• ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, April 24

    Topics and articles chosen with care. Linked articles in bold purple

     French elections: For the first time in modern history, both main parties were defeated in first round; Centrist Emmanuel Macron faces right-wing nationalist Marine Le Pen in the May 7 final ballot.  

    This from France 24:

    French centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen have qualified for the second round in the French presidential election with 23.7 percent and 21.7 percent of the vote respectively.

    • Centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen have qualified for the second round of the French presidential election, according to early results.
    • French President François Hollande has called Macron to congratulate him.
    • Conservative leader François Fillon conceded defeat and called on supporters to vote Macron
    • Socialist Party candidate Benoît Hamon, who got just 6.2% of the vote, said he took full responsibility for the election drubbing. –France 24

    The Associated Press says:

    French voters shut out the country’s political mainstream from the presidency for the first time in the country’s modern history, and on Monday found themselves being courted across the spectrum for the runoff election.

    The May 7 runoff will be between the populist Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron, and French politicians on the moderate left and right immediately urged voters to block Le Pen’s path to power. . . .

    Both center-right and center-left fell in behind Macron, whose optimistic vision of a tolerant France and a united Europe with open borders is a stark contrast to Le Pen’s darker, inward-looking “French-first” platform that calls for closed borders, tougher security, less immigration and dropping the shared euro currency to return to the French franc.

    European stock markets surged on the open as investors welcomed the first-round results, with Macron favored to win. German Chancellor Angela Merkel wished Macron “all the best for the next two weeks.”–AP

    Big week coming in Washington: Looming deadline to avoid government shutdown, Trump promises to roll out tax-reform plan this week, and the negotiations on health care continue.  Fox News report here.

    The Hill reports that “Top Trump officials push border wall as government shutdown looms” Democrats say that is a deal-breaker for them.

    Comment: I don’t see a Republicans willing to risk a shutdown for it, either. At least a significant number in both the House and Senate will think it’s the wrong fight right now.

     Krauthammer on US leverage in the North Korea crisis  (National Review Online)

    His main arguments:

    • It is not a fake crisis.
      • He argues (as I did here last week) that North Korea is headed for a nuclear breakout that would be irreversible.
      • He fears that deterrence might not work because we cannot be sure the Kim Regime is rational.
    • The US has strong cards to play, short of war, by pressuring China. As Krauthammer puts it:
    • Chinese interests are being significantly damaged by the erection of regional missile defenses to counteract North Korea’s nukes. South Korea is racing to install a THAAD anti-missile system. Japan may follow. THAAD’s mission is to track and shoot down incoming rockets from North Korea but, like any missile shield, it necessarily reduces the power and penetration of the Chinese nuclear arsenal.
    • For China to do nothing risks the return of the American tactical nukes in South Korea, which were withdrawn in 1991.
    • If the crisis deepens, the possibility arises of South Korea and, most important, Japan going nuclear themselves. The latter is the ultimate Chinese nightmare. These are major cards America can play.

    Our objective should be clear: At a minimum, a testing freeze. At the maximum, regime change. –Charles Krauthammer at National Review Online

     Venezuela meltdown, on edge of civil war

    The NYT headline is “Armed Civilian Bands in Venezuela Prop Up Unpopular President

    Comment: The word “leftist” appears for the first time in paragraph 5. The word “socialist” first appears in paragraph 19, referring to Hugo Chávez “vision of a Socialist revolution to transform Venezuela’s poor neighborhoods.”

    No word yet from political analysts Sean Penn or Danny Glover.

     “Union chief asks public to withhold judgment on American Airlines flight attendant”  (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

    The attendant is

    accused of “violently” snatching away a baby stroller from a mother, inadvertently hitting her with the stroller and narrowly missing her small child on a Dallas-bound flight from San Francisco on Friday. –Fort Worth Star-Telegram

    Comment: “We know you have a choice of airlines to smash your head in. We’re glad you chose ours.” 

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, April 20

    Topics and articles chosen with care. Linked articles in bold purple

     Tillerson, Mattis turn up the heat on Iran. Says it is still sponsoring terrorism throughout the Middle East  (Washington Post)

    But they do not want to overturn the nuclear agreement. They see cheating at the margins but not full-frontal violations

    Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis slammed Iran as a destabilizing influence, particularly in Yemen, during a visit to Saudi Arabia. “Everywhere you look, if there’s trouble in the region, you find Iran,” Mattis told reporters.

    This week, the Trump administration said it will undertake a comprehensive, 90-day review to judge whether lifting sanctions on Iran serves U.S. interests. So expect to hear more about this topic in the coming months.

    In the meantime, amid all the criticism, here’s a development worth noting: Iran has met all of its commitments under the nuclear deal so far, the administration officially told Congress this week. –Washington Post

     The sheer fun of reading a slash-and-burn column. Not good as a steady diet, but, like cheese cake, great fun as an occasional treat.

    Here’s Howie Carr’s take-down of Elizabeth Warren and her new book. The succession of nicknames alone is worth the read, and so is his parody of what she claims is her favorite curse word: poop. Really. That, she claims, is a f*^king curse word. (My own is “drat.”)  Howie’s column is here. (Boston Herald)

    This is a rough week for Chief Spreading Bull to be starting her tour of the trustafarian gated communities and alt-left fake-news media that are her main, make that only, constituencies. The authors of the Hillary campaign post-mortem, “Shattered,” are also making the green-room rounds. Ditto Bernie Sanders and the DNC’s Dumb and Dumber — Tom Perez and Keith Ellison.

    That’s a lot of poop for the non-working classes to be wading through, but nevertheless, she will persist. . . .

    “Trump slammed back at me repeatedly,” she says on page 226, “hitting me over and over with his lame nicknames.”

    Like, what, Liewatha? What kind of poop did he hit you with? Was it something about your, ahem, Native American heritage? Why no mention of that anymore? She’s still demanding that the president release his taxes. Maybe he should agree to — right about the time she puts out her employment applications to the two Ivy League law schools that hired her as a
    “woman of color.” –Howie Carr

    Comment: Cowabonga.

     Scott Walker continues policies opposing mandatory unions, this time on state construction projects (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

    Contractors won’t have to work with unions on taxpayer-funded building projects and parents will have an easier time getting an anti-seizure drug derived from marijuana, under legislation Gov. Scott Walker signed Monday.

    The measure on labor agreements, which passed the Legislature on party-line votes, is the latest in a series of moves to roll back union power by Republican lawmakers in recent years. –Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

    Comment: Wisconsin rises, Indiana Rises, Illinois sinks, California Sinks. Notice a pattern? Local voters do.

    ◆ Terror and the Fresno Murders: A comment 

    Kori Ali Muhammad has admitted killing three people–he was caught in the act–and said he wanted to kill more “white people.”

    Police has said that, although he yelled “Allahu Akbar,” his crime was based solely on race, not Islamic terror.

    What he did IS terrorism, in the sense that he meant to cause terror and did.

    The question is whether it is connected to the broader movement of Islamic terror, included “inspired” lone-wolf actions.

    Right now, it is hard to know whether he yelled the Arabic phrase as

    • A signal of black nationalism (National of Islam style),
    • Pure hatred of America,
    • Support for global terrorism, or
    • Some other motive.

    Since he has already begun talking, he might say more about his motivations. We’ll gain other information, too, as police uncover his internet search history, personal and political affiliations, and more.

    As Fresno police and the FBI release their findings, we will gain a sense of how these murders are is connected to the larger Islamic terrorism issue, as well as Muhammad’s hatred of white people.

     Hillary campaign working to discover who leaked embarrassing info for new book, Shattered (NY Post’s Page Six)

    We’re told the details in the book, which depicts the campaign as inept, “could only have come from someone in the inner circle.” Dennis Cheng, the finance director of Clinton’s presidential campaign, has been sending out messages to determine where the leaks come from.

    One source said, “The knives are out to find the people who spoke about the campaign to the authors of this book. –NY Post

    Comment: In other news, the Adlai Stevenson campaign is doing a “top-to-bottom look at why we lost and what to do next.”

     

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Bryan Caisse 
    for the Howie Carr piece on Elizabeth Warren

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, February 28

    Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
    Linked articles in bold purple

     Man, that seemed like a short month

     NY Teamsters were promised excellent retirement benefits by the unions that handled the pension funds. Now, the pensions are running dry  (New York Daily News)

    [Tim] Chmil is one of roughly 4,000 retired Teamsters across New York State suffering a fate that could soon hit millions of working-class Americans — the loss of their union pensions.

    Teamsters Local 707’s pension fund is the first to officially bottom out financially — which happened this month.

    “I had a union job for 30 years,” Chmil said. “We had collectively bargained contracts that promised us a pension. I paid into it with every paycheck. Everyone told us, ‘Don’t worry, you have a union job, your pension is guaranteed.’ Well, so much for that.” –New York Daily News

    Comment: This is a tragic story. The only silver lining would be to learn from it. Workers’ retirement funds are their own in 401k plans so they cannot be lost like this. The downside is that workers (like me) have to invest their own money and never make as much as the “defined benefit” plans like those promised by the Teamster Local 707.

    But union leader will never, ever, never allow 401k plans if they can prevent them. Why? Because the unions themselves can determine who gets the heavy fees associated with their union funds. Because so much money is sloshing around, the chances for corruption are great. Those who control the pension money can direct it to their brother-in-law or to a friend who promises kickbacks. (Companies used to be able to do the same thing and often invested the money in those own company’s stock to raise the price. That is now illegal.) By contrast, 401k plans are normally very cheap to operate. Unions that control their own pension money can also determine which investments to fund. How do you think Las Vegas casinos were financed in the 1950s? 

    Among the few defined benefit plans still around are those of government employees. After all, the taxpayers have to pay them and, at the state level, cannot lessen the burden by bankruptcy.

    Well-governed states like Indiana have already converted all employees to 401k’s. Some states are unwilling to go that far but are at least putting all new public employees on 401k’s. And then there are Deep Blue states like Illinois, headed for a dumpster fire.

     “With Obamacare in jeopardy, California considers going it alone with ‘single-payer’ system”  (Los Angeles Times)

    The problem, in a nutshell, is that this program would be enormously expensive and California is already in financial trouble.

    In a single-payer system, residents would pay into a state agency that essentially functions as an insurance company. The agency would pay doctors and hospitals when people sought treatment.

    Single-payer has a long, troubled history in California. Bills made it through the Legislature in 2006 and 2008 only to be vetoed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

    But advocates say Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) increased support for single-payer by championing it on the national stage last year while vying to become the Democratic presidential nominee.

    New York state unveiled single-payer legislation earlier this month. Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) introduced a similar bill in Congress that would expand Medicare to cover all Americans.

    But a 2008 report from California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office found that even with a tax on Californians and the state’s pooled healthcare funds, the state would still be short more than $40 billion in the first full year of single-payer implementation.

    “Where were they going to come up with the $40 billion?” said Micah Weinberg, president of the Economic Institute at the Bay Area Council. “It’s just not feasible to do as a state.”

    Weinberg pointed out that a single-payer initiative was scrapped in a state as liberal and small as Vermont. A single-payer measure on Colorado’s November ballot also failed.

    Comment: The proponents are California Dreamin’ on a winter’s day.

     Tom Perez, new head of Democratic National Committee, must rebuild his party from the bottom up. Opinion writer James Downie says “Tom Perez’s biggest problem as DNC chair: His backers” (Washington Post)

    [The] reason for Perez’s entry and victory was simple: In defeating Ellison, the establishment wanted to rebuke the progressive wing and retain control of the party.

    Therein lies Perez’s — and the party’s — biggest problem. The Democratic Party needs the progressive wing’s energy and new ideas if it is to recover. . . . The fact is that the party establishment doesn’t want to admit its failings. –James Downie in the Washington Post

    Downie’s conclusion:

    Rescuing the Democrats from this deep hole requires grass-roots energy — energy that clearly is most prevalent in the more liberal wing of the party, as seen in the surprisingly successful campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Capturing it means working with outside groups and listening to new ideas, not doubling down on establishment control.–James Downie in the Washington Post

    Comment: Perez is whip-smart, well-educated, and skilled at insider politics.

    He has only a slim chance of winning the Senate. He has a better chance of winning back the House, though he will have to do so with Nancy Pelosi as the facelift of the Party.

    His biggest challenges:

    • Recovering some heft in state politics
    • Integrating the Sanders/Warren/socialist wing of the party without alienated more centrist voters. That would normally be impossible, but their shared opposition to Trump personally and to his agenda will help.

    The oddity here is that Perez is on the party’s far left wing. It’s just that he is not as far left as Bernie Sanders, who, after all, is a self-declared socialist and not a member of the Democratic Party. (He joined only for the presidential race and resigned after it ended.)

     Bomb threats against Jewish Community Centers, vandalism in Jewish cemeteries, and no arrests yet

    These threats are becoming regular events, as the Washington Post reports.

    It was the fifth round of bomb threats against Jewish institutions since January, prompting outrage and exasperation among Jewish leaders as well as calls for an aggressive federal response to put a stop to it. –Washington Post

    In addition to these bomb threats, Jewish cemeteries are being vandalized. Several hundred tombstones were pushed over in Philadelphia, on top of a similar attack last week in St. Louis.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Tom Elia
     for the NY union pension story
    ◆ Ron Hassner for list of Jewish Community Centers dealing with bomb threats

     

  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Thursday, February 16

    Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
    Linked articles in bold purple

     Trump’s Budget Chief finally Approved; Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) has been a Tea Party favorite  (Washington Post)

    Comment: His position is a hot seat and will be difficult for him to manage politically. The difficulty, fundamentally, is that Trump’s spending and tax-cutting plans and his refusal to tackle entitlements are very different from the Tea Party’s and the House Freedom Caucus. Mulvaney will not only have to reconcile those vast differences, he will have to convince some of his former colleagues in the House–or be read out of their church.

     Alexander Acosta, nominated as Labor Sec. He is an experienced lawyer, who served in several positions in GW Bush administration, including National Labor Relations Board, and is chairman of a Hispanic community bank in Florida (Fox)

    Comment: Presumably better vetted than Andrew Puzder, who withdrew his nomination, and should be a straightforward approval. That won’t stop Chuck Schumer and Senate Democrats from slow-walking it. Vetting is fine. Slow walking is just gamesmanship.

     US Sec. of State Rex Tillerson meets his Russian counterpart. So far, no real news about what has become an increasingly conflictual relationship (New York Times)

     US Sec. of Defense reassures NATO that it will not cozy up to Russia No closer military ties between US-Russia, Mattis says  (New York Times)

     Senate to grill Trump’s nominee for US Ambassador to Israel  (CNN)

    Comment: David Friedman has supported settlements so he is reviled by the left. The Democrats will focus on Trump’s “abandonment of the two-state solution.” But that’s misleading. What Trump really did was say, correctly, the parties themselves have to strike a mutually-acceptable deal. We (the US) won’t constrain that. Smart, as a negotiating tactic.

    Of course, there will be no agreement because

    • The Palestinians do not have stable governance
    • One of their territories is rules by corrupt terrorists, the other by dead-ender terrorists, part of a larger Muslim Brotherhood movement, bent on overthrowing regimes across the Arab-Muslim world; and
    • The Palestinian people have not even begun to discuss the nature of the compromises that would be essential in a peace treaty. The Israelis did discuss those issues and were ready for compromise during the Clinton Administration.

    They have now given up on that possibility and are reluctantly moving forward to preserve their security without much cooperation from the Palestinians.

     

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • Parents volunteer to help Chicago school kids; teacher’s union blocks them

    It breaks your heart.

    Chicago’s public schools are broke–and broken.

    Overburdened by excessive pension obligations (because city politicians deferred payments for so long), the city has asked the state for money.

    The state is broke, too, so the Chicago schools won’t get anything close to what they need.

    That leaves the schools with serious budget gaps. That, plus declining school enrollments, has led to some layoffs for teachers, administrators, and support personnel.

    Among those laid off: the new librarian at the Pritzker Elementary School, who replaced a long-serving librarian who retired.

    The loss of Pritzker’s librarian galvanized the parents, who want to support their children in a quality school.

    The parents did a wonderful thing: they pitched in and volunteered to staff the library in rotating shifts.

    That exactly the kind of civic engagement we need in cash-strapped cities.

    The Teacher’s Union Says Volunteer Librarians Will Hurt Their Members

    Teachers’ unions constantly say, “it’s all about the children.”

    It is not.

    It is all about the union’s members. That’s what unions do, just as corporations maximize profit.

    If the children’s interests overlap those of union members, that’s great because it builds political support.

    If not, tough luck for the kids.

    That’s what happened at Pritzker Elementary.

    “NO WAY we’re gonna let volunteers run this school library,” said the Chicago Teacher’s Union. (DNA Chicago)

    The Chicago Teachers Union filed a grievance against the school because the roster of 40 volunteers would be taking a union-based job, Pritzker Principal Joenile Albert-Reese confirmed Monday, one day after the conundrum made national headlines when Pritzker parent Michael Hendershot penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal about the issue.

    The WSJ op-ed is here.

    Why was the librarian laid off? Because the school’s pupil-count was a bit low, which meant the school received less city and state money than expected.

    The Union Does What Unions Do

    The Teacher’s Union does exactly what unions are designed to do. It fights for its members.

    That’s true even if their members’ interests are directly opposed to the best interests of children, their parents, and taxpayers.

    Parents and taxpayers are supposed to defend themselves, and in our political system, they have every opportunity to try.

    Because teachers unions are well-organized and powerful, however, because their members’ livelihoods are at stake, they have compelling reasons to mobilize politically. In city after city, in state after state, they have persuaded politicians to back their position, not that of disorganized parents and taxpayers.

    The results are predictable. In big cities with entrenched teachers unions, schools are designed around the main goal of adult employment, union employment. That showed up in stark relief at Pritzker Elementary.

    When you hear the teachers unions say “it’s all about the poor kids,” remember that 47% of Pritzker students are poor. (Data from the WSJ article.)

    When you hear the teachers unions say “it’s all about the minority kids,”remember that 47% of Pritzker students are minorities.

    When you hear nothing at all from the unions, remember they are thinking, “it’s all about us.”

    Again, that “me, first” approach does not make them different from other organizations, whether they are manufacturing unions or profit-making businesses.

    The question we as outsiders should ask is whether, in helping themselves, they are helping or hurting us.

    The Political Connection

    The nexus between unions and politicians shows up across the country, but it is particularly strong in deep blue cities, the last redoubt of unions.

    But even in blue cities, things are changing.

    The pushback against politically-connected teachers unions is growing because the financial costs have been so high, the educational results so mediocre.

    This pushback will soon gain a powerful ally in Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s newly-designated Secretary of Education.

    That is exactly why Senate Democrats will resist her confirmation with every bone in their body (excepting, of course, their backbone).

    For children who want a better education, that fight is one of the most important in the new Congress.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip to
    ◆ Joe Morris
     for highlighting this story

     

  • The Political Implications of Very Low Union Membership

    After decades of declining membership, only five unions have more than one million members today.

    Across the country, less than 15 million workers are now unionized.

    And about half of those are public employees. In fact, three of America’s six largest unions represent public employees. (Source: InfoPlease)

    These are stunning numbers, and they carry major political implications, as I discuss below.

     

    An analysis by the Economic Policy Institute, a progressive think tank, reports that

    as the share of private-sector workers in a union has fallen precipitously—from one in three in the 1950s to about one in 20 today –Economic Policy Institute 

    US Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers show that, in 2015

    Public-sector workers had a union membership rate (35.2 percent) more than five times higher than that of private-sector workers (6.7 percent). … In 2015, 7.2 million employees in the public sector belonged to a union, compared with 7.6 million workers in the private sector.–Bureau of Labor Statistics

    Political Implications of Low Union Membership: 

    The political weight of organized unions, even within the Democratic Party, is declining.

    That lessened clout is most apparent when unions and environmentalists clash within the Democratic Party. The unions want construction jobs and lower energy prices. Environmentalists don’t care about construction jobs and want higher energy prices to spur growth of renewable energy. Who wins? Just look at the symbolic Keystone Pipeline battle within the Democratic Party. Chablis beats Miller High Life in the “working man’s party.”

    Politicians have another reason, besides low union membership, to downplay the preferences of union leaders. They have figured out that union leaders’ political views often differ from those of their members. The unions uniformly backed Hillary Clinton; many of their members voted the other way.

     Since almost half of union members now work in government jobs, they have fought tenaciously against any cuts in public spending at the state and local level.

    Since two of the six largest unions represent public-school teachers, they have fought hard against school choice programs. You can expect them to wage a holy war against Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, a strong, experienced, and fearless advocate for school choice. (DeVos will still be confirmed unless some scandal is uncovered.)

    One of the five biggest unions represents food-service workers. You can bet they will pour everything into the fight against Andy Puzder, Trump’s nominee for Labor Secretary. Puzder ran fast-food chains and is a staunch foe of minimum wages.

    Puzzle about unions and trade protection: Not one of these big unions represents manufacturing workers, although the Teamsters obviously carry a lot of US-manufactured goods. In fact, all the members of these big unions (except for the Teamsters) have an overwhelming economic incentive to buy low-cost imported goods, not to pay higher costs to protect US companies and workers from foreign competition. Yet the unions have been strong and unified in their opposition to free trade. True, it is not their highest priority, but it is still a major policy issue for them–and they are not globalists. Perhaps the reason is “solidarity” with manufacturing workers in the US. Perhaps there are other reasons. I’d be interested in informed comment.

  • SEIU stages nation-wide protests for $15 minimum wage…hires lots of protesters…who then demand $15 hour. See if you can guess the SEIU response?

    SEIU is among the most militant unions, and no priority tops the $15 per hour minimum wage. That’s why they are hiring protesters to demand that hourly pay across America. (Apparently, you can’t get volunteers to do the Lord’s Work.)

    Well, it turns out that SEIU pays the market rate for protesters, which is less than $15 per hour. The protesters decide they need to unionize and demand….wait for it….$15 per hour.

    No can do, says SEIU.

    At a “Fight for 15” conference in Richmond, Virginia this month, the protest organizers showed up to demand to unionize themselves. According to the website In These Times, a woman from Las Vegas who works as a union organizer tried to deliver a letter asking the SEIU to confirm it employs them and will allow them to unionize. She was blocked by security.

    The SEIU responded that it “supports the ability of all workers” to unionize, “including organizers in the Fight for $15.” But the union also claims it doesn’t employ the workers because the organizers are directly employed by individual organizing committees in each city that has a Fight for $15 campaign.

    Wall Street Journal

    SEIU’s response wins today’s prestigious prize from ZipDialog: “The Irony is in the Fire” News Award.

    In accepting the award, SEIU’s bosses thanked the fine coal-mine owners of Ludlow, Colorado, who devised that response in December 1914.