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.


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 is Santa still alive?

December 14, 2010

Christmas is a surprisingly controversial subject. You would think that a time that is about good cheer would provide more of it. But you have nostalgists on one hand and anti-capitalists on another and your hands will quickly fill with all of the different opinions of the different facets of Christmas.

I guess I need to first say that I’m Jewish. Enough so that we never came close to celebrating Christmas as a holiday. So I won’t be surprised if you discredit me as some sort of an uninitiated outsider.

I’m not a parent, either, but I don’t see how that would invalidate my opinion. I have worked with kids and have put a lot of thought into what I would or wouldn’t teach my own children someday.

This post is focused. Not anti-presents or anti-decoration or, by any stretch of the imagination, anti-Christmas.

It is anti-Santa.

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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)

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Nashville to Norway

November 8, 2010

(Part Three of Five in my Carmen Sandiego series is packed tight, with a better record than Part Two)

She go from Nashville to Norway, Bonaire to Zimbabwe,

Chicago to Czechoslovakia and back!

Nashville = no

Just through the airport. And that never counts. And I might even be confusing it with Memphis, as I did when I originally started writing this post.

Norway = yes

Location background: One of the most interesting things about Norway is that it isn’t in the European Union. They’re simply too rich from oil to bother with such shenanigans.

Personal background: For months and months, I felt tormented by the fact that the host and creator of Don’t Worry About The Government, the political podcast that I’m on, had been to Norway and I hadn’t. He barely travels; I do it constantly. And yet there was something on his list that wasn’t on mine. It became an obsession.


  1. This picture I took of a caterpillar in Bergen.
  2. When the conductor on the train led me to another car to plug my laptop in on the train.
  3. Getting a fancy meal cooked by my smiley, warm host.

Lowlights: Every time I had to spend money in this exorbitantly expensive country.

Bonaire = no

It’s a Dutch-owned island in the Caribbean that no one has heard of outside of this song. Why the hell would I have been there?

Zimbabwe = no

The hope is to hit it on my tentative Fall 2011 Africa trip, with some help from Manu, the Zimbabwean that we had on DWATG a few episodes back.

Chicago = yes

Chicago was an odd place to me, feeling like it was trapped in the 1970’s or 1980’s. Prices seemed unnaturally low.


  1. It’s my favorite downtown in the world.
  2. Meeting Ethan Cheng, who got me onto a hit political podcast.

Lowlights: Having to deal with the indignity of being told that Chicago-style deep dish should be referred to as ‘pizza’.

Czechoslovakia = no, but Czech Republic and Slovakia = yes

Having dissolved in 1993, I wasn’t given the chance to visit it as a united country, but I was in Prague in 2004 and Bratislava in 2010.

Prague Highlights: Along with Berlin, the only place I stayed a week in, due to having a hang-out group from the hostel. The biggest event was when we went to a bar, I met a girl, we danced (read: grinded), all of us left the bar and the girl lost all of the English she had been speaking to me earlier, then we lost everyone else, and I was contending with her drunken confusion as she moaned “Miláčku, Miláááááááčku!” (a Czech term of endearment), ignoring my pleas for her to remember my native language as I tried to find our respective friends within the snow and ice.

Prague Lowlights: Having people literally walk across the sidewalk, just to bump into me.

Bratislava Highlights: Getting a successful hitch from Vienna Airport directly to my host’s place in Bratislava, by Slovak Jews that told me their personal story from the end of Communism.

Bratislava Lowlights: Realizing why everyone said not to stay in Bratislava for more than a day, as there just is nothing in the city other than the nice people that I met.

All pictures can be found at

ROL Shorts: Roni goes to an M’s Game (2010)

November 2, 2010

Roni goes to a Seattle Mariners game with his father and brother.

S2: NY Cuisine w/ Joe Geni

September 21, 2010

Roni and Joe eat pizza in Harlem, Subway sandwiches and Japanese food in Brooklyn and Chinese food in Queens, while Joe is repeatedly confused as to how ROL works. (Part Three of the NYC April 2010 series).

S2: Hangin’ with Joe Geni

September 15, 2010

Roni and Joe go to 30 Rock to try to watch SNL live. (Part Two of the NYC April 2010 series.

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