Fort Wayne School Board Pays Its Union Dues

Fort Wayne Community School Board President Mark GiaQuinta conducted a press conference last Thursday to put the entire elected FWCS board firmly into the corner with the interests of the ISTA-NEA teachers union in opposing pending state legislation on collective bargaining, school vouchers and charter schools, despite the expected goal of improved school academic performance at reduced costs. As chair of the board, GiaQuinta went far outside the scope of his elected office in his public support of the union, which he cloaked as support for the teachers.
Philosophically, we wanted our teachers and our legislators to know that we are not afraid of the rights teachers obtain through collective bargaining,” he said. “It’s a good system.”

“Teachers are feeling as if they are under attack with so much legislation directly affecting their jobs,” said board president Mark GiaQuinta in a news release. “We want teachers to know that we appreciate their work and dedication to our students.”
Unfortunately, Mr. GiaQuinta needs to understand that the public is entitled to more information than he provides.  As  James R. Schlesinger famously said: "You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts."  Unionism in general and any public union specifically, does not represent "a good system" and the Indiana legislation is about the union, not the teachers.  Moreover, the union does nothing to promote and improve the quality of education while at the same time it raises the cost of teacher contracts that must be paid from our taxes.

This editorial excerpt from the Panama City News-Herald succinctly explains the public union dilemma:
Collective bargaining is supposed to offset an imbalance of power between employees and management. In the private sector, there is an inherent adversarial relationship between the two sides in labor negotiations. Each knows that if the company gives too much away and fails to make a profit, it will be forced to shut its doors and everyone loses.

The nature of public unions is different. Government employees are negotiating across the table from government representatives, who often are those whom the union worked hard to elect. The balance of power shrinks dramatically and the relationship is not nearly as adversarial. It is government negotiating with itself.

And because it is other people’s money at stake — the taxpayers’ — there is a lot less concern for the bottom line.
What are the teachers unions -- those third-party interlopers planted firmly between educational institutions and their teachers -- all about?  Former NEA president Keith Geiger pretty much sums it up at the union's convention:
We need to retool collective bargaining as the great engine driving change and innovation in school districts all across America. [...] We are talking about waking up -- school boards, administrators, and association leaders -- to our shared interest in revitalizing public education.

So allow yourselves to fantasize for a moment. Imagine a school system where the traditional contract has been shed like an outgrown skin. Imagine a district where the NEA local controls nearly three-fourths of the school district budget [the FWCS contract is 94%], and uses that power to create new teaching slots, set their own salaries, reduce class sizes, and carve out a new preparation period.

Sound like utopia? Well, it's not. I just described the contract negotiated by NEA members in New Albany/Floyd County, Indiana. And, if our colleagues can do it there -- a district that was notorious for bad union-management relations -- then, clearly, we are looking at a whole new world of possibilities.
Geiger was obviously talking out of both sides of his mouth, since the NEA worldview is not about "revitalizing public education," by improving the quality and effectiveness of student education efforts. Their bottom line is jobs, paychecks and union power! What the heck, everybody knows that school kids don't pay union dues!

On February 8, more than 1000 Indiana teachers were illegally called  to attend a rally at the Indiana Statehouse by the ISTA union leaders in direct violation of state law.  Governor Mitch Daniels response to the rally was: "As always, the union's demand is more money, no change. Their priority is their organization, not the young people of Indiana."

In the photo above, FWCS teacher Susan Brice is shown protesting. Her absence from school was obviously condoned by Mr. GiaQuinta,and the FWCS board, as well as by Schools Superintendent, Dr. Wendy Robinson and her administrative staff.  Most likely, other Fort Wayne teachers were in Indianapolis as well. Democrats have this thing about ignoring the law and these teachers didn't even need phony doctor excuses as provided in Wisconsin.

The time is fast approaching when college-educated teachers must take pride in their profession and seek the freedom available to professionals everywhere -- freedom to negotiate wages and benefits based upon personal skill levels and accomplishments.  Then and only then will public education change for the better.

Unions are for chumps -- especially socialist chumps.

Another Brick In the Wall

 We don't need no education
 We don't need no thought control
 No dark sarcasm in the classroom
 Teachers leave them kids alone
 Hey! teacher! leave them kids alone
 All in all it's just another brick in the wall
 All in all you're just another brick in the wall

Public Unions vs America

Wisconsin Union Power

Recycling Priorities

Today the news headlines screamed about (among other things): rioting and killing in Tripoli, protests in Iran, Anti-union legislation and the elected Democrats walking off their jobs in Wisconsin and Indiana, $61 billion in budget cuts by the US House of Representatives.  But an unknown editorial writer at the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette  was compelled to write about a  problem with the new recycling program in this mid-western city, home to 253,691 Hoosiers.
The city’s revamped recycling program is a dramatic improvement – everything gets tossed into one [yellow-lidded] cart and the cart has wheels. But one of the most common recyclable items cluttering up most homes is glaringly absent from the list of what the Fort Wayne recycling program will accept: plastic bags.

The city’s solid waste officials wisely expanded the types of plastic city contractors collect for recycling. And No. 2 plastics are on that list. But the contractor won’t accept those plastic bags that nearly every city household has in abundance. [GASP]

Most plastic grocery bags and the bags paper carriers use to keep your newspaper dry are made of No. 2 plastic, but they are so thin that when they are sent to the recycling center, they gum up the equipment.
Not to worry, however, because the all-caring leftists at the JG have the ready answer to the problem.
The most expedient way of recycling them is by taking the grocery bags back to the grocery store. And Kevin Lentz, associate circulation director for Fort Wayne Newspapers, said newspaper readers can drop off newspaper bags in the lobby at Fort Wayne Newspapers office, 600 W. Main St. Newspaper carriers appreciate it when Journal Gazette readers return the bags for reuse.
Somehow, these people who want to control our very lives and thinking cannot bring themselves to understand that many of us do not give a rat's hindquarters about the worthless task of sorting almost worthless trash (especially #2 plastic bags) for somebody else's profit. A far more logical step is to put the trash-filled plastic bags (that you have already recycled, thank you very much) into the trash cart with the brown lid.

At my house there is only one trash cart ... and it has a brown lid.  Trash deposited herein is headed for the landfill from whence it can be mined should we ever run short on plastic.  Now back to the real problems of the real world ...

76 Square Miles Surrounded by Reality

For those who haven't noticed, IFC-TV has recently launched The Onion Cable News Network  which features fake news parodies in the tradition of the popular The Onion  website.  The Onion  actually had its beginnings as a print edition, first published at the University of Wisconsin - Madison in 1988.  Madison, a liberal haven for most of its years, is home to the both Wisconsin state government and the land-grant university.  In 1978, former Wisconsin Governor Lee Sherman Dreyfus labeled Madison as "30 square miles surrounded by reality" but he was wrong. The incorporated areas of the city total about 76 square miles.

Madison's history is peppered with ugly protests, rioting and violence by its student population,  highlighted in the late 1960's during the anti-war protests, which resulted in deaths.  Tradition was established as a result of a 1969 riot at the Mifflin Street Block Party which evolved into an annual celebration every May that often results in lawlessness and then there is the annual student-organized Halloween Freakfest which is almost expected to bring about riots that require police intervention.  But these leftist protests in "Madtown" actually began in 1910 over the writings contained in a memorial plaque offered to the university by the Class of 1910. Even more interesting is the subtle relationship between 1910 and the current protests going on at the Wisconsin State Capital which indeed involves government-paid teachers and UW students.  Here is the 1910 story about "sifting and winnowing:"
In 1894 [UW professor Richard] Ely was teaching economics at Madison, including the various socialist and communist economic theories gaining popularity at the time. When this was discovered by Oliver E. Wells, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Ely was attacked in the press not just for teaching left-wing theories to Wisconsin's youth but also for supposedly advising radical activists who were organizing a strike in Madison. When his dismissal was demanded, the university regents investigated his activities.

The Board of Regents decision was to completely vindicate professor Ely and the famous "sifting and winnowing" statement, the regents commitment of academic freedom, appeared in their final report.

"Whatever may be the limitations which trammel inquiry elsewhere, we believe that the great state University of Wisconsin should ever encourage that continual and fearless sifting and winnowing by which alone the truth can be found."

But that is not the end of the story. In 1910 UW sociology professor Edward Ross was accused of consorting with an anarchist and of giving a speaking platform to a man who promoted immorality. On this occasion the regents approved a statement of censure against Ross and suggested that he be dismissed. UW President Van Hise defended Ross and the regents dropped the case. The students of the class of 1910, fearing that academic freedom was again in jeopardy, decided to have the sifting and winnowing statement cast into bronze and present it to the university as a class gift.
This fine story about academic freedom and the constant search for truth is nothing short of  a fairy tale in Madison, ripe for the web-pages of The Onion. Writing in The Badger Herald, UW-Madison's much abused alternative news rag, Darryn Beckstrom gives some advice to new students:
Question professors and intellectual thought. Universities should encourage us to think. This is why they are referred to as the "marketplace of ideas." Do you ever see just one brand of cereal in the supermarket? Of course not. So, why should you only receive one side of debate at this university? Expect more.

When you think of diversity, think beyond multiculturalism. I must admit this campus lacks diversity -- intellectual diversity that is. Unfortunately, many of the professors on this campus seem to excel at teaching the course Liberal Indoctrination 101. What better way to coerce students into the ranks of "liberal groupthink?" Don't give way to being a lemming.

This campus preaches tolerance -- tolerance of homosexuals, racial minorities and gay marriage, among other peoples and things. While the school's higher-ups might like to have you think otherwise, tolerance also includes open-mindedness and respect for family values, Judeo-Christian principles and conservative thought.
So here we sit in February 2011 witnessing 60,000 protesters screaming about a modest program to require Wisconsin teachers to pay a portion of their benefits costs.  This change being pushed by Governor Scott Walker recognizes that the state lacks the means to fully pay for these costs . . . and that his only other alternative is eliminating teaching jobs since Wisconsin taxes are already too high.   As Joseph Ashby points out in American Thinker:
It wasn't very long ago that Greece's streets were filled with government employees running amok over the EU-forced austerity measures. Many conservatives predicted that the unrest was a look at America's future in ten years. As it turns out, it only took ten months.

Gulf Oil Spill: Nothing Left But Lawsuits and Politics

April 20, 2010 was the date of the explosion and fire that killed 11 workers and sunk the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling vessel in the Gulf of Mexico off the Louisiana coast. Almost three months later on July 15, the wellhead was capped after the 5,000-foot-deep well spewed over 200 million gallons of crude into the Gulf. Now, in just six-and-one-half months, the Coast Guard has released a report that declares that continued on-shore cleanup will do more harm than good.
Birds, sea turtles, fish and other species are more likely to be harmed by an aggressive cleanup than by simply leaving remnants of oil and letting it slowly degrade, the Coast Guard said.
This story follows closely on the heels of a Time Magazine article that reveals that the waters of the Gulf of Mexico have largely been cleansed of the polluting oil and methane gas.
While the jury is still out, the early evidence shows something surprising: the Gulf proved to be much more resilient to the oil spill than scientists might have expected. The vast majority of the oil and other hydrocarbons seem to be gone, less than six months after the crude stopped flowing. And the biggest heroes of the cleanup turned out to be not the thousands of workers who scoured oil from the beaches or the shrimp-boat captains who turned their vessels into oil skimmers. They were actually the microscopic bacteria in the Gulf that digested much of the hydrocarbons while they were still deep under the surface. [. . . ]

As scientists keep examining the Gulf, it may turn out that even if the ecosystem isn't perfect, it's much more resilient than expected. Part of that is not just biochemistry but luck. The relatively warm waters of the Gulf — and the fact that the spill took place more than 40 miles (65 km) out to sea -- gave the bacteria the time and environment they needed to consume hydrocarbons. (Alaska's Prince William Sound, by contrast, has no natural oil seeps that would support crude-eating bacteria, so there were none around capable of breaking down oil after the Exxon Valdez  spill.)
Of course the environmentalists want no publicity forthcoming on Nature's own healing powers.  Even when the similarities between BP's Macondo blowout and its predecessor, the Ixtoc I wildcat (in Mexico's Campeche Bay in the southwestern gulf) were compared, the emphasis was on the gas explosion that started both catastrophes, the oil volume spewed and the duration of the contaminating oil flow. Speaking about the Mexican spill, Luis A. Soto, a deep-sea biologist commented:
"The environment is amazingly resilient, more so than most people understand. To be honest, considering the magnitude of the spill, we thought the Ixtoc spill was going to have catastrophic effects for decades ...But within a couple of years, almost everything was close to 100 percent normal again."
It took 10 months and heroic efforts from the likes of the world's most famous wildcatter, "Red" Adair to stop the flow. 
... after three months in which nothing went right, Texas had some good luck ... or, to put it in a glass-half-empty way, Alabama and Mississippi had some bad luck. Hurricane Frederic, while plowing into those two states, sent tides of two-foot waves reeling into the Texas shoreline. Overnight, half the 3,900 tons of oil piled up on Texan beaches disappeared. And human clean-up efforts began putting a dent in the rest.

Even in Mexico, which had neither the resources nor the hurricanes of the United States, the oil began disappearing under a ferocious counterattack by nature. In the water, much of it evaporated; on beaches, the combined forces of pounding waves, ultraviolet light and petroleum-eating microbes broke it down.

"The environment in the Gulf of Mexico is used to coping with petroleum,'' says [marine biologist, Wes] Tunnell. "The seabed is crisscrossed with petroleum reservoirs, and the equivalent of one to two supertankers full of oil leaks into the Gulf every year. The outcome of that is a huge population of bacteria that feed on oil and live along the shoreline.''
The aftermath will continue for years in the courts as claims mount for a piece of the $20 billion dollar fund set up by British Petroleum at the Obama's insistence.  In December of 2010, The US Justice Department filed suit which will likely result in tens of billions of dollars in fines against BP and eight other companies.  Now, even BP investors are piling on, claiming that the oil giant misled them about the company's safety record.  A website or two has appeared offering advice and help with filing legal claims against BP.

The chinks in British petroleum's armor are beginning to appear.  They have just sold their Venezuela assets for $1.8 billion and when pushed too far, we will likely see selective bankruptcies by BP subsidiaries to stem the tidal wave.

In the meantime, the Obama Administration has re-imposed a seven-year ban on oil drilling in the Gulf which will have devastating effects on our ailing economy. This ban is being enforced with complete disregard to a Federal Court contempt order for the Interior Department's enforcement of the ban.

Big Brother Says, "Energy is Bad."

Energy itself is now a bad thing . . . the cause of the alleged global warming crisis and the urban sprawl crisis and the obesity crisis—and more demonized these days than even, well, tobacco.

Sam Kazman over at Competitive Enterprise Institute documents in (of all places) Cigar Magazine the recent trend of creeping government intrusion into our daily living, affecting conditions inside the privacy of our homes. The creep began early in the the Clinton Years as environmentalist communists took control over our government institutions. We now join Mr, Kazman in his walk down Memory Lane.
The toilet is . . . a shining porcelain example of government efficiency mandates at work. Beginning in 1994, federal law required that new toilets use only 1.6 gallons of water per flush, less than half the amount then used by conventional models. The new toilets would supposedly work fine, and Europe had long been using them. The amount of water saved would be tremendous, and the reductions in water bills would more than offset the cost.

But, in practice, things turned out differently. Despite their costing far more than regular toilets, many of the new models worked poorly—so poorly that they required two flushes to do what one had done before, thus eliminating any savings in water use. A gray market in conventional toilets sprang up, and old discarded units suddenly became prized items commanding premium prices. Columnist Dave Barry joked that, living in Miami, he could buy illegal drugs with no trouble at all, but he couldn’t get hold of an old-fashioned toilet. "I spend 23 percent of my waking hours flushing the new ones," he claimed. There was a groundswell of popular opposition to the low-flow models, and some congressmen tried to repeal the toilet rule. But it failed after running into opposition, not just from environmentalists but from toilet manufacturers as well, who were looking forward to profits from their high-priced low-flush models and didn’t want to see that market undermined by a renewal of consumer choice.

And, thus, low-flow toilets, and the law that mandates them, are still with us. In fact, the array of everyday items subject to federal efficiency mandates has mushroomed. This is because efficiency has become a mantra of politicians and environmentalists, who act as if private industry can’t improve its products without government prodding.

But there’s a basic question that needs to be asked: If these technologies are so good that they’ll save us money, then why do we need laws forcing them on us? And if we do have such laws, doesn’t that suggest that the technologies aren’t really all that good?

Showerhead flow rates were restricted by the same federal law that hit toilets. As a result, new showerheads today may deliver no more than 2.5 gallons per minute, about half of what showerheads used to put out. Like their brethren toilets, low-flow showerheads often perform poorly. Regulatory advocates may claim they work fine, but the facts suggest otherwise. In 2009, for example, Consumer Reports (a strong advocate of efficiency mandates despite its alleged commitment to consumers) tested a showerhead that, it noted, "seemed too good to be true—or legal," inadvertently confirming that these two qualities were mutually exclusive. In fact, the model in question was illegal, exceeding the federal flow standard by almost 60 percent. But rather than give its readers a chance to buy one of these bonanzas, Consumer Reports dutifully reported the model to the Feds.

And, again not unlike the toilets, the new showerheads have produced their own brand of humor. In a 1996 Seinfeld episode, for example, Kramer becomes so desperate for a good shower that he’s mistaken for a dope addict, and he pays a small fortune in cash to a Serbian smuggler for an illegal high-powered showerhead (the Commando 450, "only used in the circus—for elephants").

But, unlike toilets, showerheads use hot water, and so their flow restrictions are touted as saving both water and energy. But why does that make showerhead design a federal issue? People who want to cut their hot water bills have long been able to do so without Congress breathing down their necks. They could take shorter showers, or run their showers at less than full blast, or turn their shower faucets from hot to warm… or they could even buy one of the low-flow showerheads that were available long before the federal law. Instead we have an across-the-board rule with a bureaucratically simple target—gallons per minute. Thankfully, dissatisfied bathers more concerned with quality than money still have other options, such as taking longer, hotter showers or switching to baths, which use much more water. Or they can turn to shower towers, fixtures that use multiple low-flow showerheads so that their combined output exceeds the 2.5-gallons-per-minute limit. Unfortunately, that last loophole was recently plugged by the Department of Energy (DoE).

DoE’s energy-efficiency standards cover practically all major household appliances, from refrigerators to laundry machines to air conditioners and water heaters. Their scope and severity have less to do with what’s practical, and more to do with what’s politically attractive. Consider, for example, the lowly top-loading laundry machine. In the last 15 years, it’s been increasingly displaced by more expensive front-loaders, which more easily meet DoE’s standards. Front-loaders use less hot water, are gentler on clothes, and they put on a good soapy show through their front windows. They also tend to be somewhat finicky and less reliable, often developing an odor problem. Procter & Gamble recently introduced a new laundry product that would have seemed ridiculous a decade ago—a cleanser for washing machines, specifically front-loaders. In effect, you’ve now got to wash the machines that wash your clothes.

Top-loaders have their own advantages: they can be stopped mid-cycle to toss in a wayward sock; they don’t make you stoop to unload them, and, perhaps most importantly, they cost less. Unlike in Europe—where cramped apartments and high energy costs make front-loaders the market leaders—top-loaders continue to be more popular in the US.

But in June of 2007, Consumer Reports ran a surprising story titled “Washers That Don’t Wash.” It found that many new top-loading models did an unexpectedly poor job at cleaning, with some having “the lowest scores we’ve seen in years.” You could still find very good top-loaders, but only if you paid $900 or more, about twice what most of models cost. Why the sudden drop in cleaning ability? Because DoE’s standards had become more stringent, forcing manufacturers to restrict the amount of hot water used by their machines. The result was a lousier wash. Of course, when DoE had first announced the stricter standards several years earlier, it had promised that cleaning performance wouldn’t suffer. Fat chance . . . Congress remained clueless to the problem and, several months later, directed DoE to make its appliance standards even more stringent.

The federal energy-efficiency push gets much of its impetus from a second source as well—the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program. The program began in the early 1990s to advise the public on computer equipment energy use, but it has grown to cover appliances, heating and cooling systems, and even new home construction. Unlike DoE’s standards, which all appliances in a given category must meet, the Energy Star program is advisory in nature, highlighting the very top performers.

But EPA’s emphasis on energy efficiency can lead to some lousy advice. For example:
  •  EPA recommends dishwashers with soil sensors, which monitor how dirty each load of dishes is in order to adjust the water temperature accordingly. You’ll supposedly make up the higher purchase price of these high-tech models through your savings on hot water. But a few years ago, it turned out that the sensor-equipped models were actually the least efficient machines to operate for heavy loads. That meant that people following EPA’s advice were wasting money twice over: first, when they bought the more expensive models and, second, each time they operated them.
  •  For central heating and cooling setups, the highest efficiency systems are not only the costliest, they’re also the most prone to break down. Forswearing ideology, Consumer Reports recommends against them.
  • EPA suggests turning down your water heater thermostat to a relatively low 120 degrees. The Department of Labor, on the other hand, reports that the bacteria that cause Legionnaires’ disease can multiply in water at that temperature. If there are elderly or immune-compromised people in your household, it recommends 140 degrees. Very few people know about the Legionnaires’ risk, and they sure won’t learn about it from EPA’s Energy Star website.
EPA’s motto is "Protecting People and the Environment". Perhaps it should go on to say, "but not necessarily in that order".

As of January 1, 2012, the sale of traditional 100-watt bulbs will be illegal. The 75-watters will be banned in 2013, and 60- and 40-watt bulbs the year after. That’s Congress looking out for you again. It figures that, given all the advantages of compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) over Thomas Edison’s outdated incandescent bulbs, Americans have no good reason not to switch—after all, CFLs last longer and use less energy. Other countries have already taken the lead in banning incandescents, so what’s not to like?

Well, for starters, there’s the fact that CFLs have some pretty severe disadvantages. They cost more, they often burn out long before their much-touted 10,000-hour lifetime, and they can’t be used with timers or outdoors in cold weather or in recessed downlight fixtures. In fact, they can’t be used in some of the most ordinary of fixtures, like the three-bulb sockets on many household ceilings; try putting a CFL in each of those sockets and you’ll probably find that the glass fixture won’t fit back on. Put in just one CFL and it will flicker, because CFLs apparently can’t tolerate bulb diversity (a trait they seem to share with CFL advocates).

Turn on a CFL and it may take a minute or more to reach full brightness, so good-bye to that beloved phrase “at the flick of a switch.” CFLs contain minute amounts of mercury, which causes some environmentalists to worry about disposal issues. This led EPA (a name you can trust by now) to issue guidelines on how to clean up a broken CFL: Step One: “Open a window and leave the room for 15 minutes or more.”

For years we’ve heard that new CFLs were a fully developed technology, far better than the fluorescent bulbs of old. But now it turns out that even the newer CFLs had their problems, as evidenced by this statement from The Light Source: “If you were disappointed by the performance of CFL bulbs in the last few years, it’s time to try again.” We heard the same thing about low-flow toilets—first that they were fine, later the admission that there were problems, then that those problems were fixed, and, later still, the promise that, this time around, the problems have really been fixed. Wanna bet?

Do CFLs actually reduce our consumption of electricity? Even for this seemingly unquestionable claim, the answer isn’t clear. In 1987, the town of Traer, Iowa, persuaded most of its residents to turn in their incandescent bulbs for free fluorescents. The results? Electricity use increased by nearly 10 percent. People figured that, because running the new lights was cheaper, they might as well keep them on longer.

Most importantly, there’s the light itself—many people just hate it. They find it depressing, color-draining, sickly, headache-inducing, and morgue-like, with distracting flickers and annoying buzzes that none of their CFL-loving friends seem to sense (“electrical embalmment,” one blogger called it). And a New Yorker cartoon featured a manager showing a visitor around his company’s cubicle-filled floor, explaining that “the dim fluorescent lighting is meant to emphasize the general absence of hope.”