Friday, March 25, 2011

'Fringe' Renewed For A Full Fourth Season
'Fringe' Renewed For A Full Fourth Season
Fox's critically acclaimed sci-fi series gets  another year.
by Blair Marnell
Mar 25, 2011
Earlier this year, several TV observers essentially wrote the obituary for "Fringe" when it was moved to the Friday nights; which is traditionally called "The Friday Night Death Slot." And yet "Fringe" is still alive for at least another year.

"Fringe' executive producer J.H. Wyman broke the news in a post on his twitter account "'Fringe' was picked up!!!! Thanks Fringedom!"

Fox soon confirmed to Entertainment Weekly that the renewal was official and that it will be for a full season of 22 episodes.

Created by J.J. Abrams, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman back in 2008, "Fringe" has served as a modern day "X-Files" by exploring unexplained phenomena, super science and even an alternate universe that seems bent on destroying our own. The series stars Anna Torv as FBI Agent Olivia Dunham, Joshua Jackson as Peter Bishop and John Noble as his father, the slightly crazed Dr. Walter Bishop.

The third season began with an intriguing twist that saw Olivia trapped in the alternate universe while her counterpart took over her life in this world and pursued a romantic relationship with Peter. The episodes actually alternated between telling stories in both universes for the first few installments, but the series struggled on Thursday nights prompting Fox to move the show to Fridays.

However, "Fringe" has proven remarkably steady on Friday nights, averaging around 4.1 million viewers. Some reporters and fans of the show were alarmed last week when the series slipped to an all-time low of 3.6 million viewers when pitted up against the NCAA basketball tournament.

"Fringe" is also remarkably popular on DVR and has some of the highest delayed views on television.

The early renewal is a sign of confidence from Fox that should allow "Fringe" fans to enjoy the rest of the season without wondering if the show will end on a cliffhanger and be forever unresolved.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor

"I call upon you to draw from the depths of your being — to prove that we are a human race, to prove that our love outweighs our need to hate, that our compassion is more compelling than our need to blame."
~Elizabeth Taylor

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Advocates back NJ medical marijuana

Advocates back NJ medical marijuana

Updated at 05:18 PM today
When the state announced it had approved six sites in New Jersey to grow and dispense medical marijuana it was good news for Stephen Cuspilich of Southampton. The father of three suffers from Crohn's disease, arthritis and other ailments and knows pot can relieve his symptoms.
"It stops the stomach cramping; it stops the nausea, the throwing up," Cuspilich said.
The news was not so good for the mayor of Bellmawr, who learned in the paper one of the marijuana treatment centers will be located in his town.
"Don't you think the mayor or council or chief of police should be sitting down beforehand , before they come out with a statement saying Bellmawr is a site for a marijuana growing treatment plant and explain, so we can explain to the public?" Mayor Frank Filipek said.
Compassionate Care Foundation, the group that wants to open the regional facility in Bellmawr, says it learned just yesterday it'd been selected from a pool of applicants and will gladly undergo local scrutiny.
David Knowlton of the Foundation says residents should look at the center the way they would any pharmaceutical facility that brings jobs and tax revenue.
"This is not some lightweight recreational drug facility. This is a serious approach to, in my opinion, a much-needed medication," Knowlton said.
The six treatment centers statewide will sell three kinds of marijuana with limited potency. The pot will be available to patients with only 14 conditions including cancer and MS and only with a doctor's prescription.
"Medical marijuana in New Jersey will be the most regulated, tightly controlled marijuana on the planet. It's more carefully controlled than morphine or oxycontin," Chris Goldstein of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana said.
Once the regulations are all finalized, the state health department says the alternative treatment centers could be legally selling pot to patients by the end of summer.
The successful applicants are:
Breakwater Alternative Treatment Center, Corp., Ocean, Central Region; Board of Trustees/Officers: Richard Lefkowitz, CEO; H. Alexander Zaleski, COO. The ATC would be located in Manalapan, Monmouth County.
Compassionate Care Centers of America Foundation Inc. (CCCAF), Jersey City, Central Region; Board of Directors: David Weisser, Michael Weisser and Anastasia Burlyuk. The ATC would be located in New Brunswick, Middlesex County.
Compassionate Care Foundation Inc., West Trenton, Southern Region; Board of Trustees: William J. Thomas, David Knowlton, James C. Herrmann, Ann Marie Hill, Jeffrey Warren, JoAnn Lange, Mark Dumoff. The ATC would be located in Bellmawr, Camden County.
Compassionate Sciences, Inc. ATC, Sea Cliff, NY, Southern Region; Board of Trustees, CEO Richard Taney, Dr. Steven Paterno, CFO Jack Burkolder; Webster Todd. The location of the ATC is undetermined, but will be located in either Burlington or Camden County.
Foundation Harmony, Cliffside Park, Northern Region; Board of Directors: Maria Karavas, Ida Umanskaya, Margarita Ivanova and Dmitri Bajanov. The ATC would be in Secaucus, Hudson County.
Greenleaf Compassion Center, Montclair, Northern Region; Board of Trustees: Joseph Stevens, president, CEO; Jordan A. Matthews, Robert J. Guarino. The ATC would be in Montclair, Essex County.

(Copyright ©2011 WPVI-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.) 

IBM Buys Tririga for Smarter Building Software

IBM Buys Tririga for Smarter Building Software

Tue Mar 22, 2011 10:05am EDT
IBM has long talked about making acquisitions in the smart grid space. Here’s the latest: Tuesday morning, IBM announced it has acquired Tririga, a startup that makes sustainability and building energy management software. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
IBM will use Tririga for its smarter buildings initiatives, and IBM said in a release that it estimates its Smarter Planets project — which includes its Smarter Buildings products — will generate $10 billion in revenue by 2015. Buildings consume 40 percent of the energy in the U.S., and estimates indicate up to half is wasted in one form or another. The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy predicts efficiency upgrades in commercial and industrial buildings could represent a $250 billion market over the next decade.
Smarter building software is a crowded market filled with large players including, Honeywell, Johnson Controls, Siemens, Schneider Electric and even Cisco, as well as innovative startups including Scientific Conservation, Building IQ, Incenergy, Advanced Telemetry, Cimetrics and Retroficiency.
IBM’s software-centric approach differs from that of, say, Cisco, which has rolled out a Building Mediator product to interface with multiple building management systems and tie them together using Internet protocol (IP). IBM’s Smarter Building Solution software product is “essentially a smart building in a box,” as Rich Lechner, IBM’s VP of energy and environment, explained to us last year, brought together in an enterprise-wide platform through its so-called Maximo energy optimization offering.
IBM has been working on beefing up its smarter building tools for a while through partnerships, too. Back in late 2010, IBM announced a new partnership with building automation vendor Schneider Electric, similar to its partnerships with Johnson Controls and Honeywell. An example of a project from IBM’s work with Schneider is the Bryant University campus in Rhode Island, where IBM and Schneider started on a data center efficiency project, but then expanded it to the entire campus, yielding an overall 15-percent drop in power use.
Tririga is an 11-year-old company that says it has 700 customers, including Nokia, GE, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Gap.
Image courtesy of dandeluca.
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Megaseas - Air pressure was compromised by unknown sources

Early this morning on Mega-Seas' weekly luxury tour of the submerged Island of Oahu, air pressure was compromised by unknown causes. The submarine had to make an emergency surfacing and all passengers were evacuated. This is the first time since 1978 that the famous two-day voyage had to suspend operations mid-tour..

DARPA - The agency is offering a reward for any information leading to the cloak's recovery

DARPA again requests help from all citizens. Any information regarding the misplaced experimental invisibility cloak should be directed to the Department of Defense citizen's hotline. The agency is offering a reward for any information leading to the cloak's recovery.

Just How Far Will Bill Maher Push the Gutter Humor to Mock Palin?



By Dick Morris And Eileen McGann
Share this article
To paraphrase Mark Twain, the three kinds of lies are lies, damn lies, and government statistics. Governments lie, particularly about economic stats in the middle of a recession and the Obama Bureau of Labor Statistics has refined misrepresenting our economic situation to a high art form.
In a previous column, we reported that Rasmussen’s index of consumer confidence has fallen dramatically since January from a height of 88 to 73 in mid-March. Now, from the Gallup organization comes the reason why: Unemployment is up, not down!

Gallup has measured true joblessness in its polling during this entire recession. Here’s the story:
• Unemployment stood at 10.9 in Feb, 10.
• It fell each month ending up at 8.9 in Aug.
• Then it rose again steadily to 10.1 in Oct.
• And dropped to a low of 8.8 in Dec.
• And then shot up again to 10.3 in March of 2011!
In other words, the American public had it right when they were euphoric in January of 2011 with a consumer confidence rate of 88% and are right, again, when they lost all confidence as unemployment soared again over the past three months.
Economists predict “false dawns” in permanent recessions when the clouds part and all seems well. But the dawns are, indeed, false, and the dismal reality of the continuing depression pushes its way back in.
You wouldn’t know that the economy has crashed in the past three months by watching this president or this Administration. In fact, Ben Smith, writing in said recently that the Obama folks were wondering when to declare that the recession was over. As joblessness was rising again to new heights, Obama was declaring, in his State of the Union speech that the darkest days of the recession were over. Nobody called him on this Hoover-esque optimism. But it now shows how out of touch with reality he is.
Not all of this economic downturn can be ascribed to the gas price increases. The Middle East turmoil that triggered it had not really hit until the middle of February. By then, according to Gallup, joblessness had risen from 8.8 in December to 10.0 in February, on its way up to 10.3 in March.
Or, if you get tired following the ups and downs, you can say that unemployment has ranged between 9 and 11 percent under Obama’s entire presidency and you would be right.
Until we repeal his social engineering, reduce the economic uncertainty it has engendered, roll back his spending and his deficits, and deregulate the economy, joblessness will continue. And continue. And continue. And continue.

The Conservative Party Nominates Obama for Second Nobel Peace Prize

March 22, 2011

The Conservative Party Nominates Obama for Second Nobel Peace Prize

Based on the impulsive way the Nobel Committee awarded Barack Obama a Nobel Peace Prize after he served just two months in office, perhaps America’s direct involvement in yet another war will spur the Nobel Committee to grant him a second Peace Prize . . . seems only fair.

Despite having a crushing $14 Trillion national debt, a $1.5 Trillion annual budget deficit, a dire 15.9% unemployment rate (using the real but still underestimated u6 rate) and a looming financial drain to help Japan, Obama has committed America to yet another war in the Muslim world when our military and national budget are already stretched to the limit in every sense. Perhaps the Committee should also consider giving Obama another Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences since he’s driving the U.S. into insolvency.

While railing against all things military during his 2008 campaign, Obama just asked the dealer for an extra card when he should have stood pat on 20. Instead, he bet $115 Million on cruise missiles that will kill civilians living near Libya’s air defense installations so we can protect . . . civilians. It looks like Obama believes that old adage “You can’t make an omelet unless you break some eggs.” In other words, the U.S. can’t protect civilians unless we kill civilians. Obama’s first Peace Prize gave him political cover to kill Muslims using: guns in Iraq; airplanes in Afghanistan; drones in Pakistan; and now cruise missiles in Libya. The Conservative Party thinks this is the perfect opportunity to give Obama another Peace Prize since he may soon invade Yemen and Bahrain since those dictators are also killing their civilians. At least he’s had two years to demonstrate he really deserves the Prize this time.

Picture this: John Kerry, John McCain, Nancy Pelosi, Lindsey Graham, Hillary Clinton, the New York Times and the French Government all support this duplicitous attack. Conservatives understand what’s wrong with that picture.

Sad irony and sarcasm aside, the Conservative Party decries America’s involvement in yet ANOTHER war during these dismal economic times. America should NOT meddle in a civil war of an Arab country that has little strategic value and for which Congress was not officially consulted. None of those missiles and none of those coalition jet pilots will be able to discern the difference between pro-Gadhafi civilians or anti-Gadhafi civilians since they all have weapons. The U.S has no real idea who leads the rebels or their true political agenda; some of them have ties to Al Qaeda. Obama has no clear objective, no clear definition of victory and no clear exit strategy if Gadhafi remains in power.

Make no mistake that Gadhafi, Al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood and all anti-American Muslims worldwide will not consider these attacks on Libya as an international humanitarian coalition trying to save civilians. Most of the world will consider the attacks as yet another example of America getting involved in another war in the Middle East that is killing more Muslims. And using French or British approval for an excuse won’t cut it.

H.M. Hervey Chairman
Conservative Party USA

PATRIOT Act Extension Bill Would Also Expand Death Penalty Laws

PATRIOT Act Extension Bill Would Also Expand Death Penalty Laws

March 21, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Since the mid 90s, federal death penalty statutes have been slowly but steadily expanding to include more and more offenses within their reach. With the committee-amended PATRIOT Act reauthorization bill that’s headed for floor votes in the next few weeks, Congress appears ready to expand the death penalty once again. This time, they’re looking at applying the death penalty to people convicted of providing material support for acts of terrorism that result in deaths.
The language was added to the bill during the March 10 mark-up session as an amendment from Judiciary Committee member Sen. Chuck Grassley [R, IA] (pictured) over opposition from the committee’s chairman, Sen. Pat Leahy [D, VT]. Leahy said that he was not opposed to the amendment on principle, but that he believed it went too far beyond the scope of the underlying legislation. “This is a surveillance bill […] not a criminal code bill,” Leahy argued. Grassley was ultimately able to overcome Leahy’s opposition when Sen. Dianne Feinstein [D, CA] and Sen. Charles Schumer [D, NY] crossed the aisle to vote with the Republicans against a Leahy motion to table the amendment. Sen. Herbert Kohl [D, WI] abstained from voting. After the motion to table was rejected, the amendment was agreed to by a voice vote.
And so now in the PATRIOT Act extension bill, on the second-to-last page, is Grassley’s death penalty language:
(a) Participation in Nuclear and Weapons of Mass Destruction Threats to the United States-Section 832© of title 18, United States Code, is amended by inserting ‘punished by death if death results to any person from the offense, or’ after ‘shall be’.
(b) Missile Systems to Destroy Aircraft-Section 2332g©(3) of title 18, United States Code, is amended by inserting ‘punished by death or’ after ‘shall be’.
© Atomic Weapons- The last sentence of section 222 b. of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 (42 U.S.C. 2272) is amended by inserting ‘death or’ before ‘imprisonment for life’ the last place it appears.
(d) Radiological Dispersal Devices-Section 2332h©(3) of title 18, United States Code, is amended by inserting ‘death or’ before ‘imprisonment for life’.
(e) Variola Virus-Section 175c©(3) of title 18, United States Code, is amended by inserting ‘death or’ before ‘imprisonment for life’.
As Grassley explains, the language would apply the death penalty to crimes “including participating in, or providing material support to, developing, using, or threatening to use a nuclear weapon; producing or using a missile to destroy an aircraft; using or threatening to use atomic weapons; using a dirty bomb, or radiological dispersal device; and producing or using a virus.”
Within the realm of the existing capital punishment laws, this is hardly a controversial expansion. Still, when we’re dealing with an area do the law as sensitive and contentious as the death penalty, you expect to have hearings and an extended debate to gather input from experts on all sides. Instead this has been dropped in a tangentially-related bill and will be overshadowed by the many more controversial provisions of PATRIOT Act surveillance laws.

Video: SEIU Protesters Take Over Bank HQ to Protest CEO

Video: SEIU Protesters Take Over Bank HQ to Protest CEO

About 80 medical workers and their union representatives took two yellow school buses to the headquarters of ESSA Bank in Stroudsburg, Pa., last Wednesday. The SEIU demonstrators weren’t there to complain about the bank. Instead, they demanded to meet with bank president and CEO Gary Olson who also chairs the Pocono Medical Center board of directors.
SEIU represents the hospital’s service workers. A portion of the hospital’s 550 service employees — technicians, laborers, housekeepers — are currently on a three-day strike, demanding that management allow them to makes union membership and dues-paying compulsory.
Earlier this month, two SEIU members infiltrated an ESSA shareholders meeting on March 4, once again demanding Olson’s ear. Union members in that case were escorted out of the building by security.
Showing up at Olson‘s place of work is not a new agitation tactic for the unions who have recently stormed state capitol buildings and even shown up at individuals’ homes to protest. But what about all the other employees of the business just trying to do their jobs?
“We’re asking that Mr. Olson take five minutes of his time to talk to us. We‘ve tried to make numerous appointments and we’ve heard nothing,” SEIU representative Neal Bisno told one ESSA employee who asked them to leave. But when the employee insisted the bank was trying to run a business and would not tolerate the disruption, workers started to clap and chant more union slogans.
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Senator Questions $2-Billion Loan to Brazil for Offshore Drilling as Domestic Production Languishes

EPA Global Warming Regulations Could Send Economy Back Into Recession, Report Says

60 Minutes' Safer Grills 'Right-Wing Conservative' NY Archbishop, Urges Catholic Church to be More Liberal

Rep. Chris Smith: Defund Obamacare and Planned Parenthood in Next CR

19,000 Jobs Worth $1.1 Billion in Wages Lost Nationally Since Offshore Drilling Moratorium Imposed

Times Quotes Biologist Likening Cats to Kudzu

In a story about hazards to birds, the Times quotes a biologist who won't make many friends among cat-lovers: "They are like gypsy moths and kudzu - they cause major ecological disruption."

Times Quotes Biologist Likening Cats to Kudzu
By: Clay Waters
March 22, 2011 13:55 ET

Reporter Elisabeth Rosenthal has found another unlikely environmental menace: Cats, an invasive species that disturbs the natural order, like kudzu. That’s the takeaway from Monday’s report on the grave danger felines present to birds: “Tweety Was Right: Cats Are a Bird’s No. 1 Enemy.”

While public attention has focused on wind turbines as a menace to birds, a new study shows that a far greater threat may be posed by a more familiar antagonist: the pet house cat.

A new study in The Journal of Ornithology on the mortality of baby gray catbirds in the Washington suburbs found that cats were the No. 1 killer in the area, by a large margin.

Nearly 80 percent of the birds were killed by predators, and cats were responsible for 47 percent of those deaths, according to the researchers, from the Smithsonian Institution and Towson University in Maryland. Death rates were particularly high in neighborhoods with large cat populations.

Mr. Marra won’t make friends among cat-lovers with thoughts like these:

“Cats are way up there in terms of threats to birds -- they are a formidable force in driving out native species,” said Peter Marra of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, one of the authors of the study.

The American Bird Conservancy estimates that up to 500 million birds are killed each year by cats -- about half by pets and half by feral felines. “I hope we can now stop minimizing and trivializing the impacts that outdoor cats have on the environment and start addressing the serious problem of cat predation,” said Darin Schroeder, the group’s vice president for conservation advocacy.

Rosenthal then offered a fact, inconvenient to environmentalists, that “440,000 birds are killed by wind turbines each year,” a number expected to grow as wind farms become more prevalent, before turning the mike over to Marra:

Household cats were introduced in North America by European colonists; they are regarded as an invasive species and have few natural enemies to check their numbers. “They are like gypsy moths and kudzu -- they cause major ecological disruption,” Dr. Marra said.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Anti-fear drug 'could help wipe painful memories'

Anti-fear drug 'could help wipe painful memories'

By Steve Connor, Science Editor
Friday, 4 June 2010
Research suggests anti-fear medication could help soldiers deal with post-traumatic stress disorder
Research suggests anti-fear medication could help soldiers deal with post-traumatic stress disorder

The prospect of being able to take a pill to combat fear and anxiety has come a step closer, with a study showing that it is possible to overcome bad memories of painful situations with the help of a chemical that works on the brain.

The discovery raises the possibility of a new class of drugs to alleviate post-traumatic stress disorder or the symptoms of extreme anxiety. It may even lead to suggestions that soldiers or other personnel in dangerous professions will be able to take anti-fear medications during stressful situations.

The study was carried out on laboratory rats and it will still take many years of clinical trials in humans before such drugs can be used by the wider population. Scientists are nevertheless confident that new treatments for fear-related illnesses and anxiety disorders will emerge from the research.

Rather than working in the same way as a conventional sedative or anti-depressant, the new chemical stimulates the area of the brain thought to be involved in remembering a painful situation from the past. The chemical, called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), is naturally produced in the brain and is involved in learning and memory. When given to the rats, the drug caused them to re-learn a painful association so that the memory of it is extinguished – although not lost entirely.

"Many lines of evidence implicate BDNF in mental disorders. This work supports the idea that medications could be developed to augment the effects of BDNF, providing opportunities for pharmaceutical treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder and other anxiety disorders," said Thomas Insel, director of the US National Institute of Mental Health.

The study, published in the journal Science, investigated how laboratory rats freeze when they hear a sound that they have associated with a small electric shock to their feet. It is possible to overcome this fear of the sound by training the animals with a series of similar sounds not associated with painful shocks.
But by injecting BDNF, a protein that stimulates the growth of nerve cells, into the brains of the rats, the scientists found they could mimic the effects of the retraining process. This chemical mimicry only worked if they put BDNF into a part of the brain called the infralimbic prefrontal cortex, a structure that appears to be critical for the extinction of memory.

The drug seems to induce a "memory of safety" in the rats that overrides the fearful memory. In effect, the BDNF drug mimics the effect of retraining the rats to extinguish the memory of the painful situation, said Gregory Quirk of the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine, who led the investigation.
"The surprising finding here is that the drug substituted for extinction training, suggesting that it induced such a memory [of safety]," Dr Quirk said.

This was seen to be important because a failure to extinguish the fear associated with painful memories is thought to contribute to anxiety disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, the researchers said. 

Previous research, for instance, has found that patients with post-traumatic stress disorder have an infralimbic prefrontal cortex which is smaller than normal, they said.

"Our finding suggests that augmenting BDNF in these [brain] circuits may ameliorate post-traumatic stress disorder and perhaps other disorders such as addictions," said Jamie Peters, who collaborated on the research project.

BDNF is naturally produced in the brain and has been shown to play a critical role in stimulating the growth of the important nerve endings between brain cells that allow memories to be formed and learning experiences to be remembered. 

Further experiments showed that administering BDNF did not erase the original bad memory in the rats, because it was just as easy to reinstate the fearful association between the sound tone and the electric shock. However, the scientists suggested there may be ways of stimulating the natural release of BDNF in the human brain, thereby alleviating the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder and extreme anxiety.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


March 9, 2011

Can we stop acting as if people who work for the government are the heroes of working people?

Fine, we understand that Wisconsin public sector employees like the system that pays them an average of $76,500 per year, with splendiferous benefits, and are fighting like wildcats against any proposed reforms to that system. But it's madness to keep treating people who are promoting their own self-interest as if they are James Meredith walking into the University of Mississippi.

This isn't how we usually view people fighting for their own economic interests.

When Wall Street opposes financial reforms or a tobacco company opposes new cigarette taxes, no one hails them as "working men and women" who "deserve a decent pay and decent retirement." We're not told Wall Street has a "fundamental right" not to be regulated, or tobacco companies promoting their own interests are just trying to "help working people and middle-class people retain a good job in America." People on the other side of the issue aren't said to be "just trying to kick the other guy in the shin and exterminate him."

And yet all that was said by the Democratic governor of Illinois, Pat Quinn, on MSNBC's "Hardball" last week, about government workers fighting to preserve their own Alex Rodriguez-like employment contracts.

Yes, we understand that public sector employees got themselves terrific overtime, holiday, pension and health care deals through buying politicians with their votes and campaign money. But now, responsible elected officials in Wisconsin are trying to balance the budget.

MSNBC is covering the fight in Wisconsin as if it's the 9/11 attack -- and the Republicans are al-Qaida. Its entire prime-time schedule is dedicated to portraying self- interested government employees as if they're Marines taking on the Taliban. The network's Ed Schultz bellows that it is "morally wrong" to oppose the demands of government employees.

Yes, and I guess pornographers are noble when they launch a full-scale offensive against obscenity laws.

Public sector workers are pursuing their own narrow financial interests to the detriment of everyone else in their states. That's fine, but can we stop pretending it's virtuous?

Because of the insane union contracts in Wisconsin, one Madison bus driver, John E. Nelson, was able to make $159,000 in 2009 -- about $100,000 of which in overtime pay. Jackie Gleason didn't make that much playing bus driver Ralph Kramden on "The Honeymooners." Seven bus drivers took home more than $100,000 that year.

When asked about the outrageous overtime pay for bus drivers -- totaling $1.94 million in 2009 alone -- Transit and Parking Commission Chairman Gary Poulson said: "That's the contract."

It's ludicrous to suggest that these union contracts were fairly bargained. Only one side was at the negotiating table. Ordinary people with jobs were not at the meetings where public sector compensation was discussed.

Union hacks play on our heartstrings, weeping about the valuable work government employees do:
These are the people who educate our children, run into burning buildings and take dangerous criminals off our streets!

Politicians who do not immediately acquiesce to insane union demands are invariably accused of hating teachers, nurses or cops. In California, this has been standard operating procedure for decades. The voters never seem to catch on.

In 1972, E. Richard Barnes lost his re-election campaign to the California state Assembly after being accused by cops and firefighters of coddling criminals.

In fact, Barnes, a conservative Republican, had one of the toughest records on crime. But he had voted against fringe benefits and better pension benefits for public employees.

Years later, in 2005, Don Perata, Democratic state senator from Oakland, suggested that the legislature reconsider the requirement that 40 percent of the entire state budget be spent on public schools. The teachers' unions instantly plastered his district with fliers calling him anti-education. Perata is a far-left Democrat, who had himself been a teacher for 15 years before entering politics.

Fine, we like teachers, firemen and police officers. We appreciate them. (And for the record, it is statistically more dangerous to be a farmer, fisherman, steelworker or pilot than a cop or fireman. Soldiers also have pretty dangerous jobs, and they don't get to strike.)

Does that mean we should pay them $1 million dollars a year? How about $10 million? After all, these are the people who educate our kids, run into burning buildings and take dangerous criminals off our streets!

Assuming the answer is no, then apparently we're allowed to discuss government workers' compensation -- even though they do important work. As George Bernard Shaw concluded his famous quip (often attributed to Winston Churchill), "Now, we're just negotiating over the price."

Why do public sector employees have absurd overtime rules? Why don't they pay for their own health insurance? Why do they get to retire at age 45 with a guaranteed pension of 65 percent of their last year's pay -- as state police in New Jersey do?

This is asymmetrical warfare. Seven percent of the population cares intensely about public sector union contracts -- and nothing else. The remaining 93 percent of voters can't be bothered to care.

Meanwhile, state after state spirals into bankruptcy.



March 2, 2011

As Obama rakes in historic campaign contributions from Wall Street money, liberals claim Republicans are beholden to "the rich." However that may be, it is far more true, and far less remarked upon, that the Democratic Party is the party of public sector unions.

And now, the nation watches helplessly as public sector unions and their Democratic allies say to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker: Nice state you got there, governor. Be a shame if something bad happened to it.

For Democrats, the purpose of government is to generously provide jobs for people who otherwise couldn't be hired -- because their skills, attitude or sense of entitlement are considered undesirable in the private sector. And no, I'm not just talking about Barack Obama.

Democrats use taxpayer money to fund a government jobs program, impoverishing the middle class and harming the people allegedly helped by the programs -- but creating a vast class of voters who owe their jobs to the Democrats.

This is a system designed to ratchet up costs. Look at the history of every entity where public employees have unionized, and you will find that not only are government workers paid more, but there are also a lot more of them doing a lot less useful work.

There could be two students per class, and the Democrats would still be campaigning for "smaller class size," so that the government would be required to hire more public school teachers to staff classes with one student. For Democrats, the purpose of public education in this country is not to teach children; it's to create jobs for "educators."

Forget the nonsense about working men with dirt under their fingernails, slugging it out at dangerous jobs with a heartless management riding them to get more production at lower wages –- those guys are what liberal journalist Harold Meyerson calls "dead weight."

We're talking about government employees, most of whom -- when they show up to work at all -- sit in comfortable, air-conditioned offices, kick off at 3 p.m., are entitled to endless sick days, personal days and holidays, whose performance can never be evaluated and who retire at age 50. (Again, I'm not focusing just on Barack Obama here.)

Government employees are even worse than welfare layabouts. In a triple-whammy for the taxpayer, they are: (1) hideously expensive, (2) impossible to fire, and (3) doing things you don't want done at any price.

Hey, guess what? I'm from the government, and I can burn down your garage for $300!


OK, fine, I'll do it for you for $20.


OK, the guys with the matches and gasoline will be by sometime between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. one day next week.

As with so many other things, such as vegan restaurants and the crack epidemic, California leads the country in destruction by government unions.

California's civil service unions have employed all the usual thug techniques –- regular strikes (illegal until the California Supreme Court approved them in 1985), rolling strikes, the "blue flu" (cops and other public-safety workers calling in "sick") -- all of which are almost as harmful to the state as when they actually show up for work.

While taxpayers groan under their tax burdens, one group of voters is constantly lobbying for higher taxes: government employees, who are paid by the taxpayer.

When California voters approved Proposition 13 back in 1978, cutting astronomical property taxes 57 percent, the public sector unions went ballistic.

Union bigwig Ron Coleman said, "We're not going to just lie back and take it."

John Seferian, vice president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), said the union should have told politicians: "Hey, we'll bring the roof down on you." (Which you have to be a member of the roofers' union to do.)

Jerry Wurf, president of AFSCME, warned that the union was "prepared for confrontation."

His solution to the ballooning cost of government employees was ... guess? That's right, it was the same as it always is: Tax the rich.

"Let the big shots pay!" Wurf said. Embodying the hopes and dreams of our Founding Fathers, Wurf said organizing government employees was part of his goal to "remake the economic and political system" in line with the vision of socialist Norman Thomas and the Young People's Socialist League.

Members of public sector unions see their pensions and benefits the way the Mafia views its "partnership" with a restaurant, as described in the movie "Goodfellas": "Business bad? F--k you, pay me. Oh, you had a fire? F--k you, pay me. Place got hit by lightning, huh? F--k you, pay me."

Spoiler alert: When the restaurant owner is unable to pay his mob tribute, they burn the place to the ground.

But government employees aren't exactly like the mob. At least the Mafia guys have a strong work ethic.



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