Saturday, January 08, 2011

People in the private sector are just beginning to understand how much of a banquet public-sector unions have been having at everybody else’s expense

Unions across Europe have promised strikes in 2011 on a scale not seen since the 1980s.
This week, The Economist has an issue devoted to the subject of the (worldwide) need to confront public-sector unions (thereby unwittingly giving ammunition to those, in America and elsewhere, who support the rise of the tea party).

Articles in this week's issue related to the main subject include:
The battle ahead
(Government) workers of the world unite!
What Barack Obama can and can’t learn from Reagan’s blithe spirit
Improving teachers (At last, America may change the way it trains, recruits and rewards teachers)
The tussle for talent (The best companies are obsessed by “the vital few”)
Chris Christie: The conservative crush

The London Weekly's main article is entitled (Government) workers of the world unite! (Public-sector unions have had a good few decades. Has their luck run out?) From the Leader (The battle ahead):
People in the private sector are only just beginning to understand how much of a banquet public-sector unions have been having at everybody else’s expense … And in public services union power is magnified not just by strikers’ ability to shut down monopolies that everyone needs without seeing their employer go bust, but also by their political clout over those employers.
Excerpts from The Economist's "briefing [which] will look at what the future holds for them. But first it will try to answer two questions: how did public-sector unions become so powerful? And what impact has their power had on the way the public sector works?":
This private-public shift has transformed the trade union movement. In the 1950s unions were solidly working class, dominated by men who had left school at 16 and leant left on economics but right on social issues. Today they are much more middle-class: more than a quarter of American unionists have college degrees, and even more have liberal views on social and environmental issues. The shift has also created tension between the public and private sectors.

…Private-sector bosses are accustomed to playing hardball with unions because they know they can go bankrupt if they don’t. Politicians have no such discipline: they can always raise taxes or borrow from future generations. Those who have challenged the unions have often regretted it.

…In California, as Mr DiSalvo points out, the prison guards’ union has been one of the leading advocates of getting tough on crime. The result of this policy has been a dramatic increase in both the size of the state’s prison-industrial complex (from 12 prisons in 1980 to 33 in 2000) and the pay of the people who run it (prison guards in 2006 made $70,000 a year in base salary and $100,000 with overtime). But public-sector unions can prosper simply by opposing rationalisation: Buffalo, in New York state, has as many public workers in 2006 as it did in 1950, despite the fact that the city has lost half its population.

Public-sector unions combine support for higher spending with vigorous opposition to more accountability. Almost everywhere they have demonised competition, transparency and flexible pay. Teachers’ unions have often acted as the Praetorian Guard in this fight. … In America they have fought relentlessly against charter schools (which escape union rules about pay and promotion) and scholarship schemes (which give choice to parents). The teachers’ unions have an impressive record of terminating reformers [e.g., Greece's Marietta Giannakou and DC's Michelle Rhee].

…It is impossible to calculate the cost of the unions’ inflexibility. But several recent studies provide some indications. … Eric Hanushek, an economist at Stanford University, argues that replacing the bottom 5-8% of American teachers with merely average performers could move the United States from near the bottom to near the top of the international maths and science rankings.

The rigidity of the public sector does not merely reduce the quality of services.

…Public-sector unions now face the biggest challenge in their history.

…Even people on the left are beginning to echo these complaints.

…The unions have responded by proclaiming war on cost-cutting governments. … Unions across Europe have promised strikes in 2011 on a scale not seen since the 1980s.

Public-sector unions will find it hard to win these battles. … They are also discovering that many people in the private sector regard their public-sector colleagues as an overprivileged elite.

…The pressure to rationalise the public sector is likely to continue in coming years.

…It would be a mistake to write off the public-sector unions. They are masters of diverting attention from strategic to tactical questions. Undoubtedly the unions will lose some of their privileges over the coming years; the scale of the debt crisis makes this inevitable. But will governments have the courage to tackle the root causes of the problem (such as pensions) rather than dealing with secondary problems (such as wages)? And will they dare to tackle questions of power rather than just pay and perks?

From Improving teachers (Lessons Learned: At last, America may change the way it trains, recruits and rewards teachers):
…politicians might be expected to do all in their power to ensure that America’s teachers are good ones. For decades, they have done the opposite.
More on The Economist

Ronald Reagan and Chris Christie, Two Men Who Could Teach Barack Obama a Thing or To If he Were Less Ideological and Willing to Listen

Perhaps the hardest thing for Mr Obama to accept about Reagan is that Americans warmed to him not just because of what he did but also because of the sort of person he was. [Lou Cannon (“President Reagan: the Role of a Lifetime”, a whopping biography of more than 800 pages)] argues that his political magic did not reside only in his happiness and folksy charm. His greatness was that “he carried a shining vision of America inside him.” He had a simple belief that nothing was impossible in America if only government got out of the way. In rejecting the idea of limits, says Mr Cannon, he expressed a core conviction of the nation
While Lexington has a story on What Barack Obama can and can’t learn from Reagan’s blithe spirit (which, in good ol' MSM fashion, seems intent on highlighting the Gipper's failures — alleged or otherwise), The Economist, in accordance with a cover story on the worldwide need for a confrontation with the public sector unions, also publishes a much more positive story on Chris Christie.
The governor has also faced down the teachers union. He has told pupils it is the union’s fault, not his, that they don’t have pens and paper. He has blasted the union for “using students like drug mules to carry information”. He hates teacher tenure, which he says protects bad teachers, who should be “carried out on a rail”. The unions are listening. In December they put forward a tenure-reform proposal; Mr Christie thinks it is still inadequate.

…Polls show that he is viewed more favourably now than when he was elected. His message is resonating not just in New Jersey, but across the country, tapping into the same frustration that created the tea-party movement. Mr Christie is using his bully pulpit in a way no other New Jersey governor has done in modern history. And he has another useful political skill: he keeps people off guard, never quite knowing whether the extra-large governor is going to beat them up or embrace them.

No wonder some conservatives hope for a Christie presidential run.

The "Conservative = Violent /
Liberal = Non-Violent" Myth

(Thanks to Val)

Friday, January 07, 2011

One entry for the Oscars' best foreign film category features Algerian martyrs and another French martyrs

The French colonial experience in Algeria, marked by warfare, terrorism and torture, is a wound that never quite seems to close. Anger and guilt about Algeria infuse some of the anxiety today about the heavily immigrant and Muslim banlieues, or suburbs, about the French concern with national identity, radical Islam and veiled women.

Thus Steven Erlanger starts his New York Times article, which is heavy on the blanket condemnation of colonialism.
Lately, France has been moved and angered by two films about Algeria and the French confrontation with its colonial past. The films could not be more different: one, made by Rachid Bouchareb, a Frenchman of Algerian descent, is a raging historical fiction about the Algerian fight for independence; the other, made by Xavier Beauvois, is suffused with religious belief and saintliness.

One film features Algerian martyrs and the other French martyrs. Both are remarkably unbalanced, and both use the “other” as puppets in a historical drama. One glorifies criminality and terrorism in the name of Algerian freedom and justice, while the other, set in the mid-1990s, looks on horrified as religion mixed with Algerian politics seeks to justify murder and terrorism.

Yet both films have been chosen by their respective countries, France and Algeria, to represent them for the foreign-language Academy Award, which will be presented on Feb. 27.

…For [Benjamin Stora, one of France’s best historians of Algeria and French colonialism], the films make various arguments about politics, sacrifice and faith. But in both films, he said, “Algeria is absent.”

Algeria is not France’s Vietnam, he said, but something more ingrained. “It is much more complicated to exorcise it here, and then on top of that we have the pieds noirs and the harkis,” he said. “France is now getting slightly more involved in this part of its history,” with more documentaries on television. “But the French can’t, for now, see their tragedy on the big screen.”

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Rewriting history: In Argentina today it is off limits to even mention in public the victims of the country's left-wing terrorism in the 1970s

Justice is not easily secured anywhere in the world
writes Mary Anastasia O'Grady (gracias para Fausta) as the Wall Street Journal journalist quotes Big Brother's party slogan in George Orwell's "1984" (Those who control the past, control the future: who controls the present controls the past).
But in Argentina today it is off limits to even mention in public the victims of the country's left-wing terrorism in the 1970s, let alone make an effort to win them or their surviving kin a day in court.

Try it and you are likely to be tarred by the Argentine left as a fascist friend of the former military government. The politically correct know that those who were brutalized by the guerrillas that Juan Perón once called "marvelous youth" are supposed to be erased from the national memory.

…Everyone knows the story of how the Argentine military took over the government in 1976 and proceeded to crush subversive movements ruthlessly. Its abuses of power are legion, and in 1983 it finally stepped aside in the midst of hyperinflation and economic chaos.

But Argentina lived another tragedy prior to, and for some time after, the military seized power. It was a wave of carnage and destruction brought on by bands of Castro-inspired guerrillas who sought to take power by terrorizing the nation. Their actions provoked chaos on a national scale that led to the military coup.

Yet because of the military government's ignominious demise, terrorists and their sympathizers have succeeded in rewriting this history, describing only the crimes of their uniformed enemy. Some current or former members of the Kirchner government, others who are in Congress, and others who work in the media were well-known members of subversive organizations.

In an interview in Buenos Aires in November, [Argentine lawyer and human-rights advocate Victoria Villarruel] told me that even opposition politicians don't speak up for the terrorists' victims because it has become "taboo" to do so. The state, she said [from her Center for the Legal Study of Terrorism and its Victims], treats them "as if they were never born."

One result is that a generation of Argentines has grown up with no awareness of the full story of that time of terror.

…It is interesting to note that the number of court cases filed against the military government charging abuses of power totals less than 9,000. Meanwhile the Kirchner government's justification for writing off the victims of left-wing terrorism is a claim that they were victims of ordinary crimes and that their perpetrators are now exempted from liability by the statute of limitations.
Elsewhere (needless to say), the leftists' (self-serving) narrative is working as, in typical fashion, Le Monde readers react with anger at a Jean-Pierre Langellier report from Caracas stating that of 16,094 homicides committed in 2009, 93% remain unpunished, four times more than before Hugo Chávez's rise to the presidency, the outraged Le Monde readers stating that in neighboring Columbia, the situation is (allegedly) worse and blaming (who else?) America and the CIA…

Try THAT with your Feeble State Subsidized Windmills

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Yngwie Malmsteen: Call your Attorney. Putin Stolen your Look

The next step, of course, if for the Neo-Soviet Russian strongman to appear in a gold lamé unitard.

The School of Acquiescence and Denial: Europeans' standard metric regarding the long-term influence of Muslim populations on European society

Of all Europe’s great and present miseries, the one receiving the most uncertain remedies is the failing integration of its increasingly large and alienated Muslim communities
warns John Vinocur in his article With Muslims, Europe Sees No Problem, and That's the Problem.

Valentine's Day Banned in Iran
by Plantu in Le Monde
— Here, sweetheart, a brand-new Koran
— Oh you shouldn't have!
…denial is [the Europeans'] standard metric: That bomb didn’t go off here, our national soccer team is full of Muslim players, and we haven’t elected any anti-immigrant parties to Parliament, or if we have, they’re ultimately manageable. The less we talk about this stuff the better.

Then something happens. A conflict comes into focus that, beyond its particulars, raises the question of the ultimate compatibility of Islamic communities in Western environments. An issue that, most comfortably, is kept vague, suddenly demands that Europe — in this case, the Netherlands — draw the line. But where is the line?

What has taken place here is that Frits Bolkestein, the former leader of the Liberal Party, which now heads the Dutch government, has advised “recognizable Jews, orthodox Jews” that their children should emigrate from the Netherlands to Israel or the United States. He said, “I see no future for them here because of anti-Semitism, above all among the Moroccan Dutch, whose numbers continue to grow.”

The remark last month twice shocked the Netherlands.

…Concerning the harassment of orthodox Jews in public places, Mr. Bolkestein, who is not Jewish, says that it is an “outrage” and “a tragedy” and that he sees similar circumstances existing in France and Sweden.

…Population growth that is faster than the native population’s, extremists’ murderous plots, sharp-edged disaffection for their adopted countries among third-generation Muslim males, and societies where large segments of the ethnic majority insist they feel increasingly less at home — what should the Netherlands, and by extrapolation Europe, do?

Revert to a kind of multiculturalism that Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, at least, insists is dead?

In fact, the School of Acquiescence and Denial has its followers. … Frits Bolkestein, whose father was a Buchenwald inmate, described Mr. Cohen’s vision of reality [the Labor Party's Job Cohen jabbering on about "Muslim suffering and exclusion from European society"] to me as “cultural masochism.”

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Pétain's Last Stand

After World War I, virtually every town in France had its Rue or Avenue Pétain
recounts John Tagliabue. Among the French towns was tiny Tremblois, a village on the edge of the Ardennes Forest across the border from Belgium which
has only three streets, and they are named for three French heroes of World War I: Marshals Ferdinand Foch, Joseph Joffre and Philippe Pétain.

The problem is that Marshal Pétain had a second act as head of state during World War II, when his administration in the unoccupied part of the country that was known as Vichy France collaborated with Nazi Germany in eliminating its enemies, notably the Jews.

So under pressure from the national government, veterans and Jewish groups, the council voted unanimously to drop the name Pétain from a little street about 600 feet long, renaming it Rue de la Belle-Croix, for a chapel that stands in a wood at its foot.

…But when the signs here change this month, the last street in France bearing his name will have disappeared. Not everyone is happy with the decision. [Said a journalist, Guillaume Lévy:] “it got all polemical.”…

C'est leur Boulot

If you don’t think the European ‘sense of self’ requires an irrational hatred of the US, then read this article. Don’t read it for the content – read it for the authors' forgone conclusion, and (what are likely the editors') specious, unrelated comments.

Reeking of retrograde supremacism, the author laments that Europe being ‘only’ 10% of global GDP where it was once 20% requires an ignorance of what is taking place in the world: the percentage of the world living poverty is shrinking, and no-one sought Europe’s permission for that to take place.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Sounding like the Soviet Flunkies of old

Miss ‘em? I don’t.

However, with ‘Wikileaks’ shaking the tree, it’s easy to see which nuts fall out: anyone who has a sort of ‘passionate’ and reflexive need to defend their actions.

Target? Your false consciousness! Fill it with perfect (approved) knowledge like this!:

Campus Watch is a Philadelphia based organization. It is essentially a neo-McCarthyite attempt to intimidate US college professors into toeing the Likud Party line whenever they talk about Israel and Palestine. A project of the extreme Zionist Middle East Forum, it claims that "it reviews and critiques Middle East studies in North America with an aim to improving them."[1] However, the agenda has little to do with America as professors are singled out for 'their views and teachings on Palestinian issues and Islam'
...because THEIR propaganda and operant conditioning on campuses is SACRED! Otherwsie, an resemblance they have to bored Troofers in needs of something new to get gastrically disfunctional about – is mere COINCIDENCE.

Even though they believe that there ARE NO coincidences. To think of all the risks they’re taking knowing that the cabal is after them!

By stigmatizing a bad habit, do-gooders have granted themselves leverage to extract freedom and money from a health-conscious population

…you’re probably stumbling over corpses on sidewalks since, according to the surgeon general, exposure even to second-hand smoke can cause immediate disease, including heart attacks
warns David Bozeman.
One takes scant pleasure in defending the tobacco industry, but the pertinent question, now more than ever, is how much latitude will a freedom-loving people grant its government to tax, regulate, demonize, harass and suck the life out of a sector of our economy that is still legal?

…If the government believed that its concerns were valid about the public health of children and bystanders that they claim are subject to immediate disease and death — then why are they not arguing for an all-out cigarette ban? It sounds as if the cause of big government is better served by a living, breathing monolithic boogeyman worth billions of dollars to sate the gluttonous appetites of public do-gooders?

The amount of revenue generated by tobacco taxes at federal. state and local levels is practically incalculable. Anti-smoking advocates claim that making the habit more expensive actually discourages smoking and saves lives and billions in medical costs. Some even consider higher taxes a “user fee,” but, in fact, smokers, who typically die younger, are funding health care for older citizens, whose medical and personal care needs increase with the onset of old age. Government-funded health care? More like health care courtesy of your neighbor.

The anti-smoking crusade fuels what author Jacob Sullum called in 1998 “the tyranny of public health.” … Banning menthol and mandating graphic warning labels may well decrease consumption of cigarettes, but the Big Government mentality will never kill the golden goose. By stigmatizing a bad habit, do-gooders have granted themselves leverage to extract freedom and money from a health-conscious population. Public health is a noble cause, so we are to believe, but the health the current state is obsessing over is clearly its own.
Don't miss the Finalists for 2010 Lie of the Year Award

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Muslims' "Wild West Weddings" Lead to One French Town's Banning Civil Marriages on Saturdays

It may not exactly be jihad or the imposition of sharia, deliberately or otherwise (or is it?!), but the Muslims' "Wild West weddings" — with their attendant "incivilities", including convoys of "youths" sitting on cars' hoods honking foghorns and often waving Algerian flags, and drivers engaging in gymkhana-style competitions — has proven enough for the town hall of Roubaix and led the mayor to vow no more civil weddings on Saturdays from January 1st on. Needless to say, MSM reporter Geoffroy Deffrennes sides with the poor, down-trodden Muslims (victims of racism, of course), but Le Monde readers still manage to get a feel for the problem.
Si la mairie de Roubaix ne revient pas sur sa décision, à partir du 1er janvier, sauf autorisation exceptionnelle, on ne convolera plus le samedi après-midi sur son impressionnant perron. René Vandierendonck, le maire (PS) de la ville, souhaite mettre fin aux gymkhanas de voitures accompagnés de cornes de brume. Les agents municipaux se disent excédés par les incivilités lors des mariages.

…Des forums locaux, sur Internet, pointent "la stigmatisation" de la communauté musulmane. Celle-ci est très loin de se reconnaître dans ces débordements, comme dans la poignée de drapeaux déployés par des jeunes assis sur les capots.

…Depuis 2008, ces quelques mariages au style Far West fâchaient [Arnaud Verspieren, l'adjoint MoDem chargé du développement économique]. L'élu centriste a présidé une commission chargée de régler le problème... Une interdiction du samedi après-midi a été mise à l'essai durant l'été.

Here Kid, Pull my Finger