CriticalMass Top 10 Reads of the Week (March 25, 2010)

Why the Unions Fight – Daniel DiSalvo [Weekly Standard]


Scott Walker, Wisconsin’s new governor, has brought on a showdown with public sector unions and their Democratic allies in his state. He seeks to get most state workers to pay for their pension and health benefits, to narrow collective bargaining to wages, to stop the state from collecting union dues, and to require annual union certification elections. In response, the unions have launched two weeks of angry protests in Madison, the state’s capital. Walker (in office barely a month) has been compared to Hitler, Mubarak, and Mussolini, while Democratic state senators have spurned democratic norms and fled to Illinois to prevent a vote on Walker’s bill. Nonetheless, the Republican-controlled state assembly has forged ahead and voted in favor of the measure.

But does the “assault” (President Obama’s term) on public employee unions in Wisconsin really require, as one former union leader wrote in the Nation, “labor’s last stand”? To answer this question one must separate the wheat from the chaff. Much attention has misleadingly focused on benefit contributions and collective bargaining restrictions, which are not the main reasons labor and its allies are up in arms. If they were all that was at stake, labor would be overreacting. But they aren’t. The real issues are union dues and certification elections, both of which would reach into unions’ wallets and take away money they would otherwise use, in most cases, to fund the Democratic party… Read More

 Uncivil Disobedience – Glenn Reynolds [New York Post]


Just a couple of months ago, in the wake of Jared Loughner’s shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, simple talk of “targeting” a political opponent for defeat was treated as beyond the pale. But let’s look at some more recent language — and conduct — that our bien-pensant punditry can’t be bothered to notice, let alone condemn.

In Michigan, protesters opposed to Gov. Rick Snyder’s austerity budget broke a window to get into the capitol building. One faces felony charges after assaulting police with an edged weapon; 14 were arrested… Read More

Dodging the Pension Disaster – Josh Barro [National Affairs]


When Dan Liljenquist began his first term as a Utah state senator in January 2009, his financial acumen quickly earned him serious legislative responsibilities. A former management consultant for Bain & Company, Liljenquist was appointed by the Utah senate president, Michael Waddoups, to three budget-related committees; he was also made chairman of the Retirement and Independent Entities Committee. As Liljenquist remembers it, Waddoups pre-empted any concerns the freshman might have had about his new responsibilities: “Don’t worry,” Waddoups said, “nothing ever happens on the retirement committee.”

But then, in the early months of 2009, the stock market went into free fall. Worried about the effects the market crash would have on Utah’s public-employee pension plan – which, like most states’, is invested heavily in equities – Liljenquist asked the plan’s actuaries to project how much taxpayers would have to pay into the pension fund in order to compensate for the stock-market losses. The figures that came back were alarming: Utah was about to drown in red ink. Without reform, the state would see its contributions to government workers’ pensions rise by about $420 million a year – an amount equivalent to roughly 10% of Utah’s spending from its general and education funds. Moreover, those astronomical pension expenses would continue to grow at 4% a year for the next 25 years, just to pay off the losses the fund had incurred in the stock market… Read More

Now it’s time to defund NPR – Juan Williams [The Hill]


Even after they fired me, called me a bigot and publicly advised me to only share my thoughts with a psychiatrist, I did not call for defunding NPR. I am a journalist, and NPR is an important platform for journalism.

But last week my line of defense for NPR ran into harsh political realities. Rep. Steve Israel (D- N.Y.) chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sent out a fundraising letter with the following argument for maintaining public funding of NPR:”They [Republicans] know NPR plays a vital role in providing quality news programming – from rural radio stations to in-depth coverage of foreign affairs. If the Republicans had their way, we’d only be left with the likes of Glenn Beck, Limbaugh and Sarah Palin to dominate the airwaves.”

With that statement, Congressman Israel made the case better than any Republican critic that NPR is radio by and for liberal Democrats. He is openly asking liberal Democrats to give money to liberal Democrats in Congress so they can funnel federal dollars into news radio programs designed to counter and defeat conservative Republican voices… Read More

Our Libyan March Madness – Victor Davis Hanson [National Review Online]


The Obama administration’s Libyan strategy is a paradox – resulting from the president’s belatedly announcing that Moammar Qaddafi must go, using military force against him, and then denying that our objective is to see him leave. The president seems more knowledgeable about the tournament chances of two dozen college basketball teams than he does about the Libyan labyrinth. So let us review what follows from a campaign that has not been approved by Congress and is not supported by the American people – but which we must now hope works, given the commitment of American troops…. Read More

Is this the Fourth Wave of democracy? – Will Dobson [Washington Post]


It began in the least likely of places. At around 12:30 in the morning, on April 25, 1974, a Lisbon radio station played the song “Grandola, Vila Morena.” If anyone was listening that early, it would have sounded like any other song being played by a disc jockey working the late shift. But it wasn’t any other tune. It was a secret signal to the Portuguese military to begin to move against Portugal’s dictator, Marcello Caetano. By the next day, Caetano was gone. But the significance of this day was only beginning to be felt. According to the late political scientist Samuel Huntington, the political forces unleashed on April 25, 1974, marked the beginning of the Third Wave – a global democratic wave that, in the following 15 years, would lead to roughly 30 authoritarian regimes in Europe, Asia, and Latin America giving way to democracy.  

This, too, began in the least likely of places. On December 17, 2010, local officials harassed a fruit vendor in the Tunisian city of Sidi Bouzid. Ashamed, angry, and pushed beyond what he could accept, Bouazizi took his own life in a public act of self-immolation. Since Bouazizi died from his burns in early January, we have all watched as one uprising begat another. First, the authoritarian duchy of Tunisia fell. Then, came the revolution in Egypt, the epicenter of the Middle East. Massive protests sprang up in Bahrain and Yemen, just as Libya descended into carnage, followed by outright civil war. The tremors have been felt in Algeria, Jordan, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Sudan. Yesterday, protesters began a fourth day of demonstrations in Syria, one of the region’s most repressive states. Major elements of the Yemeni military are defecting from the regime and joining the demonstrators. A fruit vendor takes his own life-and a region is turned upside down. Is this the beginning of the Fourth Wave?… Read More

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