Thursday, February 2, 2012

Quick Hits - February 2, 2012

It's Groundhog Day - in Pennsylvania, Phil saw his shadow so 6 more weeks of winter.  However, in Canada, their resident groundhogs failed to see their shadows, so it's an early end to winter in the Great White North...

In a new version of President's Day, Barack Obama will step outside of the White House and if he sees his shadow there will be one more year of trillion dollar deficits...

The breaking news this morning is that Donald Trump, at his 12:30pm Pacific time press conference, will be announcing his endorsement of Mitt Romney for President.   When the buzz started about an endorsement from The Donald, the first thought by many was that one ego would be endorsing the other ego - Newt Gingrich for the GOP nomination.

The endorsement of Romney would come after serious lobbying from some supporters of the frontrunner, according to several sources.
It would also make more sense, since Trump typically tends to like to go with a winner.
What this means is open to speculation.  Trump renounced being a member of the Republican Party last fall - switching to being an Independent while stoking up buzz of a potential third party run for President.  At the least, I would suspect that this will primarily make Newt just a little angrier which means that we can expect him to insert a foot in his mouth just as Mitt Romney did yesterday with his terribly phrased and framed answer to a question from CNN's Soledad O'Brien.

In the Nevada caucus being held on Saturday, polls are showing that Romney has a 20 point lead over Newt Gingrich.

In yesterday's QH, one of the topics touched on was the President's fundraising - and a link / commentary that the President was having some challenges with raising funds to use to buy votes.  Bill Whittle in this video, brings our focus to the Real Vote Buying Scandal that exists....

Staying within the subject of using money to buy votes, California's lobbyists spent a record $285 million dollars lobbying and influencing State elected officials and government workers.  The two largest contributors of lobbyist funds to Sacramento, the California Teachers Union and the California State Council of Service Employees - representing the SEIU public sector union members.  These groups accounted for nearly $12 million.

Yesterday, Indiana became the first 'rust-belt' state to enact a right to work labor law prohibiting labor contracts that require workers to pay union registration fees.  Governor Mitch Daniels signed the bill Wednesday afternoon - just hours after the State Senate approved the measure by a 28-22 vote.
"Seven years of evidence and experience ultimately demonstrated that Indiana did need a right-to-work law to capture jobs for which, despite our highly rated business climate, we are not currently being considered," Daniels said in a statement.
Today, only about 7% of the total private sector workforce is unionized.  Unions are seeing dropping membership in the public sector.  Dropping membership also means lower revenues to the unions from the dues of the membership. By enacting 'right to work' and not requiring union membership, unions are going to see substantially reduced revenues - and will be held more accountable by their membership.  The unions opposing this bill prefer to direct their focus on the claims that this legislation will lead to lower wages and poorer quality jobs for workers.

Advocates of right to work say that not only are unions open to be held accountable by their membership - to offer real value worth the price of the dues, but by not mandating union membership, economic and job growth is promoted.

The Heritage Foundation notes that more states are looking into right to work laws...
The union movement strongly opposes right-to-work laws. It has self-interested motives in doing so: Union membership fell 15 percent after Idaho and Oklahoma passed right-to-work laws.
Most of the union-represented workers who choose not to pay dues when given the option are those who do not benefit from union contracts. Disproportionate numbers of highly educated workers, for example, choose not to pay dues—the very workers held back by union seniority systems. Without the threat of losing their jobs, the union movement will not persuade these workers to pay dues.
One of the challenges that unions inject in the workplace are their efforts to protect employees by making it incredibly difficult for government entities to dismiss incompetent or negligent employees who members of a public sector union.  The 'rubber rooms' of the NYC Board of Education or the challenges to dismiss teachers from the LA Unified School District are well known - even in the case of criminal offenses being committed.  The Sacramento Bee takes a look at the question, 'How hard is it to fire a state worker?'
Here's a simplified explanation of how the state's disciplinary system works:

1. The employee receives a written Notice of Adverse Action, up to and including termination, at least five business days before it takes effect.

2. The employee can ask for a meeting with the employer to resolve the matter before discipline takes effect.

3. If there's no resolution, the employee can appeal to the State Personnel Board within 30 days of the adverse action's effective date.

4. The two sides meet with an SPB administrative law judge, usually within 90 days of the filing date of the appeal. They can discuss the case and the appropriate level of discipline. Wiles and Caltrans settled at this stage. Most cases do.

5. If there's no settlement, a public hearing is scheduled before an SPB judge who hears testimony, takes evidence and then writes a proposed decision that goes to the five-member board.

6. The board agrees with judges' proposed decision most of the time, but they can reject it, modify it or hear the case themselves. The board normally issues a decision within 90 days after the hearing.

7. Either side can ask for the board to reconsider its final decision.

8. Once the civil service process is exhausted, the board's decision can be appealed to civil court.
In the example used by the SacBee, the department trying to dismiss the employee decided that it was easier and less expensive to let the employee retire than to spend $100K plus to go through this process to make the termination with cause stick. 

While it is possible that right to work will result in abuses and unjustified terminations, there still is recourse for the employee - and a battery of anti-discrimination laws on the books to protect the employees.  One has to wonder, with all the laws on the books to protect workers - is the only interest to the union what's best for them and to hell with the taxpayer / consumer / business owner?

One public sector employee who should be terminated with cause is the Attorney General of the United States, Eric Holder.  The AG is testifying before a House committee this morning on Operation Fast and Furious - the DoJ / ATF gun running operation that sent over 2,000 weapons from the US to Mexican Drug Cartels.

Congress has been investigating this program for nearly a year - and the Department of Justice under Holder has been active in obfuscating, stonewalling, and misleading Congress on the ownership of the program that directly contributed to hundreds of dead, including a US Border Patrol agent murdered by weapons provided by the ATF.  Notes the NY Post...
“Today’s Capitol Hill hearing on the ‘Fast and Furious’ mess promises drama that may well rival the 1954 Army-McCarthy hearings or gangland chieftain Frank Costello’s memorable 1951 testimony in front of Sen. Estes Kefauver’s hearings on organized crime. 
. . . By turns whiny, petulant and deceitful, Holder would rather accuse his critics of racism than substantively address the scandal. But with each ‘withdrawn’ letter, Friday-night document dump and sudden resignation, it becomes ever more clear that the man who facilitated the outrageous Marc Rich pardon for President Bill Clinton is incapable of shame.”

The DoJ has actively ignored Congressional subpoenas for information - slowly releasing to Congress only about 10% of the documents that are known to exist on the program.
"There's some things in there being hidden that you don't want us to see," said Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind. "We have every right under the Constitution to check on what you're doing .. so for you to deny us for anything like that is just dead wrong."

Burton said it's "baloney" for Justice Department officials to assert that such documents cannot be released.

Issa told Holder the committee will do what is necessary to obtain the information, "If you do not find a legitimate basis to deny us the material we've asked for."

Holder said earlier during testimony that he would release additional materials "to the extent that I can."
Adding to AG Holder's challenges, the family of Brian Terry, the US Border Patrol agent murdered by drug cartel members using guns from Fast and Furious has filed a $25 million lawsuit against the ATF - the lead agency in Fast and Furious.

The Holder DoJ has been a challenge since his appointment as AG. As opposed to a focus on the law, the Holder DoJ is more focused on politics and the progressive agenda. From open politicization of decisions, to cover-ups and lying to Congress, to filing suit against states trying to enact their own laws to do what the DoJ and Federal Government will not do, the DoJ has been negligent in their responsibilities and duties. Now comes the latest example of DoJ corruption and malfeasance...
A U.S. Justice Department source has told The Daily Caller that at least two DOJ prosecutors accepted cash bribes from allegedly corrupt finance executives who were indicted under court seal within the past 13 months, but never arrested or prosecuted.

The sitting governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands, his attorney general and an unspecified number of Virgin Islands legislators also accepted bribes, the source said, adding that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is aware prosecutors and elected officials were bribed and otherwise compromised, but has not held anyone accountable.
A new sticking point has appeared in the efforts to get a final agreement on the bailout that Greece needs in order to avoid a March default...Greece's international debt inspectors have found that the debt-ridden country still needs an extra €15bn on top of a €130bn bailout and a €100bn debt relief from private investors.

This shouldn't be much of a surprise. Greece was already bailed out once, but the root problem wasn't really addressed, so Greece needs another bail out to prevent default and a likely messy exit from the Euro. Where will Greece get the additional funds it needs now? Not from the big daddy of the Eurozone...
Germany's finance minister, has said that his country's part in the stabilisation of Greece is "sufficient". Earlier today Greece's debt inspectors warned that the nation needs an extra €15bn - on top of the €130bn bail-out and €100bn debt write-off - in order to avoid bankruptcy.

It certainly doesn't sound like Germany are keen to put their hands deeper into their pocket...
In Egypt, at least 73 are dead as fans riot after a soccer match...

SecDef Leon Panetta has announced that the US seeks to end its Afghan combat mission in 2013.  This is a major decision that I'll comment more on in a dedicated post.

Big Hollywood notes that the egotistical hypocrite from Hollywood, director James Cameron, has announced that he's leaving the US indefinitely - moving to New Zealand..
Is anyone going to miss him? Director James Cameron is leaving the US indefinitely…moving to New Zealand… I would like to apologize to our Kiwi allies….Cameron is an elitist arrogant putz – we’re sorry he decided to inflict himself on your great country. As for Cameron, good riddance to yet another hypocrite from Hollywood. If only more would follow you…
Buh-Bye James.

On This Day in History

1848 - The Treaty of Guadaloupe Hidalgo is signed ending the Mexican-American War in favor of the United States.  This treaty added 525,000 square miles of territory to the United States - which would become Texas, California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and parts of Colorado and Wyoming.

1942 - Vidkun Quisling, a Norwegian Nazi collaborator, is established as Prime Minister of a puppet government under the Nazi's.  His name has become synonymous for being a traitor.

1943 - Field Marshall Freidrich von Paulus surrenders the remnants of the German 6th Army trapped within the Stalingrad pocket.  The Soviet victory at Stalingrad was the turning point of the brutal fight between Germany and the Soviet Union.  The 6th Army entered Stalingrad with nearly 300,000 men.  When the 6th Army surrendered, only 90,000 were still alive (35,000 had been evacuated), and of these who entered Soviet captivity, only 5,000 were repatriated to Germany - some a decade after the war ended.

1971 - Idi Amin takes power in Uganda.  He would rule in a brutal and violent dictatorship until 1979.  He received asylum in Saudi Arabia where he would live until his death in 2003.  During his 8 year reign, he ordered the murder of at least 300,000 Ugandans.

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