My Reversal on the Wisconsin Debacle

March 5, 2011

It’s amazing how little you can know about a subject, despite following the news. Unions and union rights, etc. are still not entirely clear to me, but at least I understand what collective bargaining is. I figured it was one of those legal terms that didn’t mean what it seems to. Nope, it means bargaining together, which is the whole point of a union. I think I was confusing “collective bargaining” with “binding arbitration”. Pretty big mistake.

So when they say that Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin is attacking unions, yes, yes he is. That’s inarguable.

Joe Geni had been trying to convince me that it was a purely political move. I didn’t buy into it, because it made sense to me to go after state employees for receiving benefits that non-public employees don’t get to have. I still wonder if the job security and benefit that people have in the public sector are fair when no one else seems to have them, but perhaps it makes less sense to raze everyone down and more sense to figure out how we can accommodate the new structure of the job market to give people benefits that they need.

But back to the politics. A week or so ago, I glossed over a FOX News article by Chris Stirewalt where he takes the side of Gov. Walker. Reading it more closely, Stirewalt’s argument is fairly clear: unions are unfair because they get a lot of money that helps Democrats.

And since unions give almost entirely to Democrats, that means the lack of dues payments from the federal payroll – now more than $15 billion a month for nearly 3 million employees – leaves a lot of campaign cash on the table.

And

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found that a fifth of all campaign donations to the fugitive lawmakers in the past two election cycles came from public workers.

For national Democrats, the stakes are just as high. The more than 2 million civilian federal workers available for union organization are small fry compared to what’s going on at the state and local level.

All right, Stirewalk, great, Democrats get money from unions. And Republicans? It’s common knowledge that they are supported by businesses. Is it fair to criticize businesses or try to limit their involvement in the political process? Nope, that infringes upon free speech. If businesses are somehow legally people (which is not an entirely agreed upon notion), those are some pretty damn big people. There’s a reason Godzilla fights Mothra, not moths. You need some sort of balance. It’s the whole reason for unions, to have a mass that can stand up to the mass of business itself.

Let’s say that public workers are getting too many benefits. Fine, that’s possible, so perhaps they shouldn’t. But to balance it out by taking away their right to organize doesn’t make any sense. It just means that if you’re then at a disadvantage for being in a public job instead of an advantage. Doesn’t balance it out, it just tilts the see-saw the other way.

The right to organize and join unions is in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 23, Section 4:

Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

This is a document that the United States, including Eleanor Roosevelt, helped to craft. The United States voted in favor of it in 1948. To try to destroy unions is anti-American. And that’s all that collective bargaining means: bargaining together.

Even if Wisconsin’s public employees are getting more benefits than they should, it doesn’t mean that Wisconsin’s governor has any legitimacy in trying to take away something that the United States has declared to be a universal human right.

Mind you, I’m not going to go out and join the Wobblies.

Should people *have* to be in a union and pay dues? I don’t know.

Should unions get everything they want? No. But collective bargaining, as I realized, is not binding arbitration.

Do the benefits that some overpaid unionized workers get make us less competitive in the global market? Seems logical to me.

I still don’t feel like I’m well-enough versed in the subject, but at least I can say this: Screw you, Gov. Walker. Fight on, protesters.

I’ll credit the March 3, 2011 episode  of The Daily Show with helping me come to some of these conclusions.


Why (American) Democracy Sucks

November 11, 2010

Let’s start this off with a cliche.

Many forms of Government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.

(Winston Churchill, House of Commons, Nov. 11, 1947)

This post is not about answers. It’s about enumerated problems, skewed to an American perspective.

The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter.

(attributed to Winston Churchill)

Read the rest of this entry »


S2: (London)Derry

July 20, 2010

Roni goes around and explains another divided city in Northern Ireland, (London)Derry, the home of Bloody Sunday.


S2: Belfast

July 13, 2010

Roni sees the divided city of Belfast, experiencing its passion for rugby and nightlife.


Really, Republicans? Really?

March 25, 2010
Roni at U.S. Capitol - 2005

Roni at U.S. Capitol - 2005

There are two big stories right now regarding the health care reform bill: the bill going back to the House and Republicans not allowing committee meetings to be convened past 2 PM, thanks to an obscure rule.

Bill being sent back: I would like the bill to pass.  I don’t think Congress should be violating commitments that they have already made to do so.  The bill is being sent back due to the piggybacking of student loans onto the health bill.

The bill promises to protect students from cuts in grants if Congress drops funding later on.  Unfortunately, the bill does not provide for this in a deficit-neutral way, so it’s back to the House.

The fact that they do stuff like this bothers me.  I don’t understand why a health bill cannot just be a health bill.

All-in-all, a minor drama showing the clogged nature of Congress.

This is an oversight on the part of those that wrote the bill.  If that’s what stops passage, that would be fairly astounding, but no one is saying it’s going in that direction, which makes all of this delay even more aggravating.

No meetings past 2 PM: I don’t care where you fall in regard to health care.  If you really are violently opposed to the current bill, I honestly don’t get that.  I agree that it isn’t perfect; nearly everyone does.  I think that doing something, especially with a core of good ideas, such as not denying pre-existing conditions and the goal of insuring as many people as possible, is better than doing nothing, which is really the alternative.

That aside, what happens with health care needs to stay there.  If you really believe everything possible should be done to stop it, fine, I will teeth-grittingly accept that you have convictions.

But now, the Republicans have forced the cancellation of military, judiciary and any other committee meetings past 2 PM.  In the hopes of derailing one bill, they’re halting all of Congress’ business.  How is this remotely defensible?

I don’t give any credence to the idea that these things are OK, because the Democrats and Republicans both do it and who playing which role just depends on who is cast as the majority.  Any defense of an argument of doing something wrong by saying “well, you’re doing it, too” bothers me innately.  I cannot stand when China or Russia do it, albeit in a slightly different way (“how can you criticize our flagrant human rights violations when you aren’t perfect”) and it bothers me even more when it’s my own country’s dysfunctional politics that too many people accept as the norm.

When will intelligent, informed people be outraged enough to get involved in trying to change things?


‘Racism’ Rundown

March 18, 2010

One of my pet peeves is when people cry ‘racism’ on something that doesn’t deserve it.

Two stories today fit the mold.

Sunday evening, Washington Township, New Jersey.  A male voice comes over the loudsystem to announce:

Attention, Walmart customers: All black people, leave the store now.

Obviously, not cool.  My guess? An ill-timed, inappropriate joke.

Everything within me pictures a teen who was put up to it by a friend.  The article itself doesn’t give details and says that Walmart is looking into it.  It isn’t even clear if the person that did it was associated with the store.

Do I think that a black person that was in the store has the right to be upset about it? Sure, but the article interviews a woman who says that she and her friends will boycott the store until they are satisfied with the result.

What actually needs to be done?

Assuming it was an employee, I can guarantee you they are getting at least a heavy reprimand, if not being fired.  If it wasn’t, I imagine that Walmart (and especially this store branch) will seriously look at how one accesses their PA system.  I cannot conceive of a situation where this is not handled far beyond the needs of the customer.

Walmart gets a bad rap for things that are beyond its control or simply how business works.  This is not to excuse the blatantly illegal, such as falsifying records and asking employees to lie about breaks, but to not viciously demonize an organization in every circumstance, no matter where the fault actually lies.

Update: The branch is cutting back on public access to phones which can use the PA system. Apparently, they have phones that can use the system, but can’t be seen on security cameras. More info here.

2nd Update: 16-year-old kid charged with a crime.  Not an employee.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)

The health care debate is contentious, with all sides trying to paint as clear a picture as possible of their side.  With that, comes metaphor.

Here’s Senator Graham’s:

Nancy Pelosi, I think, has got them all liquored up on sake and you know, they’re making a suicide run here.

Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA), a Japanese-American who was put in an internment camp during WWII, was not particularly pleased.

I am disheartened that Senator Graham chose to use racially tinged rhetoric to express his opposition to health care reform.

How does race come into this in any way?  It is historical fact that Japanese pilots drank sake before making a suicide run.  Graham doesn’t say that the Japanese are bad, evil, stupid or anything negative.  Had he said “You’d have to be a drunk Jap to want this bill to pass,” yes, that would be blatantly racist.  What he said is not even close to the line.

What better analogy can one come up with to make the point that a group of people must be under the influence of some sort of substance to make a crazy, suicidal decision?  Graham picked the perfect metaphor to make his point, whether you agree with it or not.


Scandal in Utah

March 13, 2010

Utah state flag

Utah’s House majority leader, Kevin Garn, has admitted to paying off a woman in 2002 (to the tune of $150,000) to keep quiet about being naked in a hot tub with him when she was 15 and he was at least 28.

The GOP county chairwoman, Shirley Bouwhuis, supports him:

The Republican Party always supports the law and wants people to obey it, and until I know different, that there’s been (something illegal) I am supportive of what Kevin chooses to do.

Really? The party of moral indignation doesn’t decry this, as long as it’s legally viable?

Honestly, I’m less bothered about the nakedness in the hot tub as I am about the paying off.  I don’t know the details, as no one really seems to, but it has not been exposed as a Roman Polanski-like situation as of yet.  While the act itself could be condemned, obviously this was something he wanted to keep hidden.  And even more than the guy himself, who is obviously a sleaze, I’m bothered by Bouwhuis’ willingness to stand by him, provided no laws were violated.

One last quote from the AP article:

Garn said he felt like the payment amounted to extortion but he doesn’t plan to press charges.

Glad it’s clear who the bad guy is here.

Update: Garn resigns.


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