Monday wrap

Pay-to-Play usurps Constitutional limits ... There isn't too much money in politics after all. The problem is too damned much politics in money. Gaining political power with money is perhaps tawdry. But commonplace. Gaining money with power is, well, corruption. And it has devastating consequences. There is much to learn from the Governor Blago Senate seat sale case. While the focus for many is on the Governor's ties to Rham Immanuel and by extension Barack Obama, one of the more critical lessons is how fundamentally flawed John McCain's pet project of Campaign Finance Reform really is and how that whole discussion diverted attention from much bigger problems. Recently, as we know, one politician from the Chicago machine has shattered every fund raising record known to man while getting elected President and a second Chi-town machine politician has been hauled away in handcuffs for attempting to auction off machine politician number one's senate seat. Now wait, wasn't McCain's CFR was going to handle the problem of money and politics? Of course not. From the start, CFR was bad medicine created to treat a flawed diagnosis. Power and money have never been separated in world history and never will be. McCain was arrogant to think he could change that. Coming at the wrong problem from the wrong angle, CFR did nothing to stem the tide of government power -- read politics -- of controlling every facet of our money and our lives. (americanthinker.com)

D.C. Pay-to-Play is business-as-usual ... It is, in effect, a legalized shakedown of special-interest lobbyists by your elected senators and representatives. (Of course, "shakedown" isn't the term they use.) It is a big part of the way Washington really works. Just about every day on Capitol Hill, senators and representatives leave their official Senate and House offices and go to special nearby offices that are not paid for by taxpayers, but by Democratic or Republican campaign committees. (Why? Because it is illegal to use government facilities for soliciting campaign money.) In these privately paid offices, your senators and representatives are handed lists of names and telephone numbers of the lobbyists for special interests that are regulated by the committees and subcommittees on which these members of Congress serve. The senators and representatives telephone the lobbyists. They tell the lobbyists they have to pay off big debts from their last campaign — or they are facing a tough opponent in the next election — and they need a campaign contribution of, say, $10,000. (poconorecord.com)

SEIU Pay-to-Play on TV ... The 30-second television spot opens with a picture of Chicago’s skyline and a mug shot of an allegedly corrupt governor. Then another photo bleeds onto the screen of a labor union boss with ties to the politician. It may sound like a preview for the latest mobster-inspired drama. Instead, the commercial is a not-so-subtle attempt to implicate one of the fastest growing U.S. labor organizations, the Service Employees International Union, in the corruption scandal swirling around Illinois Democrat Rod Blagojevich ... DeMaura said the issue is that SEIU was linked to Blagojevich’s alleged effort to sell a Senate seat, not who backs the ad campaign. “What is Andy Stern trying to hide from the American people?” he said, referring to the SEIU president. The anti-card check ads have seized on allegations by federal prosecutors that Blagojevich’s effort to gain favors for filling Obama’s Senate seat included seeking a high-paying job at Change to Win, a labor federation co-founded by SEIU. Conversations by Blagojevich that authorities tape-recorded included one with Thomas Balanoff, head of SEIU’s Illinois chapter. (bloomberg.com)

Chicago hospital shakedowns led Feds to SEIU, Blago ... The wide-ranging public corruption probe that led to the arrest of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich got its first big break when a grandmother of six walked into a breakfast meeting with shakedown artists wearing an FBI wire. Pamela Meyer Davis had been trying to win approval from a state health planning board for an expansion of Edward Hospital, the facility she runs in a Chicago suburb, but she realized that the only way to prevail was to retain a politically connected construction company and a specific investment house. Instead of succumbing to those demands, she went to the FBI and U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald in late 2003 and agreed to secretly record conversations about the project. Her tapes led investigators down a twisted path of corruption that over five years has ensnared a collection of behind-the-scenes figures in Illinois government, including Joseph Cari Jr., a former Democratic National Committee member, and disgraced businessman Antoin "Tony" Rezko. On Dec. 9, that path wound up at the governor's doorstep. (washingtonpost.com)

Meet Jimmy Hoffa

Secret-ballot double-standard ... AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said he's "thrilled." SEIU President Andy Stern said he's "thrilled." Apparently, everyone who happens to run a labor organization feels that Christmas has come a little early this year with President-elect Barack Obama's choice of Rep. Hilda L. Solis (D-El Monte) for secretary of Labor. In his Dec. 19 Times Op-Ed article, "Labor’s fresh face," Harold Meyerson praises what he considers the numerous gutsy political moves made by Solis over her career. The reason for their palpable giddiness, however, is likely to trouble anyone who doesn't happen to run a union ... Solis regularly sides with organized labor's demands, including the biggest of them all: union leaders' desperate campaign to boost their membership by getting rid of secret ballot elections. That privacy allows millions of American workers to vote their conscience when deciding whether to start paying dues to a union boss ... While Solis now believes that card check is good enough for all those workers, she took a very different stance last year when her own right to a secret ballot was at stake. On Jan. 5, 2007, Solis co-signed a letter criticizing the absence of secret ballot elections in the leadership selection of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Solis wrote, "Votes by secret ballot were in order but never taken. We therefore believe that we need to follow proper rules of procedure and hold a vote by secret ballot." She continued, "It is important that the integrity of the CHC be unquestioned and above reproach." There's no way to spin it. It's a textbook example of hypocrisy, and one that may soon make its way into the law books as well. (latimes.com)

Incoming Veep to transcend warm bucket of spit ... "Today the Obama Transition team announced the President-elect’s intention to form a ‘White House Task Force on Working Families,’ to be chaired by Vice President-elect Joe Biden, effective January 20, 2009. The Task Force will be a major initiative targeted at raising the living standards of middle-class, working families in America. The task force will be comprised of top-level administration policy makers, and in addition to regular meetings, it will conduct outreach sessions with representatives of labor, business, and the advocacy communities." (prospect.org)

When they feel the heat, they see the light ... Well I did find some cheer! It is Richard Epstein’s article in the Wall Street Journal last Friday – “The Employee Free Choice Act is Unconstitutional”. Epstein’s legal analysis is so clearly presented that even a non-lawyer could make a successful argument in court. But that does not mean the Democrats would not try to pass the legislation anyway. They have to be able to show the labor unions they tried, even if it is unconstitutional. Now back to the bad news. Epstein’s analysis is encouraging and clearly establishes a strong court challenge if the EFCA passes, but imagine how many businesses will be targeted and ruined before the legislation is thrown out in court. Court challenges can take years. Businesses do not have that long if they are forced to unionize while waiting for the courts to resolve a law that never should have been passed in the first place. The current economic downturn and financial credit crunch has made the window of survival for many businesses even shorter. But at least there is hope. There is hope that enough legislators will wake up and oppose the proposed legislation. This could happen if enough businesses become vocal and apply some heat to their members of Congress. (northstarwriters.com)

Cold teachers take up pickets in labor-state ... Teachers in the Lake-Lehman School District in northeast Pennsylvania are on strike. A posting on the Luzerne County district's Web site Monday says schools are closed due to a teachers strike. The strike comes two days after the teachers' union and school district failed to reach an agreement during a last-minute negotiating session on Saturday. The teachers have been without a deal since their last contract expired in 2006. (ydr.inyork.com)

Blowback for union vendetta against GOP ... Last week, a memo was released that circulated amongst Republican Party senators prior to the vote on the proposed auto bailout. The memo advocated stopping the bailout as an opportunity to 'take their first shot at organized labor', and the Senators were able to filibuster the bill, forcing President Bush to use money from the $700 B financial bailout package to finance GM and Chrysler and save them from bankruptcy. Ron Blackwell opines that the GOP's real target is the Employee Free Choice Act, a piece of legislation which would drastically change existing regulations around union organizing and has the support of President-elect Barack Obama. (therealnews.com)

Unions support Bam yet resist Change ... Labor unions are the most reactionary of American organizations. They cannot understand change; they cannot discuss change and will not look to the future. This is why American manufacturing has died. Unions refuse to permit technology; they refused to accede to innovations such as just in time inventory and robotics which vastly increase quality and reduce waste. Unions' loss of members comes from the inability to work with the industries that sustain membership to keep them viable. The ability to accomplish long-term employment for their members will only come when unions realize that change is immutable. It cannot be denied or ignored. If it doesn't occur in one place it will occur in another and that change brings with it success. If we look at life itself, we find that few species last very long unchanged. Extinction is the reward for foolish consistency. That is the path today's unions have chosen to walk. (spectator.org)

Workers manipulated by union organizers ... Government employee strikes are illegal in Michigan, but that has not stopped teachers unions from taking to the picket line and winning concessions. In the recent case of the Wayne-Westland school district, a state judge ordered striking teachers to return to work but exacted no penalties. Since current law appears to be toothless, it's time to consider a new approach. The current penalty for a strike by public school teachers is a fine equal to their pay for every day they refuse to work. In theory it's a stiff penalty; in practice it still sometimes fails to serve as a deterrent. There are two reasons for this. First, the penalty is difficult to enforce. A school district must be prepared to go through court hearings for every teacher it intends to fine. Legal costs alone make this prohibitive. Second, the penalty doesn't affect the most responsible party: the union that called the strike. In the case of Wayne-Westland, there is reason to believe that the striking teachers themselves are being manipulated into believing that the issue of health plan administration is of greater importance for them than it actually is. (mackinac.org)

Union bigs' oversight is overrated ... There is joy in Unionville this Christmas. Barack Obama's pick for Secretary of Labor - Hilda Solis - brings impeccable big labor credentials. The California Congresswoman first rode to power with labor backing against a fellow Democrat, has voted with the AFL-CIO 97% of the time, and got three-quarters of her campaign contributions from unions. Ms. Solis says her goal is to expand the reach and power of unions in America ... From day one of the Obama era, union leaders want the lights dimmed on how they spend their mandatory member dues. The AFL-CIO's representative on the Obama transition team for Labor is Deborah Greenfield, and we're told her first inspection stop was the Office of Labor-Management Standards, or OLMS, which monitors union compliance with federal law. (online.wsj.com)

AFSCME takes zoo dues hit ... Duluth's budget problems are threatening the city's 85-year-old zoo. The City Council will decide soon whether to turn over operation of the Lake Superior Zoo to a nonprofit group. If the council rejects the idea, the zoo could be closed as soon as next month. The mayor's office wants to separate the zoo from the city's budget, handing the reigns over to the Lake Superior Zoological Society. The change would save Duluth almost $340,000 a year, and the Zoological Society can get charitable contributions the city can't. However, the plans would eliminate the jobs of 10 zoo workers, all of them are city employees and members of the public labor union AFSCME. "I don't know what's going to happen with me," said Wendy Wollund, a city zookeeper. "We're in the process of mediation. They don't want us here, for whatever reason." (startribune.com)

GOP Gov. takes leadership on austerity ... More than 200 state workers, including 90 judges and 42 administrators, would forgo a pay hike next year under a bill proposed yesterday by Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle. The measure is an attempt to address the state's looming $1.1 billion budget shortfall. The proposed suspension of pay hikes would save the state $4.1 million over two years, Lingle said. "We are asking our state employee unions to forgo proposing raises in the upcoming collective bargaining negotiations. Thus it is important that state leaders also make sacrifices and lead by example." The move would affect legislators, 42 executive branch administrators, due for a 5 percent pay hike on July 1, and all state judges, due for a 10 percent raise at the same time. (starbulletin.com)

International collectivism

Russia revisits the 1930's, too ... The Russian government’s proposal to broaden the definition of treason and espionage so that the authorities could accuse almost anyone of those crimes would put Russia on the road back to the totalitarian past and create the risk of a new 1937, according to a declaration issued by some of that country’s leading human rights activists. Consequently, they appealed on Thursday to members of the Duma to reject this proposal from the government of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and to President Dmitry Medvedev to reject it should the country’s legislature, which is dominated by Putin’s United Russia Party, pass it anyway. Having recently eliminated the right of trial by jury for crimes against the state, the appeal continues, the decision to loosen the definitions of treason and espionage is “very dangerous” and entails “far-reaching consequences” that threaten to return “justice [in Russia] to the norms of the 1920s to 1950s.” (georgiandaily.com)

Russian missles arm Iran, no comment from Bam ... "After few years of talks with Russia ... now the S-300 system is being delivered to Iran," IRNA quoted Email Kosari, deputy head of parliament's Foreign Affairs and National Security committee, as saying. Kosari did not say when the deliveries began. Iran's Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the report. Last week Amos Gilad, head of the Israeli Defense Ministry's Security-Diplomatic Bureau, landed in Moscow to convey Israel's opposition to the deal. While in Russia, Gilad was also expected to address the possible sale of weapons to Syria and the flow of arms through Syria to Hizbullah terrorists in Lebanon. (ynetnews.com)

Socialist Chávez helps avoid U.N. confrontation ... Iran is using its warm relations with Venezuela to dodge UN sanctions and use Venezuelan aircraft to ship missile parts to Syria, an Italian newspaper reported Sunday. Citing US and other Western intelligence agencies, La Stampa said Iran is using aircraft from Venezuelan airline Conviasa to transport computers and engine components to Syria for use in missiles. The material comes from Iranian industrial group Shahid Bagheri, listed inthe annex of UN Security Council Resolution 1737, adopted in December 2006, for involvement in Iran’s ballistic missile program. The resolution instructed all nations to “prevent the supply, sale or transfer” of all material or technology that could be used for Iran’s nuclear enrichment programme and the development of weapons to carry nuclear warheads. In return for providing aircraft, Iran has made available to Caracas members of its Revolution Guards and the elite Al-Quds unit to train and reinforce the Venezuelan police and secret services, La Stampa reported. Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad and his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chávez — who share deep hostility towards the United States and the outgoing Bush administration — have signed several agreements on economic cooperation. Iran’s Shahab-3 missiles have a range of 2,000 kilometres (1,280 miles), capable of hitting Israel as well as US military bases in the Middle East. (ynetnews.com)

Workers' paradise exposed as investment hellhole ... President Hugo Chávez ordered construction halted on a major shopping mall in Caracas on Sunday, saying the government will expropriate the unfinished building. The Venezuelan leader said it would be out of line with his government's socialist vision to allow the new Sambil mall to take up precious urban real estate — and that unbridled consumerism isn't his idea of progress either. Chávez said the mall, scheduled to open in La Candelaria district in downtown Caracas next year, would severely clog an area that already is so crowded "not a soul fits." The hulking concrete and brick structure takes up an entire city block and according to the Sambil Web site was to include 273 shops. "We're going to expropriate that and turn it into a hospital — I don't know — a school, a university," Chávez said to applause during his Sunday television and radio program, "Hello, President." Constructora Sambil, the company building the mall, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. It operates Sambil malls in cities across Venezuela, including another vast shopping center in Caracas. (wtop.com)
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