Q: Who is Gutting FOIA Reform? A: The Madigans

I find it fascinating that people in Illinois are actually considering Lisa Madigan for Governor. (She is yet un-announced, BTW) This phenomenon seems to attach to the types of voters who throw temper tantrums over taxes and immigration, but can’t connect the Madigan that ran Illinois into a ditch (Mike Madigan) with the Madigan that will keep Illinois in a ditch.

Exhibit 1 is the late May shell game with FOIA reform. As with Quinn’s tax increases, where Lisa gets credit for being anti-tax while her Dad gets ready to soak Illinois taxpayers, Lisa and Mike are playing the same game with FOIA reforms.

Lisa is lavished with praise for her “reform” bill, while Mike Madigan’s and John Cullerton’s henchmen in the “Legislative Staff” have gutted the bill.

“Illinois needs a Freedom of Information Act with teeth, such as the one Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office has worked on for months.

It doesn’t need the gutted, watered-down version that mysteriously appeared late Tuesday night — one that bears little resemblance to Madigan’s proposal.

Illinois Press Association officials received a new draft of the FOIA bill about a minute before midnight Tuesday. The draft, written by “legislative staff,” included radical changes from what the advocates thought was the nearly final bill.

We have to wonder who is in charge of the “legislative staff” and where he, she or they got the idea to undo months of work by Madigan’s staff, the IPA, the Illinois Reform Commission and other advocacy groups.

The staff-written draft is a perfect example of how elected officials want to keep you in the dark. Madigan had invited everyone to the table to discuss her proposal, including opponents such as the Illinois Municipal League. Instead of direct opposition, we see a draft that comes from nowhere, surprising the groups who have been working tirelessly to make changes.”

Just how credulous are Illinois voters? Mike Madigan, 5 Governors, and Mayor Daley have bankrupted Illinois, given away the store to special interests and insiders, and run Illinois into a ditch. You’d have be to insane to elect the Madigans governor. Insane.

More articles on FOIA games and the undeserved credit given to Lisa Madigan.

Daily Herald Op Ed

At the same time, efforts to improve our now-lame Freedom of Information Act are in jeopardy. There had been a plan supported by many to strengthen penalties on those who violate the law and give the attorney general power to enforce it. Now, House and Senate leaders are talking about dropping those. Their new version would shield address information on arrestees and public employees. Further, it also would add broad exemptions that would give governments greater cover to operate in secret and to keep settlements private that involve your tax dollars.

If you think FOIA doesn’t affect you, you’re wrong. It’s conceivable with this latest plan, none of us would have any way to determine whether a Jim Smith, accused of rape, is the same Jim Smith who holds a municipal post, or the same Jim Smith who is our neighbor. We’d have no way of judging whether a Todd Stroger-guided Cook County lawsuit settlement was a fair deal.

These two moves don’t do anything to cleanse corruption. They increase the clout of those in control and allow more chances for them to operate in shadows. There are only nine days left in the legislative session. We call on every Illinoisan reading this to call the legislative leaders and their legislators and tell them these ideas simply cannot become law.

While America Slept

Every once in a while you come across a REALLY good piece of writing that lays it all out for you. This article below is one such example. While it is about Europe, and not America, one can easily see the parallels. We are not as far gone as Europe relative to our sliding down the slippery slope of “post-Christianity” and moral relativism, we aren’t that far behind.

While Europe Slept

Europe cannot remember who she is unless she remembers that she is the child not only of the ancient Greek and Roman worlds and the Enlightenment but also of Judaism and Christianity—the child, therefore, of Catholicism and the Reformation. If Europe abandons her religious heritage, the idea of Europe dies. And Europe has abandoned, or forgotten, her religious heritage. Europe is now “post-Christian.” What does this mean? What does it portend?

If a culture forgets what it is, as I believe Europe has done, it falls first into an agnostic shrugging of the shoulders, unable to say exactly what it is and believes, and from there it will inevitably fall into nihilism. Detached from its religious foundations, Europe will not remain agnostic. The first result is manifest in those ideologies of multiculturalism that make “difference” a kind of sacred, absolute principle, although no principle is considered to have any such status. Difference tells us nothing in and of itself. Some ways of life and ways of being in the world are brutal, stupid, and ugly. Some a human rights-oriented culture cannot tolerate. A culture must believe in its own enculturating responsibility and mission in order to make claims of value and to institutionalize them in social and political forms. This a post-Christian Europe cannot do.

The late John Paul II saw the result of the belief that we are sovereigns of ourselves, wholly self-possessing. In Evangelium Vitae he writes: “If the promotion of the self is understood in terms of absolute autonomy, people inevitably reach the point of rejecting one another. Everyone else is considered an enemy from whom one has to defend oneself.” Society “becomes a mass of individuals placed side by side, but without any mutual bonds.”

Someone may attach a value to us—we may have a market price, so to speak—a price, but not a dignity. Should no one attach value to us and we be too bereft or wounded to attach it to ourselves, we become dispensable. The final triumph of this notion will be a world in which the powerful have their way simply because they can and because the ethical and moral barriers to taking what they want have all been lost. The final fate of the disabled in a liberal society will not be a happy one. We champion “access” even as we redraw the boundaries of humanity to exclude wide swaths of human persons from this access.

Ironically, while Catholicism has become a champion of human rights and democracy as the political form that supports human dignity most fully and bids to be the political form within which human flourishing is most likely to take place, much secular reason has increasingly manifested itself as secularism. And secularism—a rigid cultural ideology that mocks religion as superstition and celebrates technological rationalism as the only proper and intelligent way to think and to be in the world—has developed into nihilism, into a world in which we can no longer make judgments of value and truth in defense of human dignity and flourishing.

No good has ever— ever—come from narrowing and constricting our understanding of humanity in this way. The Jerusalem side of the European heritage tells us that all are equally children of God—the disabled, the ugly, the bad-smelling, the boring, the lonely—all require our care and concern. As the anti-Nazi German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer insisted, even the most wretched life is worth living before God.

Without God, without some transcendent principle, the wretched life is not worth living at all. And others have the power to decide whose life is wretched based on utilitarian criteria. The utilitarian ethic would annihilate the Christian ethic in the name of progress and decency and the ending of suffering.

I’ve asked this on the site before, but why would decent American want to “follow” Europe? Why have we elected a President that wants to turn us into Europe?

I’ve posted a long excerpt, but my guess is that you’ll REALLY like the entire article.

A belated Memorial Day Post

IT IS THE SOLDIER (Father Dennis Edward O’Brien , United States Marine Corps)

It is the Soldier, not the reporter
Who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the Soldier, not the poet,
Who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer,
Who has given us the freedom to demonstrate.

It is the Soldier, not the lawyer,
Who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the Soldier, who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protestor to burn the flag.

California Dreaming

I’ve been beating the drum for honesty regarding public employees and their insatiable greed for about even before I launched this site in 2004. I’ve also been saying that the time is approaching where the disgusting appeals for more taxes based upon “popular” public employee groups will lose steam.

I was right.

California ballot measures faced long odds from the start

Schwarzenegger’s approval ratings are at an all-time low of 33 percent, and the Legislature’s are at 14 percent, according to last month’s Field Poll.

Indeed, even the stock characters for ballot initiatives — the firefighters, nurses and teachers that are so ubiquitous in political ads appealing for support of public programs — appeared to lose some of their standing in the public eye.

This is the time for courageous politicians to stand up and say “These people (teachers, fat administrators, firefighters, policemen, etc.) have had their ride on the property tax, economic growth gravy train.”

It is time they get stuck with an “inflation only” pay freeze for 10 years so that the rest of us can catch up.

Illinois and California are the canaries in the coal mine. If the rest of the nation goes down that path (and Saint Obama is leading the way), the nation will be driven into the same ditch the Unions drove California and Illinois into.

Chronicles of Union Greed

Unions have destroyed entire Airlines, and the UAW (with the help of incompetent management and intrusive government) has destroyed the US auto industry. At the base of it all is a “something for nothing” attitude of Unionization, and “everything for nothing” attitude of the public employee unions, who finished what the private unions started, and destroyed California, Detroit, and will soon destroy Illinois. These people are destroying your economy folks.

Unions vs. Taxpayers

It’s not as if we haven’t seen this coming. When the movement among public-sector workers to unionize began gathering momentum in the 1950s, some critics, including private-sector labor leaders such as George Meany, observed that government is a monopoly not subject to the discipline of the marketplace. Allowing these workers — many already protected by civil-service law — to organize and bargain collectively might ultimately give them the power to hold politicians and taxpayers hostage.

It wasn’t long before such fears were realized. By the mid-1960s, dozens of cities across America were wracked by teachers’ strikes that closed school systems. Groups like New York City’s transit workers walked off the job in 1966, bringing business in Gotham to a near halt. The United Federation of Teachers led an illegal strike which closed down New York City schools in 1968.

This would have been the perfect time to fire them all an move to vouchers. It is so much harder to do now, but no less necessary.

Widespread ire against strikes by public workers produced legislation in many states outlawing them. That prompted government workers to retreat from the picket lines into the halls of government. In Washington, they organized political action committees, set up sophisticated lobbying efforts, and used their muscle to help elect sympathetic public officials.

Today, public-sector unions sit atop lists of organizations that devote the most money to lobbying and campaign contributions.

In Pennsylvania, a local think tank, the Commonwealth Foundation, counted the resources of the state’s teachers union a few years ago. It had 11 regional offices, 275 employees and $66 million in annual dues. In Connecticut, representatives of the teachers union camped outside the legislators’ doors in 2005 to keep tabs on school reformers who were calling on these officials to expand school choice.

And in California, unions spent more than $50 million in 2005 to defeat a series of ballot proposals that would have capped growth in the state’s budget. Now the state’s teachers union is putting its clout behind a ballot initiative, to be voted on next week, that would restore more than $9 billion in educational spending cut from the state’s budget.

The results of such efforts are evident in the rich rewards that public-sector employees now enjoy. A study in 2005 by the nonpartisan Employee Benefit Research Institute estimated that the average public-sector worker earned 46% more in salary and benefits than comparable private-sector workers. The gap has only continued to grow. For example, state and local worker pay and benefits rose 3.1% in the last year, compared to 1.9% in the private sector, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

But the real power of the public sector is showing through in this economic crisis. Some five million private-sector workers have lost their jobs in the last year alone, and their unemployment rate is above 9% according to the BLS. By contrast, public-sector employment has grown in virtually every month of the recession, and the jobless rate for government workers is a mere 2.8%. For anyone who thinks such low unemployment numbers are good news, remember that the bulging public sector must be paid for with revenues that most governments don’t currently have. This is one reason for a spate of state and local tax increases, such as $5 billion in tax increases New York state passed in April, and $12 billion in tax increases California’s legislature agreed to in February that will only become law if voters pass a series of ballot initiatives next week.

One lesson every reader needs to take to heart is that this financial conflagration will NEVER STOP until some one starts to campaign against it in an honest, open, forthright, and sustained manner. These people are destroying your country, your state, and your schools, and if you never call them out as the greedy people they are, you will never defeat them.

Teacher’s Unions and Democrats V. Poor Black Kids

Hat tip to Illinois Review.

How horrible of a person do you have to be to side with disgusting unions on this issue?

An article every center-right person should read

Agree or disagree, this article lays out much of the debate taking place right now.

A Driving Desire To Lose

Of the two main American political parties, Republicans are now clearly distinguished by their driving desire to lose. Every faction seems determined to rule the kingdom of irrelevance.

Witness the reaction to the National Council for a New America — an anodyne “listening tour” by Republican officials recently kicked off at a pizza parlor in Northern Virginia. Social conservatives attacked this forum on education and the economy for the offense of not being a forum on abortion and the traditional family. Neo-Reaganites searched the transcript for nonexistent slights: How dare former Florida governor Jeb Bush criticize “nostalgia” for the “good old days”? Why didn’t he just spit on Ronald Reagan’s grave? Other conservatives criticized the very idea of a listening tour, asking, “What’s to hear?”

During a recent conversation, Bush described himself as “dumbfounded by the reaction.” He added: “I don’t think listening is a weakness. People are yearning to be heard. Perhaps we should begin with a little humility.”

There is much for Republicans to be humble about. The party, says Bush, faces “dramatically changing demographics, especially Hispanics in swing states,” the “alienation of young voters” and an unprecedented drop in support among college graduates.

“Trying to be all things to all people isn’t going to work,” Bush contends. The goal is “not to redefine our beliefs, but to recognize challenges and adapt,” particularly on the issues of national security, health care, education, the economy and the environment. Republicans need to “focus on creating policies relevant to today — not things relevant 20, 30 or 40 years ago.”

Jeb Bush insists that this focus on creative policy can be unifying because “conservatives have more in common than they disagree on.” And the Republican Party has been unified in opposition to President Obama’s disturbing accumulation of federal debt and power. But on other issues, it seems to me that Republicans are likely to pass through a series of wrenching debates before they arrive at “policies relevant to today.”

If this is to remain a center-right nation (and some effectively argue that it no longer is), the so-called “right,” better get about the business of persuading people to join them on the right side of center instead of pushing every one who fails one of their litmus tests over to the left side of center.

How hard can that be?

100% “Legalized” Union Corruption

Kyle Olson, head of the Michigan based Education Action Group, has been waging war against the corrupt and powerful MEA (Michigan Education Association).

He found the mother lode of stories when he started digging into how the MEA uses a captive insurance company (MESSA – Michigan Education Special Services Association )to launder massive amounts of funds. The story is a monument to the power and greed of the teacher’s unions.

In Case You Missed It: Teachers union resists efforts to save school dollars

Hundreds of school districts currently purchase expensive health coverage from the Michigan Education Special Services Association, an insurance carrier owned and operated by MEA. Now many of those districts, facing large budget deficits, want to dump MESSA and purchase more affordable coverage.

But the MEA, determined to maintain MESSA’s stranglehold on the school insurance market, is resisting those sensible cost-cutting efforts.

In most districts, changing health insurance coverage would provide very significant savings. According to Grand Rapids school officials, the district would save $4 million per year by dumping MESSA and choosing the lowest insurance bidder.

Smaller districts have also told us how much they could save by choosing the lowest insurance bidder. They include Cass City ($200,000), Adrian ($372,000) Charlevoix ($230,000), Leslie ($140,000) and Bridgman ($240,000).

In most cases, alternate coverage proposed by school boards provides nearly identical employee benefits, at no extra cost to them.

But dumping MESSA is difficult, because the MEA puts up a fight. It starts at the bargaining table, where the union refuses to have non-MESSA insurance written into labor contracts.

In some districts, like St. Clair Shores Lakeview, Gladstone and Wayne-Westland, the union initiates recall campaigns against school board members who question the value of MESSA. In the Wayne-Westland district last fall, teachers even went on strike over MESSA.

In some districts, like Lawton, MESSA refuses to release insurance claims data from previous years, preventing competitors from making informed bids. That would be like asking a contractor to bid on a demolition project, without disclosing the size of the building.

Why is the MEA so protective of MESSA’s client base? Because MESSA makes a lof money. According to state insurance records, MESSA has amassed more than $350 million in excess earnings. And MESSA shares several million dollars with the MEA every year.

Can any supporter of public education tell me why any of this should be legal. Anyone?! You can’t. It is 100% corrupt and 100% immoral. It is union greed, pure and simple. Only an idiot or a scumbag would argue otherwise.

Today’s Education System is “morally illegitimate”

Here is yet another piece of evidence that the rapid expansion of charters is in the best interests of the America’s children.

The Harlem Miracle

That’s why I was startled when I received an e-mail message from Roland Fryer, a meticulous Harvard economist. It included this sentence: “The attached study has changed my life as a scientist.”

Fryer and his colleague Will Dobbie have just finished a rigorous assessment of the charter schools operated by the Harlem Children’s Zone. They compared students in these schools to students in New York City as a whole and to comparable students who entered the lottery to get into the Harlem Children’s Zone schools,but weren’t selected.

They found that the Harlem Children’s Zone schools produced “enormous” gains. The typical student entered the charter middle school, Promise Academy, in sixth grade and scored in the 39th percentile among New York City students in math. By the eighth grade, the typical student in the school was in the 74th percentile. The typical student entered the school scoring in the 39th percentile in English Language Arts (verbal ability). By eighth grade, the typical student was in the 53rd percentile.

Forgive some academic jargon, but the most common education reform ideas — reducing class size, raising teacher pay, enrolling kids in Head Start — produce gains of about 0.1 or 0.2 or 0.3 standard deviations. If you study policy, those are the sorts of improvements you live with every day. Promise Academy produced gains of 1.3 and 1.4 standard deviations. That’s off the charts. In math, Promise Academy eliminated the achievement gap between its black students and the city average for white students.

Let me repeat that. It eliminated the black-white achievement gap. “The results changed my life as a researcher because I am no longer interested in marginal changes,” Fryer wrote in a subsequent e-mail. What Geoffrey Canada, Harlem Children’s Zone’s founder and president, has done is “the equivalent of curing cancer for these kids. It’s amazing. It should be celebrated. But it almost doesn’t matter if we stop there. We don’t have a way to replicate his cure, and we need one since so many of our kids are dying — literally and figuratively.”

Every legislator who votes for a charter cap is morally illegitimate. They are corrupt, and they are voting for corrupt interests when they cap charters. These people lack moral legitimacy, and they need to be told this to their face.

When you read the study referenced above, you start to realize that busting the cap on charters is a moral imperative on the order of the civil rights movement. Let me take that one step further, to stand in the way of more charters is immoral, and it is time to start to calling into question the moral legitimacy of any politician standing in the way of rapid charterization.

That goes double and triple for the organizations whose interests they are defending. The politicians, unions, and entities that are lobbying and voting for capping charters are the moral equivalent of Birmingham police sicking dogs and using water cannons on civil rights marchers, and it is time some one told them so.

More Union lies about Chrysler

We’ve all heard that the unions gave up HUGE concessions in the “Fiat buys Chrysler patronage bailout.

Not hardly.

This from the Kaus Files…

**– Here’s a WSJ news story on what the UAW seems to have actually given up: 1) Suspended cost-of-living adjustements; 2) Overtime only after 40 hours a week of work.[That wasn't the rule already?] 3) No Easter Monday holiday in 2010 and 2011.” Some additional concessions in this AP report: 4) “The union also agreed to consolidate nonskilled labor job classifications into a team concept at all factories.” [You mean unskilled workers were separated into different classifications before?] 5). Performance and Christmas bonuses suspended for two years. 6) In what seems like the only major cut, retirees will lose dental and vision benefits, at least temporarily. … The 2015 contract will also go to binding arbitration if no deal is reached. I don’t know if this is a “concession” or a protection. … Most significantly, there is apparently no reduction in current UAW workers’ high basic wage rate of near $30/hour. See also “Hourly Employees Spared Painful Cuts in Chrysler Bankruptcy“.

Every last one of them ought to be put out of work, along with their awful management. There was a 20% overcapacity in auto production BEFORE the downturn. Let the weakest companies die. Let their workers feel the brunt of their Union’s greed.