6/10/09

Wednesday wrap

Political Stimulus fails to thaw Job Freeze ... Virginia's Department of Transportation is putting $694.5 million in stimulus funds to work repairing the state's roads and bridges. But that money won't save the jobs of nearly 1,500 of the agency's workers. Facing a $2.6 billion budget shortfall over the next six years, the department is laying off a thousand full-time staffers over the next 18 months. Another 450 part-time workers were already let go. States across the nation are laying off workers, even as they deploy billions of dollars of stimulus funds meant to stabilize the economy by creating or saving jobs. Governors and legislatures are scrambling to close gaping shortfalls in their budgets as the recession decimates tax revenues. Having already cut spending and raised taxes and fees, officials increasingly are eying their payrolls as a way to balance their budgets. Government jobs have long been considered secure, especially since many workers are in unions. (money.cnn.com)


Union officers plunder rank-and-file pensions ... Pension plans for union officers remain healthy and well-funded even as rising liabilities threaten to consume the savings of their rank and file counterparts who participate in different funds within the same labor organization, according to a Hudson Institute study. This disparity became evident from a sample of the 21 largest union and staff pension plans from the same organizations. They are: The Service Employees International Union, UNITE-HERE, the United Steelworkers, the United Food and Commercial Workers, the Plumbers and Pipefitters, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Sheet Metal Workers and the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union. “This issue of rank and file pension plans being funded less than the officer pension plans is extraordinarily serious and shows a great moral failing on the part of the unions,” said Diana Furchtgott-Roth, a senior fellow with the Hudson Institute who authored the study. (washingtonexaminer.com)


Oregon advances 1st-in-the-nation Employer Gag Law ... Last month it looked as if a controversial bill in Oregon may have died. Now the Oregon Senate has given its blessing to the so-called Worker Freedom Act, which would place limits on employer speech. A similar measure here in Washington died this year after the State Labor Council linked campaign contributions to passage of the bill. The Oregon version, like its Washington cousin, suffers from legal problems regarding preemption -- whether federal labor laws take precedence over state laws. If Oregon passes the measure, it will be the first state in the nation to do so, setting up a likely legal challenge. Kris Tefft at AWB has additional coverage here. (libertylive.org)


Obama Administration shames Dem gay Mayor ... The firefighters, who have been embroiled in a battle with Cicilline seemingly since he took office, although they supported him in his first election victory, have piddled on the mayor’s parade by announcing they would assemble picket lines at the conference’s events. The show will go on nonetheless, the mayors’ conference said in a press release, but a lot of the marquee attendees, high-ranking members of the Obama administration have backed out, not wanting to cross picket lines to make speeches to a bunch of mayors whose main purpose would be to buttonhole them for more money for their home cities. Vice President Joe Biden, the headliner, will not be showing up to make his speech, which in itself could shorten the conference by a day and a half or so. Among the other D.C. heavy hitters who won’t be taking the shuttle to T.F. Green are Attorney General Eric Holder, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, senior White House Advisor Valerie Jarrett and, as you might expect, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis. (pawtuckettimes.com)


Overspending on Dems brings unions to brink of bankruptcy ... 'We spent a fortune to elect Barack Obama," declared Andy Stern last month, and the president of the Service Employees International Union wasn't exaggerating. The SEIU and AFL-CIO have been spending so much on politics that they're going deeply into debt. That news comes courtesy of federal disclosure forms that unions file each year with the Department of Labor. The Bush Administration toughened the enforcement of those disclosure rules, but under pressure from unions the Obama Labor shop is slashing funding for such enforcement. Without such disclosure, workers wouldn't be able to see how their union chiefs are managing their mandatory dues money. Alarm is coming even from inside the AFL-CIO -- specifically, from Tom Buffenbarger, president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, who sits on the AFL-CIO's finance committee. Bloomberg News reports that he is circulating a report claiming the AFL-CIO engaged in "creative accounting" to conceal financial difficulties heading into last year's Presidential election. As recently as 2000, the union consortium of 8.5 million members had a $45 million surplus. By June of last year it had $90.6 million in liabilities, or $2.3 million more than its $88.3 million in assets. "If we are not careful, insolvency may be right around the corner," Mr. Buffenbarger warned. (online.wsj.com)


Leftwing grandson carries on socialist tradition ... Evan Thomas, a ranking editor at Newsweek, has become the sad poster child who symbolizes the state of the mainstream liberal press. Thomas, a highly educated and accomplished journalist and lawyer, was heavily influenced by a six-time presidential candidate for the Socialist Party of America. That candidate was his grandfather, Norman Thomas, who had a cozy relationship with the Communist Party USA. Norman Thomas "agitated against the First World War, helped found the American Civil Liberties Union, and, in 1924, joined the Socialist party and soon replaced Eugene Debs as the Socialists' standard-bearer," wrote Evan Thomas of his grandfather, in a 2008 article for the Princeton Alumni Weekly. Though Thomas writes with glowing affection for his socialist grandfather, he exudes far greater affection for another man with a collectivist agenda: President Barack Obama. (gazette.com)


Ignorance threatens U.S. ... I worry that by the time Obama is through with us, the U.S. will be a second-class country. A lot of people feel the same way. A similar concern has been in the back of my mind for years. In the Carter era I also worried about the fate of the country, but I have to say that the hazards seem far greater now. After the Berlin Wall came down I thought the obvious lesson—that socialism doesn’t work—would penetrate the skulls of our domestic intelligentsia. But somehow it never did. They never regard a limit to government expansion as a desirable thing. Nothing seems to have been learned from the fall of Communism—the great history lesson of the 20th century. (spectator.org)


Free Sonia Sotomayor ... Senate Republicans involved in the Sonia Sotomayor Supreme Court nomination say there are significant gaps in the 172-page questionnaire Sotomayor sent recently to the Senate Judiciary Committee -- omissions the GOP says will require more time to examine than is possible under the Democrats' hurry-up schedule for Sotomayor's confirmation. "There are several places where she hasn't provided complete answers," says one Senate Republican familiar with the nomination. For example, Sotomayor failed to include an anti-death penalty memo she signed in 1981 for the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF). The memo was part of a lobbying effort against a bill that would have reinstated the death penalty in New York state, and it included the assertion that "capital punishment is associated with evident racism in our society." When the memo surfaced a few days ago, the White House quickly corrected the questionnaire, but the incident left several in the GOP uneasy. "What else don't we have?" asks the Senate Republican. "We don't know what we don't know about her service in [PRDLEF] and other groups, and we want an assurance from her that there isn't more out there that she hasn't provided." (washingtonexaminer.com)


Anti-democratic unions seek gargantuan federal bailout ... Since the vast majority of Americans consider private voting a fundamental right, the idea of eliminating secret ballots in union elections is understandably opposed across the ideological spectrum. So is government involvement in businesses, such as forcing binding arbitration on small businesses and dictating terms of employment without a vote. That is why, across the ideological spectrum -- from Republicans like Senator Orrin Hatch, to business leaders like Warren Buffet and Jack Welch, to liberal icons such as George McGovern and Al Sharpton -- all oppose the incredibly controversial and unpopular bill, misnamed the Employee “Free” Choice Act (EFCA). Almost every editorial board across the country has editorialized against the bill. So how does one explain the constant efforts on the part of some leaders in Congress to push what is better known as the Employee “Forced” Choice Act? Well, “follow the money” as the old adage says. A new report released by the Workforce Fairness Institute (WFI) demonstrates how enactment of EFCA would generate a significant increase in labor union spending on political activity and presumably, a new flow of political contributions to the supporters of union bosses and their agenda. (humanevents.com)


Billions sought for leftwing politics ... Dues paid by millions of new members will fuel a massive increase in political spending by organized labor if the Employee Free Choice Act (aka Card Check) becomes law, according to the Workforce Fairness Institute (WFI). Passage of Card Check, which abolishes secret ballots in union representation elections in the workplace and makes other reforms intended to help unions organize more workers, is Big Labor's top legislative priority for 2009. Only 12.4 percent of the nation’s workers are union members, according to government data, but union leaders like Andy Stern of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) project passage of Card Check would add 1.5 million new unionists annually for more than a decade. Such an increase would hike union income by more than $637 million every year, and would enable unions to spend an additional $11.7 billion on partisan political activity, WFI said. (washingtonexaminer.com)


GovMo update: POTUS rolls SCOTUS ... The Supreme Court on Tuesday cleared the way for Chrysler's sale to Fiat, turning down a last-ditch bid by opponents of the deal. The court rejected a plea to block the sale of most of Chrysler's assets to the Italian automaker. Chrysler, Fiat and the Obama administration had warned that the high court's intervention could have scuttled the sale. (newsmax.com)


Typical disgruntled firefighter unionist charged with arson ... A former Prince George’s County firefighter has been charged with arson for a fire set at a vacant Landover Hills home. Anthony J. Sellers was arrested in his Silver Spring home June 3 after investigators linked him to a June 2008 fire at 6701 Greenland St., a fire department spokesman said. The 26-year-old was no longer volunteering for the department when the fire was set. He “had some challenges” while at the Bladensburg station, the spokesman said. The fire Sellers is accused of setting caused $150,000 in damage and one firefighter burned his leg while battling the flames. Sellers also was charged with two other fires set in vacant buildings in Laurel and Riverdale last summer, Prince George’s fires spokesman Mark Brady said. Sellers could face up to 20 years in prison and was released Friday on a $25,000 bail. (washingtonexaminer.com)


Dem voters reject AFSCME-backed carpetbagging Clintonista ... The Associated Press has declared Virginia Sen. R. Creigh Deeds winner of the state's Democratic gubernatorial primary, setting up a rematch between the Bath County lawmaker and former Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell for the governor's mansion this fall. Mr. McDonnell, the Republican nominee, narrowly defeated Mr. Deeds in a 2005 race for state attorney general. In the Democratic primary, Mr. Deeds was seen as the dark horse candidate until a recent surge in momentum and in the polls made him the contest's frontrunner. He defeated former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe and former state delegate Brian J. Moran. (washingtontimes.com)


Rep. Robert Brady placed on Dirty Money Watch ... WHO: Rep. Robert Brady (D-Pa.), a co-sponsor of The Employee Free Choice Act (aka Card Check). WHAT: Brady received the following dirty money: Communication Workers of America (PAC) $2,000 in 2008 election cycle. Boilermakers Union (PAC) $3,000 in 2008 election cycle; $2,000 in 2006 election cycle. American Federation of Government Employees (PAC) $1,000 in 2008 election cycle. International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (PAC) $10,000 in 2008 election cycle; $10,000 in 2006 election cycle. Service Employees International Union (PAC) $3,500 in 2008 election cycle. WHY IT’S DIRTY: Multiple officers and members of these unions, including division presidents, secretary-treasurers and business managers, have been convicted since 2001 of felonies ranging from embezzlement, falsifying official reports to government, mail fraud and conspiracy. The Communication Workers of America and the American Federation of Government Employees have had eight convictions, The Service Employees International Union has had nine convictions and The Boilermakers have had 10 members convicted, while the IBEW has had 14 members convicted. The amounts of embezzled funds range from over $5,000 to over $100,000. WILL BRADY GIVE IT BACK: Brady did not respond to The Examiner’s request for comment. THE SCORE: Number of Democrats who have given it back: 0 • Number of Republicans who have given it back: 0 • YOUR TURN: You can reach Rep. Brady’s Washington D.C. office at 202-225-4731
(washingtonexaminer.com)


International Collectivism

U.N. hijacked by Nicaraguan anti-capitalist ... Western diplomats are accusing the leftist former Nicaraguan foreign minister who heads the U.N. General Assembly of hijacking an upcoming U.N. summit on the financial crisis to put capitalism on trial, an allegation his spokesman on Tuesday flatly rejected. Diplomats from the so-called Group of 20 large developed and developing economies criticized U.N. General Assembly President Miguel D'Escoto Brockmann and called the June 24-26 summit a "joke," a "tragedy" and a "waste of time." (reuters.com)


ACORN's Wade Rathke in Nicaragua: U.S. officials express concern ... US concerns over last year's questionable municipal elections in Nicaragua could be strong enough to cause leftist President Daniel Ortega, a cold-war nemesis of the US, to lose $64 million in development aid. In a Wednesday meeting with the board of directors of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), an international development initiative started during the Bush administration, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will discuss whether to cancel the remaining portion of a $175 million compact awarded in 2006. In December, the US government froze new aid after expressing serious concern about "the government of Nicaragua's manipulation of municipal elections and a broader pattern of actions inconsistent with the MCC eligibility criteria." (csmonitor.com)


Bishop issues warning on Chávez ... The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Venezuela, Archbishop Ubaldo Santana, said the political agenda of President Hugo Chávez has provoked “a growing political polarization, increased violence, insecurity and hatred, and seriously jeopardized a peaceful democratic society.” The archbishop made his statements during the Venezuelan bishops’ ad limina visit to Rome. According to the press, Archbishop Santana said, “As [it] is known, in Venezuela a new political agenda was imposed a decade ago that is called the Socialism of the 21st century. It is revolutionary by nature and has introduced profound modifications at all levels of life in the country, funded by oil revenues.” This agenda has caused “growing economic, social and cultural polarization” in the country and has provoked “a growing political polarization, increased violence, insecurity and hatred, and seriously jeopardized a peaceful democratic society,” the archbishop warned. (catholicnewsagency.com)


Destructive Communists attack Church ... St. Joseph's College for Women under the Diocese of Alappuzha, a Higher secondary school and the church close by were attacked on Monday morning, a day the communist declared to observe as 'black day.' The church in Kerala has been very much local in their opposition to the policies by the communist government in the state and the bishops had come out in the open saying that the church had played a vital role in the recent elections, to make sure the defeat of the communists. On Monday about 10. 30 in the morning a group of party activists jumped over the front gate of the college meant exclusively for women. They began destroying everything that came on their way. They destroyed the garden in front of the school and then turned to the Convent Chapel near by. The first group then moved to the College campus and then there was a second group following. (indiancatholic.in)


France: Students pay the price ... Shahinez Benabed turned up in February to finish a history degree at the renowned Sorbonne university on the Left Bank in Paris, but found the historic lecture halls shut by a teachers' strike. Four months later, she has not had a single class during a damaging confrontation between teachers opposed to reforms and President Nicolas Sarkozy's conservative government. Studying on her own, Benabed waited for the lessons she felt would set her up for the final exams and, next term, a master's degree. Many of her fellow students, she says, simply dropped out. "I'm afraid about the exams," said Benabed, 22. After missing half the year, she says, "it's going to be a kind of joke exam." But "if we didn't take it, employers would say your diploma isn't worth as much." (eurogates.nl)

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