An interesting article in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer about U.S. students who have been studying abroad in Cuba from before recent Obama Administration inroads. The main subject of the article attends Arcadia University, which is about 20 minutes from here. Personally, I think it’s high time we try something different with Cuba, since it’s not like the previous course was changing anything. Changing something – I think – is important, given the island is barely 90 miles from U.S. shores and has already been the inviting target of one global antagonist. Do we really want that to continue shunning Cuba, especially in light of China’s expanding interests? What might the reaction be if suddenly China made its own inroad to Cuba? Also, the capitalist in me sees a HUGE market for American goods and an opportunity to change the direction of the Cuban people, once they see what a Capitalist system can provide. Just the market for 50-plus year-old junked auto parts would be amazing! But the bigger question is, how do you change the political climate of an island so close to the U.S. if you continue to work to isolate it?
A group called the HRC Super Volunteers has launched a war on the 13 most sexist words in HillaryWorld. To lend assistance to this very important mono-partisan message, I provide a sample of the kind of context these sexist words can cut and sting.
Hillary Clinton is a polarizing, over-confident, and insincere candidate. (OK … Soon to be.) She is extremely ambitious. Clinton is secretive, calculating, and disingenuous with the voting public. Her entitled air is only magnified by the thought that she will do anything to win. Hillary considers herself inevitable, but she is out-of-touch and represents the past.
I have two questions …
Question #1. Now, besides the point that I crammed all these words into one poorly constructed paragraph, tell me … What is sexist about those words?
I really want to learn!
Question #2. Who are these people?!? Their Twitter page is hysterical!
The Pennsylvania Convention Center (located in Center City Philadelphia) announced results for the 2015 Philadelphia Auto Show, both labor savings and post-show reviews indicate that union work rule changes have greatly improved the Convention Center’s performance.
These developments highlight the changes in union relationships and work rules when two of the most cantankerous unions were excluded from convention center work after they failed to meet negotiating deadlines last year.
In 2014 both the Philadelphia chapters of the Carpenters Union and the Teamsters (Local 107) were left out of the Convention Center-union agreement after they missed that deadline to agree to “final offer” conditions set forth by the Center. Work rule changes were intended to improve stagehand service and reverse a sagging reputation for wasteful work rules and nightmarish confrontations over which union did what work.
The ousted unions did not go quietly of course. They constantly stage ad hoc protests, including the bizarre scene of several unions, accepted into the new convention center agreement, crossing the picket lines of those protesting unions that weren’t included.
One day at the 2015 auto show 200 members from the ousted unions bought admission tickets, then vandalized cars; disrupted displays by occupying cars and trashing their interiors; and one group stripped off their shirts among the car show visitors, displaying bodies painted with pro-union messages.
Now who wouldn’t want these guys helping make a lasting impression on your customers or industry connections?
The changes, attributed to the new management-union relationship, cited for the annual car show were dramatic:
- Over 250,000 attended the 10-day show, it’s second highest figure ever
- 436 fewer workers were needed, a 13% reduction from the 2014 show
- almost 5400 fewer labor hours were required, a 17% reduction from 2014
- Auto show’s labor bill was reduced by 20%
- Carpet installation, traditionally performed by carpenters, was completed with 32% fewer workers, working 16% fewer hours, and was completed much earlier than in previous years.
In addition, SMG – the convention center’s new management firm – notes improved comments and reviews from convention center exhibitors and visitors since the new work rules were instituted.
So, when someone wants to tell you that Unions improve business opportunity and performance, remember that it’s hardly always the case!
I was taking a lot of flack the last few days over a picture of Nelson Mandela (right) I posted on a website thread bemoaning “GOP and tea bagger” efforts to curtail voting rights through calls for Voter ID requirements.
After posted said picture, my observation that Mr. Mandela was perhaps a member of the GOP or a “teabagger” were not universally accepted, let alone recognized for it’s succinct grasp of the prevailing political landscape.
Shocker, I know …
So a few of those opposing voices went off to perform their due diligence, and research the Great Mandela T-shirt Fiasco. No doubt looking for the smoking coals over which to roast my tender flesh.
Funny … I never heard back from them.
So I went to see why they all disappeared. Where they vanished to?
I was concerned for their safety!
Maybe this is why they never made it back:
- Nelson Mandela apparently wasn’t “forced” into accepting voter ID requirements from his white overlords, as some claimed.
- The South African Constitution was signed – by Nelson Mandela – in December 1996. (Mandela was elected in 1994.)
- As the country’s FIFTH constitution, it was written by the Parliament, consisting of those elected along with Mandela in 1994.
- The Constitution has been praised as one of the most progressive on the planet.
- That Constitution allows for and supports a rigorous election integrity process far more stringent than anything GOP lawmakers have proposed in this country.
An October story from a South African news outlet explains in advance of the nation’s 2014 elections, “aspirant voters must produce a valid South African identity document when registering to vote and when voting.” That means procuring one of “three forms of official identification.”
One of those identification forms is new: a so-called “smartcard ID.” Although a new addition to the process, one election official said that “accommodating the new smartcard IDs has not been difficult.”
Voter registration in South Africa involves registering to vote on one of a handful of designated days or by making an appointment in advance at a Municipal Elections Office. According to the nation’s governing agency for elections, the Election Commission of South Africa, to register and vote you must meet three criteria:
- Be a South African citizen;
- Be at least 16 years old (you can only vote from age 18); and
- Have a green, bar-coded ID book, ID smartcard or Temporary Identity Certificate (TIC).
Online voter registration and voting are not allows. “You have to apply for registration and vote in person with valid ID,” reads the government’s elections website. Two of the common forms of identification, passports and drivers licenses, do not suffice for election ID purposes.
Now my internet friends of an opposing political persuasion were adamant that Mandela was only “doing what he had to do” to break the iron chains of white oppression. I’m pretty sure they didn’t anticipate that such a freedom-loving figure as Mandela would be the agreeable enactor of a rather sane approach to protecting the sanctity of the voting booth.
I won’t say, “I told you so …”
I just hope all my friends are home; safe and sound; and enjoying their crow for dinner!
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has followed up his first blundering month in office with something a bit different … Putting a stop to all forms of disagreement from within the Executive Branch of State Government!
Green was quickly and unceremoniously dumped from the chairmanship last week by Tom Wolf, The Terrible for crimes against the State, Education, and children of all ages.
His crime? Disagreeing with Tom The Terrible (aka Triple T) on charter school applications in the Philadelphia School District!
You see, Triple T wanted the SRC to deny completely any and all applications for new charter schools in the beleaguered Philadelphia School District (PSD) for which the SRC has maintained oversight since December 2001. The SRC resulted from frequent turmoil over school funding and poor performance, finally provoking the State to take over the schools.
Over the years, the situation became so bad in the school district that parents clamored for choices and a way to ensure quality educations for their children. Part of the answer became privately run charter schools.
From the School Reform Commission website:
Charter Schools are independently operated public schools that are funded with federal, state and local tax dollars. These schools are established to provide families with more educational alternatives for their children. Charters are non-profit, non sectarian, organizations that are approved by the local Board of Education (the “authorizer”) or the State Appeal Board. Each charter has its own Board of Trustees and administrative staff and operates as a separate, independent local educational agency (LEA) within Intermediate Unit 26 (IU 26). The Pennsylvania Charter School Law – Act 22 of 1997 – set up charters to operate free of many of the local and state requirements that apply to traditional public schools.
The problem for the PSD is that the district – any school district, since charter schools are found throughout the state – must apportion any funding it receives to any charter school that enrolls district students.
Disagreement abounds about exactly what that cost is. Current requirements state that a charter must be funded to $2000. per child enrolled. The PSD asserts that the cost to the District is closer to $7000., but support for the figure is questionable. Currently, the PSD faces an $80 million funding shortfall.
All this led to Triple T insisting that the SRC not approve ANY new charter school applications, despite parent pleas for more choices from even more charters, so long as they were properly overseen and provided quality education opportunities.
In February, faced with 39 applications for new charter schools, the SRC approved 5.
Yes, that’s right … just 5!
Many were disappointed in the SRC’s conservative approach. Many expected 21 of 39 approvals. Some were pushing for all 39! The SRC approved 5.
No one was happy. Not the Parents, not the State Legislature, not the school district.
Apparently Triple T was apoplectic! So, just days later Triple T swung his mighty claymore and dislodged the Head of the SRC.
Of course, the demoted – though yet to be completely vanquished – Bill Green should have seen this coming for miles from across the moor. He should have seen Triple T’s armies amassed in the foggy distance. Mighty steeds puffing hot breath in the cold, damp morning air. A vista of cold steel held aloft by the minion army gathering and peering towards his vulnerable redoubt.
Those minions off in the distance? Nothing more frightening than the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers!
You see, Triple T’s power – as a Democrat – rises and falls with the fortunes of public unions. This is why Pennsylvanians will not see much-needed initiatives to quell the Public Pension problem from Triple T, nor changes to the anachronistic system of State Stores in the distribution of liquor products. But you will see plenty of tax increases to keep the minions happy, their horses mobile!
Triple T needs them! He needs them badly! And he will behave badly if it means keeping the minions in truncheons.
Perhaps the darkest visage however, delivered by that terrible swift Triple T sword, is that our state employees, managers, directors and commission members have now gotten the message. Don’t cross the boss …
Not even when you are certain he is wrong … No matter how much experience, expertise, and value you bring to your job. Don’t even suggest that your boss, Tom the Terrible, might be wrong.
You may just lose your head!
New Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf is off to a rip-roaring start! In just one month on he job he has …
- Fired a well-respected Republican staffer appointed by Former Governor Tom Corbett to manage the Office of Open Records.
- Advised that he will refuse to issue death penalty warrants until the State Legislature files an anticipated report on its use. Anticipation is the moratorium will morph into a full ban, displeasing law enforcement personnel who saw two State Troopers gunned down – one fatally – in a pre-meditated ambush last year.
- Scrapped Healthy PA, scrapping negotiations with the Obama Administration to expand Medicaid coverage – in accordance with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – that sought more favorable terms for a State already paying the highest costs for any state for Medicaid coverage. The Medicaid ACA expansion mandate will not be fully funded by the Federal Government in future years.
- Reversed a policy allowing for the removal of natural gas assets lying beneath State Park lands.
- Announced plans to tax natural gas extractions by an effective rate of 7.5% while doing away with the State’s Impact Fees that went to compensate local communities for wear and tear on local infrastructure.
As the chief executive of a cabinet-making company, Wolf would be expected to have the patience of a mayfly. In a private, for-profit industry, who could blame a responsible manager? Sloth makes for poor reaction times; and an overabundance of forbearance can render one an unimportant player in private industry where competition for resources is keen.
But what does one make of Mr. Wolf’s propensity for shooting from the hip, and over the heads of the very legislative bodies from which he will no doubt expect cooperation some day? When will he realize he needs them to cash the checks his actions are writing?
It’s an interesting conundrum for the new Wolf on the block! But it only gets better – maybe scarier is the better word – if you’re a hard-working Pennsylvanian watching your disposable income shrink each and every year.
Rumor has it, Governor Wolf will propose an assortment of tax increases on top of those tax increases already announced on the natural gas industry. Pennsylvanians could be looking at increases in the state income tax (currently 3.07%) and in the state’s 6% sales tax.
The tradeoff might be a reduction in Property Taxes, although certainly not a dollar-for-dollar offset of any potential increases in the income and sales taxes. The result? Higher taxes for working Pennsylvanians!
One winner, however, would be corporations, which might see the 9.9% corporate tax rate cut in half! This move could be in response to the corporate raiding party Florida Governor Rick Scott led into Pennsylvania last week, as he smelled blood in Pennsylvania’s business tax pool.
States are always looking to purloin businesses from other states, especially where the business environment isn’t quite as favorable. That’s a sad statement on views of the state from outside Pennsylvania, especially when the new Governor has made it quite clear that he intends to raise taxes, but will not consider needed public pension reform or the sale of Pennsylvania’s antiquated state store liquor distribution system.
You have very low self-esteem!
Sure, it’s bad enough that Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker can be heard snorting a laugh at Governor Wolf’s self-esteem assessment at the National Governor’s Association (NGA) no less. Baker undoubtedly made note to organize a job-raiding party into Pennsylvania as soon as he gets back to Boston!
Check out the video below and note Baker’s involuntary snort. It’s always a bad sign when the new guy in the NGA has to declare “That wasn’t a laugh line.”
Uh oh ….
If it wasn’t bad enough that our fledgling Governor made those remarks in front of a roomful of other Governors, he added this little tidbit:
If a space alien visited the United States and was given a list of the assets of each state, “that alien would look at the 50 sheets of paper and say, ‘Pennsylvania must be the dominant state. Obviously it’s the dominant state.’ “
Wonderful … Governor Malaise and Governor Moonbeam all rolled into one! Well, if I didn’t have low state-esteem before, I certainly have it now …
Candidates for Philadelphia’s 2015 mayoral race are having major issues raising campaign funds due to a change in the City Code that prohibits entities from receiving no-bid City contracts if they exceed campaign donation limits to a SUCCESSFUL candidate.
It may sound like twisted logic … If you candidate loses, no problem! If they win, you are SOL.
But the change in The Code resulted from a very long list or sordid scandals known collectively as “pay-to-play”, a problem not only in the Big City but throughout a state known as one of the most politically corrupt in the country.
How does this having such a large effect? Because most of those who receive “no-bid” contracts tend to be lawyers! So those big money law firms in the City, so use to manipulating the political landscape in the hope of backing the Winner – and the potential for those no-bid legal contracts are being forced to sit on their hands once they reach the prescribed campaign limitation.
This certainly isn’t the Big Aha solution for our bigger elections – at least not entirely, but it’s not a bad start!
Kudos to Charles Krauthammer, who once again takes our nice, comfy way of looking at things, in this case our satisfaction in Jordan’s response to the brutal immolation of pilot, Muadh al-Kasasbeh, and asks, “What if …?”.
Krauthammer cautions that despite Jordan’s relative strength a stability, it would not take very much to instill a measure of instability through those in Jordan who might be a bit more sympathetic to ISIL because they simply aren’t all that invested in Jordan.
From Syrian refugees to those Palestinians preferring the relative safety of Jordan over life in the territories, the threats to Jordan from inside might just be as big or bigger than those on the outside.
Be that as it may, it is still a positive sign that nation-states in the Middle East are rising – even if it had to be forced – to meet the real threat to regional stability … brutally violent radicalized extremists.
In a case that may parallel the challenges of successfully prosecuting Bowe Bergdahl for his desertion, a Marine (loosely defined here as one who was enlisted as a Marine, eve though they hardly acted like one) will go on trial for his bizarre desertion adventure.
The case of CPL Wassef Hassoun is a bit more ridiculous than Bergdahl’s. Hassoun disappeared in 2004, appearing days later blindfolded in a photo with a sword positioned over his head; only to reappear unharmed a few days later at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon.
No one believed his kidnap scenario, and he was sent immediately to Camp Lejeune, where he promptly disappeared again for a few days before another hearing. (Not sure how one “in custody” disappears again, but the article is unclear as to the circumstances.)
I’m not buying that this case parallels much the Bergdahl situation since Hassoun had disappeared numerous times. However, in such cases where American military personnel were unnecessarily put at risk looking for “kidnapped” soldiers, who appeared to have left assigned duty stations of their own accord, must be dealt with severely if the evidence supports a willful desertion of duty in hostile environs.