“No Man’s life liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session”.

- attributed to NY State Judge Gideon Tucker

Friday, March 18, 2011

The NPR Sting

You have to marvel at how NPR's Ron Schiller's unguarded lunch comments prematurely ended his stint there, and took down the firm's CEO, Vivian Schiller (no relation), as well.

Here's the long version of the lunch video that did the trick. The scheme was concocted by the conservative ambush artist who outed Planned Parenthood last year for helping self-identified pimps of under-aged teen girls.

This video, following on the heels of the Juan Williams fiasco, evidently rendered CEO Schiller's position untenable.

But what really ought to be clear to anyone with any amount of intelligence is how vulnerable all people in positions of influence and power now are. No lunch is a private lunch any longer. Effectively, everyone wears a wire.

If you are the leader or a senior executive of a company or well-known non-profit, any meeting with anyone other than a close friend could be a trap. The video and audio transmitters which could be entrapping you would not be obvious.

Every little aside or casual remark by your guest could be calculated to elicit or provoke your embarrassing rejoinder, to be preserved, then blasted out on YouTube the next day or week.

Good or bad, it's true.

Ever since Virginia Senator George Allen was caught on video uttering an ethnically-questionable term to a heckler at a campaign rally, we've been living in this world of secret video entrapment.

How about Jesse Jackson's open mike remarks about Wonderboy a few years ago?

The NPR escapade is just the latest example of the new world in which we live. A world in which anybody with a public image is vulnerable to being lured into candid, embarrassing private remarks that could end up on the internet within days.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

More Shameful Behavior from the Administration Regarding Libya

I wrote this recent post last week bemoaning Wonderboy's inaction on Libya.

Then it became worse. By late last week, his intelligence chief had testified to Congress that it looked like Gadafi would remain in power.

What the hell is going on in the White House? How can we let this madman who's slaughtering his own people remain in power?

And, of course, as so many pundits immediately predicted, if you're a rebel, and you hear a spokesman for the US basically tell you you're going to lose, what hope have you?

This is unconscionable. By the time Wonderboy lets NATO or the UN decide to agree to a no-fly zone, it will be too late.

Instead of looking to the US as the beacon and friend of liberty and freedom, oppressed people around the globe will now know not to rely on the current administration for any help whatsoever.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Another Liberal Assault On Nuclear Power

The tragic effects of the earthquake near Japan have been many. Certainly it is sad that so many lives were lost.

As frequently happens after a disaster of this sort, hand-wringing doomsters arise and warn against something, based upon the aftermath of said disaster.

In this case, it's nuclear power. Liberals and greenies, both globally and in the US, are gnashing their teeth at the failure of several Japanese nuclear facilities, especially since the cooling systems failed on a few of them. We are told that this should, once and for all, end nuclear power plant construction.

One greenie interviewed on CNBC Monday morning went so far as to claim that the Gulf of Maine could accommodate sufficient wind turbines to power all of New England, and, further, that solar and wind power would be providing far more of America's power needs, if only they'd had the federal research funding that nuclear has enjoyed for half a century.

From what I've read so far, there is much ado about very little, even with what we know occurred in Japan.

First, the Japanese nuclear reactors are second generation designs which are 40+ years old. Their water circulating pumps failed, causing concerns over cooling the fuel rods, and potential exposure of the rods. But modern, third generation plants, such as one currently being vetted by the federal regulators, use passive water cooling, not pumps.

Second, Japan, the entire country, basically sits atop volcanic and earthquake zones. For various reasons, mostly that it has no oil of its own, Japan chose to go the nuclear route. Thus far, nobody seems to have died or been injured by the condition of or damage to any nuclear plant because of the earthquake.

The same greenie who decried a lack of US funding of wind and solar research claimed that Japan now has blackouts because the nuclear facilities are off-line, thus making them liabilities, instead of assets in the post-earthquake scenario.

I don't know all of the details, but it's unclear to me whether non-nuclear-fueled power plants located in the same places would have withstood the earthquake without any damage. So her criticisms aren't even clearly valid.

Third, while it's reasonable and sensible to observe the problems that occurred with nuclear power facilities because of this earthquake, the fact that there was an earthquake and nuclear facilities were damaged doesn't mean we should abandon all nuclear facilities for power generation in the US. Again, the damaged facilities are all older designs. But critics whom I've heard haven't acknowledged this fact.

Finally, the attack on federal energy research allocations is a red herring. If anything, it argues for fewer, or no research subsidies to any energy sources, thus making them all compete on their merits and economics, rather than on how much free money, in the form of subsidies, various energy lobbies can wring from Congress or various administrations.

Would nuclear have advanced so far without subsidies? I don't know. That's the point. Would wind and solar energy be capable of shouldering nuclear's 20% of American everyday power supplies, had they enjoyed larger subsidies in prior years? I doubt it. But, again, we just don't know. We do know that with what subsidies they have enjoyed, they still don't seem capable of economically storing energy to power electric needs on calm and/or cloudy days.

So, despite the unfortunate loss of life in Japan, as well as the severe property damage, there's no clear evidence from the quake's aftermath that US nuclear power plans should be any different because of it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Public Sector Union Bosses & Pensions: Who's To Blame?

I've long contended that much of the mess experienced by both private and public sector union members in America with respect to deferred, defined-benefit pensions are largely the result of poor union leadership.
For example, in this post from late 2005, the second one on my business blog, I wrote,

"Two major US airlines filed for bankruptcy protection this week- Northwest and Delta. In the former case, their machinists union is already on strike.

What I find ironic is that, while so much of this week’s, and many prior years’ focus, is on union leaders squaring off against company managements, nobody has bothered to ask how it is that the unions got themselves in this mess in the first place?

Why did unions ever begin taking future pension contributions from the companies for which their members worked, instead of cash compensation?

Why is this relevant today? For two reasons. First, it’s the private sector version of the social security mess. What makes sense and works here should inform our solutions for social security. Second, it should inform labor’s current choices and negotiations, so as not to make the same mistakes twice. Especially now, in the airline and automobile manufacturing sectors.

Where is the expose on the union leaders who foolishly negotiated, on behalf of their members, to accept unsecured IOUs from companies on terms that the companies’ banks would never have lent them the money?"

I have a friend who is a public sector teacher. He and I have been discussing this topic frequently over the past year- since Chris Christie was elected governor of New Jersey.

Last week, we had another conversation sparked by the events in Madison, Wisconsin. He had been talking with a retired local police chief, apparently who is without his full pension, who groused that the mayors and other locally-elected politicians who promised defined-benefit pensions which are now underfunded should be tried and imprisoned for their criminal fraud.

I replied with my now years-old belief that his own union leaders should join those local officials in the hoosegow. I asked why his union leaders allowed the state and towns to offer deferred, defined-benefit pensions? He didn't know.

When I asked, he admitted he doesn't know how much his union boss in Trenton makes.

He initially argued that the teachers' union boss didn't know the promised pensions were not being fully-funded, but I pointed out that he'd told me he knew that Christie Whitman borrowed from the fund over a decade ago. Surely, his union chief knew that, as well. And that the state of New Jersey hasn't been fully-funding its pension obligations for years.

Why, I asked, did he continue to vote for his union chief?

He then suddenly gushed that he'd always wanted to be a teacher. That in order to teach, he had to begin in the public system. That meant joining a closed union shop, i.e., joining the teachers' union local. And voting for whomever was put on the ballot to head it. He didn't feel he ever had a choice. And wasn't happy about it.

I replied that, by remaining a public system teacher, he's pretty much made his choices. He offered explanations as to why he didn't apply to teach at one of the well-regarded, well-paying large private schools in the area. But each time, I countered his arguments. Essentially, he was so used to a guaranteed unionized job in the public school system that the specter of venturing out into the private education sector posed too much uncertainty.

He said you had to 'know someone' to get hired at one of the best local private schools. But that's not true. He's chosen special education.

Too bad, during his 25-year career, when he completed several other Masters' degrees, he hadn't observed what I saw as far back as 1979, i.e., science and math teachers vacating their jobs to join technology firms.

For at least the last 15 years, which was sufficient time for my friend to earn a BA in Mathematics or a BS in some science field, there have been constant openings in good local private schools. One which my daughters have attended has had a perennial opening for either a middle or upper school math teacher for the last six consecutive years. It became so bad a decade ago that the school was hiring young teachers right out of college to teach upper school science. That's how it became embroiled in a scandal when the 25-year old male science teacher was apprehended having sex with underage students.

Most recently, the same school hired a retired local public school math teacher.

My friend wouldn't have had to know anyone, had he simply chosen to pursue a career teaching math or science locally in a private school.

The current pension problems in the public sector in New Jersey are certainly at least half the fault of the union bosses who agreed to those terms.

When my friend complains that he had no choice, and couldn't get a job in a private school, without making sacrifices or taking risks, I say,

"Welcome to the real world. The business world that the rest of us taxpayers face all the time."

Monday, March 14, 2011

Wonderboy & The NEA

If you haven't seen this recently-aired commercial yet featuring Wonderboy and his NEA pals, it's well worth a view.

This pretty much eliminates any question that the First Rookie is anything but a post-partisan political hack. And that the NEA is run by bosses who don't care about teaching kids, or even the hard-working, dedicated teachers who pay them. They only care about raw political and financial power.