Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Obama's Words Ring Hollow In His Energy Speech

By Phil Kerpen

President Obama's speech Wednesday can't obscure the fact that his is the most adamantly anti-energy administration since at least Jimmy Carter.

Today, Obama touted a tiny number of permit approvals and said that proves his administration isn’t anti-energy. Give me a break. Between the lengthy, unlawful moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico, the de facto moratorium in Alaska that is being challenged by the state in court, the EPA's astonishing regulatory agenda to “skin the cat” of imposing huge energy taxes, and a slew of insane land policies from the Department of the Interior designed to cut off access, this administration bears significant responsibility for surging energy prices.

Consider the words of the man Obama hired as his top adviser on science and technology, John P. Holdren:

“A massive campaign must be launched to restore a high-quality environment in North America and to de-develop the United States. . . . Resources and energy must be diverted from frivolous and wasteful uses in overdeveloped countries to filling the genuine needs of underdeveloped countries. This effort must be largely political.”

A president who would hire such a man cannot credibly deny, as he did today, that his administration has been extremely anti-energy.

Obama also touted a so-called Clean Energy Standard, and by "clean energy" he means politically-favored, economically-questionable, and highly-unreliable windmills and solar panels. Of course, the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine. You can’t run a modern economy without affordable coal, oil, and natural gas. Countries that have tried -- like Spain, Germany, and the U.K. – have ruined themselves economically. (And of course green groups will sue to block “clean energy” the same way they sue to block everything else.)

The biggest irony of Obama pretending to be pro-energy today of all days is that the Senate is debating whether or not to stop his EPA’s astonishing global warming power grab. As this new web video shows, the EPA agenda amounts to Obama’s same extreme, anti-energy, high-tax effort that was decisively rejected in the past election.

Until Obama calls off the dogs at EPA, fully lifts the de facto moratoria on drilling in the Gulf and Alaska, and green-lights development of our abundant natural resources on-shore, his words will continue to ring hollow, and Americans will continue to suffer as energy prices continue to increase and jobs continue to be lost.

Phil Kerpen is vice president for policy at Americans for Prosperity and the author of the forthcoming book "Democracy Denied" (BenBella Books, October 2011) on Obama’s extreme regulatory agenda.

Friday, March 25, 2011

What's Really Behind Obama's New Push for Gun Control?

By John Lott

Despite the Libyan crisis and ongoing problems with America's massive deficit, last week President Obama decided it was time to focus on gun control. He wrote an op-ed, challenged the NRA to negotiate new gun control regulations, and met with gun control groups.

Of course, Obama's op-ed says he supports gun rights. Yet, he also emphasizes that he doesn't want people to "shout at one another" and supports "reasonable laws." Alas, this is simply positioning for the 2012 presidential election and does not accurately describe his true agenda on gun control.

Obama claimed in his op-ed: “My administration has not curtailed the rights of gun owners, it has expanded them, including allowing people to carry their guns in national parks and wildlife refuges.” But he conveniently forgot to mention that he never initiated or supported this legislation. Instead, it was forced upon Obama by a large majority of Congress passing an amendment to a bill that he wanted passed, the “Cardholders’ Bill of Rights Act of 2009.” Just because Obama wasn’t willing to veto a bill he wanted hardly shows support for the right to self-defense.

Indeed, Obama has been a consistent opponent of gun ownership. He enacted a ban on the importation of semiautomatic guns because, “The U.S. insisted that imports of the aging rifles could cause problems such as firearm accidents.” He has proposed much more extensive reporting requirements on sales of long guns. Obama’s nomination of anti-gun Andrew Traver to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives threatens imposing many new regulations. Still further, the Obama administration has actively pushed for the U.N.’s Arms Trade Treaty and continues to make inaccurate statements about the source of Mexico’s crime guns.

And look at the judges President Obama nominated to the Supreme Court. Both Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan have proven themselves to be adamantly against any protection for individual ownership of guns. The stark reality is if Justices Alito, Scalia, Roberts, Thomas, or Kennedy were to die or retire, the two precedents set in both the Washington, D.C. and Chicago gun bans would be threatened as these were narrow 5 to 4 decisions.

The president's op-ed did not exactly present compelling logic for new gun laws. Everyone is concerned about potential future mass shootings like the incident in Tucson in early January, which left six dead and 13 wounded including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

But we go from his concern that "A man our Army rejected as unfit for service; a man one of our colleges deemed too unstable for studies; a man apparently bent on violence, was able to walk into a store and buy a gun" to a call for more background checks as the solution. Yet, Mr. Obama neither advocates eliminating the military's privacy guarantee nor does he even discuss the objections to making such a change (such as it preventing recruits from talking openly). Instead, he makes vague promises for legislation that would correct “porous background checks.”

Everyone wants a perfect, almost magical solution that will stop criminals from getting their hands on guns. But, unfortunately, background checks do not stop bad guys from getting their hands on guns. Not a single academic study by economists or criminologists has found that the Brady Act or any state background checks has reduced violent crime.

Instead, the Brady Act background checks for gun purchases, in place since 1994, are a problem for law-abiding citizens. Hardly ever do background checks deny guns to criminals. Over 99.9 percent of purchases initially flagged as being illegal under the law were “false positives” – law-abiding citizens incorrectly identified as banned individuals.

Take the numbers for 2008, the latest year with data available. The 78,906 initial denials resulted in only 147 cases involving banned individuals trying to purchase guns being referred to prosecutors. Of those 147 cases, prosecutors thought the evidence was strong enough to prosecute only 105, and they won convictions in just 43. But few of these 43 cases involved career criminals or those who posed real threats. The typical case was someone who had a misdemeanor conviction for an offense he didn't realize prevented him from buying a gun.

Even those who aren't prevented from buying a gun face delays in getting approved. Eight percent of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System checks are "not resolved immediately." Two-thirds of those checks take up to 3 business days, and the rest take even longer, though these further delays can't stop one from obtaining a gun at that point.

Others would greatly add to these errors by banning more people from buying guns. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) proposes that those who have been arrested, but neither charged nor convicted, for illegal drug violations should be denied buying guns. If prosecutors don’t believe that enough evidence exists to charge someone with a marijuana possession, isn’t there a reasonable chance that they are innocent?

The president isn’t alone in pushing for more gun-control. But at least these other politicians, such as Schumer and Mayor Bloomberg, are a lot more forthright about their intentions than Obama. Perhaps that should be so so surprising since Obama will soon face re-election in all parts of the country, including in those areas that he famously labeled as being populated by “bitter” Americans who “cling to their guns, cling to their religion,” not just a smaller Democratic-leaning constituency.

John R. Lott, Jr  is an economist and author of ”More Guns, Less Crime” (University of Chicago Press, 2010).

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Why Are the Media Ignoring Plans By George Soros to Remake the Entire Global Economy?

By Dan Gainor

Two years ago, George Soros said he wanted to reorganize the entire global economic system. In two short weeks, he is going to start – and no one seems to have noticed.

On April 8, a group he’s funded with $50 million is holding a major economic conference and Soros’s goal for such an event is to “establish new international rules” and “reform the currency system.” It’s all according to a plan laid out in a Nov. 4, 2009, Soros op-ed calling for “a grand bargain that rearranges the entire financial order.”

The event is bringing together “more than 200 academic, business and government policy thought leaders” to repeat the famed 1944 Bretton Woods gathering that helped create the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Soros wants a new “multilateral system,” or an economic system where America isn’t so dominant.

More than two-thirds of the slated speakers have direct ties to Soros. The billionaire who thinks “the main enemy of the open society, I believe, is no longer the communist but the capitalist threat” is taking no chances.

Thus far, this global gathering has generated less publicity than a spelling bee. And that’s with at least four journalists on the speakers list, including a managing editor for the Financial Times and editors for both Reuters and The Times. Given Soros’s warnings of what might happen without an agreement, this should be a big deal. But it’s not.

What is a big deal is that Soros is doing exactly what he wanted to do. His 2009 commentary pushed for “a new Bretton Woods conference, like the one that established the post-WWII international financial architecture.” And he had already set the wheels in motion.

Just a week before that op-ed was published, Soros had founded the New York City-based Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET), the group hosting the conference set at the Mount Washington Resort, the very same hotel that hosted the first gathering. The most recent INET conference was held at Central European University, in Budapest. CEU received $206 million from Soros in 2005 and has $880 million in its endowment now, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

This, too, is a gathering of Soros supporters. INET is bringing together prominent people like former U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown, former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker and Soros, to produce “a lot of high-quality, breakthrough thinking.”

While INET claims more than 200 will attend, only 79 speakers are listed on its site – and it already looks like a Soros convention. Twenty-two are on Soros-funded INET’s board and three more are INET grantees. Nineteen are listed as contributors for another Soros operation – Project Syndicate, which calls itself “the world's pre-eminent source of original op-ed commentaries” reaching “456 leading newspapers in 150 countries.” It’s financed by Soros’s Open Society Institute. That’s just the beginning.

The speakers include:

• Volcker who is chairman of President Obama’s Economic Advisory Board. He wrote the forward for Soros’s best-known book, “The Alchemy of Finance” and praised Soros as “an enormously successful speculator” who wrote “with insight and passion” about the problems of globalization.

• Economist Jeffrey Sachs, director of The Earth Institute and longtime recipient of Soros charity cash. Sachs received $50 million from Soros for the U.N. Millennium Project, which he also directs. Sachs is world-renown for his liberal economics. In 2009, for example, he complained about low U.S. taxes, saying the “U.S. will have to raise taxes in order to pay for new spending initiatives, especially in the areas of sustainable energy, climate change, education, and relief for the poor.”

• Soros friend Joseph E. Stiglitz, a former senior vice president and chief economist for the World Bank and Nobel Prize winner in Economics. Stiglitz shares similar views to Soros and has criticized free-market economists whom he calls “free market fundamentalists.” Naturally, he’s on the INET board and is a contributor to Project Syndicate.

• INET Executive Director Rob Johnson, a former managing director at Soros Fund Management, who is on the Board of Directors for the Soros-funded Economic Policy Institute. Johnson has complained that government intervention in the fiscal crisis hasn’t been enough and wanted “restructuring,” including asking “for letters of resignation from the top executives of all the major banks.”

Have no doubt about it: This is a Soros event from top to bottom. Even Soros admits his ties to INET are a problem, saying, “there is a conflict there which I fully recognize.” He claims he stays out of operations. That’s impossible. The whole event is his operation.

INET isn’t subtle about its aims for the conference. Johnson interviewed fellow INET board member Robert Skidelsky about “The Need for a New Bretton Woods” in a recent video. The introductory slide to the video is subtitled: “How currency issues and tension between the US and China are renewing calls for a global financial overhaul.” Skidelsky called for a new agreement and said in the video that the conflict between the United States and China was “at the center of any monetary deal that may be struck, that needs to be struck.”

Soros described in the 2009 op-ed that U.S.-China conflict as “another stark choice between two fundamentally different forms of organization: international capitalism and state capitalism.” He concluded that “a new multilateral system based on sounder principles must be invented.” As he explained it in 2010, “we need a global sheriff.”

In the 2000 version of his book “Open Society: Reforming Global Capitalism,” Soros wrote how the Bretton Woods institutions “failed spectacularly” during the economic crisis of the late 1990s. When he called for a new Bretton Woods in 2009, he wanted it to “reconstitute the International Monetary Fund,” and while he’s at it, restructure the United Nations, too, boosting China and other countries at our expense.

“Reorganizing the world order will need to extend beyond the financial system and involve the United Nations, especially membership of the Security Council,” he wrote. “That process needs to be initiated by the U.S., but China and other developing countries ought to participate as equals.”

Soros emphasized that point, that this needs to be a global solution, making America one among many. “The rising powers must be present at the creation of this new system in order to ensure that they will be active supporters.”

And that’s exactly the kind of event INET is delivering, with the event website emphasizing “today's reconstruction must engage the larger European Union, as well as the emerging economies of Eastern Europe, Latin America, and Asia.” China figures prominently, including a senior economist for the World Bank in Beijing, the director of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the chief adviser for the China Banking Regulatory Commission and the Director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations.

This is all easy to do when you have the reach of George Soros who funds more than 1,200 organizations. Except, any one of those 1,200 would shout such an event from the highest mountain. Groups like MoveOn.org or the Center for American Progress didn’t make their names being quiet. The same holds true globally, where Soros has given more than $7 billion to Open Society Foundations – including many media-savvy organizations just a phone call away. Why hasn’t the Soros network spread the word?

Especially since Soros warns, all this needs to happen because “the alternative is frightening.” The Bush-hating billionaire says America is scary “because a declining superpower losing both political and economic dominance but still preserving military supremacy is a dangerous mix.”

c. He wrote that the U.S. “could lead a cooperative effort to involve both the developed and the developing world, thereby reestablishing American leadership in an acceptable form.”

That’s what this conference is all about – changing the global economy and the United States to make them “acceptable” to George Soros.

-- Iris Somberg contributed to this commentary.


Dan Gainor is the Boone Pickens Fellow and the Media Research Center’s Vice President for Business and Culture

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

NPR Admits It's Packed With Liberals

By Mike Gonzalez

Times have been tough for NPR in the last six months. Just last week, NPR CEO Vivian Schiller spoke at the National Press Club in Washington. Among other things, she discussed the firing of NPR Senior Correspondent Juan Williams in October. By the end of the week, Schiller herself was out of a job, after a video caught her chief fundraiser making disparaging remarks about Tea Party activists and Jews.

In her speech at the National Press Club, Schiller made sure to emphasize that NPR maintains its commitment to diversity. She meant, of course, racial diversity.

Even casual observers know that the network’s devotion to this cause appears to apply only to the staff’s skin pigmentation not to their political orientation. Something that strikes me as more than passing strange for an organization that inherently deals with politics.

But it’s not just me saying that NPR lacks political diversity—it’s now coming from NPR itself! And this time it wasn’t the result of a sting video, either. The admission came on NPR’s air this past Sunday.

Just look at this the exchange last Sunday between Bob Garfield, host of the NPR show “On the Media,” and Ira Glass, host of “This American Life.” Mr. Glass had challenged Mr. Garfield to conduct an internal audit of liberal bias at NPR and report on it in a week. Mr. Glass added he was sure none would be found (that makes two of us, but I digress). Then the conversation turned to what metrics would be used. Could the absence of conservatives at NPR be a metric?

Bob Garfield: … you and I both know that if you were to somehow poll the political orientation of everybody in the NPR news organization and at all of the member stations, you would find an overwhelmingly progressive, liberal crowd, not uniformly, but overwhelmingly.

Ira Glass: Journalism, in general, reporters tend to be Democrats and tend to be more liberal than the public as a whole, sure. But that doesn't change what is going out over the air. And I feel like, well, let's measure the product.

Sorry, Ira, but you’re wrong. It does change what’s going out over the air. You stuff a newsroom with a bunch of progressives and nary a conservative and you will definitely get a product that at least tilts left. Liberals will not understand, they just won’t “get” at a gut level, what offends conservatives, not just in news selection and reporting but even in cultural programming.

That is why NPR constantly offends conservatives, which is why they don’t want their tax dollars going to it. Anyone at NPR who can’t understand this may not be as intellectual he or she thinks (unless one uses Bertrand Russell’s definition of an intellectual as “a person who pretends to have more intellect than he has”) they are.

And, no, I don’t have to wait a week to prove this point. The examples are seemingly endless.

Monday, on “All Things Considered,” NPR aired a paean to ’60s radical musician Barbara Dane, whom it called “a versatile voice with a political purpose.” The spot included such hagiographic lines as: “Dane has remained a symbol of resistance, someone who isn't afraid to break the rules.”

Barbara may not be afraid, but she certainly did support a regime that terrorizes its own people—Fidel Castro’s in Cuba.

Dane started traveling there when Fidel’s and Che’s firing squads were working overtime. NPR’s “versatile voice” was unstinting in her embrace of the even the most indecent of Castro’s terrorizing techniques.

Let me give you an inside view. I was a child in Cuba then, and the slogan I found most terrifying was “to the paredon,” which I heard communists cry on the airwaves or the street I lived on. Paredon, you see, is Spanish for the walls used by firing squads.

And just what name do you think Dane gave to her product line? Well, Paredon records.

You don’t have to be a Cuban-American to have this sensitivity. Other conservatives have also pointed out today the inappropriateness of the piece on Dane.

Now I ask you, really, NPR? I, and others, found the piece offensive, and typical. Why should conservatives’ taxes pay for this?


Mike Gonzalez, Vice President of Communications for The Heritage Foundation, is a widely experienced international correspondent, commentator and editor. He spent 15 years reporting from Europe and Asia before leaving journalism to join the administration of George W. Bush, where he helped explain financial and foreign policy.

As a boy of 12, Gonzalez left his native Cuba with his mother and sister, fleeing the Castro dictatorship. After two years in Madrid, Spain, the family settled in Queens, New York, in 1974.


Wow! Liberals at NPR. Who would've thunk?!?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Why Does Obama Wish He Were President of China?

By Michael Goodwin

First I did a double take. He said what? I read it again and the shock waves followed.

A beleaguered President Obama has told aides it would be so much easier to be the president of China, The New York Times reports.

There are two ways to read the remark, which is attributed to anonymous aides. One is that Obama resents the burden of global leadership that comes with the American presidency. The other is that he longs for an authoritarian system, where he need tolerate no dissent.

Under either or both interpretations, his confession carries a dose of self-pity that means Obama has hit a wall.

He is in over his head, and he knows it.

Even before the horror in Japan, the president faced a litany of nightmares. From Libya to Iran to Afghanistan to gas prices, unemployment and rising debt, Obama is surrounded by serious trouble.

His responses range from halfhearted to wrongheaded. Nothing is working. Unhappy voters already repudiated his first two years and might fire him when they get the chance. It is a moment that brings home the truth of the sign on Harry Truman's desk: "The buck stops here."

Yet my suspicion is that it's not the problems per se that have Obama envying a lower rung on the global ladder. It's that he regards them as endless distractions that keep getting in the way of his transformative agenda.

He is a man of the faculty lounge who wants a blank slate so he can remake the nation into a more perfect place, as he sees it. Remember, he greeted his election with the messiah-like claim that future generations would say, "This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal."

But damn it, the country and the world won't cooperate. Because he has no significant experience that would give him a framework for any other response, he is reduced to vaporous platitudes that dispirit allies and embolden adversaries.

He wants America to be less exceptional and more like every other nation. He's uncomfortable with our status as the No. 1 superpower, as he made clear with his apology tours and by submitting to the lowest common denominator in the United Nations.

He talks about wanting Moammar Khadafy to go but takes no action to make it happen and even signed on to an arms embargo that the State Department says bars our supplying the rebels.

As The Wall Street Journal wrote, the rising slaughter reveals "what the world without U.S. leadership looks like."

Meanwhile, he punts on the budget mess, as if details are beneath him. On soaring gas prices, the purpose of his dreary Friday press conference, his policy seems to be peevishness that he must be bothered.

As shocking as the China lament is, it's not surprising. The desire to sidestep messy reality is the thread that runs through his presidency, starting with the campaign.

As the economy melted down in the fall of 2008 and in the days after he took office, he never changed goals. He promised a health-care takeover, "investments" in education, and a commitment to weaning America off oil and coal.

Come recession and war, he has done his utmost to deliver all three. He has broken the bank and damaged the jobs machine to get them.

Under different circumstances, that dogged persistence might be a virtue. But the problems are getting worse, not better, and yet he won't adapt. His stubborn refusal to face squarely the nation's concerns has created a vacuum at home similar to the one abroad.

And now he confides the Oval Office's crown of responsibility does not fit him. Much of the world shares the sentiment.

Michael Goodwin is a New York Post columnist.


I think we should start Obama on his way to China... in 2012.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Boxcutters on Flight From JFK -- No, We're Not Safer Than Before 9/11

By Michael Boyd

Recently a passenger brought box cutters through a passenger screening point and on to an airliner. In response to this, the Transportation Security Administration announced that the screeners responsible would get “remedial training.”

There’s been a lot of coverage of this event, including legitimate outrage that the sloppy TSA employees weren’t fired. What most people don’t realize is that tolerating failure and outright sloppy work has been a hallmark of U.S. aviation security from the beginning. The truth is nobody has ever been held accountable for aviation security failures – nobody. From top to bottom, the TSA arrogantly claims it does nothing wrong.

Poor security planning and implementation has been a hallmark of the Washington bureaucracy, first with the Federal Aviation Administration, and now with its demon spawn, the Transportation Security Administration.

Let’s go back a few years…

“To a trained terrorist, U.S. airports have the security of a Laundromat.”

That was a statement I made to the Wall Street Journal in June of 1997. Lots of folks thought it was humorous. Nobody took it seriously.

Then came 9/11, proving my point, which still, 10 years later, nobody’s taking seriously. One might think that after nearly 3,000 deaths and four airliners hijacked with near-military precision, the U.S. would have implemented a comprehensive overhaul of aviation security. One would think that the people at the top of the aviation security apparatus in place on 9/11 would have been sacked, especially in light of the fact that they had been warned repeatedly about sloppy security by FAA Red Team investigators, and tragically ignored them.

Nope, nothing like that. The people responsible for the failed U.S. aviation security on that tragic Tuesday morning not only have never been held to account, but many of them have been promoted or have found cushy lucrative jobs in private industry. The head of the FAA – which was responsible for airline security at the time – was lauded for her fine work not three days after the tragedy by Norman Mineta, the Secretary of Transportation. That was Jane Garvey, whose performance in front of the 9/11 Commission was the greatest bumbling act since Frank Pantangle’s Senate testimony in "Godfather II."

The former FAA head didn’t have a clue. But nobody called her on it.

Not to worry though. Ms. Garvey went on to be appointed to the Board of Directors of United Airlines. Yup, the same United that suffered the loss of two of its own airplanes, crews and passengers due to failure of Garvey’s FAA. Incredibly, the CEO of United stated at the time that Garvey represented the type of management the airline needed.

That didn’t bother anybody. Not the various “9/11 Family” groups. Not the unions who represented those lost United employees. Nobody. So don’t expect a couple of asleep-at-the-switch screeners to get fired.

Let’s go further. Testing of TSA screeners across the nation reportedly has a 70 percent or higher failure rate. Even Rep John Mica (R-FL), whose committee has oversight of the TSA, has said that screener failures are “off the chart.” But the TSA administrator defends that sloppy performance, and he’s never called to task.

So, why should we expect those box-cutter-blind screeners to get fired?

Remember the incident last year, when a graduate student from China slipped past an unmanned screening point at Newark to kiss his girlfriend good-bye? It shut down a terminal. Caused no telling how much mayhem on the traveling public. -- The TSA employee who was AWOL from his post and who allowed this event to happen was – you guessed it – given “remedial training.”

And as for taking action to protect the public in the future, we have the indomitable Senator Lautenberg (D-N.J.) asking that Homeland Security “review” the circumstances” – which will accomplish nothing, because the TSA and DHS have never called a foul on themselves. But he did call for specific actions to fine infringers like that Chinese kid into financial oblivion.

So, an incident where the TSA lets potential weapons get on an airplane isn’t much call for firing anybody – at least not in the context of the Big Picture, which is to protect the bureaucracy first and the public second.

The TSA is untouchable. A couple months ago, a major network reporter called me regarding a security breach. When I noted we’re no safer than before 9/11, he came unglued. “That’s not true!” he practically yelled. “I’ve been to the TSA briefings!”

Great. A 70 percent training failure rate. Security failures where TSA staff just get “retrained.” And this guy’s defending the TSA to the public. He’s been to the briefings, see.

Here’s the bottom line: professional terrorists are out to blow us to smithereens. And we’ve got the TSA as our first line of defense. Instead of having a professionally-managed, disciplined security apparatus, Congress has given us a 60,000 member DMV from Hell.

But it’s got great remedial training.

Michael Boyd is an aviation expert and president of Boyd Group International

Friday, March 4, 2011

Why Does Mainstream Media Leave George Soros Alone?

By Dan Gainor

Wisconsin’s battle over the union label continues to resonate nationwide. Lefties complain about conservative funders David and Charles Koch in often obscene fashion, making juvenile plays on their last name and prank calls like troublesome children. The so-called mainstream media are heavily invested in that strategy, calling the Koch brothers some of the “biggest bankrollers” for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

It’s a theme that almost defies reason. The Kochs openly support things they believe in – especially free markets and limited government. To media types, those beliefs are suspect or even audacious. To the left, they’re criminal or anti-American. Both groups claim to question everything.

Everything, that is, except who funds the left. When that gets mentioned, there is either complete silence or cries of conspiracy at the mere mention of the name George Soros. Yet Soros has given billions around the globe for decades to push his own beliefs. His impact on liberal politics here in the U.S. is unparalleled.

Wherever left-wing organizations gather, you can find either him or a pile of his cash. His dollars reach from pro-abortion and pro-drug groups to fringe media outlets and Democratic campaigns.

In just one day last week, while traditional media were going after the Kochs, the Soros Empire swept across the land pushing a hard-left agenda.

Three separate story lines from Thursday Feb. 24, 2011, showed Soros in all his glory. In the first, liberal activists pushed for a Supreme Court ethics code. The second talked of “Tea-Party-like revolts” against spending cuts. The last involved the nationwide union protest in support of the Wisconsin strikers.

Every one of those stories was pushed, influenced and organized by Soros-funded groups. He might have never even lifted a finger. He didn’t have to. He's No. 35 on Forbes’ list of global billionaires with $14 billion, so he just opened his wallet.

The Supreme Court story seemed benign. Who could oppose an ethics code? Only, The Washington Post story wasn’t about ethics, it was about politics. Two separate Soros groups – Common Cause and the Alliance for Justice – organized to attack Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas for their connection to, you guessed it, the Kochs.

According to grant data provided by Capital Research Center, Common Cause has netted at least $2 million from the Open Society Institute (OSI), the primary Soros charity. Alliance for Justice, a coalition of more than 100 lefty organizations, received at least $325,000 from Soros from 2004-05.

According to The Post, “a group of more than a hundred law professors from across the country” was also involved. Sure, there were more than 100, connected to different law schools, but they have the Soros Stamp of Approval. On the letter they sent to Congress, many names are easily linked to King George – a member of the OSI board in Baltimore, OSI advisers, those from groups also funded by OSI, even a former Democrat candidate personally funded by Soros herself.

The article went on to quote Ellen Yaroshefsky, director of the Jacob Burns Ethics Center at the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law, to say how awful the Supreme lack of ethics is. She is also “cochair of the Ethics, Gideon and Professionalism Committee of the American Bar Association's Criminal Justice Section.” Naturally, the bar association is funded by OSI – both directly and indirectly – for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Of course, The Post’s R. Jeffrey Smith mentioned none of this. Instead, his piece was an attack on the Kochs, naming them 10 times in the story. When the Federalist Society was named, he pointed out how the Kochs fund them. There was zero mention of Soros.

That same day, The Hill wrote about the Democratic “Tea Party movement.” The article cited how “a large coalition of progressive groups announced an ‘emergency call to action.’” That group included MoveOn.org, Democracy for America, USAction, the Service Employees International Union and People for the American Way. In some way or another, every one of those organizations or their foundations gets money from Soros.

Every single one.

Soros may not have phoned them all, or sent them e-mails from his palatial estates. Nonetheless, they did his bidding.

Then we come to the nationwide “union” protest – the so-called “rally to save the American Dream” that got widespread coverage. Around America, pro-union groups rallied to “stand in solidarity with the people of Wisconsin.” More than half that list of at 43 organizations involved as of Thursday gets money either directly or indirectly from King George. They might all get money from him. No reporter bothered to ask.

There were the eco groups like Green for All (Soros invests heavily in going green); the gay groups like the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force or the typical shock troops of the left like MoveOn.org. Again, most are paid for either directly by Open Society or indirectly through another of his many operations.

And again, the Soros connection went unreported. The Post called it a mix of “labor, environmentalist, anti-war and other allied organizations,” with the obligatory Van Jones quote saying “the American dream is under fire.” Jones, the former White House green jobs czar and 9/11 truther, is now a senior fellow at the Soros-funded Center for American Progress.

A good journalist might question those connections. But there are too few good journalists and too many questions.

Dan Gainor is the Boone Pickens Fellow and the Media Research Center’s Vice President for Business and Culture

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

U.S. Fines 3 Movie Theater Companies Over Child Labor Allegations

ST. LOUIS -- Operators of three of the nation's biggest movie theater chains have paid more than $277,000 in federal fines over allegations that they violated child-labor laws by letting teenagers work too many hours and use dangerous machinery such as trash compactors, the Labor Department announced Tuesday.

The government said the alleged violations of U.S. child-labor laws by Regal Cinemas Inc., Marcus Theatres Corp. and Wehrenberg Inc. were uncovered as part of a "strategic" crackdown on what the department called the industry's high rate of noncompliance.

Investigators found the supposed offenses to be sweeping, surfacing in 27 theaters in California, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, South Carolina and Wisconsin.

Some 160 employees were illegally being required to perform hazardous jobs -- everything from operating paper balers and trash compactors to driving motor vehicles, using power-driven mixers and baking -- in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act's youth-employment provisions, the Labor Department said.

That law identifies 17 hazardous jobs barred for workers younger than 18, including operating and unloading scrap paper balers and paper box compactors unless certain specific conditions are met. The law also restricts the times and hours of employees younger than 16.
According to federal law, workers 14 or 15 may do certain occupations outside school hours, but not before 7 a.m. or later than 7 p.m., or past 9 p.m. from June 1 until Labor Day. Such workers also may not work more than three hours on a school day, 18 hours in a school week, or eight hours on a non-school day and 40 hours in a week when school isn't in session.


It makes no sense to me how they can proclaim a 16 year old can choose to abort, go to a pharmacy and get the morning-after-pill without a prescription, without counseling, and without parental knowledge, but this same person can't run a trash compactor or food mixer because she doesn't have the maturity for the task.

And people wonder why companies move over seas. I guess the movie theater business didn't get the memo to hire illegal aliens instead of young ambitious teenagers.

The real surprise to me is that some government worker, to make this assessment, must have actually got that CLOSE to actual work. My mental portrait of a government worker is someone sitting at their state-of-the-art desk in their $800 ergonomic chairs with a $3000 computer setup (that they have no idea how to use and don't care as long as they can find the solitaire game) complaining about the carpal tunnel syndrome they get from having to intermittently use a keyboard for more than 2 hours without a 20 minute break.

Today's overprotected teenagers... tomorrow's union leaders.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

So How Much Do Public Union Workers Really Make?

By John Lott

President Obama lashed out at Republicans Monday for having "denigrated or vilified" public union employees. Without collective bargaining and the ability to go on strike, he said we wouldn't be able to attract "the best and the brightest to public service." Are public employees simply the best and the brightest? Or are we simply lavishing them with much better employment deals than their private counterparts?

To measure how attractive a job is, economists study how employees vote with their feet -- that is, comparing the rate at which different categories of employees voluntarily quit their jobs.

Over the last six months, private workers have been 3.4 times more likely to quit their jobs than either state and local or federal workers. Indeed, no private industry comes close to the low "quit rate" for government employees. Manufacturing, which has the lowest rate, still faces twice the quit rate as the government.

Firms compete to hire workers not just through offering good salaries and benefits, but also through working conditions and hours. Firms that offer comparably better deals not only find they have more potential workers lining up to get a job, but once an applicant gets the job, they will want to keep it.

Some union supporters claim that this low turnover rate actually demonstrates an efficiency of government. How? Because a low turnover means the government saves money since it doesn't have to retrain replacement workers. But here is the problem: if the saved retraining costs really outweighed the higher salaries and benefit costs, private companies would also volunteer to pay higher compensation.

It appears to me that unions generally try to ensure that their workers don't have to work too hard -- with mandatory breaks guaranteed and rigid protections over exactly what kind of jobs workers can be asked to do. That is on top of getting paid much more.

Take public school teachers. Over 41 percent of state and local public workers are in education. If state and local government costs are going to be reined in, state governments must deal with. By any measure, the government pays public school teachers much more than non-religious private school ones. During the 2007-08 school year, the Department of Education reports that the average public school teacher's salary, even without their much more generous benefit package, was $49,630, 37 percent higher than the $36,250 earned by private school teachers.

As shown in this figure, using data from the Department of Education, public school teachers continue to earn much more money than their private school counterparts. This goes across the board no matter what their level of experience, level of education, age, race, whether they teach in an elementary or secondary school, or where the schools are located. The smallest difference between public and private teacher salaries exists for those with a Ph.D. (about 13%) and the largest difference appears for those who are black or who work in towns (public school teachers make about 57 or 58 percent more).

It is easy to see how public school teacher salaries increase simply by being on the job longer. From 2 years to 29 years of experience, public school teacher salaries just keep rising relative to private school teachers -- going from earning a 29 percent premium during their second to forth years on the job to 49 percent markup when they have been there for 25 to 29 years.

So how do public sector unions get away with this? Simply put, they have a kind of monopoly. Parents pay for public education through their property and other taxes -- whether they send their kids to public or private schools.

Parents must really believe that the private schools are much better than the public ones to be willing to pay the public school taxes and still pay private school tuition on top of that -- effectively paying twice for school. In contrast, private schools that kept paying more and more for teachers would quickly find themselves out of business.

With all this money at stake, public unions’ reactions to proposals to weaken their power and make them more like federal workers are understandable. But still there are some surprises. On Sunday, AFL-CIO's head, Richard Trumka, in a television interview refused repeated attempts to answer questions about whether or not it was innappropriate for union activists to compare Wisconsin's Republican Governor Scott Walker to Hilter and other dictators.

A couple of weeks ago, Obama told leaders of private companies at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that they had an obligation to hire more workers regardless of whether it meant they would lose money on hiring them. Alas, this is also his attitude towards public spending.

John R. Lott, Jr. is an economist and author of the just released revised edition of "More Guns, Less Crime" (University of Chicago Press, 2010)
 



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