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Questions to ask about public employee power in Wisconsin*

Earlier today, Glenn linked datechguy’s post posing two questions that aren’t being asked about Wisconsin. In a update to those two question, the techie blogger poses three additional questions in response to the “CBS and PPP polls that are being trumpeted” (trumpeted, I gather, by allies of the Badger State public employee unions).  “If these polls were true,” he asks, among other things,

Why aren’t the democrats (sic) who have fled confidently returning knowing that this vote will only be the prelude to them retaking everything in Wisconsin?

DaTechGuy’s got a great point, if the Wisconsin Senate Democrats are so confident that Walker’s plan is so unpopular, why aren’t they returning to vote against and watching in glee as their Republican colleagues pay the consequences for their unpopular vote.  In further updates, said blogger links fellow bloggers who, crunching the numbers of those “trumpeted” polls, (including Ed Morrissey’s piece which I had caught earlier in the day), question the credibility of said surveys.

Perhaps, Democrats fear passage of the bill because they they realize that when details of the plan leak out, most people will see just how sensible are most, if not all, of the reforms Governor Walker has proposed.  Sometimes, it seems our media have focused not so much on the actual provisions of the plan, but instead on the rhetoric of the public employee unions.

So, let me ask some questions of my own.  How would people feel about public employee unions if they knew

  1. these unions campaign for the legislators who set their salaries, with public employee unions (led by the teachers’ representatives) the largest spenders in Wisconsin campaigns, making public employee unions effectively an auxiliary of the Democratic Party?
  2. that teachers’ unions are the most active lobbyists in the Badger State?
  3. that, through collective bargaining, said unions make Wisconsin counties, cities, and school districts to purchase employees health care from the union carrier, rather than from the state’s plan, as Governor Walker proposes?
  4. that public employees pay a lower percentage of their health insurance premium than do most private-sector employees?
  5. that the state serves as the collection agency for public employee unions, with resources directly transfered from the public treasury (you know the collected funds of taxpayers) into the coffers of institutions which regularly back one political party and the individual government employees cannot opt out of this system, that is, they cannot prevent a portion of their income from automatically siphoned off?
  6. just how political (and uncivil) these unions have become? (more…)

Fleshing Out why Franco Flopped as Oscar Host

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 6:36 pm - March 1, 2011.
Filed under: Movies/Film & TV

SInce I saw James Franco in the made-for-TV James Dean biopic, I have been most impressed with his acting chops, skills which he later honed in City by the Sea and the Spider-man franchise. He is clearly one of the most gifted screen stars of his generation.

My actor friends are also fond of the young man, with one relating the anecdote of a man who paid for Franco’s acting lessons when then then-Hollywood newbie was hurting for funds. As soon as he started drawing an income, Franco paid back his patron.

Despite Franco’s skill’s as an actor, I was most surprised to hear that he had been tapped to host the Oscars. He never struck me as a stand-up comedian or talk show host, the type of individuals who tend to make the best hosts.  With the Oscar “ceremony witnessing a 10 per cent slump compared to the last year“, a consensus is emerging that despite his many talents,

Franco flopped as co-host of the Academy Awards. Throughout the evening, his teleprompter readings seemed drab and forced, and as the show plodded along, he seemed more resigned to the fact that it just wasn’t working.

It’s no accident,” Roger Simon quipped, “that the audience rose for a standing ovation when Billy Crystal appeared. They were relieved. It was like seeing a water in the desert. He could even crack a joke. And the holographic Bob Hope was even better.”  In that Academy Award nominee’s view, entertainers do a better job as hosts.

Franco just didn’t look like he was having fun while co-host Anne Hathaway did.  He didn’t deliver a joke as if he were telling a story or relating a personal anecdote, but seemed to be saying with his facial gestures as he was about to recite the punch line “okay, guys, I’m telling a joke, so, um, well, you’re supposed to laugh.”  It was almost as if he needed a role into which he could sink his teeth. He just couldn’t play host, a role without a backstory.

Mito Aviles for West Hollywood City Council

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 3:32 am - March 1, 2011.
Filed under: Entrepreneurs,LA Stories

“Politics,” they say, “makes strange bedfellows.”  After surveying the candidates for City Council in West Hollywood, I have found only one who views even come close resemble my own, but a number of others who have similar concerns about the problems facing our “urban village.”  In choosing candidates to vote for (we can vote for up to three), I find mostly men (none of the challengers are female) with political views, at least on national issues, that are (often) polar opposites to my own.

Yet, when it comes to the burdens the City of West Hollywood places on entrepreneurs, I find common ground with at least two of the challengers, one of whom has an unfortunate record when it comes to Sarah Palin.  Indeed, it is that stunt which almost prevented me from withholding my support, much less my vote, from Mito Aviles, but after meeting with him last Friday and considering our conversation about small business, I decided not just to give him my vote, but to endorse him as well.

I am not backing him for federal —  or even state — office, but to serve as one of five councilors here in West Hollywood.  He has experienced both on a personal level — and in conversations with friends and associates — just how the incumbents have failed local small business owners.  Mito Aviles has seen the increasing numbers of shuttered storefronts along our main commercial thoroughfare, Santa Monica Boulevard, and recounts local entrepreneurs’ tales of woe as busybody city officials seek to enforce gratuitous ordinances and collect exorbitant fees.  One entrepreneur was fined for trying to put his name on a storefront.  Others were cited for covering more than 25% of his display window.  (Just how do they measure that, I wonder?  Does it count as covering if they use translucent lettering?)

In West Hollywood, Mito laments, you “can’t have creative signage.”   Or sandwich boards.  He points out that process of getting permits approved takes far too long, saying that it shouldn’t take three or six months for such approval and asking why the city puts up so many “roadblocks for small business.”  He wants to streamline the permit process to “make it more efficient so people aren’t turned off.”

His campaign, he told me, is “about fostering and promoting small business here in West Hollywood.” (more…)

Truant Wisconsin Democratic Senators Received Far Greater Percentage of Campaign Funds from Public Employee Unions than Governor Walker Received from Koch Brothers

According to John Hinderaker, the “$43,000 that the Koch Industries PAC contributed to Walker’s campaign represents one-tenth of 1 percent of the money that was spent on Wisconsin’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign.” (Via Instapundit.)

It seems that that one-tenth of one percent applies to the total amount spent on the 2010 campaign; the actual percentage of Walker’s total take is actually a bit higher.  According to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, “Republican Governor Scott Walker and running mate Rebecca Kleefisch . .  spent a combined $11.34 million” on their campaign.”  That means the Koch contribution of $43,000 was approximately 0.38% of their spending.

Public employee unions, however, gave a little more heavily to the Wisconsin Democratic Senators now resident in Illinois:

The 14 Wisconsin Democratic senators who fled to Illinois share more than just political sympathy with the public employees and unions targeted by Gov. Scott Walker’s budget-repair bill.

The Senate Democrats count on those in the public sector as a key funding source for their campaigns.

In fact, nearly one out of every five dollars raised by those Democratic senators in the past two election cycles came from public employees, such as teachers and firefighters, and their unions, a Journal Sentinel analysis of campaign records shows. . . .

According to records compiled by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, the 14 Senate Democrats have raised a total of $1.9 million in campaign dollars since the start of 2007. Out of that sum, public-employee unions and individual government workers contributed at least $344,000.

In truth, the figure may be even higher, but candidates don’t have to identify the occupations of those giving $100 or less.

The public-employee unions gave more money to the Democratic state senators than the Koch brothers gave to the Republican governor.  Wonder if the New York Times has any plans to run an article on these unions’ influence.

Let’s round that 0.38% up to 0.4%.  And to be fair, I did the math myself on the numbers provided above and found that public employee unions’ donations made up only 18% of the total Democratic state senators received, or proportionally 45 times as much as the Koch Brothers gave to Governor Walker.

Oh, and, just wondering, are those public employee unions chipping in for the Wisconsin Democrats’ Illinois expenses?