Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Quick Hits - September 18, 2012

According to the Chicago Tribune, 'radical socialists' within the Chicago Teacher's Union are pushing for the union to reject the proposed settlement agreed to Sunday - preferring to remain out in order to achieve all of their demands as opposed to the compromise which they term a 'sellout' by the Union leadership.

The Chicago teachers walked out on strike last week over issues related to pay increases, teacher evaluations and accountability, a longer work day, and the re-hiring of 500 dismissed teachers.  On Sunday, a vote on the acceptance of the proposed agreement was delayed for 2 school days to 'permit' the teachers to fully evaluate and understand the settlement.

The teachers are mulling over a three year contract which provides them a 12% pay increase over the duration of the contract (original demand was for a 30% increase), the rehiring of 500 dismissed teachers, and that teacher's evaluations on their job performance would be 30% based on the standardized test scores of their students.  The union also agreed to the request that the teachers, who today work one of the shortest work days, work a longer day - amounting to about a 7 hour work day in addition to creating a framework where the worst performing teachers could be dismissed.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel attempted to use the courts to force the teachers back to work while the 'evaluation' continued - filing a motion with the Cook County Circuit Court yesterday morning.  The Chicago Teacher's union was angered by the action and increased their rhetoric against the actions of the City - but this step ultimately became immaterial as a judge declined the city's request for a same-day hearing for the injunction to force the teacher's back to work.  The hearing will be held on Wednesday, the same day the union is supposed to vote on accepting the proposals.

This is turning into an interesting battle, one that the union sees as one that they cannot lose.  They are negotiating with their strongest supporters, the progressive Democrats that run Chicago - and were elected largely on the dollars and support of public and private sector unions. The political leaders are in a challenging position.  Chicago is already projected to be running a $3 billion deficit for their school budget over the next three years.  Only 60% of the students of the Chicago Public School system graduate, well below the national average - and only a fraction of the system's 8th graders can read at an 8th grade level.  Apparently 40% of the teachers send their own children to schools other than Chicago's public schools - favoring either charter or private schools.

Will the Chicago Democrats continue to embrace fiscal irresponsibility and encourage / protect the ability of teachers in the union to avoid accountability for the quality and results of their efforts?  Or will they look 90 miles to the north and see what has happened in Wisconsin and take a stand against the union and for once actually put the children first?

I expect the Union is correct, the city will fold - but the real story will be if the radical socialists in the union ranks will be able to make this into a real war - with the teachers remaining out until they get 100% of their demands.  If that happens, it might be a pyrrhic victory for the union(s).

Violence and demonstrations are continuing against the United States throughout the Middle East and other countries.  The Administration continues to insist that the low budget movie, whose trailer was posted on You Tube in June, and raised the ire of Egyptian Salafists, is the only spark for the violence which has lasted a week.  However, evidence is growing that the Administration is lying / trying to deflect the issue - with now reports that the US State Department warned the Embassy in Cairo on the 10th of possible violence, and assertions (backed by other information and actions) by the Libyan President that the US was warned of possible violence against Western diplomats and facilities in Benghazi.

Several days ago, I noted that the leader of al-Qaeda, al-Zawahiri's younger brother was an active participant in the storming of the US Embassy in Cairo on the 11th.  I also noted that the size of the demonstration exceeded the number of views that the infamous movie trailer had gotten on You Tube since it was posted three months earlier.  A Fox News reporter asks the younger brother of the al-Qaeda leader, 'How can you call for a protest about a movie you haven't seen?'

His answer...
'It's the title."
The title is, by the way, 'The Innocence of Muslims'.

It's not the movie that is provoking this.  It's the weakness of the Obama Administration and the weakness of the policies it is enacting in the region.  But that isn't the only reason either.  The other main reason is that the islamofascists are at war with the West - they see a threat of our values towards their values and are waging 'jihad' against the 'infidel' to defeat us.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali has a very interesting commentary in Newsweek Magazine this week (also online at Daily Beast) which features as its cover story the Muslim rage that is taking place.  Ali offers a good perspective to this as she was a Muslim and is under death threat for speaking out against some of the practices of Islam that are embraced by the fundamentalists behind the rioting and violence....
But that was nothing compared with what happened when I made a short film with Theo van Gogh (titled Submission) that drew attention to the direct link between the Quran and the plight of Muslim women. In revenge for this act of free thinking, Mohammed Bouyeri, a 26-year-old Dutch-Moroccan man, murdered van Gogh—shooting him eight times and stabbing him with two knives, one of which pinned a note to his body threatening the West, Jews, and me. As he was dying, my friend Theo reportedly asked his assailant, “Can’t we talk about this?” It’s a question that has haunted me ever since, often in bed at night. One side proposing a conversation; the other side thrusting a blade.

Now I knew what it was like to be a combatant in the clash of civilizations.

... How often have I endured bizarre conversations with government officials who cling to the illusion that the threat is temporary or that it can be negotiated. And then there are the even more delusional positions staked out by some prominent intellectuals who blame the writer, the politician, the filmmaker, or the cartoonist for provoking the threat. In the days after van Gogh was murdered, too many prominent Dutch individuals expressed precisely this position, declaring smugly, “Yes, of course killing is wrong, but Theo was a provocateur ...” Will they never cease looking for ever more ingenious ways of apologizing for free speech?

As the latest wave of indignation sweeps across the Muslim world, we should not be despondent. Yes, this is a setback for the Arab Spring. Yes, it is bloody, dangerous, and chaotic on the streets. Yes, innocent people are dying and their governments are powerless. But this too shall pass.

Utopian ideologies have a short lifespan. Some are bloodier than others. As long as Islamists were able to market their philosophy as the only alternative to dictatorship and foreign meddling, they were attractive to an oppressed polity. But with their election to office they will be subjected to the test of government. It is clear, as we saw in Iran in 2009 and elsewhere, that if the philosophy of the Islamists is fully and forcefully implemented, those who elected them will end up disillusioned. The governments will begin to fail as soon as they set about implementing their philosophy: strip women of their rights; murder homosexuals; constrain the freedoms of conscience and religion of non-Muslims; hunt down dissidents; persecute religious minorities; pick fights with foreign powers, even powers, such as the U.S., that offered them friendship. The Islamists will curtail the freedoms of those who elected them and fail to improve their economic conditions.

After the disillusion and bitterness will come a painful lesson: that it is foolish to derive laws for human affairs from gods and prophets.
This is a read it all article.

Islam is a religion that is not only at war with us, but with itself.  The problem is that the moderates are not speaking out.  It is a religion that is need of it's own reformation - not unlike the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century in Christianity.

Can those Muslims who see the need for reformation, make the not only the case and argument for reformation, but have the courage to stand up to the violence that will be directed their way by the fundamentalists?  One of the legacies of the Protestant Reformation was the Thirty Years War which devastated Germany - killing between 25% and 40% of the population of the German states.  Can Islam be reformed without this bloodshed - or is the bloodshed inevitable unless we decide to surrender or submit to the demands of the islamofascists?

Will eventually the rights and interests of the people move beyond their faith / religion and see that they and Islam need to move beyond a 7th century mindset?  Can they enact change, reform, and modernization?  Or will this only come from the same way that Nazism as an ideology was ultimately defeated?

Before these questions are answered, we have to stop make apologies for our values, for our beliefs, and stop trying to negotiate with those who will not negotiate.

Lost in this, are growing anti-Japanese demonstrations throughout China, some of which have resulted in Japanese company facilities in China shutting down.  This violence is being fueled by Chinese propaganda and insistence that Japan is infringing on Chinese sovereign territory - a number of islands in the China Sea that have been owned by Japan for decades, but now coveted by the Chinese for the mineral rights in the waters around those islands.  Many of the demonstrators are calling on the Chinese government to go to war with Japan over these 'insults' and 'provocations'.

On the tech front, US software giant Microsoft is warning consumers that malware, viruses, trojans, and spyware, are being installed on computers in factories in China....
Microsoft researchers in China investigating the sale of counterfeit software found malware pre-installed on four of 20 brand new desktop and laptop PCs they bought for testing. They found forged versions of Windows on all the machines.

The worst piece of malicious software they found is called Nitol, an aggressive virus found on computers in China, the US, Russia, Australia and Germany. Microsoft has even identified servers in the Cayman Islands controlling Nitol-infected machines.

All these affected computers become part of a botnet – a collection of compromised computers – one of the most invasive and persistent forms of cybercrime.

The findings were revealed in court documents unsealed on Thursday in a federal court in Virginia. The records describe a new front in a legal campaign against cybercrime being waged by the maker of the Windows operating system, which is the biggest target for viruses.

The documents are part of a computer fraud lawsuit filed by Microsoft against a web domain registered to a Chinese businessman named Peng Yong.

The company says it is a major hub for illicit Internet activity. The domain is home base for Nitol and more than 500 other types of malware, making it the largest single repository of infected software that Microsoft officials have ever encountered.

What is the difference between the National Football League and the Mainstream Media?

The NFL will pull a referee from refereeing a game that involves a team that the referee is 'openly rooting' for.

True story - the NFL has replaced one of its replacement referees for a game involving the New Orleans Saints when it became known from the Facebook page of the referee that he is a huge fan of the Saints.

It would be a novel concept for the mainstream media to adopt.

Newspaper advertising revenues are collapsing as readers are moving from print / newspapers - which is matching the fall that is taking place regarding broadcast network news as viewers also move from these programs.

Some media nitwits put the blame on this on the rise of the Internet and cable TV - while others point to the changing times and priorities of people who just aren't that interested in the news at the same level as they were a quarter or half century ago.

The reality is that people don't have the time or money to waste on something that does not provide value to them.  Newspapers, weekly news magazines, and the broadcast network news no longer provide any real value or objectivity to the consumer.  That is their fundamental problem.

The ones that do work to provide value and objectivity are the ones that are doing the best.  It's just that simple.  But for the mainstream media to see this, they will have to admit that they are no longer objective - and little more than propagandists toiling at an Orwellian 'Ministry of Truth'.

The latest MSM manufactured kerfuffle against GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney comes from comments he made at a private fund raiser which became public.  Mitt Romney basically pointed out that there are those who think government programs and entitlements benefit them, are good, and will vote for Barack Obama because of this - and because of Obama's embracing and expansion of entitlements and wealth redistribution.
"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what," Romney says in one clip. "There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent on government, who believe that, that they are victims, who believe that government has the responsibility to care for them. Who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing."

Adding to his argument about entitlement, Romney said his "job is not to worry about those people."

"I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives," he added.

The horror - people who will not vote for Mitt Romney are being alienated.  Add to this the claim that there are those in the country who prefer to receive something for 'nothing' from the government and therefore are willing to vote to empower those who will give them something for 'nothing' from the government, and I am reminded of the words of Alexis de Tocqueville who noted in the 1830's that, to paraphrase him, the American republic will only last until the politicians realize that they can bribe the public with the public's own funds.

While this makes a convenient move of the goalposts from the President's failed policies around the economy and foreign policy, it brings to the fore one of the real core debates that we need to have on the future of this country.

Middle America sees that the entitlement state in this country is out of control.  They can look at other entitlement states, past and present, and see the effects of the inevitable bankruptcy of the entitlement state.  Middle America sees the importance of a temporary safety net, but not at >40% of the people and not to the  fiscally and socially irresponsible level we've achieved.

While the mainstream media / progressives / RINOs will whinge and moan about Romney's 'gaffe' - this isn't a gaffe for Middle America. Even those who might be in this 47% that Romney named, will see and think that this doesn't apply to them... after all they pay payroll taxes and other taxes / fees to government even if they are getting income taxes back from the government because of tax credits, tax breaks, and things like the earned income credit.  They will not be taking this personally because they do not see themselves as 'freeloaders'.  'Those' are other people.

This is one of the debates that we need to have.  It goes beyond liking and wanting 'free' stuff - because this stuff isn't free.

Victor Davis Hanson in a recent commentary talked about a women he went to assist in a local WalMart parking lot.  She was struggling with trying to get a large screen television from the shopping cart into her car.  One of the things hampering her efforts was that in one hand she still held the EBT card that she used to purchase the large screen television set.  EBT is the electronic card that is used for food stamps - it works like a credit card - but is supposed to only be used for the purchase of food for a poor family.  Here's someone who used it to buy a large screen television.  Is that what the safety net is for?

Or is this the real goal - Barack Obama saying he believes in wealth redistribution.

We need to maintain a safety net - but not expand or continue the level of entitlements or wealth redistribution the President and progressives are advocating.

The problem is, in this financial condition, the President and progressives do not want that debate.

This Day in History

1759 - The French formally surrender Quebec to the British.

1793 - President George Washington lays the cornerstone of the US Capitol building

1931 - Japan stages the Mukden Incident as a pretext to launch the invasion and occupation of Manchuria.

1947 - The United States Air Force was established as a separate military branch by the National Security Act of 1947.

1961 - United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammaskjold is killed when his plane crashes under mysterious circumstances near Ndola in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia).

1975 - Newspaper heiress and wanted fugitive Patty Hearst is captured in a San Francisco apartment and charged with armed robbery. She had been kidnapped in 1974 by the violent leftist group, the Symbionese Liberation Army. In April she was seen in a surveillance photo participating in the armed robbery of a San Francisco Bank. On May 17, LAPD raided the SLA’s headquarters in Los Angeles, starting a massive gun battle which killed 6 of the 9 known members of the SLA. Hearst would be convicted in 1976 of bank robbery despite a claim of being brainwashed by the SLA and sentenced to 7 years in prison. President Jimmy Carter commuted her sentence and she was released in February 1979. President Bill Clinton fully pardoned Hearst in 2001 as he was leaving office.

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