Free Markets, Free People

Monthly Archives: July 2011


Union discontent? Could it be a big factor in 2012?

Interesting story from Fox News about labor unions and their approach to 2012.  Fox describes their relationship to Obama as “wedded but wary”. One of the most interesting points is found in this paragraph:

Federal records show labor unions spent close to $100 million in the 2010 midterm cycle – over $20 million more than what they spent in 2008 – but nonetheless saw their share of the electorate drop from one cycle to the next, from 21 percent to 17 percent.

That’s a significant drop in 4 years.  Also worth noting is more money was spent than previously (and spent in an off-year election to boot) and the results were less than stellar.  In fact, they were disastrous.

As the article describes, there also seems to be some fracturing within the union ranks.  You recall that yesterday it was announced that the NEA (teacher’s union) had again endorsed Barack Obama for president.  For most that was “yeah, so what’s new” news.  The news was contained in the vote:

…[T]he National Education Association (NEA), which represents teachers and school administrators and is one of the largest unions in the country, voted at its annual convention in Chicago on Monday to endorse President Obama for re-election. Still, analysts took note of the margin of victory for Obama in the NEA’s rank-and-file vote – 72 percent in favor, 28 percent opposed.

That’s a significant change from the near unanimous endorsement Obama received the last time around. 

When challenged, union leaders usually revert to form.  Remember, the key principle of unionism is “solidarity” and it is expected of the rank and file.  It’s pretty bad, though, when the “thug” making the threats to those who don’t abide by that is the Vice President of the United States.

“Let me put it this way,” Vice President Biden told a Teamsters audience in Las Vegas last Friday, after raising the prospect that some rank-and-file members might vote Republican. “Don’t come to me if you do! You’re on your own, jack!”

Because we’re an administration of the unions, not the people.

But the White House’s problem is rekindling the union enthusiasm it captured when Obama was essentially an unknown quantity – before they found out he was mostly hot air.  And that’s reflected by frequent White House guest and president of the AFL-CIO Richard Trumka’s words:

“You can be a friend and make a mistake once in a while. And we forgive you for that mistake. The difference is this: that we’re not going to spend precious resources helping candidates that don’t stand up and help us.”

"I have a message for some of our ‘friends,’" Trumka reportedly told another Beltway audience last month, sharpening his tone. “For too long, we have been left after Election Day holding a canceled check, waving it about [and saying] ‘Remember us? Remember us? Remember us?’ – asking someone to pay a little attention to us. Well, I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a snootful of that s—."

That grumbling and the possible lack of enthusiasm could be a very important factor in the upcoming election.  Unions provide much if not most of the “Get Out The Vote” (GOTV) troops that helped Obama to his victory.  Dissatisfaction presents Obama with a problem.  He is, at the moment, desperately casting around for a way to appear moderate and to being to run to the middle.  He has a big job ahead to try and win back independents who poll after poll tell us have essentially deserted him.  But on the other hand, he has to be concerned with the dissatisfaction being voiced by one of his largest and most powerful constituencies, one that has previously spent enormously in his (and his party’s) behalf and been instrumental in his victory.  What’s a politician to do?

Now I’m not suggesting that unions will abandon Obama by any stretch.  However, while union leaders may remain supporters of the administration and be enthusiastic about their support, it would appear they may have a very difficult time transmitting their level of support and enthusiasm to the rank-and-file.  

Finally, unions continue to face this real world problem:

That the unions may be spending more money to achieve diminished results would reflect their shrinking percentage of the population as a whole. In 1950, an estimated 38 percent of the American labor force belonged to a union; today, that figure stands at around 12 percent, and even lower – 7 percent – for the private sector. This diminution in labor’s ranks is all the more significant when juxtaposed with the tripling of the American labor force over the same time period.

I’m always amused to read stories where Democrats whine about the outsized influence corporations have in politics.  Union support somehow is never mentioned as being “outsized” for some odd reason. Go figure.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Study claims sulphur pollution responsible for decade long cooling trend

Check out this story from Reuters:

Smoke belching from Asia’s rapidly growing economies is largely responsible for a halt in global warming in the decade after 1998 because of sulphur’s cooling effect, even though greenhouse gas emissions soared, a U.S. study said on Monday.

The paper raised the prospect of more rapid, pent-up climate change when emerging economies eventually crack down on pollution.

World temperatures did not rise from 1998 to 2008, while manmade emissions of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuel grew by nearly a third, various data show.

The researchers from Boston and Harvard Universities and Finland’s University of Turku said pollution, and specifically sulphur emissions, from coal-fueled growth in Asia was responsible for the cooling effect.

Sulphur allows water drops or aerosols to form, creating hazy clouds which reflect sunlight back into space.

"Anthropogenic activities that warm and cool the planet largely cancel after 1998, which allows natural variables to play a more significant role," the paper said.

Natural cooling effects included a declining solar cycle after 2002, meaning the sun’s output fell.

Oh, wait … "natural cooling effects included a declining solar cycle?" Yeah, much less significant that "smoke belching" from Asia.

What they’re attempting to say here is it is still man who is in command of the atmosphere and climate. Really? If in fact that’s true, and AGW is the most significant problem we face in our future, then it stands to reason that pollution from "coal-fueled growth" is in our best interest, no?

In fact, what they’re describing is the albedo effect which is much more wide-spread than just sulfur pollution. You know – clouds? As I’ve mentioned many times, most of the models don’t consider cloud albedo in their modeling.

Wikipedia has a fairly good description of cloud albedo:

Cloud albedo is an important factor in the global warming effect. Different types of clouds exhibit different reflectivity, theoretically ranging in albedo from a minimum of near 0 to a maximum approaching 0.8. "On any given day, about half of Earth is covered by clouds, which reflect more sunlight than land and water. Clouds keep Earth cool by reflecting sunlight, but they can also serve as blankets to trap warmth."

Albedo and climate in some areas are affected by artificial clouds, such as those created by the contrails of heavy commercial airliner traffic.  A study following the burning of the Kuwaiti oil fields during Iraqi occupation showed that temperatures under the burning oil fires were as much as 10oC colder than temperatures several miles away under clear skies.

Note the final paragraph’s citing of the Kuwaiti oil field fires.  Note where it claims this cooling took place.  Yes, that’s right – only locally.   What the study above is purporting is widely spread coal-fired plants in a few emerging countries are responsible for holding temperatures down globally for a decade.

Do you buy that?

Also note this from Wikipedia:

Aerosols (very fine particles/droplets in the atmosphere) have both direct and indirect effects on the Earth’s radiative balance.

The direct (albedo) effect is generally to cool the planet; the indirect effect (the particles act as cloud condensation nuclei and thereby change cloud properties) is less certain. As per [27] the effects are:

  • Aerosol direct effect. Aerosols directly scatter and absorb radiation. The scattering of radiation causes atmospheric cooling, whereas absorption can cause atmospheric warming.
  • Aerosol indirect effect. Aerosols modify the properties of clouds through a subset of the aerosol population called cloud condensation nuclei. Increased nuclei concentrations lead to increased cloud droplet number concentrations, which in turn leads to increased cloud albedo, increased light scattering and radiative cooling (first indirect effect), but also leads to reduced precipitation efficiency and increased lifetime of the cloud (second indirect effect).

Clouds, however they’re formed, are sort of like the window-shades of the world.  In general, increased cloud cover has a cooling effect (clouds can also trap heat, thereby keeping it warmer at night in an area than another area that doesn’t have cloud cover).  In general, decreased or no cloud cover means warming.   Increased evaporation of the oceans due to increased temperature has a tendency to see more clouds form as the percentage of water vapor rises.  Cooler temps mean less evaporation and thus less cloud formation.  It is a mechanism that is and has been studied for years, but science still doesn’t completely understand the process. 

But you don’t have to be an atmospheric scientist to know it is a critical part of any study of the earth’s climate, but one that has essentially been relegated to the sidelines in the AGW scare, at least till now. 

Finally, note the "oh, yeah, by the way" moment in the article – "declining solar cycle". Tell me – which do you suppose might have more effect – pollution from a couple of emerging countries or a huge burning solar mass that can heat your day up from 69 degrees at 7am to 94 degrees by noon and now showing declining activity?

Yeah, me too.

Oh and one other question – if the AGW crowd is terrified of the increase of global temps, and if they actually believe that we must find a way to allay that, doesn’t it seem that (stipulating this study is actually correct) they should be encouraging the increase in coal-fired plants to offset the effect of the rise in CO2 (again stipulating that CO2 has the effect they claim it has)?

[HT: looker]

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Super-sniper emerges in Fayetteville w/ 316 “confirmed” kills

I’m always somewhat naively amazed by stories like this (Google cache version – original link has been pulled) because I have to wonder how these guys think they can get away with claims like this.  The first thing that obviously catches your eye are the inordinate number of ARCOMs and AAMs the man claims (54?).  He claims he was a Ranger and claims “six Overseas Service ribbons for combat” but no CIB (all this apparently dutifully written up without question by the “reporter”).  And of course the award from the “emperor of Saudi Arabia” along with “several dozen others”.  Several dozen, mind you:

Jeff "Rock" Harris refuses to display his medals and honors in his Kinston home.

He tries to keep the awards – three Purple Hearts, two Silver Stars, a Bronze Star, 23 Army Commendation Medals, 31 Army Achievement Medals, six Overseas Service ribbons for combat, an award from the emperor of Saudi Arabia, along with several dozen others, he acquired during his time as a U.S. Army Ranger – packed away. However, those around him refuse to let him forget how important his time in the military was.

Yeah, I can understand why he refuses to display them (someone wondered what the gross poundage of the oak leaf clusters would be). Then this:

"I have 316 confirmed kills as a sniper, and that’s only in that last three years I was in the Army," Harris said. "Every one of those horrifies me regularly because they were somebody’s children, somebody’s husband or father."

He still feels conflicted about what he had to do, but in the end, he knew it was his duty as a sworn soldier.

"They’re bad people and they’ve done bad things, but who am I to take that away from them?" he asked. "But it was my job to do. Lives were safer because of that – but it’s never easy."

Gee, really?   316 confirmed kills, eh?  Funny, but the 4 most storied snipers in our recent history, the top four snipers, only had a little over 400 confirmed kills between them.  So here we have super-sniper who apparently absolutely no one knows about and he killed almost 3 times the confirmed number of our most lethal sniper, Adelbert Waldron (109 confirmed) had in VN.  In fact he so badly outshot Chuck Mawinny (103 confirmed -VN), Eric England (98 confirmed-VN) and Carlos Hathcock (93 confirmed-VN) that he ought to be a legend in the SpecOps community.

Except apparently no one there has ever heard of him.

Finally there is this bit of “corroboration” which is just as puzzling:

James Murphy served in the Army as a Ranger with Harris and said he wouldn’t be alive if not for Harris’ heroic actions. Murphy recalled after he and another soldier were hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in Mogadishu, Harris ran to their position and carried both of them a half-mile away "not knowing if we were alive or not." He drove them to safety in a burning vehicle and returned to continue to fight.

"If you know him, you are privileged," Murphy said. "If you served with him, you were in the presence of a true American patriot. If he is your friend, you should be honored. He gives hope to humanity that there are still decent, amazing people all around you."

Mmmm … half-mile.  Didn’t know if they were alive or dead (really?).  Drove them to safety in a burning vehicle.  Huh … so that relief taskforce in Mogadishu wasn’t really necessary – all they had to do was follow super-sniper out … in his burning vehicle.  Hey, at least it would be easy to follow.

Of course this should all be easy to check out – as I recall, it was B Co., 3rd Bat, 75th Ranger RGT that was at Mogadishu.  This nonsense has already caught the attention of the US Army Ranger Association (that’s where I found out about it).   Their quick internal checks came up empty on the guy and Murphy.

Two questions – how does a person think such a story will pass undetected and unchallenged?  The irony is this piece was in the Fayetteville Observer.  Yeah, that’s right, the newspaper of the town in which Ft. Bragg, NC is located.  Yeah, no one there is going to notice, are they?

Which brings me to the second question – how does something like this get through the editorial process without being heavily questioned, especially in a paper that should have a staff thoroughly educated in the military given their proximity and the huge part the base plays in the life of the town?  Whatever happened to fact checking?  What ever happened to knowing enough about your subject that you’re not as easily gulled as these folks appear to have been?

Anyway, something tells me this isn’t going to turn out well for “Rock”.

/sarc

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Right-to-work states most productive

You remember our Chicago lawyer whose sole argument against moving some of the Boeing Dreamliner production to a non-union plant in SC (a right to work state) was that Southerners in general were less skilled and less literate?

Apparently he pulled that out of the part of the anatomy that doesn’t get much sunshine.  In his case that might have been his head, considering where it had to be residing at the time to come up with that sort of an argument.

Nevertheless, the Washington Examiner, in an editorial, examines a CNBC survey on exactly that topic and finds the lawyer’s argument to be specious:

The strongest remaining argument that labor unions are relevant or desirable is that they provide business with a better-trained and more knowledgeable work force. But as quaint as it is to think of organized labor as the guardian of know-how and quality, it just isn’t so, according to a new CNBC ranking of "America’s top states for business." The survey, which considered the work forces of all 50 states, found that the downsides of unionism far outweigh any advantages when it comes to work force quality.

And those downsides are demonstrated by the results of the survey:

Incredibly, 17 of the top 18 states ranked by CNBC in terms of "work force" are "right-to-work" states, where unions are significantly less powerful. In states with right-to-work laws, workers cannot be compelled to pay union dues, and workers are far less likely to let unions represent them if they are actually given the choice. In CNBC’s survey, all 22 of the nation’s right-to-work states (mostly states in the South and West) made the top 25 in terms of quality of work force. In the separate category of business friendliness, which gauged states’ regulatory and legal environments, 10 of the top 15 states were right-to-work states as well. Needless to say, the combination of good workers and congenial business climates make these states highly attractive to business.

You’d think it would be “needless to say” such a thing, but then our Chicago labor union lawyer points out why, in fact, it is necessary to say these things.   Primarily because it is a myth that union states provide a more highly skilled and productive workforce and it is also a myth that unions are necessary in today’s business climate.  Those are two myths which are obviously hard to kill, but the survey makes the point that potential employers have already discovered and have been taking advantage of for years – something of which our Chicago lawyer was obviously completely unaware.  Workers in right-to-work states are highly skilled and productive and willing to work at a good wage that still gives their employer the ability to compete.

But on the other side of this there’s a method, or at least a policy, that is so obvious it is getting to be hard to deny, and the Examiner hits it:

Obama has made the survival of unions a much higher priority for his administration than sustainable job growth, beginning with the bailout of the automakers and continuing most recently with his National Labor Relations Board’s persecution of Boeing for expanding its manufacturing operations in the right-to-work state of South Carolina. It is sad, although perhaps not surprising, that Obama would subordinate the interests of 93 percent of American workers to those of one politically favored group, but this is precisely what he is doing. The 93 percent would do well to take notice in the coming elections.

I’m not sure all of the 93% will all notice, but those who are and have been effected by this administration’s obvious bias should – like those Boeing workers in SC, or the screwed-over stakeholders in GM and Chrysler, etc.  This is an administration, along with the party it is a part of, which have cast their lot with unions almost to the exclusion of the rest of the working public.  Their NLRB action against Boeing in SC makes that point loud and clear.

And that’s not a myth – that’s reality.  It is a narrative which needs to be used in 2012 when it will again become obvious who it is the Democrats and the Obama administration will turn for funding and activists.   We’ve seen the union rent-a-mobs working before.  They’ll be in action again.   That relationship needs to be highlighted and relentlessly exposed, especially in this era of high unemployment.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Happy Independence Day–apparently it’s punch a Republican day too

I’m always amused when the left gets a little frustrated.  Somewhere in the “dance” that takes place with the give and take they often let their mask slip and let the inner beast out.

Many times its just a result of not getting their way.  For instance, New Jersey.  Known for its hardball politics, when the Democratic President of the Senate didn’t get consulted by the governor concerning the budget after claiming to have worked with Governor Christie on the parts of the budget together (obviously expecting political payback for doing so) the Governor apparently held to principle and using the power vested in him by the NJ Constitution used the line item veto to further “prune” the state budget.  Obviously his pruning took out some of the funding for programs that Sen. Sweeney felt he’d saved by cooperating previously.  Since that wasn’t the case, Sweeney lost his cool, went personal and launched a full ad hominem attack.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney went to bed furious Thursday night after reviewing the governor’s line-item veto of the state budget.

He woke up Friday morning even angrier.

"This is all about him being a bully and a punk," he said in an interview Friday.

"I wanted to punch him in his head."

I’ve always been of the opinion that the punk is the one who ends up attacking like that, suggesting violence, etc.  Now obviously you can argue that the politics of the past gave Sweeney the impression that cooperation would yield compromise.  Give a little on his side, get a little for his side.  But the belief that he’d get that was just that – a belief.  Obviously Christie felt he’d been clear about what his goals were and how he planned on accomplishing them.  Sweeney just as obviously thought he’d gotten around that by early cooperation. 

We often hear it said of Barack Obama that he is doing exactly what he said he’d do and we shouldn’t be surprised.  Apparently that argument is void in New Jersey.  Senate President Sweeney expects the old way of doing things – you know the way that has them in deep financial trouble – to prevail over the new way, i.e. a principled approach to running government and paying off the debt.  Obviously the guy who is doing what he said he’d do doesn’t agree with Sweeney. 

What a punch in the head, huh?

The other example is sort of just the mask slipping all by itself.  A self-inflicted wound so to speak  -and many times it’s on Twitter *cough*Wienergate*cough*.  For instance the Communications Director for the Wisconsin Democratic Party supposedly celebrating, one assumes, the “birthday” of Medicare.

Now there are a number of ways one could do that in 142 characters.   And an abundance of them would be perfectly acceptable, show one’s support for the program (if one supports it) and relay why the person writing the Tweet supports said program.  That’s if you’re not an idiot.   And that’s exactly what Graeme Zielinski comes across as in his Tweet:

 

a-july-4-message-from-dems

 

Nice to see Democrats in such fine form in the “civility” department.  Perhaps now we can see a cessation of all the hypocritical and condescending lectures from them about the need for civility in politics, huh?

Nah.

Happy 4th.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Dwight Eisenhower – a warning from the past concerning science and government

If you’re any student of history, you’re aware of the speech President Eisenhower gave upon his leaving the presidency. It is often referred to as the "Military/Industrial complex speech".

In it he warned against the future problems we’d encounter by the establishment of a permanent "military/industrial complex" (something we’d never had prior to WWII).

But are you also aware he warned against the establishment of something else that it took WWII to create (think Manhattan Project)? You’ll recognize it immediately:

Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades.

In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.

Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded.

Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific technological elite.

It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system — ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society.

Emphasis is mine and it is something which has indeed come true and is alive and well in the current “science” of global warming.

Then add this – because this hasn’t been changed or disproven.  From S. Fred Singer’s book, “Unstoppable Global Warming – every 1500 years” (2007, 2008):

…[T]he Antarctic ice cores tell us that the earth’s temperatures and CO2 levels have tracked closely together through the last three ice ages and global warnings. However, CO2 has been a lagging indicator, its concentrations rising about 600 to 800 years after the temperatures warm. Oregon State climatologist George Taylor explains the significance of this fact:

Early Vostok analysis looked at samples centuries apart and concluded correctly that there is a very strong relationship between temperatures and CO2 concentrations. The conclusion for many was obvious: when CO2 goes up, temperatures go up, and vice versa. This became the basis for a number of scary looking graphs in books by scientist Stephen Schneider, former VP Al Gore, and others, predicting a much warmer future (since most scientists agree that CO2 will continue to go up for sometime). Well, it’s not as simple as that. When the Vostok  data were analyzed for much shorter time periods (decades at a time rather than centuries), something quite different emerged. Huburtus Fischer and his research team from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography reported: "the time lag of the rise in CO2 concentrations with respect to temperature change is on the order of 400 to 1000 years". In other words, CO2 changes are caused by temperature changes.

Yet somehow the science has been perverted over the years to now characterize CO2 as not only a current indicator of warming but a cause of warming.  As far as I’ve been able to determine, what is written above has yet to be disproven or disputed.

So here we are with a government which is interested in increasing revenue by literally creating a tax out of thin air, and we have a well funded government “science”  – a $103 billion dollar “gravy train” (that figure was quoted quite often at ICCC6) and we wonder why we’re getting the conclusions we’re getting from those scientists?

Ike was a pretty smart guy.  He saw all of this coming from way off.  Whenever government takes control of science (or any other field) to serve its purposes by providing huge incentives to do so, it’s going to get what it wants.   And it has, at least to a point.   What it hasn’t gotten, however, is indisputable truth concerning its theories concerning CO2.  That means its taxation scheme is dead.

However, as long as it continues to fund science and scientists with massive amounts of money, it will provide tremendous incentive to get at least a portion of those who call themselves scientists to serve government’s policy aims.  That’s incredibly dangerous.

The answer is precisely what we’ve seen happen in this particular debate – skepticism.  Insistence on the scientific method.  The understanding that, as Roy Spencer said, “It only takes one scientists (skeptic) to be right for the IPCC to be wrong”.   And we’ve seen that quite often as the IPCC’s findings and conclusions have been shown to contain errors of fact, errors of omission, propaganda and alarmism unsupported by fact or science.

We need to get government out of science. Wasn’t this the administration which said it was going to “restore” science to its proper place? That proper place is without government subsidy or, as we’ve experienced through the AGW fiasco, “[t]he prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money …”, perverts science and makes it a servant to political policy. That, friends is infinitely more dangerous to our freedoms than the military/industrial complex.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Hamas calls Greek stop of US blockade runner “inhumane”– Israel on “Specially Designated Country” list for first time

In the world of overwrought spin and propaganda we find a premiere example of the genre from Hamas:

The Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas on Friday denounced Greece after its coastguard intercepted a US vessel which tried to sail to Gaza to break Israel blockade of the coastal strip.

In a statement issued by its political leadership in Damascus, the militant group described the action as "inhumane" and said Greece had played into Israeli hands.

"This is inhumane action, is contrary to international regulations and norms," said the statement by Hamas, a copy of which was obtained by AFP.

"Barring this aid from reaching the Gaza Strip is done as a result of pressure imposed by the Zionist occupiers," referring to Israel.

Of course the US ship, the “Audacity of Hope” has no aid.  It is sailing with nothing but letters of support.  Secondly, even if it was, there’s a very well-established route to deliver aid to Gaza.   The blockade runners simply want to further demonize the Israelis by attempting to provoke an incident like that which happened the last time this was tried.

Finally:

The Israeli-imposed blockade of Gaza "is unjust… and a mark of disgrace on the forehead of humanity," [Hamas] said.

Translation: “The blockade prevents us from smuggling in more weapons than we have now. “

Of course with the overthrow of Mubarak, the Egyptian portion of the border is quite porous now so even that objection is largely invalid.

Nope – just another example of a long line of examples of Hamas calling the right of a nation to defend itself “inhumane”, mostly because it doesn’t recognize that nation’s right to exist.  Given all the other ways to get aid to Gaza – real aid – it is clear this has nothing to do with any of that.

It is simply another in a long line of attempts to provoke that nation into acts of self-defense so it can condemn it further.   It is the equivalent of firing rockets into Israel and then condemning Israel when it reacts.

And for some reason, much of the rest of the world takes its condemnations seriously.

Meanwhile, CNS news reports that for the first time, Israel has landed on the “Special Designated Country” list.  What does that mean?

[T]he Obama administration is currently listing Israel among 36 “specially designated countries” it believes “have shown a tendency to promote, produce, or protect terrorist organizations or their members.”

Also on the list are countries like Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza.

This is the first time Israel has shown up as an SDC. 

Of course, no one seems to know how that happened, but ICE is the agency tasked to carry out the enforcement of what SDC means:

Even though the administration includes Israel among “specially designated countries” that it believes "have shown a tendency to promote, produce, or protect terrorist organizations or their members,” ICE Spokeswoman Gillian Christensen told CNSNews.com that the U.S. also considers Israel, as well as some other countries on the “specially designated countries” list, as partners in the struggle against terrorism.

“The U.S. does not and never has considered Israel to have links to terrorism, but rather they are a partner in our efforts to combat global terrorism,” Christensen said in a written statement. “Countries may have been included on the list because of the backgrounds of arrestees, not because of the country’s government itself.”

“The United States maintains close intelligence-sharing relationships with many of these countries in order to address security issues within their own borders and in our mutual pursuit of safety and security around the globe,” said Christensen.

ICE declined to say who put Israel on the list or when Israel was put there. However, in her written statement, ICE spokeswoman Christensen said the “specially designated country” list had been created "at least" seven years ago–which would have been during the presidency of George W. Bush–and that ICE was not responsible for creating it.

Yes, friends, it’s Bush’s fault.  Bottom line though, given how SDC is defined, it is hardly the appropriate list for Israel to be on.

Oh, and who didn’t make the list this time but was on the last one?

North Korea.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Hugo Chavez reportedly has cancer

Venezuelan socialist strong man Hugo Chavez is reported to have had cancer surgery in Cuba (how freakin’ bad is it when you have to go to Cuba for treatment).

The usually vivacious Chavez, 56, confirmed in a stern speech on Thursday he had surgery in Cuba to remove a cancerous tumor and was receiving more treatment. He said he needed time to recover before returning to Venezuela to run his self-styled revolution.

A fiery critic of the United States, Chavez will miss events marking Venezuela’s 200th anniversary of independence from Spain. He had to cancel a regional summit planned for the momentous July 5 date.

Markets have generally reacted positively to news of Chavez’s health problems, on the presumption they improve the chances of a more business-friendly government.

The last sentence says it all.   If ever there’s been a person to ruin the economic health of a country, it is Hugo Chavez.   He’s now vulnerable.  And as the article says, there’s a power vacuum forming and in most cases that’s not a good thing – in this case, it could be a good thing:

"Political vacuums are rarely to be encouraged, but this one could lead to a slowdown in public spending and could raise the likelihood of an opposition victory in the next elections, and thus a less confrontational governing style," said Richard Segal, an emerging markets analyst at Jefferies in London.

An interesting situation.  And the longer he remains in Cuba, the shakier his position in Venezuela becomes.  Nothing would do the world and Venezuela more good than to see another revolution which ousts him from power and returns the country to a real democracy and market based economy.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Geithner claims GOP has no right to question debt ceiling because Constitution prohibits it

Treasury Secretary Turbo Tax Tim Geithner, who is reportedly thinking about leaving the administration (and I say good riddance), is also, apparently, a constitutional scholar as well as a tax cheat.

While speaking with Mike Allen of POLITICO, Gethner held that the debt ceiling was likely unconstitutional:

"I think there are some people who are pretending not to understand it, who think there’s leverage for them in threatening a default," Geithner said. "I don’t understand it as a negotiating position. I mean really think about it, you’re going to say that– can I read you the 14th amendment?"

He then read it out loud:

"’The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for the payments of pension and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion’ — this is the important thing — ‘shall not be questioned.

So:

"So as a negotiating strategy you say: ‘If you don’t do things my way, I’m going to force the United States to default–not pay the legacy of bills accumulated by my predecessors in Congress.’ It’s not a credible negotiating strategy, and it’s not going to happen," Geithner insisted.

Wait.  Hold on.  Is Geithner saying that the Constitution, via the 14th Amendment, essentially gives Congress unlimited spending power that can’t be questioned?  Because that’s what it seems he’s saying. 

Secondly, there are ways to pay “debts”, “pensions”, etc. without breaking the debt ceiling – cut spending in other areas. 

Finally, depending on the interpretation, a debt ceiling could indeed be an authorized law which limits what can be incurred as public debt – and shouldn’t be questioned.  I doubt the founders had any intent to allow Congress to authorize unlimited and unquestioned spending.  Anyone who can find that sort of an intent stated anywhere by the will truly be informing me of something I didn’t know.

Always good to know you have a Treasury Secretary who sees unlimited spending as a feature, not a bug, and wants it clearly understood that the “important thing” is it shouldn’t be questioned.

Don’t let the doorknob hit you in the ass on the way out, Tim.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Wisconsin public union collective bargaining law benefits education

Byron York brings us the story of one school district in Wisconsin which sees the new law limiting collective bargaining by public sector unions as a "God send".

The Kaukauna School District, in the Fox River Valley of Wisconsin near Appleton, has about 4,200 students and about 400 employees. It has struggled in recent times and this year faced a deficit of $400,000. But after the law went into effect, at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, school officials put in place new policies they estimate will turn that $400,000 deficit into a $1.5 million surplus. And it’s all because of the very provisions that union leaders predicted would be disastrous.

In the past, teachers and other staff at Kaukauna were required to pay 10 percent of the cost of their health insurance coverage and none of their pension costs. Now, they’ll pay 12.6 percent of the cost of their coverage (still well below rates in much of the private sector) and also contribute 5.8 percent of salary to their pensions. The changes will save the school board an estimated $1.2 million this year, according to board President Todd Arnoldussen.

Of course there’s an additional benefit to this – if they run a “surplus”, they can lower taxes, can’t they?

Anyway, other benefits accrued from the law:

In the past, Kaukauna’s agreement with the teachers union required the school district to purchase health insurance coverage from something called WEA Trust — a company created by the Wisconsin teachers union. "It was in the collective bargaining agreement that we could only negotiate with them," says Arnoldussen. "Well, you know what happens when you can only negotiate with one vendor." This year, WEA Trust told Kaukauna that it would face a significant increase in premiums.

Now, the collective bargaining agreement is gone, and the school district is free to shop around for coverage. And all of a sudden, WEA Trust has changed its position. "With these changes, the schools could go out for bids, and lo and behold, WEA Trust said, ‘We can match the lowest bid,’" says Republican state Rep. Jim Steineke, who represents the area and supports the Walker changes. At least for the moment, Kaukauna is staying with WEA Trust, but saving substantial amounts of money.

Funny how that works, no?  I’m just the vindictive enough type of person to let WEA stew in their own juices and take the lowest bid that isn’t theirs.  It tends to make for a very competitive bid the next time they’re given the opportunity.   Aren’t markets an amazing thing?

Finally:

Then there are work rules. "In the collective bargaining agreement, high school teachers only had to teach five periods a day, out of seven," says Arnoldussen. "Now, they’re going to teach six." In addition, the collective bargaining agreement specified that teachers had to be in the school 37 1/2 hours a week. Now, it will be 40 hours.

The changes mean Kaukauna can reduce the size of its classes — from 31 students to 26 students in high school and from 26 students to 23 students in elementary school. In addition, there will be more teacher time for one-on-one sessions with troubled students. Those changes would not have been possible without the much-maligned changes in collective bargaining.

Teachers’ salaries will stay "relatively the same," Arnoldussen says, except for higher pension and health care payments. (The top salary is around $80,000 per year, with about $35,000 in additional benefits, for 184 days of work per year — summers off.) Finally, the money saved will be used to hire a few more teachers and institute merit pay.

Or, the schools will have some options that actually benefit the students vs. benefitting the teachers.  I know … for most of us that’s what we thought the system should always have been about, no?  But for too long, public sector unions ruled the roost and were able to get working conditions and benefits from friendly politicians that were essentially ruining the education system (and other parts of government) by limiting options and choices.

The introduction of some market based mechanisms plus more options is sure to benefit students over teachers as it should be – not, I’d argue, that teachers come out of this on the poor side of things.  On the contrary – now they have to join the rest of us an work 40 hours a week, pay for their benefits and do a bit more to earn that $125,000 in salary and benefits for 184 days work.

Tough stuff, huh?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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