%) of voters think teachers, firemen and policemen should be allowed to go on strike, but 49% disagree and believe they should not have that right. Thirteen percent (13%) are not sure.

And finally:

Public employee unions have long been strong supporters, financially and otherwise, of Democratic Party candidates, so it’s no surprise that 68% of Democrats support the union workers in the Wisconsin dispute. Sixty-eight percent (68%) of Republicans and 56% of voters not affiliated with either of the major political parties side with the governor.  [emphasis mine]

The bold line is key.  I find nothing particularly surprising about either of the percentages from Democrats polled or Republicans.  But again this indicates that the Democrats have lost the independent vote and lost it significantly.  Public opinion, based on this poll, is definitely with the Governor.

What is playing out in Wisconsin has been recognized by unions as a hill they must die on or suffer the probably irreversible consequences of losing political power.   They also understand the potential reaches far outside Wisconsin.  If Wisconsin goes, others could follow:

“Some of the labor people are saying, ‘It’s the beginning of the fight back,’” said a top labor official. “But if the labor movement rallies and gets run over in Wisconsin, it opens [the gates] in every state” for governors to start pushing harder to curtail labor rights.

“Not every state’s going to roll back collective bargaining,” the official — who, like many, spoke off the record to avoid undermining the protests — added, but said it could open the gates for union losses on various fronts, like benefits.

Don’t be fooled – this isn’t just about “benefits”.  It is about power, politics and money.  The mix of those three have given public sector unions a synergy that has allowed them, in many places, to hand pick Democratic representatives, have them elected and then have them do the union’s business.  It is a pernicious and non-competitive arrangement that is finally, because of the financial downturn, coming to light.

But the unions have a problem.  They haven’t been able to sell the emotional argument (benefits) and they certainly aren’t about to try to explain the real reason they’re fighting this (power and money).   So what they’re having to deal with the the public’s perception, formed over many years in Wisconsin, that the public sector costs too much, has to be cut and that includes public sector employee benefits as well:

But this fight isn’t at the time or place of the unions’ choosing. Hostility to public-sector workers, including teachers, is at an all-time high amid a recession and a new national mania for curbing the tide of fiscal red ink. Walker appears to have a firm legislative majority on his side.

And labor is struggling to explain — and convince a voting public that has inched away from the concept of unions as a bedrock American institution over the years — that while it’s willing to be flexible on Walker’s demands for cost control, his attempts to change the rules governing public unions are a matter of institutional life and death and union principle. Labor hopes the public will see Walker’s attempt to use a budget gap to reshape labor-management relations as an overreach. But for many people watching from afar, the details of what Walker wants to accomplish have gotten lost, and the fight is playing out as yet another in a long string of recent state-based brawls over the high cost of the public sector.

So public sector unions have a heck of a PR problem not only in Wisconsin, but if the Rasmussen poll is to be believed, throughout the US.  Nationally that could mean this:

Bradley Tusk, a former Illinois deputy governor and New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s 2009 campaign manager, said that if Walker succeeds in the fight, “this will be portrayed as a major change toward fiscal sanity and protecting taxpayers.”

“The average voter will never feel any pain from it,” he added, “so the high ground shifts away from labor. That puts Obama and other Democrats in the position of being forced further to the left, or moving more toward the GOP position and risking losing support from labor. … This almost creates some of the problems that a primary forces on the challenger.”

And the union’s “winning strategy” to counter that?

As a broader issue, in other states, national union officials think they’ve found a winning strategy in shifting the fight off government and slamming Wall Street, armed with repeated polls that show anti-financial industry sentiment at an all-time high.

Apparently, however, union officials don’t understand that it isn’t an “either/or” situation.  The public blames both for different reasons.  But more importantly, the public realizes “what is, is” and you deal with it.  Whether they believe (or not) that Wall Street is to blame, that doesn’t change the fact that the problem (budget deficit) has to be confronted and solved and part of the solution has to be borne by public sector employees.

Norman Adler, a longtime lobbyist for public sector labor unions in New York, says the unions have to fight – that this is not something they can walk away from.  And, if they lose in Wisconsin, they “have to reconfigure their tactics and move on.”  But, he says:

“Labor pretty much lost the PR fight a number of years ago,” he said, suggesting the true targets of opportunity at the moment are state lawmakers who are “on the fence,” and can be swayed because they’re worried about getting elected back home. “And I think their position is that they have to show political muscle here.”

Translation: this could get even nastier.

Watch for it.

~McQ


WI Republicans – snatching defeat from the jaws of victory?

Why is it that in almost every scenario imaginable, where a stiff spine, adherence to principle and with public support behind them ensures political victory, there always seems to emerge a group willing to compromise (unnecessarily) before the fight is over?

With Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker maintaining a hard line on his budget bill and Democratic senators refusing to return to Madison to vote, attention is turning to a group of moderate Republican senators to negotiate a compromise to the stalemate that has drawn thousands of protesters to the state capital for a sixth straight day.

The proposal, written by Sen. Dale Schultz and first floated in the Republican caucus early last week, calls for most collective bargaining rights of public employee unions to be eliminated – per Mr. Walker’s bill – but then reinstated in 2013, said Mr. Schultzs’s chief of staff Todd Allbaugh.

"Dale is committed to find a way to preserve collective bargaining in the future," said Mr. Allbaugh in a telephone interview.

Really? Why?  Because one of the major reasons the state is having to rescind the sweetheart deals made to state workers is the result of the so-called “collective bargaining” done in the past.

Consider this – in the private sector, corporations compete against other corporations for market share.  The demands of competitiveness help keep union demands in check as both sides in a negotiation understand that going to far will cripple the corporation in terms of its competition and may cost everyone their job.   So  private sector union members have been paying a higher portion of their wages toward their own pension and health care than public union members.

There’s also an healthy adversarial relationship between labor and management that lends to checking the benefits allowed.

There is no competitive atmosphere within the public sector nor is there much of any adversarial relationship present.   In short, there are none of the checks on those unions that a competitive atmosphere puts on private sector unions. 

Secondly, the public sector unions have become huge players in state and national politics.   What happens is the guy they help elect is the guy with whom they often end up sitting across the negotiations table.  What do you think the union extracts as promises from politicians they support for election?  Well of course, sweetheart deals like those enjoyed by the unions members in Wisconsin where the taxpayer is dunned for their pension and health care benefits instead of the union member.

The bill in question is an important one.  It would also remove the requirement that state employees must join the union to hold a job in state government.  That, of course, scares the living daylights out of the union leadership.  Why?

Because it breaks their monopoly control on government employees, it removes their ability to use the state to require and collect union dues for them and it threatens their ability to fund political activities and further extend their power. 

And then there’s the accountability “problem” they’ll suddenly face.  The Wisconsin bill would require the union to hold a yearly recertification vote by secret ballot.  Until now, with mandated membership and the state collecting dues for the union (via payroll deduction), the union has had no need or requirement to be accountable to its members.  Members have had no choice but to join the union regardless of whether they wanted to or agreed with the union’s direction.    With the passage of this bill the union would suddenly have an accountability requirement.  As you might imagine, they want nothing to do with that.

With all of the liberty enhancing aspects of this bill as they pertain to the Wisconsin public service unions, why in the world are some “moderate” Republicans getting wobbly in the knees (thankfully Gov. Walker is standing his ground)?  They have a strong case, they have a voter mandate, they have public opinion on their side, union members are acting like spoiled children and their political opponents have shut down state government.

But with Democratic senators indicating they are willing to remain away from the capital indefinitely, state government remains shut down with no end in sight.

That’s bad on them.   So why is Dale Schultz trying to entice them back to the table with an absurdity like suspending collective bargaining rights for only 2 years?  It shouldn’t be their side that is showing signs of giving in, it should be the Democrats who’ve run off to another state to avoid doing their job.  Let public pressure work on them.

It is to the advantage of the state GOP to let the Democrats carry out this travesty for as long as they wish.  Let the so-called public servants stay off the job and throw their selfish tantrums in the capitol.  It doesn’t reflect well on them and the public will finally tire of it. 

But if the GOP there capitulates and compromises it will most likely turn the public opinion tables on them and encourage the unions and Democrats there and elsewhere to duplicate the tactics that forced the compromise.

For once, I’d like to see the GOP stand its ground – firmly – and invite the opposition to give it their best shot.  I think Democrats have badly misread this situation and are in the middle of hurting themselves.  What’s the old political axiom: when your opponent is in the middle of self-destruction, get out of their way and let the process continue – or something like that.   WI “moderate” Republicans need to grow a pair and stand their ground.  What they’re proposing is in the best interest of the state and its citizens, and that is what they were elected to concern themselves with.

~McQ


Observations: The QandO Podcast for 20 Feb 11

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss the demonstrations by public employee unions in Wisconsin, and the wave of protests across the Mideast.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2010, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.


Carter: Obama has given up on Middle East peace

Former President Jimmy Carter is not at all impressed with Barack Obama’s efforts toward Middle East peace.  Speaking Tuesday at the LBJ library’s annual Harry Middleton Lectureship series, Carter said that in terms of the peace process in the Middle East, "nothing is going on."

Answering a question about Egypt, the former president praised President Obama’s handling of the situation there saying he’s "done quite well" and that Obama has handled it "about the same way I’d have handled it if I’d been in office."

However, on the broader question of the Middle East peace process, Carter was much less complimentary saying, "President Obama has basically given up on peace in the Middle East."

Pointing out that Obama had started out well, Carter blasted Obama by claiming that he’d now become "more accommodating to Netanyahu and Israel than George W. Bush was."  Trying to dampen his critique of the Obama administration, Carter said he really wasn’t there to criticize, but he’d been asked a question and that was the answer.  "I don’t have any feeling of success for what President Obama had done in the Middle East", Carter concluded.

The session was an hour long question and answer period on a wide range of topics including Carter’s run for the presidency, his term in office and his work after he left office.  In it Carter’s most pointed remarks came during the discussion of the Middle East peace process.

Often cited as someone who cozies up to dictators, Carter admitted to having "lunch or dinner" each time he went to Egypt with Omar Suleiman, the intelligence chief, because he knew "more about the Middle East than anyone", and he described Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad as a "young, fairly progressive president" who had "inherited" the presidency from his father.

But it seems that even the likes of Jimmy Carter knows an empty suit when he see’s one and a person from whom you would expect to see fairly significant support can’t find it in himself to say anything positive about the Obama Middle East peace initiative – or lack thereof.

~McQ


Madison equals Cairo? Not even close

It’s a cold day in hell here as I favorably quote someone who I usually savage.   And I have to revise my thoughts on the left not getting irony – apparently some do.  Who am I taking about?  Joe Klein.  Yup that Joe Klein, TIME’s Joe Klein.  He actually gets it:

Revolutions everywhere–in the middle east, in the middle west. But there is a difference: in the middle east, the protesters are marching for democracy; in the middle west, they’re protesting against it. I mean, Isn’t it, well, a bit ironic that the protesters in Madison, blocking the state senate chamber, are chanting "Freedom, Democracy, Union" while trying to prevent a vote? Isn’t it ironic that the Democratic Senators have fled the democratic process? Isn’t it interesting that some of those who–rightly–protest the assorted Republican efforts to stymie majority rule in the U.S. Senate are celebrating the Democratic efforts to stymie the same in  the Wisconsin Senate?

An election was held in Wisconsin last November. The Republicans won. In a democracy, there are consequences to elections and no one, not even the public employees unions, are exempt from that.

I know … you’re wondering, “what did they do with the real Joe Klein”, but hey give the devil his due (keeping with the cold day in hell metaphor) – he’s exactly right.

The other Klein, the Ezra type, not so much.

Let’s be clear: Whatever fiscal problems Wisconsin is — or is not — facing at the moment, they’re not caused by labor unions.

That, sir, is irrelevant.  Whatever “fiscal problems” are present need to be solved by having across the board spending cuts and that’s the point of requiring public service labor union members to pitch in a little more on their benefits.  Essentially what Wisconsin is trying to do is put state employees on an even par with private employees in terms of benefits.P1-AZ544_UNIONS_NS_20110217194803

Here’s the bottom line of what is triggering these protests:

Besides limiting collective-bargaining rights for most workers—excepting police, firefighters and others involved in public safety—it would require government workers, who currently contribute little or nothing to their pensions, to contribute 5.8% of their pay to pensions, and pay at least 12.6% of health-care premiums, up from an average of 6%.

Wow.  No more free lunch.  Can’t imagine that, can you?  You know, actually having to pitch in for your pension and health-care?  Privately employed citizens have been doing that forever.  So why are the public sector folks exempt?  Well that’s the dirty little secret isn’t it?

Let’s go to Matt Welch for the answer:

We are witnessing the logical conclusion of the Democratic Party’s philosophy, and it is this: Your tax dollars exist to make public sector unions happy. When we run out of other people’s money to pay for those contracts and promises (most of which are negotiated outside of public view, often between union officials and the politicians that union officials helped elect), then we just need to raise taxes to cover a shortfall that is obviously Wall Street’s fault. Anyone who doesn’t agree is a bully, and might just bear an uncanny resemblance to Hitler.

There is Wisconsin in a nutshell – distilled as well as you’ll find it anywhere.  These deals were mostly pay for play and the state’s taxpayers were sold down the river.  I noted some months ago that the Democrats have become the party of public service unions instead of the party of the blue collar worker.  They are dependent on the money and machine those powerful unions provide to stay in power.

And when that machine falters?  Well, you get tantrums like this.  Remember the union protesters in Illinois a few months ago clamoring for the governor there to raise taxes instead of cutting their benefits?  Just like Ezra Klein they want to lay off the fiscal mess on others instead of recognizing its reality and understanding that the free ride has come to an end.  It doesn’t matter if the unions had anything to do with the mess – the mess says everything is on the table.  That’s the only way out of the mess.

But, this is Armageddon for the Democrats and their stakeholders.  If states succeed in breaking the hold public service unions have on government, Democrats stand to lose substantial power.   That explains why President Obama has entered the fray.  While he wouldn’t back the protesters in Iran because it might be seen as meddling in the internal affairs of the state, he has no qualms whatsoever of meddling in the internal affairs of the state of Wisconsin.   Apparently elections only have consequences when he wins.

What has the unions so terrified of the Walker plan?  Well here’s the plan:

His plan allows workers to quit their union without losing their job. He requires unions to demonstrate their support through an annual secret-ballot vote. He also ends the unfair taxpayer subsidy to union fundraising: The state and local government would stop collecting union dues with their payroll systems.

Under that plan, union membership would be an actual choice instead of a mandated requirement to hold a job.  Horror of horrors.   How dare a governor advance something which actually enhances freedom (choice = freedom) – why that makes him a dictator, of course and akin to Hitler.

Make no mistake, these protests in Madison aren’t about democracy, freedom or liberty.  They’re about the left’s power and something they love to project on the right and Wall Street – selfishness.  The protests are a collective tantrum from adolescents who refuse to acknowledge that their special-interest Candyland no longer exists and while it did, it existed on the back of the tax payers who were made to unwillingly subsidizing their way of life.

This is the wrong fight, in the wrong place at the wrong time, and Democrats are on the wrong side.  Public sector unions are not popular and despite Ezra Klein’s denial, are held responsible for some of the fiscal problems the states face (like pensions):

A new poll from the Washington-based Clarus Group asked:

Do you think government employees should be represented by labor unions that bargain for higher pay, benefits and pensions … or do you think government employees should not be represented by labor unions?

A full 64% of the respondents said "no."

That includes 42% of Democrats, and an overwhelming majority of Republicans. Only 49% of Democrats think public workers should be in unions at all.

So, as you watch these “protests” keep them in context.  They’re an astroturfed attempt, orchestrated from the highest office in the land,  to keep the power current structure in place that underpins the political power of the Democrats.  This isn’t about rights or liberty or freedom, this is about power and money.  And it has finally unmasked the left in this country and revealed what it is really all about.

~McQ


Canadian court rules baby must die as it decides, not as the parents request

This is sure to revive talk of death panels.  And I’m afraid I simply don’t understand the reasoning here.  But it is a stark example of the state making decisions that should be left to the people involved – in a free country, that is.

Anyway, the story:

A Windsor, Ont. couple’s fight to bring their gravely ill baby home to die ended in bitter tears Thursday when a Superior Court judge dismissed their appeal to stop doctors from removing the infant’s breathing tube at the hospital.

The father and relatives of one-year-old Joseph Maraachli wept outside a London courthouse after an emotional Justice Helen Rady upheld the earlier decision of an independent provincial tribunal forcing the baby’s parents to comply with doctors’ orders.

With all of their legal avenues exhausted, the family will have to say goodbye to Joseph Monday morning — on Family Day — when his breathing tube will be removed.

Apparently the baby has a rare neurological disease which has put him in a “severe and deteriorating neurological condition that has left him in a persistent vegetative state, according to specialists in London, Ont., who’ve examined him. “

Bottom line, the child is dying. It is now to the point where the baby can’t swallow or breath on his own. The parents know and understand that. They know the child will die. They’re not asking the state to try and save their baby. Instead, what they are asking – what they have to ask, apparently – is permission of the state to take their child home and let the baby die among "friends and loved ones".

Pretty outrageous request, isn’t it?  And yet they don’t have the final say.

The parents had petitioned the regional medical board for a tracheotomy to be performed on the child to facilitate their ability to take him home with them.  That would have opened up a direct airway which would have made it possible to take the baby home and let it die there.

Oh, too much to ask apparently.  Remember, the baby is dying.   It’s going to die.   There’s no question about that –  everyone involved knows it will be dead in a matter of hours if not days.  The parents are not asking for heroic or extended (and expensive) treatment be continued.  Just a tracheotomy.

The reason given for the refusal?

But doctors refused to perform the procedure, citing serious risks of infection, pneumonia and other possible complications.

It’s a bit like refusing a lung cancer patient with stage 4 cancer a final cigarette because it might kill them.  The reason is absurd on its face. But apparently enough that a judge decided for the state and not the parents.  So instead of risking infection or pneumonia and letting the parents take their child home to die, the state insists on removing the breathing tube in the hospital and letting the child smother to death there.

Maraachli and Nader went before the Consent and Capacity Board of Ontario, an independent body that deals with matters under the Health Care Consent Act, which sided with the doctors in late January and agreed that it was in Joseph’s best interest to have the breathing tube removed.

Don’t you love it when something called the “Consent and Capacity Board” has the final say on what is in the “best interest” of a child, rather than the parents?

Given the structure and effect of this monstrosity called ObamaCare, that is the probable end state  we’ll eventually see here – an insurance industry which will collapse and in answer to the “problem” which government created, a single-payer system will be implemented.  And you can bet that something along the line of the “Consent and Capacity Board” will eventually take all such decisions out of your hands and make them exclusively the decision of the state.

(HT: All American Blogger)

~McQ


Wisconsin heats up while "civility" takes a holiday on the left

Wisconsin is a great example of special interest constituency politics. I’m not talking about politics that focus on the constituents in your district or state if you’re an elected representative or senator.  I’m talking about special-interest constituents who provide you money and backing when you seek election or reelection – whether from your district or not.

That’s pretty much what is going on in Wisconsin boils down too.  Wisconsin’s Republican Governor, Scott Walker has proposed a number of ways to “repair” the budget.  In summary, those aimed at public service unions place limits on their existing power:

It would require most public workers to pay half their pension costs – typically 5.8% of pay for state workers – and at least 12% of their health care costs. It applies to most state and local employees but does not apply to police, firefighters and state troopers, who would continue to bargain for their benefits.

Except for police, firefighters and troopers, raises would be limited to inflation unless a bigger increase was approved in a referendum. The non-law enforcement unions would lose their rights to bargain over anything but wages, would have to hold annual elections to keep their organizations intact and would lose the ability to have union dues deducted from state paychecks.

Apparently such limits are simply outrageous.  Unions hold annual elections?  Public workers pay more toward their pensions and health care costs?  And, of course, the bargaining “rights” curtailed in everything but wages?

So that’s prompted an astroturf campaign which has involved organizations outside Wisconsin, to include the White House.  The one thing public sector unions can do effectively it seems is “flash mobs”.  Reports of advertisements in Illinois aimed at recruiting activists for protests in Wisconsin were common.

The Democratic National Committee also has involved themselves in the local fight

The Democratic National Committee’s Organizing for America arm — the remnant of the 2008 Obama campaign — is playing an active role in organizing protests against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s attempt to strip most public employees of collective bargaining rights.

[…]

OfA Wisconsin’s field efforts include filling buses and building turnout for the rallies this week in Madison, organizing 15 rapid response phone banks urging supporters to call their state legislators, and working on planning and producing rallies, a Democratic Party official in Washington said.

So anyone who thinks this is all “spontaneous” might want to buy a clue.

Meanwhile, all the Democratic state senators in Wisconsin have run off to Rockford, Ill to avoid having to do their jobs.   You see, Republicans hold a majority, but are one short of a quorum needed to pass legislation.  So without the Democrats, the Senate is unable to act on legislation.  Democrats have issued a “list of demands”:

“We demand that the provisions that completely eliminate the ability of workers… to negotiate on a fair basis with their employers be removed from the budget repair bill and any other future budget,” Miller said.

He also demanded legislative oversight on changes to the state’s medical programs, which are targeted for changes in the bill. The bill would also require union members to contribute to their health care and pensions.

My guess is there’s some negotiating room there, but if I were the governor I’d tell Dems that there’ll be no talk about their demands until they act like adults and show back up in the capital ready to do their jobs.   And Governor Walker has laid out the alternative fairly clearly:

Walker said the only alternative would be layoffs of 10,000 to 12,000 state and local employees.

Of course, without a quorum, that isn’t the strongest hand in the world.  But what Democrats are doing sure seems like a childish tantrum in my eyes.  Republicans may not have a quorum and state government may grind to a halt because of it, but I doubt that voters are going to blame members of the GOP for that. 

All of this has spawned the usual misinformation as charges and counter-charges fly.  Ed Schultz provides an example of a completely false statement about the controversy according to Politifact Wisconsin.  Said Shultz:

Under changes being debated, state employees in Wisconsin "who earn $30,000, $40,000, $50,000 a year might have 20 percent of their income just disappear overnight."

Not true.  Although state employees would have to pay a higher percentage for their benefits (in the 6 to 11% range) none are looking at “20 percent of their income disappear[ing] over night”.

Unions have been losing favor in the eyes of the American public for years, with a fairly sharp downturn in their popularity in 2007.  Since then their favorability rating has stayed about the same, but unfavorable numbers continue to build:

Americans’ attitudes about labor unions changed only slightly over the past year, following a sharp downturn between early 2007 and early 2010. Currently, 45% say they have a favorable opinion about labor unions, while nearly as many (41%) say they have an unfavorable opinion.

In January 2007, 58% said they had a favorable opinion of unions; 31% had an unfavorable opinion.

Tantrums like this, astroturfing and the plain old uncivil behavior aren’t going to help their case.  Ann Althouse has some examples of the latter.   It appears that Adolph Hitler has made a comeback among the left in Wisconsin.   Civility is only a requirement for those on the right, apparently.  The left – well it’s the left and any insult and comparison, no matter how outrageous, is perfectly fine. Godwin’s law is in effect in Wisconsin.

I think Wisconsin is only the beginning of these sorts of spectacles and fights.  Entrenched bureaucracies and unions aren’t going to give up their power easily and go quietly in the night.  How they conduct themselves in this sort of fight will be important though.  The point, one assumes, is to bring visibility to their arguments and persuade the public to back them.  If that’s the case, I don’t think the way the Wisconsin protesters (and legislators) are prosecuting their case will be held up as a model to be emulated.

Cuts are coming – whether made willingly or forced by reality.   There’s no escaping that.   Gov. Walker is trying to get ahead of that curve.

Human nature says no one wants to see their ox gored, regardless of reality’s demands.  But in a battle for public opinion, acting like children, calling people Nazis and importing out-of-state protesters in what is really  a local fight doesn’t seem to be the best way to get the public on your side.

~McQ


Quote of the Day–lefty logic edition

When is a penalty not a penalty?  Ask Rep Shelia Jackson-Lee (D-TX).  Yesterday she told the House Judiciary Committee that the requirement imposed on individuals to buy health insurance doesn’t really constitute a penalty for non-compliance:’

“I would make the argument, one, that instead it is an incentive to do right–that it is not penalizing because penalty is punishment,” Jackson-Lee told the Judiciary Committee.

[…]

“You’re not punished if you have health insurance, in fact. And so you are, in fact, incentivized to have health insurance, rather than take the negative which is to suggest that because we have a penalty you are being punished,” Rep. Jackson-Lee said.

“I am helping you. I am helping you not to have 26 percent un-insurance in the state of Texas. I’m helping children be insured. I’m helping diverse minorities be insured,” said Rep. Jackson-Lee. “And I know during the civil rights argument–even though we were arguing under the Constitution–there were many policy statements being made: Do we want to live in a nation that discriminates against a person because of the color of their skin? In addition to the constitutional argument, do we want to live in a nation where there are people being uninsured causing catastrophic costs unto the nation and others have to pay. I think that is the question that needs to be considered by the courts.”

Unfortunately for Rep. Jackson-Lee, who may have never actually read the bill, the law is quite specific about non-compliance.

“If an applicable individual fails to meet the requirement of subsection (a) [having a government-approved health-insurance policy]… there is hereby imposed a penalty with respect to the individual.”

And:

Elsewhere, in a section entitled “Payment of Penalty,” it says that individuals failing to carry a government-approved health insurance policy must pay a maximum penalty of $750.

Meanwhile back in the runaway logic train of Ms. Jackson-Lee:

“But I also need to say whether or not it is more an incentive than it is a punishment,” said Rep. Jackson-Lee. “I am more inspired by incentive. And I welcome it being a parking ticket. We get parking tickets all the time, and no one complains about being required to do the right thing.”

*Sigh*

One of those bright stars – because of the level of intrusion we’re allowed this government to make – who are making decisions about your life.

~McQ