Monday, February 28, 2011

Agitator-In-Chief Scolds GOP Governors

Agitator-In-Chief Scolds GOP Governors for "Vilifying" Public Sector Unions
By Guy Benson

Quite a performance at the White House today from a man who last year urged one key constituency to "punish" their "enemies," and who built his community organizing career around the concept of vilification and agitation:

Click HERE to watch.

As a born-again anti-vilification crusader, how would the president describe his administration's serial attempts to tar and discredit Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Joe Barton, John Boehner, and the US Chamber of Commerce, among others? Oh, right: I momentarily forgot about those ever-present separate sets of rules.

And while we're on the subject of demonization, will Obama demand that his union acolytes (and elected Democrats) cease comparing Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to Hitler?

A few additional highlights from today's presidential lecture:

- The stimulus was apparently a great success, "whether you admit it or not" (I don't).

- Imposing tax hikes on job creators ("the wealthiest among us") should be a subject of broad, bipartisan agreement because redistribution of wealth (ie, "shared sacrifice") is "the right thing" to do.

- The White House will allow states "flexibility" to opt out of onerous Obamacare provisions -- and replace them with a single-payer system.

To read another similiar article, click here.

Thriving Christianity

Thriving Christianity
By Mark Tooley on 2.28.11 @ 6:08AM

Most secular media in the U.S. imply that the world is largely dividing between resurgent Islam and enlightened secularists, with isolated evangelicals and Catholics left on the sideline. A recent report by the ;International Bulletin of Missionary Research indicates otherwise, with one third of the world professing Christianity, virtually unchanged as a global percentage since 100 years ago. Christians today are estimated to number about 2.3 billion. About 1.5 billion are estimated to attend church regularly at over 5 million congregations, up from 400,000 100 years ago.

There are 1.6 estimated Muslims, 951 million Hindus, and 468 million Buddhists. Atheists are thought to be 137 million, a declining number. The report estimates about 80,000 new Christians every day, 79,000 new Muslims every day, and 300 fewer atheists every day. These atheists are presumably disproportionately represented in the West, while religion is thriving in the Global South, where charismatic Christianity is exploding. Over 600 million Christians, including millions of Roman Catholics, are charismatic or Pentecostal.

Where Christians live has shifted dramatically of course. Once Christian Europe is now largely secularized, while "heathen" Africa is largely now either Christian or Islamic. China is on its way to possibly becoming the nation with the most practicing Christians. And Latin America has surging Catholic and evangelical populations. Contrary to common assumptions, America remains about as religious as ever. A 2008 Baylor University survey showed the percentage of American atheists at about 4 percent, unchanged since 1944. The survey also showed that only about 10 percent of Americans are religiously unaffiliated, unlike the 15 percent or so claimed in other recent surveys that claim growing secularization. Baylor found that many "unaffiliated" are actually tied to non-denominational churches or spiritual groups. Mainline Protestantism continues its 45-year meltdown, with Americans less and less identified with old denominations. But Americans by and large are attending churches at about the same rate they have for most of the last 70 years. About one third of Americans are now evangelical. Fewer and fewer attend, or even have a cultural memory of, oldline Episcopal or Presbyterian churches. Many stately old urban sanctuaries sit empty, while nearby thriving congregations meet in school gymnasiums or hotel ballrooms, if they haven't already built a mega-church campus.

A Gallup poll in 2010 showed the percentage of Americans reporting to attend church regularly (at least monthly) was 43 percent. In 1937 it was 37 percent, was slightly lower in the early 1940s, reached 49 percent during the 1950s, and settled at 42 percent in 1969, where it has remained steady for the last 40 years. Current church membership is about 61 percent of Americans, lower than the 73 percent reported 70 years ago, but also reflecting the increased fluidity of Americans religious affiliation and not a reduction in religious belief or practice. Many evangelical churches especially deemphasize membership and instead focus on attendance at worship and in small groups. A Pew survey found that about 44 percent of Americans have switched religious affiliations since childhood. Mostly they are switching away from Mainline Protestantism. Forty-five years ago, about 30 million Americans belonged to the top 7 Mainline denominations, accounting for about one sixth of Americans. Today, it's about 20 million, accounting for about one fifteenth.

One standout from the Mainline implosion is the United Methodist Church. It has lost over 3 million U.S. members since the 1960s, more than any other U.S. church. But, almost uniquely among U.S. denominations, its membership is international, and it now has more than 4.4 million members overseas, mostly in Africa. The church's global membership just surpassed 12 million for the first time in its history. Just released data shows the U.S. church lost more than 300,000 members just across four recent years, while the African churches gained almost 1 million. The denomination's most liberal U.S. regions, on the West Coast and in the Northeast, were the fastest declining, while the relatively more moderate Southeast remained almost steady. The United Methodist News Service quoted a U.S. academic faulting U.S. church decline on a U.S. population shift from the country to urban areas. This is nonsense of course. Like all Mainline denominations, United Methodism's many once potent urban downtown churches are largely shells of their former glory. Its growing, mostly conservative U.S. congregations are in Sun Belt suburbs. The nearly century old Mainline Protestant liberal project, so preoccupied by secular fads rather than the historic faith, is collapsing from its own irrelevance.

At current rates, the Africans might achieve a majority of United Methodism within 12 years or so in what used to be an almost entirely U.S. denomination. The Africanization of America's third largest religious body is underreported but its impact may be significant. Almost all the U.S. Mainline denominations have liberalized their views on homosexuality, as on so many other theological and ethical issues. But the United Methodists are edging in the opposite direction thanks mostly to the dramatic growth of conservative African churches. At its next governing convention in 2012, about 40 percent of the delegates will come from outside the U.S., virtually guaranteeing United Methodists will not follow the Episcopalians, Evangelical Lutherans, United Church of Christ and others whose membership declines accelerated after accommodating liberal sexual standards. Those denominations also have suffered schisms, with conservatives forming new communions. Many traditional Episcopalians are now aligned with autonomous, and thriving, Anglican churches in Africa.

Church liberals, so proud of their historic liberationist solidarity with the Global South, are befuddled by conservative African churches. The American United Methodist bishops even contrived to contain the African influence by proposing a new U.S. only church convention that would omit the Africans and other internationals. That plan failed in 2009 when local United Methodist annual conferences voted overwhelmingly against it. The Africans will remain full partners in United Methodist governance, with increasing repercussions for U.S. church members. African church growth will dramatically affect global Christianity. The International Bulletin of Missionary Research reports that Africa had fewer than 9 million Christians in 1900, compared to 475 million today, and 670 million expected by 2025.

More somberly, the missions report also cites 270 new Christian martyrs every day in the world over the last 10 years, reaching 1 million during 2000-2010, and compared to 34,000 Christian martyrs in 1900. Presumably, radical Islam can be faulted for most current-day Christian victims. But overall, despite the distortions of secular, U.S. elite culture, people of faith in America and around the world can be hopeful that faith, and not Western secularism, represents the future for the vast majority of the world.

Fear and Loathing on the Arab Trail

Fear and Loathing on the Arab Trail
By Jed Babbin on 2.28.11 @ 6:08AM

It's tough to tell who's more eager to commence military action to oust Libya's Moammar Gaddafi. It's a close race between the American liberals who have made it their life's work to disarm the West, and the collection of Arab despots and dictators who don't want the current unpleasantness in Libya to spread to their nations.

But the whole matter of Gaddafi is a sideshow. What happens on Saudi Arabia's "day of rage" on March 11 could severely disrupt our already-shaken economy.

Typical of the newly bloodthirsty liberals is the Washington Post's Eugene Robinson who urged the president to demand Gaddafi's resignation, which Barry promptly did. But Robinson also urged that we -- and our NATO allies, such as they are -- declare a "no-fly" zone over Libya to ground Gaddafi's air forces. He went on, of course, to say that we really wouldn't enforce the no-fly zone. Robinson wants only to "influence" people into violating Gaddafi's orders.

A "no-fly" zone that allows Gaddafi to use air forces with impunity?

The New York Times entered the fray saying it would "be best" if the UN Security Council imposed sanctions "…but that takes too long." So, the Times said, we should impose unilateral sanctions freezing Libyan assets. Which proved the Times as prescient as it usually is. The Security Council declared new sanctions in near-record time but, as always, sanctions are inconclusive because some nations -- Italy and France, who depend on Libyan oil, come to mind -- always refuse to abide by them.

If the sanctions don't stop Gaddafi's murder of rebels, says the Times, we should establish and enforce a no-fly zone like we did over pre-2003 Iraq and in the Bosnia intervention in the early 1990s. That call was echoed by a chorus of neocon nation-builders, some of whom were responsible for getting us involved in the Bosnia conflict.

But Bosnia wasn't and Libya isn't our fight. If it is anyone's, it is the Arabs'. The panic among Arab despots is widespread. What has happened in Egypt, Tunisia, and now Libya can happen anywhere in their world. The Saudis realize this and look ahead with increasing anxiety to the mass protests scheduled there for March 11. Last week that anxiety turned into panic.

A highly unusual public confirmation of the panic came in the Saudi government-controlled Arab News on Thursday. In an editorial, the Saudis called for military intervention in Libya to protect the Libyan rebels. The editorial condemned the UN (!) for its divisiveness and ineffectuality. Most tellingly, it called upon the Arab League to decide on intervention and ask its member states to act in its behalf, saying the League had "a moral duty to do so."

The desperate despots' editorial called for the militaries of Egypt and Tunisia -- both of which have fallen governments (Tunisia's now has fallen twice since January) -- to send forces into Libya. The Saudis have the largest and most capable Arab military, but -- as they always do -- they want someone else to do the fighting.

In the three days since the Thursday editorial, the Saudis have apparently realized that their call for Arab League intervention went unanswered. Yesterday, in an even more strident and complicated editorial, Arab News reiterated the need for action, but called on the Arab League only to use all its resources to help the people of Libya. It pointedly didn't restate the call for Arab League military intervention, but ended with this warning: "If efforts are not made to put out the blaze in Libya and soon, its flames will start scorching the whole region -- and beyond." By which they mean Saudi Arabia itself.

Saudi Arabia is a Wahhabist gerontocracy ruling a population made up of young Saudis (average age 25) and a vast number of non-Saudis. Nearly 25% of its population is composed of non-Saudis who make up about 75% of the labor force. Some 10% of its population is unemployed. Last September, a surprisingly broad wave of dissent hit the streets, and the Saudi royals became afraid.

What will they face on March 11? That we cannot foresee, but the principal actors are working hard to control the result. To interdict widespread rioting, Saudi King Abdullah is spreading about $37 billion in gifts among the public. But there has been no relaxation of the strict Wahhabi code of conduct. Behavior police still roam the streets arresting or beating people who aren't in compliance.

And Saudi Arabia has a sizeable Shia minority. Iran has seen -- thanks to Wikileaks -- the Saudi royals lobbying America to bomb the Iranian nuclear sites. And the ever-more aggressive Iranians would very much like to overthrow the Saudi government or at least destabilize it sufficiently to interrupt the flow of oil to America and Europe. The Iranians will certainly employ whatever covert forces available to achieve that goal.

It is very difficult to see how a rebellion would threaten the Saudi regime or even manage sufficient sabotage to materially affect the export of Saudi oil. Their military is not only large but quite capable and its officer ranks are tightly interwoven with the royal family. They have become rather expert in counter-terrorism of late because they are a sometime target. But to say it would be hard for Saudi Arabia to become the next Egypt is not to say it is impossible. The Saudis have been living on the edge for decades, and now the edge is moving.

Since its inception, the Saudi royal family has been playing a double game with the West. Its Wahhabist dogma, which is as radical as any found in Islam, thrives on Western oil purchases. We know that its members contribute massively to terrorist groups including its purported enemy, al-Qaeda, but we turn a blind eye because we are apparently incapable of doing anything to free ourselves from dependence on Saudi oil.

So what happens if -- on March 11 or some later time -- the Saudi regime falls? There is no possibility that military intervention will keep the oil flowing because the oil fields and oil export facilities are too large and widespread to protect or rebuild in the face of a determined rebellion. We, even with the tiny forces of our NATO allies, would be unable to keep the oil flowing. If the Saudis are overthrown and their successors unable or unwilling to sell us the oil we need, our economy will suffer a depression that will make the 1930s look mild.

For the present, we can do little to save the Saudis. But we can do something to save ourselves. Drill. Drill here, drill now and keep drilling on and offshore. House Republicans should make this their priority, second only to budget cutting.

America's is a carbon-based economy totally addicted to foreign oil. There's no use talking about cutting consumption or switching to wind power and such. We need oil, and if we don't produce it ourselves we will have only ourselves to blame when the despots and dictators who sell it to us go out of business.

Republicans Can't Give an Inch in Budget Debate

Republicans Can't Give an Inch in Budget Debate
By Star Parker

Let’s be clear about the implications of the upcoming budget showdown between Democrats and Republicans over the Republican proposal to cut $61 billion in federal spending for what remains of this fiscal year.

It is vitally important that Republicans do not give an inch.

Am I being an unreasonable?

No. The $61 billion already reflects compromise. It is miniscule.

This is the equivalent of a family with a $50,000 budget finding $850 to eliminate. A few less trips to the movies or dinner. Not even the annual cost of an iPhone.

It’s not hard to do if you want to. There is ten times the waste in the federal government budget than in the budget of any working family.

So we must understand that the push back from Democrats on this is not about whether these cuts can be made. It is about ideology and whether we are prepared to get off the path we’re now on of wholesale government takeover of our economy and our lives.

Let’s get this even more in focus.

The possibility of a government shutdown over this confrontation is being compared to the famous budget face-off in 1995 between President Clinton and then-Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich that led to a shutdown.

The general assumption is that public sympathy backed President Clinton and that this marked a turnaround in the momentum that Republicans had after their big victory in the 1994 congressional elections. Following this incident Clinton’s popularity climbed again and he won re-election in 1996.

But there is a huge difference between then and now.

President Clinton took the repudiation he got in the 1994 Congressional elections when Republicans gained control of the House to heart. He listened to the American people and understood that this repudiation largely tied to the defeat of his big government health care initiative. He entered 1995 a changed man.

When Clinton gave his State of the Union address in January 1996 he made his famous statement that the “era of big government is over.” He went on to sign landmark reform of our welfare system, initiated by Congressional Republicans.

But President Obama and his Democrat colleagues on Capitol Hill are totally different.

Despite the major repudiation Obama received in last year’s election, he has not changed at all.

To appreciate this, you just need to look at the budget he has just submitted.

It picks up the themes of the first two years of his administration, in which two trillion dollars in federal spending was added, in which the federal government take of our economy grew from 20% to 25%, in which we have had major government takeovers of our health care and financial services industry, and continues this path endlessly into the future.

Government spending for the last fifty years averaged 20% of our economy, tax revenues averaged 18%, and the deficit averaged 2%. Under President Obama’s new budget, government spending is set on a trajectory toward reaching 30% of our economy and maintains a budget deficit into the foreseeable future of a record 3% of the economy.

As result, national debt will continue to pile up, reaching $26 trillion by 2020, greater than our whole national economy.

Democrats are unrepentant in their commitment to change the face of America permanently into a European style social welfare state.

We are fortunate today to have a new, young Republican leadership – John Boehner, Erica Cantor, Kevin McCarthy, Paul Ryan, and others – who are committed to save our nation and our freedom.

Giving an inch now means we are willing to consider the prospect that our children and grandchildren will live in a far less free nation, run by bureaucrats, with permanently high unemployment rates.

We simply can’t do it.

To read another article by Star Parker, click here.

Somali Pirates? More Like Jihadists With Sea-Doos

Somali Pirates? More Like Jihadists With Sea-Doos
By Doug Giles

How do you think the media would report a story if a radical Christian cult, such as Westboro Baptist Church, had a group of their idiots patrolling the Florida Keys with AK-47s in Go-Fast boats, ripping off yachts, taking seafarers hostage and giving their stolen loot and ransom cash to their Apocalyptic Dipstick Fund for Violent Global Domination?

Do you think the Blame Stream Media would report that these sea urchins were Christians? Do you think they’d try to link these losers to George W. Bush, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, the Tea Party and all evangelicals far and wide? Of course they would. What a silly question I asked. They never miss an opportunity to disparage the church, so they sure as heck wouldn’t omit such a group’s affiliation with Christianity in their reportage (even though Westboro Baptist is to Christianity what Charlie Sheen is to sobriety and celibacy).

Here’s another query for you: What if said group of bug-eyed “Christian” lunatics went even more stupid and captured and killed two middle-aged Muslim missionary couples who were sailing the gin-clear flats of south Florida, bouncing from Key to Key as they passed out Korans to folks they came in contact with? What would the Blame Stream Media do? Let’s see (to be read with a Chinese accent), how you say… international incident?

I tell you what they would not say. They would not refer to these hypothetical, lunatic, violent thieves of the high seas as plain vanilla “American pirates.” No siree, bob dog.

Indeed, the Blame Stream Media would make sure they’d get pitched as your general, run-of-the-mill Christians, even though they would be fo’ shizzle a heretical aberration that has nada to do with Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. I’ll bet you fifty bucks.

For certain, given the thought police’s devotion to the church’s demise, we would not hear the big three pitch that such nefarious ocean bandits were mere teenagers, high as a kite on khat, under-educated, impoverished and acting out because they weren’t afforded a sugar balancing Zagnut bar due to economic sanctions levied by evil western suppressors.

However, when Muslim machine gun gangs patrol the Indian ocean off the Somali and Kenyan coasts and rob, rape and kill Americans (including Christian missionaries last week) they get called “pirates,” and the BSM conveniently omits that these weeds are 100% Muslim and this just happens to be the aquatic version of jihad.

“Somali pirates”? Well, shiver me timbers and yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum, ye scurvy dogs. Please, Blame Stream Media, go sell crazy somewhere else. This is jihad on the high seas.

Now, granted, it’s not the suicide vest jihad of Achmed the Dead Terrorist, nor is it the stealth BS/PC jihad carried on by groups like CAIR and their taqiyya-spewing buddies, but rather known to these Jack Sparrows as “jihad al-mal,” or money jihad.

But OMG, we cannot call it jihad or connect the dots to the funding of their caliphatic wet dreams, in part, by what they loot on the ocean because that would destroy the PC narrative the media has worked so hard to foist on us goobers (Oh, FYI: A lot of their ransom money and stolen booty goes to fund al-Shabaab, which is not a doo-wop 50s cover band but an al-Qaeda affiliate currently taking over Somalia). No, scallywags, we can only call it “piracy” and not jihad, and we can only call these Somalis “pirates” and not Muslim terrorists. End of discussion.

Now, if you don’t think what Islam is doing off the horn of Africa is their Water World version of jihad then do this: Google Raymond Ibrahim’s “What Piracy? This Is the Same Old Jihad,” and then get back to me. Good luck maintaining your PC rhetoric after reading Ibrahim’s column because he buries the naysayers with historical evidence of Islam’s long history of plunder on sea and land.

Walker gives 24-hour deadline to fleebaggers

Walker gives 24-hour deadline to fleebaggers
posted at 1:36 pm on February 28, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

If the Wisconsin state Senators who fled the state intended on highlighting their opposition to Scott Walker’s budget-repair bill, then the governor offered his congratulations on their success. In his statement this morning, though, Walker also told the fleebaggers that any further delay would cost the state $165 million in a lost opportunity to restructure the state’s debt — and that continued delay will force Walker to cut jobs to save money:

“According to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, if Senate Democrats refuse to return to Wisconsin and cast their vote the next day the option to refinance a portion of the state’s debt will be off the table,” the statement says.

In addition, Cullen Werwie, the governor’s spokesman, said in a statement: “Senate Democrats claimed they fled the state to slow down the process so the public had enough time to learn about the budget repair bill. If that was their true intention, they have been successful.

“Now they have one day to return to work before the state loses out on the chance to refinance debt, saving taxpayers $165 million this fiscal year. Failure to return to work and cast their votes will lead to more painful and aggressive spending cuts in the very near future.”

Werwie said he was giving the Democrats 24-hour notice. He added that the governor will delay sending out layoff notices “as long as possible.”

With Walker raising the stakes, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel provided its readers with the context of spending on public employees:

But by any measure, as Walker has noted and most state employees acknowledge, the state will continue to provide rich health-insurance benefits compared with the private sector, where nearly 40% of employers don’t offer health benefits at all.

Under Walker’s bill, state employees – including elected state legislators, who receive the same benefits – would pay about $600 more for single coverage, raising their share of that cost to about $1,000 a year. For family coverage, they would pay $1,476 more, raising their share of the cost to about $2,500 a year.

The proposal would increase their share of the premium to 12.4%. But that would still be well below the share paid by employees in the private sector, who by one estimate pay an average of 19% of the cost for single coverage and 29% for family coverage.

It also is less than the 28% of the premium paid on average by federal employees.
The union has accepted these changes in principle, now that Walker has pushed his budget-repair bill with collective-bargaining reform built into it, as Walker promised during the election. The PEUs would rather accept cuts in the near term than the ability to browbeat the state and localities in later negotiations. However, these are the very same financial changes that unions characterized as … well …
“We certainly aren’t the haves, in spite of what he says. I just see this as all political posturing,” said Marty Beil.

Beil is executive director of the Wisconsin State Employees Union , which represents 22,000 state workers in various departments including corrections, universities, mental health, and social work.

“It’s like the plantation owner talking to the slaves. We’ve moved in Walker’s mentality from public service to public servitude,” Beil explained to FOX 11. When asked “Do you really think comparison to plantation owner and slave is accurate?” Beil replied: “I do. I really do because here he sits as the incoming governor, basically issuing mandates about what he wants to happen. Governors and employers don’t do that especially in the modern era of labor relations. We sit down at a table to talk about things.”

The police reversed course yet again today and finally closed the state capitol building to visitors, ending the protests inside:

The state Department of Administration tightened rules on access to the statehouse Monday morning after deciding the night before not to force out hundreds of demonstrators who were camped out in the rotunda. Some of those protesters from the weekend are still in the building.

Protesters lined up outside the King St. entrance to the Capitol Monday morning, waiting to be let in, while others began to march around the building.

“We are going to let people in in a measured way, but we have to get this building cleaned up,” Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch said Monday.

On Tuesday, Gov. Scott Walker will deliver his budget address in the state Capitol’s Assembly chambers to a joint session of the Legislature and the Walker administration said Monday that part of the restrictions on public access were in preparation for that.

Walker addresses a joint session of the legislature tomorrow night, in what will surely be showdown moment between himself and the fleebaggers. If they don’t send someone to provide a quorum at that point, Walker will almost certainly announce layoffs and blame them on Democrats who won’t participate as a minority, but instead insist on dictating to the majority. Unfortunately for everyone, there seems to be no way for fleebaggers to save face at this point. Walker is obviously not retreating from his position — and since he has the votes necessary to pass the bill, he doesn’t have to retreat.

Eventually, the absent Senators will have to return or possibly end up forfeiting their seats in the legislature. Walker has until the end of June to pass a budget, and it’s difficult to see how the fleebaggers can justify their continued obstinacy, or how they can justify returning after the layoffs and higher debt payments have already occurred. They’d do less damage to themselves now by returning today and declaring a public-relations victory.

Wind Power: Questionable Benefits, Concealed Impacts

Wind Power: Questionable Benefits, Concealed Impacts
By Paul Driessen

America is running out of natural gas. Prices will soar, making imported liquefied natural gas (LNG) and T Boone Pickens’ wind farm plan practical, affordable and inevitable. That was then.

Barely two years later, America (and the world) are tapping vast, previously undreamed-of energy riches – as drillers discover how to produce gas from shale, coal and tight sandstone formations, at reasonable cost. They do it by pumping a water, sand and proprietary chemical mixture into rocks under very high pressure, fracturing or “fracking” the formations, and keeping the cracks open, to yield trapped methane.

Within a year, US recoverable shale gas reserves alone rose from 340 trillion cubic feet to 823 tcf, the Energy Department estimates. That’s 36 years’ worth, based on what the USA currently consumes from all gas sources, or the equivalent of 74 years’ of current annual US oil production. The reserves span the continent, from Barnett shale in Texas to Marcellus shale in Eastern and Mid-Atlantic states – to large deposits in western Canada, Colorado, North Dakota, Montana and other states (and around the world).

Instead of importing gas, the United States could become an exporter. The gas can move seamlessly into existing pipeline systems, to fuel homes, factories and electrical generators, serve as a petrochemical feedstock, and replace oil in many applications. States, private citizens and the federal government could reap billions in lease bonuses, rents, royalties and taxes. Millions of high-paying jobs could be “created or saved.” Plentiful gas can also provide essential backup power for wind turbines.

Production of this much gas would reduce oil price shocks and dependence on oil imports from the likes of Gadhafi and Chavez, while lowering greenhouse gas emissions. Talk about a game changer!

What’s not to like? Plenty, it turns out. The bountiful new supplies make environmentalist dogmas passé: the end of the hydrocarbon era, America as an energy pauper, immutable Club of Rome doctrines of sustainability and imminent resource depletion, the Pickens’ Plan and forests of wind turbines.

What to do? Environmentalists voiced alarm. HBO aired “Gasland,” a slick propaganda film about alleged impacts of fracking on groundwater. Its claims have been roundly debunked (for instance, methane igniting at a water faucet came from a gas deposit encountered by the homeowner’s water well – not from a fracking operation). A politically motivated Oscar was predicted, but didn’t happen.

The Environmental Protection Agency revealed a multiple personality disorder. Its Drinking Water Protection Division director told Congress there is not a single documented instance of polluted groundwater due to fracking. (Studies by Colorado and Texas regulators drew the same conclusion.)

EPA’s Texas office nevertheless insisted that Range Resources was “endangering” a public aquifer and ordered the company to stop drilling immediately and provide clean water to area homes. EPA officials then failed to show up at the hearing or submit a single page of testimony, to support their claims.

Meanwhile, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced plans to conduct a “life-cycle” or “cradle-to-grave” study of hydraulic fracturing drilling and gas production techniques, to assess possible impacts on groundwater and other ecological values. Depending on whether the study is scientific or politicized, it could lead to national, state-by-state or even city-by-city drilling delays, bans – or booms.

The industry and many states that have long experience with drilling and are confident the needed regulations, practices and testing procedures are already in place. They voice few worries, except over how long a life-cycle study could take or how political it might become. In fact, it’s a very useful tool.

But if a life-cycle study is warranted for hydraulic fracturing, because drilling might pass through subsurface formations containing fresh water, similar studies are certainly called for elsewhere: wind turbine manufacturing, installation and operation, for instance.

Turbines require enormous quantities of concrete, steel, copper, fiberglass and rare earth minerals – all of which involve substantial resource extraction, refining, smelting, manufacturing and shipping. Land and habitat impacts, rock removal and pulverizing, solid waste disposal, burning fossil fuels, air and water pollution, and carbon dioxide emissions occur on large scales during every step of the process.

Over 95% of global rare earth production occurs in China and Mongolia, using their technology, coal-fired electricity generation facilities and environmental rules. Extracting neodymium, praseodymium and other rare earths for wind turbine magnets and rotors involves pumping acid down boreholes, to dissolve and retrieve the minerals. Other acids, chemicals and high heat further process the materials. Millions of tons of toxic waste are generated annually and sent to enormous ponds, rimmed by earthen dams.

Leaks, seepage and noxious air emissions have killed trees, grasses, crops and cattle, polluted lakes and streams, and given thousands of people respiratory and intestinal problems, osteoporosis and cancer.

In 2009, China produced 150,000 tons of rare earth metals – and over 15,000,000 tons of waste. To double current global installed wind capacity, and produce rare earths for photovoltaic solar panels and hybrid and electric cars, China will have to increase those totals significantly – unless Molycorp and other companies can rejuvenate rare earth production in the US and elsewhere, using more modern methods.

Made in China turbines are shipped to the USA, trucked to their final destinations, and installed on huge concrete platforms; new backup gas generating plants are built; and hundreds of miles of new transmission lines are constructed. That means still more steel, copper, concrete, fuel and land. Moreover, the backup power plants generate more pollution and carbon dioxide than if they could simply run at full capacity, because as backups for turbines they must operate constantly but ramp up to full power, and back down, numerous times daily, in response to shifting wind speeds.

Wind farms require roads and 700-1000 ton concrete-and-rebar foundations, which affect water drainage patterns in farm country. The 300-500 foot tall turbines affect scenery, interfere with or prevent crop dusting over hundreds of acres, and kill countless birds and bats. Farmers who lease their land for wind turbines receive substantial royalty payments; neighbors are impacted, but receive no compensation.

Despite these ecological costs, wind farm projects are often fast-tracked through NEPA and other environmental review processes, and are exempted from endangered species and migratory bird laws that can result in multi-million-dollar fines for oil, gas and coal operators, for a fraction of the carnage.

Perhaps worst, all this is supported generously by renewable energy mandates, tax breaks, feed-in tariffs, “prioritized loading orders,” and other subsidies, courtesy of state and federal governments and taxpayers. In fact, wind power gets 90 times more in federal subsidies than do coal and natural gas, per megawatt-hour of electricity actually generated, according to US Energy Information Administration data. And wind-based electricity costs consumers several times more per kilowatt-hour than far more reliable electricity from coal, gas and nuclear power plants.

Simply put, the wind might be free, when it blows. But the rest of the “renewable, green, eco-friendly” wind energy system is anything but.

It might be far better all around to simply build the most efficient, lowest-polluting coal, gas and nuclear generating plants possible, let them run at full capacity 24/7/365 – and just skip the wind power.

Life-cycle studies would be a positive development – for all energy sources. In fact …

“Think globally, act locally” might be a very good motto for EPA and wind energy advocates.
Environmentalist Fraud and Manslaughter
By Paul Driessen

Many chemotherapy drugs for treating cancer have highly unpleasant side effects – hair loss, vomiting, intense joint pain, liver damage and fetal defects, to name just a few. But anyone trying to ban the drugs would be tarred, feathered and run out of town. And rightly so.

The drugs’ benefits vastly outweigh their risks. They save lives. We need to use chemo drugs carefully, but we need to use them.

The same commonsense reasoning should apply to the Third World equivalent of chemotherapy drugs: DDT and other insecticides to combat malaria. Up to half a billion people are infected annually by this vicious disease, nearly a million die, countless survivors are left with permanent brain damage, and 90% of this carnage is in sub-Saharan Africa, the most impoverished region on Earth.

These chemicals don’t cure malaria – they prevent it. Used properly, they are effective, and safe. DDT is particularly important. Sprayed once or twice a year on the inside walls of homes, DDT keeps 80% of mosquitoes from entering, irritates those that do enter, so they leave without biting, and kills any that land. No other chemical, at any price, can do this.

Even better, DDT has few adverse side effects – except minor, speculative and imaginary “risks” that are trumpeted on anti-pesticide websites. In the interest of saving lives, one would think eco activists would tone down their “ban DDT” disinformation. However, that is unlikely.

Anti-DDT fanaticism built the environmental movement, and gave it funding, power and stature it never had before. No matter how many people get sick and die because health agencies are pressured not to use DDT, or it is totally banned, Environmental Defense, Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Pesticide Action Network, US Environmental Protection Agency and allied activist groups are unlikely to reform or recant.

Worse, they have now been joined by the United Nations Environment Program, Global Environment Facility and even World Health Organization Environmental Division – all of whom share the avowed goal of ending all DDT production by 2017, and banning all use of DDT in disease control by 2020.

A recent GEF “study” demonstrates how far they are willing to go, to achieve this goal, no matter how deadly it might be. The study purported to prove DDT is no longer needed and can be replaced by “integrated and environment-friendly” alternatives: eg, mosquito-repelling trees, and non-chemical control of breeding sites and areas around homes that shelter insects.

The $14-million study claimed that these interventions resulted in an unprecedented “63% reduction in the number of people with [malaria], without using DDT or any other type of pesticide.” However, as analyses by malaria and insecticide experts Richard Tren and Dr. Donald Roberts clearly demonstrate (see Research and Reports in Tropical Medicine and AEI Outlooks), the study, conclusions and policy recommendations are not merely wrong. They are deliberately misleading and fraudulent.

GEF did its 2003-2008 study in Mexico and seven Central American countries – all of which had largely ceased using DDT and other pesticides years before the GEF project. Instead of chemical sprays, these countries now employ huge numbers of chloroquine and primaquine (CQ and PQ) pills to prevent and treat malaria: 2,566 pills per diagnosed case in Mexico; 22,802 pills (!) in El Salvador; 50 to 1,319 pills per case in the other countries, according to 2004 health records.

It was these powerful drugs, not the “environment-friendly” GEF interventions, that slashed malaria rates. Indeed, they had begun to do so before GEF even arrived. This terribly inconvenient reality was further underscored by the fact that malaria rates were the same in “study” areas and “control” areas, where GEF did nothing – and that the number of malaria cases increased when the number of pills per case decreased. In other words, GEF could have gotten its same results using one bed net or one larvae-eating fish.

GEF’s fraudulent claims were then compounded by its insistence that the results and conclusions are relevant to other malaria-endemic regions. They are not. Malaria parasites in Latin American countries are Plasmodium vivax; in Africa and Southeast Asia, they are the far more virulent P. falciparum.

CQ and PQ are effective in preventing and treating vivax; they rarely prevent or cure falciparum malaria. Moreover, the eight Latin American countries have 140 million people. Sub-Saharan Africa has 800 million and a woeful medical and transportation infrastructure; Southeast Asia has 600 million people. Both have infinitely more malaria. Getting adequate medicines that work (far more expensive Artemisia-based ACT drugs) to 1.4 billion people would be a budgetary, logistical and medical impossibility.

But apparently none of these facts occurred to the bureaucrats who did this study. That’s hardly surprising, since the project was designed and directed, not by disease control experts, but by the UNEP and radical environmental groups – which also spent millions distributing and promoting the study and other anti-DDT propaganda all over the world, ensuring that it received substantial media attention.

The anti-pesticide fanatics know this “study” is fraudulent. They just have a very high tolerance for how many malaria cases, brain-damaged people and dead babies are deemed “acceptable” or “sustainable.” They just don’t care enough to bother learning the basic facts about malaria, CQ versus ACT, vivax versus falciparum. They need to get out of the malaria control policy business and let medical professionals do their jobs.

(To learn more facts about malaria, see Tren and Roberts’ book The Excellent Powder, Dr. Rutledge Taylor’s documentary film “3 Billion and Counting,” and the website for Africa Fighting Malaria.)

The final report claims its authors submitted manuscripts to prominent peer-reviewed medical journals. However, nothing was ever published. That suggests that they lied, and never submitted any manuscripts; or they did submit papers, but they were rejected as being shoddy, unscientific, unprofessional, or even on par with Andrew Wakefield’s fraudulent vaccine-and-autism work.

To cap it all off, the bogus GEF project appears to have been conducted using funds diverted from already insufficient malaria control budgets. The GEF, UNEP, Stockholm Convention Secretariat and radical environmental groups are using money intended for malaria control to launch anti-pesticide programs in countries plagued by malaria, and gain control over public health insecticides, policies and programs.

Overall, the GEF has spent over $800 million on efforts to eliminate DDT and other “persistent organic pollutants” (POPs). It budgeted nearly $150 million in 2007 alone on its campaign to ban DDT production and use – but spent a lousy $22 million researching alternatives to DDT for vector control.

Until an equally effective and long-lasting substitute for DDT is developed – one that repels, irritates and kills mosquitoes – this vital weapon needs to remain in the disease control arsenal.

The GEF, UNEP, POPs Secretariat and WHO need to withdraw the study; discipline the people who perpetrated this fraud; retract World Health Assembly Resolution 50.13, calling for malaria-infested countries to slash their use of public health insecticides; and issue a statement making it absolutely clear that this “study” was erroneous and deceptive, and should not be considered in setting malaria policies.

Donors to the GEF and radical groups should be exposed. For any activists to continue promoting this study or demand that malaria-endemic countries stop using DDT and insecticides, and adopt the bogus “eco-friendly” GEF “solutions,” is gross medical malpractice – and deliberate manslaughter.

Malaria can be controlled, and even eradicated in many areas. We simply need to use every available weapon – including DDT, pesticides, nets, window screens, drugs and other interventions – in an orderly, coordinated and systematic manner; and ensure that mosquito infestations, disease outbreaks, malaria control successes and problems are monitored and evaluated accurately and honestly.

If we do that – and end the anti-pesticide hysteria – we can get the job done.

To read another aricle by Paul Driessen, click here.

Balancing the Budget: Do Americans Have What It Takes?

Balancing the Budget: Do Americans Have What It Takes?
By Ken Connor

Many times, the problems in life that seem most complex are quite the opposite: They are simple issues that have been complicated and muddled by factors such as emotion, obstinacy, greed, and dishonesty. Such is often the case with budgets. Whether you are managing a household, a state, or a country, the basics of budgeting are the same. First, you need to know how much money is coming in. Then, you need to prioritize spending, distinguishing between needs and wants. And finally, you shouldn't spend more money than you take in.

Ask anyone who has ever struggled to dig themselves out of debt and they will tell you that these fundamentals are absolutely essential for achieving and maintaining freedom from debt. Fail to attend to any of the three, and you're going to have problems.

Houston, we have a problem – a $14 trillion-and-counting problem. It is estimated that, by the end of 2011, the US national debt will exceed our gross domestic product for the first time in history. Not only is this an unsustainable course with dire implications for economic and homeland security, it is grossly irresponsible behavior for a nation that purports to be a political and economic role model for the rest of the world. Year after year, our elected representatives refuse to do the hard work required to distinguish between budgetary wants and needs, and year after year the government takes on debt to finance programs it can't afford.

Last November, the American people sent a clear message to Washington that they've had enough. Whether fueled by Tea Party patriotism or simple frustration over the stagnating economy and job market, the prevailing sentiment is that our country is on the wrong economic course. Common sense dictates that a move back towards fiscal solvency must be part of the solution to revitalizing America's economy. Without this vital step, we will continue limping along, bogged down by crushing debt and unable to muster any true economic momentum. Businesses will continue to struggle and Main Street will continue to feel the pinch.

There are basically only two ways for the American government to escape the bondage of debt: Cut spending or increase taxes – or resort to a combination of both.

Well, the American people have made it clear that they don't want – nor can they afford – Uncle Sam raising their taxes any time soon. Consequently, Congress has made it clear that it has no intention of raising taxes in the next two years. The only option left, then, is to cut spending, and given the projected budget deficit, they'll have to cut lots of spending in order to make any meaningful impact on the nation's balance sheet. It's time to bring out the hatchets.

If only it were as simple as it sounds. Here's where politics come into play and things get tricky. First, there is the problem that many Americans fail to appreciate the connection between a good idea and the costs of implementing that idea. Even the staunchest proponents of budgetary reform tend to balk when confronted with the real-world implications of that reform. Few Americans realize how much they've actually come to rely on government programs in the last 75 years or so. This is why you'll see Tea Party patriots wielding "Government Hands Off Medicare" signs with absolutely no sense of irony, and why any mention of entitlement reform tends to raise hackles on both sides of the aisle.

On the spending side of things, it is indisputable that the national budget is shaped, in no small part, by a phalanx of special interests. The cast of characters is familiar enough: Big Business, Big Labor, Big Medicine, the NEA... the list goes on and on. At the end of the day, then, government expenditures are often shaped by politicians who cater to special interests in an effort to preserve their political careers by exchanging taxpayer money for votes. To those politicians, the prospect of making substantive and meaningful budget cuts is terrifying; it is tantamount to committing political suicide. We can see this dynamic playing out today in places like Wisconsin, where Governor Scott Walker is feeling the backlash of standing up to Big Labor. We've seen it in New Jersey, where Governor Chris Christy has roused the ire of Big Education. This is only a glimpse of the fallout that will be felt if Congress gets serious about dealing with America's debt crisis.

Do our leaders have what it takes to endure the repercussions of decisive action? Are they willing to risk their careers in order to effect true reform? And, do the American people have the integrity and character to support authentic attempts to balance the budget? Or will we take to the streets in protest when the rubber hits the road and actual cuts are proposed?

The fate of our economy literally hangs on the answers to these questions. The remedies needed to right the Ship of State are not easy or comfortable, but they are simple. The only alternative to decisive action today is to continue kicking the can of responsibility down the road, mortgaging the future of our grandchildren. We can, and should, do better. Such a shameful course is not worthy of a nation that has for centuries stood as a model of liberty, justice, and financial responsibility for the rest of the world.

To read another article by Ken Conner, click here.

Breaking Public Unions: Good!

Breaking Public Unions: Good!
By Kevin McCullough

When the delinquent state democrats who had illegally abandoned their duties as representatives of the good people of Wisconsin finally showed up for work, Gov. Scott Walker will have won a decisive victory against the public sector unions in his state.

But in reality he was fighting for all of us, even those far beyond the cheese curd borders. What the unions were doing to the education of the state of Wisconsin was derelict but what they were doing against the taxpayers of the nation was criminal.

The State of Wisconsin had been awarded hefty sums in the Obama stimulus package - over four billion ($4,000,000,000) in awards all totaled. Public school teachers and the public education system in general were awarded nearly half of that from various sources at the federal level. The Department of Education alone contributing more than 1,000,000,000 to the state.

When you drilled down a bit more we find that there were roughly 18 documented stimulus awards that were made to public education. In the fine print on merely one of the awards you discover in that award alone more than $717,000,000 were awarded for the express purpose of shoring up the salaries of teachers, administrators, teachers aides, and what we found about late this week was the past due amount owed to teachers' pensions and health benefits. These were the very same issues that Gov. Scott Walker had begged cooperation from the legislature on.

The theory goes that Walker's predecessor Gov. Jim Doyle a bought and paid for union supporter had been purposefully concealing the fact that he and other pro-union democrats had raided the education funds and the stimulus fix temporarily plastered over the gaping hole.

Until stimulus funds ran out of course.

Hence the situation that Gov. Scott Walker walked into was not only unsustainable, but the state found itself with a deficit of 3.6 billion dollars, after having received stimulus fund awards to the tune of a tad over 4 billion. Thusly the question that has not been asked is, "where did the nearly 8 billion dollars go that created this hole?"

Walker was forced with the reality that public sector unions were holding hostage, not just the taxpayers of Wisconsin, but of the nation, and decided that time would come to an end.

Unions in the private sector generally seek to regulate, punish, or hold accountable a private corporation for fair play. They were designed for the protections of the workers in the private sector specifically so that greedy businessmen could not escape ethical realities for their staff.

Unions in the public arena, are not needed for several reasons. One the employer they rage against isn't some big "evil" corporation, but their fellow neighbors. And in the economy we've had under Obama, for the duration of Obama, and to the specific plan of Obama has only reinforced how tough the average tax-payer has it these days.

So when we hear that our taxes are paying for benefits and the ability to leverage favor that goes far beyond the ability of the average American, we may get miffed. But when we hear that our taxes are paying for those benefits, plus giving millions to billions of additional funds to simply "shore up" the bad accounting of pro-union legislators who have had unchecked access to write additional checks on the backs of the taxpayers--and not be held accountable for them--the tax payer should be fuming.

In Wisconsin, as in most other states where the evidence of the failure of Obama's stimulus is so readily apparent, the mass hirings, 100% tax-payer subsidized health care benefits, and pension had to be undone, but more importantly the idea of public sector unions having the ability to bargain collectively (especially without any binding arbitration to the equation) had to be permanently put down.

In Wisconsin for Gov. Walker, like in New Jersey for Gov. Cristie the day of awakening happened early, but what we are gaining from watching these problems be resolved in legislative, orderly and legal steps is very telling.

Public sector unions should be flat out banned, especially with all the federal and state standards for state and federal workers that are already on the books.

As this begins to happen a massive correction is going to begin to take place in the public discussion, one that treats the tax-payer for what they are. And union leadership will begin to lose its chokehold on power in State houses all across America, and this is long overdue.

And if you think that 95% subsidized pension, and 88% subsidized health care is unreasonable, then I call your public doll bluff and challenge you to get a real job in the real world.

Those of us who already live here are confidant you will change your mind.

To read another article by Kevin McCullough, click here.

Pence and Planned Parenthood: Where It Goes From Here

Pence and Planned Parenthood: Where It Goes From Here
By Elisabeth Meinecke

The third time was the charm for Indiana Rep. Mike Pence’s legislation to defund Planned Parenthood, which passed the House this February and now goes to the Senate as part of a complicated continuing resolution discussion.

“We’ve had staff level contact with a number of members of the United States Senate,” said Pence when asked about any discussions he’s had with the other elected chamber on whether his amendment will remain in the Senate or conference version of the final legislation.

Pence said he knew when introducing that first piece of legislation to defund Planned Parenthood that it was going to be a long-term battle. Planned Parenthood has a campaign against the legislation, of course, and the group’s website labels it “the most dangerous legislative assault in our history,” which should be encouraging to the pro-life bloc. Pence said he’s also seen the organization’s full page ads in major newspapers.

But when it comes to battling the Ivan Drago of the abortion world – it is the largest abortion provider in America – Pence welcomes the organization’s responses, believing the debate is a good thing for Americans because it gives exposure to the issue. In fact, he said that apart from trying to get the legislation through in the Senate, the crucial step is educating voters.

“I think the more debate there is about whether the largest abortion provider in America should also be the largest recipient of federal funding under Title X, the better,” Pence said. “I’m always struck by how few Americans know that Planned Parenthood receives hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars.”

Pence also had to publish an article back in Indiana to dispel two misconceptions about his particular legislation: that it eliminated all funding for women’s health services under Title X, and that there would be no place for women to have these needs addressed if Planned Parenthood closes its doors.

First, Pence clarified that the bill does not cut any funding for women’s health services – it only prevents them from going to Planned Parenthood. He then lists over ten other organizations in Indiana and nationwide that provide clinics that attend to women’s needs.

And though he’s as pro-life as his maker, Pence pointed out that this particular discussion is more about who pays for the abortion rather than the procedure itself.

“I’ll continue to stand for the sanctity of life, and I’ll continue to stand for the principle that it’s morally wrong to take the taxpayer dollars of millions of pro-life Americans and use it to support organizations that promote and provide abortion,” Pence said. “Thomas Jefferson reflected that the most important objective of government is to protect human life.”

The Teachers' Unions are on the Ropes

The Teachers' Unions are on the Ropes
By Lee Habeeb

They were marching in Madison. And they’ll be on a street in a state capitol near you in the coming weeks and months. The teachers’ unions are on the ropes, and they know it. They know that public opinion has shifted, and the public mood has shifted with it. And they know why.

The people now know all about the racket the teachers’ unions and other public employee unions have been running for the past twenty years. The public now knows that it is a bad idea to have union representatives and the politicians they elect sitting at a table negotiating pensions and health care benefits. Because there is no one at that table representing them. There is no one representing the taxpayer.

All of this started in New Jersey, of all places. Millions of residents started watching Governor Chris Christie challenge the teachers’ union on YouTube last year. Christie was armed with facts, figures and arguments the mainstream media never saw fit to report, and the union bosses he challenged had no real answers.

It was real news to the residents of New Jersey, how the teachers’ unions had rigged the system. Because for decades, the story went untold by the Newark Star Ledger and Bergen Record, the state’s two largest dailies. The editors either didn’t think the corrupt collective bargaining process was an issue worthy of a series, or didn’t have a problem with the process. I suspect that many of the editors liked being for what their ideological opponents were against. Because both of those papers are liberal by any objective standard, and those that challenged the teachers’ unions tended to be Republicans.

In the past, politicians who dared to challenge union power were portrayed by the unions and their supporters as the bad guys. As being against the children. As being against education. And the future.

Those days are over.

It ain’t easy being a Middle East dictator these days. Or a union boss. Or a newspaper editor or TV news producer.

But there is much more at stake than collective bargaining in this fight. The teachers unions themselves are on the ropes, as more Americans start to ask hard questions about how we spend our money educating our children. As we start to ask hard questions about tenure, about the hiring and firing of teachers, about merit pay, about charter schools, and about online learning.

The teachers’ unions are scurrying to protect their power, and are engaging in defensive maneuvers to protect their power. Because that has been the reality of public education for the last 30 years – the unions have been calling the shots on public education, while “We the People” paid the bills.

A New York Times headline on Thursday is Exhibit A of just how scared the unions are: “Leader of Teachers’ Union Urges Dismissal Overhaul.” Here is how that story began:

Responding to criticism that tenure gives even poor teachers a job for life, Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, announced a plan Thursday to overhaul how teachers are evaluated and dismissed. It would give tenured teachers who are rated unsatisfactory by their principals a maximum of one school year to improve. If they did not, they could be fired within 100 days.

You heard it right. The union boss admitted that tenure is a bad idea. That giving a person a lifetime job after only 3 years of work is a really, really bad idea. But this admission is 30 years too late. The unions want to continue to control the education system, but they will lose this battle. Because it doesn’t make any sense to have the tecahers’unions in control of hiring and firing teachers. Any more than it makes sense to have inmates running parole hearings.

In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal last year, Joel Klein, New York City’s Superintendent of Schools for the past 8 years, wrote an editorial that eviscerated the unions. After chronicling some of the innovations he spearheaded, he wrote this about entrenched union power.

“Changing the system wasn't easy. The people with the loudest and best-funded voices are committed to maintaining a status quo that protects their needs even if it doesn't work for children. They want to keep their jobs by preserving a guaranteed customer base (a fixed number of students), regardless of performance. We have to rid the system of this self-serving approach.”

The teachers’ unions are on the ropes. Thanks to a nearly three decade rule over how we run our schools, and how we choose and reward our nation’s teachers, their power is being successfully challenged by politicians who have the truth on their side. And the interests of the tax payers. And the children.

Sadly for the union bosses, there is not much they can do about it.

Obama to governors: Stop vilifying public employees!

Obama to governors: Stop vilifying public employees!
posted at 12:55 pm on February 28, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

Barack Obama addressed the nation’s governors today with sympathy over budgetary crises, but a warning not to solve their shortfalls by infringing on the rights of public employees. He also scolded governors for vilifying and denigrating PEUs, which raises the question of whether Obama has bothered to look at the protests in Wisconsin and elsewhere. Besides, the governors in question are mainly fighting to limit collective bargaining rights to a standard that the federal government prohibits for its own employees. RCP has the video:

Kimberly Strassel pre-emptively explained the hypocrisy in her column Friday at the Wall Street Journal:

It will no doubt surprise you to learn that President Obama, the great patron of the working man, also happens to be the great CEO of one of the least union-friendly shop floors in the nation.

This is, after all, the president who has berated Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to limit the collective bargaining rights of public employees, calling the very idea an “assault on unions.” This is also the president who has sicced his political arm, Organizing for America, on Madison, allowing the group to fill buses and plan rallies. Ah, but it’s easy to throw rocks when you live in a stone (White) house.

Fact: President Obama is the boss of a civil work force that numbers up to two million (excluding postal workers and uniformed military). Fact: Those federal workers cannot bargain for wages or benefits. Fact: Washington, D.C. is, in the purest sense, a “right to work zone.” Federal employees are not compelled to join a union, nor to pay union dues. Fact: Neither Mr. Obama, nor the prior Democratic majority, ever acted to give their union chums a better federal deal.

Scott Walker, eat your heart out.

For this enormous flexibility in managing his work force, Mr. Obama can thank his own party. In 1978, Democratic President Jimmy Carter, backed by a Democratic Congress, passed the Civil Service Reform Act. Washington had already established its General Schedule (GS) classification and pay system for workers. The 1978 bill went further, focused as it was on worker accountability and performance. It severely proscribed the issues over which employees could bargain, as well as prohibited compulsory union support.

Democrats weren’t then (and aren’t now) about to let their federal employees dictate pay. The GS system, as well as the president and Congress, sees to that. Nor were they about to let workers touch health-care or retirement plans. Unions are instead limited to bargaining over personnel employment practices such as whether employees are allowed to wear beards, or whether the government must pay to clean uniforms. These demands matter, though they are hardly the sort to break the federal bank.
Perhaps Walker should start arguing that he wants to give public-sector workers greater protection than federal workers. Let’s see how the media covers that.

Just as a reminder, let’s recall exactly who has been vilifying whom in this debate:

Looks like another case of projection.

Have You Noticed That "Big Government" Is Failing Everywhere?

Have You Noticed That "Big Government" Is Failing Everywhere?
By Austin Hill

“Big government” is failing around the globe.

From Sacramento to Saudi Arabia , big, controlling, impersonal and coercive government is failing to fulfill the most basic human needs of the people it is purports to serve. And while scores of individuals around the world struggle to free themselves of “big government’s” shackles - some in the Middle East even losing their lives in the process - many of my fellow Americans have been gathering publicly and chanting and banging drums and carrying banners and demanding more of it.

It’s quite a spectacle to watch. And depending on whether the demonstration is in Columbus , or Cairo , the demands of the demonstrators can be different. But at the epicenter of their commotion is a common thread – the universal needs of all human beings, and the promises, and failures, of “big government.”

I put quotation marks around the words “big government” because, technically, the term doesn’t apply so well in certain parts of the world. It makes sense for us in the United States - we rightly juxtapose the term “big government” with “limited government,” or “small government.” That’s because in America we have a voice in how our government is structured, and over the course of our nation’s history the pendulum has swung in both directions between a limited government that controls less of our private affairs, and a “big government” that controls more.

But in Libya there hasn’t been a pendulum to swing between “big government” and “limited government.” There has simply been government - Muammar Gaddafi and his band of thugs who do the “ruling,” and the citizenry are “the ruled.”

Oh sure, there has been one of the “chambers” of Libya ’s legislative body where members are supposedly “elected” from among the governed. But there is no reason to believe that Libyan elections have been held freely and accurately, and no reason to believe that those who get “elected” can defy or contradict the demands of Mr. Gaddafi (frequently spelled “Kadafi”), a man who acquired his position by means of a political coup.

The phoniness of “elections” in Libya is as bad as the 2009 re-election of Ahmadinejad in Iran . And the elections of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez in 1999, and former Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak in 1981 bare significant resemblance as well – both characters were “elected,” yes, but then substantively changed the laws of their governments so they could hang on to power indefinitely.

But look at all that is, and is not going on in these nations. Mubarak has been removed after nearly thirty years. Kadafi is on the run (if, indeed, he is still alive). Chavez can’t seize enough radio and tv stations and kill enough of his countrymen in the streets of Caracas to quell the discontent over his failed socialistic economy. Even King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia can’t silence the youth-led uprising in his country, and has chosen to extend some $35 billion worth of “hand outs” as a short-term “fix.”

So what are we to make of this? For one, the turmoil of these countries demonstrates that the natural state of the human soul is a state of freedom. People are not content to merely “vote” every once in a while. They want a say in how they are governed, yes, but they also want the freedom to engage their god-given talents, and to improve their lives. They may acquiesce and be passive in the face of dictators and “put up with it” for a while, and may even for a time believe the claims of rulers who promise peace and provision. But younger generations in Venezuela , Saudi Arabia , Iran , Egypt and Libya have always known the failures of “big government,” and they’re willing to take enormous risks – in some cases even risking their very lives – to pursue freedom.

Secondly, we should note that when the force of government is utilized to concentrate wealth in the hands of a few, the few will stop at nothing to hang-on. Venezuela and Libya and Saudi Arabia have been good for Chavez and Kadafi and King Abdullah (yet not so good for everybody else). Similarly, the incestuous relationship between American politicians and government employee unions is good for the politicians and the union members – politicians give union members what they want and union members vote to re-elect their union-loving politicians – but it’s bad for the taxpayer who ultimately pays the bill.

Ultimately, “big government” produces sluggish and un-productive economies. And the lack of economic productivity leads to civil unrest. It’s a vicious cycle that has got the world in a tailspin right now.

“Big government” is failing, around the globe and here at home. Will America make a better choice going forward?

To read anothr article by Austin Hill, click here.

Bargained into a collective corner

Bargained into a collective corner
By Paul Jacob

It’s not just Wisconsin. Or California. (Or Ohio. Or Illinois.)

State and local governments around the country are running out of money, have run out of money. Cuts are necessary, since raising taxes during an economic downturn is something akin to suicide. The natural place to look for cuts is bloat, where states have overspent.

And where is that, besides “everywhere”?

Well, spending bulged in the public employee payrolls. Not only do public employees tend to receive higher wages than comparable workers in the private sector, their benefit packages (lavish pensions, early retirement, lifetime medical care) have ballooned past rationality and appear, now, as unpayable.

Shock of shocks: Politicians promised more than taxpayers could deliver.

While others debate the magnitude of the problem, and how to fix it, perhaps it’s worth the trouble to explain why it happened.

And for that, two concepts should help: “Bilateral monopoly” and “the principal-agent problem.”

Bilateral Monopoly
When politicians and unions negotiate wages, both sides are monopolies of sorts. And the problem with this situation, called ‘bilateral monopoly’ by economists, is that there is no obvious natural or equilibrium price for the services.

What do you pay workers?

Under competition — the rivalry for contracts, sales — bidders and askers in the market negotiate around until they settle on a stable price. When we say “fair market price,” we just mean the price that something (or some laborer at some task) would actually fetch on the market, in the context of competition.

But there’s a whole range of prices possible when only two people are trading. The price could run up to as high as the buyer is willing to pay, and fall as low as the seller is willing to sell. That can be quite a range.

The “public education sector is an an example of a bilateral monopoly market,” says the Economy Professor website, because “a government official negotiates with the representative of the teachers’ union.”

You can see, then, how this applies to the recent trouble in Wisconsin. The public school systems consitute a near-monopoly, crowding out competition by offering “free” services. The government itself is a kind of monopoly, claiming sovereignty in a territory. In the case of it buying certain types of labor — such as school teachers and administrators — it’s a monopsony, actually: single buyer. The union(s), on the other hand, have cartelized the selling of teachers’ labor: single seller. Combine the two, and you have bilateral monopoly.

And a very skewed bargaining situation. Open for abuse.

Principals vs. Agents
One tactic unions take — indeed, a tactic many state contractors take — is to contribute lavishly to politicians’ re-election campaigns. That is, they bribe politicians to pay them as much of other people’s money as politicians can possibly get away with.

Or the unions threaten, subtly and not so subtly. In Wisconsin, whose public employees rank seventh lowest in the nation as a percentage of employed adults, they still make up one in every seven workers — and likely voters. If a politician angers them and union members vote against said politician as a block, reelection requires winning 60 percent of every non-public employee voting.

That is the sort of math politicians can do.

So, with an employer that tends to ignore market prices (many of their services have no competition anyway, so what to pay?), and a labor market cartelized into monopoly by unions, taxpayers cannot help but lose out.

The problem goes beyond bilateral monopoly. It’s also a “principal-agent” problem. Taxpayers are the principals, but their agents, the politicians, can’t be trusted. (Perhaps Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is an exception that proves the rule?)

And taxpayers find themselves paying and paying, often for “services” of value to smaller and smaller groups. But one group remains always valuing the “services” the politicians set up: well-paid government employees.

As It Plays Out
How far can these factors push compensation rates up?

It used to be that public employees received lower wages than private sector workers, with public employees compensated by an easier workload and a degree of job security almost unknown in the private sector.

Over time, extra “benefits” were added. As unions took over the negotiation processes for government workers, wage rates increased, too. Today, private sector employees receive lower wages than their government worker counterparts, and far less in “extra benefits,” such as medical insurance and pension plans.

Union representatives and advocates often dispute this compensation disparity, but there remains one obvious way to measure government worker overpayment, as Daniel J. Mitchell concisely explains: Private sector employees are more than three times as likely to quit their jobs. Public employees, deep down, know how cushy they have it.

It is now commonplace for public sector employees to retire at 50 or younger, and to see them re-enter the government employee ranks and “double-dip.” Teachers in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, receive an average annual salary of $56,500 (far higher than the average private sector wage in the city) and an average annual total compensation package topping $100,000. (Wonder now, why the governor wants to strip public employees of union negotiation for non-salary benefits?)

The farthest end of this madness can be seen as union greed trumps even a desire to keep the governments that write their checks solvent. Thus the brinksmanship of the current Wisconsin revolt.

The Ultimate Context
If you view the state as a living trust for the taxpaying citizen, union reps and members may appear as greedy, crazed madmen.

But we mustn’t forget what states actually do. By regularly hiring too many people and engaging in too many things, government places nearly everybody out of the realm of responsibility. Lacking feedback as nifty as the private sector’s bottom line, there’s no saying that each one of us, in an “unlimited government” context, wouldn’t throw restraint to the wind and appear as madmen.

So, if you want an additional reason for limited government, here it is: Responsibility doesn’t stick when the connections between principals and agents becomes too attenuated; lacking feedback from the rigors of competition, people become crazed.

Evidence for this can be found in Wisconsin, California, and many other states of the (financially unsteady) union.

The full lesson is not merely that unions can’t be trusted with politicians, or politicians can’t be trusted with unions.

None of us can be trusted without limits. First and foremost, we need citizen-imposed limits on government.

Our right to a reasonable and responsible and affordable government trumps the right of our government employees to “collectively bargain” in the back room with our politicians.

To read another article by Paul Jacobs, click here.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A word about my 'What On Earth' and 'Stories' blogs

A word about my 'What On Earth' and 'Stories' blogs

My political-religious blog "What On Earth" has been in existence since August 2007. It has been a fast paced blog that moves quickly and articles that I believed were important became buried quickly. I have sought out a remedy for this and what I came up with was another blog which works in tandem with WOE where I could put the more important articles on a much slower paced blog - where they wouldn't get buried so fast and would maybe actually be read by more people. So that is what my "Stories" blog is for - the slower paced blog. I reposted several articles that were buried on the WOE blog on this Stories blog. Recently I decided to post LP (long player) threads on the Stories blog. These are threads with a theme containing many articles that follow this theme. Basically it's so you can read various opinions from differing angles on the same subject easier, whereas on the WOE blog you would have to hunt around and dig more within the blog to accomplish the same thing. Today I decided to provide links in the contents (lower-right-side) for these LP threads on each of these blogs. I believe they are informative to read - if you are reading this you should check them out sometime. Again these links are on the lower-right-side toward the bottom under LP (long Player)links.

As I've mentioned before in my introduction these blogs come from a Conservative-Republican viewpoint and is unapologetically biased in this direction. If you want the opposite viewpoint - check out our mainstream media. They are everywhere and have influence on many. They also rarely deviate from their narrow narratives. I recommend checking things out from both sides and seeing how they stack up against each other. I just don't want to waste much space on liberal-progressive-democrat bullshit on these blogs.

Thank's for reading!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Budget of Outlandish Foolishness

A Budget of Outlandish Foolishness
By Andrew B. Wilson on 2.25.11 @ 6:09AM

"Annual income, twenty pounds; annual expenditures, nineteen six, result -- happiness. Annual income, twenty pounds; annual expenditures, twenty pounds ought six, result -- misery."
-- Micawber in David Copperfield

If you are not in the happy position of earning at least slightly more than you spend, what portion of your household budget comes from borrowing, or selling the family silver? Is it the seemingly modest 3% that spelt M-I-S-E-R-Y for Charles Dickens' character, who wound up in debtors' prison. Or is it even worse than that? Say, a mind-boggling 43%?

In percentage terms, that is the expected shortfall between U.S. government receipts and expenditures in the 2011 federal budget.

According to revised numbers released last week, the Obama administration expects its annual income (or revenues) for fiscal 2011 to come in at $2.173 trillion, versus annual expenditures of $3.818 trillion. That leaves a deficit of $1.645 trillion. As a result, our government will have to borrow (or find other ways to paper over) 43 cents out of every dollar that it intends to spend.

The Obama administration has more than tripled the national deficit since the last full year of the Bush administration. In doing so, it has achieved a remarkable feat. It has made the gap between federal receipts and outlays even wider than it was at the height of World War II.

U.S. spending during the war increased by a factor of eight -- rising from $8.5 billion in 1940 to $70.6 billion in 1945. The huge increase in federal expenditures was necessary for many reasons. Among other things, it supported the 12 million men and women serving in the U.S. armed forces at the peak. It also supported a hundredfold increase in annual production of military airplanes (on the way to annual production of more than 96,000 fighters, bombers and transport aircraft in 1944).

To raise additional revenues during the war, the government came up with the ingenious device of a withholding tax on payroll checks. Federal tax receipts increased from $8.2 billion in 1940 to $41.5 billion in 1945 -- a fivefold increase. That left an annual deficit in 1945 of $29.1 billion, or 41%, on total expenditures of $70.6 billion.

Thus, during the greatest war in human history, the United States -- as the "arsenal of democracy," supplying not just its own forces, but those of Britain and Russia -- had a budget deficit that was two percentage points below the gap that now looms for fiscal 2011.

When a nation is at war against a deadly enemy, most people accept the need for government to demand sacrifices on the part of citizens (through conscription, rationing, price controls, central direction of investment and production, and greatly increased taxation and public spending). As F. A. Hayek wrote in The Road to Serfdom:

The only exception to the rule that a free society must not be subjected to a single purpose is war and other temporary disasters when subordination of almost everything to the immediate and pressing need is the price at which we preserve our freedom in the long run.

Do the Obama budget excesses live up to Hayek's test of being necessary to long-term national survival? To the contrary, they imperil our future economic well-being.

Federal spending will reach an estimated 25.3% of GDP in fiscal 2011, up almost five percentage points since 2008.

To what end? Far from "kick-starting" the economy, the government's heavy reliance on deficit spending has only served to expand an already bloated public sector and to constrict the private sector. This is indeed the road to serfdom.